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The Call to Enter the Kingdom, Part 3: The Two Ways Contrasted

Series: Matthew

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Oct 12, 1997

Matthew 7:24-29

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If you have your Bibles, I would invite you to turn with me to Matthew chapter 7.  Today, we come to the conclusion of this great Sermon on the Mount.  Since Matthew 7:13, Christ has been calling on all who will hear Him to enter into the kingdom.  Don’t simply stand and admire the teaching of the kingdom.  Don’t simply stand and say that the teaching of the kingdom is exalted and moral and visionary and glorious, but enter into the kingdom, embrace the kingdom, walk in the way of the kingdom, become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He has been pressing this home since Matthew chapter 7:13. 

And along with that message, He has been warning us against those who would deceive us.  First in Matthew 7:15 – 20, He warns against false prophets.  Those who say, “Oh well, peace, peace.”  Even though there is no peace.  Those who say, “You don’t need to be reconciled to God.  He is already reconciled to you.  You don’t need forgiveness of sins, God would never judge anyone for sins.  You don’t need to go the narrow way of repentance and faith. You can go the broad way of trusting in your own righteousness,” and the Lord Jesus says that you must beware those false prophets who do not speak in accordance with My word.  But He doesn’t stop there. 

Not only does He warn us against false prophets in verses 15-20, but in verses 21-23, He warns us against false profession, saying with our lips that we are disciples of the kingdom, but denying that with our lives.  Ignoring that with our lives.  Embracing Christ with our verbal profession, but not embracing Him with our hearts and our lives against both deception by others, and self-deception, the Lord Jesus warns us as He calls us to enter His kingdom.  In Matthew 7:24-29, the passage we are going to look today, He gives us a parable to illustrate this warning which He has issued in verses 21-23.  So let’s attend to this parable of the two builders.  We will begin in verse 21, in order to see the context.  Hear the word of the living God, in Matthew 7, verse 21. 

Matthew 7:24-29 

Our Father, we take with utmost seriousness these words of our Lord.  We pray that You would search our hearts out that we might not be those who simply hear these words, and nod our heads in agreement, and yet in our hearts, do not embrace them.  We would embrace Christ, we would embrace His kingdom, and we would embrace the authority of His words for our lives.  We would be transformed by Your grace oh Lord.  We know we need the Holy Spirit O Lord, even to understand these words.  And to be able to follow them, for it is by the grace of the Holy Spirit that we may walk in the way of godliness.  And so we ask for that grace as we come this day. Lord, if any come searching this day, not knowing Christ, not truly knowing His kingdom, would you open their eyes that they might truly understand by faith these words, and so inherit an eternal blessing by embracing Christ.   Hear our prayers.  We ask them in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

The Lord Jesus, in verses 24-27, of Matthew 7 gives us a parable of two builders and that parable is meant to illustrate for us the danger of hearing the Lord’s word, but not doing the Lord’s word, the danger of listening to the Lord, even listening reverently to the Lord, but not actually embracing what He says and not embracing Him by faith in our hearts and with our lives.  The Lord Jesus, in short, is warning us against hearing without doing.  In verses 21-23, He had warned us against saying without doing, claiming without doing.  Claiming to be believers and yet not living that out.  And in this passage, He is warning us against hearing without doing.  And we learn two or three great truths for us in this passage.  The first one is this.  And we see it in verses 24 and 25.   

I.  Only those who practically embrace Christ's lordship are His disciples.
Only those who practically embrace Christ’s lordship are His disciples.  Only those who practically embrace Christ’s lordship are His disciples.  Notice His words, therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like the wise man.  It is not simply those who hear the Lord.  It is those who hear the Lord and act upon His word.  They truly embrace His word.   They don’t simply give lip service.  They don’t simply listen attentively.   They actually embrace the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus is reminding us here, that it is not enough to listen to Him, it is not even enough to acknowledge Him, though we must do both of those things.  We must go on to believe and obey Him.

