Sermon Audio: Obedience – The Fruitful Life

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more about “Obedience – The Fruitful Life“, posted with vodpod

On Sunday May 30, 2010, I had the privilege of preaching at Poplar Hill Christian Church in Poplar Hill, Ontario. Our time together was spent in Matthew 7:24-27, where we looked at the meaning and implications of Jesus’ statement at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.

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 against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

An MP3 is also available.

The sermon’s manuscript follows:

Good morning. It’s my pleasure to be with you today. Before we get too far in, let’s get to know each other a little bit… or at least you can get to know me.

I wasn’t born into a Christian home; we didn’t read the Bible growing up or go to church. In fact, it wasn’t until I was 25 that my wife, Emily, and I became Christians—until Jesus in His grace and mercy saved us.

After becoming a Christian, one of the difficulties I experienced was understanding “fruitfulness.” What did it mean for me to live a fruitful Christian life?

Looking around, it seemed as though fruitfulness was defined by numbers—how big the church was, how many people came out to the Bible study, how many men didn’t show up to the Men’s ministry events, how many books were sold…

While listening to a sermon one Sunday, the preacher made a bold statement on this very issue. He said, “If you’re not bringing at least five people to Christ in a year, you’re not bearing fruit.”

This killed me. I was devastated. I had not led anyone to faith. I had stumbled my way through sharing the gospel with some family members, but obviously, I’d botched it because I couldn’t seal the deal.

I wasn’t fruitful.

What I didn’t know then is that this isn’t remotely close to a proper definition of fruitfulness. In fact, it couldn’t be anything further from.

Adding notches to your evangelism belt does not make you a fruitful servant of Christ. And if you’ve ever been told something like that at any point in your life—please don’t believe it.

It’s not true.

So what, then, makes a fruitful Christian?

Here’s the answer:

To be fruitful means to be obedient to Christ.

Because His words are the only foundation that will allow us to endure the storms of life, we must faithfully obey Jesus.

Open your Bibles to Matthew 7:24-27. This is where we’ll be spending the bulk of our time together today. It’s my hope that these words of Jesus help us get a picture of this reality. Matthew 7:24-27:

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 against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

This is God’s Word. Let’s pray:

[opening prayer]

In this parable closing out the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks of two kinds of men—a wise man and a foolish man. What’s the difference between the two?

One hears Jesus’ words and does what he says. The other hears Jesus words and does not do what he says.

The first, Jesus says, is like a wise man who builds his house on rock. The other is like a foolish man who builds it on sand.

Now, it’s helpful for us to dig into this a bit. As I understand it, during Israel’s hot summer months, the sand around the Sea of Galilee gets really, really hard on the surface.

It feels solid.

But would it be wise to build your house on a hard surface?

Would it not be wiser to dig down to bedrock and build your foundation upon that?

Now, I’m not what anyone would consider handy. I have trouble hitting a nail with a hammer. My hobbies don’t including building things or using power tools.

I read books and write for fun.

These, historically, have not been considered “manly” hobbies.

But it just seems like good sense that if you’re building a house, you’re going to want to make sure the foundation is deep.

That it’s secure. That if there’s a gust of wind, your house isn’t going to fall over.

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.

Jesus is telling us that it’s no different with our faith.

We can build it on a firm foundation—on the rock, or we can build it on a foundation that’s only surface, but no substance.

So what’s our foundation?

Obedience is not optional

Jesus is pointing us to a reality that is hard for many of us in North America to grasp—that there is some objective evidence that one has been born again, that one is actually a Christian.

You might be thinking, “Wait—did he just say that?”

Yes.

“That’s not very nice, is it?”

No.

But it’s true.

Throughout Scripture, it’s made abundantly clear that if this is true—if, as Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 5:17, one is a new creation in Christ, if the old has truly passed away and the new has truly come—there must be some tangible indication.

So what is it?

Obedience to Christ.

This is the first thing we have to understand:

Obedience is not optional.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Throughout the Bible, we are repeatedly shown a connection between one’s claim to be a follower of Jesus and obedience.

