Mark E. Hardgrove
This particular parable is included in a series of parables that Jesus used to warn against false prophets, false faith, and false hope. In verses 15 through 20 Jesus warns us of false prophets who outwardly look like sheep, but inwardly are ravenous wolves seeking only to devour the sheep. The clue to discerning true prophets from false prophets is to observe whether they produce good fruit, or bad fruit, that is to say, character matters.
Then in verses 21 through 23 Jesus tells us that Jesus will not simply accept everyone who has been out doing religious works, even if it appears that they have been successful by all outward standards. Some will have been so busy doing religious stuff that they never took the time to get to know the very One they claim to serve. The response of Jesus to these, whose hopes were built upon their works and not upon their relationship with Christ, will be, “Depart, I never knew you.”
Our text is a familiar parable that Jesus spoke in order to illustrate that only those who hear and do His Word will be able to stand when the storms of life assail.
Look at the text; two types of people are being lifted up for examination. Notice first the similarities between these two people: Both heard the words of Jesus, both built houses, and both houses experienced a storm. And next, note the differences: One obeyed the words the other did not and one house stood while the other fell.
Friends, we are living in a stormy time and we are never promised exemption from these storms simply because we are believers. It will rain on the just and the unjust. These are stormy times for all people. Unemployment is up and the stock market is down. Inflation is beginning to creep up while profit margins are going down. CEO’s and businessmen, leading some of the world’s largest companies, have swindled billions of dollars to line their pockets while the retirement plans of plain old folks like us are in jeopardy. Terrorists took down the two most prominent monuments to American ingenuity and power, as well as driving a deadly blow to the very headquarters of our defense department. The world is a rockin’ and in these times of uncertainty, these times when the winds and waves of change beat against the church, against our homes and our communities, we’d better be sure what we have built our faith upon.
I THE WORLD IS ROCKIN’
We are living in a time of cataclysmic change. Here in America we are being challenged with changes of such dimensions and significance that the very survival of the nation is in question. These aren’t just changes in fashions or fads, the changes I’m talking about represent a cultural earthquake that threatens to bring down everything that is not built upon the Rock Christ Jesus. Let’s briefly consider some of these changes:
1. We are living in the middle of the most significant racial and cultural changes American has ever known. It is called the “browning of America.” In Rockdale County alone, the racial and cultural shift has been dramatic. In the 1990 census European Americans made up 90 percent of the population. In the 2000 census European Americans were only 73 percent of the population, and if trends continue, by 2010 European Americans will barely represent over 50 percent. During the ten years between 1990 and 2000 the Hispanic population has grown by over 600 percent. Nationwide, it is expected that by the year 2040 European Americans will represent 54 percent of the population, Hispanics will be at 22 percent and African Americans will constitute 15 percent.
The browning of America represents not just a racial change, but also a cultural change. We are changing from a distinctly European/British culture to one that will reflect more of a Latin American influence. Like it not, embrace it or reject it, the browning of America is already underway and the trend will not be reversed. By the time my grandchildren are entering the workforce they had better be able to speak both English and Spanish or they probably will not get a job.
2. The second cultural earthquake is a change in attitudes of Americans with regard to safety issues. We used to think that two oceans were enough to buffer us from any real acts of war or terror against our country. Now we know that this isn’t true. A group of men lead by a despotic leader from a third world country, struck at the heart of our nation. We all watched live on television when the walls came tumbling down. And since that day the world for Americans will never be the same. We now live with the constant threat of terrorist attacks on our nation.
3. A third earthquake is economic uncertainty. Not only did the World Trade Centers fall, but the stock market fell and has yet to get back up. However, the current source of the fall is not the act of the terrorists, but acts of greed, of deception and fraud. Sin is a reproach to any people and lying and stealing are still sins. Now we live in a time of economic uncertainty. People are losing jobs. In this church, people are losing jobs. There is a fear and anxiety etched into the brow of millions of working Americans who do not know if their once powerful company may be the next to fall. K-Mart, Enron, Worldcom . . . who will be next?
