The YouTube video of Bob Newhart giving counsel to a claustrophobic woman is truly funny. His direct approach to curing complex problems is only two words. “Stop it!” Just “Stop it!” We chuckle, wishing that behavior could be changed so easily! But, the power of the will is phenomenal. It’s not so easily directed in the right path. Past year recaps and new year’s resolutions testify!
Jesus, according to the Gospel of Luke, was incredibly direct and forthright. To use the familiar phrase, Jesus knew how to speak truth to power! He was that kind of prophet. But he was also the prophet who spoke truth to people like you and me, powerful or not. The starting line that this new year presents is a good time to hear and heed Jesus’ teaching. He is the one who asks, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I say?” (Luke 6.46).*
“But I do!” many will protest. Yet Jesus asked that question to bring focus to fuzzy headed, strong willed followers who weren’t really listening. You may be in that company. A simple review of Jesus’ teaching in the sixth chapter of Luke will help you discern. Here is a portion: “But to you who are listening, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.” How do you fare so far? “If someone strikes you on the cheek, offer him the other cheek as well. If someone takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well. To everyone who asks of you, give. If someone takes your things, don’t demand them back.” (Luke 6.27-30; Matthias Media)
Why do I call Jesus Lord? Put another way, why don’t I do what Jesus tells me to do? The answer to that question is personal and diverse. For some, attachment to the things of this world mirrors the rich young ruler’s of Luke 18.18. To these, actually doing what Jesus commands is beyond reason and intelligence. We may not be rich, but we aren’t about to let go of the things we have worked hard to accumulate. Let Jesus remain simply a “good teacher.” For others, appearances are really important. The nice looking car, the attractive home, the enviable job all appear to be the “good life.” Sum and substance for these individuals is in the admiration and envy of others. Other explanations could be included, but do we really need to elaborate?
The point is like a finger poking our chest. “Jesus is Lord” is only appropriate on the lips of one who willfully chooses to do what Jesus teaches. Without that willful determination, you lie. That is not to say you will fully obey by willful determination alone. Faith must be at the core to be sure. But the bottom line for all of us is that we do what we want to do. “Jesus is Lord” is meaningless apart from head and heart. Without firm resolve and desire, obedience will never follow.
Now the power of Jesus’ teaching really shines. His familiar illustration works wonderfully. A house can be built on rock or sand. Foolish possibilities are very real and we can visualize stupidity. Home building requires skill, time and resources. To build hurriedly, without wisdom, money or time to put down a suitable foundation is pure stupidity. Storms are going to come, rivers will rise and troubles will mount. The assaults of life under the sun will not be avoided by any.
So here is my recommendation for the new year. Resolve with all your heart to learn from Jesus and invest this new year doing what he taught. Focus anew upon your foundation and enjoy the long term security that comes from trusting the word of Christ.
Roger G. Collins, Grace Presbyterian Church, Byram; *English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society. Exported from Logos Bible Software; Originally published in the January 2014 Byram Banner, Byram Mississippi.