The Lord's Day Morning
October 11, 2009
“You Are What You Do”
Dr J. Ligon Duncan III
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Luke chapter 6. We’re going to be looking at verses 39 to the end of the chapter as we continue our way through the gospel of Luke. These are Jesus’ words at the end of Luke's recounting of the Sermon on the Mount. These are the stirring words of exhortation and challenge that Matthew also records at some greater length in Matthew chapter 7. They are words of commitment, they are words of what a true disciple is, and Jesus uses the figure here to make the exhortation and challenge and to issue the warning. He uses the metaphor, the figure, of building a house. All of us are building houses. Each one of us in the room is building a house. If you’re living, you’re building a house. You may live in an apartment or a dorm room, but you’re building a house. You’re building a house with your life, and what foundation you’re building on will make all the difference in the house that you’re building. And interestingly, Jesus says you will know what foundation you are building on by what it is that you put into the house. Each of us is building a house, and the question then is in light of Jesus’ exhortation and warning — are we building a house on the right foundation?
For the purpose of this particular illustration, Jesus is using the idea of a foundation to express the thing on which all our hopes are based. Where is our hope? What is the firmest basis of our hopes in this life? And so it's a good question to ask. Are we building the house that we're building on the foundation of the right hope? That's one of the things that Jesus is getting at in this passage. The other thing that He's getting at is — well, how do you know that you’re building your house on a firm foundation, the foundation of the right hope? And His answer to that is, “Look at what you choose to put into this house that you’re building. Look at how you respond to temptations and trials in this life, to the experience of this life. And the choices that you made and the responses that you give are collectively building a house. They are showing you your life. Your life is being depicted more and more in the things you chose and how you respond in what you do. And those things are clues to what your foundation is.” Now this should make all of us very interested, I think, in that question. None of us are exempt from this matter. We’re all building a house with our life. The question is – Are we building that life on the right foundation, and how would we know if we are or if we aren't? Jesus answers both of those questions in this passage. For that reason alone, we should want to give very close attention to God's Word. So let's pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your living Word. It is true, and it is good. It reveals Yourself and Your wisdom and it shows us the way. Open our eyes as we hear it, and especially these, Jesus’ words, that we might respond in faith, believing Your Word to be true, trusting Your Son to be Savior, following in the way of truth. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.
Hear the Word of God beginning in Luke 6:39:
“He also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.
For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to Me and hearts 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. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.’”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write it's eternal truth upon all our hearts.
Every one of us is building a house with our life, and that house is either built on a firm foundation or not. And we know what kind of foundation we're building on by what we choose to put into that house and how we respond to the storms and to the trials and to the temptations of life, how we cope with and respond to the experiences of life. Jesus, in this passage, tells us that those who are truly His disciples, not only had built on a foundation of Him, but they are seen to be His disciples because they do not merely claim to be His disciples, they do what He has taught them to do because, as He says in this passage, a disciple is a person who comes to look like his teacher. Jesus is saying that His disciples are led by His Word in their lives because their hearts are fixed on Him as their treasure. And thus, when their earthly lives are assaulted, whether it's by temptation or by trial, they hold fast to the life that He has given them – that they have been called to – because their lives are built on a foundation that is sure and certain and cannot be shaken by all of the circumstances of this life. Their treasure is in heaven so it's secure, it can't be taken away by trials and it can't be equaled by anything offered in temptation.
And so Jesus’ disciples’ lives are led by His Word and they bear out the truth that they are His disciples, not just by what they claim, but by what they do, what they choose, how they respond to the trials of this life.
Jesus’ message very simply says it over and over again, not only in this passage, the message is just this — “My disciples hear My word and do My word; My disciples not only hear what I say, they do what I say; My disciples show that they really believe Me by obeying what I tell them to do; My disciples’ deeds are decisive clues to their creed; their deeds show what their creed really is. When push comes to shove, they believe Me; they trust Me; they rest on Me; they are not tempted away from Me, nor do they believe that I can ever be taken away from them, no matter what comes to them in life.” Their doing reveals their believing, or as Jesus puts it in verse 44, “each tree is known by its fruit.”
Now in this passage, is Jesus saying that faith plus our works equals salvation? Faith, believing on Him, plus doing His commands, equals being pardoned and accepted by God? That if we will only have faith and obey His commandments, then He will forgive, pardon, accept and save us? No. That's not what Jesus is saying.
So why does He say that, “My disciples are not simply those who hear My word, but those who do My word”? He says that because it is easy to claim to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. So how do you know who is and who isn't? And here's Jesus’ answer — you look at their lives; you look at their foundation. Well, you say, “I can't look at their foundation.” You can look at what they put into the house that they’re building on the foundation, because in the collective totality of their choices and their responses, their attitudes and their priorities, their ambitions, their hopes, and their dreams, you will see their foundation. And My disciples do not merely say that they are disciples, they show that they are disciples by what they do.
And so I have a one-point sermon this morning. And here it is – I can sum it up in one sentence: Jesus’ disciples live their lives on His Word. Jesus’ disciples live their lives on His Word. Isn't that what Jesus is saying in verses 47 and 48? “Every one who comes to Me and hears My words and does them, is like a man building a house who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.” What's Jesus saying in that verse? He's saying it's not enough to claim to be His disciple. We must do what He says, love what He loves, live by His Word.
