I want to invite everybody to have your Bible open to Luke, chapter 6. Last Lord's Day morning we studied the thrilling statement made by Paul from Romans chapter 10, verse 9 to the effect that, under the gospel, if we will confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and if we will believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, then we will be saved. The focus on confessing Jesus as Lord and what that kind of a statement means in our lives is a very important theme in the New Testament. In fact, in the passage we are about the read today, Jesus helps us to see that confessing him as Lord is more than just saying, "Jesus is Lord."
Here at the conclusion of what we know as the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus calls for the people who had come to hear him to leave as if they were leaving to do. Notice beginning at verse 46, the Lord said, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do 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 the 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."
I know that that little saying of the Lord is about as familiar to Bible readers as any passage in the New Testament. A lot of us as kids at vacation Bible school learned to sing about the wise man and the foolish man, with all the motions to go with it. But it still is true that the principle Jesus lays down here is one of the most powerful and most important and most telling things about what it means to be a Christian. And I want to encourage us all this morning with what Jesus says here.
Let's start by just noticing the details of the little parable which Jesus uses here. In this parable, it is obvious that each of us who hears the Lord's words, each one of us who hears what Jesus taught, is building a house every day. We are all builders every day in our lives, in what we think, in what we say, in what we do and the attitudes we have. We are building a life with which to live. We are building and developing our character, our reputation, our identity as human beings. We are fashioning and shaping in our own cases, even our eternal destiny in our building each day of our lives.
Kay keeps little sayings that she has clipped out with the magnets on the front of our refrigerator. I think she is trying to remind me of things because I go there most often. And one of the little sayings that I noticed that she has on the front of the refrigerator says, "All that you will ever be you are now becoming." Well, that is what Jesus is saying here in this passage. All of us are building something by how we live and how we go about life each day.
Not only are we all builders or building a house, a spiritual house if you will, but Jesus also says with this little parable that floods will come against what we are building. Floods will arise in each life. If each one is a hearer, then each one can expect the floods to come. Notice that Jesus didn't say, "And if a flood arises." He said, "when a flood arose." Of course, you know in the physical world how surprisingly powerful the stream of a flood can be as it wipes out what is in front of it. The spiritual floods that rise in our lives are even more powerful because they attack our character and our identity and challenge even our destinies.
Think of some of those floods that people commonly experience. Of course there are the setbacks in life - setbacks that may be material in some financial struggle or difficulty or maybe there are losses such as those that people have experienced in storms or other calamities. Sometimes there are challenges to our well-being that come in the form of poor health or unexpected illness or accidents. Sometimes there are challenges to our relationships that come and maybe conflicts and difficulties in our friendships and our family life, or even in our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes the floods may come in the form of trials or temptations - temptations that would tempt us to do the wrong things or to take actions that we know are morally reprehensible. Sometimes the floods can come in the form of confusion and doubts that challenge what we have always thought would happen and make us wonder what our future will be, and whether it will be. The one thing that every builder can expect is that sooner or later he will experience the floods.
And then third, Jesus says in this little story that he tells that the destiny of what we are building depends on the foundation upon which we are building. It is not the strength of the flood. It is not the diligence or the skill of the builder but it is the foundation that determines whether what I am building will survive. If I go about living my life and trying to establish my life without giving any thought to what I am building on, what is the foundation in terms of what I believe and what my convictions are, what is going to hold this life of mine up when the flood arises? If I don't think about that, then what will happen? And if I build on a foundation that maybe I have thought it over but it just can't possibly sustain a life, then what will happen when the flood arises? That is the little parable. We are all builders, the flood will arise, and then the foundation will make the difference.
