The Firm Foundation

November 19, 2023 Speaker: Jad K. Series: The New Way to Live: Jesus's Sermon on the Mount

Scripture: Matthew 7:24–29

We now come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount. The passage before us today follows other exhortations and warnings that we got to study the past couple of weeks. We heard Jesus contrast the broad and narrow gates; false and true prophets; bad and good trees; and false and true disciples. We rejoiced in the assurance of our destiny; we were warned about the danger we face; we were exhorted to have wise discernment toward prophets and disciples. As we live in the new kingdom where the Lord’s Prayer is the model – your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven – it is imperative that the citizens of the kingdom be able to discern well and wisely between these contrasting dichotomies, and live on the side of righteousness rather than lawlessness.

There is only one divine law – the Law of Christ which is the Law of life, love, and peace. We either live according to it, outwardly reflecting a real inward regeneration; or we would be lawless, because every other law is a lie. But righteousness and lawlessness cannot both prevail at the end. There will come a time to separate between them once and for all. And so we come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus gives the final exhortation and the last contrast. There is a storm coming, and the foundation will be put to the test. When the wind blows and the flood rolls, only a firm foundation can stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

The logic of this saying of Jesus is straightforward. It is his final point of the sermon and follows all the previous teaching. The main point of the passage is a warning and an exhortation where everyone literally means everyone (Greek: pas)! Everyone will face danger. Everyone who hears the words of Jesus will face the coming storm; there will be one of 2 outcomes: either doing or not doing. Wisdom bids the hearer do and survive the coming storm. Foolishness bids a hearer not do and thus succumb to what is coming; great will be the fall. It matters not what is projected externally if the foundation be destroyed. Believers must dig deep, drill deep, and lay a foundation of faith and obedience that cannot be swayed by the blowing wind or the rushing flood.

Our sermon will cover 3 aspects of today’s passage: the firm foundation, practical wisdom, and divine authority.

A Firm Foundation

Whenever we look for a house, we might think of location, school district, neighborhood, architecture, yard, resale value etc… But the foundation is the most important part of a house. No matter all the other features, a structure has to withstand the natural elements, be they rain, wind, flood, or earthquakes.

The people hearing the words of Jesus understood this image. The hilly land around the region of Galilee could be very deceiving. During the dry months, the earth would look solid and firm. But the region was also subject to heavy rain which would quickly change the consistency of the earth and lead to flooding of the wadis – the valleys or ravines that were interspersed between the hills. The risk of rushing water was very high for any structure that was not built correctly. If a house was built without digging deep enough to lay a foundation on solid rock, when storms rise, when wind and rain bat a house, the earth under it would become shifting sand and the whole house would be in danger of being swept away with all those in it. If you ever get the chance to travel to that region, try to find a structure whose foundations are being laid and see the work that goes into it.

The house I grew up in was on the side of a steep hill. It had foundations that went several feet into the ground to help sustain it from floods, earthquakes, and shifting earth. When I moved to Oklahoma, I was aghast at seeing foundations being laid straight at the face of the land. No wonder we got used to a bit of settling. But the risk Jesus is talking about is not a mere crack in drywall or an inch of settling: it is complete uprooting and utter destruction. If the foundation is not firm, it is very easy to deconstruct. If faith is not solid, it is very easy to shatter. If a ship’s hull is not watertight, it is very easy to sink. A small crack can devastate a soft foundation.

This passage tells us that everyone stands at risk. Believers specifically have been warned by Jesus and the apostles that trials will come, and persecution should be expected (Matthew 24; John 16:33; James 1). Yet even before persecution takes place, on this side of eternity, the effects of the fall are that bad things happen to all people; the evils of this fallen world happen every day and do not differentiate between believers and unbelievers: accidents, wars, illnesses, a broken bone, a diagnosis, a flood, an earthquake, and so much more. But not all people respond in the same manner, for the foundations of a person’s worldview system differ from one to another. It is, after all, worldview that directs our thoughts and actions at every point, becoming acutely clearer during time of duress. And this passage contrasts between foundations for systems of faith, both true and false, because both have to deal with calamity.

