Founded on the rock

“The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” Matthew 7:25 NIV

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says there are two responses to his teaching: those who put it into practice and those who don’t. The first group build their house upon the rock. The second on the sand.

No house built upon sand will survive the storms of life and scrutiny of Jesus when he comes again. But those who hear and put into practice what Jesus says are the ones with a secure foundation.

Putting your faith into practice often requires courage and careful thought. Christians are confronted all the time by enforced secularism in their children’s schools, in the community and at work.

The historic Christian faith sees marriage as crucial to a healthy society. It sees our identity as male or female as something given by God. It sees people as made in the image of God, whose lives should be protected by the law and not be taken in the womb or when weak or vulnerable. All these things are strongly attacked in our society today.

The Christian believer is in the midst of conflict. Running away can seem an attractive option. But Jesus prayed to his Father, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Jesus wants us to follow him in the world, not to retreat from it or even limit our involvement solely to evangelism.

The full Gospel

William Tyndale catapulted the word “Gospel” into common English use. The Gospel means good news. In the words of Tyndale: “Euāgelion (that we call the gospel) is a greke worde & sygnifyeth good mery glad & ioyfull tidynges that maketh a mannes herte glad & maketh him synge daunce & leape for ioye.”

Indeed we can sing, dance and leap for joy if we believe in Christ! He died in our place on the cross. A holy God cannot overlook sin, but Christ bore the penalty we deserve. This glorious gospel is to be obeyed (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17) and lived out (John 14:15; 1 Timothy 1:10).

Some say, “let’s just stick to sharing the Gospel”, meaning Christ’s mighty work on the cross. But that fulfils only a part of the Great Commission, where Jesus’ gospel command is about “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).

You can’t trade off obedience against evangelism. Both are necessary. And they are completely intertwined. Teaching people obedience in the Christian life is vital to them being progressively changed to be like Christ – the ultimate goal of God’s salvation plan. This glorifies God.

We are in the world, but must avoid worldliness. The salt must not lose its saltiness, the light must not be hidden. Retreat or compromise are not options open to us if we follow Christ.

We often need to remind ourselves that our obedience is not about earning our salvation. We are only saved through Christ’s death in our place on the cross. By grace through faith. It’s not Christ plus our own works. It’s Christ’s work alone. Yet, as the Reformers insisted, although we are saved by faith alone, faith that saves is never alone. True faith always results in works. And for Jesus that’s the test of true faith: “by their fruit you will recognise them” (Matthew 7:20). You can see their houses, standing on the rock, the only firm foundation.

Colin Hart