Good morning and welcome to Journey Church – my name is Phil and I’m the lead pastor and it’s a great day to worship with you. Tomorrow, of course, is Halloween and I don’t know what you are planning to do but my family will be sitting in our driveway around a campfire, though this weather might be too warm for a campfire. Feel free to swing by and show off your kids costumes – we’ll hook you up with some goodies. All the tootsie rolls you want.
Now there are some things out there to be careful about – you know – there’s been plenty of weird reports about clowns out there. And so as a public service announcement, I’d like to just give you a tip – do you know what to do if attacked by a gang of clowns? Go for the juggler.
Oh! I’ve been sitting on that joke for the past three weeks waiting for this day. And so – do me a favor and don’t tell anyone in the second hour – no spoilers!
Today we are at the end of one of the longest and one of the most important series we’ve done at Journey. We’ve been studying the sermon on the mount since August, and today we are going to wrap it up. And we are going to see how Jesus decides to end his sermon.
The Sermon on the Mount is found in the book of Matthew, chapters 5-7. And it’s a synopsis of God’s plan to change the world. And what we discover is that God’s plan to change the world is to use people like you and me. People who have been transformed into different kinds of people –
We discover that through faith in Jesus we are ushered into a kingdom where we can live our lives under the direct care, provision and supervision of God himself. Isn’t that good news?
It is a kingdom saturated in love. A place where we are loved by God without reservation, without condemnation, without conditions – and that frees us to be able to become the kind of people who get to live life without worry – because we know that God will always be there with us and that he is always for us – and so – if God is for us who can be against us?
As a result of being immersed in this great love of God is that we become transformed into people who can love others in a way God loves us. We no longer need to beg for people’s approval. We no longer need to manipulate people to get things to turn out our way. We can be the kind of people who don’t kick a thrill out of being angry at people or belittling them with contempt. We no longer need to get our kicks out of degrading someone with lustful thoughts. We no longer need to lie in order to protect our image – and get people to think more highly of us. Isn’t that good news?
We can leave all of those things behind. We don’t have to run after materialism in order to make us feel safe or secure. All of those things belong to the people living life in a kingdom the bible appropriately calls “the kingdom of darkness.”
And so we see anger, rage, contempt, lust and manipulation and lying and condemnation as things that are beneath our dignity as new creations. And we see those things as beneath the dignity of even – ‘those kinds of people’ – whatever kind of person is most difficult for you to love. And so we elevate others instead of degrading them.
These changes don’t occur overnight, they often happen in painfully slow increments – often punctuated by complete failure – but we continue to move forward in our faith and one day we look up and see that God is softening us, and making us care. He is, in fact, making us salt and light of the world.
So now we come to the end of this Sermon on the Mount – and we are going to ask – how will Jesus end this? What are his final encouragements to us? And we read them in Matthew 7.
24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching,29 for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.
This picture is a simple declaration – the person who obeys Jesus’ teachings, will build a life that will weather life well.
And there is also another side – and that is for the person who has heard all Jesus teaches but decides instead to do it their way. Jesus is simply declaring – as factually as someone reading a temperature on a thermometer – that person who hears but doesn’t obey him is building a life that will not be able to withstand the storms of life.
This picture, by the way – is the same picture repeated four times at the end of this sermon. Matthew 7:13-29 is one point stated in four different ways.
In Matthew 7:13,14 Jesus talks about two gates.. The narrow gate and the broad gate in verse 13,14- the narrow way is obedience to Jesus. The one who hears and obeys Jesus has chosen the narrow way. The broad way is about 6 billion people wide. And it is the road labeled “My way.” The person who hears and obeys Jesus’ teaching is the one choosing the narrow way that leads to life.
In Matt 7:15-20 Jesus talks about two different kinds of trees. trees that produce good frit. Trees that do not. The person who hears Jesus’ teaching and then obeys them – puts them into practice, will produce good fruit. And the person who does, will not.
In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus talks about two kinds of disciples. The disciple who hears Jesus’ words and obey Him is the true disciple. The person who hears but doesn’t put them into practice – the one who has great theological knowledge bouncing around their head without translating that knowledge into obedience is not a true disciple. And at the end Jesus will say, we never knew each other.
Have I ever told you guys the time I went into an adult Sunday School class and asked them if they would move rooms – from the room they were currently meeting in, to meet instead in the room that was directly across the hall from them?
It was the weirdest most hostile group of people I’d ever been around. I stood there and they blasted me – who do you think you are! We’ve been meeting in this room for 20 years – receiving great teaching from our esteemed teacher. We aren’t going anywhere! We’ve outlasted pastors before you and we will outlast you too! We’re finished here! I actually had someone write me an email comparing me to Hitler. No lie.
