Two Foundations


Dr. John Hoole    - April 15 & 22, 2018




In 1174 the Italian architect Bonnano Pisano began work on what would become his most famous project: A bell tower to adorn the Cathedral in his city.  The structure was to be a cylindrical, eight-story, 185-foot-tall building, a fine example of Tuscan Romanesque architecture.


There was just one "little" problem: During construction, the builders quickly discovered that the soil around the Pisa Cathedral was much softer than they had anticipated, and therefore, the foundation which Pisano had designed for the building was far too shallow to adequately hold the structure!  And sure enough, before long the whole structure had begun to tilt... and it continued to tilt until finally the architect and the builders realized that nothing could be done to make the Leaning Tower of Pisa straight again.


It would take 176 years in all to complete construction on the Tower of Pisa and over those 176 years many different things were done to try and compensate for the "tilt" of the Leaning Tower of Pisa:


The foundations were shored up and reinforced to make sure the structure didn't lean any further --- the upper levels of the tower were actually constructed on at a slight angle to try and at least make the top of the tower look straight.


The Leaning Tower of Pisa has continued to stand for over 840 years now; although it now leans more than 18 feet away from the vertical, and still hangs on.  Much has been done to preserve the building.  But for all the reinforcements and enhancements that we can do to the structure--even with all our modern technology they have been unable to devise a way to make it perfectly straight, like it was intended to be.  What a difference it makes when your Foundation is not Firm and Secure!


Matthew 7:24-27 NKJV


24     "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:

25     and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

26     "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:

27     and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."


Jesus begins this section with the word, “therefore.”  That tells us that this illustration is the conclusion of what He has been saying.  Everything that Jesus has said from the beginning of Matthew 5 to this point brings us to this conclusion.  “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine,…”


The difference between the wise man and the foolish man is what they do in response to what Jesus says in this sermon.  He asks, “How firm is your foundation?”  And He says that the strength of our foundation will be the result of wise or foolish actions on our part.  But, in His remarks, Jesus also teaches us what ensures a person will be wise.


Remember what we said, in our previous lesson, about the fact that in both the Old and New Testament, the word for obedience finds its root in the words “to hear.”  This thought is surely echoed in our text today.


One Greek word translated “obey” is Hupakoúo.  It comes from HUPO, which means under and from AKOUO, which means I Hear.  To put that together, it means to listen to, and carry out, the instructions of a person who has authority over them.


To say it another way, the obedient person is¨


         1.  Under authority,

         2.  Listens to what their superior says, and…

         3.  Carries out the orders that have been given to them.


                   This is what obedience means for you and me.


With regard to the topic of hearing, most of us were born hearing well, but all of us must learn to LISTEN well.  Listening is a skill, an art that is in need of being cultivated.  Paula often wonders if I am really listening to her, or just hearing her.


Dan Betzer (in June 22, 2000 Byline) tells a story of an old man who was positive his wife couldn’t hear.  So, he snuck up behind her, about 20 feet away, and softly said, “Can you hear me?”  No response.  So he moves a little closer and repeats the “Can you hear me?”  Still no response.  Moving closer, he gets the same response.  So, he got right up behind her and shouted, “Can you hear me?”  She turns around and said, “For goodness sake, George, I have said ‘Yes’ three times!”


Dr. Ralph Nichols, considered by many to be an authority on the subject, believes that we think four, perhaps five, times faster than we talk.  That means that if a speaker utters 120-150 words a minute, the audience thinks at about 500-600 words a minute.  That difference offers a strong temptation to listeners to take mental excursions to think about last night’s ball game, ……or tomorrow’s sales report that is due, or about the time mom had with her daughter a couple of days ago, or about getting the car tuned before next week’s vacation and then phase back into what the speaker is saying -- without missing too many words but probably not assimilating all the speaker meant you to understand.


Research at the University of Minnesota reveals that in listening to a ten-minute talk, hearers, as a general rule, operate at only a 28% efficiency.  And the longer the talk, the less we understand – the less we track with our ears what somebody’s mouth is saying.


This could be downright frightening to guys like me who teach from 30 to 40 minutes at a crack.  That also explains why someone once described preaching as “the fine art of talking into someone else’s sleep.”


Good communication is tricky business.  I have no guarantee that what you thought you heard me say was what I meant to convey.  We are all busy people with heavy mental anchors dragging across our brains at every waking moment.


This brings up the seldom-mentioned secret of a good sermon (or lesson).  Aside from God’s vital part in the whole thing, there are two crucial ingredients to make it happen.  First, the one who speaks must speak well.         Second, the one who listens must listen well.


Neither is automatic.  Both are hard work.  I should also add that just because a Bible is open and religious words are being tossed around, there is no magical spell of sustained interest guaranteed.  And as difficult as it may be for us teachers to accept this, sincerity in the heart is no excuse for being dry, dull, and boring at the podium.


