Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!
“I keep trying to impress God with how much I know about the Bible and God keeps trying to impress me with how little I obey.” That’s something my professor Howard Hendricks used to repeat to us wide-eyed seminarians. We squirmed each time he said it along with some other zingers like, “In the spiritual realm, the opposite of ignorance is not knowledge, it’s obedience”, and “Biblically speaking, to hear and not to do is not to hear at all.” Our professor had us figured out! He had our number! He had once sat where we sat, wanting to be smart and to outsmart and to have the answers.
Today’s Scripture gives the closing words of the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is warning about the danger of Biblical knowledge without obedience. He tells a parable about two men, a wise man and a foolish one. Jesus says that the difference between the two men comes down to this: one hears and acts on Jesus’ words; the other hears but doesn’t act.
Jesus teaches that hearing and acting on His words is building a life on the rock, while hearing and not acting is playing the fool by building a life on sand. Jesus’ younger brother James echoes Jesus’s warning in his New Testament letter: “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves” (James 1:22). It’s easy to be deceived into thinking that knowing God’s Word makes up for not being doers. The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day possessed a Bible knowledge that would cut most of us down to size. But they were deceiving themselves. They weren’t doers!
A missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators told me about his joy in translating the New Testament into the language of an indigenous tribe in Mexico. The people were so excited to gather daily in small groups read God’s Word in their language. They would take turns reading a few verses of Scripture and then go around the circle asking: “Are you obeying what God says to us in these verses?” They saw no reason to read the next verses until they first obeyed what God had already said to them. In a sense, they gathered not for “Bible Study”, but for “Bible Obeying”. They were building lives on rock and not sand.
I’m thinking today about how in American we have the Bible in own language. I’ve even got the Bible on my cell phone. We’ve got whole shelves of Bible study helps and commentaries, video series and podcasts and free resources on the Internet. What kind of spiritual revolution might we unleash in our country if we take God’s Word as seriously as that tribe of “Bible Doers” in Mexico!
Grace and peace,