Scripture: Matthew 7:21-29
Title: Jesus is Lord
In his poem, The Divided World, Owen Marshall makes the observation…
– “The world is divided between those who say they adore the countryside and never go there, and those who say they hate the city and never leave it… between indecision and hypocrisy, between feeble vacillation and energetic error, between cup and lip.”
When we talk with someone over a cup of tea there is a gap between cup and lip – but once we stop talking and start drinking there is no gap
– The point here, it seems to me, is there’s often a gap between what people say they value and how they behave
– The truth is usually found in what one does, more than in what one says
– If someone says they love the countryside but never leaves the city then, assuming they are not held hostage, they actually prefer the city
– Those who genuinely love the countryside find a way to move there – they stop talking about it and do it, they close the gap and drink the tea
This morning we continue our series on the titles of Jesus, with a focus today on Jesus as ‘Lord’
– Please turn with me to Matthew chapter 7, verse 21, page 11 toward the back of your pew Bibles
– This passage concludes Jesus’ sermon on the Mount – it is essentially a call for Jesus’ disciples to actually apply the things he has said
– If we really do believe that Jesus is Lord then we will follow his teaching
– Those who genuinely love Jesus will find a way to obey him
– From Matthew 7, verses 21-29, we read…
“Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do. 22 When the Judgment Day comes, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God’s message, by your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!’ 23 Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you wicked people!’
24 “So then, anyone who hears these words of mine and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain poured down, the rivers flooded over, and the wind blew hard against that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on rock.
26 “But anyone who hears these words of mine and does not obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain poured down, the rivers flooded over, the wind blew hard against that house, and it fell. And what a terrible fall that was!”
28 When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowd was amazed at the way he taught. 29 He wasn’t like the teachers of the Law; instead, he taught with authority.
May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this Scripture for us
The question before us today is: What does it mean to call Jesus, ‘LORD’?
– I’ve come up with a little acronym to guide our thinking
– To call Jesus, ‘LORD’, means to Listen, Obey, Receive & Decide
The theologian, Paul Tillich, is quoted as saying…
– “The first duty of love is to listen”
To truly listen we must stop talking and change our focus – take the attention off ourselves and give it to the one we are listening to
– Listening is a kind of hospitality of the soul
– When we listen we make room for someone else in our heart and mind
– We also give them the gift of our time & attention
– Listening shows respect and value for the other person
When we listen to Jesus we learn the will of God
– No one reveals the will of God more clearly than Jesus
– Knowledge is power – when we listen to Jesus we receive the power of knowing the way of salvation
The classic gospel story of listening is the story of Mary & Martha in Luke 10
– You know how it goes – Jesus turns up at Mary & Martha’s house with his disciples and responsible Martha makes herself busy doing all the practical tasks of providing hospitality for her guests, while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens
– Martha gets upset with Mary and tells Jesus what he should do about it
– “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me?”
– Somehow Martha missed the obvious: to call Jesus, ‘Lord’, means he is the boss. We don’t tell him what to do, he tells us what to do
– The first duty of love is to listen
– Real hospitality starts with listening, not with busy chores
Hospitality is a big deal in the Middle East – it’s a matter of honour or shame
– Perhaps Martha was feeling the weight of social pressure and was worried about upholding the honour of her village by providing top rate hospitality for Jesus
– Jesus replies saying, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled over so many things, but just one is needed. Mary has chosen the right thing and it won’t be taken from her”
– I don’t think this is a condemnation of Martha – it is perhaps more of an invitation for Martha to join Mary listening at Jesus’ feet
To call Jesus ‘Lord’ means not telling him what to do – not trying to make him serve our ends – but instead listening to him with the purpose of learning what God wants and serving God’s will
But listening to Jesus in itself is not enough – listening needs to be accompanied by obeying Jesus
– Listening fulfils its purpose in obedience – without obedience listening is a waste of time
As Jesus says in his parable: “So then, anyone who hears these words of mine and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded over, and the wind blew hard against that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on rock…”
Take Noah for example. Noah listened to God and obeyed him in every detail
– God said build an ark because a flood is coming and this is the wood you are to use and these are the dimensions and this is the method
– Noah listened and followed God’s instructions to the letter – Noah was like the wise man who built his house on the rock of God’s word
In contrast, not obeying God’s word (as revealed in Jesus) is like building on sand
Imagine if Noah hadn’t obeyed God – imagine if Noah built a different kind of boat to the one God described
– So instead of using the dimensions God had given him, Noah came up with his own measurements. Then the boat would have sank
– You see it’s not enough to use the tools and the materials God provides – we also have to follow His instructions
The really disturbing thing about verses 21-23 of Matthew 7 is that some of those who call Jesus ‘Lord’ are deluded
– They are not maliciously trying to deceive others – they think they are doing what God wants of them
– In verse 22 Jesus says: ‘When Judgement Day comes, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God’s message, by your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles.’
– Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me you wicked people!’
One would think that if someone preaches in Jesus’ name and drives out demons and performs miracles that they are obeying God – that their life is built on a firm foundation – but apparently this is not necessarily so
– Apparently it is possible to do all these wonderful things and yet somehow miss the main point
– Given the immediate context of Matthew 7 we can say that the ability to preach, drive out demons and perform miracles is not the foundation
– These are all good things and they may be provide useful material for building the walls & roof or for cleaning the house of our soul
– But at the end of the day our gifts and abilities, no matter how good or spiritual, do not provide a firm and reliable foundation for eternal life
So what is the main point that these well-meaning people are missing – what does provide a firm foundation?
– The test isn’t whether we can perform miracles – the test is whether Jesus knows us
– What matters in the end is the quality of our relationship with Jesus
– Have we truly received Jesus, personally?
– Have we trusted Jesus enough to be honest with him, to take off our mask, drop our defences and let him in?
– Have we shared in his earthly experience?
– Have we suffered humiliation, rejection, loneliness and loss through our identification with him?
– Jesus won’t recognise us by our achievements
– He will recognise us by our scars
– Do we bear the scars of love for him?
– The foundation is friendship with Jesus – if we love Jesus then we will obey his commands, we will build our life on his teaching
Mother Teresa is quoted as saying…
– “God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful.”
John the Baptist was faithful but by worldly standards we couldn’t really say he was successful
– God asked John to prepare the way for the Messiah – for Jesus – and that’s what John did
– He called people to repentance and to right living in preparation for Jesus’ coming
– As far as we know John didn’t perform any miracles, he simply obeyed God’s instructions faithfully
– And what did he get for doing this?
– Many of his followers left him to become disciples of Jesus – to which John said, “I must become less and he must become more”
– Then Herod had John thrown in prison and eventually beheaded
– John suffered for his obedience to God, as Jesus did
– Jesus understands suffering & pain – he knows us by our scars
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”
A little story to help make this point about faithful obedience…
Once there was a lighthouse keeper who had but one job – to keep the lamp burning at night so ships wouldn’t come aground on the rocks
– This was in the days before electricity and automation
– The lighthouse keeper was given an allowance of oil as fuel for the lamp
– Each week he received a new batch of oil, just enough to keep the lamp of the lighthouse burning for 7 nights until a new batch came
– He couldn’t afford to spare any oil or the lamp would go out
One day a travelling merchant came by and asked the lighthouse keeper to sell him some oil at a fair price
– But the lighthouse keeper refused and the merchant went away complaining about how unreasonable the lighthouse keeper was
The next day a farmer came to him and asked to borrow some oil for fixing the wheels of his wagon
– But the lighthouse keeper refused and the farmer went away grumbling about how mean spirited the lighthouse keeper was
Then on Saturday the pastor of the local church came by asking for oil for the evening service the next day
– But the lighthouse keeper refused him too and the pastor went away to preach a vigorous sermon on the evils of greed
The following day a poor widow came and asked the lighthouse keeper for some oil for her stove, for her children were hungry and her house was cold
– The lighthouse keeper made an exception for her but he didn’t touch the oil set aside for the lighthouse lamp
– Instead he gave her oil from his own stove and went hungry himself that night. He only had one condition: that she didn’t tell anyone
Every day someone came wanting oil for some good reason or other and, except for the poor widow, the lighthouse keeper turned them all away empty handed
– It wasn’t long before almost everyone in the district hated him and the weight of loneliness crept in
– But still the lighthouse keeper was faithful to his calling, always keeping the lamp lit through the night so the ships could find safe passage
– No ships came aground on his watch
We are each given oil in some form another – to call Jesus ‘Lord’ is to use what God has given us for his purpose
– Listening with obedience, this is faithfulness and faithfulness to God is success, eternally speaking
Of course we can’t listen to and obey God without receiving from Jesus
– Jesus is not the kind of Lord who is always taking, always wanting more
– Jesus is the kind of Lord who wants to give good things to his people
– We receive many things from Jesus: forgiveness, joy, redemption, eternal life, resurrection, healing, peace and of course love
– But we need to stay connected to receive
Desmond Tutu once said…
– “We are only lightbulbs and our job is just to remain screwed in”
By itself the lightbulb can’t produce light
– By itself the lightbulb is fragile and vulnerable
– To be able to serve its purpose and provide light for people in the room the bulb needs to receive power
– Jesus is the power source – we can’t listen and obey without Jesus
– We can’t love others without God
In John 13, the night before his crucifixion and death, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, but when he gets to Peter, Peter won’t let him
– For whatever reason Peter is reluctant to receive from Jesus – there’s a wall there, an inner defence around his heart
– But the Lord says to Peter: “If I do not wash your feet you will no longer be my disciple”
– Calling Jesus, ‘Lord’, means having the humility and the trust to lower our guard, to let Jesus in and to receive from him
– What is it that Jesus wants to give you?