I believe pastors Troy or Brian are great at holding one’s interest and attention.  But Jesus was a master at it.  It is as if the people were spell-bound.


Matthew 7:28-29  (KJV)


28     And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:

29     For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.


Now let’s return to our text in verse 24 through 27.  It should not surprise us that Jesus uses a building metaphor in this illustration.  Jesus was a carpenter, the son of a carpenter.  He was a part of Joseph and Son construction Company in Nazareth.


If I ever have the privilege of returning to Israel, there are several places that I have not visited, but would like to do so.  I would love climbing to several of the caves where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls.  I would like to visit Magdala, Wilderness of Judah, Shiloh and Sepphoris.  I know that some of these would be difficult because they lie in West Bank areas, where there is limited access to tourists.


But the city of Sepphoris is open to visitors.  During the time of Christ, this city was probably the largest in the Galilee region.        But it is never mentioned in the New Testament.  Flavius Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, called Sepphoris “The ornament of all Galilee.” 


Sepphoris, whose Hebrew word is Tzippori, means “bird,” was just an hour’s walk from the small village of Nazareth – about 4 miles.  At about the time of Jesus’s birth, there was an uprising in the city, with the Romans actually destroying much of the city.  Herod Antipas almost immediately rebuilt it, naming it the regional capital of Galilee, and, while it was a Roman city, its population was mostly Jewish.


There would have been a building boom in this city during the childhood of Jesus.  Many theologians have posited that the small town of Nazareth, having only about 30 families, would not have allowed enough work for Joseph to make a living.  These theologians suggest that Joseph and Jesus would have been hired for work in Sepphoris.  And while being a carpenter usually refers to a worker of wood, Joseph and Jesus would have been skilled at working with stone.  So, the use of a building metaphor in Matthew 7 would not be surprising.  I believe Joseph and Jesus knew, by experience, the difference between a solid house and a shoddy one.


However, the story in Matthew 7 is not just for architects, carpenters and contractors.  It is for you and me.  Building a house is simply an analogy for building a life.  And the foundation you choose is the most important feature of your life.


Proverbs 24:3 states (NKJV):


3       Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established;


This is not only true of your house.  It is also true of your life.  And Jesus says it is the wise person who builds their life on a sure foundation, which will not collapse when the troubles come.


I like the way Luke speaks of the wise man.  He says, in Luke 6:48 (NIV),….


48      He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.


In this final illustration in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us what the most important ingredient is in determining the ultimate shape and destiny of our life.  He says, “your life is your house.”  Your actions will determine how you are building your house, because your actions always take you somewhere.  Your actions today create the future “you.”


You must live in the house you build, and, to be anchored properly, that house must be built on only one foundation.  And the strength of that foundation – and your future – is determined by your obedience to His Words.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has given us dozens of individual lessons for those who desire to follow Him.  But, while we can learn a great deal about each topic He discusses, He also flows them together in such a way that what we learn from one will help us understand those that follow.


Jesus instructs us to hear him well and then put into practice what we hear.  He knows there are going to be many voices vying for your attention but if you follow them, they will lead you along with the crowd on the wide path.  He is pleading with us to listen rather to Him, and choose the narrow road for it is the one that leads to life.  He says, “if you listen to me, you won’t be deceived.”  You won’t be deceived by the way things look – wolves in sheep’s clothing.  And you won’t be deceived by the vocabulary you hear from those other voices who say “Lord, Lord,” but don’t really know me.  Don’t listen to those who say, “One religion is as good as another” and “we’re all trying to get to the same place” because they are dead wrong.  And they will only lead you to death and destruction.  Because you will be faced with two ways, and because there are so many deceivers, you must listen to Christ.


Listen to what the Lord, through Isaiah, said.


Isaiah 48:18  (NIV)


18     If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.


This was such a strong point of instruction in the mind of Jesus, that, earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, He actually instructed us to pray along these lines.  Didn’t he tell us to pray that His “will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?


Anything short of doing the Word and will of God is simply a deceptive waste of time and is exactly where the false prophet in sheep’s clothing would lead us.


Let me quote Sir Francis BaconHe got it right when he said:


“It is not what we eat, but what we digest that makes us strong,

it is not what we gain, but what we save that makes us rich;

not what we read, but what we remember that makes us learned;

not what we preach or pray but what we practice that makes us Christians.”


Now let’s return to our text and look a little deeper at the wealth of instruction Jesus gives us.  The key to understanding this parable is to look closely for the parts that are identical and those that are different.






Let’s look at each of these three issues.


