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As Useless as a Screen Door on a Submarine

As Useless as a Screen Door on a Submarine

Today, when people say “I believe”, they may not be talking about faith, but about their opinion. You have your beliefs and I have mine. They expect us to accept their “belief” as valid as any belief. But that is not the Truth. Only one belief is valid.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

A belief is a concept, expressed as a statement or a creed. Faith originates with a belief, but it requires action on that belief. If you believe Jesus, your life must line up with Him to be genuine faith. Without action or works, faith is not happening. It is useless as a screen door on a submarine, or as James puts it, it is dead.

James 2:17-26 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Therefore, true biblical faith could be called belief in action. So, when we say, “I believe”, we must understand that we are affirming the Truth, and if we have faith in that belief, we are committed to act upon it as well. Jesus explains this well with a simple illustration.

Matthew 7:24-27 Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

Jesus said this at the end of His Sermon on the Mount.  In this sermon, He dealt with many topics and themes related to Kingdom life. He did not say in this sermon that this is what we must do to be saved. He is telling us what we will do when we are saved by faith.

Jesus says in this illustration of the builders that there are only two responses to His Sermon. The first is that you believe Jesus and act on that belief by entering the narrow gate, bearing fruit as evidence of your conversion, experiencing intimacy with Him, and building your whole life upon His Word. That is faith.

Or—you don’t believe Jesus seriously and only give mental assent to His Word, bearing no evidence of conversion, falsely claiming intimacy with Jesus, and building your life upon a shifty foundation of your opinion (Jesus uses sand to describe it). There is no middle ground in the Gospel. It is either sand or a rock. (So much for an all-inclusive Jesus.)

The point of His concluding illustration with the two builders is that Jesus is calling us to respond to all He has taught us. Notice that both builders heard the words of Jesus. Each heard the same words and each had the same opportunity. Both builders had a home to build, which is a metaphor for our life. One builder believes Jesus and acts on it—that is faith. The other hears Jesus but does not act on it. He is a hearer of the Word and not a doer of the Word—that is not faith. He is deceived.

James 1:22-25 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Every one of us, irrespective of how much money we make, whether we are single or married, have children or not, regardless of our age or level of maturity, are building a house—a life.

Jesus is saying what we do with His Word has huge consequences, because life has storms we must face. Irrespective of what our life is built upon, and regardless of how we respond to His Word, we will encounter these storms that are common to all.

It is often taught today, and falsely so, that following Jesus will make everything go well. This is so contradictory to the Bible that we cannot even consider that teaching to be Christian. Jesus does not promise a life with no problems. Jesus promises that storms will come to every builder. He wants us to build our life upon Him and His Word so we can withstand the day of trial and tribulation.

John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Unfortunately, most people hear the words of Jesus and turn away to do their own thing. “That was for those folks back then. Things are different today,” they say. They offer lip service to the teachings of Jesus, but no obedience results. They say, “I believe”, and they call Jesus, “Lord, Lord”, but they do not live under Him as their Lord. Jesus describes this type of builder as foolish. They are equal to the fool who does not believe in God at all.

Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.

Despite the witness of Creation, of Scripture, the law written on our hearts, of reason, of conscience, and even of Christ himself—a fool will take in all that information and still say that God does not exist, or I can live my life like I want and still go to Heaven. Not so!

Romans 1:18-32 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Foolishness is not a head problem. It’s a spiritual problem. God is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him and a punisher of those who don’t. And so, to silence the guilt that sin produces, the fool says, “There is no God. It is just those Christians that make me feel guilty.”

On the other hand, there are those who hear, believe, and act. They hear the gracious words of Christ and believe He speaks the Truth. They embrace the narrow way because it is the way to follow Christ. Because of their faith in Christ, they imitate the One who died for them, bearing much fruit in their lives. When they say, “Lord, Lord” it is not lip service. It is the expression of the intimacy that truly exists between them and Jesus. They are building their life upon the words of Christ in every area of life. They take up their cross, deny themselves, and embrace the way of Jesus no matter the cost. These are the actions and the character of the wise builder. His faith is like the faith of Abraham.

Jesus is the only cornerstone of wisdom and truth. His Words are trustworthy and true because He is trustworthy and true. Christ offers various and precious promises, but hearing His Word must result in doing His Word. Otherwise, it is not faith, the foundation of life is not built on Christ, and so, the promises of blessing do not pertain to the foolish builder. The foolish builder is a fool precisely because he rejects the foundation of Christ’s Word and instead builds upon the shifting sand of man’s opinion and his own theology.

