46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and don’t do what I say? 47 I’ll show what it’s like when someone comes to me, hears my words, and puts them into practice. 48 It’s like a person building a house by digging deep and laying the foundation on bedrock. When the flood came, the rising water smashed against that house, but the water couldn’t shake the house because it was well built. 49 But those who don’t put into practice what they hear are like a person who built a house without a foundation. The floodwater smashed against it and it collapsed instantly. It was completely destroyed.”
But terribly, tragically, and destructively, humans inexplicably and heinously chose to make a play to gods ourselves. Now we hear but filter what we hear through our own arrogant passion to be in control of our lives. We hear God’s call as at best a well-meant suggestion and at worst an unwanted intrusion into our living our lives. We grow earlids that automatically close when God speaks to us.
To enter the kingdom Jesus announces, the one in which he is “Lord (and of which he has been speaking in Luke 6), requires the excising of these earlids. It means a reversal of the catastrophe in the garden. Hearing and heeding are bound together again because Jesus lived it out among us and for us. Ceding control of our lives to Jesus, in the grace and power of the dawning of God’s kingdom in and through him, is even more than a reversal, in fact. Now it is not a question of whether we can keep God’s word or not; rather, it is a matter of whether we will do what we now can do. And that’s a whole different thing!
Jesus points to this new reality we meet in God’s kingdom in v.47: “I’ll show what it’s like when someone comes to me, hears my words, and puts them into practice.” The order is crucial. Coming to Jesus, enlisting in the corps of those following his kingdom movement, is the transformative moment. To enter the kingdom is to experience renewal, newness, and new possibilities. Those who so come to Jesus – those who call him “Lord” – are able to now both hear and heed, put into practice, his word. And that’s what God always wanted from his creatures, his children.
And in the gravity of the situation facing Jesus and his people, nothing was more crucial than this gift to hear and heed anew and afresh. For the very existence of Israel was at stake in Jesus’ ministry. Having chosen other ways to try and be God’s people than obedient hearing of God’s word, Israel was running straight into the oblivion Rome promised all its clients who strove to be free of its yoke. And that’s what nearly all Jews wanted and some were already taking up arms to try and effect. Jesus knows that is the way of destruction. He speaks prophetically about this terror in Luke 21. He knows that his kingdom movement of hearing-heeding God’s word was the only way for Israel to be the faithful Abrahamic people through whom God intended to bless the rest of the world (Gen.12:1-3). And the only way for them survive the coming catastrophe, the “flood” of which Jesus speaks here in vv.48-49!
To cease attempting to be God’s people by their own wisdom and strength and humbly join the corps of obedient hearers Jesus is drawing around himself as the only way to avoid destruction and truly be God’s people, that’s what at stake here!
And that’s not so far removed from our own situation, is it? Most observers see the church (as we have known it here in North America) as marching to oblivion for reasons too numerous and obvious to detail. It seems clear though that our crisis is precipitated at heart by our own failure in obedient hearing of God’s word. That makes these words of Jesus from the first century just as relevant and necessary for us today in the twenty-first century!
A twenty-first century follower of Jesus has heard and heeds these Jesus’ words. He’s borne testimony to what it means to him to be an “out of control” disciple, one who has ceded control to Jesus and lets the chips fall where they many. Listen to his witness (“A Magna Carta of Trust by an Out-of-Control Disciple” from Leonard Sweet’s Soul Cafe (March 1996 Vol. 2, No. 1)
I am part of the Church of the Out-of-Control. I once was a control junkie, but now am an Out-of-Control Disciple. I’ve given up my control to God. I trust and obey the Spirit. I’ve jumped off the fence, I’ve stepped over the line, I’ve pulled out all the stops, I’m holding nothing back. There’s no turning back, looking around, slowing down, backing away, letting up, or shutting up. It’s life Against the Odds, Outside the Box, Over the Wall, the game of life played Without Goal Lines other than “Thy Will Be Done…”
I’m done lapdogging for the topdogs, the wonderdogs, the overdogs, or even the underdogs. I’m done playing According to the Rules, whether it’s Robert’s Rules of Order or Miss Manner’s Rules of Etiquette or Martha Stewart’s Rules of Living or Louis Farrakhan’s Rules of America’s Least Wanted or Merril Lynch’s Money-minding/Bottom-lining/Ladder-climbing Rules of America’s Most Wanted.
I am not here to please the dominant culture or to serve any all-show/no-go bureaucracies. I live to please my Lord and Savior. My spiritual taste-buds have graduated from fizz and froth to Fire and Ice.
Sometimes I’m called to sharpen the cutting edge, and sometimes to blunt the cutting edge. Don’t give me that old-time religion. Don’t give me that new-time religion. Give me that all-time religion that’s as hard as rock and as soft as snow.
I’ve stopped trying to make life work, and started trying to make life sing. I’m finished with second-hand sensations, third-rate dreams, low-risk high-rise trades and goose-stepping, flag-waving crusades. I no longer live by and for anything but everything God-breathed, Christ-centered, and Spirit-driven.
I can’t be bought by any personalities or perks, positions or prizes. I won’t give up, though I will give in… to openness of mind, humbleness of heart, and generosity of spirit. When short-handed and hard-pressed, I will never again hang in there. I will stand in there, I will run in there, I will pray in there, I will sacrifice in there, I will endure in there– in fact I will do everything in there but hang. My face is upward, my feet are forward, my eyes are focused, my way is cloudy, my knees are worn, my seat uncreased, my heart burdened, my spirit light, my road narrow, my mission wide.
I won’t be seduced by popularity, traduced by criticism, by hypocrisy, or trivialized by mediocrity. I am organized religion’s best friend, and worst nightmare. I won’t back down, slow down, shut down, or let down until I’m preached out, teached out, healed out or hauled out of God’s mission in the world entrusted to members of the Church of the Out-of-Control… to unbind the confined, whether they’re the downtrodden or the upscale, the overlooked or the underrepresented.
My fundamental identity is as a disciple of Jesus–but even more, as a disciple of Jesus who lives in Christ, who doesn’t walk through history simply “in his steps,” but seeks to travel more deeply IN HIS SPIRIT.
Until he comes again or calls me home, you can find me filling not killing time so that one day he will pick me out in the lineup of the ages as one of his own. And then… it will be worth it all… to hear these words, the most precious words I can ever hear:
‘Well done, thou good and faithful… Out-of-Control Disciple.’
And this, this is the only way for us, as for those first-century disciples, to escape the “flood” coming our way and live faithfully, without earlids, in a way that glorifies our Creator and Redeemer and brings divine blessing to the rest of the world.