“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
September 2001, Big Decision Time. I moved my house, my job, my friendships and family from the comfort zone of Bradford in Yorkshire (which incidentally included the best curry in England) to the completely unknown and slightly intimidating centre of Manchester. A great decision to take when you are a student, but not quite so great when you are a middle-aged vicar.
Every time I preach a sermon I give special thought to my ending. I don’t want to just share a few nice spiritual thoughts and then leave them to die away. I want to proclaim Good News of how following Jesus can transform people’s lives. Then I want to finish or draw to a climax by challenging my listeners to make decisions, to respond, to act on the word. I want people to change and become somehow different, somehow better, to move them on to a newer, richer place. I do this because this is what Jesus did with the Sermon on the Mount.
After all the guidance and teaching he finally invites them to make big decisions. Decisions that will have major lifestyle implications; that will mean significant changes; and that will run a long way into the future.
Three times he calls for a decision. Firstly he talks about deciding which master we will serve, God or wealth (6:24). Secondly, he invites us to decide which gate and pathway we will take on our journey through life (7:13). Thirdly, he conjures up a simple but straight-to-the-point image of a wise and foolish man.
The wise man builds his home, his daily life, his hopes and dreams on a solid rock. The foolish person builds on sand. Then, being a complete realist, Jesus talks not about if’ difficulties come but rather, when they come.
Sometimes the storms come once in a blue moon and sometimes they come one after the other, day after day.
Building our house on Jesus doesn’t mean that we are suddenly immune from such things but rather that we are suddenly stronger and not alone in the face of them. It is the life built on obedience, i.e. not just liking but actually obeying him that stands strong.
Decisions come in different sizes. Many years ago I began to find Jesus, or perhaps I should say, he began to find me. Soon after that I made a huge decision, to serve God as my master, to follow the Jesus way and to build my life on the rock. Some people make one big decision, instantly leaping from sand to rock. Others make a series of gradual stepping stone like decisions shuffling from the one to the other. It is not so much about deciding to go to church or to read the Bible. It includes both of these but it is much more. It is a decision to rebuild our life, or to build it anew in a better place.
I love the Madness song ’Our House’. It captures ordinary life, family life, everyone trying to get on together life.
Father wears his Sunday best,
Mother’s tired she needs a rest.
The kids are playing up downstairs,
Sister’s sighing in her sleep.
Brother’s got a date to keep,
He can’t hang around.
Our house, in the middle of our street.
Our house, in the middle of our street.
Our house it has a crowd,
There’s always something happening.
And it’s usually quite loud,
Our mum she’s so house-proud,
Nothing ever slows her down,
And a mess is not allowed.
If you want your house of life to stand up strong, build on the rock.
Clarify my mind,
That I might see the issues clearly.
Take away distractions,
That I might make a strong decision.
Show me the plans, that I might understand.
Lead me to the rock of obedience,
That I might build.