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The Greatest Sermon Ever Told | Foundations
February 4, 2024
21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
24“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst
To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships
To participate in God’s mission to the world
Heavenly Father, keep your household the Church continually in your true religion; that those who lean only on the hope of your heavenly grace may always be defended by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Responsive Prayer—Psalm 118
This is the gate of the Lord;
The righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
And have become my salvation.
The stone that the builders rejected
Has become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Summary and Connection
This is the grand finale to what may be the most famous sermon ever preached. And it is here that Jesus makes his final applications to his hearers, including to you and me: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven;” and, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Jesus has moved from an entrance metaphor concerning the broad and narrow ways (verses 13-14), to a discernment metaphor about false prophets and resulting fruit (verses 15-20), to a judgment metaphor about what will be revealed in the final day (verses 21-27). If taken seriously, these images should leave believers with a sense of vertigo, and everyone else with a sense of sobriety. Martin-Lloyd Jones said that “These, surely, are in many ways the most solemn and solemnizing words ever uttered in this world, not only by any man, but even by the Son of God Himself.” So what do we do with these words?
As we have studied Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we’ve stated that he is describing the life we lead not to get into the kingdom of God, but because we are in the kingdom of God. Yet, these final words of the sermon are addressed specifically to those who consider themselves “in the kingdom.” Jesus is speaking to anyone who calls him Lord, and to anyone who hears his words. We, as readers of this text, are now part of this audience. And we are called to examine ourselves.
First, we are called to examine on what basis we are part of the kingdom. Jesus says that at the last day, many will profess their allegiance, their theological pedigree, and their mighty works, but Jesus will say he never knew them. Now, of course, Jesus knows his entire creation, so he is not surprised by these people. What he is saying is that he was never in a real relationship with them, he was never intimate with them, he was never a part of their life. These people declare their qualifications, but notice what they don’t say: They don’t say that they depend on Jesus, submit to Jesus, love Jesus, or need Jesus. They damn themselves by their own words.
Second, we are called to examine just on what we are building. The wise and the foolish builder look identical. They put in identical effort, they build identical houses, and since the same storm hits them both, they must have built in identical places. Notice that true faith doesn’t prevent storms, by the way. Despite the strong similarities, one house stays and the other falls, because the most important part of the house is the one that no one sees: the foundation. And every one of us has founded our life on something. “If the foundation is wrong, everything else must also be wrong.” Can you see why Jesus is concerned almost exclusively with the basis of our lives, and not the externals? Can you appreciate why he must be so pointed in his final application? If a building inspector is required before any construction can go forward, how much more our own life?
Finally, we are called to examine Jesus himself. After all, he claims to be the judge of judgment day. He declares that his words are the only foundation for this life and the next. Is he really who he says he is? And how far has he gone to assure us that he truly knows us, and knows us in such a way that no matter what the judgment, no matter what the storm, he will keep us from falling? That’s what we need to discuss.
1. Looking at the Bible
Observation: Read the passage privately. What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage? Do you notice keywords, parallels, or surprises?
- Read verses 21 and 22. What does it mean to call someone “Lord, Lord?” Why is the word “Lord” repeated?
- Notice the parallel between verses 21 and 24. What does it mean to do the will of the Father, and what does it mean to hear and do Jesus’ words (i.e, the Sermon on the Mount)?
2. Looking at Jesus
At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.
- What authority is Jesus claiming for himself in these two metaphors?
- What does it mean to not only know Jesus, but to be known by Jesus?
3. Looking at Our Hearts
- What are you building your life on? Or, what have you built your life on before.
- What do you see New Yorkers building their lives on? And how easy or hard is it to deceive ourselves about our real foundations?
4. Looking at Our World
- If your life’s foundation is everlasting, if Jesus knows you intimately, what difference does that make in various areas of your life? With family and friends? With your neighbors and in the city? In your workplace?
God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.