Jesus is continuing His theme of verses 21-23.  There He warned against a verbal profession that didn’t have a heart reality, that didn’t have a reality that changed the person’s life.  The Lord Jesus knows that when God’s grace comes into a person’s life, God’s grace changes that person.  We are not only forgiven by the grace of God, but by the grace of God, God is going about the business of remaking us into the image of His son.  God is not satisfied just to forgive you of your sins, God wants to make you like His son,  holy, and righteous, and acceptable.  He wants you to be a person  who lives with vibrant godliness, in a vital relationship with Him.  And that is life changing.  And the Lord Jesus is saying that there are many people who think that they are His disciples, but there is an absence of that vital relationship, there is an absence of that godliness which always from grace. 

And so, He is warning against those who have a verbal profession, but they have no mark of holiness or obedience in their lives.  He is warning those who are respectful of Him, who will listen to Him, but who fail to follow His words.  He is saying that those and those only who practically in their lives show that He is truly Lord are His disciples.  Merely claiming to be His disciple does not make the reality a reality.  “It is not enough to hear Christ’s sayings, and to understand them,” Matthew Henry said.  “It is not enough to hear them and remember them, it is not enough to hear them and talk about them.  It is not enough to hear them and repeat them.  To hear them and admire them, to hear them and dispute for them.  We must hear them and do them.” The Lord Jesus is talking about us embracing Him with the whole of our lives, with our hearts, with our minds, our souls, and with all our strength in action.  And this is a continuously stressed point of Jesus’ teaching.  This isn’t the only place that Jesus says this.  And it isn’t the only place that the apostles say it. 

Let me just give you a few examples of how this is stressed in the word of God.  We learn, for instance, in Matthew chapter 6:15, that we studied a few weeks ago, the Lord Jesus said, “if you do not forgive others, then you father will not forgive your transgression.”  He is not saying that God’s forgiveness of you is contingent on how well you forgive others. He is saying this: If you have truly been forgiven by God, you will be a person who is able to forgive.  And if you do not see forgiveness manifested in your life, then it is because you have never really been embraced by the forgiveness of God.  Because God’s grace always works forgiveness in the hearts of those who have been embraced by Him, and who have embraced Him by faith.  In Matthew 12:50, a passage we are going to study in few weeks, Jesus says these pointed words.  “Whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother.”  You want to be the Lord Jesus’ brother; you must walk in the way of obedience to His Heavenly Father. 

He says again in Luke 11:28, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.  Jesus in these words is simply reinforcing what we learned in Psalm 119.  The wisdom about which the Psalmist praises the Lord is not merely a theoretical knowledge of God, or even of God’s requirements, it is a practical knowledge of God.  It is a knowledge which works out into our lives.  It is not just saying, “Oh, I know these things,” so that I can impress my friends with them as I teach the Bible Study.  It is something that we have embraced with our lives.  True wisdom is not merely theoretical; it is also practical.  It works out into the way we live, the way that we love, the way that we relate.  Notice Jesus continues this in John 14:15, where He says, if you love me, keep My commandments.  And in John 14:24, He says, “He who does not love Me, does not keep My words.”  In John 15:14, He says, “you are My friends, if you do what I command you.” 

Over and over the Lord stresses that we ought to be disciples not only of the lips, but disciples of our lives as well.  Our lives ought to show that we really do believe that He is Lord.  We really do embrace Him as the one who has authority to tell us how we ought to live.  And the apostles stress this too.  Paul, the apostle of grace in Romans 2:6, says that,  “at the end God will render to each person according to his deeds.”  James stresses in James 1:27, that “pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and father is this: To visit orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”  James is the one who tells us that “faith without works is dead.”  And John, the apostle of love, says that “by this we know that we have come to know Him, this is how we know if we have come to know God.  If we keep His commandments.”  And in I John 5:3, John says “for this is the love of God that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not burdensome.” 

