Our reading contains some challenging words of the Lord: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” (Luke 6:46–49 NIV)

There is a saying that goes, ‘When all is said and done, much more is said than done’! Does this saying apply to us, brethren and sisters? Are we all talk and no action? Do we just talk about the walk or do we walk the talk? Is it a case with us of, ‘do as I say but not as I do’ because of our failure to translate what we say into what we do?

Let’s revisit the words of our Lord Jesus. Why would we call Jesus our Lord and then ignore his exhortation? Would this not make a mockery of our claims that we have taken Jesus on as our Lord? We have all heard the words of the Lord Jesus. Do we put them into practice or do we simply let them fall to the floor? Have the words of the Lord Jesus changed us? Are we any different for having heard the words of Jesus? Have his words changed who we are: our behaviour, our lifestyle, what we do and don’t do? If the answer is no, Jesus has a blunt warning – it will not end well for us. We will be “like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Habits

It’s all about habits. With each repetition of an act we weave another thread into the habit rope until it is so strong it cannot be broken. With each repeti­tion of an act we are gradually transformed. Our thinking changes; our thought patterns change – furrows in our minds are carved out by repetition so that future thoughts are channelled down familiar routes. It is hard to break out of such thought pat­terns, just as it is hard to ‘teach old dogs new tricks’. Habits are hard to break – they grow stronger with time and repetition. What habits are we forming? Are we forming spiritual habits? If we are not, the Lord Jesus tells us we are vulnerable – we are like one who has built a house without a foundation. When the storms of life come and beat against such a house it collapses almost immediately. It looks acceptable, for one cannot see that it is without foundation. Only when the wind blows and the rains come do we discover who has been living without foundation; who has failed to put down any roots; who has failed to dig deep and lay a solid foundation on the bedrock of the exhortations of the Lord Jesus.

It’s a bit like keeping fit. We grow physically stronger with every repetition of our training re­gime. How is our spiritual exercise going, brethren and sisters? Are we growing spiritually stronger through each repetition of the exhortations of our Lord Jesus so that we might stand when the storms of life strike?

To use another illustration, have we anchored our lives to the sayings of the Lord Jesus? Have we put down our ‘anchor’ in the bedrock of the teach­ings of our Lord Jesus that we might stand both sure and steadfast; that nothing might be able to tear us apart; that we might no longer be tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine?

Doing the will of God

Matthew also records the parable of the wise and foolish man. Immediately beforehand we read the words of Jesus, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21). What does it mean to do the will our heavenly Father? What is the will of our God? This is a fundamental question (one which will determine whether we enter the kingdom or not) and yet one which we don’t dwell on as much as we should! Indeed, the answer might surprise us. We know what the purpose of God is – that all the earth be filled with His glory. But what is His will? His will is inextricably linked to His purpose. His purpose will only be fulfilled in men and women who imitate His character, therefore rendering glory to Him. His will is that all men and women will be a part of the fulfilment of His purpose and thereby that all might be saved. Consider the evidence when one looks at the following references to the will of God:

  • Matthew 18:14, “it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish”
  • John 6:39–40 NIV, “this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me … For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life”
  • Ephesians 1:5, “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ unto himself, according unto the good pleasure of his will”
  • 1 Timothy 2:3 NIV: “This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved”
  • 2 Peter 3:9 NIV: “The Lord is … not wanting anyone to perish”

So, if the will of God is that all should be saved and none should perish, what does it mean for us to do the will of God? Does it not mean that we ought to be found similarly engaged in seeking to save all of God’s children? Ought not our mantra to be, ‘Our heavenly Father worketh hitherto and I work’ that we might be co-workers with our God and fellow-workers with our Lord Jesus in seeking that none be lost; that we might edify, encourage, reach out and not tear down, discourage or cut off? And like our God and our Lord Jesus, our love ought never to be exclusive: “Let us not become weary in doing good … let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal 6:9-10 NIV).

Are we Christadelphians in truth and not merely in name? Consider the test applied by the Lord Jesus: “Whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother and my sister and my mother” (Mark 3:35), or as Luke records, “My mother and my brethren are those which hear the word of God and do it” (8:21). Are we really Christadelphians? We are, if we do God’s will, working with Him to save that none might be lost. Christ’s brethren and sisters are those who at his return will be found as doctors and nurses busily attending to the needs of his brothers and sisters in his place of healing and therapy.

A faith that works

While it is true that it is by grace that we will be saved and by faith that it might be by grace and not by works, it is also true that faith must work! Faith which does not work is not faith – it is nothing – it is dead! For faith to be real it must find expression in action; it must motivate us to do something on account of our faith, as the parable of the talents illustrates so well. The Lord warmly commended the industrious servant: “Well done, good and faithful servant”! The Lord described the indolent servant as, “Thou wicked and slothful servant!” The lazy will not enter into the joy of the Lord (Matt 25:21–26). A lazy faith is no faith at all.

Brethren and sisters, the ‘sheep’ as described in the parable of Matthew 25 are active! They act on their instincts. They give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, lodging to the homeless, clothing to the destitute, they look after the sick and they visit the lonely! What of us, brethren and sisters? Are we full of the best intentions that are never translated into action? When our conscience pricks us to act, do we procrastinate to the point at which that impulse to do something is so blunted that we no longer feel it? Let’s not be all talk and no action. Let’s put ‘overalls’ on our faith! Let’s roll up the sleeves of our faith and get our hands dirty and let us act on the impulse to reach out to help our brother or sister in need. The Apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthians in their generosity. But he also said, “now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it” (2 Cor 8:11 NIV). Let’s strive to translate the spark of intent into action. When a compulsion to act wells up within our heart, let’s do so rather than letting that instinct wither and die. Faith by itself, if it is not ac­companied by action, is dead. Is our faith dead, brethren and sisters? Ask yourself, how many times have you or I seen a brother or a sister poor or destitute and simply offered a lame duck: ‘All the best’, ‘Take care’ or ‘God bless’ and done absolutely nothing to actually address their physical needs. What good is it? Where is the love of God in that? The Apostle John asks us, “Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:17). Does the love of God dwell in us, brethren and sisters? Do we love with words and speech alone or do we love with action?

Could we be armchair Christadelphians, brethren and sisters? Legends in our own lounge-rooms but missing in action outside of them! Good in theory but weak in practice? Great off the field, ordinary on it! James warns against self-deception and commends the practice of the Word. As James says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (1:27). Have we got the balance right, brethren and sisters? Are we so focused on keeping ourselves from being polluted by the world that we fail to see the orphans and widows in their distress? Has our religion become one of exclusion and isolation and little about looking after orphans and widows in their affliction? Why did Jesus say in Matthew 5:20, “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heav­en?” Because it was a religion of negativity – of what they didn’t do, rather than what they did do. Further, a great disconnect had arisen between what they said and what they did. Everything they did was done for people to see. Do we practise what we preach? How much of what we do is done for other people to see? Could we be hypocrites and “men-pleasers” (see Eph 6:6)? No, let us do the will of God from our hearts, serving others out of an unfeigned love. Let it not be self-serving, constantly looking sideways to see what impression we are making on others.

In conclusion brethren and sisters, in the words of Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV), “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching”. We need to persevere so that when we have done the will of God, we will receive what He has promised. The day of God’s assessment of our lives is so near!