The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most well known and most celebrated sermons in all of history, and for good reason. Nothing gives us as much insight into how Jesus wanted his followers to act than this powerful and brilliant sermon. It is basically his manifesto, laying out the cause and purpose of the church, and showing us how things ought and ought not to be done. If you want to know what a Christian looks and acts like then start with this sermon in Matthew chapters 5-7.
At the very end of the sermon Jesus distinguishes between a wise and foolish person. He says that a wise person will hear his sayings and do them, so that when life’s trials come that person’s life will stand up to the scrutiny that comes along with those trials. A foolish person still hears what he says, but refuses to put what he hears into practice. The result is catastrophic, ending with the total destruction of the person’s life due to trials and tribulations that inevitably come. This short lesson is extremely similar to the parable of the sower, where each soil represents a different level of commitment, and each commitment determines the outcome of the soil. Jesus wanted to make it clear that hearing is not enough. Action will always follow the heard word in a Christian’s life.
In Matthew 16, Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ, resulting in the most profound and important revelation in the history of mankind. Jesus then declares that “upon this rock I will build my church.” The rock that he is speaking of there is not Peter, as many people think, but rather the rock of the revelation of who Jesus really is. The only personality that the church is built on is Jesus Christ, or at least that’s the way it should be. Too many churches today do not seem to be catching this extremely important revelation, and it always ends in destruction.
So we see that in both the sermon on the mount and the passage in Matthew 16 Jesus is the rock upon which our lives should be built. When we hear or read his words, and receive revelation from them, it is of the utmost importance that we apply that knowledge and understanding to our lives. God doesn’t give us revelation so that we can talk about how spiritual we are. He gives us revelation so that we will take that knowledge and apply it to our everyday lives. Some people make Christianity so much more difficult than it needs to be. At its core, living for God is simply hearing his word and applying it to our lives.
A life that is built on the rock of revelation will stand up to the scrutiny of doubters and trials. When things happen in our lives they are not meant to destroy us, but rather they are meant to reveal whether we are on the rock or not. People’s lives are destroyed when they refuse to acknowledge that their house must be built on the rock of who Jesus is. There is a reason that the psalmist tells us that “the name of the Lord is a strong tower, and the righteous run into it and are safe.” We understand that the New Testament revelation of the name of the Lord is Jesus! The message is simple: built your life on him and the results will speak for themselves.
So many people become obsessed with results. They think that true success is measured in numbers, and while there is nothing wrong with wanting good results we must realize that numbers don’t tell the entire story. When Jesus described the house built on the rock, what he was not saying was that we must have the biggest church in the area or have a rocking music program. No, what he was saying is that we must have lives that are built on the truth of who he is. The best music program in the world will never make up for powerful and truthful preaching. Success to Jesus entails knowing who he is, and living a life that reveals that we know who he is. This only comes from solid biblical preaching and teaching.
What we must ask ourselves is if Jesus came to our church, would he actually recognize it as a church? Or would it just simply look like any other social setting? The thing that should set the Christian church apart is that we are not simply another social program or self help movement. Instead, the church is the physical manifestation of the invisible Jesus. Everything that he is should be manifested within the body of believers that calls itself the church. The reason many people don’t want anything to do with church is that it has become too personality-based, and those personalities more often than not turn out to be fraudulent. Simply put, they come looking for a rock on which they can build their house, but instead they only find shifting sand.
So how do we become a church that is built on the rock? It is actually very simple. We must return to inspired, powerful, and truthful preaching and teaching. Jesus said that whoever heard his words and applied them was like someone who built their house on the rock. So following that line of thinking we understand that a solid church is not built on programs, but rather the words of Jesus Christ. The hearing and application of those words will give us a solid foundation, and completely change the world around us. Great programs are a dime a dozen, but true biblical preaching is a rare treasure indeed.