PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Its story is interesting. It was constructed of white marble and is a bell tower in a cathedral complex. Construction began in 1173 and wasn’t completed until three architects had exhausted their labors over the course of 199 years. Bonano Pisano was the initial architect and builder who’s work stopped when the tower had only three and a half stories. He quit working when he noticed its foundation was flawed. Ninety years later, with the structure leaning, another architect undertook the project. He should have torn it down but he attempted to correct the tilt by making upper floor adjustments. He added three and a half more tiers but realized his efforts didn’t correct the problem. Eighty years later a third architect simply capped the structure with a dome, but that didn’t correct the problem either. Today, over 800 years later, the tower leans seventeen feet to the south and each year it sinks a fraction farther. Architects studying the structure are in agreement—it will inevitably fall!
Here’s what’s interesting: The Tower of Pisa was a construction effort, spanning 200 years, that never corrected its essential flaw. It didn’t matter that the structure was made of marble or that upper level adjustments were made to correct its tilt. For 800 years the edifice has served only as an ornamental bell tower, unfit for human occupation—all because its foundation was neglected. Is not the moral of this story evident? The most important aspect of any physical structure is its foundation! If the foundation is flawed the entire building is vulnerable.
In our text, Jesus described two builders constructing houses: one wise; the other foolish. They gained their reputation according to the foundation they laid. The fundamental difference between the two foundations is this: One builder persisted in digging past the topsoil and laying his foundation upon rock; the other builder ignored the fundamental rule of construction, took the shortcut, and built on sand.
These two builders probably built structurally similar houses. The same storm battered both houses. But while one house endured the other collapsed! Jesus said the foundation made the difference. And the foundation we use for our personal life is essential. When storms strike, our chief defense isn’t our ability to pray or confess the Word. And make no mistake: prayer and verbal pronouncement of God’s Word are imperative! But our preeminent defense for weathering storms depends upon where we stand. And we secure ourselves in every crisis by standing firmly upon Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 28:16 says: “I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.” When Paul repeated Isaiah’s words in Romans 9:33 he said, “the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” The reason we won’t be dismayed or shamed is because every aspect of Christ has been tested and found reliable! He’s proven Himself as our security for everything we will ever encounter. Look at His life:
- The religious detectives placed Him under the microscope of hyper-criticism but they found Him faultless.
They scrutinized everything He did and said. They knew where He went, who went with Him, and what He did when He arrived. But He never slipped.
Every charge brought against Him was baseless.
That’s why we can build on Him. He is “tested . . . [perfect,] sure . . . [and] the one who trusts in Him will never be dismayed.” Consider the ways Christ was tested:
Lack and deprivation dared to test Jesus after He taught the 5000. That’s why He wouldn’t dismiss them without feeding them from a little boy’s lunch-basket.
The tempest of nature tested Him on the Sea of Galilee. But it only took three words, “Peace, be still,” to prove His lordship.
Sickness and disease tested Him. So He proved He was Jehovah Rapha, “God our healer,” by curing the masses without sedatives and or surgical instruments.
And death tested Him at the tomb of Lazarus. So He lifted His voice and commanded Lazarus to rise from the grave.
There are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet. And when Jesus said He was “the alpha and omega” (the first and last letters of that alphabet), He indicated His ability to triumph from A to Z. The promise of Scripture is true: “the one who trusts in Him will never be dismayed.” Are you building your life on Jesus Christ?
(Transition) So how do we build our lives upon Jesus Christ? First, we must be devoted to truth. And truth resides in Christ and His Word.
Build Your Life Upon Christ and His Word
In a world of moral equivalence and moral relativism, God-fearing Christians must maintain their reliance upon the veracity of God’s Word. We must always maintain that God’s Word alone is the Sourcebook and Compass of truth.
When have you last designated 30-days of studying the four Gospels? When have you last concentrated on “Reading the Red” and “responding to the report” from the Gospels? When is the last time you studied the Words of Christ in order to know His thoughts regarding contemporary issues? It won’t surprise the committed Christian that Jesus and His Word answer every question of life.
But today’s culture doesn’t regard God’s Word as do Christians. The world is at war with truth! It’s always attacked truth. Unbelievers have stoned the prophets, crucified the Lord, and have shredded the Scriptures. Even today, Truth is assaulted. Society bans it from schools and suppresses it in the marketplace. But remember, society’s definition and perception of truth is always in flux. Each generation amends the beliefs of a former generation. Philosophers and social architects insist that truths from 4000 years ago, 2000 years ago, or even 50 years ago aren’t true or even relevant today. They deny absolute, eternal truth. Notice how truth is assaulted:
- William Faulkner said: “Truth—that long clean clear simple unenviable unchallengeable straight and shining line, on one side of which black is black and on the other white is white, has now become an angle, a point of view.” He’s right. Men have completely distorted truth. Let me show you what I mean:
Samuel Butler said, “There is no permanent absolute unchangeable truth; what we should pursue is the most convenient arrangement of our ideas.”
Lawrence said, “Truth does not lie beyond humanity, but is one of the products of the human mind and feeling.” (Truth is based on feeling?)
Existentialism defines truth by the empirical evidence of what we hear, see, taste, touch, and smell.
Multiculturalism suggests truth is relative to cultures. The truth for Asia isn’t the truth for Africa. What’s truth for Europe isn’t truth for the Middle East.
The German Philosopher Nietzsche said, “There are many kinds of eyes. Even the Sphinx has eyes—therefore there must be many kinds of “truths” and consequently there can be no truth.”
