Storms in this life are as inescapable as they can be vicious. The rains of depression, fearfulness, and loneliness fall. The floods of personal sin, family tension, and relational brokenness come. The winds of cultural tension, social pressure, and godless societies blow. And all of it, at times, slams against the walls of our lives. In fact, so common is this experience that it can safely be assumed that each and every one of us is, right now, recovering from, going through, or preparing for such an affliction. Sometimes all three at once!
As Jesus concludes his so-called Sermon on the Mount, he acknowledges that while such overwhelming trials are inevitable in this life, being overcome by them is not. As he concludes his lesson, Jesus describes what its proper application produces: An unshakable life.
If you have a Bible, turn to Matthew 7. As we come to the conclusion of Jesus’s so-called Sermon on the Mount we find him ending by bringing, all at once—in a way only Jesus can—clarity and conviction, hope and help, warning and wisdom.
While we’re going to study verses 13 through 27 this morning, I want to begin at the end. As you find Matthew 7, skim down to the final four verses of the discourse where Jesus describes the end product of his teaching, namely, an unshakable life.
The End Product: An Unshakable Life
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”Matthew 7:24–27
In both cases, regardless of the house’s strength, the foundations’ fidelity, and the builder’s wisdom, storms hit. In both cases, “rain fell … floods came … winds blew” and they “slammed against [those] house[s].” There’s no indication that either homeowner caused the storm but both had to endure it.
I don’t need to convince you that life’s full of storms, many of which we don’t cause but must endure. The rain of depression, fearfulness, and loneliness falls. The flood of personal sin, family tension, and relational brokenness comes. The winds of cultural imperfection, social pressure, and godless societies blow. And all of it slams against our houses, colliding with our lives. In fact, so common is this experience that it can safely be assumed that each and every one of us is, right now, recovering from, going through, or preparing for such a storm. Sometimes all three at once!
As Jesus closes his Sermon, he acknowledges that such trials are inevitable but that being overcome by them is not. Yes, the winds knocked the foolish man’s house down. His life could not withstand the chaos swirling around him. But the house built by the wise man stood strong. His life, while probably showing signs of enduring the storm, remained as strong as before the first raindrop fell.
We all want to be the wise man. Every one of us wants a life that can withstand the concerning diagnosis, the heartbreaking disappointment, the abusive experience, and everything else. We all want an unshakable life. And that’s what Jesus is offering as an end product to his teaching. So, how do we build one?
To answer that question, let’s now go back to verse 13. Starting here we’re going to find that Jesus provides us with three steps to building an unshakable life. If you want to be like the wise man, enduring life’s storms without falling apart, there are three things you must do.
Step one: Choose the right path
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”Matthew 7:13–14
Building an unshakable life—a house built on rock, not sand—begins by choosing the right path out of two available options.
The wrong path is “broad” and found through the “wide” gate. It’s easy to find and any traveller on this road will never lack company as “there are many who enter.”
In the context, this path is one of worldly living. It’s populated by those who ignore God’s standard of living and, instead, follow another. This wrong path leads to one place: “Destruction.”
The right path, on the other hand, is “narrow” and found through the “small” gate. Because it’s a less obvious choice and a more consistency difficult journey, “there are few who find it.”
This path is one of true righteousness, that which Jesus has been presenting through this Sermon. I don’t think he’s primarily talking about eternal life because, remember, Jesus is mainly talking to his disciples, presenting them with a kingdom ethic to strive to embody while they wait eagerly for its full realization when the kingdom comes.
Jesus is saying to them: “If you hear, believe, and apply what I’m saying about true righteousness, you will be traveling a path that leads to life and not destruction and not only as final destinations (heaven and hell) but as present realities also. It’s not an easy trip. It’s, at times, a self-denying journey. But the pursuit of true righteousness is the first step in building an unshakable life.” We must choose the right path.
Which road are you currently travelling? As Christians, this remains a question we must ask ourselves. Do I strive to align myself with God’s standard of righteousness by the power of the Spirit, or do I follow my own? Do I practice buffet-style obedience—taking and leaving elements of God’s righteousness as the mood strikes me?
If part of me is on the wide road, I’m not sacrificing eternal life, but I certainly am weakening the foundations of my house. Disobedience for the Christian is like moisture in the concrete and termites in the walls. The first step to building an unshakable life is to choose the right path.
But even that doesn’t guarantee an unshakable life because there are still dangers to avoid while building. That leads us to step two: Listen to the right voices.
Step Two: Listen to the right voices
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”Matthew 7:15
These people claim to speak for God. They pretend to care about the good of God’s people and the exaltation of God’s glory. But, while they look like they belong in the flock, they’re actually hungry predators who, when allowed to remain, attack, wound, and kill the true sheep. Jesus says, as you strive to build an unshakable life, beware of these false prophets, they will tear your house down.
Unbiblical teaching steals hope, joy, and peace (that which we need when the storms come!) and, instead, brings confusion, disillusionment, and doubt. “Beware of the false prophets.”
Jesus, thankfully, tells us how to spot them.
