Build Your House on the Rock
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, St Luke. Vol. I
It has been said, with much truth, that no sermon should conclude without some personal application to the consciences of those who hear it. The passage before us is an example of this rule, and a confirmation of its correctness. It is a solemn and heart-searching conclusion of a most solemn discourse.
Let us mark, in these verses, what an old and common sin is profession without practice. It is written that our Lord said, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” The Son of God Himself had many followers, who pretended to honor Him by calling Him Lord, but yielded no obedience to His commandments.
The evil which our Lord exposes here, has always existed in the Church of God. It was found six hundred years before our Lord’s time, in the days of Ezekiel: “They come unto thee,” we read, “as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them, for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.” (Ezek. 33:31.) It was found in the primitive Church of Christ, in the days of St. James. “Be ye doers of the word,” he says, “and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22.) It is a disease which has never ceased to prevail all over Christendom. It is a soul-ruining plague, which is continually sweeping away crowds of Gospel-hearers down the broad way to destruction. Open sin, and avowed unbelief, no doubt slay their thousands. But profession without practice slays its tens of thousands.
Let us settle it in our minds, that no sin is so foolish and unreasonable as the sin which Jesus here denounces, Common sense alone might tell us that the name and form of Christianity can profit us nothing, so long as we cleave to sin in our hearts, and live unchristian lives. Let it be a fixed principle in our religion, that obedience is the only sound evidence of saving faith, and that the talk of the lips is worse than useless, if it is not accompanied by sanctification of the life. The man in whose heart the Holy Ghost really dwells, will never be content to sit still, and do nothing to show his love to Christ.
Let us mark, secondly, in these verses, what a striking picture our Lord draws of the religion of the man who not only hears Christ’s sayings, but does Christ’s will. He compares him to one who “built a house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock.”
Such a man’s religion may cost him much. Like the house built on a rock, it may entail on him pains, labor, and self-denial. To lay aside pride and self-righteousness, to crucify the rebellious flesh, to put on the mind of Christ, to take up the cross daily, to count all things but loss for Christ’s sake,—all this may be hard work. But, like the house built on the rock, such religion will stand. The streams of affliction may beat violently upon it, and the floods of persecution dash fiercely against it, but it will not give way. The Christianity which combines good profession and good practice, is a building that will not fall.
Let us mark, lastly, in these verses, what a mournful picture our Lord draws of the religion of the man who hears Christ’s sayings, but does not obey them. He compares him to one who, “without a foundation, built an house upon the earth.”
Such a man’s religion may look well for a season. An ignorant eye may detect no difference between the possessor of such a religion, and a true Christian. Both may worship in the same Church. Both may use the same ordinances. Both may profess the same faith. The outward appearance of the house built on the rock, and the house without any solid foundation, may be much the same. But the day of trial and affliction is the test which the religion of the mere outward professor cannot stand. When storm and tempest beat on the house which has no foundation, the walls which looked well in sunshine and fair weather, are sure to come to the ground. The Christianity which consists of merely hearing religion taught, without doing anything, is a building which must finally fall. Great indeed will be the ruin! There is no loss like the loss of a soul.
This passage of Scripture is one which ought to call up in our minds peculiarly solemn feelings. The pictures it presents, are pictures of things which are daily going on around us. On every side we shall see thousands building for eternity, on a mere outward profession of Christianity—striving to shelter their souls under false refuges—contenting themselves with a name to live, while they are dead, and with a form of godliness without the power. Few indeed are the builders upon rocks, and great is the ridicule and persecution which they have to endure! Many are the builders upon sand, and mighty are the disappointments and failures which are the only result of their work! Surely, if ever there was a proof that man is fallen and blind in spiritual things, it may be seen in the fact that the majority of every generation of baptized people, persist in building on sand.
What is the foundation on which we ourselves are building? This, after all, is the question that concerns our souls.—Are we upon the rock, or are we upon the sand?—We love perhaps to hear the Gospel. We approve of all its leading doctrines. We assent to all its statements of truth about Christ and the Holy Ghost, about justification and sanctification, about repentance and faith, about conversion and holiness, about the Bible and prayer. But what are we doing? What is the daily practical history of our lives, in public and private, in the family and in the world? Can it be said of us, that we not only hear Christ’s sayings, but that we also do them?
The hour cometh, and will soon be here, when questions like these must be asked and answered, whether we like them or not. The day of sorrow and bereavement, of sickness and death, will make it plain whether we are on the rock, or on the sand. Let us remember this betimes, and not trifle with our souls. Let us strive so to believe and so to live, so to hear Christ’s voice and so to follow Him, that when the flood arises, and the streams beat over us, our house may stand and not fall.