(Illustration) In the early 1990’s Ohio State University built The Wexner Center for the Performing Arts. The University commissioned its architect to design the building to reflect the incoherence of life and to prove that orderly rules do not manage the world. From inside to outside the building was constructed in disarray. The floor was slanted and there were randomly placed pillars hanging from the ceiling and stairways wound to nowhere. Ravi Zacharias, one of America’s foremost Christian apologists, toured the building and then asked this question: ‘Did the architect design [this] foundation with the same incoherence of the rest of the building?’ Of course not, the builders laid a perfect foundation! In the University’s attempt to disprove truth, they proved it!
Regardless of how archaic it sounds, truth is rooted in Christ and His Word. Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” The Psalmist said: “Your Word is truth.” That’s why you must build your life on Jesus Christ. Are you doing that?
(Transition) Let’s try to determine why men deny truth. Have you ever paused to consider why men deny the truths of Scripture? Why do liberal scholars even seek to pervert the Scriptures?
Why Men Deny Truth
Never forget this: “Truth is under assault”! Man is wrestling against “principalities and powers” (Ephesians 6). There are fierce, but unseen, forces battling to gain control of man’s thinking. These forces are evil, destructive, and contrary to all that the Bible advocates. It is not strange that government or society attacks the Bible. But Scripture is also being maligned by the “insiders” of the Kingdom of God. Why is this happening? Why has it always happened?
People attack truth because it’s infinitely easier for them to assail it than to comply with it! Folks, this Book is not passive! It’s more than poetry or inspirational reading. God’s Word is an earthquake prepared to shatter the foundations of the world. When people read the Bible, it cracks open their heart and exposes their flaws. The world celebrates the Babe in the Manger and the Prince of Peace; but this Lamb also appears as the Lion! And His roar terrifies men when it speaks of eternity. His Words are like flaming arrows that pronounce doom upon wicked men. This Book is not a whisper to the world; it’s a deafening crack of thunder that none can ignore.
God’s Word is the light that exposes the lies of darkness! His Word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” And among the many truths of Scripture, two are preeminent: (1) Man is sinful and (2) Christ is the Savior. Thus, there is a war against Truth.
(Quote) The British journalist, Steve Turner, said this about truth: “We believe that each man must find the truth that is right for him. Reality will adapt accordingly. The universe will readjust. History will alter. We believe that there is no absolute truth excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.” Do you understand the consequences of believing that false and fatal notion? When people do what is “right in their own eyes” it leads to chaos.
Consequences of Misidentifying Truth
(Illustration) Sometime ago, I heard a man share his testimony on the “700 Club.” He told of being raised in the inner-city where people were constantly mugged and buildings were looted. Consequently, “environment” taught this man to imitate a lawless lifestyle. He continued his testimony by admitting how he burglarized a small store. Several hours later, the police knocked on his door, handcuffed, arrested, and jailed him. His robbery had been videotaped! I’ll summarize the amazing part of his testimony: “My arrest completely mystified me! I honesty couldn’t understand why the police apprehended me. And it was because I was raised in an environment that taught me to believe aggression and robbery were normal behavior.”
This is what Isaiah meant when he wrote: “justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; [and] truth has stumbled in the streets” (59:14). When truth is abandoned, it leads to chaos. A neighborhood, a culture, a nation, a world that ignores the truths of God’s Word cannot long endure. There is always a consequence to believing what is contrary to the Bible. It’s destructive!
Here is what you and I as Christians—the Church—must understand: It is our obligation and responsibility to lovingly guide misdirected people toward the Truth. We cannot merely “Coexist” and “tolerate” a “politically correct” view that is leading people to destruction. We must speak-up in love, compassion, and with boldness!
(Illustration) I remember when my baby-daughter told her first, “untruth.” She was about two-and-a-half years-old. As she awoke each morning, her first action involved removing her wet, disposable diaper. On a particular morning, she removed her diaper walked into my bedroom. I talked with her a few moments and then said: “Kristen, it’s time to bathe.” (Now here she comes with her first lie.) She responded, “I didn’t wet last night. I don’t need bathing.” I knew better, so I said: “Alright, let’s go check your diaper.” Instantly she said, “You can’t, I threw it away!”
Despite the good laugh I got from this, it’s always the parents’ responsibility to teach the value of truthfulness. Parents are called to speak into the lives of their children and show them the foundation that truth offers.
I like what one person said: “On Jesus Christ this Rock I stand, all other rocks are shamrocks!” That’s true! But the songwriter said: “On Jesus Christ this Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Do you understand that? Do you realize that any foundation apart from Christ is sinking sand?
Your foundation for life is laid when you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. That’s the starting-point. Then, you deepen and strengthen your foundation as you trust in His precepts and commands. You must read the Bible, pray, and obey His Word. Try to never stray from these foundational principles.
If you aren’t a Christian, I invite you to accept Christ today. If you ignore Jesus and die without knowing Him as your Savior you will suffer what the Bible calls the “second death.” Hell is what the Bible describes as the “second death,” and it’s the most horrifying place in the universe: Matthew 8:12 depicts Hell as a place of darkness, remorse, and torment. In Matthew 25:46 Jesus called it a place of “eternal punishment.” Luke 16:26 describes Hell as inescapable. There’s no exit door, no fire hatch, and no second chance once you pass through Hell’s gloomy tunnel. Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 that the ungodly “will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord.” And Revelation 21:8 categorizes Hell as a place of the lowest associations when it says: “the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
People will be confined to that awful, tormenting place because they rejected the Chief Cornerstone. But you can avoid Hell! There’s a better place waiting for you. And you can plan for Heaven by building your life on an unassailable foundation—Jesus Christ. I urge you to do so today.