There are many worldviews out there. Some seek salvation by separating themselves from pain and calamity. Some insist that if you eat the right foods, you can face anything. Others preach that you must have done something wrong to receive evil. A cursory reading of the book of Job will expose us to some of these thoughts that are not new. Add to it that nowadays, it is very easy for information to travel across the globe. Like foods travel around and become subject to fusion, worldviews do the same and get some mixing. But a firm foundation should not be adulterated by the addition of thoughts that can act like sand or termites where only solid reinforced concrete must be laid.

What is your foundation?

Some trust in insurance policies, others in bank accounts, others in military power and so on and so forth. The psalmist says, some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God! (Psalm 20:7) This should be the wise foundation of our faith so that we can withstand what comes against us, and continue to do the works he has prepared for us. Notice again that it is not simply hearing that is wise, but doing. God has already laid the foundation for us to build upon (Isaiah 28:15-19). And just like in Jesus’ time there were many people among the hearers who did not believe, we would fool ourselves today to think that those who hear the word of God, even every Sunday, are all wise in that they are doing his works, and they are leading their lives according to his purposes.

Practical Wisdom

The intention is not to scare the faithful. It is to revive the dormant. It is to strengthen the weak. It is to give hope to the weary. Not all who hear do. Not all who seem on the inside are not actually outsiders. To be in the audience of the king is no guarantee to be in the kingdom. To be physically in a church is no guarantee to be in Christ. A warning must be given. In 2 Timothy 3, Paul warns about the last days, giving many examples, and summarizing them in this: some people have the appearance of godliness, but deny its power.

The logic of this passage is simple. The result is complex. Storms are coming: the storm of this life and also that of the coming judgment. The evil of the current age will affect us all. The day of the Lord will summon us all. The foundation will be tested; appearance swill be set aside. We will either stand firm or fall greatly; there will be either salvation or destruction; either life or death. The exhortation Jesus puts before us is clear: either wisdom or foolishness. Like the virgins in Matthew 25:1-13, those who hear the word will either act foolishly or wisely; they will be in or out; ready or not, the bridegroom is coming and will test every single one of us to our core. What is our foundation made of?

At the center of the foundation is faith in Christ. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1:7). Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6); it is impossible to be in the kingdom. Faith is the cement without which no foundation can be laid. But faith without works is dead, and so obedience is essential to the foundation as water is essential to mix and solidify that cement to make it firm. Cement without water is just dust. And a foundation of dust cannot support a building. And Christ himself is the cornerstone of the foundation, the center that holds everything together, the steel that strengthens the whole construct. In historical middle eastern constructions, there is a single stone at the top of an arched pillar that sits right in the middle and holds the whole together. It is the chief cornerstone. Take it out, and everything falls apart. Take Jesus out of any faith, and it is dead. It will not lead to eternal life. There is no other way. And the other element of a foundation must be the koinonia, the fellowship of believers, the church of the living God that is a pillar and buttress of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). Jesus Christ the son of the living God saves us by faith in the gospel into the church community. He tethers us together like rebar. We are like iron rods who work together to strengthen the whole structure. We become the assembly of faith over whom Jesus Christ is Lord.

Can a foundation have 1 or 2 or 3 elements without the 4th? Without Christ, all else is meaningless. Without faith, all else fails. Without obedience, we will only be known by our lack of fruit. And without church, we stand at huge risk with possibly the biggest false assurance of a foundation that people have. How many people think they can be Christians but not be in church! We cannot love Jesus – the head – without loving the church – the body. We cannot live with the head without the body, just as you cannot live with the head of your spouse without his/her body.

What are practical ways to obey this exhortation?