“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”Matthew 7:16–20
“Fruit” refers to a final product, that is, what’s ultimately produced. Scripture often uses “fruit” to describe the heart made observable by either actions (i.e., the fruit of the Spirit) or words (Matt 12:33–37). In the case of the false prophets, I think Jesus has both in mind. Notice “fruit” is plural in verse 20.
If someone claims to speak for God—they may carry a Bible, stand behind a pulpit, enjoy popularity among other Christians, publish books, be on RightNow Media, and speak at conferences—we must ask: Are they for real? Are they a voice that will help me build an unshakable life, help me stay on the narrow path? Or, are they just biding their time before they tear me apart?
Jesus says, look at their fruit. What do they say? I don’t care if they have a Bible with them, is what they are saying in line with the teaching of the Bible? Many use the Bible to support their own agendas. Scrutinize their teachings—not maliciously but intentionally. What do they say?
Also, what is their life like? Is how they live consistent with what they say (which is consistent with God’s word)? To be candid, this assumes you know the teacher to a certain degree, right?
If we want to build unshakable lives, Jesus is teaching telling us we must choose the right path and listen to the right voices. There are countless examples of people who, by not being cautious with their ears, find their houses built on sand.
What teachers do you listen to? Are you inspecting their fruit, testing them by carefully considering what they say and what they do? We must guard our ears.
I won’t speak for the other men who fill this pulpit, but I know who I am. I’m well-aware that there are preachers out there who are more gifted, more eloquent, and easier to listen to than I am. And, sincerely, I love to hear that members of Oakridge are, between Sundays, exposing yourselves to those gifted, godly Bible teachers. However, there is one thing I have that none of them do—I’m here. I’m with you. You can not only examine my teaching, but you can examine my life. This is an invitation to not only rake everything I say over the coals of God’s word, but to watch my life, as fearful as it is for me to say.
Building an unshakable life means choosing the right path and listening to the right voices. However, there’s a final step Jesus adds in this text.
Step three: Trust the right measurements
Continuing from his warning about false prophets, Jesus says this:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”Matthew 7:22–23
Notice that Jesus is pointing to a future day of judgement on which he himself will be the Judge.
“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”Matthew 7:22–23
On the future day of judgement, there will be a group of people who stand before Jesus—perhaps like those false prophets—and receive the devastating news that they measured their lives wrongly and, because of that, will be sent away. The Greek is strong (v. 23): “Never did I have an intimate relationship with you! Depart from me!”
These people say the right things—“Lord, Lord!”—and do the right things—“prophesy … cast out demons … perform miracles” all in Jesus’s name! But therein lays the reason for their rejection. They stand before the judgement seat and present their impressive religious resumes expecting entrance not realizing that they’ve missed the one thing necessary to enter the coming kingdom: “… but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”
What is the will of the father?
“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”John 6:40
What’s the will of the Father? That we believe in Jesus, the Son of God, the promised and coming King, the Saviour of sinners, the resurrection and the life. Those who will be sent from his presence did not do the will of the Father, they didn’t know the Son, they didn’t believe in his person and works. No, instead, they measured the worthiness of their lives based on what they did and not on what Christ did. What Jesus, the Son of God, did, that’s the only measurement worth trusting.
We will all one day stand before the King and Judge and have our lives evaluated—measured—and perfectly rewarded. Will you try and impress him with your resume? Or will we simply point to Christ’s righteousness and our trust in him?
We’re to strive for righteousness today, but from a place of gratitude. Because we’ve been saved, because we’ll enter the kingdom, and because of Jesus’s righteousness imputed to our filthy accounts by grace through faith we strive to honour him with our lives. But our works, however grand they may be, are not the ticket. Don’t trust that measurement.
Step one: Choose the right path. Step two: Listen to the right voices. Step three: Trust the right measurements. When we, by God’s grace, follow the Lord’s directions, where do we end up?
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.”Matthew 7:24–25
If we want to be a people who build unshakable lives, lives that can withstand the storms of life, we need to build wisely! We need to follow the Lord’s gracious directions. We need to pursue righteousness, be on guard against false teachers, and trust in the work of Jesus and not our own. We need to build wisely.
I’ll encourage you this week to ask yourself, where am I in this building process? Which step am I am? Where am I stumbling? Is it my consistent pursuit of righteousness? Am I wandering off the narrow path? If so, talk to another believer. You’ll be surprised how common that struggle is. Find a travel companion.
Or maybe you’re pursuing righteousness, by God’s grace, by you’ve got to do some thinking about the teachers you’re allowing to influence your personal theology. Open your Bible, watch their lives (if you can), and pray for discernment.
Or, maybe, if you’re honest, you’re trusting the wrong measurement in your life. You’re assuming that when you see the Lord you’ll show him your impressive resume. Maybe you’ve never realized that the Christian life is about pursuing righteousness from a place of acceptance and not toward acceptance.
Ask yourself this week, maybe as you skim back through this passage on your own, where are you on this building plan? How strong is your house? Are you ready for the storms? Let’s build wisely!