Christ the Solid Rock – Matthew 7

Here is a sermon I delivered on November 20, 2022, at Grace Community Church, Fort Mill, SC.

Christ the Solid Rock

Reflections on the end of the Sermon on the Mount Matthew 7

Good morning church. It is an honor once again to speak to you. We pray for Pastor Brandon and all the others who have gone on the marriage retreat that God will richly bless them. We continue today by looking at Matthew 5, 6, and 7 – known as the Sermon on the Mount. This section of Matthew’s gospel is dense with subjects and sermon material. As Brandon and P.J., who delivered the sermon last week, can attest, the problem with doing a sermon on one of these chapters is narrowing down just what to speak about. John Wesley took 13 sermons – all of them quite lengthy – to go through the Sermon on the Mount. He barely scratched the surface. So I’ll admit I was pretty stuck on where to go with this sermon. I’ve known about having to do this for several months, but it wasn’t until two weeks ago that it all came together. Two of my inspirations were a book by N.T. Wright called The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is and the fantastic podcast The Bible Project.

Part of the problem in approaching these three chapters is that our 21st-century western minds like to break things down into subjects and sequences. We see the sermon as a series of individual sayings and teachings. Indeed, modern Biblical scholarship sees the sermon as not just one sermon but a series of saying from sermons from Jesus that Matthew used to construct a larger narrative. In this, I believe that the academics are correct. The genius of Matthew under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is that he has taken what Jesus said and reframed the Jewish Law for the New Covenant.

That is a pretty loaded statement, so let me break it down. The most important part of Biblical study is context. Each word is in the context of the sentence and the context of the paragraph, in the context of the section, in the context of the book, and in the context of the Bible. That is the fantastic thing about the Bible – it is a connected story of God’s rescuing his entire creation – especially his image-bearing human creations. So when Moses gave the Law to Israel in Exodus and Leviticus, it wasn’t just meant for those people during that time. It was meant for all people for all time.

That does not mean that the Jewish Levitical Law stays stagnant. You might be asking, “Hey Gregg, doesn’t it say in Deuteronomy 4:2

Do not add to or subtract from these commands I am giving you. Just obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you.” (NLT)

Yup, it sure does. However, the book of Deuteronomy is itself an updating of the Law. It was given to the Israelites fresh out of Egypt in Exodus and Leviticus. In Deuteronomy, Moses is updating the Law for a nation that is a generation removed from that original audience. They are about to take the promised land and freshly hear the Law. This retelling of the Law was done several times throughout the Hebrew scriptures and even by the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. They obeyed Deuteronomy 4:2 but updated the Law so that the generation hearing it could faithfully follow it. Nothing was added or removed, or contradicted – but it was restated.

Matthew wrote a gospel that was distinctively Jewish. We know this because of how he phrases ideas and concepts. He used themes that are essential to Jewish life and religion. The Law would be a central theme needing an update for the New Covenant that has come through Jesus. That is precisely what Matthew is doing in chapters 5-7.

It brings us to chapter 7 and the conclusion of this ancient Jewish / Christian literary masterpiece. One of the best ways to read the three chapters is as one unit. Now I will not read all the parts of chapter 7, but let me highlight some key themes before we put it all together. I have a Bible that is an NIV reader’s Bible that has removed all chapters and verses. When all of the clutter is removed, the flow and connection of scripture is revealed. So, as you are coming out of chapter 6 and discussing anxiety and what we need as opposed to what we want, we enter into a discussion on judgment. In this section, we will hit the first of several famous verses in this chapter that are highly misused. The verses are very familiar, and the misuses are common. The section on Judgement starts with

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” (NLT)

Commonly, more secular voices have used this to condemn (dare I say judge) those who hold moral positions. The conversation happens something like this:

Person 1: I believe thus, and so is wrong

Person 2: The Bible tells us not to judge

That is precisely what Jesus is not telling us. This section is a hyperlink connection back to the beginning of the sermon and the beatitudes. Jesus is definitely not saying, “Do not hold moral convictions.” He states that how you treat other people matters. The hypocrisy is not that you hold a moral standard but yet break it. We all do that. No, hypocrisy is holding to a moral code and thinking you are superior because you hold that moral code. As P.J. stated last week, your motivation is what matters. It reduces our faith to just that – a code of right and wrong when our faith should be based on Jesus alone.

