Journeying slowly through the Gospel of Luke I notice two parallel teachings of Jesus that challenge me. In these passages, Scripture comes to life, showing how the heart’s response to the teachings of Jesus must lead to corresponding actions. When it does, it results in our growth in wisdom and represents him well to the world.
The first is the well-known parable of the two types of builders in Luke 6:46-49 (NLT):
“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.” Powerful words!
Notice that the first verb is come. There is nothing to build, and nothing to build upon, until we first come humbly to God to receive his grace in salvation. At this point, the work is on God’s part, because we are incapable of being saved by our own works. He draws us, and when we hear the good news and receive it into our hearts, our part is to trust that it is true. God then positions us upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. There is no other firm foundation (1 Cor. 3:11).
The second action is to listen. After salvation, we enter the training academy of Jesus. He becomes our rabbi and teacher, and we come under the yoke of his teaching. We take it in daily, by reading it, hearing it, speaking it, singing it, meditating on it, memorizing it, praying through it. It truly becomes the air we breathe or our daily bread, as the song says.
If we stop at the point of listening, we do not progress toward wisdom and godliness. Jesus rebuked those who hear his word but don’t obey it. Whatever they think they are building will not stand when a storm comes. I like the paraphrase from The Message, “These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.”
When we receive his teachings, we don’t treat them as a magic method for self-improvement. His words, revealed by the Spirit and word of God are the basis of all our decisions and choices, our work, our play, our coming and going. There is no part of life in which his truth is not considered. The Passion translation adds this emphasis, “…If you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation.” This is why Jesus says there is no point in calling him Lord if you don’t do what he says!
The second passage is embedded in Luke 7. Jesus responds to messengers sent by John the Baptist seeking assurances that he is the Messiah. He gives them a message for John, pointing to his ministry of healing and preaching: “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news” (Lk. 7:22-23). Jesus claimed that his deeds spoke for themselves. This clues us in on the kind of works he expects us to pursue after we have made him Lord.
Jesus knew that some people would be convinced that he was Messiah, and others would be offended, and so he added, “Blessed is the one who isn’t offended by me.” If we can’t get past being offended, we miss out on the blessing of being permanently attached to the kingdom of Christ.
What follows has always puzzled me, so I looked at it in a dozen translations to get a better understanding. The conventional translation reads, “Wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” Other translations add nuances, such as “The proof of wisdom is in all the kinds of people it produces” (CJB); “Wisdom is shown to be right by what its followers do” (CEV); “Wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it” (NLT); “The wisdom of God will be proven true by the expressions of godliness in everyone who follows me” (TPT); “A man is proved wise by what he has done”(WE). In all these interpretations, it is in doing right and showing godly character that we display what kind of houses we have built, and upon what foundation, rock or sand. The Message has this rather prosaic take on it, “Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
These teachings are confirmed in the epistles. Paul states that after receiving revelation that we are Christ’s image bearers, we move from “glory to glory” as we reflect him in the world (2 Cor 3:18). We are to consistently remember and represent his goodness, compassion, wisdom, and zeal for God. We put truth into motion by doing good.
Peter writes convincingly that our works of righteousness will get the attention of the world, even arousing persecution by people who are offended by Christ and his message (1 Pet. 3). James argues that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). We understand that he is not promoting works-based salvation. He is observing that our works are how our faith becomes developed and evident to others. We become people who look just like Jesus because we do as he does. We become people who have built sturdy, beautiful houses upon solid rock, and nothing in this world can tear them down.
We come to Jesus with humble hearts, listen intently to his words, and diligently, daily put them into practice. Then we are shown to be wise, and can truly call him Lord.