And I was like, I see that your great teaching has really made a difference in how you deal with “hardship” of making a left turn instead of a right turn in this hallway.
Now it’s easy to make fun of those people. But how about you. Are you here today to just listen? Or will you allow Jesus to challenge you in how you actually live your life? Is it going to translate in some kind of action, or is it just going to swim around up here, and you leave going, challenging thoughts, Phil. You almost convinced me to actually do something old chap!
Jesus ends his sermon with a challenge. Which of the two kinds of gates are you going to be? Which of the two kinds of trees will it be? Which of the two kinds of disciples will you be?
And now, in these verses we read, we see Jesus asking – which of the two kinds of houses are we building? Which of the two kinds of lives? The life built on the foundation of obedience to Jesus will stand. The life of the person who hears but never obeys will collapse.
Are we picking up what Jesus is laying down? These are four different pictures of one main point. Jesus really means it. He expects his disciples to obey his teachings. All of these four pictures are illustrations of what Jesus later told people who were following him. In John 14 he says, 23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say.”
This is, by the way, the way God has always worked. The very essence of faith comes down to two words. Trust and obey. God wants us to trust Him enough to actually do what he says. He really does know best.
Way back in the Old Testament, God speaks to the first king of Israel, a man named Saul, who doesn’t understand this. And so God sends the prophet Samuel to challenge him with these words… “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? 1 Samuel 15:22
Now this is a good time to remind us that this sermon is not about laws – it’s about a life – this is a description of a life that trusts Jesus enough to do what he tells us to do. We are not beholden to a bunch of laws – we are beholden to Jesus himself and we trust him enough to do whatever he tells us to do.
It is Jesus’ assumption that we would find him so admirable in every way – so good, so loving, so beautiful, so wise – that we would constantly seek to be in his presence in order to be guided and helped by him in every aspect of our lives.
Jesus expects us to obey him. He expects us to trust him enough to believe him, and to believe him enough to obey him.
Listen to this question Jesus asks in Luke 6. Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
Plainly, in the eyes of Jesus, there is no good reason for not doing what he tells us to do. Imagine Jesus tugging on your shirt and sincerely asking you this question. Why do you stand here with your hands raised in worship, but then don’t do what I’m asking you to do? Why the disconnect?
And what would our answer be? See, I’m not asking this, and neither was Jesus – in order to make you feel guilty, or to shame you. It’s a legit question. The way we answer this question will help uncover some barriers to our faith.
Is it because we don’t trust him? We lack the courage? We lack clarity and are waiting for God to tell us exactly what he wants… Because we lack the confidence in Him? Do we think he is being too harsh, too mean? Do we think we know better? Are we afraid of giving up control? Why do we call him the Lord of our life, and yet don’t do what he says? I’d encourage you to think that through, ask God for help.
Jesus ends his sermon with a plea that we become the kind of people who naturally and easily obey him. The obedient person is building a life on bedrock – it is a life that will be able to stand no matter the circumstance.
What can we do to become the kinds of people who trust Jesus enough to obey him? Let me give you four practical ideas.
1. Decide to become a disciple of Jesus.
There is power in intention.
We’ve mentioned before how Jesus had stages to becoming one of his apprentices. The first stage was come and see. The second stage was come and follow. There is another stage, which is go and tell – but you aren’t going to go and be the salt and light and go and tell anyone until you make the decision to come and follow.
It starts privately – with a prayer between you and God where you tell him your intent to trust him and obey him.
But it doesn’t stay private long. It’s good to tell someone. This, by the way, is what makes baptism a powerful symbol. When you get baptized, then you are telling the world in an unmistakable way, that you have decided to build your house upon the bedrock of Jesus teaching. And generally speaking we want to reserve baptism for men and women who are of the age that they know what they are doing. It’s their call to be baptised. So we asked our kids to wait until they were in middle school – until they were teenagers – to get baptized as a way of celebrating their decision to follow Jesus and obey his leading.
If you are interested in being baptized, let us know and we will do it right here on the stage. And I know that some of you introverts are like, nu huh! But I’d say that it’s intended to be public. So let’s celebrate together. So mark on your communication card and we will get one scheduled.
Remember Jesus teaching – seek and you shall find. Ask and it shall be given to you. And I don’t know of a more God honoring prayer than, “Help me be more like Jesus.” Help me to trust you and obey you. Help me live my life as Jesus would lead it were he a fireman or a school teacher, or a homemaker, or whatever. Ask emphatically and repeatedly — Lord, help me. Lead me. Teach me your ways. Help me be that new kind of human being.
