Normally, the illustration of building on a foundation is used in Gospel messages to depict the way that a person is converted. The foundation is Jesus and sinners ‘build’ on him in the sense of trusting him or depending upon him. The Saviour is described rightly as a strong, reliable and permanent Rock on which each sinner should depend in order to have eternal life.
Yet sometimes the illustration is used in a different way. In Matthew 7:24-27 Jesus uses the illustration in connection to Christian discipleship.
Jesus describes two kinds of disciples – one group contains true disciples and the other false disciples. Both these groups are distinguished from all others who reject the teaching of Jesus as irrelevant. What distinguishes both true disciples and false disciples from all other people is their willingness to listen to the words of Jesus, but in two very different ways.
Jesus also tells his disciples that times of trouble are inevitable. The storms are going to come sooner or later, and these storms will test the reality of each disciple’s commitment to the word of Christ.
Obviously, the prevention of a spectacular collapse is not achieved by mere listening to the teaching of Christ. If we apply this to ourselves, it means that regular church attendance to hear sound sermons is not sufficient for ensuring we are true disciples. The ability to analyse a sermon, to appreciate distinctions in theology, to value insights will not prevent the collapse of the house we are building.
Jesus states quite clearly that the essential preparation that will ensure stability and perseverance when difficulties come is obedience to his teachings. Therefore we can easily deduce that a disobedient disciple is heading for a calamity, in this life as well as in the next. Further we can see that obedience to the words of Jesus should be the highest priority in the life of a professing disciple. It is always possible to assess our spiritual temperature by the extent of our obedience.