In Exodus 19:5, God tells the people, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine.”

1 Samuel 15:22 says, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”

John 3:36 tells us, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

1 John 5:2 says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.”

James 1:22-24 tells us to, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.”

Let’s stop there for a second. Picture this—I’m standing in front of the mirror and I’m just…

Looking

“Dang, I look good. Wow… Hey, Emily, come look at how good I look!”

Okay, so maybe that’s me deceiving myself in front of the mirror.

Maybe this is a better example: Church wraps up. The sermon was awesome—this is obviously on a day when your pastor is here and not me—you’re inspired, you’re singing at the top of your lungs. You’re like, “Yes! I’m going to do that! I’m going to totally take back my town for Jesus!”

Then you get in your car.

You drive into London.

You hit traffic.

And it’s bad.

Because it’s London.

Just a moment ago, you were praising God. The next, you’re cussing out the driver in front of you.

Am I the only one who’s done that?

Perhaps most convicting is 1 John 2:3-6

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.

Put all these together and we are faced with one, unavoidable conclusion:

Obedience is evidence that you are a believer

Let me say that again:

Obedience—not simple verbal profession, not memorizing Bible verses, not being fluent in Greek & Hebrew, not having a coffee mug with a Thomas Kincade painting and Jeremiah 29:11 on it—Obedience is evidence that you are a believer.

We all need to really get this. Obedience is evidence that you’re a believer. But it’s not just “an evidence”—

It is THE evidence.

Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a man who built his house on the rock, says Jesus.

It’s an inescapable conclusion. If you follow Jesus, if you say you’re a Christian, when you hear His words—you will obey Him.

Something that’s said a lot right now is “it’s not about rules, it’s about relationship.” And you know what? That’s true.

God’s not about just giving us a bunch of rules and saying “GO DO IT!”

He’s not sitting there on His throne, watching and thinking, “They better not screw up; if they do, they are gonna get it!”

It doesn’t work that way.

But a relationship requires obedience.

If I say to my wife that I love her, but I ignore everything she says—is that a healthy relationship?

If my wife says she respects me, but refuses any request I have—is that a healthy relationship?

Think back to those words of John—what He tells us is that if you say you love God, but you do not obey Him,

YOU ARE A LIAR.

You’re liar, says John, if you think you can say you know Christ, that you love Christ, but you consistently, habitually disobey Him.

You’re a liar if you refuse to obey Christ.

If this is true, it means that obedience is not optional for a Christian.

But what are we to obey?

A Christian Obeys God’s Word

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them,” says Jesus.

Now which words is He talking about?

Is he talking about only the words he’s speaking that day?

What about the words that—if your Bible is like mine—are printed in red ink?

Are those the only words we need to hear and do?

No.

A Christian obeys God’s Word.

All of it.

There’s strangely a lot of debate within Evangelicalism today about whether or not we need to obey the Bible, whether we can trust it at all.

Maybe it’s all a bit of mythologizing, some say, so we don’t have to talk about things like eternal judgment. We don’t have to talk about sin.

And y’know, the Bible’s really hard to understand—can we really know for sure what it means anyway?

But one of my favorites is that the words printed in red are somehow more authoritative and inspired than the rest of the Bible, including the words that might appear in a sentence following them.

Can I just be really, brutally honest with you for a second—and, this might only be to get this off of my chest, but I’m going to do it anyway—but —that’s a ridiculous idea.

It’s just silly.

I’ve got two reasons.

The first is just common sense:

These words we print in red?

They were written down.

And not by Jesus.

They were written down by the other guys who wrote the New Testament. Matthew and John, who were apostles. Mark, who served closely with Peter and Paul. Luke, who served with Paul.

So we’re already trusting that what they say Jesus said is true. So why would we not also trust the rest of what they wrote that’s in the Bible?

Second reason is theological:

Saying that we should trust some parts of the Bible over others mocks the Holy Spirit who inspired every word of Scripture to be written.

And those who do are like the serpent in the garden, asking, “Did God really say…?”

