When we walk with the Lord
In the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way;
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
John Henry Sammis (1887)
“Everybody who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise builder who built a house on bedrock.”– Jesus, Matthew 7:24
Yesterday evening my Wednesday men’s group wrapped up our study of The Sermon on the Mount with some more excellent conversation. Jesus concludes Matthew 7 with one of the most powerful visual metaphors in the New Testament – the foolish man who built a house with no foundation.
I cannot read that story without seeing one hundred or more VBS kids singing the song and delighting in the dramatic – and very loud – last line!
Both houses could have been built perfectly, with everything in the right place and from quality materials, all the finishes just so. There would have been no way to tell the two apart…
But we don’t live in a vacuum, and a lot happens to these lives we construct. It is not the still photographs of Sunday best and for-the-camera smiles that define us, so much as our stressed-out bedraggled rainy-day work-is-hard overtired kitchen-in-a-mess one-more-thing realities.
And then it rains some more. And the storms – the difficulties – reveal the real story about the nature of the life we are building.
Faith is belief in action:
So at this point the word “obedience” comes into the narrative. Jesus said “whoever hears these words of mine and obeys them…” The Greek word ποιεῖ is best translated as “does” (“doeth” in the King James). Here are some of the translations:
- acts on [my words]
- does [my words]
- is doing [my words]
- obeys [my words]
- practices [my words]
- follows [my words]
- applies [my words] to their life lives according to my teachings…
It’s interesting to me that the most solid thing, the most rooted element, for Jesus is action. Not “whoever has the best sounding dogma” but “whoever hears my word and responds in action…”
The prophet Samuel said something similar – pointedly – to King Saul:
But Samuel answered, “Which pleases the Lord more: burnt offerings and sacrifices or obeying his commands? It is better to obey the Lord than to offer sacrifices to him. It is better to listen to him than to offer the fat from rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22
Putting a bow in it:
It is a long discourse, these three chapters from Matthew, offering so many amazing sound bites from the greatest teacher the world has ever seen.
When it comes to the conclusion, Jesus does not give a quiz, or check to see how many fine-sounding phrases or bullet points his followers have memorized. No, he puts this unforgettable visual in their heads.
“You can construct the most impressive-looking life imaginable, full with wisdom and eloquence and impressive declarations of religious dogma,” the Master says with both authority and conviction; “you can even religiously reference my words. But if your response to my teaching is not grounded/rooted/constructed/built on the practice of love-in-action, if you are not doing my word, then it will all fall flat when it counts!”
“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority…” (Matthew 7:28)
Just wow – DEREK