But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)
This verse is the crux of the story of the wise man and the foolish man, which all of us know. The wise man built his house on the rock, but the foolish man built his upon the sand. When the storm came, only one house remained standing. The one built on the sand was simply swept away. It’s a wonderfully simple parable on the necessity and importance of getting the right foundation and is prefaced by the question or challenge contained in today’s verse.
First, its immediately apparent that Jesus is telling us that there are Christians who call Him Lord – rabbi, teacher, master – but do not do as He says. He is directly challenging those who ‘follow’ Him in an attitude of selective obedience, those who decide for themselves what they will or will not be obedient to. What He’s effectively saying is that selective obedience is not obedience at all. In colloquial terms, the walk must measure up to the talk – we cannot honestly call Him Lord if we do not obey Him.
Secondly, lest we grow complacent and imagine that this does not apply to us, we need to consider that it is also a reminder to every believer to judge ourselves, i.e. to guard our talk and our walk and to make sure that they are correctly aligned in all things. It’s very easy to slip a little, and while we shouldn’t spend our lives in some kind of religious ritual built around this, we should be aware of the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the truth of the Word, taking care that we do not fall into the same trap.
From this point, Jesus moves into the parable, and I encourage you to read verses 47-49, and to keep verse 46 as the context for the story. One statement that emerges very clearly is that three things are involved – one comes to Christ, one Hears what He says, and one does what He says. In other words, we cannot stop at the first or the second, but must continue to the doing. It’s not a passive faith but an active faith. It is not static but dynamic. We absolutely cannot be saved by obedience, but being obedient is the outworking of salvation in us. While salvation is a one-time, complete and perfect redemption, the obedience is the manifestation of the righteousness imputed to us through salvation.
Another very clear statement is that the storms will come. Jesus does not say ‘if’ but rather ‘when the storm came.’ We must expect them, and be aware that they may take one of many possible forms. It could be anything from physical or health problems through poverty or persecution to direct spiritual attack. But the storms will come. The wise man realises this and prepares accordingly and the foolish man does not. The outcome of both wisdom and foolishness we’re aware of. We all know the story. But we need to keep in mind that Jesus parable in order to clarify verse 26.
Verse 27 ties verse 26 and the parable together: Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like. To avoid be one who carries the reproach of verse 26, in other words to be wise and not foolish, this is what we need to do. Verse 27 encapsulates what building upon the rock involves.
Firstly, we come to Christ in faith, trusting that He alone is our ‘firm foundation’ and the rock on which we need to build. Coming to Christ is not limited to that implied in salvation. It is dynamic, a ‘constant coming,’ a daily choice to to make Him our rock in our lives, our choices and our interactions. It is an ongoing affirmation that we trust in Him alone, a way of life rather than a single choice, quickly forgotten. The world constantly intrudes, and things rise up to tempt or distract us, so we need to come to Him as often times as necessary to remain ‘upon the rock.’
Second, the hearing mentioned here is not the hearing that brought us to salvation. That is part of the coming to Christ. This hearing is what we hear after salvation, and is the digging down and laying the foundation deep into the rock. We do this by constant immersion and study of the Word of God. Our foundation involves the strengthening of our faith in Him, and is a dynamic and ongoing process of hearing, reading and meditating on His Word. It is also our willingness to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit within, guiding us into truth and prompting us to listen and to hear what the Word is saying.
Thirdly, the doing is the building of the house. We do not ordinarily see the foundations of a house. They are there and ever present, but they are hidden beneath the house itself. It’s the walls and the roof, with doors and windows and other features, that are open to the view and scrutiny of the world. But what we build must be in keeping with the foundation. As an example, it’s pointless drilling into solid rock and laying foundations that could withstand an artillery barrage, if the house itself is built of cardboard and cable ties.
The message is simple and clear. What we do is what the world sees, and so we must build according to our foundation so that the world will see Christ. We manifest Christ in what we do, not what we say. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard the accusation of hypocrisy leveled at the church, and often with good reason – the walk doesn’t equal the talk. We all have heard the expression ‘talk is cheap.’ Jesus is basically saying the same thing. It is the doing of the Word that builds the strong house, the one that will withstand the storms, the one that will constantly reflect the grace and Lordship of Christ.
A foundation has a purpose, and that is to provide support for the building. Without it, the building is worthless. But without a building, there’s little point in having a foundation. We could know the Word of God inside out, be able to recite it in our sleep, and be able to answer any possible question on theology or biblical history. All that without the doing of it is like a foundation without a building. It is a building raised in accordance with a solid foundation that completes the definition of ‘a house.’
This is what Jesus is warning us about. There is no point – and actually, we have no right – to call Him Lord if it’s simply static faith and lacks the outworking manifest in obedience. We do not make Him Lord in our lives by saying it. We make Him Lord by doing, by obeying, by building our entire lives on Him. I’m reminded that He told us ‘if the Son of Man is lifted up, He will draw all men unto Him.’ That’s the ultimate purpose of our lives. To lift Him up. To declare His Lordship and faithfulness in all that we do as well as what we say.
A house is something we live in. It isn’t simply a building, a facade. Living is an active and ongoing thing, a daily waking up, going to sleep, eating, praying, fellowshipping…these are just some of the activities involved in the building of our houses, our lives. Obedience needs to be in each and every one, a constant, joyful doing of faith and dependence on Him. As Joshua said: ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ Calling Him Lord means serving Him as Lord and master. My life – my house and how I live – should be a living testimony to His glory.