2 Tim 3:16 says, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…”

In verse 15, Paul writes these sacred writings “make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Additionally, Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:15-16, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”

Peter makes it very clear:

Paul—his contemporary, his associate, his friend—was writing Scripture. Peter, who was taught by Jesus, who walked with him for three years, who saw the transfiguration, saw the crucifixion, saw the resurrection—Peter the leader of the apostles says, “Paul is writing the Word of God. Listen to Him.”

Be very careful of anyone or anything telling you otherwise.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

The inspiration of Scripture is not limited to the Holy Spirit inspiring its authors—it includes the result. If the Scriptures are true—if they’re the very words of God—then you must obey them.

Otherwise, you must throw the whole thing away.

But if you are a believer, you cannot—you CANNOT—cherry pick from the Bible.

So a Christian must obey God’s Word.

Consider the Cost of Obedience

Next verse:

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.

There are going to be challenges to our obedience. We will face trials. We will face persecution. We will have conflicting desires.

We must consider the cost of obedience.

Here’s the thing—I like to be comfortable.

I like having a steady paycheck. I like having food in my fridge. I like being able to have some fun with the money I’ve earned.

And you know what?

There’s nothing inherently wrong any of these things.

But here’s the danger—the danger comes when I start valuing these things over obedience to Christ.

What if God wants me to give these things up in obedience to Him?

Will I obey?

For all of us, especially in North America, obedience to Christ is terrifying.

Why?

Because it will cost us something.

So we must consider the cost of obedience.

Following Jesus—obeying Jesus—requires sacrifice.

We sacrifice seeking after wealth and fame. We sacrifice friendships, saying goodbye to old friends who would hinder us on our journey, or who don’t want anything to do with us now that we’re “no fun.”

We sacrifice lifestyle, no longer being conformed to the passions of our former ignorance, as 1 Peter says.

We end relationships that do not honor God. We stop looking at pornography and get rid of it all from our homes.

We stop drinking to excess.

We even sacrifice family to pursue Jesus.

For those of us who are the only Christians in our families, we’re often questioned about our commitment. Our families don’t understand why Christ is so important. They think we’re simply “doing church” (failing to see that church is a lame hobby).

Our lives are no longer about what we want, but about what Jesus wants. We are no longer our own, for we were bought for a steep price says 1 Cor. 6:20. Therefore, we ought to glorify God in our bodies, our thoughts, words and deeds.

We sacrifice pride.

Prestige.

Self-Exaltation.

Self-Glorification.

All of it dies.

Jesus tells us in John 12:25-26, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.”

Whoever loves his life will lose it, but whoever hates his life will keep it.

Do you love your life in this world more than you love Christ?

Are you willing to give up everything?

Consider the cost of obedience.

Face the Consequences of Obedience

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.

Not only do we consider the cost, we face the consequences of obedience.

Obedience is dangerous.

It opens you up to persecution. Now here, right now that means people make fun of you. They will mock you.

To be a Christian in Canada, you’re considered anti-intellectual.

An intolerant backwoods bigot from the Deep North.

For the most part, this is as bad as it gets.

But it’s getting worse.

Increasingly there are real consequences to obedience to Christ that we must face.

Today, in this country, you can face the kangaroo court that is the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal for proclaiming biblical truths—that homosexuality is a sin.

That all religions are not equal valid expressions of worship to God.

In California about a year ago, a husband and wife who hosted a Bible study in their home—I’ll say that again—hosting a Bible study in their HOME—were fined by the police and ordered to not hold a study in their home anymore without a permit for a public assembly.

In their home.

Their private residence.

They had something like 10 people altogether.

Ridiculous.

In other parts of the world, the consequences go far beyond legal irritation and mockery.

In parts of India, you can be murdered for being a Christian.

In the Middle East, converting to Christianity is punishable by death.

In China, Christian pastors are forced underground.

Understand: Christianity isn’t a game!

Being a follower of Jesus isn’t a lame hobby!

It is costly. It is dangerous.

Do you know who got this?

The Old Testament Prophets.

Jeremiah is called as a young man and tries to get out of it. But God responds,

[T]o all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.

