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Sermon Series #2 – “A Jesus-Shaped Life”
“The Obedience of Jesus”
Jeff Lewis was an army specialist with the Eighty-Second Airborne Division when he was ordered to parachute out of a plane. At first glance, this doesn’t appear noteworthy. A paratrooper expects to receive an order like that. But Jeff was not a paratrooper; he was a supply clerk. He had never been to jump school. He had no experience with parachutes. He did not know it, but his order was the result of a clerical error.
Even so, the young supply clerk reported for duty. A short time later, he strapped on a parachute, then when it was his turn to jump, he stepped out of the airplane and started his free fall. Amazingly, he landed unhurt.
When asked later what went through his mind during the experience, he said he was just doing what a good soldier is supposed to do: follow orders. “The Army said I was airborne-qualified,” Lewis said. “I wasn’t going to question it.”
Those who serve in the military quickly learn to obey orders. The first stop for new recruits is boot camp, where drill sergeants instill in them the habit of instant obedience. There is good reason for this. In combat situations, officers cannot afford to take time to explain to their soldiers the rationale behind their orders. While they are taking enemy fire, they can’t poll the unit for their opinions or invite discussion. Soldiers must learn to respond, “Sir, yes, sir!” to every order that comes from their commanding officer.
Jesus, just like the army specialist knew how to take orders. He knew what it was to be obedient, to please His Father. To live a Jesus-Shaped Life we must also learn what it means to be obedient.
I was thinking this week about Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding when He turned the water to wine. You know the story. The wedding party ran out of wine, and they reported this to Mary who told Jesus. Remember what He said, “Dear woman, that’s not our problem, My time has not yet come.” Now, if I responded to my mama like that, I would have had to pick myself up from the ground. But what did Jesus do? He turned the water into wine, the best wine, he was obedient to His mother.
And then, on the night of the Passover with His disciples, when He took His inner three (Peter, James, and John) to the Garden of Gethsemane. Do you remember what He prayed? “My Father! If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus was obedient to His Father!
In our text this morning Luke reminds us that Jesus Himself realized that some of His followers would speak but not do. For them to confess that Jesus was Lord was the right thing to do. However, this confession, no matter how exuberant, when unaccompanied by obedience wouldn’t cut the mustard.
James, the half-brother of Jesus and a leader in the Jerusalem church said that if you are listening to God’s word but not acting on it, you’re just fooling yourself. That it’s like looking at your face in a mirror; you see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.
A Jesus-Shaped life does not consist of reforming external actions; it is the result of a transformed heart (what is going on in this Great Awakening that began in Wilmore, KY). God wants to do more than modify our behavior; he wants to renovate our hearts, which motivates our actions.
Jesus emphasized that true holiness is lived from the inside out. I can’t tell you how many hours I have sat on a five-gallon bucket using a laser to heal cuts or wounds on a horse. You see, it’s easy to heal the wound on the outside—but if you don’t heal it from the inside it will persist to be a problem—you’re just covering it up, like we try to cover our sin.
Jesus practiced what He preached. He talked the talk but also walked the walk. His actions were consistent with His words. If our actions don’t reflect what we say we believe, it shows we have not yet been transformed inwardly.
For two thousand years, philosophers have studied and discussed Jesus’ principles on money, loving enemies, and judging others. Perhaps Jesus knew that many of us would be tempted to admire His words rather than act on them. So, today, our text ends with a parable about two homeowners.
One of the homeowners takes out a construction loan to build his dream home. He budgets enough to hire excavators to dig deep and lay a foundation on bedrock, even though no one would see it. But it was worth it the day torrential rains came and unleashed flash floods that pummeled his house. No doubt he sighed with relief when he discovered that he had sustained only minor damage to his home.
In contrast, another man built his house around the same time. He had scraped together all the money he could to construct a beautiful house. Instead of laying a foundation on bedrock, he saved money by skipping the excavator and building on level ground. But his dream house became a nightmare when those rains hit. The flash floods lifted his house and destroyed it.
When I was going to Emory in the summers, I was amazed at the constant construction going on around campus. I used to say that if I were a contractor, I would get my foot in the door there, set-up my trailer/office and just stay right there on sight. But the one thing that caught my eye was that the taller the building was going to be the deeper the hole was for the foundation.
A doghouse needs no foundation—and an ordinary house can be built on little more than a concrete slab. But a skyscraper, that’s different. It requires a deep and solid foundation.
Jesus said that the homeowner who built on the bedrock was like someone who hears His words and puts them into practice. When life gets hard, he will be able to endure. However, the man who built without a foundation is like someone who hears Jesus’ words and does nothing about them. When the storms of life come, he won’t be able to hold up.
Every house is tested. The difference is not in the weather; it is in the foundation upon which the house is anchored. So many folks, when in the midst of a crisis run back to the church and try to get religion, but my friends, it isn’t that easy. It is a foolish person who thinks they can begin constructing a proper foundation when they are in the midst of a storm. When life is rushing in on us—it is then too late. The time to build is in the time of calm, during ordinary day-to-day living. Noah didn’t wait till the rain started to build the Ark. He started working in the sunshine 75 years earlier.
Obeying God is like building a house on a strong, solid foundation that stands firm when storms come.
When Life is calm, our foundations don’t seem to matter. But when crises come, our foundations are tested. Be sure your life is built on the solid foundation of knowing and trusting Jesus Christ.
To live a Jesus-Shaped life we must be ready and willing to please God—we must live a holy life (It is God who makes us holy—our dance partner)—and our life must be marked by obedience to God’s will and ways. Obedience is the foundation of a life that prevails during the storm. It keeps us from regret and invites into our heart—mind—and soul the power of God.
Thanks be to God!