Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. and everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat agains that house, and it fell, and great was the all of it.” — Matthew 7:24-27
Have you ever experienced vertigo? I am fearful of heights, so I expect to feel some sort of disorientation whenever confronted with this fear. On several occasions I’ve lost my bearings and felt dizzy and didn’t know why. It came out of nowhere. It’s a weird feeling—you lose all sense of control, oftentimes wanting to lay down, but even then solace cannot be found. Sometimes people with vertigo live in a perpetual state of dizziness and motion sickness. I’m married to one. It’s not fun. Even my wife’s own driving can make her feel sick at times.
Sin is like vertigo: it disorients your life in such a way that you lose your sense of grounding. When the foundation of our lives moves away from being the Word of God—idols and false identities gladly take its place. We begin to lose control (and even that makes us frustrated). Our perception of people and the world around us begins to shift, thus causing us to misjudge and make assumptions. We fail to see things clearly. Sin is not just a transgression of God’s Law, it’s a redefining of it. Sin flips our world upside down.
In the book of Matthew, these themes of rocks, buildings, and foundations develop underneath the plot. Back in chapter four, Jesus stayed firm on the rock of God’s Word when put to the test by Satan. Instead of caving to Satan’s wishes and circumventing the will of God, Jesus remained steadfast in his commitment to the Father. Here in Matthew 7, Jesus shares a story, contrasting what life is like when you are anchored in him, and what life is like when you’re a fool. The difference isn’t the house, but rather the foundation underneath it. Either the house will be built on a foundation that can withstand the onslaught of storms, or it will be built on sand which shifts around making things unstable, leading to an inevitable disaster.
What many tend to forget is that this theme of “rock” returns in chapter sixteen when Peter makes a profound confession as to the identity of Jesus. While others continue to perpetuate misunderstanding by failing to see Jesus for who he really is, Peter gets it right. Rocky, which was Peter’s nickname, confesses that there is a solid foundation, and his name is Jesus.
While many different expositors argue over what this “rock” is—is it Jesus? Peter? His confession?—I tend to believe the answer is, “Yes” to all of these. It is Peter and his apostles in a sense (Eph. 2:20), and it has everything to do with Peter’s confession (because what basic truth is more foundational than the fact that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God?). But it also has everything to do with Jesus himself who is, in fact, the cornerstone (Matt. 21:42; 1 Pt. 2:1-8), which is what “Rocky” confesses.
Exegetical debate and arguments aside, the fact remains: The Word of God, which gives testimony to the truth of Jesus’ identity, is the foundation that holds the Church in place. The Temple was built with large rocks on a large mountain in Jerusalem. And yet here is the true Temple, the fullness of God dwelling with man, walking among a people whose lives are built on sand. Jesus came to change the foundation so we could stay grounded.
What does it look like to be grounded?
If we as disciples who make disciple-making disciples wish to continue the ministry of being grounded in Christ—anchored deep within the gospel—we must commit ourselves to communion with God through various means. Here are some of those means:
- The Word of God and Prayer — This commitment is nothing new. It’s the tried and true practice that the apostles taught was of utmost importance (Acts 6:4). The question we must wrestle with is not, “Will you build a foundation?” but rather, “Which foundation will you build?” All men everywhere have a foundation, and either it is built upon the Word of God and prayer, or it is built on something else. To be grounded in Christ—to build one’s house upon the rock—is to commune with God through these two things. When we commit to the Word of God, we are committed to storing up God’s Word in our hearts so we refrain from sin (Ps. 119:11). When we spend time in prayer, we are utilizing the Spirit’s means to communing with God. These two things go together to form a heavy anchor that can keep you grounded when the storm comes.
- The Local Assembly — Solo Christianity is no way to build your house, nor is it a way to be an active part of The House (the Church). In fact, it is impossible. There is no such thing as solo Christianity. Which also means that one of the largest idols in America—independence—must be shattered and laid waste. Is it hard? Yes. Is it messy? You bet. Is it necessary? Absolutely. To be grounded in Christ, anchored deep within the gospel, is to be a part of his family. After all, your adoption wasn’t just to salvation—it was to the Church! And the Church welcomes you with open arms. The local assembly is a non-negotiable. I was told recently by someone whose been gone all summer camping (welcome to Michigan), “We’re having marriage issues, maybe it’s because we’ve not been in church much.” Bingo. Truthfully, that’s not the reason—there are plenty of them! But this could be one of them. When severed from the body, the hand doesn’t last long. Commune with God by communing with his people.
- Confession — To be grounded in Christ is to make constant confession. Peter gave his confession that Jesus was the Messiah, the son of the living God, and that confession, though admittedly still fuzzy to some degree, mattered most. We are confessional What I mean is, in order to be a Christian, you have to make this same confession that Peter made.
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” —Romans 10:9-11
The key is knowing that this confession is perpetual in nature. We are always confessing this. We are always wanting to commune with God. How do we do it? How do we keep that foundation healthy? Confess. Often.
- Gospel-Centrality —Gospel-centrality is not a fad, nor is it a cute tagline. After all, the gospel is of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). That’s what we mean by “centrality”—the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of God’s story climaxing in the person and work of Jesus, is first. It must be the It is never, “Will something be central in your life,” but rather, “What will be central?” For the person who wishes to stay grounded and commune with God in a real, passionate way, the gospel must be central.
Back to the vertigo. The reason our lives get out of whack and we fall into disorientation is because we aren’t grounded in the gospel. Like a boat tossed about without an anchor to be found, so is the man whose life has no anchor in Christ. Show me a person who is committed to these four aforementioned things, and I’ll show you a person whose life is built on the rock of Christ. There simply is no greater foundation for your house.
The next time you are feeling out of whack (e.g., you are impatient, you lack compassion, you can’t seem to forgive, or you struggle with bitterness and a sharp tongue), remember that your disorientation is a sure sign that the foundation is weak. This type of life is utter foolishness. The wind will come and destroy your house and nothing will be left. But to the person who commits his way to God (Prov. 3:5-6), your life will be sustained, not because you are clever and wise in and of yourself, but because you have communed with God in Christ, the rock of our salvation.
Rev. Jason M. Garwood (M.Div., Th.D.) serves as Lead Pastor of Colwood Church in Caro, MI and author of Be Holy and The Fight for Joy. Jason and his wife Mary have three children, Elijah, Avery and Nathan. He blogs at www.jasongarwood.com. Connect with him on Twitter: @jasongarwood.