Sermon: Jesus Wants Loving Obedience - Matthew 7
Sermon series: What Does Jesus Want from Us?
Scriptures: Matthew 7:24-29
Every true Christian wants to have a wining witness, a testimony that demonstrates Jesus makes a difference in their life. They want the world around them to see Jesus in them. But unfortunately, that is not always the case. All too frequently the image the world has of Christians is one of hypocrisy and compromise.
In his book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, Ronald Sider makes a poignant case for the fact that most people who profess to be Christians today live lives that are not significantly different from the world around them. Sider quotes Evangelical theologian Michael Horton who says, "Survey after survey demonstrates that evangelical Christians are as likely to embrace lifestyles every bit as hedonistic, materialistic, self-centered and sexually immoral as the world in general." "Divorce," says Sider, "is more common among born again Christians than in the general American population. Only 6 percent of evangelicals tithe and White evangelicals are the most likely people to object to neighbors of another race. Noted Christian apologist Josh McDowell has pointed out that sexual promiscuity of evangelical youth is only a little less outrageous than that of their non-evangelical peers."
As much as I would love to discredit Sider's observations, I cannot. If my experience as a pastor has taught me anything, it has taught me that what Sider says is true. You and I don't have to look outside the church to find adultery, spousal abuse, crooked business practices, gossip, jealously and strife. Sadly all of these things are often found among God's people. And it is so obvious that you don't have to be on the inside to notice it, the world around us has become keenly aware of the inconsistencies in our witness.
You might say, "We'll that's fine and good pastor but we're not the only religion which has hypocrites, all religions have people who profess one thing and practice another." And while you would be right, I would point out that we are the only religion that has the truth. We are the only ones who serve a risen Savior who has the power to transform our lives, to enable us to overcome the world. If the world around us does not see a difference in our lives, how are they to know that Jesus is real? If we don't live a different life, a transformed life, what hope do they have that they can be delivered from sin, set free from its power and transformed into a newness of life? Is it any wonder we're losing the cultural war? Is it any wonder that many people say Christians are the biggest reason they don't want to accept Christ? Is this something new to our culture? Are we the only group of Christians to have ever been consumed by this degree of compromise? And did Jesus know this would happen within His church?
Interesting and prophetically, Jesus addresses this very issue in today's text.
Look with me at Matthew 7:24-29.
As we have discussed previously, every good sermon is geared towards application. It is not enough that we should merely know truth; truth must be put into practice if it is to be beneficial to us. Remembering that we have not been given scripture simply to make us smart, but primarily to instruct us in godliness, Jesus sums up His great sermon by calling us to action; by telling us the reason He has taught us is so that we might be obedient. He says that hearing without doing is foolish and that wisdom dictates we practice what He has preached.
There are three things Jesus says in these verses that demand our attention.
The first is our reception to His message, the second is our response to His message and the third is the results of our response.
We'll begin with our reception of His message. Look at verse 24.
I. Our reception of His message
The focus here is on what we have heard Jesus say.
There are a variety of things people want to attribute to Jesus. But as we look back over this sermon what have we heard Jesus say?
We have heard Him teach on what it means to become a Christian, the beatitudes show us that we must become humble, or poor in spirit, we must mourn over our sin, meekly accepting God's view of us as sinners in need of a Savior, we must hunger and thirst after righteousness and find that only Jesus can satisfy that hunger and thirst. Then we will be filled, transformed by the renewing of our hearts and minds.
He has taught us to let our light shine before men, so that they will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven, we have heard Jesus say that it is not keeping the law externally but rather what goes on in our hearts that He sees. Sin is not something we merely do externally, but something that begins internally, in the realm of our thoughts and desires.
We have heard Jesus say that our words matter, and that if we are His disciples we will live our lives ever cognizant of that reality that God knows our hearts and sees our every action. We will be loving, forgiving, compassionate, faithful, trusting; and that we will make His righteousness and kingdom the priority of our lives. This is what we have heard Jesus say.
There are many who do not take what Jesus says seriously. They are like those in the parable of the seeds and the sower, who hear the word but soon forget what they have heard; who allow other things, material things or temporal things, to drown out the words of our Lord.
Contrary to what many think of our Lord's teaching, His message has not been one of lofty, warm fuzzy platitudes, but a serious call to discipleship; A message which calls us to abandon our selves and submit our wills, our hearts and our lives to His lordship. It is solemn call to a devout and committed kind of discipleship that will separate us from the world around us. Make no mistake about it; this is what we have heard Jesus say.
And now, having heard what Jesus has said, He calls us to not merely hear it but to do it; to obey it.
Look at verse 24 again, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man built his house on the rock."
The call here is for a positive response, which brings us to our second observation.
II. Our response to His message
Throughout the scripture we are called not merely to hear, but to obey.
James 1:22-25 says, "But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his on face in the mirror; for he looks at himself, goes away, and right away forgets what kind of man he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who acts - this person will be blessed in what he does."
You see, in the paragraph just above our text Jesus tells us that not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom, but he who does the will of the Father in Heaven. The emphasis is not upon knowing, but upon responding positively.
We know a lot more that we practice. Like those who are ever learning but are never able to come to the knowledge of truth, there are many professing Christians who are ever learning, but because the knowledge of truth comes by applying the truth to their lives, they have never really come to understand it on a practical or experiential level.
It never ceases to amaze me how many of the Christians I meet in third world countries, Christians who are fortunate to own a Bible, much less any other religious material, who are far more committed in their discipleship than western Christians who have vast libraries of biblical material at their disposal. You see, the issue here is not on what we know, but upon how we respond to or act upon that which we know.
