Jesus is telling us that the only way to build our life in a way that the storms we experience around us won’t bring the house down is to build the house on the rock of ages himself. Jesus Christ is the truth (Jn. 14:6), and our lives need to be built within sanctifying design the great architect himself has given us through his word (Jn. 17:17).
The culture of the 21st-century west is one that not only encourages, but compels you to follow your heart and live your truth. We’re told that nothing can define what is true for you except what you believe in your heart based on your experience. Ours is a culture—like all that have come before and all that will come after—full of idols, and there is no idol more persuasive than the idol of me. This isn’t new; it’s been that way since the fall. Adam and Eve were reasoned into disobedience by the serpent because Satan pointed to experiential aspects that, if true, couldn’t mean that God wanted what was best for them. Once Eve saw that the tree would be good food, that it was a delight to the eyes, and that she would be wise like God, she and Adam ate (Gen. 3:1-6). Her experiences of the creation led her to put herself first, and God’s revelation of that creation second.
We know what happened next—Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, and the curse has rested upon us ever since. Thousands of years later, we’re still inclined to our own self-interest in the same way. We’re conditioned through advertisements, elementary school, books, movies, and more to trust your own instincts more than the testimony of experts or the wisdom of our elders. We no longer live in a world governed by revealed moral law, but in a world of moral relativity where we’re told that the only thing you can know for sure is your own truth, and it’s that truth that defines what is right. So if something—anything—comes against what your experience is telling you, it must be wrong for you, bad for you, or both.
At such a moment in our time and culture, it feels so unnatural to hear the words of Jeremiah: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (17:9). We find this challenging (even for Christians), because our experiences are powerful and formative. If you’ve had a bad experience with a product you buy, you probably won’t buy that product again; if you get food poisoning from bad coleslaw at KFC, you’ll think twice before going to that restaurant again.