“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.”James 1:22-25
Non-discipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging circumstance, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, non-discipleship costs you exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10). The cross-shaped yoke of Christ is after all an instrument of liberation and power to those who live in it with him and learn the meekness and lowliness of heart that brings rest to the soul.
– Dallas Willard, The Great Omission
46“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”Luke 6:46-49
This passage became increasingly vivid to me during earlier junctures in my entrepreneurial journey, as I at times felt like the house getting blown all over the beach, controlled by anxiety and worry while dealing with inevitable uncertainty and trials.
I have heard these verses from the time I was a little boy and they always provoked a powerful image. I could visualize a torrential storm blasting the house on sand to smithereens, while the house built on rock stood firm. The takeaway was always to “build your house on Jesus, the rock.” The message I took was that by “accepting” Jesus, I had set my house on the rock. Great, on to the next verses . . .
The thing that I missed, and I believe many others do as well, is that Jesus is not simply saying that by “becoming a Christian” we have driven the underpinnings of our life into the rock. Not at all, actually – in fact, Jesus is rejecting this idea if we take seriously what he says. Presumably the ones that say, “Lord, Lord” would define themselves as “Christians” and, at least by their words, are acknowledging Jesus’ identity as Lord.
Many people – myself included for many years – do just this, but “do not do” what Jesus says, i.e., hear and know his words and put them into practice. In fact, I had focused so much on Jesus’ death and resurrection and how it provided a way for me to have eternal life, I had very limited ideas about what Jesus instructed his followers to do in this life. My life therefore gave little evidence that I was seeking to adopt and obey his teachings.
I had also made the extraordinarily flawed, yet quite pervasive, assumption that “hearing [Jesus’] words and putting them into practice” was about focusing exclusively on my “negatives” and bad habits – getting rid of all the stuff I found “fun” to become a more chaste and sober version of myself. While we are indeed called to be chaste and sober, I missed that the true call of Jesus is about a totally new life and complete regeneration into a person that experiences new identity in sonship, transcendent joy and the greatest fulfillment imaginable. Life to the full, as Jesus says. Jesus’ teaching is not about subtracting unsavory items from the old man (or even adding shiny new virtues) to become a less buggy Version 2.0, but by becoming a thoroughly new creation pervaded with love. It is about passing from death to life!
In this encounter, I believe that Jesus is distinguishing between the lives of those who are his disciples (followers who earnestly seek to know him and become like him in this life and thus experience increasing degrees of transformation) and those who are not – for lack of a better term, “nominal” Christians, who identify with their church and possibly are justified by their belief in Jesus and dependence on his death as an atonement for their sins, but really have no interest in “following” him in this life. By God’s grace, they may be as one “escaping through the flames,” but will experience very little transformation and fruitfulness in this life. But when the storm arises, they are devastated and experience utter collapse.
This is a similar idea to the good/bad tree we looked at in the last encounter. The disciple whose heart is truly being reshaped as they become more Christlike cannot but help exhibit the evidence of good fruit. The good fruit and stability/confidence (house on the rock) we all seek in this life does not magically accompany our acceptance of Christ as our Savior. It comes by listening to his words – which require us to actually study them as we are doing now – obeying them, and building our lives around them.
As we go through Luke, we are cataloging the words and actions of our Master. This at least gives us a starting point – we will know his teaching. Becoming a disciple – actually seeking to obey and become like Jesus – is another matter and involves the power and work of the Spirit, but one cannot become a disciple if we don’t know what the teacher taught.
To repeat the words of James above: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.”
To “look intently” must mean to immerse oneself in each word, phrase and story; to visualize what Jesus is doing; to memorize his words; to re-read them through the day; to go back the next day and re-read them again . . . and again and again. As Jesus’ teaching becomes seared into our memory and cognition (not forgetting what he has heard) and we actually “do it,” we are set free and experience God’s graceful blessing. Let us look intently each day.
“The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin. The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out. The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the wicked. Hatred covers up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.Proverbs 10:8, 9, 11, 12
“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.”Psalm 27:4-6