A sermon by Dr Donald T. Williams - donaldtwilliams.com
Presented at Trinity Fellowship on 08/29/1994
We come today to the conclusion of our Lord's sermon on the Christian life. Two weeks ago we saw the Blessings of the Kingdom: that the joy of being a Christian outweighs poverty, pain, and persecution. Last week we saw the Behavior of the Kingdom: redemptive love that goes far beyond the expectations of the world. Today in conclusion Jesus addresses the Bottom Line of the Kingdom: commitment to him. The words of Jesus (and his Apostles) are central to the Christian life. In this conclusion to his sermon, Jesus gives us three ways in which we are to relate to them and be affected by them: Seeing what He says, Being what He says, and Doing what He says.I. SEEING WHAT HE SAYS (vss. 39, 41)
The first thing is to see what Jesus says. Hearing his words, understanding them, and accepting them must logically precede doing anything about them. So he begins his conclusion by asking us to see ourselves as blind people in need of a guide. The absolutely essential place where we must begin is with the need to admit our blindness apart from Christ. We will not hear his words as we ought, we will not internalize them as we ought, and we will not follow them as we ought as long as we think we can get by with our own wisdom or the wisdom of the other blind guides who offer themselves to us. Admitting our blindness is the first step to seeing what he says.
Our blindness of course is not absolute. Even a pagan or an atheist can see that 2 + 2 = 4. A little light gets in past the logs in our eyes. And that is what makes admitting our blindness to spiritual things so difficult. We can see that we can see some things. How do we know that there is more? A person was once asked how he liked his new glasses. "I like them just fine," he replied, " except that everything looks sharper than it really is." Even with his vision corrected, he was still allowing his previous, default setting to define reality! I can relate to this difficulty well, because I did not get my first pair of glasses until I was in the seventh grade--and I should have gotten them several years earlier. But my distance vision had deteriorated gradually, so I had no idea how bad it really was until I put the glasses on. I remember being fascinated by all the extra wrinkles my elderly spinster teacher, Miss Mims, had suddenly acquired. I kept putting the glasses on and taking them off and putting them back on, marveling at the difference they made in what I could see, marveling at all the detail I had been missing without ever knowing it. It wasn't exactly like having a log removed from my eye, but it was like having a very thick film removed. So I have an inkling of what Jesus was talking about. I had no idea how blind I was; and if you have never considered this whole issue of spiritual blindness, you have no idea how blind you are either. Even while putting yourself forward as a guide or an eye surgeon!
So our spiritual vision is distorted by sin, and until we come to Christ, the master ophthalmologist, we have no way of knowing how much. It is our sin, and our sinful commitments, that are the logs that keep us from seeing the truth. This is easy to illustrate. Think about the abortion issue, for example. All the light of genetics and logic is on one side of that debate, giving consistent and clear testimony to the fact that the human fetus is an individual human being by every scientific criterion that can be brought to bear. And yet this light can make no headway, blocked by the logs of our society's sinful commitments to sex without responsibility and personal convenience as its highest values. In another area, Hebrews 10:25 tells us very explicitly not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. But there are people in whom the light of that verse is impotent against the logs of personal pride and the refusal to be reconciled with their brethren, or of their refusal to submit to any accountability. I am not talking about overt and intentional rebellion. The people I have in mind can read right past that verse without seeing anything contradictory to their lifestyles, just as many secular people really can't seem to see that abortion is murder.
Now, these particular spiritual blind spots are obvious--if they do not happen to be yours. The difficulty is that we all have our own logs and our own resulting blind spots. And the very nature of blind spots is that you do not--indeed cannot--see them. So we all desperately need two things: a guide and a "logodectomy." And Christ alone is the adequate answer to both needs. He gives us the first through a systematic study of his Word, looking not for a "blessing" so much as for truth and its application to all the questions and problems of life. He gives us the second in response to sincere prayer asking him through his Word to identify and remove the specific blind spots that still remain in us. For either to happen we must begin by admitting our need--whether we can "see" it or not!II. BEING WHAT HE SAYS (vss. 40, 43-45)
Seeing what Christ says is necessary but not sufficient. Christian truth is not merely "academic," but it is all meant for use in the "real world." Intellect must lead to action, or we cannot really claim even to have "seen." But even action is not enough: transformation is the goal. That is why Jesus in vs. 40 gives us the principle that the purpose of discipleship (that is the kind of "pupil" he has in mind) is becoming like the teacher or master. Vs. 40 lays down the principle, and vss. 43-45 illustrates it with the pictures of trees and fruit and good or evil treasuries in the heart. We are to become good trees producing good fruit because our very nature is becoming more Christlike, good men and women bringing good things out of the treasuries of our hearts because that is what is really in there. Citing chapters and verses is not enough; even acting on them in an outward and mechanical manner is not enough. Being like Jesus is the goal, and nothing less will do.
