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2. A Wise Man is in Touch with God, The Rock

– Chapter 2 –

A Wise Man is in Touch with God, The Rock, The King

Matthew 7:24–27

“What is a Truly Wise Man?”

Melbourne Camp, January 13, 1990


24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 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. 26 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. 27 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.”

(Matthew 7:24–27, ESV)

Is life a joke?

The theme of our camp is, “What is a Truly Wise Man?” What indeed constitutes wisdom? The other day I was looking at the news­papers, at Hong Kong’s Sunday Morning Post, Novem­ber 26, 1989, and there is a section in color called, “Believe It Or Not,” which tells you all kinds of strange and wonderful things. One item was about Charles Boaz who works as a clown. Well, clowns are there to entertain, to make fun of, to joke, at least to relieve the stresses of life. People are unlikely to think of a clown as a wise man, but as a fool. It is a clown’s job is to be a fool and not a wise man. So what is the point of talking about a clown in the “Believe It Or Not” section? What is so unbelievable about someone being a clown?

Well, Charles Boaz has a Ph.D., and we would usually think of someone with a doctorate as having reasonable intel­ligence. What is more, Dr. Boaz was an assistant professor of economic geography at the State University of Michigan. But he gave up his academic profess­ion to become a fool, a clown. That is quite interesting.

Many of you in this camp are students, and you may be trying hard to get your secondary school certificates. And by the time you collect a Bachelor’s degree, you may feel that you are important in the world. And by the time you get a Ph.D., you think you have truly arrived! But here is a man who has achieved all of this, yet threw it all away to be a clown!

Historically, clowns go back to the times when kings were suffering from stress, especially in the European courts, just like people today. So what they needed was to have a clown at the start or the end of the day, or whenever the stress was getting unbearable, to crack some jokes to relieve the pres­sure. In those days, there was no television for them to watch soap operas, so in a sense a clown performed an important function. But that was in the past. Nowadays, clowns enter­tain children so that their parents can be less stressed out, and all can have their ice cream cones.

Let us come back to this question of what makes a person with a doctorate — a wise man by the standards of this world — become a fool. Can you put yourself in his position and ask in what circumstances would you be willing to put your academic achievements behind you? It is not easy to be a professor or assistant professor, and then to give up the achievement to be a fool in a circus with donkeys, horses and monkeys.

Could it be that he felt that this whole question of the mean­ing of life is really a joke, so he might as well live out the joke in his own life? It could be that he was clever enough to see that life is just a joke, so let’s live it as 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 on the one hand, or too clever on the other, and therefore cannot find an answer to the quest­ion of the meaning of life. We are caught in a cycle of stupidity and a cycle of futility. Dr. Boaz decided that if nothing can be gained in this futility, at least he can have a joke. It has to do with the fundamental question of wisdom versus foolish­ness, and the question of the meaning of life.

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

The Bible tells us of two ways of solving this problem, and Dr. Boaz solved the problem through one of the ways. In the Bible, one way is: Let us eat, drink, and be merry for one last night, for tomorrow we die (1 Cor. 15:32). That is the dilem­ma for many sold­iers before a major battle. They know that this could be their last night because by tomor­row they could be dead. So let’s have some beer and the last chocolate bar, have a good time and a good laugh. Let’s live it up for the last few hours, for tomorrow we may all be dead!

You are living in this world, so with your limited time in the world, live it up with what you’ve got! If you own a house, buy a second one. If you own a car, get a luxury car with leather seats. Live it up! You haven’t got that many years left.

But you are not the one who originally came up with that solution. It has been in the Bible all along. It doesn’t mean that the Bible approves of it, but it is certainly one “solution” to the problem.

Build on sand: Don’t do Jesus’ teaching

Then there’s the other way 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 in the world is building the house of his or her life. At the end of your life, someone looks at you and says, “Ah! Here’s the house of your life — a beautiful, excellent house!”

A house is an achievement, a status symbol, isn’t it? A house is also a practical necessity because that is where you live, where your child­ren live, and maybe where several previous generat­ions lived. You don’t feel you are wasting your money on building a house. But on what foundation are you building it?