1.     Both of these men heard what Jesus was saying.


This is also the way it is with people who go to church.  In the same way, professing Christians - both the genuine and the spurious - often look alike.  You cannot easily tell which is which.  Both appear to be building Christian lives.


Both read the Bible.  Both go to church.  Both listen to sermons and buy Christian literature.  The reason you often cannot tell the difference between them is that, like most houses, the deep foundations of their lives are hidden from view.


The real question is not whether they “hear” Christ’s teaching -- not even whether they respect or believe it – but whether they DO what they hear.  And only a storm will reveal the truth.


So, both men hear, but only the wise man does anything about it.


2.     Both men build, but on different foundations


Everyone is building, as long as he or she is alive.  But the question Jesus is asking in this text is, “Are you a wise builder or a foolish builder?”  In other words, as you live your life, are you building to last or will your building collapse when it is tested?  God guarantees us that every building (life) will be tested.  And some will stand while others fall.




We are not specifically told, but the impression given is that the only difference between the two are the foundations on which they are built.  As the two builders got on with their building, a casual observer may not have noticed any difference between them.  The two houses may look exactly the same from the outside.  Both could be attractive and clean, freshly-painted perhaps.


But the difference was in the foundation - a part of the house that is not easily seen.  Only when the storm broke, and battered both houses with great ferocity was the fundamental and fatal difference revealed.


Most of us will remember the massive earthquake that struck the Bay Area in California a number of years ago (1989).  You can probably still remember vivid pictures of that double-decker freeway in Oakland that collapsed.  But, in that earthquake did you hear anything about the Golden Gate Bridge?


Why not?  Because it sustained absolutely no damage ---     even though the south pier of the Golden Gate Bridge sits directly on top of the San Andreas fault.


But, because the weight of that bridge rests on two towers, each of which are deeply embedded into the rock beneath the sea, it remained undamaged.  But what about that double-decker freeway?  It was built on land that had been filled in.  It all looked the same until the time of testing.


3.     Both houses are hit by a storm, but only one of them survives.


Notice that neither here in the Sermon  on the Mount, nor elsewhere in the Scriptures are we taught about where to build a house where there are no storms.  Every house – every life – will go through storms.


Also notice that Jesus does not rank or compare the storms.  He does not say that one house will experience – or is more deserving of – a greater storm than the other house.  Both houses are hit with equal storms.  Sometimes, these storms come with warning, and at other times they come suddenly without warning.


Storms will come for everyone – every house we build will face a storm.  Following Jesus does not exempt us from life’s storms.  Jesus is not teaching a parable about how to build our houses in protected areas.  There are no storm-free zones.  But Jesus does tells us there is a way in which to weather the storm.  The outcome is determined by the foundation we are sitting or standing on.


Until the storm comes, both houses – both lives – may look very much alike.  Not until the winds of crisis begin to blow -- not until the rains of testing fall -- not until the floods of tragedy rise, can you tell a Judas from a Peter.


One life collapses, while the other, severely shaken, withstands the storm.  The same storm can create faith in one and bring shipwreck to another.


When the storms come – and they will come – then the question of foundations become acute.  Then it doesn’t matter how elegant the living room appears, or how functional the kitchen is -- only how stable the foundation is.


How firm is your foundation?  Jesus invites us to build our house – our life – on the rock.




Certainly, Christ is the “solid Rock” of our salvation.  Even the Old Testament prophets spoke of the coming Messiah as being a foundation and a cornerstone.


We read in Isaiah 28:16,…


16  Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation:…..


                   Jesus is the Cornerstone, our sure foundation.


Psalm 18:2  (NIV) adds,


2       The LORD (Jehovah) is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.


And in the New Testament, we read, in 1 Cor. 3:11-15   (NIV)


11      For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

12      If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,

13      his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.

14      If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.

15      If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.


Let’s not attempt to build a church on anything but that foundation.  Don’t build your life on any other foundation than Jesus.  He is our solid rock.  That foundation is already poured and set up and dried and ready to build upon.


Ephesians 2:19-20  (NIV)


19     Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household,

20     built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.


Structural soundness, no matter how well planned or built, is totally useless until we go back to the foundation - to Jesus Christ.  As Jesus brings this Sermon to a close, He says that a person that hears what He says and put them into practice is like a “wise man.”




He is “foolish.”  He is like a person who builds his life, not on the words of Christ, but upon the sands of his own thinking.


People who build such houses are described in the Word of God in many different ways.


         James 1:                  They are described as a hearer of the Word, but not a doer, and they deceive their own selves.


         James 2:                  They are described as those who profess to have faith but have not works to show for it.


         Matthew 25:         They are described as foolish virgins, holding the lamp in their hand, but having no oil in the vessel.


         2 Tim. 3:                 They are described as having a form of Godliness, but destitute of its power or denying the power thereof.