Jesus says there are two responses to His message, two and two alone. One is to hear and obey, the other is to hear and disobey. There is no middle ground here; either you hear and obey, or you hear and disobey. Jesus makes it rather clear. Knowing is not sufficient, giving mental ascent to His message, in and of itself will not do, even being a church member is not going to get you to heaven. If you are really His disciple, really one who follows Him, you will do what He has said. That is the line of demarcation, the difference between those who authentically are His disciples and those who merely claim to be.
Those who hear and obey are likened unto the wise man who builds his house upon the rock. When the rain falls and the floods come and winds blow, this house stands. Those who hear, and for whatever reason, fail to obey, their lives will not stand. The rains, winds and floods will destroy them.
The foundation of our lives is truth. This is the truth we find in the word of God. The building blocks of our life are to be found in obedience to His word. When our lives are transformed by His power, when the indwelling of His Holy Spirit forever changes our hearts, our actions will consequently change as well.
Those who hear and obey are building with solid rock. Those who hear and disobey are building with wood, hay, and stubble. The quality of the material with which we build our lives will always be tested and will ultimately be tested on judgment day when the books are opened and the truth of our lives is examined before all of creation.
Jesus is telling us here that the authenticity of our discipleship will be readily evident in how we respond to what He has told us. If we do not love our neighbors as ourselves, if we do not forgive as we have been forgiven, if we are hypercritical and judgmental, if we hold anger and resentment in our hearts, if we do not love as we have been loved, in spite of what we profess, irrespective of what we might claim, we are not His disciples. His disciples practice what He has preached.
They are not practicing what He preaches in order to become His disciples, but rather they are practicing what He preaches because they have been transformed; they love Him and have been enabled through His power to keep His commandments. So salvation is not through works but is evidenced by our works.
Jesus is clearly calling for a positive response to His message. He is calling us to hear and to obey.
He is asking us to take a long hard look at our own lives to see where we are spiritually.
As 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, "Test yourself to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you not recognize for yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you - unless you fail the test?"
In this text, Jesus is summing up His sermon by asking us to examine our own lives, to see if we are building our lives on the solid rock of His truth or on the sinking sands of false philosophies. And He does this because there are results to our choices.
And that's the final thing I want you to note from this text, Jesus is calling us to a serious time of self-examination because the results of our response to His message are eternal.
III. The results of our obedience
Look again at what our Lord says, (vs. 24-27)
The results are clear. There is a stark contrast between those who hear and obey and those who hear and disobey. Those who hear and obey have eternal life, nothing can take it from them. Their lives are built on the solid rock. Those who hear and disobey are building their houses on sand. Whatever they have built will not stand the test of time.
In the world in which you and I live, everyone is building something. Some are building lives that will last, they are walking in obedience to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They are in constant fellowship with Him, sensitive to His Spirit's voice, listening carefully, leaning not on their own understanding, but in all their ways acknowledging Him. Their lives are being built with solid, indestructible materials.
But others are building their lives with things that cannot last. Their houses may look similar, externally they may be similar in appearance to those built of rock, but structurally they are different. They are built upon a shoddy foundation, upon the every changing sands of human efforts and self will.
John A. Broadus, one of the founding fathers of Southern Baptists, in his excellent commentary on this passage says, "There is a mournful danger in every age, that men will hear Christ's servants preach, and will themselves read in his written word, and stop at that, without doing according to what they read or hear. It is a most momentous question for every one of us, 'Am I doing the sayings of the Lord?'"
That's the question Jesus is asking each of us this morning, "Are you doing what I have said?" To what degree are you obeying the teachings of our Lord and to what degree are you making excuses for your disobedience?
Upon what are you building your life today? Are you building your life on the solid rock of God's word? Are the building materials of your life made of acts of obedience? Will what you are building stand the test of time?
Or, perhaps you are here this morning and you know, deep within your heart that there is a difference between what you profess and what you possess - that when all things are revealed, you will be found out to be a fraud. Perhaps you are here this morning, or you are listening on the radio or watching on the internet and deep within your heart you know that you are not walking in obedience to what Jesus has said. Others may think you are a fine upstanding Christians, but it's not really that difficult to fool others. It is, however, impossible to fool God.
And this morning, God is calling you to Himself. He is calling you to become a true disciple, an authentic follower of His. He is calling you to commit yourself to Him and to His kingdom.
Maybe you're here this morning and you've never given your heart and life to Jesus and this morning for the very first time, you want to confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you want to know forgiveness of sins and the peace that only He can give you.
Or, perhaps you are here this morning and there are some areas of your life where you know you are not walking the talk, not living the Christian life others think you live.
This is a time of decision, a time to do business with God.
Every one of you should have a commitment card. There are three boxes you can check.
If you want to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, this is the hour, this is the day, the time for you to change your eternal destiny. Today you can chose to hear and obey. If you are here and need to give your heart and your life to Jesus, I want you to check that box.
Perhaps you are here today and you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior but you need to be obedient and follow Him in believers' baptism. The second box there is for you.
But this is a time for each of us to examine our own walk with God to see whether or not we have a winning witness or a waning witness.
Perhaps you're here this morning and the Spirit of God has convicted you, showing you that there is a discrepancy between what you say and what you do. And this morning you He is leading you to say that this year you would recommit yourself to become the disciple Jesus has called you to be, to follow Him wherever He leads, to do whatever He says, to hold nothing back, but to follow Him with total abandon, to surrender everything you are and have to Him, to walk in perfect obedience.