The Lord Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount by saying that you will build the house of your life either on rock or on sand. These are the two ways of building it. Matthew 7:24–27 is a familiar passage:

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. (Matthew 7:24–27, ESV)

This story is simple, and is something children learn in Sunday school. But like all the seemingly simple words of the Lord Jesus, this passage has a deep meaning. That we build our house on rock is easy to under­stand because we want the house to last; we wouldn’t want to build a house that will collapse tomorrow. Think of how much it costs to build a house with all the material that goes into a house: stones, steel, wood, cement. Would you invest all this only to build your nice house on sand?

I have observed that Australians like the outdoor life. I was taking a walk with my wife Helen in a shopping center in Australia, and we walked into a department store with a huge section of out­door camp­ing equipment. Some of the tents have one room, some have two, and some even two rooms and a porch. With these spacious tents, I was wondering why anyone would bother to build a house. All you would do is buy one of these tents, and soon you will have a two-room house with a porch. That’s wonderful! And when you want to move, just roll it up and take it to the next place. If your job requires you to relocate from Melbourne to Sydney, just pack up your two-room house and take it to Sydney, and it’s ready in minutes. That is wonderful! You can build this house on sand or any­thing you like; if the ground underneath is breaking apart, just pack up the house and move it to another place.

But the Lord Jesus says, “If you hear my words and don’t do them, you are like a man building a house on sand.” You may say, “Surely nobody is so stupid as to build a house on sand.” And I think that the Lord Jesus doesn’t think that people are that stupid either.

A dream house half-hanging over the sea!

A few years ago, I saw in a news magazine a photo of a house which was taken from a striking angle. Now where would you like to buy a house in Melbourne? I know where people in Hong Kong would like their houses located: by the sea where they can get a sea view. If you have a beautiful sea view, the price of your house will go up. It seems that people in every country want a sea view. They want to see the vast sea out there, so they like to build near the sea, on the cliffs, where 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, with the other half balanc­ing on land!

This house was not very old, about 20 years. When the archi­tects first designed and built it, there was a calculation error, so during those 20 years, the sea began encroaching on the land, eating away at the mud and the rocks on which this house was built. This beautiful dream house for which the own­ers saved up all their lives to have a beautiful sea view, was liter­ally being eaten away underneath. At first there was a 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 eventually the whole garden was gone! If you open the door and are not careful, you may step out into the sea!

This house was well built, for the owner was wealthy. Otherwise it would have long fallen into the sea, room by room. By the time the photographer took a picture of this house, the earth underneath had eroded, leaving only the con­crete platform and the house built on top of it. People are wondering when the whole house will just tilt over into the sea.

When I was looking at the photo of this house, I said to myself: “That’s exactly what the Lord Jesus is saying!” They put their whole life savings into building this beautiful house with a sea view, but what are they left with now? They are going to lose the whole house to the sea at any moment! They are now trying to figure out how to save the house, because the sea will continue to eat away at the rocks and the mud underneath. Would you like to buy a house like this? You nor­mally cannot get a spacious seaside house for less than half a million dollars, but in this case, no one would even want it as a gift because you might end up sleeping in the sea next morning!

Build on rock: Do God’s Word and be in touch with Him

What is Jesus telling us on this theme of being wise? In the Bible, the rock symbolizes God. This is seen many times in the Old Testament, e.g., “God is the Rock of my salvation” (Psalm 89:26). The message is that everything in this world will change and pass away, but God is the eternal Rock. He doesn’t change or pass away. A rock is a symbol of eternity. A few verses earlier, in Psalm 89:18, God is said to be the King. In 1 Timothy 1:17, Paul speaks of “God, the King eternal.” 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 is changing at an ever-increasing speed. One year ago, could you have imagined the things that are happen­ing in Eastern Europe today? You wouldn’t even begin to imagine it. Europe has changed beyond recognition in one year. Even the Berlin Wall, made of rock that doesn’t last, has been torn down.

In the Bible, sand is a symbol of transient things. If you build your life on temporary things, you will have nothing left at the end of the day.

God doesn’t underestimate our intelligence. He is our Creator, and He did not create us stupid. I am sure He would not think that we are so stupid as to deliberately build our house on sand. Why then do people build on sand? It stems from 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 cut himself 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 will be nothing left to build on.