Later that same evening, after Peter has submitted to Jesus washing his feet, the Lord talks about how he is the vine and we are the branches and the only way to be fruitful is to remain in him
– Just as the lightbulb needs to stay screwed in to the power source to give light, so too the branches need to stay grafted into the vine to bear fruit
– We receive the power to love others from Jesus – we can’t do anything to manufacture love on our own
It is possible to preach and do miracles in Jesus’ name without really loving those we serve – but if we do these things without love then they are empty.
– As the apostle Paul says in Corinthians 13…
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
To do great things (miraculous things even) without love is to build our house (our life) on sand – it won’t last
To call Jesus, ‘Lord’, means to listen, obey, receive and decide
– Each significant life decision we make needs to be based on our relationship with Christ – we can’t sit on the fence
Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher and theologian, born in 1813
– Kierkegaard had a significant influence on 20th Century philosophy, particularly existentialism and post-modernism
Existentialism is a way of thinking, in which one draws one’s existence into their philosophical reflection
– In other words, existentialism is not dreaming up some abstract idea behind a desk in an ivory tower
– Existential thinking grows out of the soil of one’s real life experience – the things that really matter to you personally
– Jesus’ parables are very existential – earthed as they are in people’s day to day existence
As an existential thinker Kierkegaard believed that it’s only when we make significant decisions and act on those decisions that we relate to our own existence
– For example, if you fall into the sea you have no personal interest in the chemical composition of water
– You don’t care that water is comprised of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H2O)
– What matters to you at that point is the decision to live, to keep your head above water until help comes
– You can’t be sure that help will reach you in time, but your belief (or your hope) that someone will save you, keeps you afloat and breathing
Kierkegaard believed that objective truths, things can be proven, things we can be absolutely certain about, like 2+2=4, are irrelevant
– What matters is subjective truth, things that can’t be proved, things that require a decision of faith
You can never know for certain if a person will forgive you when you wrong them – therefore it is existentially important to you (it matters to your existence)
– You can believe they will forgive you and, based on your faith in their good nature, decide to ask for forgiveness
– But you can’t know for sure whether they will forgive until after you have asked and they have responded
When you are on your death bed you don’t ponder the objective fact that the sum of the angles of a triangle is always 180 degrees
– No – you think about existential questions – questions of faith related to your existence, like whether the Bible is true
– Whether God will forgive you and let you into heaven
– And whether Jesus did actually rise from the dead and is in fact Lord
– That ‘Jesus is Lord’ cannot be proven in a mathematical or scientific way in this life – we have to decide in faith whether this is true for us or not
– And if we decide that it is true for us, personally, then that should affect the whole of our life (like the foundation of a house)
Most people didn’t like Kierkegaard during his lifetime – he was a bit of a lonely lighthouse keeper really
– He criticised the masses for their non-committal talk
– People in his society just went along with whatever idea was fashionable at the time without any true depth of commitment to the idea
– Many church goers, in his view, didn’t walk the talk – they were what we might call Sunday Christians – Kierkegaard challenged that
When Jesus told his parable of the man who built his house on the rock and the man who built his house on the sand, he was challenging his audience (us) with an existential question
– Jesus was saying, my word (my teaching) isn’t just an abstract theory
– My teaching has a real consequence for your existence, personally
– There is no middle ground with this – you have to decide
– We can’t build our house half on the rock and half on the sand
– We can’t make some life decisions based on our friendship with Jesus and leave Jesus out of other decisions – that’s not going to work
– Nor is it any good to just pay lip service to Jesus – true faith finds expression through action, through obedience
This morning we have talked about what it means to call Jesus, ‘Lord’
– Calling Jesus, ‘Lord’ isn’t just a convention or a nicety
– Calling Jesus, ‘Lord’ is an existential issue – it is a matter of faith which is vital to our existence
– If we are truly committed to the belief that ‘Jesus is Lord’ then we will listen to him, we will obey him, we will let him in to receive from him and we will decide to build our whole life on him
What is it you believe about Jesus?
– What is Jesus saying to you today?
– What might obedience look like in your life personally?
Questions for discussion or reflection:
1.) What stands out for you in reading this Scripture and/or in listening to the sermon?
2.) What does it mean to call Jesus, ‘Lord’?
3.) What is it you believe about Jesus, personally?
4.) What does to mean to be known by Jesus?
5.) How might we listen to God?
6.) What is Jesus saying to you today?
7.) What might obedience look like in your life personally?
8.) What do you need to receive from Jesus to do God’s will?
9.) What are you building your life on? (I.e. What do you base your decisions on?)