Do you hear God's Word? Well, yeah, that's why you're here. You may still be getting introduced to the Bible's central teachings, or you may have read the whole thing, but either way you are hearing his Word. Then do you understand God's Word? I would guess that you understand some parts better than others. That's the way it is with all of us. And we're always working to understand more and better. Finally, if you hear God's Word and understand what it means, do you put it into practice? That's our goal. Why would we listen to it and work to understand it, if we weren't going to do what it says? Yet sometimes we do, and sometimes we don't.
This Sunday here at Shepherd is Youth Confirmation Day. Three young boys will confess their faith before their congregation and promise to remain faithful to the Lord for the rest of their lives. Sometimes young people are tempted to think on their Confirmation Day that they know everything there is to know and that they have reached full maturity. Sometimes adult Christians feel like they've learned enough of what the Bible says and are doing everything they need to do. If we ever think that we have learned enough of God's Word and understand it completely and are doing everything we should, then we are fools. How do we make sure that never happens to us? How do we know whether we truly are wise?
Jesus once preached a sermon about what the life of a disciple looks like. It's called the Sermon on the Mount, and it's recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. In this sermon, Jesus goes deep. It's a sermon that even life-long students of the Bible need to keep hearing and working to understand. If you walk away from the Sermon on the Mount thinking that you are a fully mature follower of Jesus who is doing everything you need to do, then you have misunderstood it.
At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us what a person who has heard his Word will do if he is foolish and what he will do if he is wise. Jesus says in Matthew chapter 7 (verses 24-27): “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house 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. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Since this section comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the words that Jesus refers to would be the words that he had just spoken. But these words that we just read really apply to all of his words that he spoke during his ministry. Yes, all the words in the entire Bible are his, and so are worth listening to. Throughout the entire Bible we learn about who Jesus is and what he has done for us. We hear his words of law that show us that we need him to save us, so that we can understand his words of gospel, which show us that he has lived and died in our place so that our sins are forgiven and we have eternal life in heaven. This is that central teaching of God's Word that the entire Bible teaches. And these words of Jesus change our lives. This isn't just information that, once we've learned it, we can move on to more important things. There is nothing more important in the whole world, and as our understanding of that truth grows, its impact on our lives will be greater.
Jesus is calling on us today to make his words the most important thing in our lives. And it won't cut it simply to say that they are important. He wants us to display it in our lives, too. When he spoke these words, Jesus knew that catechism students would be tempted to stop coming to church after they are confirmed, and he knew that Christians would be tempted to think that they had learned everything they need to know. So he warns us never to let that happen to us! He's very blunt about it. He calls a person who learns his words, but doesn't put them into practice a "fool."
It's as foolish as building a house on sand. Everybody wants to have a house on beachfront property, right? If you owned property on the ocean shore with a nice sandy beach, you could go out onto that sand and build yourself a house right there. It would be an enjoyable place to live! Until it starts raining, and the rain washes the sand right out from under your house. And the wind starts to blow, and because it doesn't have any support it blows your house over. Your house on the sand may look nice for a while, but it will come crashing down. A wise person builds a house on something stable, solid, and which can't be washed away: a rock.
You are building something even more important than a house. You are building your whole life. If you ignore what you have learned from Jesus while you build your life, you are building on sand. Your life may look nice. You may even think that life is more fun without Jesus. But it will eventually come crashing down.
At times, life is pretty good. God blesses us with sunny days. So we sometimes forget that there will be stormy days in our lives, too. Our lives will get harder. It's not that God wants to make our lives miserable. It's just the reality of living in this sinful world. Will you be able to withstand the wind and the rains in your lives? Jesus' words will make you strong. And even if you are so blessed such that you never have a sad day, you know that one day this life will come to an end and that in your future you will stand before God, your judge. God's Word is the only thing that can prepare you for that day. It gives you the foundation of a life that will last forever.
Jesus is our rock. We build our lives on him when we listen to his Word and put what he says into practice. He makes us strong when we hear his gospel promises and receive his body and blood in the Lord's Supper. And when we follow his commands, our lives are blessed. When you build your life on Jesus, you know that you will be prepared for anything that happens to you in this life and you will be ready for eternal life.
Jesus wants you to be ready. That's why he tells you ahead of time that life will be hard. That's why he tells you right now how to be prepared. I can think of people who stopped listening to Jesus and were completely unprepared when the difficult days hit their lives, and they were completely shaken. I can think of people who died unprepared for the judgment. But I also know many disciples of Jesus who have put his words into practice, and when the rains and winds beat against them, they never lost their rock-solid confidence in Jesus. And I know several disciples of Jesus who have faced their deaths ready for judgment, knowing that their Savior Jesus had made them holy with his holy life and death.
Will you be prepared for the days and years
ahead of you? Are you a wise or a foolish builder? You have heard Jesus' words.
You do understand that he is your Savior. He is preparing you for everything
that will happen to you in the future. And as you build the rest of your life,
keep hearing his words and keep putting them into practice. God will send his
Holy Spirit, and you will grow into a truly mature disciple. You are a wise
builder. Build your life on Jesus