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02. The Parable of the Two Foundations: In Touch With God

 

Chapter 2

A Wise Man Is In Touch With God, the Rock, the King

The Parable of the Two Foundations

Matthew 7:24-27

Eric H. H. Chang

“What Is A Truly Wise Man?”

Melbourne Camp, January 13, 1990

Is life a joke?

The theme of our camp is, “What Is A Truly Wise Man?” What indeed constitutes wisdom? I was looking at the newspapers, The Sunday Morning Post of Hong Kong, November 26th 1989 the other day, and there is a section in color called, “Believe It Or Not”, which tells you all kinds of strange and wonderful things. One section spoke about Charles Boaz, who works as a clown. Well, clowns are there to entertain, to make fun, to joke, at least to relieve the stress in life. And nobody is likely to think of a clown as a wise man. You think of him as a fool. His job is to be a fool and not to be a wise man. What is the point of talking about a clown in the “Believe It Or Not” section? What is hard to believe about Charles Boaz being a clown?

Well, Charles Boaz is a Ph.D., and normally, one thinks of someone with a Ph.D. as having a reasonable level of intelligence. What is more, this Dr. Boaz is an assistant professor of economic geography at the State University of Michigan, and he gave up this profession to become a fool, a clown. That is quite interesting. When you stop to think of it, here are so many young people who are students, and you may be trying hard enough to get your School Certificate in secondary school. By the time you can collect some sort of Bachelor’s degree, you will think that you are someone quite important in the world. And by the time you get to a Ph.D., you will think that you have really arrived! But here is a man who has achieved all of this, and decided to throw it all away in order to be a clown!

Historically, a clown goes back to the times, especially in the European courts where the kings were suffering from stress just like the people today. So what they needed was to have a clown at the end or the beginning of the day, or whenever the stress was getting too great, to crack some jokes to relieve the pressure. There was no television to watch soap operas in those days, so in a sense, a clown performed quite an important function. But that is in the past. Nowadays, the clown enter­tains children so that the parents can have less stress, and they can eat their ice-cream cones.

Let us come back to this question, what makes a Ph.D.—a wise man by the standards of this world—want to become a fool? Can you put yourself in his position and think, under what kind of circumstances would you be willing to put your academic achievements behind you? It is not easy to become a professor or assistant professor, and give it up just to be fooling around in some circus with the donkeys, the horses and the monkeys. Could it be that he felt this whole question of the meaning of life was really a joke, and he might as well live the joke out in his own life? It could be that he was clever enough as a man, to see that life is just a joke, so let’s just live it like a joke!

What is the meaning of life?

We are caught at both ends. We cannot see the problem clearly—either because we are too stupid, or because we are too clever—and we also really cannot find an answer to the question, What is the meaning of life? We are caught in the cycle of stupidity and the cycle of futility. So this man decided that if there is nothing to be had in this futility, at least we can have a joke. Fundamentally, it all has to do with this question of wisdom or foolishness, with the answer to the question of the meaning of life.

“Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”?

The Bible tells us that there are two ways to solve this problem, and this Dr. Boaz solved the problem with one of the ways. The Bible says that one way is let us eat, drink, be merry, and have a good time just for one night, for tomorrow we die (1Cor. 15:32). That is the mentality of many soldiers before a major battle. They know that by tomorrow this time, they would all be dead. This is their last night, so open the bottle of beer, or of whatever there is to drink, eat the last chocolate bar, have a good time, have a good laugh. Let’s live it up for the last few hours, for tomorrow we will all be dead! You are living in this world, you know that the time is short, so live it up with what you have got! If you have one house, buy two. If you have one car, get yourself some really good car to lie in the leather! Live it up! You have not got that many years to live. You did not invent that solution. It is in the Bible. It doesn’t mean the Bible recommends this method, but it is one solution to the problem.

Build on sand if you don’t do Jesus’ teaching

Well, there is the other method that the Lord Jesus mentions. He compares living your life to building a house. How you live is how you build your house. Every day, everyone is building the house of their life. So at the end of your life, one person looks at you and says, “Ah! Here’s the house of your life. It is a beautiful, excellent house!”