On the other hand, the wise builder is wise precisely because he builds his life upon the firm rock of Christ’s words. This builder sees in the words of Christ: the Truth that does not change, the life that we were meant to live, and the pearl of great price that is worthy of the selling of all his possessions to obtain. This builder willingly and lovingly embraces Christ as Savior, repents from all that offends God, and pursues peace with all men.

It is possible to build a house on the sand that is very elegant in the eyes of the world. However, it doesn’t matter what your life looks like on the outside. The Gospel is not just for the prettiest, smartest, most creative, most together among us. The Gospel is for sinners, for the poor in spirit, for those who don’t have it together. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. It doesn’t depend upon how together you are. What matters is what you are building your life upon.

Sometimes we wonder why storms, trials, and tribulations come into our lives. We ask God, but God has already given us His answer. He allows trials and tribulations to come to reveal what our life is built upon, and so we can share in the glory of Christ.

Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.

The foolish builder, who builds upon the shifting sands of man’s wisdom, cannot endure trouble. When hardships come, he falls apart because his life has no solid foundation. But no storm can take the wise builder down, because his life is founded on the Rock. Trials and tribulations come and he can withstand them, because he does not stand on his own strength but upon the strength of the Rock, Jesus Christ. His life glorifies Christ.

Therefore, it’s not the size nor the strength of the house that gives stability to the house, but the qualities of the foundation that matter. Though the believer does not particularly enjoy the trouble that comes, he trusts God and knows the Rock will sustain him.

So, what lessons can we learn from this?

1. Everyone has a house to build. Every decision, every choice we make bears eternal consequences. So, what kind of life are you building?

2. There is a Rock to build upon. God has graciously provided us with the Word—Jesus Christ—to build upon. Are you building upon the Rock?

3. Those who are saved believe the Words of Christ and act on them. That is faith. Are you living by His Word? Have you repented and trusted in Christ alone for your salvation? Are you bearing fruit, the evidence of faith? Are you taking up your cross, practicing self-denial, and following Him?

4. Most people are building upon the sand. They may hear the Words of Jesus and even give mental assent that they are true, but they don’t live accordingly. That is not faith. Are the shifting sands of man’s wisdom and your opinions your ultimate authority? Where do you go for wisdom about how to live—to Google search or to the Word of God?

5. There are storms coming that will test everyone’s house. There are everyday trials, tribulations, and temptations that are common to all people everywhere. Does your reaction to these storms reveal that you are on the Rock of Christ’s Word or the shifting sand of man’s opinion?

6. Those who build upon the Rock of Christ’s Word will endure the storms of life. Their strength is not their own. It is founded on the strength of Christ.

7. Any life built on a foundation other than Christ will fall. It is not a question of if, but a matter of when. 

Proverbs 10:25 says, “When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.”

The devil wants us to pay attention to our feelings. Jesus wants us to pay attention to His Word. When we say “I believe in Jesus Christ”, that belief should be both understood and practiced. Otherwise, it is not the faith by which we are saved. It is just an opinion.

Belief is the substance side of faith. And works puts faith into action. Faith without works is dead. It is as useless as a screen door on a submarine.

As Jesus concluded His powerful Sermon on the Mount, He required a decision: You have to decide to build on my Word or you must decide not to build on my Word. You can’t pick and choose to do some of it. Jesus calls for an uncompromising, life-altering, permanent, ongoing decision to build our life on Him by daily reading His Word, listening to the Holy Spirit, and trusting and obeying what He said. That is faith. Faith in Jesus—who He is, what He has done on our behalf, and what He has said to do—is the only way to live.

Again, I repeat what Jesus said. John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Do you believe it? This is very important. If you are not sure, be honest and ask God to give you faith or to increase your faith. After all, faith is a gift from God, not something you invent. Without God’s grace, you cannot believe, which is the beginning of faith.

If you do believe it, what will you do about it? For faith without works—without action, is not really faith. It is just religious talk—an opinion—and unable to save you from the storms of life and eternity in Hell.

If you have not made that decision to believe and build your life on Jesus, then you can today. Act on what you believe by publicly confessing your faith that Jesus is the Son of God who atoned for your sin on the cross and rose again. Demonstrate your faith by repenting of your sin and dying to self in baptism. Your sin will be forgiven and you will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will lead you to live your faith every day.