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Jan 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 31, 2017 – Matthew 7:24-27

Now What?

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.
Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall 
 Matthew 7:24-27

Intro: We have some unfinished business before exiting 2017

We have come to the end of the Sermon On the Mount
– the question raised in this last lesson is, What will we do with the Sermon?
• Jesus says, “Build something on it. Construct a life”
• by the way, it’s never too late to do this
– Jesus presents two options, using a recognizable pattern
• namely, contrasting characters in the Old Testament wisdom writings

A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil,
But a fool is arrogant and careless (Pr. 14:16)

The pattern goes something like this:
1. Observe the behavior of the wise and foolish (or righteous and wicked, etc.)
2. Pay attention to how it turns out for each of them
3. Then decide which one of the the two paths you will take

• the pattern works, because it simplifies the nature of our choices
◦ the smart choice is to build our lives on this foundation

But here we run into a snag
– the pattern appears as simple logic – like working out a math problem
• typically, preachers and Bible teachers feel their work is done for them
• they merely reiterate what Jesus said and tell us,
“So lay your foundation on Jesus’ teaching!”
◦ and it would be just that easy–if we were calculators and not people
– what we are not told is how much work this takes,
• or how long it takes, or even how to do such a thing
• I hope to offer you some help with that part
◦ it is, in fact, what Jesus’ entire Sermon has been doing for us
◦ taking apart the old religious foundation and constructing a new one

24-25, Responding to the whole Sermon all at once

. . . these words of Mine
In this sentence, “Mine” is emphatic!
– the words are important because they are his
• it will be the authority of his teaching that amazes the crowd afterward (vv. 28-29)
• Jesus has given us a lot of information
◦ a fresh perspective, new ideas, and insight into the meaning of righteousness
◦ the means to discover who we are and how we are to interact with God and others
– what’s more, he has drilled deep
• for example, shallow religion follows the letter of the law
You have heard that it was said . . ., but I say to you . . . .
• he’s shown us, the spirit of the law demands more of us
◦ it demands a love that rules our minds, hearts and bodies

So here we are, on this hillside above the Sea of Galilee
– we sat here through his entire sermon
• we have been:
◦ stunned and amazed, comforted and reassured
◦ challenged and convicted, enlightened and inspired
◦ one sentence made our eyes water and another made us laugh
• his teaching has been so striking, his images so graphic,
◦ that we will remember it
• in other words, we have it – all of it, the whole sermon,
◦ the rock on which to lay the foundation of our lives
◦ or maybe not

We better take a look at the fine printand does them

Simply hearing the Sermon is not the criterion
– in verse 21, Jesus had said, Not everyone . . . will enter the kingdom 
here Jesus says, Everyone–that is, everyone who hears
• but not everyone who hears will respond wisely

I was reading in Luke 21 this past Wednesday
– specifically about the widow who dropped two pennies in the donation box
• it bugged me how much Luke failed to explain
◦ why did she give her last pennies? for love of God or pity for the poor?
◦ many elderly women have been “guilted” into giving. Was she?
• I wrote:

“We have absolutely no way to answer these questions. It was the act itself that caught Jesus’ eye and that drew his commendation. There is much in scripture that supports the cliche, ‘Just do it!’ We can question every possibility to do good that comes our way until by the time we have the answer it’s too late to do anything. The widow acted, Jesus saw, and that was enough.”

– we are constructing a life – that’s what every day is about
• how do we make Jesus’ words the main thing? the foundation?
• in Luke, dug and went deep and laid a foundation… (6:48)
◦ there is a preparatory work

See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms,
To pluck up and to break down,
To destroy and to overthrow,
To build and to plant (Jer. 1:10)

The foundation for a house, like our inner person, is a part that no one sees
– social encounters are like movie lots – every building is a facade
• a real life depends on this hidden part
◦ Jesus’ target all along has been what a person is inwardly (cf. v. 15)
◦ the advice Peter gives to wives is relevant to us all

Your adornment must not be merely external . . . but let it be the hidden person of the heart (1 Peter 3:3-4)

• but as we’ve just seen,
◦ there has to be demolition before construction,
◦ uprooting weeds before planting seeds

I suffered a lot through my divorce
(some of you know, because you were there when I went through it)

A friend introduced me to a form of prayer that entails listening to one’s body
– he walked me through it – and at first, I merely felt impressions
• heaviness like a rock in my chest, and so on
◦ my attention shifted around my body as one impression led to another
• suddenly, they linked and I saw a chain that ran through my life
◦ it began when my grandfather and uncle died
◦ it was reinforced when later I lost my first love
◦ several other similar events followed
– a theme emerged that tied all of these events together:
• a theme of abandonment and rejection
◦ in each instance I was powerless, helpless, and there was no “magical” intervention
◦ that is, God did not swoop in and change my circumstances
• these defined my reality whenever I felt overwhelmed
◦ also, because of them I was easily overwhelmed
◦ these were at the heart of my years of depression

