The Greatest Sermon in History Part 22
A Firm Foundation
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 25, 2004


Main Passage: Matthew 7:24-29 (NLT)


831 years ago (in August of 1173), Bonnano Pisano began work on his most famous project. Pisano was an Italian architect who was given the task of constructing a separately standing bell tower for a local Cathedral. This tower was to contain eight stories and be 185 feet tall. So he organized a team of builders and began work on the project. After the third floor was built, though, they ran into a bit of difficulty. They discovered that the soil was much softer than they had anticipated and the foundation for the tower was far too shallow to adequately hold the structure. And sure enough, before long the whole structure began to tilt… and tilt… and tilt. Until finally the architect and the builders realized that nothing could be done to make the tower straight again.

Anyone know what tower I’m talking about?
(The Leaning Tower of Pisa)
(Personally, I would have preferred a Leaning Tower of Pizza.)

When the problems emerged, construction was halted and nothing was done with the tower for nearly a century. Then they added four more floors, took another break of about 70 years, and finally added the top floor in 1372, two centuries after construction began. They tried to compensate for the tilt. The upper levels were built at an angle to try to make the top of the tower look straight. But nothing worked. Mussolini even tried to straighten it by pouring cement in its foundation, but that only resulted in the tower sinking even further into the soft soil. In 1990, the tower was closed to the public due to safety concerns. By that time it was leaning so far that it could topple at any moment, so some reconstruction was done to reduce to angle of the lean. After putting in 25 million dollars and taking out 110 tons of dirt, they were able to reduce the 6 degree 13-foot tilt by about 44 centimeters and it finally reopened in 2001.

But the problem still remains. They reduced the lean to the angle it was 300 years ago, but the tower continues to tilt and it will continue to get worse. One day, experts say, it will fall over. Why? What was the problem? Bad design? Poor workmanship? An inferior grade of marble? No. The problem was what was underneath. The sandy soil on which the city of Pisa was built was just not stable enough to support a monument of this size. The tower wasn’t built on a firm foundation.

Jesus talked about the importance of building on a firm foundation. In His case, He was talking about how you and I need to build our lives on the firm foundation of His teaching. Listen…

Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on rock. But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will fall with a mighty crash.”

This morning, we’re going to take a look at these verses at the end of Matthew 7, and then we’re going to take a look back at the Greatest Sermon in History… the Sermon on the Mount. So first, let me give you the Blueprint for building on a Firm Foundation…


A Blueprint for Building on a Firm Foundation:


1. Learn the Teachings of Jesus

Jesus said…

Matthew 7:24 (NLT)
“Anyone who listens to my teaching…”

We seem to return to this every once in a while… the importance of learning the Bible and understanding what Jesus tells us in His Word. You and I need to understand that the teachings of Jesus are just as relevant today as they were when they were first spoken. He speaks to the issues of our day as powerfully as He spoke to the issues of first century Palestine. No one else has ever come close to the wisdom and practicality of His Words. Upon His teachings, governments have formed and laws have been based. Moral values for entire societies have been founded on His teaching. Even in communities today that reject Him, His teaching has had an evident effect. And as His teaching is taken out of the classroom and is pushed to the margins of society, the repercussions are obvious and are disastrous.

“The world is bad enough with the Bible; what would it be without it!”
~ Benjamin Franklin

No one else has ever spoken with the insight and logic of Jesus, and you and I need to recognize that today. We need to be careful not to neglect His Word, but to make it a priority to read it regularly… daily.

Isaiah 33:6 (NIV)
He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge…

The Bible is packed full of good stuff. But don’t just take my word for it. Check out these words from other respected leaders…

“Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the Book widens and deepens with our years.”
~ Charles Spurgeon

“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”
~ Theodore Roosevelt

“I believe a knowledge of the Bible without a college course is more valuable than a college course without the Bible. Everyone who has a thorough knowledge of the Bible may truly be called educated, and no other learning or culture, no matter how extensive or elegant, can form a proper substitute.”
~ Dr. William Lyon Phelps, professor at Yale University

Read the Bible. Hear the teachings of Jesus. Listen to what He has to say to you today. But that’s not enough. We need to do more than just learn the teachings of Jesus. We need to…


2. Practice the Teachings of Jesus

Jesus said…

Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise…”

We don’t gain wisdom by gaining knowledge; we gain wisdom by applying knowledge. We need to hear what He has to say, and then we need to put it into practice. A friend of mine once told me that the Bible isn’t worth the paper it’s written on unless it’s applied to your everyday life. And I believe that’s true.

Jesus didn’t die so you could be informed; He died so you could be transformed.

His Word is meant to be put into practice. Otherwise, what good is it? Let me give you a tool you can use as you read the Bible... three questions you can ask yourself as you work your way through different passages.