A house is an achievement, a status symbol, isn’t it? A house is also a practical necessity, because it is where you live, where your children live, and maybe all the generations in the family can live in this house. You don’t feel you waste money on building a house, but what are you building on?

And the Lord Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount saying that you can build the house of your life either on the rock or on the sand. There are two ways to build it. Matthew 7:24-27 is a very familiar passage:

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

Now this is what every child learns in Sunday School. It is very simple. But like all the seemingly simple words of the Lord Jesus, this passage contains a deep meaning. That we build our houses upon rock is something that is easy to understand, because we want the house to last; we don’t want to build a house which falls down tomorrow. Just think how much it costs to build a house—the stones, steel, wood, cement, and all the materials that go into a house. Would any of you put all this investment into building your nice house on sand?

I see that the Australian people like outdoor life. I was taking a walk with my wife, Helen in a shopping center, and we saw a very, very big department store, and a large section of it was selling outdoor camping equipment. Some tents have one room, some have two rooms, and some have two rooms and a porch, and so it goes on. I wonder why anyone bothers to build a house! All you have to do is buy one of these tents and you have a two-room house with a porch. It is wonderful! And when you want to leave, you just roll it up and take it to the next place. Say, if your job moves you from Melbourne to Sydney, you just pack up your two-room house and carry it to Sydney, and it is ready for you in ten minutes. That is wonderful! With this kind of house, you can build it on sand, or you can build it on anything you like, because if the ground area is falling apart, you pack it up and move it to another place.

But the Lord Jesus says, “If you are listening to my words—which you are doing here today—and you don’t do them, then you are like a man building a house, not a tent, on sand. You will say, “Surely, nobody is so stupid as to build houses on sand.” And I think the Lord Jesus does not think that most people are that stupid either.

A dream house half-hanging over the sea!

A few years ago, I saw a picture of a house in a news magazine, and the photographer took it at an angle which is very striking. Now where would you like to buy a house in Melbourne? I know where people in Hong Kong like to buy their houses—by the sea where they can get a sea view. If you have a beautiful sea view, the price of the house goes up! And it seems that people in every country like the sea view. They want to be able to study the sea out there. So they like to build near the sea, on the cliffs, or somewhere you can look out and see the beautiful sea. The photograph in the magazine showed a house that was half in the air balancing over the sea, and the other half was balancing on land!

This house was only about 20 years old, not very old. When the architects first designed and built it, there was a calculation error, so that during those 20 years, the sea began encroaching on the land, eating away the mud and the rocks on which this house was built. Consequently, this beautiful dream house that the owners have saved up for all their lives, to have this beautiful sea view, was literally being eaten away underneath! In the beginning, there was this beautiful garden reaching out from the house to the sea cliff. Then their beautiful big garden began to get smaller and smaller as the sea eroded it, and the horrible thing that happened was that the whole garden was gone! And if you open the door, and you are not careful, you will step into the sea! Now this house was well-built as the owner was wealthy. Otherwise it would have fallen into the sea room by room! By the time the photographer was taking the picture of this house, all the earth underneath was eroded, leaving the concrete platform and the house built on top. People were wondering when the whole house would just tilt over into the sea.

When I was looking at the picture of this house, I thought: “That is what the Lord Jesus was saying!” They have put their whole life investment into building this beautiful house with this sea view, but what are they left with now? They are going to lose the whole house in the sea at any moment! And they were trying to figure out how they were going to save the house, because the sea would continue to eat away the rocks and the mud underneath that house. Would you want to buy a house like this? You might not be able to get this kind of sea-side house for a quarter of a million dollars, but by this time, no one would want it even as a present, because you might be sleeping in the sea down below by the next morning! Most people want a sea view, but they don’t want to swim with the house on top of them!