  • Reading the word, privately and corporately; embedding your mind in it; listening to it spoken and sung (The Corner Room); memorizing it; meditating on it day and night.
  • Learning the truth; learning it so well that we can judge anything by it; keeping it free from false ideas and intrusive thoughts.
  • Understanding the unchanging character of God, from everlasting to everlasting.
  • Studying his attributes: holiness, glory, might, love, kindness, gentleness, humility, joy, delight, compassion, care, protection, sustenance…
  • Living as citizens of the kingdom; here and now live as new creation.
  • Being subject to the King; not having our allegiance divided by another.
  • Having no other master(s); forsaking the destructive loves of self, money, power… and submitting our will to the will of God so that his will is done in our lives as it is in heaven.
  • Submitting to the law of Christ, to one another in Christ, to love and good deeds, to mutual edification, to reminding one another of hope, to hospitality and care, to strengthening one another in the faith; to supporting the foundation of another if it seems to be fledgling.
  • Joyfully obeying the commands of God who saved us from disobedience into the freedom to obey him freely and willfully.
  • Forsaking pride and embracing humility; pride prevents us from learning, from forgiving, from repenting, from growing, from being sanctified.
  • Showing Christ’s righteousness in all that we do and think. Being above reproach. Showing propriety.
  • Praying; praying daily, regularly, and incessantly; praying privately and corporately; if something is not big enough to bring to God in prayer, then it’s not big enough to worry about.
  • Letting go of anxiety; worry is unnecessary because our Father is the God of the universe; worry is uncharacteristic of our faith in Jesus the Lord of all; worry is not wise because our future glory is guaranteed.
  • Seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
  • Prioritizing the gospel over all other thoughts; we take them captive in the name of Jesus rather than falling captive to them.
  • Gospel living so that we reflect the character of him who loved us and gave himself for us, and so that the world sees our lives and declares there is truly a God in the land; and sees our hope and asks us for the reason for the hope that is in us.
  • Prioritizing the church and gospel community over all other assemblies. Being an Acts 2 community.
  • Shepherding one another; knowing each other; turning our brothers away from sin; protecting our sisters from wolves; leading one another toward maturity in Christ; teaching each other the word of God; weeping with one another; rejoicing together.
  • Prioritizing the mission of the church which is to raise mature disciples of Jesus who go on themselves to disciple others toward Christ.
  • Obeying the great commission where the purpose is to make disciples of all nations which also means planting churches that multiply and proclaim the glory of the Lord over the face of the earth.

This list is not exhaustive but it’s intended to help us learn practically what it means to hear and do with wisdom. Hearing alone is not enough. In fact, only hearing is dangerous. Those who hear must listen, and those who listen must do the will of Christ which is the will of the Father who sent him.

Divine Authority

Early in the sermon (5:1) we saw Jesus go up a mountain away from the crowd so that he could teach his disciples. Yet by the end of this discourse, it seems that more than just the 12 disciples had gathered to hear his teaching. The people in the audience were faced with a radical call to obey and to live differently in the world. They also just listened to some of the most controversial declarations ever made. Unlike their rabbis who derived their authority from Old Testament or from tradition, the Teacher before them has just anchored his authority in himself:

  • 21: Not everyone who says to ME, ‘Lord, Lord…’
  • 22: On that day many will say to ME ‘Lord, Lord;’ and then YOUR name x3
  • 23: I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from ME’
  • 24,26: hears these words of MINE and does/does not do them

The Sermon is not only a call to obey; it is also a declaration of the deity of Jesus. He is Lord. His authority is in his deity. The command is to obey him as the only path for salvation. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through him. Jesus Christ is Lord. Is he worthy? He is!

This declaration calls for a response. We either accept it or deny it. We either do his will or we don’t. We either build on him or on another. Simply being in awe of him is not enough. In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis presents his famous trilemma: I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

The people listening to Jesus did not fail to see his authority. They were in awe of him. But astonishment alone is not enough. The wisdom that calls us to a firm foundation also bids us to obey him. Some of the listeners may have been the same people who later shouted ‘crucify him!’ Some of them may have moved on to follow other gurus, teachers, philosophers, or religions. Hearing alone is not enough; astonishment alone is not enough; the right response is falling on our knees and calling him Lord and worshiping him as God.


We today must make a decision. Being at church no more makes one a Christian as being in the presence of the king makes one a citizen. False assurance serves no one. For those of us believers here today – and I hope this is most of us – the logic before us is clear: we cannot be mere hearers; we must be doers of the word who are anchored in the firm foundation of Jesus and display the character of Christ so that God is known and glorified. And for those of us who are not yet believers today, or who may have false assurance, the warning is also clear: hearing alone is not sufficient: you either do, or you collapse entirely. And Christ’s words here are not merely to scare you – which they should – but to jolt you toward wisdom and faith; toward readiness and obedience; toward the Rock – the Eternal Rock, the Solid Rock – in whom you can stand firm in the face of all the storms of this life and the final judgment. He is worthy to be trusted; he is worthy to be worshiped; and he is worthy to be obeyed. That’s how we stand on the firm foundation: we do not only survive the storm; we thrive and build up and enter eternal glory as good and faithful servants.

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