Read Matt 7:24-27.
One of the keywords in this text is practice. To get good at anything takes practice. Playing sports or playing an instrument, or learning a new subject takes practice. When it comes to school, you have to practice what you heard in the classroom at night when you’re alone and it’s time to do your homework. You might be a genius with photographic memory so this doesn’t apply to you. But the vast majority of us need more than a one hour lecture before we grasp a concept. We need practice. It’s easy to nod your head during a lecture and think, yeah, I got this. But many times, our understanding is fuzzy. And we never know for sure how much we understand until the final exam.
In the same way, we might have a vague and fuzzy notion about faith in God–I got this, I know this stuff, I’ve been going to church all my life, the stories are familiar to me. But Jesus doesn’t allow us to remain fuzzy about our faith. Why? Because you can spend your whole life thinking you know Jesus and discover to your horror in the end, that HE never knew you. Jesus is asking us to put these words into practice. For our sake, that we may be able to move from a fuzzy–yeah I think I know Jesus–to a confident, convicted, confession of firsthand faith–Jesus is my personal Savior and Lord and He knows me by name.
Jesus is asking us to put these words into practice. What are “these words?” Which words is he referring to? Remember, this Sermon on the Mount was one long, continuous sermon that took place in one sitting. So when Jesus says, whatever you just heard, put it into practice, he is referring to chapters 5-7. I preached, you heard it, you nodded your head, now here’s the application. Now put it into practice.
To wrap up the Sermon on the Mount in light of the application that Jesus himself gives, I thought it would be fitting to review the key points from these 3 chapters and ask ourselves one question throughout–are we putting these words into practice, individually and as a church?
I am a firm believer that less is more. We don’t need to hear more of the Word of God. We need to slow down, digest more and put more of what we already heard into practice. Society tells us differently. We live in an information-saturated age where we are constantly being bombarded with news, advertisements, media. It’s information overload. Just look at your inbox. It’s probably cluttered with information coming from all directions. And so we assume more is better. Give me more. Even spiritually, we think more is better. Give me more sermons, more Bible studies, more discipleship training materials.
I love the Word of God. It’s my life. I spend most of my week studying it. So of course, being in the Word and getting more intake of the Word, there’s nothing wrong with that and I certainly would encourage you to read the study the Word. But there’s a danger, too. We can become content being hearers of the Word and think, yeah, I got it, I understand. And often it ends there with hearing only. Gaining head knowledge. In Matt 7:26, Jesus calls such a person who listens and who does not put into practice what he just heard a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rains come and washes the house away.
Listening is never enough. In fact, listening only may do more harm than good. How? Because listening only and not doing anything about what you just heard can give us a false illusion that we are okay. That we know God and that he knows us and we’re good. But watch out, times of testing, the storms, our final judgment will come and our foundations will be revealed. Was it built on the solid rock of Jesus Christ or was it built on sand? You won’t know unless you put your faith into practice.
It’s like calculus. You read your textbook or listen to your math professor and things make sense in your head. But just because things make sense intellectually doesn’t mean you really understand. Can you put what you think you know into practice and solve actual problems? That’s what counts. Likewise, we can think we understand spiritual truths because we hear the Word of God or we read the Word of God and we nod our heads in agreement. We give mental assent. 2 + 2 = 4. Yes, I agree. Jesus is the way, the truth, the life. Amen, I believe.
Clearly from this text, listening and giving mental assent is insufficient. We need to put our faith into practice. You might hear this and think, hey, wait a minute. Salvation is by grace, not works. This is true. You can’t merit salvation through works. You can’t save yourself. Salvation is only possible when God initiates and because of this grace which comes first from God and not from ourselves, we can respond in repentance and faith unto salvation. However, while it is true that salvation is by grace and not works, salvation leads to works. Let me repeat.
Salvation is by grace, not works. No question about that. However, salvation, someone who is truly born again, will demonstrate certain works. Taking the language of this text–a saved person is not one who merely hears the words of Jesus, but someone who practices them.
What specifically does Jesus want us to put into practice? 5 things or 5 areas in which Jesus tells us to put into practice.
First, in the area of personal life. Second, in the area of public life. Third, in the area of church life. Fourth, in the area of finances. Fifth, in the area of decision-making.
There are 111 verses in total spanning 3 chapters. By my estimation, 40 verses talk about the importance of self-examination in our personal lives [5:3-12 + 5:17-48 = 9 + 31 = 40 verses]. That’s over a third of the verses. 3 verses talk about our public life, specifically, our public witness to the world [5:13-16 = 3 verses]. 29 verses talk about church life, how to live with one another and treat one another [6:1-18 + 7:1-11 = 18 + 11 = 29 verses]. 15 verses talk about our attitude toward finances and the things of this world [6:19-34 = about 15]. And lastly, 15 verses talk about choosing wisely which path to take [7:12-27 = 15].