Our memories are not recorded as pure thought,
– or mental data that can be retrieved with words
• it is stored as a total experience
◦ physical sensations, sound, texture, color
◦ these are stored in speechless parts of brain and our bodies
• victims of a violent crime discover,
◦ their experience can be triggered (and re-lived) by a sensation
◦ frequently, it happens when a person smells alcohol on someone’s breath

Brain cells (neurons) wire together through microscopic filaments referred to as axons (sending) and dendrites (receiving). Communication between neurons strengthens the connection between them. Clusters of neurons in various structures of the brain store memories, register physical sensations, regulate body functions (metabolism, heart rate, etc), and in other structures are responsible for sight, hearing, speech, and every other experience of the human person both conscious (voluntary) and unconscious (in voluntary). When we remember a past event that was emotionally intense, the same cluster of neurons respond to the memory in the same way they responded to the event, causing a release of hormones into the blood stream that trigger emotions (in the limbic system) and alert the body’s muscles and organs. That is why a memory can produce same feelings of shame, tension, or fear, for instance, as the original experience. Our bodies even react to unconscious memories (this is like turning on “cruise control”) and our feelings and reactions are automatic.

Now you know something about the “foundation” of your life

It is comprised of programmed electrical-chemical interactions of nervous system
– the great majority of them function with out our awareness

Someone once told me, “How can you have such bad thoughts about yourself? You have helped so many people. I smiled, but inwardly I was saying, “Name two.” Why do I take for granted that my negative thoughts are reality? Because the negative thoughts have been repeated so many times that the connections between the neurons that convey those thoughts are my brain’s default response. My brain has been conditioned to automatically respond to a great many triggers with negative thoughts, which also trigger negative feelings–the same feelings of failure, worthlessness, and despair when through some experience I “learned” to see myself as a loser.

• our internal belief systems have been programmed by life experience
◦ this why we think we cannot change
◦ it seems like we’re fighting against reality
• but it is actually an inner virtual reality – and it can be reprogrammed

Many people have build the foundation of their lives on sand
– they don’t know any better

God has given us a wonderful gift, no other creature has
– the ability to be self-aware
• we can look at our own thoughts, feelings and actions — I can ask myself:
◦ What am I thinking right now? What am I feeling?
◦ What is my body doing? Why is my heart racing? Why am I wringing hands? or grinding my teeth?
– we also have been given free will – we can choose not to think those negative thoughts
• but this requires us to dig deep and dismantle the old foundation
• this is also how we lay the new foundation

It is not enough to hear (or read) Jesus’ sermon
– we must do something to change what goes on in our brains
• we must feel something to get his words into our bodies
• for example:
◦ repeat a thought and corresponding action
◦ write down your thoughts about who you want to be
(or create a non-linear diagram of those thoughts)
◦ give something to someone
◦ rehearse being kind
(this prepares the brain to show kindness when opportunity arises)
◦ ask your body to show you what it feels like to care, to love, to forgive

Conclusion: The last words of this parable are sobering
. . . and great was its fall

“Great” because the human person is great; made in God’s image
– for a life of that magnitude to collapse is truly tragic

My two suggestions:

  1. First, make time for soul-searching under God’s spotlight (see Psalm 139)
    – with serious reflection on life’s foundation, the brain already begins to change
    – the process: self awareness enables choices which lead to action that results in a new experience 
  2. Second, let’s practice barn raising
    – that is, let’s help each other build on this foundation
    – having a community to process these changes with is extremely helpful

Soren Kierkegaard wrote a number of essays on, what he called, “Christian reflections” on love
• or more accurately, Christian reflections “about the works of love”
• one essay was based on 1 Corinthians 1:1, “love edifies”
◦ in it he explained that edify means to build up
◦ he also described the necessity of laying a foundation in order to build up

According to Kierkegaard (and for what it’s worth, I agree):

“…spiritually understood, love is the deepest foundation of the spiritual life”
and that “edifying is love’s most characteristic purpose.”
This really is the entire Sermon On the Mount,
the digging deep in order to become this new person
who is able to build up his or her own life in God
but through love, help build up the lives of others


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  1. Nancy Lopez / Jan 3 2018

    Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry I missed this in person. I just read it (and will re-read it!) and so, my question is: What will we do together in 2018 to help construct our free and full life in Christ, to build upon the good, true, and beautiful foundation we’ve been given?

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Jan 3 2018

    In answer to your question, I think it’s a big part of what we will be doing tonight at our Lectio Divina meeting. 🙂

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