4. Fourth earthquake is in the realm of religion. This is a time when people are more willing to accept and embrace a hodge-podge of religious expressions. This is called syncretism and it is an eclectic approach to faith in which people feel free to simply pick and choose which parts of various religions they like and then to create a patchwork of personal preferences. The problem with this is that sometimes the very religious preferences that they stitch into this patchwork stands at fundamental odds with one another. It is almost like people are willfully ignorant of the fact that some of the things they believe are so totally incongruous with each other that it is like mixing oil and water. Yet in this time of political correctness and acceptance people are willing to simply put their brains on a shelf and just go with the flow.
These are four of the most pressing cultural changes that are occurring even as I speak. The culture we thought we knew and understood is melting beneath our feet and only time will tell what it will be replaced with, or if America will survive the earthquake. The wind is already blowing, and the waves are beating upon the house and this much is certain, without the Rock we are all destined to sink into the sands of change.
II IF YOU BUILD IN THE SAND, YOU WILL NOT STAND
The world is changing and in as few as forty years, one generation, from now the world will look very little like it does now. And there are only two options, build on the sand or build on the Rock and this choice will make all the difference to whether or not you survive with your faith intact. Let’s just address the cultural earthquakes that I’ve listed from the perspective of those who have built upon the sand.
1. For people who have build upon the sand, their response to racial and cultural diversity will be to retreat into the old tried and tired forms of racism and prejudice. Instead of embracing the people whom God is bringing to our doorsteps, people who are building on the sand will fall prey to fear and will fail to seize the opportunity to reach out from Jerusalem to Judea, Samarian and unto the uttermost parts of the world. Racism is not the answer. It will bury you in sin and your faith will fail because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about reaching beyond ourselves to embrace others.
2. If you’re building on the sand, then your response to issues of personal and national security will be to depend upon the government to be your shield and your sword. If you’re building on the sand, fear of terrorism will paralyze you and send you running from the very ones you should be reaching.
3. If you’re building on the sand, then your response to economic uncertainty will result in blaming God for financial setbacks, and withholding the tithes and offering that you once gave so readily. If we are placing our hope in our finances instead of in the Lord, then we are building on the sand and the first storm that comes along will leave us lying in the sand shaking our fists at God when we should stand fast, as Job did in his storm.
4. If you’re building on the sand, then your response to the religious syncretism that is going on around you will be to go with the flow. You’ll just read your horoscope, rub your crystals, come to church and pray at the altars. If you’re building on the sand you will be willing to embrace any type of spirituality as long as you perceive that it makes you feel good. You’ll feel fine praying to Mary in the morning, praying to Jesus at lunch, and engaging in a Buddhist chant for dinner. Yet this type of mixing of Baal and Yahweh never works; it only leads to judgment.
III STANDING ON THE ROCK
But thank God there is another option for the church in the time of trouble. There is a firm foundation, a sure standard, and an unmovable anchor for our faith. His name is Jesus.
We are in a time of cultural earthquakes. The wind is howling and the waves are beating against the faith of the church. But we don’t have to live in fear because we have not been given the spirit of fear, but of love, and of power and of a sound mind.
Here in Rockdale County we try to stay away from having to build our house on the rock, but when it comes to our house of faith, we’d better be sure that we’re building on the Rock. When our faith is built on the Rock, we will not fall. When our faith is built on the Rock we will keep our hand to the plow and our eyes on Jesus. When our faith is built on the Rock we can stand even if everything and everyone else around us falls.
1. In times of increasing diversity we need to remember that our race is not our rock. It’s not the color of our skin that will determine whether we stand or fall, but the red blood of Calvary that makes us one with the Rock and with one another.
