During Jesus’ ministry many referred to him as a rabbi, or teacher, because he regularly taught anyone willing to learn from him. Crowds of curious people came out to see him day after day because they were eager to hear from a man with a reputation for strong teaching, impeccable character and powerful miracles. Although the masses were seldom disappointed, Jesus recognized that a significant gap remained between what he was teaching and what people were learning. They were willing to listen but they were reluctant to apply what they heard.
One day, after a particularly compelling message, Jesus asked the crowds why they were willing to flatter him with their words but unwilling to do anything about what he was saying (Luke 6:46-49). Then he drove his point home with an illustration. Anyone who “comes to me, hears my words and does them,” he explained, “is like a man building a house.” This man digs deep into the ground so that he can lay a foundation on the bedrock deep beneath the loose topsoil. Then, when floods rise and the streams overflow their banks, that man’s house will not be shaken because it is well built. By contrast, a man who is foolish enough to hear wise teaching but fails to put it into practice is like a man who builds on top of the ground without putting a proper foundation in place. When the floods come ruin is inevitable.
What, then, was Jesus’ point? Although he grew up in the home of a carpenter, he wasn’t merely offering construction tips. He was helping his students close the gap between what they heard and how they were living. His illustration highlights the folly of gaining insight without making the deep and abiding changes necessary to weather life’s difficulties and challenges. A life that is poorly “built” is a life that will end poorly, and perhaps in destruction. Life is a precious gift and, therefore, a terrible thing to waste.
On the other hand, a life that is carefully constructed is not susceptible to changing circumstances and mounting adversity. Digging deep and setting a foundation on the immovable bedrock of Jesus’ teaching places us in a secure position. When we trust God’s purpose for our lives and follow him by putting his teaching into practice, we learn through experience that he is trustworthy. When we take Jesus at his word and begin to do what he asks us to do we find that his teaching is better than all the professors we’ve ever known. He teaches with authority and a power that can change lives.
Those who put their trust in the unshakeable character of Christ will not be shaken by the cares and concerns of this life. This sort of trust is not merely something that we entertain with our ears or discuss in words. This sort of trust flows from the heart and changes everything we do. Still, no matter how much we think we like what he has to say, we haven’t actually learned much from him until we trust him enough to put it into practice.
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