“Why do you call me, ‘Lord’?”
by Robby Higginbottom October 9, 2014
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” Luke 6:46
Obedience. It sounds like a bad word, right? We all learn at an early age that we need to obey the authorities in our lives, but who gets excited about obedience? OK, parents and teachers might, but really…who? Don’t we send our dogs to obedience school?
Is obedience really a bad word? Jesus doesn’t think so. In Luke 6:43-45 Jesus talks about how good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit. It’s a simple lesson, really. If you are a good tree, the evidence is the good fruit growing in your life. And if you are a bad tree, well, you can probably guess what Jesus says. In Luke 6:47-49 Jesus says that those who hear his words and do them are like a man who builds his house on the rock. He has a strong foundation so that when the storm comes, he is not shaken. Those who hear Jesus’ words and do not do them, well, you can probably guess what Jesus says about them.
In between these two passages, Jesus poses a cutting question: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” Notice: Jesus is talking about people who confess that he is Lord. At least with their lips they draw near to Jesus, but the question suggests that their lives tell another story. If we profess that Jesus is Lord, his expectation is that we will do what he says. He expects obedience.
Everyone obeys someone. Sprite’s advertising campaign – “Obey your thirst” – was insightful, but I’m not sure anyone needed that message. We already obey our thirst. If we are thirsty for the applause or approval of others, we obey them. If we are thirsty for success, we obey the people and the process that move us down the road. If we are thirsty for some kind of pleasure, we obey that desire. Whatever that “thirst” is for us, it can easily become our functional lord.
The beauty of the gospel is that Jesus came to save us from everything we have done chasing after other lords. But knowing Jesus does not simply mean that our sins are forgiven so that we can continue obeying other masters. Knowing Jesus means that God has made us a good tree (rooted in Christ) and a new house (built upon the foundation of Christ). Knowing Jesus means that we have traded other lords for THE Lord. Jesus sets us free from the oppression of being lord of our own lives and from the slavery of being ruled by other people and things. Though we may not see it or feel it, Jesus is the only master who won’t ultimately destroy us. As God gives us grace to hear his words and do what he says, we learn that life in Christ is actually the life for which we were made.
Have you realized that you are obeying someone or something every day? Who or what are the other “lords” in your life? If you do call Jesus, “Lord,” how concerned are you about doing what he says? If you do not call Jesus, “Lord,” have you ever considered the cost of having a lord who is not Jesus?
A lot of Christians think obedience is a bad word. We worry that focusing on obedience will lead us to forget that God saves us by his grace and not by our performance. It’s a valid concern. Our obedience doesn’t earn God’s love, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care about our obedience. C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller have helped me think about the relationship between God’s grace and our obedience. Consider the following quotations as you ponder Jesus’ question: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”
• “Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”
C.S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity
• “There is… a great gulf between the understanding that God accepts us because of our efforts and the understanding that God accepts us because of what Jesus has done. Religion operates on the principle ‘I obey—therefore I am accepted by God.’ But the operating principle of the gospel is ‘I am accepted by God through what Christ has done—therefore I obey.’”
Tim Keller, from The Reason for God, pp. 179-180