Consider the following verse from the famous hymn, “The Solid Rock.”
“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood, and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”
We know the chorus well, “on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.” That cannot be emphasized enough! In Matthew 19 we find the encounter of the Messiah with the rich young ruler. He was a man whose feet were buried ankle deep in sinking sand. We know this because he approached Christ in such a manner that presents itself entirely unique in the Gospels. In vs 16 he refers to Jesus as the, “good master.” He then proceeds to ask Jesus, “what good thing” he can do to inherit eternal life. Imagine, if you will, how this conversation might be undertaken if Jesus were walking on earth in our present day. It might go something like this: “Jesus, you’re a tremendous teacher. There is no question about what you’re up to on earth. I’ve personally seen you do many good things! Jesus, you’re such a good man. I desire life eternal, and I have no doubt that someone like yourself has attained unto it. What good thing can I do to receive eternal life?”
Do you see how his focus was entirely on the outward, and not on the divine nature? Is it clear that he was making the grand assumption that Jesus, as a mortal man, had attained unto eternal life BECAUSE of his good works? That was entirely his focus. And it is for that reason Jesus responded, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God:” Jesus didn’t answer this way because He wasn’t good, but because He was challenging the man’s perception of earned righteousness. When put to the ultimate test, the man’s righteous works didn’t make the cut. He went away sorrowful because he wasn’t willing, ultimately, to transfer his dependence completely to Christ.
No man is acceptable before God the Father, apart from the perfect, imputed righteousness of Christ. We have nothing good to offer God prior to salvation, and self-righteous works do not replace the sanctification of the Spirit, after salvation. All other ground is sinking sand. So if the foundation laid is Jesus Christ, then the whole building will grow and be nourished through Christ alone.