Be in touch with the living God, the rock of salvation

What kind of message does the Lord Jesus want to get across to us about this theme on being wise? The rock in the Bible symbolizes God. It occurs so many times in the Old Testament—“the LORD is the rock of my salvation.” (Ps. 89:26) The message is that everything in this world will change and pass away, but God is the rock, He doesn’t change, He doesn’t pass away. The rock is the symbol of eternity. I would also like you to notice in Psalm 89:18, that Yahweh God is the King. That is why Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:17, “God, the King eternal”. God is the eternal King. Now, to build one’s house on the rock is to build one’s life on the eternal God who does not change.

Everything in this world changes, and is changing at an ever-increasing speed. One year ago, could you imagine the kind of things that are happening in eastern Europe today? You would not even begin to imagine it. Europe has changed beyond recognition in one year. Even the Berlin Wall, which is human rock, which doesn’t last has been torn down. In the Bible, sand is of course, a symbol of what is transient. If you build your life on temporary things, you will have nothing left at the end of the day.

Now I have said earlier, that God doesn’t under-estimate our intelligence. He is our Creator, so He knows He did not create us stupid. I am sure that He doesn’t suppose any one of you will deliberately build your house on sand. Then why do people build on sand? It is a miscalculation, a failure to grasp the realities of life. More seriously, it is an unwillingness to grasp the realities of life. Today, man is totally adrift because he has become cut loose from God, the Rock of his salvation. And when you are cut loose from the Rock of salvation, you are left with nothing but sand. There is nothing else left to build on.

First, please be absolutely honest with me for a moment as I am preaching, because we are talking about things of eternal importance. Secondly, even more importantly, please be honest with God for one moment, if it is only that one moment in life that you can be honest with God. And the third thing I ask of you, please be honest with yourself, if you cannot be honest with anyone else. Can you answer this question honestly, Are you in touch with the eternal God?

Now if you are not in touch with the eternal God, if you are not in touch with the Rock of salvation, what else have you got left except sand? We are told in this parable, there is either rock or there is sand. There is nothing in between the two. So if you cannot build your life on rock, it is not because you are stupid, that you have to build on sand, it is because there is nothing else for you to build on except sand. As far as this camp theme is concerned, to be wise is to get away from the shifting sands of time in this life, and get back to the rock which is God, to build your life on the Rock that will not move. When the empires have come and gone, you will still be there, because your God is the One on whom you have built.

So what kind of a man is the wise man? By now we know it is the man who builds on the Rock. But what does it mean? It means that he is someone who is in touch with God, the Rock. The house that is built on the rock is founded upon the rock. It is drilled into the rock. It is related to the rock. Are you? The Bible doesn’t say the wise man is a man who builds a house that balances on top of the rock. It doesn’t say that the wise man is someone who gets a drill from the hardware shop, and drills a few screws down, and then ties the house to the rock with a few wires. The wise man is integrated to that rock. Now may I ask you, is that a picture of your life? Are you in touch with the living God?

Man does not want God to be King of his life. Do you?

Let me try to show you why man today, has lost touch with God, the Rock, and now ends up living on the sand. To tell you this is to give you a lesson about the whole Bible in five minutes. This is a Bible school in five minutes! After this, you can get a diploma! What happened in Genesis? When you read the whole history of the Old Testament, one simple thing emerges: man does not want God to be King of his life, and because of that they don’t have the rock on which to build. When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, he already declared by his sin that he wanted to go his own way, and he did not want God to tell him how to run his life. This situation simply went from bad to worse as you read the Bible. By the sixth chapter of Genesis, only six chapters later from being created, man was already so much in rebellion against God as King that the situation could not be remedied.

Let me ask you another question. I am a very straightforward preacher. I ask people questions. Is God King of your life at this moment? Is He? Do you even know what it means to have God as King of your life? If not, then you don’t know what being wise is because you don’t know what building on the rock means.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

Why is the fear of the Lord the foundation of wisdom? Who do men fear? They fear the king, and what is the result? They obey because they fear. But man has long passed such childish notions of fear. The great German philosophers, who have never under-estimated their marvelous intelligence, want to tell us that man has grown up; he does not fear anyone or anything. Only children fear; grown-ups fear nothing. Since they are so fearless, they live under stress the whole time. Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and when I fear God, I honor Him as King.