Three brief points before we move on. First, please be absolutely honest with me for a moment as I am preaching, because we are talking about things of eternal import­ance. Second, and more import­antly, please be honest with God for a moment, even if that is the only moment in your life you can be honest with God. Third, I ask of you, please be honest with yourself even if you cannot be honest with anyone else. Can you answer this question honestly: Are you in touch with the eternal God?

If you are not in touch with the eternal God, the Rock of salvation, what else have you got left but sand? The parable tells us that there is either rock or sand, with nothing in between. So if you cannot build your life on rock, it’s not because you are so stupid as to build on sand, but because there is nothing left for you to build on apart from sand. As for our camp theme, 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. After glorious empires have come and gone, you will still be around because your God is the One on whom you have built your life.

What kind of man is the wise man? By now we know that he builds on the Rock. It means that he is in touch with God, the Rock. The house built on the rock is founded upon the rock. It is drilled into the rock. It is related to the rock. The Bible doesn’t say that the wise man builds a house that merely bal­ances on top of the rock. It doesn’t say that he buys a drill from a hardware store, secures a few screws into the rock, and then ties the house to the rock with wire. The wise man is integrated into that rock. Is that a picture of your life? Are you in touch with the living God?

Do you want God to be King of your life?

Let me try to explain why humanity today has lost touch with God, the Rock, and ends up living on sand. This will be a five-minute lesson on the whole Bible. A Bible school in five minutes!

What happened in the book of Genesis? When you read Old Testament history, one thing emerges: man does not want God to be the King of his life. As a result, humanity doesn’t have the Rock on which to build. When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, he had already declared by his sin that he wanted to go his own way without God running his life. This situation went on from bad to worse as you read on in the Bible. By the sixth chapter of Genesis — just a few chapters after the creation of man — humankind was already so deep in rebell­ion against God as King that the situation could not be remedied.

Let me ask you another question. I’m a straightforward preacher. I ask people questions. Is God the King of your life at this moment? Do you even know what it means to have God as King of your life? If not, then you wouldn’t know what it means to be wise, because you wouldn’t know what building on the Rock means.

Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wis­dom.” How is the fear of the Lord the foundation of wisdom? Who do people fear? They fear the king, so they obey him. But man has sup­posedly “outgrown” such childish notions of fear. According to the great German philosophers whose brilliance can hardly be overestim­ated, man has grown up, and no longer fears anyone or anything. Children fear, but grownups fear nothing. But since they fear no one, they live in stress all the time. Yet the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. And when I fear God, I honor Him as King.

The history of the Bible speaks of a humanity that has rejected God as King. When Israel became a nation, who did they want? They did not want God as King, but wanted Saul: “Oh, he is so tall!” Maybe they enjoyed twisting their necks to look up at him. The Bible says that Saul was a head and shoulder above the people (1Sam. 9:2), not just a head above. I am trying to think, how tall was he?

I have a very good friend in Canada, Clark Pinnock, who is a professor of theo­logy. He is 6 foot 6. When I talk to him, I need a back support. I have a standard joke: I would say to him, “Clark, how is the weather up there?” I once gave him a lift from the university into town. After I pushed the pass­enger seat as far back as I could, he was struggling to get one leg in, then the other.

Saul was a head and should­er above everyone else, so the people wanted him as king. They didn’t ask how many brain cells he had. The only thing that mattered was that he was big and tall. They didn’t want God as King, not realizing that He could kick him out at any moment. Eventually God did kick Saul out, and replaced him with a boy named David. Maybe David was around my height; when people talk to me, they don’t have to twist their necks. So all through human history, we have rejected God as King.

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

God is King, and wants to be your friend!

I have been reading a huge book, and the whole book expounds this very point. It was written by John Gray, a professor of theology in Scotland. The book is called The Biblical Doctrine of the Reign of God, which expounds the Bible from beginning to end, from Genesis to Revelation, on the one central truth of God: that He is King. You may not like this teaching, you may hate it, you may even say, “I don’t believe it; I’m sick of it, and don’t want to hear it,” but that won’t make any differ­ence, for that is what the Bible teaches. God is the one who will decide what will happen to your life. That is why I spoke of the law of the King in James 2:8. 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 that He calls us into His friendship.

Yet I am not really interested in whether a person is a king or not. What I am interested in is: What kind of person is he?