What is the issue, what is the point of that little parable that Jesus uses here? Well, we already know what the point is by his question in verse 46. "Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I tell you?" The issue then is putting the Lord's teaching into practice and this point has with it two implications we must see. First, that we are hearing his words as the authority in our lives. The first part of what Jesus is saying is, "You need to listen to my words." What he is saying here is that if I just depend on my own thinking and my own pitiful wisdom, I will end up like the Proverb talks about which said "there is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof are the ways of death." If I just think "I don't need the Lord to guide me. Why should I listen to what he says?" then I will find out I will be disappointed. And on the other hand, maybe I know I need the help and the guidance, but I turn to some other teacher - I will find somebody either smarter than Jesus or somebody who will tell me more what I want to hear than Jesus does. Either way, I have missed out on the first point that Jesus is making and that is "His word is the authority."
Do you realize what an audacious claim Jesus is making with this little parable? He is claiming here that what he teaches and what he teaches alone can serve as a foundation for human life that will let us survive the storms. What a claim that is! He even is saying here that his word will be the basis of judgment for each one of us. John 12, verse 48 makes that claim even more straightforward. It is true.
Hearing the Lord's word as the authority is the first part of this and then doing them as a way of life is the second part of this. It would be wonderful if maybe all there were to things is just for us to listen and then state our opinions about how it was presented and then go on. But do you know you cannot even do that in your personal relationships on a daily basis? You husbands, if you try with your wife just to listen to her opinion, even when it is the strongest opinion, and you say to her, "You know, you did a really good job of telling me that" and then go off doing the very same thing that you have always done, you are going to have problems with your wife. You young folks, if you try with your parents to listen to them telling you what they think and what they want for your life, and you say, "Dad, you know that is about the best job you have done of speaking to me," then you are going to have problems with your dad if you don't do something about what he has said. With the Lord, the same thing is true. What he is saying here to his disciples is, "I teach these things so they can make a difference." So it is when you hear and do that your life is affected.
One of the things that I noticed in working on this is that this idea of hearing and doing is an important theme in Jesus' teaching, especially in the gospel of Luke. Is it because Luke is concerned with service and with practical discipleship? Maybe so. Over in Luke, chapter 8, for example, when Jesus has told the parable of the sower, it happens down at verse 21 when they come to him and say, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside desiring to see you." But Jesus answers them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it." In other words, they are my true kinsmen. They hear God's word and they do it. Over in Luke, chapter 11, down at verse 28, he has been teaching again and he said things that were impressive and some woman in the crowd came up and said, "Blessed is the woman who has brought you into the world." In other words, she is flattering him with a blessing just on his mother. But Jesus said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it." That is the point the Lord is getting at. The real blessing comes from listening to him and then acting on what he has said.
And so I got to wondering, "What is the big deal about hearing and doing? What is so important about this that Jesus returns to this theme so often?" But you know, when you think it over, there are some obvious things about it that stand out. Number one, it is by hearing and doing that we indicate genuine trust in the one who is speaking. I can't show real trust in the Lord by just saying, "Lord, Lord." When I really show that I trust him is when I am willing then to put in action, to go stake my life on what he has been saying. And if I just say, "Lord, Lord" and then I hear what he says and I go out and ignore it, then what I am really saying is "I just don't take him all that seriously. I just don't really think he knows that much about life. I had better try it my own way instead."
Secondly, by hearing and doing - maybe I should add hearing, saying, and doing - I reflect my personal integrity. When what I say and what I do match, then I am showing that I am not pretending but that I am intending instead to actually be a real and whole person before the Lord. What I say I think of him is not just play acting or put-on, but instead has a real impact. It becomes the guide of my life. The inner being of a person, when what we know and what we say and what we do match, that is when we are real people. That is when we have person integrity. When I know something and I am saying it but I am not doing it, then something is coming apart in my heart and life. There is a lack of personal integrity there.
Thirdly, this is important because this hearing and doing and building on a good foundation suggest some depth of thought about life. I haven't just lived for the moment. I am not just existing. But instead, I have taken the long view. I have considered very carefully what kind of a foundation undergirds my life. I have thought over what would happen if the flood arose against me and how I would fare. So hearing and doing is the only way to really show that I have given serious and thoughtful care about the foundation of my life. Hearing and doing then becomes a big issue not only in the Lord's story but within every individual.
