Community Group Study Guide — a Firm Foundation
In the conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus points us back to the call to love God from a whole heart and put into practice what Jesus taught. This is discipleship or following Jesus in such a way that you put into practice all he commanded (Matthew 28:18-20, 1 John 2:6). The Christian life is not theoretical, but one that is practical and calls for changed living empowered by the grace of God.
Jesus uses the image of two builders and the kind of foundation they choose to build their house on. They both are “hearers” of the teaching of Jesus and you’ll notice in Matthew 7:24-27 that the two houses seemed identical except for the foundation they were built on. The one built on the rock is the person who hears and does the word of Jesus, and the one who builds on the sand simply hears the words of Christ and they may be known, studied or memorized but nothing is done with them.
On the outside these two people would look the same, but there was something different at the core to who they were. One wanted to hear, obey and love Christ and his teachings from a whole heart, the other heard and knew what Christ taught but did not desire to put it into practice. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount we’ve been warned about focusing on just what we can see, or how others see us or following just the literal commands of God that would keep the letter of the Law, but not the heart of the Law. That would be a hollow and empty life with God. Instead we learn that Jesus actually wants us to live out what he has taught in the Sermon on the Mount; not to earn God’s favor but because he is at work in and through his disciples.
The old statement goes that when asked about what matters most in a home the answer is “location, location, location.” That seems to be the case here as well. Jesus gives the image of someone who builds his house on the rock and the other on the sand. The one who builds on the sand is “foolish” or the Greek word in verse 26, “moros” which sounds a lot like a common slang word we use in English. When we think of sandy areas in our part of the world we can think of the beach or the desert. However if you were in ancient Israel the desert was more dirt and rocks than sand. The only place you would find sand in ancient Israel would be at the end of what is called a “wadi” which are channels created by flash floods in these desert areas. Flash foods are scary because they’re unpredictable and drop a lot of rain at one time. At the end of a wadi you would find accumulations of sand from the erosion created by that massive flash flood river. In Israel, these flash floods would typically happen in Eastern Israel in the area often called the Judean wilderness and the Negev (desert). No one would really build their house at the end of a wadi, that would be foolish and dangerous because it was not a mater of if a flash flood would come, but when. To build do the sand would make you a “moros” and yet, there are people who hear the word of God, may even fit the picture on the outside of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, but are living foolishly because they do not put into practice what they’ve learned or heard. Wisdom and folly are based on what you do with Jesus’ words.
Hearing and doing
As you have read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) you’ve probably had a few moments where you came face to face with just how far short you fall when it comes to living this out. Hopefully you have sensed your need for God’s grace and forgiveness and help to experience this new kind of life. These are all good responses since real change begins with seeing our need and our desperation for God. But do not forget that Jesus also intends that we do something with what he has taught. The Sermon on the Mount is meant to be put into practice, particularly what we’ve learned in Matthew 5:21-7:12 which is the “ethical” section of the Sermon.
God cares deeply about your information to action ratio. It does not matter how much you know if you are not also striving to apply what you know. It reminds us of James 1:22-25 where we get an image of someone who hears the word but does not do the word and James says that is a manner of “deceiving yourself”. James equates it to looking in the mirror but walking away and forgetting what you look like. Putting the word of God into practice helps us to really know it, likewise it forms our character in a way that would not happen if we simply heard it and said “that’s a nice message.” Some great questions to ask in response to the Sermon on the Mount, or time in the Word or when listening to preaching would be “what did I learn about God?” and “how should I put this into action?”
Withstanding the Storm
This is Jesus’ conclusion because there is urgency to this. Jesus tells us that crisis is coming and crisis will reveal authentic and inauthentic faith. Living in a world marked by sin and brokenness means dealing with grief, loss, personal sin and being sinned against. Jesus talks about these tests with language that ramps up the severity of the storm as “rain fell, floods came, wind blew and beat the house.” Overtime these crises and challenges will draw the authentic disciple closer to Christ and they will stand firm on the rock as one who hears and does the word of God. Yet, for some, these challenges will reveal that the structure of their current spiritual life is insufficient.
Which builder are you? Do you find yourself drawn to want to obey Christ’s commands, not because of trying to earn his favor but rather because you understand his love for you and his desire for you to walk in new life? Discipleship to Jesus integrates knowledge and action. It is important to hear, but we should also pray and consider how the word of God calls us to act as people loved by God and called according to his purposes.
Jesus close out the Sermon on the Mount by reminding his hearers of the call to be a disciple. A disciple desires to be like their master (Luke 6:40) and will strive to hear and do their words. God calls his people to faith and a new life, empowered by his grace, that can withstand the storm.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read Matthew 7:24-27
There are two builders, two houses and two foundations. Look at the passage and list out the similarities between the two builders, houses and foundations and then contrast differences. How would you know which one was which?
Read James 1:22-25. How is this passage James similar to Matthew 7:24-27? What are some reasons we may tempted to just hear, but not do the words of God?
Jesus talks about the different things that will test the foundation of the house like rain, floods, and persistent wind. Many of us feel a sense of urgency to think about spiritual things during hard seasons, however the time to build the house is not typically during a storm. How does hearing/knowing the word of God and putting it into practice prepare you for difficult seasons in the future?