Now let me say very quickly, the Lord Jesus is not saying that we save ourselves by our obedience.  That is not what Jesus is saying.  The Lord Jesus is calling His disciples to build their lives upon the foundation of His person and His words.  The authority of who He is, and the authority of His teaching.  He is calling us to conform our thoughts and our desires and our words and our actions to the Gospel of Christ.  This is the doing about which He is speaking and He know that that doing does not save us.  His life, His death on our behalf is what sets us before God as we embrace Him by faith.  But all those who truly have faith in Him, will have their lives transformed. 

We are not all, unfortunately, conformed to the same degree.  There are many saints here that I wish that I could emulate in maturity and godliness, but we are all transformed to some degree and God begins the work of conforming us to the image of His Son.  And the Lord Jesus is saying, beware, professing to be My brother, to be My sister, to be My follower, to be My disciple, when there is no reality of that profession in your lives.  

That so important, young people where you are.  You are placed in schools and neighborhoods where most people claim to be Christians and yet there are many who do not live as if they are Christians, and sometimes we are tempted to claim to be Christian on Sunday morning and yet during the week at school, we live as if He were not our Lord.  That is a dangerous place to be.  Because the Lord  Jesus says His disciples both profess Him with their lips and they live under His lordship.  Christ in us, is the foundation of godly living. 

But all of us must ask ourselves, do we have a vital relationship, a vital saving relationship with Jesus Christ.  And has that relationship that we have with Christ issued forth in a life that is changed?  It has been my privilege to hear over and over stories of precisely how the grace of God has changed the lives of members of First Presbyterian Church.  It is always encouraging for Christians to hear those stories.  But all of us need to ask that question of ourselves.  Has the grace of God changed our life?  Otherwise, our profession may be empty.  And there would be nothing worse than at the last day to be found with an empty profession.   

II.  Those who merely give lip service to Christ will be condemned.
There is a second truth we learn in this passage, and we learn it in verses 26 and 27.  Those who merely give lip service, those who merely give ear service, they claim to be Christians, and they listen to Christ.  But those who merely give lip service or merely give ear service to Christ will be condemned.  Look with me at the terrifying words of verses 26 and 27: “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  The rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and slammed against that house and it fell.  And great was its fall.” 

Jesus is asking us to consider the foundation of our lives.  What are our lives built on?  Are our lives built on our own ambitions, our own agenda, our own ethical code, our own desires, earthly, or temporal.  As opposed to being built on the rock of His truth.  Are they built on the rock of His teaching, the rock of His doctrine, the rock of Himself?  Is our life built on that? Or is our life built on something else?  The Lord Jesus says that everything else is sand.  If our lives are not built on Him, then our lives are built on sand.  He is looking at the foundation of men’s lives and He is not asking whether men claim to be His disciples? 

He is not asking whether men listen to His teaching.  He is asking are their lives really built on my teaching.  Now the Lord Jesus knows that it is very difficult, in fact, it is impossible for us to look into the heart of another person.  We can’t look into the heart of  another person, and say, “Ah ha, I see the foundation of your life.”  But we can look at how they live.  And the Lord Jesus says we may not be able to see the foundation, it is either under the ground, or it wasn’t ever built at all, and the superstructure of the house is on top of it.  We can’t tell whether it is there, but we can see what happens to that house when the storms of life come. 

The Lord Jesus is telling us when the tests of life come, when the trials of life come, when the storms of life come, that is an inkling, that is an indication, that is an evidence, that is a test, of whether we stand with Christ or not.  When the pressure of life comes, when the pressure of sin comes, when the pressure of difficulty comes, do we stand with Him?  Do our lives show that they are based on Him?  Or are our lives based on shifting sand? 