But the history of the Bible is about man, who always rejects God as King all the time. When Israel became a nation, what did they want? They did not want God as King. They wanted someone else. Who did they want? They wanted Saul. Why did they want Saul? Oh, he was so tall! Maybe they liked to twist their necks to look up at him. The Bible says Saul was a head and shoulder above people, not just a head above. And I am trying to think, how tall was he?

I have a very good friend in Canada who is a professor of theology. He is 6 foot 6. When I’m talking to him, I need a back support. I have a standard joke: I said to him, “Clark, how is the weather up there?” Once, I gave him a lift from the university into town. After I moved the seat as far back as I could, he was struggling to get one leg in, and then the other. So Saul was a head and shoulder above everyone. They wanted this kind of man as king. They did not seem to ask how many brain cells he had. It was only important that he was so tall, so big-sized. They did not want God. What they did not know was that God could kick him out tomorrow. In fact, He kicked Saul out, and replaced him with a little boy called David. Maybe David was my size, and everybody doesn’t have to twist their neck to talk to me. So we can see that all through human history, we reject God as King.

But if you want to understand the Bible, there is one central principle you must grasp. The whole Bible teaches one thing from the beginning to the end: God is King. If you don’t like the word “king”, you can call Him “Chairman,” you can call Him “President,” you can call Him “Supreme Commander-in-Chief.” Call Him whatever you like, but He is Number One.

God is King, and wants to be our Friend!

I have been reading a huge book, and the whole book is expounding this one thing. It is written by a professor of theology in Scotland. The book he has written is called Biblical Doctrine of the Reign of God. He is expounding from the beginning of the Bible to the end, from Genesis to Revelation, the one central truth about God: God is King. You may not like it, you may hate it, you may say, “I don’t believe it. I’m sick of it. I don’t want to hear it,” it makes no difference. That is what the Bible teaches. He will decide what happens to your life. And that is why I spoke of James 2:8, the law of the King that James talks about. The wise are those who fulfill the law of the King. And His kingship is not something hard to bear because the Bible constantly teaches us that He calls us into His friendship.

Now I am not really interested whether a person is a king or not. What I am interested in is, what kind of a person is he? I am a person who grew up in power. I think I can safely say that no one in this room has ever known what power is, in the way that I have known it. My father held very high position in the former government of China. He commanded an army of nearly 40,000 men. He had two generals under his command, and one of them became commander-in-chief of all armed forces in Taiwan. If any of you know Chinese politics, you will even know his name, Sun Li Ren, an outstanding general. Even more interesting was the fact that my father’s armies were not under the command of the central government; they were directly answerable to him. Most of his armies were stationed near Nanjing, which was the capital of China before the Communists came. When you have an army stationed near the capital city, you can surround it with your armies of 20-30,000 and your tanks, and you could simply bring the government down. Upon the coastal waters of China, he commanded 100 gun boats, i.e. speed boats armed with very high fire power.

I know what it is to live in power. I know what it is to talk with generals and with the minister of this and the minister of that even as a boy. Ambassadors of various countries were frequent visitors in our home. The famous American ambassador, Leighton Stewart was my father’s personal friend, and he often came to visit us. I still remember once when he came to visit us. He was a very, very tall man, maybe a bit like Professor Pinnock, and he stooped down and said to me, “Do you know what is my name? My name is Leighton. Will you remember Leighton?” I said, “OK, I’ll remember you, Leighton.” I didn’t know he was the ambassador of the United States! He said, “Always remember me, will you please?” I said, “I will try.” So I have fulfilled my promise. I remember him. You will see his name in history books today.

