“What Are You Building On?”
“You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” “This is where the rubber meets the road.” “The proof is in the pudding.” These sayings are common for a reason: they are true. Sayings like this point to the fact that testing reveals reality. In other words, it’s not simply about appearance, but about performance.
This is also true when one considers his or her profession of faith. It’s so easy for us to say things about ourselves, to make a claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ. However, how can one test his or her own self-identification? Is this even important?
At Maranatha, we have been systematically making our way through the Gospel of Luke. As we approach each passage, our goal is always the same: “Let the text speak for itself.” That is to say, we don’t want to put our own ideas and assumptions on God’s word; instead, we want God’s word to be understood as God intends. We took this approach to a section commonly called the Sermon on the Plain. In this passage, Jesus gives an extended address to the people who have been following Him. Throughout this section, one idea becomes very apparent: Jesus is only interested in the “real deal”.
While it is easy to put on a religious persona, Jesus is more interested in reality, not external appearances. So as He ends His sermon in Luke 6, Jesus asks this probing question: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). It makes total sense, doesn’t it? The title ‘Lord’ is used for someone who has power and authority over others. When one’s Lord speaks, not only is listening important, but acting in accordance with the wishes of one’s Lord is important. Calling Jesus “Lord” but not obeying His word is utter foolishness and should cause one to question if Jesus really is your Lord. What would you say to me if I said I loved my wife but then I only ever treated her like garbage? Would you really believe my self-professed love?
To be a Christian, to have Jesus as your Lord, is to live in obedience to Him. If Jesus is your Lord, you will not only be hearers of His word, but doers of His word (James 1:22). If Jesus is your Lord, you will produce fruits of love, righteousness, and faithfulness that show the reality of your heart (Luke 6:45; Galatians 5:22). If Jesus is your Lord, you will build your life upon Him and His word. If Jesus is your Lord, you will remain firm in the faith even in the midst of the darkest storms of life.
You see, it’s not good enough to come and hear about Jesus, you must do what He says. Jesus explains, “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” (Luke 6:47-48). Jesus describes the coming, hearing, and doing like a house built upon a firm foundation. Contrarily, Jesus says, “But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation” (Luke 6:49). Jesus pictures hearing without doing like building a house on the ground, or “sand”, as mentioned in Matthew's account (Matthew 7:26). Why would anyone build a house on sand instead of a firm, solid foundation? Building on sand is easier, faster, and cheaper. Who has the patience to do the hard work of building a foundation, anyway? We don’t want hard work, we want the path of least resistance. We want the benefits without any investment. We want the reward without any toil. Sound familiar? Jesus’ point is that in the same way that it is work to properly build a house, there is work in maturing as one of His followers.
But a house is a house, right? Does it really matter what sort of foundation it is built on? Well, perhaps not in the beginning. On the outside, the houses look very similar. So what’s the big deal? Eventually, as Jesus highlights in this parable, the storms come and the build will be tested. A foundation may not seem important until a rush of water begins to break against the house.
Jesus explains the outcomes, beginning with the house built upon the rock. “The stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built” (Luke 6:48). When the time of testing came, all of the hard work of the past immediately paid off. Likewise, a true faith founded upon the foundation of Christ will continue to stand even when times of testing come. Sorrows, heart aches, and temptations may break against the servant of Christ as the waters break against the house, but because the servant’s faith is firm and well-built, it will not falter, but grow stronger.
However, the one who has merely the appearance of faith, faith that isn’t truly rooted in Christ, faith that doesn’t act, is like the house built upon the sand. “When the stream broke against [the house without a foundation], immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great” (Luke 6:49). This, Jesus says, is a picture of the kind of false belief that unfortunately seems common in the United States. And here’s the thing: times of testing will come and this kind of faith will not hold up. This is seen in those who walk away from the faith because of troubles, sorrows, because of unfulfilled expectations...whatever the excuse, it shows that one's faith wasn’t truly in Jesus but in some other false idea.
So the big question must be this, “What are you building on?” If you claim a Christian identity, if you say that you are a follower of Christ, does your faith cause you to act? Does your faith manifest itself in prayer, Bible reading, sharing your faith, serving others? Or is your faith simply something that gives you a “good feeling” when you go to church or helps you feel better about yourself and the bad choices you continue to make? Will your faith hold up against the storms of this world? The storms will come. Prepare now, have certainty now, that Christ is your firm foundation.