And Jeremiah goes. He obeys. But his obedience costs him greatly. Jeremiah cries out:

Whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. . . . I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side!

“Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” say all my close friends, watching for my fall.

“Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him.”

Jeremiah is beaten. He’s despised. Everyone wants to kill him, see him discredited.

They don’t want to listen to him.

Jeremiah is so filled with despair over his state that in his anguish he believes that God has deceived him. He didn’t expect the kind of persecution that he’s facing.

Still, he trusts the Lord.

He obeys.

He perseveres.

He lived a fruitful life.

Isaiah. Isaiah is called in a vision of the exalted Lord on His throne. Here’s what he says:

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I really like to just stop there—it’s inspiring! “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” says God.

When I read this, I just want to shout out, “Yes! Me! I’ll go! Here am I! Send me!”

I want to take on the whole world for Jesus—but the text doesn’t stop there. Isaiah is given his marching orders.

What does God tell him?

Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”

And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. . . . “

Isaiah goes. He obeys. He is told specifically that his message would harden the hearts of his hearers. That he would preach judgment upon the people of Israel.

He trusts the Lord

Isaiah obeys.

He perseveres.

According to legend, he is martyred, sawn in two.

He lived a fruitful life.

The rain will fall, floods will come and winds will blow and beat against your house—will you stand?

You must be prepared to face the consequences of obedience.

Do Not Trust in Your Obedience—Trust in Christ

Next verse:

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 against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

When we hear the words of Jesus, and we obey, we are acting as a wise man who builds his house on the rock. This is the idea of digging a deep foundation. What’s our foundation?

Jesus.

Faith in Him.

Trusting that the gospel is true. That Jesus really came to live the perfect life, to die in our place for our sins and rose again on the third day to give us eternal life and right standing before God.

And so we obey. We obey out of joy for what Christ has done and a desire to see His glory magnified.

We choose to follow Him, putting our sin to death and humbling ourselves before our great God and Saviour.

And when trials come, we persevere. When judgment comes, we stand.

Our faith does not fail.

Because it’s rooted in Christ and not in anything else.

If we hear the words of Christ and disobey. What happens then?

Hear this—I really need you to get this—Jesus calls you a fool.

You’re a fool if you think that you can hear but not obey—that you can trick Jesus by faking at Christianity.

That you can trust in anything else but Christ for your righteousness and come out the other side unscathed.

Understand, if our righteousness is rooted in anything but Christ—

It will always fail.

It’s like a house built on sand.

And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

This is a warning from Christ. It’s a warning of judgment.

Jesus is referencing a warning Ezekiel gave to the people of Israel. We find them in Ezekiel 13:10-14

[W]hen the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! . . .  I will make a stormy wind break out in my wrath, and there shall be a deluge of rain in my anger, and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end. And I will break down the wall that you have smeared with whitewash, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be laid bare. When it falls, you shall perish in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the Lord.

A life built on anything but obedience to Christ is like a wall smeared with whitewash. It looks pretty, but it has nothing holding it together.

And when God comes to judge the righteous and the unrighteous it will fall.

If our hope is in anything but Christ. If our confidence is in anything but the finished work of Christ on the cross. When the trials come, when obedience costs something, when judgment comes—we fall.

Friends, please understand—Jesus does not make suggestions.

He never comes to us and says, “It’d be really swell if you would go over here and do this. But, y’know, no pressure.”

He commands.

Jesus demands our obedience.

And we must obey.

A few questions to consider and then we’ll close:

What is Jesus asking us to do?

What is that thing that even the idea of pursuing fills us with anxiety?

What holds me back from doing the thing that Jesus wants me to do?

What way have I taken?

Friends, I just want to plead with you. Trust Christ.

Whatever it is that’s holding you back.

We must trust Him.

Because His words are the only foundation that will allow us to endure the storms of life, we must faithfully obey Jesus.

Will you trust Him today? Will you obey Him today?

Trusting in anyone and anything else will always fail.

But trusting Jesus never fails.

Let’s pray.

[closing prayer]