And the great news is that the Holy Spirit himself, who now resides in your heart, will respond. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to be like Jesus and to live like Jesus. Ask – Go ahead – Ask!
3. Listen – How much time do you give yourself to steep your soul in silence? Or is your soul constantly bombarded with noise? Try this. Every day this week, try to steal five minute cones of silence. If you are going shopping somewhere, or you have an appointment – leave early and maybe look for a quiet place to just sit and be still for five minutes. I tried this last week – left ten minutes early for an appointment – sat in the parking lot – faced my car to look at some trees – rolled down the windows – set my timer on my phone for five minutes and just stared at the trees. And you know what I heard from God? He told me you should try it too.
4. Immerse yourself in the life of Jesus.
I grew up in New York – about twenty miles north of the city, and at one time, I had a pretty serious New York accent. I used to tawk like this. Hey, wanna throw the ball? Want to play some basketball? Want to go to the maul? I used to keep a recording of my cousin Laurie just to play for my friends – she always said the same thing, “Hello Philip, How you doing? How’s life in Oklahoma?” I’m like “Omaha!” – And she’s like “Whatevah!”
But a strange thing happened. I went to school in Georgia for 4 years. And I immersed myself in Georgia culture. And before long I had lost my New York Accent and suddenly found myself saying things like, “You’ll fixing to go to the waffle house? I recon I’ll come with y’all, get me some grits.”
I was immersed in the kingdom of Georgia, and I began to talk like a native.
From Georgia I moved to Boston for seven years where I lost my twang, and then God, who is rich in mercy, got us out of Boston before we stahted tahking like this. It’s wicked hahd to sound smaht with this accent, I swear.
Now I say all that to say this. How did my accent change? I was immersed into the language and without even thinking, pretty soon my mind was being changed and my language was being transformed so that I could talk like the local people without even having to think about it.
And that’s the reason why we immerse ourselves in the life of Jesus. We start reading about Jesus. We read the Gospels – which are the first four books of the NT, and the only four books that detail the life and times of Jesus. But we are reading them constantly, diligently, observantly.
We read and we pray, Lord help me to respond the way Jesus would were he in my shoes. Help me think like Jesus
Now we are apprentices of Jesus. So let me ask this question. What was Jesus really good at? What is it, exactly, that Jesus is great at? And when we read the gospels we find out.
And I’d say that there are two things I’d want to highlight.
First, Jesus really knew what God was like. He was great at explaining to us what God our Father is like. Because Jesus knew that he could tell us to trust God until he was blue in the face but if we didn’t know what God was like, then we aren’t going to be able to do it.
So Jesus tells us stories about what God is like. He tells the story of the father of the prodigal son – who waited and celebrated his wayward son’s return to the fold.
Jesus says, listen I know the Father better than you. You might think you know what God is like but would you allow me to replace your narrative with my own?
And we listen to Jesus and we discover that God is good. That He is generous. Trustworthy, kind, forgiving and the list goes on. And the final narrative is in the form of the cross where Jesus says, “What more must I do to prove the love of the father, and the love of the son, to you.”
So we read the gospels and we look for stories that Jesus tells about God and we highlight it in our bible. We underline and mark it up. We write the word that comes to mind about God. And we soak ourselves in Jesus’ God stories until they replace our old narrative – and it happens automatically. We change our mind about God. And in the end find him utterly trustworthy.
The second thing that we see about Jesus when we read the gospels. We discover that Jesus was really really good at living his life in the Kingdom of Heaven, here on earth.
Jesus was great at living his life in the kingdom of God. He lives in the Kingdom. He trusts God at every turn. He was the best at living his life under the care and guidance and provision of God the Father. And when we immerse ourselves in his life, then we can become good at that as well.
He trusts God so much that he never wigs out, never gets worried or anxious. Never striving for materials or riches.
And so as his apprentice I am with him, learning from him how to live my life under God’s direct governance. And pretty soon we start speaking with the accent of the Kingdom of God.
Our words are seasoned with the accent of the kingdom. Seasoned with love and charity and respect.
An apprentice is someone who is learning from someone else – that thing that they are really, really, good at. My step dad was an electrician. He would work on our wiring and he would say things like- now reach into that electric socket and grab the copper ends of those wires – and I’d be like – It’s not gonna happen man. I ain’t grabbing the ends of no wires in an electric box- you are trying to kill me!
But then I began to learn that, low and behold, my step dad was a master electrician – and he knew what he was talking about and he wasn’t trying to kill me. And if I trusted him and obeyed him I would have tons to learn about wiring.
Jesus is asking us to be his apprentice. To Learn from him how to live our life. He’s not trying to kill us! The opposite -it’s an abundant life that awaits all who will trust him enough to obey.