You know, all of us, when we become communing members of this church, answer five questions of membership. The first two questions of membership acknowledge that we know we are sinners and we need God's grace, and that that grace is provided for us only in Jesus Christ and we must trust in Christ alone by faith alone and thus by the grace of God alone, we are saved and pardoned and accepted and made to be children of God. That's what we do in the first two questions. But in the third question we say this — “Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will now endeavor to live as followers of our Lord Jesus Christ?” That is exactly what Jesus is talking about in this passage. His disciples are not simply those who say “yes” to the questions of membership. They’re the ones who live them, because they treasure Him. It is not that in believing and obeying together that He forgives us, it is that in believing, we are forgiven and the evidence and consequence of that believing is manifest in our living, in our choices, in our obeying, in our doing.
Jesus is warning here against a verbal profession that is not accompanied by a conversion of life. He is warning people who are respectful of Him, people who will listen to Him, but who fail to follow His words. He is saying that those and those only who practically submit to His Lordship in life, those are His disciples. He's saying that, “It's not enough to hear My sayings and understand them. It's not enough to hear My commands and remember them. It's not enough to hear My doctrine and talk about it or repeat it or admire it or discuss it or debate it or even defend it. No, you must hear My words,” Jesus says, “and do them. And the one who hears My words and does them is My disciple. He is built on a foundation that will not be moved. And the one who hears My words and does not do them, is not My disciple, and has built the house of his life on no foundation at all. And when the storms and trials of this life come, that house will fall with a mighty crash.”
Do you hear Jesus saying this over and over in the gospels to His disciples? Remember what He says in Matthew chapter 12 verse 50? “Whoever does the will of My Father is My brother and sister and mother.” Remember what He says in Luke 11:28? “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and observe it.” Remember what He says in John 13:17? “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Remember what He says in John 14:15? “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Remember what He says in John 14:24? “He who does not love Me, does not keep My words.” Remember what He says in John 15:14? “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” Or Paul, in Galatians 6 verses 7 and 8 says, “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, this he also will reap.” And John says, in 1 John 2:3, “We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments.”
Now again I ask you, is Jesus saying, “Faith plus works equals forgiveness, justification, salvation?” No. What is He saying? “You will know if you believe and if your hope is on Me and Me alone, by what you do. What you do will reveal what you are. How you live will show what you believe. Your choices, your responses, your ambitions, will disclose to Me and to the world whether your hope is on Me, whether your foundation is on the Rock, or whether it's on something else.”
You see Jesus is calling His true disciples to build their lives on the Rock. What rock? The Rock of Him and His teaching. He's calling them to conform their thoughts and their desires and their words and their actions to the Gospel. That's the doing about which He is speaking in this passage. To live means to build a house. And every ambition that we cherish, and every thought that we conceive, and every word that we speak, and every deed that we perform, is as it were, a building block that we're adding into that house. And gradually, as we add block after block, brick after brick, piece after piece, a structure of life arises. And that structure gives witness to who is our foundation.
And Jesus is saying, “I am looking at the foundation of your lives and asking, not who claims to be My disciples, not who listens to My teaching, but who lives the way that I have told you to live, because what you do reveals who you really are. And your response to trial and temptation will reveal what you really believe and who you really treasure.” We’re all building a house. The only question is — what is it's foundation, and how will we know? Jesus says, “The only foundation that will hold is Me, My person, My work, what I've taught. And the only way you know you’re building on My foundation is if you love Me more than anything else and you heed My words in your life.”
Now there are many who profess Christ and hope for heaven, but their lives are built on the sand. And the tests and the storms and the trials and finally the Last Judgment, will make clear what the foundation of all our lives is. For believers, that's just one more reason to come to this table. Because even if you’re a believer here today, someone who more than simply professes to believe in Jesus, but who shows with your life that you love Jesus more than anything else, even believers who love the Lord Jesus Christ have put some things into our houses that we realize shouldn't be there. And so we come to this table and we say, “Lord, you are our foundation. It's Your person and work, it's Your atoning sacrifice on the cross that's the basis of my hopes and dreams. Come, rid my life of anything that's out of accord with that.” And of course the fact that Jesus, our foundation, is the One who is offered in the table, explains why those who don't believe in Jesus Christ can't come to this table. This table is for folk who have already said, “My deeds are not a sufficient foundation. Only Jesus is a sufficient foundation.” The question of life is not whether we have deeds good enough to be the foundation. The answer is “no.” That's not the great question of life. The great question of life is, “Are we trusting in the only one who's life is sufficient for our salvation, who's life and death provide our foundation, who's resurrection offers newness of life?” If we're trusting in that foundation, then the only question we ask about our deeds is — Do our deeds evidence that we are truly trusting in Him?
Our Heavenly Father, as we come to the Lord 's Table, we are reminded again of the firm foundation that You have given to Your people in Jesus Christ. Grant then, as we come to the table, we would come in response to Your Word, trusting in Christ alone for salvation, but not just repeating those words by rote, but meaning them from the heart, and thus showing that we mean them with our lives; for we would not simply be hearers, but also doers of the Word, so that we will one day be like our teacher. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.