In verse 6, we get an interesting saying that seems pretty harsh to us but would have been very common to the first-century Jew in Israel. Jesus says:

“Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.” (CSB)

Now, what are we to make of that, especially in light of the prior section on Judgement? It is a challenging verse to understand, but we must understand it from a first-century Jewish perspective. You see, the first-century Jew was a global thinker. We, in our time and place, are more linear. We like our statements as logical and sequential. The first-century Jew likes to go all over the place. For example, I am a very linear thinker. You give me a list of 12 things to do, and I will start at 1 and work my way down to 12. If I have to do 4 before I do three, well, then I am completely thrown. Karry, on the other hand, is very much a global thinker. She gets a list of 12 things, and she may start at 5, then go to 11, then head back to 2, and so on and so forth.

So it is with verse 6. We need to read verse 6 in light of verses 13-23. Yes, we have bypassed an entire and, might I add, critical section, verses 7-12. But let’s stick with it. Verse 6 is linked to verses 13-23 in that many people will reject God’s rescue plan for us. Verses 13-14 talk about the narrow scope of this rescue mission. The universalists have it dead wrong – there is one way to redemption and fellowship with the Creator, and that is through Jesus. There will be those who will try and deceive us and lead us away from that narrow path. Here is where verse 6 comes into play – we are to have nothing to do with them.

Matthew has presented us with a revised Law that looks to not what we do but who we are. Those that follow the strictest letter of the Law or think that their moral code makes them superior (as discussed in verses 1-5) may call on the Lord, but they are worshiping their system, not their Savior. As verses, 16-20 explain, the fruit we bear matters more.

Let’s go back to verses 7-12. Here we have another one of those famous and misused verses:

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 NLT

This section is linked back to 6:25-34 and even farther back to the beatitudes. Global thinking at its best! The Beatitudes give us an idea of what God values – love, mercy, forgiveness, and humility. We don’t have to worry about what we need when we value these things, as God will provide for us. So we can approach him and ask him for what we truly need – love, mercy, forgiveness, and humility. So many people use this passage as a sort of Christmas wish list. “If I only ask enough in Jesus’ name, I will get that new Chevy Camero.” That is a heretical reading of the passage. We are to ask, seek and find the things of God. We are to ask, seek, and find Jesus. Why? That is summed up in verse 12:

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the Law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12 (NLT)

The Golden rule sums up the entirety of the Law. If we want to be loved, forgiven, and provided for by God, we must show that same love, forgiveness, and provision to others. The fruit spoken of in verses 16-20 is the fruit of the beatitudes of 5:3-12. All through these three chapters, Jesus appeals to a person’s heart. The heart of a person produces actions that produce fruit. That is the narrow gate. If one has a heart that loves God, then one will display that love in actions that show love for others. One cannot, in any way, shape, or form, start with actions, hoping that they produce a change in heart. This brings me finally to the concluding verses 24-27:

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 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. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” Matthew 7:24-27 NLT

This is the word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

I don’t know if you have seen the previews for season three of the series the Chosen, but a poignant scene is in these previews. Jesus is confronted by a person with religious authority. The man says to Jesus: “If you do not renounce your words, we have no choice but to follow the Law of Moses.” Jesus looks at the man and says, “I am the law of Moses.” That Law is Jesus. Matthew has majestically used the words of Jesus to update the Law of Moses. He states in chapter 5:17-20 that his mission is to fulfill the Law. That is solid rock. Jesus is the rock on which we build our lives. If we put our faith, hope, and trust into anything but Jesus, we build a house on sand.

Are you putting your faith, hope, and trust into money, sex, and power? Are you are putting your faith in politics – looking for a doom and gloom future if the opposite party comes into power or a utopia if your team takes charge? Do you have a worldview that proclaims your morality makes you superior to others who hold and practice a different morality? Can any of that provide the transformative power of the presence of God? The answer is a firm “NO!” Listen to the quote by N.T. Wright:

“The real new Temple, the real house-on-the-rock, will consist of the community that builds its life upon Jesus’ words. All other attempts to create a new Israel, a new Temple (remember that Herod’s Temple was still being completed in Jesus’ lifetime), a pure or revolutionary community, would be like building a house on the sand. When the wind and storms came, it would fall with a great crash. Jesus was calling his hearers to take part in God’s new drama, the great play in which Israel would at last fulfill her ancient vocation to be the light of the world. This was to be the way of true love and justice through which Israel’s God would be revealed to the watching world.” Wright, N. T. The Challenge of Jesus (pp. 46-47). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Only through Jesus, only through his life, death, and resurrection, can we find the solid rock that transforms our hearts and fills us with the presence of God, the Holy Spirit. All other ground is sinking sand. If you have not given your life over to Jesus. If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, I invite you as we sing to pray and give your life to him and him only. Invite him to be the center and the rock of your life.

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