I know what power is. I have mixed with men of power. I think because of this, I have no fear of any man of any position whatever, whoever they are. I think God has some purpose in all this. When my father hosted a dinner of the Cabinet of China, I was very useful to have around, because politicians are always politicians. Often the question was, who do you ask to sit beside the vice prime minister of China at a small dinner table? At that time, Wang Yun Wu was China’s Vice Prime Minister, and he later became the Prime Minister. If you put the Defense Minister next to him, the Finance Minister would be unhappy. All these ministers were jostling for rank as to who should sit on the right-hand side of the Prime Minister. Notice, the Bible speaks of being on the right-hand side. Well, they invited me to solve the problem! So I sat on the right-hand side of the prime minister, sandwiched between him and his wife.

The important point is not whether you are king, or prime minister, or defense minister, or general, or whatever you are. I had people walking in and out of my father’s house, but I did not know who was the defense minister, I did not know who was the prime minister, I did not know who was the general—I had to count the number of stars on his shoulder in order to tell. To me, the important point is not what office they hold, it is what kind of a person they are.

When I say “king”, I don’t think of someone wearing a crown and a long-flowing robe, that he is going to trip over and fall on his face. I am not interested in his clothes; I want to know what kind of person he is. I want to tell you that for me, to know God as King is to know Him as the living God with whom I can fellowship every day. I can thank Him when I look at the beautiful scenery and say, “God, how wonderful You are!” It is God’s being, not His office. Do you know this God, Yahweh, as Friend?

It doesn’t matter if you have a friend who is a general, or prime minister, or ambassador. To me, these things are irrelevant. For some reason, these people are drawn to me, and I have not discovered the reason for it. In London, there was a general who came to me and wanted to make friends. I could not figure out why. He was old enough to be my grandfather. For some people, they think it is so glorious to have a general as a friend! In fact, I knew two generals in London, who always wanted to talk with me, but I never built a friendship with them. When I went to Israel, I was given the name of the Israeli army chief of staff, General Yigale Yardin, a very famous scholar and general. I only talked to him over the telephone and greeted him for the sake of my friend.

Let me tell you the truth, I am not interested in generals and prime ministers, but I want to love the simplest brother and sister as God does. He manifests His interest in a blind beggar through His Christ, the Lord Jesus. That is why His character is entirely different from all the leaders of the nations. We have recently read the reports of Ceaucescu in Romania, the rottenness, the corruption and the brutality of this man. I will tell you why I am not interested in this kind of people: it is because human beings are too small to be great. They are not great enough to take the load of power and remain pure. They become arrogant and corrupted. But my King and my God remains the Friend of people who are weak and lowly.

Build your life upon the living God by “r-o-y-a-l”

I want to ask you this question: Do you know this King? If not, do you want to know Him? Do you want to build your life upon Him, the Rock that will never change? We are dealing with something of extreme importance to your life. We have to get the answer to this question: How do I get to know the living God? In closing, I want to give you the principles of “the royal law,” and using the word “royal” will help you to remember how to get in touch with the living God. I am not going to expound it, but I will continue, if the Lord pleases, tomorrow. If you forget everything I’ve said today, remember the words, the “royal law,” as expressed in James 2:8. Here, we are speaking of law in terms of the law of the King. Notice, I am quoting from James 2:8 in the New Testament, and the book of James has a lot to speak about wisdom:

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well.

You have a wonderful privilege. The whole world has rejected God, including most of the church, and I might say, especially the church. Why do I say you have a special privilege? Because God has few friends today. Why does God have few friends? Because everyone wants to run away and do their own thing. They don’t want God to be King over them. Do you know what this means? It makes it very, very easy for you and me to be His friends because there are so few friends. I would like to be one of His friends, if only I could sit at the lowest place beside His feet, because I have seen the beauty of His face.

The word “royal” in the “royal law” is spelt r-o-y-a-l. So the letter ‘r’ is for the word “repentance”. The second letter ‘o’ is for “obedience”. The third letter ‘y’ is for “yoked”. The fourth letter ‘a’ is for the word “absolute”. And the last letter ‘l’ is for “launch”, to launch out. Now I would like to expound these five letters because if you can grasp them, you will be able to build your life upon the Rock that does not move.

 

(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church