View Study Guide Notes
Question 1a: Calling someone “Lord” means to call someone your leader, your master, and your sovereign. It is a declaration that this person is over you. To repeat a name, however, is a sign of intimacy. If you overhear someone saying, “Jane, Jane,” or “Nathan, Nathan,” you would assume that the speaker has a close or even family relationship to the person named. One of the most plaintive cries in the Old Testament is David keening for his son, as he cries “Absolom, Absolom!” (2 Samuel 18:3). So, calling Jesus “Lord, Lord” combines both authority and intimacy. Yet, Jesus shows us that someone can call him “Lord, Lord,” and perform mighty works, have exceptional ministries, put in enormous effort, and even lead others to Jesus without being a believer. There is something tragically wrong with this. That is why in the parallel passage Jesus asks, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46). This is the constant danger we have inside the Church of false profession and false peace.
Question 1b: Jesus matter-of-factly sets doing the will of the Father side-by-side with hearing and doing his own words. If this isn’t a claim to divinity, I don’t know what is. Let the group think through what Jesus means here as they discuss the question. The Sermon on the Mount is long, and some group members may not have been here for every passage. So, to summarize: Jesus preaches the Beatitudes, states that he has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (which is righteousness), and then he goes on to expound the Law in its different parts, from anger, to lust, to oaths, to love. He teaches how to pray, how to depend on God, and how to judge. Finally, he arrives here. Doing what Jesus says means living life as his disciple. Ultimately, hearing and putting Jesus’ words into action means hearing and receiving the gospel, and living the new life that Jesus gives you by his Holy Spirit. As Jesus said, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40). The Father’s will is that we would be saved! And that’s good news.
Question 2a: Jesus claims to be the one who has final authority to judge in verse 23. That is an incredible assertion coming from anyone who is less than God himself. It’s a similar claim to the one in the story of the true foundation. God alone reserves the right for his words to be the basis for human beings. We are, after all, made in his image. We can found our lives on nothing less than God’s word to us. Therefore, for Jesus to command we hear and do his words as the basis of our whole lives is blasphemy unless he is truly God in human form. For some biblical trivia, Jesus is reaching back to the major Old Testament prophets to build his final parable here. He is likely referencing Isaiah 28:14-18 where God condemns the false foundations of Israel and says that “I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic,” and combining that reference with Ezekiel 33:29-33 which describes people who “hear what you say but they will not do it.” Hearing God’s word and not doing it is a recipe for eternal disaster, yet, God promises his own cornerstone, not only in Isaiah but in Psalm 118:22. When Jesus laid down his life, he laid down the cornerstone on which our lives depend. When he was rejected, we were brought in. When Jesus, the only wise person who truly built his life on God, was swept away by the storm of God’s judgment so that we could live, he gave us a foundation that can never be shaken. Because Jesus is the judge, he can save us.
Question 2b: To be known in the Bible denotes familiar and even spousal intimacy, which is appropriate to us since we are the bride of Christ. However, this raises the question: How can a perfect God be on such intimate terms with a sinful people? The answer is in God’s mercy. If Jesus knows us, then he must have bridged the gap. He must pay the cost to know us, to transfer us from our old foundation of our credentials, our work, our self-worth, our resume, to the new foundation of Jesus’ love for us. If the cross could not shake Jesus’ love for us, nothing will. Being known by Jesus, and understanding what it cost Jesus to know us, should melt our hearts, as it did a certain Connecticut farmer named Nathan Cole back in 1740. He wrote that as he heard the gospel preached, “my hearing him preach gave me a heart wound; by Gods blessing my old foundation was broken up, and I saw that my righteousness would not save me.” Because Jesus knows us, he has saved us.
Question 3: These questions continue the discussion about foundations and self-examination. Because this is such a sobering and challenging application that Jesus gives at the end, consider sharing this quote from Martin-Lloyd Jones: “May God grant us honesty as we face this terrifying truth, this truth we shall have to answer for when ‘all earthly scenes have passed away,’ and we stand before Christ and face Him. If you feel you are condemned, confess it to God, hunger and thirst after righteousness, turn believingly to the Lord Jesus Christ, ask Him to give it to you, cost what it may, whatever its effects and results, and He will give it to you, for He has said: ‘Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.’”
Question 4: This is a personal application question that applies to mission.