Say? How can I summarize this passage in my own words?
Mean? What is God saying to me through this passage?
Apply? What action should I take in response to God’s Word?

Say-Mean-Apply. Remember those three words and use them to guide you through the Bible.

James 1:22 (NIV)
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

I was watching one of the Newsmagazine shows on TV this week and saw two actors interviewed together. Somehow they got into discussing the Bible and started arguing about their interpretation of different passages. They both proudly boasted about how much the read the Bible and respect the teaching of Jesus. But looking at some of the content in the movies they’ve made, I’ve got to wonder how much the words they read truly impact their lives. They can talk theology, but if that’s all it means to them they’re missing the point.

“To listen with no plan to act, to read with no interest to respond is to miss the whole point of Christ’s teaching… Divine truth is given not to satisfy idle curiosity, but to change lives, not to lull us to sleep in church, but to equip us for today and prepare us for eternity.”
~ Joey Nelson

And John Ruskin offers some good advice…

Make it the first morning business of your life to understand some part of the Bible clearly, and make it your daily business to obey it in all that you do understand.
~ John Ruskin (1819-1900)

So you’ve got to learn to the teachings of Jesus, practice them, and you need to trust them.


3. Trust the Teachings of Jesus

Matthew 7:24-25 (NLT)
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on rock.”

Make your foundation Jesus Christ and His Teachings. Trust that foundation. Resolve to weather the storm on that foundation of Jesus Christ and you will not be disappointed.

Proverbs 29:25 (NLT)
Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the LORD means safety.

Storms will come, make no mistake about it. The question is, will those storms destroy you or will your foundation hold fast? Will the storms even be good for you?

James 1:2-4 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.

How is this possible? How can a storm actually help you grow?

For two years, scientists sequestered themselves in an artificial environment called Biosphere 2. Inside their self-sustaining community, the Biospeherians created a number of mini-environments, including a desert, rain forest, even an ocean. Nearly every weather condition could be simulated except one: wind. And over time, the effects of their windless environment became apparent. A number of trees bent over and even snapped. Without the stress of the wind to strengthen their wood, the trunks grew weak and could not hold up their own weight. The wind beating against a tree can either blow it over, or if the foundation is firm the wind can help it grow stronger.

An earthquake hit California in 1983 measuring 8.2 on the Richter Scale. Several houses were shaken off of their foundation by as much as six or seven inches, causing the buildings to collapse. But houses that were bolted to their foundation withstood the Quake. The houses that were not bolted may have been perfectly good houses, but they could not stand up to the earthquake. The houses that were bolted to their foundation became one with their foundation, and were able to stand.

You and I need to base our lives not only on the teachings of Jesus but in a relationship with Him as well. We need to establish our very identity in who He is and what He has done for us.

Gregory Elder tells a funny story about the importance of a strong foundation. He writes,
“Growing up on the Atlantic Coast, I spent long hours working on intricate sand castles; whole cities would appear beneath my hands. One year, for several days in a row, I was accosted by bullies who smashed my creations. Finally I tried an experiment: I placed cinder blocks, rocks, and chunks of concrete in the base of my castles. Then I built the sand kingdoms on top of the rocks. When the local toughs appeared (and I disappeared), their bare feet suddenly met their match.”
~ Gregory P. Elder, Del Mar, California. Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 2.

With Jesus and His teachings as the foundation for your life, the big bad bullies will have no chance against you. You need to know that. You need to trust that. The storms may come and threaten you, you may even feel like you’re under siege, but the storms will pass and you will be left standing. You will endure.

Proverbs 10:25 (NLT)
Disaster strikes like a cyclone, whirling the wicked away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.

Trust in that foundation. Trust in Jesus. Jesus said that if you build your life on His teachings it’s like building your life on a rock-solid foundation. If you ignore Him and His teachings, you’re building your life on a foundation of sand. Think about the differences…

Sand - Shifting…Sliding…Sinking
Rock - Stationary…Strong…Secure

Which foundation do you choose? Decide today.


Now, let’s switch gears. The last couple of verses of Matthew 7 say…

Matthew 7:28-29 (NLT)
After Jesus finished speaking, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught as one who had real authority--quite unlike the teachers of religious law.

So as we finish up this 22-part series which began in January and has taken us through three of the most powerful chapters in the entire Bible, I’d like us to take a look back at what we’ve covered. The crowds were amazed at the teachings of Jesus then, and those teachings are still amazing today. So let me conclude this series as we began it… reading these teachings straight through. You can put your notes away and just listen to the words of Jesus in the Greatest Sermon in History… the Sermon in the Mount.





Copyright © 2004