Neither is our nationality our Rock. Nations rise and fall, but the church marches on. Empires have risen and fallen, but the church of Jesus Christ is still standing. The Rock is not our culture. It is not the European culture, or the African culture, or the Hispanic culture that is our Rock. The culture that will keep us on our feet when the world is tossing to and fro around us is the Christian culture.
It isn’t even democracy or capitalism that is our Rock. For over a generation communism was the rule in Russia. They tried to expunge God from the hearts and minds of people. But without a bullet being fired the iron curtain came down and after the dust cleared what they found was that there was a church in Russia, the communist party had failed and communist philosophy proved futile, but the church was still standing because the Rock is not the government or the political philosophy or even the constitution, the Rock is Christ Jesus as declared by the Word of God. Even if democracy fails, or capitalism goes the way of communism, there will still be Church.
2. In a time of terror and of uncertainty with regard to safety, people who have built their faith on the rock know that God is our sword and our shield, He is our strong-tower, our fortress and our help in a time of trouble. The songwriter said it like this: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee.”
Those who have built their house upon the Rock will not be forced into the shadows for fear of being seen. The church built on the Rock is like a city set on a hill that cannot be hid. The church build upon the Rock will declare Jesus without fear and without apology. The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits. The people who have done all to stand, will stand. But we will only stand against the storms, we will only stand in times of social and cultural upheaval, if we’re standing on the Rock.
3. People who have build their faith upon the Rock will not wilt in times of economic uncertainty. We know who our source is. Our source is not Enron, or Worldcom, but our source is the Rock. It may be a journey through a wilderness. It may look bad all around us. But in the middle of this uncertainty there is a Rock and from that Rock the rivers of living water flow. If you have built your faith on the Rock, then we have the promise of provision even in times of poverty.
Let me tell you that the name of this Rock is Jehovah-Jirah, The God who Provides. “My God is more than enough, He’ll supply all my need, He is my El-Shaddai, He always takes care of me. Jehovah-Jirah, He is my Rock.” I don’t have to stop tithing or giving or blessing others, because I know Whom the source is and His supply will never run dry.
Companies may crumble. Stock markets may crash. Banks may fold. But if I’ve built our faith on the Rock, I’ll still be standing because my God shall supply all my need according to His riches in glory!
4. Finally, people who have built their faith on the Rock are not looking to employ any other religious practices. He is the high and lofty One and beside Him, there is no other God. Hannah, the mother of Samuel sang a song that said, “Neither is there any Rock like our God.”
I don’t need to pray to anyone but God in the name of Jesus. I don’t need to pray in the name of a Saint, or in the name of Mary, or in the name Allah. All I need to do lift up the precious name of Jesus and all of heaven comes to a halt to hear what the need is. If I abide in Him, and His Word abides in me, I can ask what I will and I will receive it. What more is there? What other name? What other faith? What else do I need?
I don’t apologize for the fact that I believe Jesus is the way the truth and the life. I’m not trying to win a popularity contest with Jews, Hindus, or Muslims. Jesus is the door and anyone who comes any other way is a thief and a robber. I love the lost too much to sell them anything less than the truth that will set them free. I’m building my faith on the Rock and there is no other Rock like my God.
We live in a world that is rockin’ and if we are not standing on the Rock, then we will fail and fall. So what does it mean to say that we are building our house on the Rock? Does it mean that we just go to church and claim to be Christian? No. Jesus tells us that it is more than mental assent that He is looking for. He said the man who is building on the Rock is that man who hears and does His Word. Only those living in obedience to the Word of God, only those who are living out their faith by the words they speak, the lives they live and the deeds they do are building their house on the Rock and therefore only those people will be left standing after the mountains have tumbled into the sea.
What about it today? Have you built your faith, your spiritual house, upon the Rock Christ Jesus? Because what I see when I look back through the prophets of old, was that when the world was rockin’ was when God came knockin’.
Jesus said, in the Book of Revelation, a book that depicts the world in a time of cataclysmic chaos, a world rockin’ under the judgment of God:
20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
21To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
22He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Rev 3:20-22