How do we become more like Jesus? By being his disciple. By recognizing our need of him as guide and eye surgeon and submitting to him as such. By spending time with him in his Word and practicing what he preaches, not in outward straining to fit a mold but in faith and in dependence on his Holy Spirit to truly transform us from within. It is by the lifelong process of being his disciple. There are no shortcuts.
This then is how we should measure our spiritual progress. Are you more like Jesus than you were a year ago? Do you love redemptively more than you did a year ago? Do you think like Jesus more than you did a year ago? Do your priorities reflect his more than they did a year ago? Is your meat and drink to do the will of the Father? Are you more like Jesus than you were a year ago? If not, what have you been doing? You have just wasted an entire year! What have you achieved? Nothing but blind, aimless wandering, getting nowhere while leading other blind people into the ditch, and trying to operate on their eyes in the dark! Let us not be satisfied to be his professing believers; let us be his disciples indeed and so become more like him.III. DOING WHAT HE SAYS (vs. 46-49)
The emphasis on being what Jesus says does not take anything away from doing what he says. Rather, it is what makes it possible, for the only doing that counts spiritually is doing that flows from this being. If we are truly seeing what he says and becoming what he says, then we will not be going through the motions but will truly be doing what he says. This is where the rubber meets the road. Then we will not just be theoretically committed to forgiving our debtors, but actually accepting them back into fellowship and closing the books on their offenses. Then we will not just be theoretically committed to the truth of Scripture but actually studying and living by the whole teaching of Scripture. Then we will not just be theoretically committed to evangelism but actually giving sacrificially to missions and witnessing for Christ effectively ourselves because now we are truly representing him in more than just our words. The question we must ask ourselves this morning is, "How much of our commitment to these things is merely theoretical? If the answer is "too much," you will not change it by taking my words as a guilt trip. You will change it by truly seeing what Jesus says, being what he says, and then doing what he says.
The consequences of seeing, being, and doing--or not--are laid out graphically in vss. 48-49, the familiar parable of the two houses. The wise man built his house upon the rock, the foolish on the sand. What we are building of course is our lives. If they are not built on the solid foundation of what Jesus says, and built on that foundation by seeing, being, and doing, then we will see everything we have spent our lives on come to nothing. Other foundation can no man lay, says Paul, "building" on this metaphor, than that which is laid, which is Christ. When I was still in school and in need of summer jobs, I worked for a two-bit outfit called Hayes Construction Company. We were building an addition on to a lady's house. After we had poured the foundation and laid the sub-flooring and were starting up with the frames for the walls, she came out into the addition, saw what it looked like, got a look of consternation on her face, and went back into the house for a tape measure. It seems Mr. Hayes had poured the foundation six feet short of where the plans dictated! They had a very interesting discussion which decorum and respect for the house of God forbids me to repeat verbatim here. Guess what? Because we had not built on the right foundation, all that work could have been for nothing. She would have been within her rights to make us tear the whole thing up and start over. (Instead, she agreed to let him finish the project for a greatly reduced price. But that part is not parallel to the parable!) As we were finishing it the rest of the summer, the nice lady would bring lemonade out to us workers (whom she knew not to be at fault). She never gave any lemonade to Mr. Hayes.
You get the point. The foundation is important! Indeed it is the most important part of any building. And the foundation of life is the Word of Christ, and the only building on that foundation that matters is seeing, being, and doing those words.CONCLUSION
What the Lord is saying here is, "Take me seriously!" Do not just go through the motions of religion. It is a waste of time. It matters whether you see what he is saying, whether you are letting him guide you and take the logs out of your eyes, whether you as a result are becoming like him so that you can truly do what he says, not in mechanical conformity but because it flows from the treasure of your heart. Much is at stake: whether your life will be fulfilled or futile, worthwhile or wasted, erected on the Rock or sunk in the sand. The storm is coming. How will your house withstand the flood?
Here endeth the lesson. Dr. Donald T. Williams
Updated 12/21/2004 12:27 AM