So that leads to a couple of thoughts about building well. If I am a builder and if the principle that builders need is hearing the Lord and doing what he is taught, then here are two principles that we can all use this week. Number one. It is hearing the Lord and doing what he says that is the way to a religion that blesses a person. If I try to pursue blessing and fulfillment from my spiritual life just by listening or just by personal excitement of what someone can do in my presence and how that makes me feel, then I will sooner or later discover the dead-end disappointment of that kind of an approach to faith. There are only so many different things we can try and so many new things that we can figure out how to say as to what scripture is telling us. If I am always wanting something to thrill my fancy and arouse my interests, I am going to be disappointed. I will find myself eventually sitting in the crowd with a scowl like that thinking, "I have heard this talked about before and why can't we have something a little more thrilling?" Because we will depending on the talent and ability of some man.
On the other hand, if I look into the Lord's word with a sense of expectation and I am thinking here about being different when I go to do this than when I just heard it, that is the path, the blessedness of our life. Jesus made this point so powerfully in John 13. After he had taken that towel and washed the disciple's feet and asked them if they understood what he had done and told them that he had given them an example, he said to them, "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them." It is in doing that the blessing, the enjoyment, the excitement, the privilege is discovered. In James 1, James the Lord's brother, presses this home in a very vivid way, "But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only," he said, "deceiving yourself. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror for he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres being no hearer who forgets, but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing."
Somebody says, " I would do but I just don't get what it is I am suppose to do. Develop a program, give me a job, tell me something to do." Well, there is a place for that. But notice in Luke 6, in context, Jesus is asking for something a little more difficult than that. You look back over this sermon which he is concluding here, he started out with attitudes. Am I somebody who is humble before God, hungry for spiritual things and looking for fulfillment in heaven? Is that my attitude? If it is, then let me turn my attention to "doing unto others as I wish they would do to me.' Let me go out even if there are enemies who have cursed me, let me do to them like I wish they would do to me. Leona left me a little book of kids' sayings. She knows the depth of my reading. Here is a note about the Golden Rule. These are letters to God. This one is from Darla. "God, did you really mean 'Do unto others as they do unto you?' because if you did, then I am going to fix my brother." Well, that is not what he really meant. He meant do as you wish they would do to you. Try doing that if you want to be a doer.
And then, it takes up the problem of that harsh, critical, false-finding spirit that wants to judge others more harshly than ourselves in verses 37 and following. Maybe we should try to do that one. And then in verse 43 and following, he talks about bringing forth good fruit from the abundance of good hearts that speak good things. Maybe I should focus on trying to speak good words this week. That is the kind of doing that Jesus is calling for here. That is the kind of religion that blesses life.
And then the other principle here is that this kind of approach to life is building well because it allows for confident living. The person who is hearing the Lord's unchanging word and trying to do it has a sense of assurance and confidence in his life. It doesn't come by "Boy, I know what the future will be." It doesn't come by "I'm going to have everything like I want it." It comes by "I know that no matter what happens, I am going to be alright.". Jesus said in Matthew 24 and verse 35 that "heaven and earth would pass away but his words would not pass away." That is the foundation for assurance of the person who is building on the rock. I read that after World War II an inscription was found in a shattered basement in Cologne, Germany. The inscription read, "I believe in birds, even when I can't hear them sing. I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining, and I believe in God, even when he is silent." That kind of assurance is priceless. It means so much more than just having easy circumstances in our lives.
Is your life well built? Building well involves knowing and saying and doing. You know that Jesus is Lord. Won't you say it before others? And if you are going to say that Jesus is Lord, then let's all try to live that out in our lives this week. Maybe you are here today and you need to make the beginning by being buried with him in baptism and being raised up to walk in newness of life. Maybe you made that beginning but your life has then fallen short of the activity of doing what the Lord calls us all to do. Think that over today and if we can help you in some way in responding to the Lord, won't you decide to act right now while we stand and sing?