I am a per­son who grew up in the corridors of power. I think no one in this hall has ever known what power is in the way I have known it. My father held a 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, one of whom later became the commander-in-chief of all the armed forces in Taiwan. If any of you know Chinese politics, you would know his name, Sun Li-ren (Sun Li-jen in Wikipedia), an outstanding general. Even more interesting was that my father’s armies were not under the com­mand of the central government; the armies were instead directly answerable to him. Most of his armies were stationed near Nanking, which was the capital of China before the Communists came. When you have an army stationed near the capital city, you can easily surround it with your armies of 20,000 or 30,000 soldiers, and with your tanks, and quickly bring down the govern­ment. At the coastal waters of China, he commanded 100 gunboats, that is, speedboats armed with high firepower.

I know what it is to live among the powerful. 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 at our home. The famous American ambassador, John Leighton Stuart, was my father’s personal friend, and he would often come to visit us. I still remember once when he came to visit us. He was a very tall man, maybe a bit like Professor Clark Pinnock, and he stooped down and said to me, “Do you know my name? My name is Leighton. Will you remember it?” I said, “OK, I’ll remember you, Leighton.” I didn’t even know he was the United States ambassa­dor! He said, “Always remember me, will you please?” I said, “I will try.” So I have fulfilled my pro­mise. I still remember him. You can see his name in history books today.

I know what power is. I have mixed with powerful men. I think because of this, I have no fear of any man of any position whatsoever, whoever they are. I think God has some purpose in all this.

When my father hosted a dinner for the Cabinet of China, I was very useful to have around, because politicians are always politicians. Often the question was: Who do you arrange to sit next to 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 Prime Minister. If you put the Defense Minister next to him, the Finance Minister would be unhappy. All these ministers were jostling for position as to who will sit at the right hand of the Vice Prime Minister. Notice that the Bible speaks of sitting at the right hand side. Well, they invited me to solve the problem! I sat at the right hand side of the Vice 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. I had people walking in and out of my father’s house, yet I didn’t know who was the defense minister, who was the prime minister, who was the general — I had to count the number of stars on his shoulder to tell. To me, the import­ant point is not what offices they hold, but what kind of people they are.

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

It doesn’t matter that your friend is prime minister, general, or ambassador. To me these ranks are irrelevant. For some reason, some people are drawn to me, and I have not found out the reason. In London, there was a general who came to me and wanted to be friends with me. I could not figure out why. He was old enough to be my grandfather.

To some people, it is 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 have never built a friendship with them. When I went to Israel, I was given the name of the Israeli Army Chief of Staff, General Yigael Yadin, 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, as God does, the simplest brother and sister. God shows His concern for a blind beggar through His Christ, the Lord Jesus. God’s char­acter is entirely different from that of the leaders of nations. We have recently read reports of the rottenness, corruption and brutality of Nicolae Ceaușescu, the fallen President of Romania. From his case, you can see why I’m not interested in people of high posi­tion: human beings are too small to be great. They are not great enough to bear the burden of power and remain pure. They become arrogant and corrupt. But my God and King remains the Friend of weak and lowly people.

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 never changes? We are dealing with some­thing of extreme importance to your life. We have to get an answer to this question: How do I get to know the living God?

In closing, I would like to give you the principles of “the royal law.” The word “royal” will help you remember how to get in touch with the living God. I am not going to expound it today, but will continue tomor­row, if the Lord pleases. If you forget everything I said today, at least remember the words “the royal law” found in James 2:8. Here we are speak­ing of law in terms of the law of the King. I am quoting from James 2:8, and the whole book of James has a lot to say about wisdom:

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

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 that you have a special privilege? Because God has so few friends today. Why is that so? Because people turn away from Him and do their own thing. They don’t want God to be King over them.

Do you know what this means? It makes it easy for you and me to be friends with God because there are so few friends. I would like to be one of His friends, if only to 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 spelled r-o-y-a-l. The letter r is for “repentance.” The second letter o is for “obed­ience.” The third letter y is for “yoked.” The fourth letter a is for “absolute.” And the last letter l is for “launch,” as in launch out. In the next message, I would like to expound these five words because if you can grasp these five steps in the royal law, you will be able to build your life upon the immovable Rock.


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