That is why today, the old-time religion isn’t good enough for a lot of people anymore.  They have got to have the new streamlined version.  The problem with that kind of foundation is that it changes models every year.  Such a person is indeed very foolish.






We will not spend much time on this subject here, but earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, you may remember Jesus addressing the subject of the “fool.”


Matthew 5:21-22   (NIV)


21      "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.'

22      But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.


We are instructed here never to call someone a fool.  To fully understand the meaning of that, we need to understand what the Bible has to say about the fool.




1.      The fool denies God


Psalm 14:1  (KJV)


1       The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.


2.      A fool becomes his own god.


Proverbs 12:15  (KJV)


15      The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.


3.      A fool mocks sin


Proverbs 14:9  (KJV)


9        Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favor.


4.      A fool is quick to air his opinions


Proverbs 15:2   (KJV)


2        The tongue of the wise uses knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools pours out foolishness.


5.      A fool propagates his foolishness to others


Proverbs 16:22   (KJV)


22      Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly.


6.      A fool rejects divine wisdom


Proverbs 1:7   (KJV)


7        The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.


It is a foolish person who hears the sayings of Christ and walks away doing his own thing.




The parable of the two builders, or the two foundations, speaks volumes on the importance of obedience.  It is obedience - that is, hearing and doing his sayings - that constitutes building on a foundation of rock.  Neither you nor I can build on the solid rock without obedience.


The “foolish” merely call Jesus “Lord” – the “wise” obey Him as “Lord.”  To the foolish He says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not the things which I say?”  But He identifies the wise as “Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them.”


Jesus calls us to do more than merely listen to what He says.  He wants us to put into practical living, what we have heard.  Knowledge of what Christ says only become relevant when it is translated into action.


It would be perfectly possible for a person to pass a test on Biblical knowledge, yet not be a Christian.  Knowledge must become action.  Theory must become practice.  Theology must become life.


There is little point in going to a doctor, unless we are prepared to do the things we hear him or her say to us.  There is little point in going to an expert, unless we are prepared to act upon his advice.


And yet, there are many people going to church every week who listen to the teachings of Jesus, and have a good knowledge of what Jesus taught, yet make no deliberate attempt to carry out the advice He gives.


If we are to be in any sense followers of Jesus we must both hear and do.


William Barclay – well-known Scottish theologian – tells this story relayed to him by a member in the Royal Navy.  The subject under discussion was military discipline.


         He said:   “The purpose of discipline was to condition a man automatically and unquestioningly to obey orders, and on such obedience a man’s life might well depend.  He cited a case from his own experience.  He was in a launch which was towing a much heavier vessel in a rough sea.  The vessel was attached to the launch by a wire hawser.  Suddenly in the midst of the wind and the spray there cam a single, insistent word of command from the officer in charge of the launch.  “Dow!” he shouted.  On the spot the crew of the launch flung themselves down.  Just at that moment the wire towing-hawser snapped, and the broken parts of it whipped about like a steel snake.  If any man had been struck by it he would have been instantly killed.  But the whole crew automatically obeyed and no one was injured.  If anyone had stopped to argue, or to ask why, he would have been a dead man.  Obedience saved out lives.”


Jesus is asking for this kind of obedience from us.  He is telling us that obedience is the only sure foundation for life.  His promise is that the life which is founded on such obedience will remain safe, regardless of the storms that come your way.


I guess the question could be asked: “IS IT POSSIBLE TO OBEY GOD FULLY?”




                   1.      We need continual fellowship with God

                   2.      We need to be in the Word of God

                   3.      We need to confess our sins to God.


For today’s lesson, I want to focus on the first requirement to obey God.


We need continual fellowship with God


Here is an illustration:  The children of Israel had heard the thunderous voice of God on Sinai, and were afraid.  So they asked Moses that God not speak to them anymore.  They wanted Moses to receive the word, and then relay it to them.  They did not know then, nor did they come to understand later, that the only power to obey is found in the presence of God where we can hear His voice personally.


So, with only Moses and the tablets to speak to them their whole history is one of disobedience -- all because they did not want direct contact with God.


Sitting under the teaching of Godly men and women is important for all Christians.  But if that is all you have, having no direct fellowship with God then one’s faith stands in the wisdom of men and not in the power of God.


Philippians 4:13 says,


         I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.


We can do all things, including obeying God only through Christ.  We need Him near us – indeed IN us.  We need God’s presence.  That alone will keep us faithful.


Our devotions will become a burdensome drudgery if it is void of the presence of God.  Our devotional time is a time to meet with God; a time to yield ourselves to His Holy Spirit, to know that we please Him, to have Him say “Go in this thy strength.”  These all require the presence of God.  Do not be content with anything less than seeing the face of God.