Again, the Lord Jesus is not saying that we are saved by works.  He is not saying that we are saved by obedience.  He is stressing that all those who truly hear the gospel, and who truly profess faith in Him, will always express that faith in their obedience, in their works, in their lives.  We are all building a house.  The question is what is the foundation we are building on?  Is our house a house that simply for the here and now?  Or, is our house a house for the then and there?  Are we living our lives in light of eternity, or just for the next thing that we can collect for ourselves.  Whether it be material possessions, money influence, power, or popularity or whatever else.  What is important in our lives?  What is the priority of our lives? 

Financial advisors, financial planners, when we go in to them young, starting to plan for the future and we take our finances to them in shambles, and we say, “Would you please help us out of this mess and give us a plan for how we can bring some form of financial security to our families.”  They often advise us, “Look, you are going to tighten your belt in the short term in order to have a secure future.  You are going to have to not spend and live as if all the money is going to run out in a week, you are going to have to look in terms of what you are laying aside for the future.  You are going to have to plan for problems and troubles and even catastrophes.  You are going to have to have enough insurance to cover in case of a disaster and there would be no one earning income in the home.  You are going to have to plan to lay aside money for the days in which you will no longer be able to work full time.  You are going to have to lay aside for the education of your children.”  And all that is good advice, but what they are asking us to do, is to stop just looking at the immediate, and to look long range.  Well, that is good spiritual advice as well.  Sometimes we can be so caught up in the things that we are doing now, the kingdoms that we are building, the ambitions that we have, the desires that we have, whether those be desires for relationships, whether those be desires for success, or for fame or for popularity, or for acceptance, or for security or for peace that we lose sight of the most important things in life. 

And the Lord Jesus is saying that the wise man builds the foundation of his life with a view to those most important things.  It doesn’t mean that nothing else is significant.  It doesn’t mean that nothing else is important.  It just means that the wise man priorities are right.  His foundations have been laid on Christ and on His words.  And when the tests and the storms and the trials come, He will stand.  You see there are many who profess Christ, many who hope for heaven, but their lives are built on the sand.  The Lord Jesus is saying, take stock and make sure that your life is built on me and on my word, and if it is, that will show when you face the difficulties of life.   

III. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation.
There is one last thing that I would draw to your attention in this passage.  This passage asserts, in no uncertain terms, that the Lord Jesus is the divine Son of God, that He is equal to God in power and in glory, and He is the only way of salvation.  Matthew tells us that when Jesus  finished this sermon, the crowds were astonished.  That is recorded in verses 28 and 29. 

Do you know the sad thing that Matthew doesn’t tell us?  Matthew doesn’t tell us that they believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.  They were astonished by His teaching.  They were flabbergasted by what they had heard.  They had never heard the sermon of the like of which they had heard from the Lord Jesus.  But they didn’t embrace Him by faith. 

It is possible to hear faithful Gospel preaching, and not embrace Christ.  But Christ in this passage makes it clear that at the last day, one’s eternal destiny will depend on whether He knows you and whether you know Him, or whether you don’t know Him, and He doesn’t know you.  He says in Matthew 7:22-23 that there will those who call “”Lord, Lord,” and He will say, “I never knew you.”

Do you know Him?  Do you know Him who is the very Son of God?  The divine Son of God, equal with God in power and glory?  The only way of salvation.  Have you embraced Him? 

As we come to this table today, all of us who are believers in Christ, come to this table because of what He has done for us.  And because of what He has done for us, we have embraced Him by faith.  If there is anyone who comes this day, who has not embraced Christ, as your God and Savior, I would invite you to do so now.  Bow the knees of your heart and recognize that He is the only foundation that will survive the test of life and the final judgment to come.   May the Lord bless His word.  Let’s look to Him in prayer.   

Our Father, we thank You for the truth of Your word.  We pray that we would take it seriously even as we come to the table.  May we be reminded of the security that we have at the table.  May we be reminded of the glory of Christ.  May we be reminded, O Lord, that it is only in union and communion with Christ that there is salvation.  For He is our God and mediator.  And there is no other.  We ask all these things in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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