Building on the Rock
November 18, 2021 Blogs by: Tim Jennings, M.D.

I remember, as a child, singing “The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock.”  The song is based on Jesus’ parable in Matthew chapter seven and teaches a spiritual reality through the object lesson of building houses with solid foundations. So what is the reality the parable is teaching, the true application of this parable to our lives?

Jesus said,

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash (Matthew 7:24–27 NIV84).

First, I want to emphasize that regardless of where one builds, on the rock or on the sand, the storms will come. We all face trials, struggles, and problems in our lives, and as the second coming of Jesus approaches, the winds of strife will be let loose to blow upon the earth (Revelation 7:1–3) and the entire world will face ever-increasing “storms.”

We don’t have a choice to avoid the storms; rather, we get to choose what we build our lives upon. Where is our security, strength, and foundation for living—upon Jesus, the solid Rock, or on the shifting sands of this world?

The building that we are to accomplish is the development of our characters, and Jesus is to be the foundation of our character-building. When we build upon Jesus, He builds within us! Jesus is the Living Rock, and we are living stones that receive the life of Christ as we build upon Him. When we build upon Jesus, we become joined to Him and His life flows into us. We understand and love Him and His laws—the design protocols for life—and we are changed, reborn, into a new life.

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4–5 NIV84).

Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:32 NIV84).

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Ephesians 2:19–22 NIV84).

Building upon Jesus means more than merely hearing His words; it is even more than believing His words. Building upon Jesus means choosing to put His words into practice. The words of Jesus are the words of truth. Jesus is the source of all truth, so those who build on the Rock of Jesus will develop minds that love truth, hunger after truth, and are eager to practice truth as soon as they comprehend it. They not only understand the truth, they also accept it, believe it, embrace it, and apply it to their lives—choosing to live out the truth, the principles they hold dear, in their everyday lifestyle, choices of friends, activities, and the methods they practice, especially in how they treat others.

But those who build on the sand show that they don’t love the truth; they are satisfied with their worldly views, ideas, perspectives, and they will practice the methods of this world, the values of this world—which are constantly changing, just like the shifting sands of a desert. They are on shifting sands because they are always motivated by fear and their hearts have been shaped to protect self and advance self at the expense of others. What one day they find immoral (such as a mandate that infringes on someone’s individuality), the next day they feel justified in doing in order to protect themselves.

Those who build on the Rock of Jesus build on the truth that Jesus revealed. And the greatest truth He revealed is: “Anyone who has seen [Jesus] has seen the Father” (John 14:9). By beholding God’s character of love as revealed in Jesus, we are transformed, renewed, won to trust, and built up by internalizing in our hearts the living Word of God.

In Jesus, we see God’s character and methods of love lived out. We study the life and teachings of Jesus and realize He taught that God’s kingdom, His government, is not of this world. God is Creator, and the Creator (who is love) builds reality, space, time, energy, matter, and life. And the Creator’s laws are the protocols upon which life operate. They are design laws.

But this world’s governments operate upon imposed rules that require external punishment to enforce them. This leads people to even greater fear and insecurity, greater injustice, greater willingness to harm others. The justice and security of human laws and government are constantly shifting, and those who build upon it will all fall when the winds of strife blow.

Building upon the Rock means we incorporate God’s design-law methods into our lives in how we govern ourselves. We don’t embrace and practice the methods of this world. Those who build upon Jesus experience a change in their confidence; they establish their lives, identities, and characters upon unshakable principles by which the universe is held together. They build upon the solid Rock, Jesus Christ, and in embracing the truth and trusting Jesus, they open their hearts for Jesus to build into them His unchanging, unshifting character, to write His design law of love, truth, liberty into their hearts and minds (Hebrews 8:10). We become united, at-one with God through Jesus, who builds us up as we choose to build upon Him.

We are truly alive only as we reconnect to the vine, Jesus Christ, and receive His life, His character, His methods, and His law is restored within us. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NIV84).

The Bible combines the metaphors of a living rock and a plant:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness (Colossians 2:6, 7 NIV84).

You are God’s field, God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9 NIV84).

To build upon the Rock that is Jesus is to choose to trust Him, to surrender all to Him. The people who do this experience a transforming supernatural power that frees them from fear, insecurity, uncertainty, and doubt. Such people know God and have been transformed into His friends, who understand His character, methods, and principles—how reality works. They discern what is happening in the world, and they have surrendered their lives, fortunes, families, and futures into God’s hands. They do not live for self but live to glorify God in living out His methods and principles in all they do. They can make sure decisions because they know how reality works.

Then, when the storms of life rage and the winds of strife blow, the characters (houses) of such people will stand. They will stand firm revealing God’s character of love—they refuse to use the methods of the world: violence, propaganda, coercion, mandates, and control. Instead, they present truth in love and leave others free. They pray for those who persecute them, as they refuse to shrink from death. They refuse to give in to fear-provoked survival drives; they stand firm in the face of every trial, for their characters are built upon the solid Rock.

Therefore arm your minds with God’s full set of armor so that when Satan’s grand deception comes and it seems the heavens are about to fall, you are able to stand; and when you have done everything to present the truth and expose Satan’s lies–don’t falter; stand! Stand firm, with the truth of God wrapped around you like a belt; with a righteous, Christlike character developed within–like a breastplate; and the peace that comes from accepting the good news about God–like track shoes providing good traction and a solid foundation. Also, hold fast the shield of trust, which extinguishes all the burning fear and insecurity brought by the devil’s temptations. Take with you the helmet of a healed mind–a mind protected from the assaults of Satan; and attack the lies about God with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God–the truth. And talk with God with an enlightened mind, intelligently, on all occasions, about all of your concerns, requests, plans, and issues. With all of this in mind, be alert and always keep praying for God’s people (Ephesians 6:13–17 The Remedy).

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Tim Jennings, M.D. Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, international speaker, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association. He is President and Founder of Come and Reason Ministries and has served as President of the Southern and Tennessee Psychiatric Associations. Dr. Jennings has authored many books, including The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain.