“On What Are You Building?”

"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock" (Matt. 7:24)

     INTRO.: A hymn which exhorts us to build our house on the rock by doing what Jesus teaches is "On What Are You Building?" The text was written by Henry R. Trickett (1840-1909). Trickett also produced such hymns as "Blessed Are They That Do His Commandments," "In the Desert of Sorrow and Sin," and "The Kingdoms of Earth Pass Away." The tune for "On What Are You Building?" was composed by James Holmes Rosecrans (1844-1926). Rosecrans provided melodies for Thomas J. Shelton’s "One Step at a Time," Love H. Jameson’s "There Is a Habitation," Lucinda Bateman’s "I Washed My Hands This Morning," and the hymn "O ‘Twas Wonderful Love." It would appear that "On What Rock Are You Building?" was first published with four stanzas in The Christian Hymnal: A Collection of Hymns for Congregational and Social Worship in Two Parts edited by R. M. Bishop in 1882 for the American Christian Missionary Society, the last in the line of hymnbooks following the one originally compiled by Alexander Campbell. In The People’s New Testament of 1891, B. W. Johnson quotes the first stanza and the first two lines of the chorus from this song following his comments on Matt. 7:29. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) edited by L. O. Sanderson, with only stanza 1-3.

     The song is a reminder of the need to build on the Rock of Christ rather than the shifting sands of this world.

I. Stanza 1 mentions our hope
"On what are you building, my brother,
Your hopes of a heavenly home?
Is it loose, shifting sand, or the firm, solid rock,
You are trusting for ages to come?"
 A. All of us are building our lives on something: 1 Cor. 3:10
 B. Those who believe in God surely want to build for the hope of a heavenly home: Col. 1:5
 C. Therefore, it is important how we build because the results will last for ages to come, either eternal punishment or eternal life: Matt. 25:46

II. Stanza 2 mentions our works
"On one or the other, my brother,
You are building your hopes day by day;
You are risking your soul on the works that you do.
Will the dark waters sweep you away?"
 A. There is a choice of foundations on which to build–either the rock or the sand: Matt. 7:26
 B. Whichever we do, we are risking our souls on the works that we do because it is by our works that we shall be judged: Rev. 20:12
 C. If we build on the sand, the dark waters will sweep us away: Matt. 7:27

III. Stanza 3 mentions our warning
"Your Savior has warned you, my brother;
Oh, I pray you give heed to His voice.
There is life on the rock, but there’s death on the sand;
Heed His words, brother, make them your choice."
 A. Jesus has warned us about how to build and encourages us to build on the rock: Matt. 7:25
 B. We should give heed to His voice: Matt. 17:5
 C. There is life on the Rock because Christ is the only sure foundation: 1 Cor. 3:11

IV. Stanza 4 mentions our danger
"No matter how careful, my brother,
The sand for your house you prepare,
‘Twill be all swept away when the floods shall descend,
Leaving nothing but death and despair."
 A. The sand represents the wisdom of this world: 1 Cor. 1:20-21
 B. The floods represent the trials and tribulations of life: 1 Cor. 3:12-15
 C. If we build on the sand, it will leave nothing but death and despair, indicative of everlasting destruction: 2 Thess. 1:7-9

     CONCL.: The chorus tells us that we build on the rock by hearing and doing.
"Hearing and doing, we build on the Rock,
Hearing alone, we build on the sand.
Both will be tried by the storm and the flood;
Only the rock the trial will stand!"’
The purpose of an invitation song is to encourage the lost and unfaithful to consider their spiritual condition and to meet the Lord’s conditions for being right with him before it is too late. Some might object to the use of the term "brother" in an invitation song directed to alien sinners, but we must remember that this song was written in a day when "brother" was often used as a general address, like "mister" (i.e., "Brother, can you spare a dime?"). In view of eternity, it is certainly needful to ask both sinners and brethren, including unfaithful and even those who are faithful, the question "On What Are You Building?"


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