Exploring Hope:  A lesson from the beach

As you prepare to visit the Jersey Shore this summer, here’s a spiritual lesson you might want to consider. In Luke 6, Jesus tells a parable about two “beachfront” homes.

He says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great”  (Luke 6:46-49 ESV).

Now, if Jesus lived today, I think he might have told the parable like this: Imagine two beachfront homes in New Jersey. One had 13 bedrooms and was worth a hundred million dollars because it was beautifully built and furnished with priceless art. However, the contractors had cut corners; the mansion was built on the sand without a solid foundation.

But on the same beach, there was a much smaller house with only one bedroom. It had cheap furniture and the exterior needed work. Everyone who walked by thought it was worthless compared to the mansion. But looks can be deceiving. This home had a firm foundation that went all the way down to the bedrock.

So, what happened when the hurricane finally blew in? Well, the floodwaters rose and it quickly became evident which home was the better investment. The mansion is washed away in a moment, but the smaller house survived because it had a firm foundation.

Now, this story has a lesson for us today: What is our foundation and will it survive the flood of God’s judgment on the last day?” After all, many foundations won’t survive. For example, a foundation of our own moral goodness won't survive because none of us can live up to God's standard perfectly. We've all failed to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We've all failed to love our neighbor as ourselves. So, we can't come before him and claim the foundation of our goodness on the last day (for more on this point, read Romans chapters 1-3 by the Apostle Paul).

But also, a foundation of money and wealth won't survive, because we can't take any of it with us to the next life (Matthew 6:19-24). I mean, go to Egypt and see where pharaohs stuffed their tombs with gold. Vikings were buried with their ships and wealth. They were hoping that they could bring their vast wealth into the next life. And even though we think we know better, there's a subtle part of our hearts that act like money will save us. But it can’t.

So, what is our foundation? Well, in 1 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul says “…no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” And why? Because Jesus was washed away in the flood of judgment in our place on the cross so that we can be forgiven and accepted—if we only repent and trust in Christ alone for salvation. As the famous hymn says:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

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About Will Stern

Originally from Colorado, Will Stern is the pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Garnet Valley. He majored in violin performance for his undergrad and taught violin for a number of years before being called into ministry. He studied theology at Duke University and Westminster Theological Seminary.

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