Cognitive Dissonance (“Lord, Lord”)

Lord Jesus stained glass window

But Who Do You Say that I Am?

In my last sermon, “But Who Do You Say that I Am?”…which I preached about a month ago at the Antrim Church of Christ…I spent some time looking at what first century people were saying about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Sadly, most of the biblical examples in the gospels weren’t on the positive side…although…kudos to Peter…he got it right:

16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

Based on the verses I shared from Matthew, Mark, and John, our other options were glutton, drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners, a bastard, a person in league with the devil, and a person possessed by the devil, the devil, and a crazy man.

As you can well imagine, we sided with Peter. 🙂

Lunatic, Liar, or Lord?

Now, my inspiration for that sermon was a famous C.S. Lewis quote from Mere Christianity:

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the "extras" that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

C.S. Lewis’ trilemma is summarized as “Lunatic, liar, or Lord?”…although I personally think, based on the quote and what we studied in Scripture, that the less alliteratively-based “Lunatic, devil, or Lord?” is more accurate.

And can you guess which one of the three we went with?

That’s right…Lord!

Now…hold that thought…

Cognitive Dissonance

How many here now what the definition of “cognitive dissonance” is? Merriam Webster on-line shares multiple options, but I like the “Concise Encyclopedia” one best:

Mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. The concept was introduced by the psychologist Leon Festinger (1919—89) in the late 1950s. He and later researchers showed that, when confronted with challenging new information, most people seek to preserve their current understanding of the world by rejecting, explaining away, or avoiding the new information or by convincing themselves that no conflict really exists. Cognitive dissonance is nonetheless considered an explanation for attitude change.1

If you didn’t before…now do you understand the cognitive dissonance concept?

Assuming you do…let’s return to this sermon’s previous stream of thought with “cognitive dissonance” in mind…

“Lord, Lord”

The folks who attended the Antrim Church of Christ Sunday, May 4th and I both agreed, given the choice of “Lunatic, liar, or Lord?” (or “Lunatic, devil, or Lord?”)…”Lord” was the hands-down the right answer.

And my hope is that you wholeheartedly agree.

Regardless of whether you do or not…we will assume that you do…and…

Let Jesus ask you another question He asked His listeners 2,000 years ago:

46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great” (Luke 6:46-49).

Seem a legit query, doesn’t it? “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”

Lest we think it was just a problem with those who heard Jesus’ voice back while He was on earth…as we survey Christendom today…how often do we see people who claim to be Christians…who claim to worship the Lord Jesus Christ…who claim to call Him “Lord, Lord”…not doing what Jesus told them to do?

Or doing what Jesus told them not to do?

Come to think of us, when we turn our gaze inward…at ourselves…how often do we…who claim to be Christians…who claim to worship the Lord Jesus Christ…who claim to call Him “Lord, Lord”…not do what Jesus told us to do…or do what Jesus told us not to?

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”

So, What Does Jesus Tell Us to Do?

So, what exactly does Jesus tell us to do? What does our Lord command us?

We clearly don’t have time in a reasonably-lengthed sermon to discuss everything the Son of God commanded us. Sure would be handy to have a summary, eh?

Well, it just so happens we do. 🙂 Let’s turn to Matthew 22:34-40:

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

So…what do “all the Law and the Prophets” depend on?

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Straightforward. Simple. Succinct.

And boy do folks who claim to be Christians…boy do we…come up so very short of these two commandments, eh?

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”

What Is Better than Sacrifice?

Interestingly enough, when Mark shares the same (or similar) interaction with the lawyer, he includes a bit more of the dialogue:

32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:32-33).

Mark technically does not confirm that the scribe spoke wisely…but I’m sure he did…and following those two commandments are many, many times more important than “all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

[ Post sermon note: As my wife discovered, actually the next verse says:

And when saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared ask him any questions (Mark 12:34).

By the way, this is precisely why I want you to look up every Scripture I give. I do my best to stay true to God’s Word…but I am human. Considering others may have agendas, all the more reason to only trust the Bible and act like the Bereans (see Acts 17:11). ]

But, wait a minute, all that “burnt offering and sacrifices” stuff went away when Jesus died on the cross and the New Covenant came, didn’t it?

Yes…but, let’s be serious, we have Christian equivalents, don’t we?

  • Like showing up every week to church.
  • Like donating money to the church and charities.
  • Like praying daily.
  • Like fasting.
  • Like volunteering.
  • Like reading our bibles regularly.
  • Like doing pretty much any “Christian” thing we do.

All that stuff is far less important than fully…completely…loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

And…staying with the question of “What is more important than sacrifices?” we get some other great answers from God’s inspired Word:

22 And Samuel said,

“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,

as in obeying the voice of the LORD?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,

and to listen than the fat of rams.

23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination,

and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,

he has also rejected you from being king” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

To obey is better than sacrifice.

13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:13).

Mercy is better than sacrifice.

6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,

the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6).

Steadfast love of God is better than sacrifice.

Knowledge of God is better than sacrifice.

5 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil (Ecclesiastes 5:1).

Listening to God is better than sacrifice.

This last one is especially important in my view, and…of all things…the King James Version makes what it means clearer:

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil (Ecclesiastes 5:1).

Being more ready to hear God is better than sacrifice.

And it could be argued that if you aren’t willing to listen to the voice of the Lord when you come to church then anything you have to offer is the offer of a fool.

  • To obey is better than sacrifice.
  • Mercy is better than sacrifice.
  • Steadfast love of God is better than sacrifice.
  • Knowledge of God is better than sacrifice.
  • Listening to God is better than sacrifice.
  • Being more ready to hear is better than sacrifice.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?”

Words, Actions, and the Heart?

Before we wrap things up, let’s talk a bit about words, actions, and the heart…

As Christians we often talk a good talk…but come up lacking when it comes to actions. Jesus and his brother James both help us understand that words aren’t enough. As is always wise, let’s start with Jesus:

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. (Matthew 21:28-31).

Earlier I defined “cognitive dissonance”…but now another term seems more applicable…”passive aggressive.” What does it mean to be passive aggressive? Merriam-Webster helped us before, so we’ll trust them again:

: being, marked by, or displaying behavior characterized by the expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive passive way (as through procrastination and stubbornness)2

Son number one was initially rebellious, but ultimately did what his father wanted.

Son number two was passive aggressive..he said he would go…but then didn’t.

Before we turned to the Lord we were all son number one. As you can see from Jesus’ story…as long as we ultimately do what son number one did we do the will of our Father.

However, it is very, very easy for us to become son number two…where we profess to be a Christian…to call Jesus “Lord, Lord”…but then do whatever we want.

To obey is not only better than sacrifice, it is better than words.

Actions are better than words.

Which is also confirmed by Jesus’ brother James in James 2:14-19:

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

“Go in peace, be warmed and filled.”

Great words…but how much value does James put on the words apart from action?

Zero, zip, nada.

Faith without works is dead.

Words without action is dead.

If you call Jesus “Lord, Lord” but don’t do what He says to do, then there is a good chance you’ll have that cognitive dissonance we defined earlier…and you will “[avoid] the new information or by convincing [yourself] that no conflict really exists.”

It does. There is conflict between what you say you believe and what your actions show you really believe. Between your words and your deeds. You need to bring them in sync or you will self-deceive yourself to hell.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?”

Now the Heart

I said we were going to talk about words, actions, and the heart.

We just took care of words and actions. How about the heart?

Let’s return back to Jesus for that:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matthew 7:21-23).

Here we go…they have the “Lord, Lord” right…and look at their deeds! They prophesy! They cast out demons! They do “many mighty works!”

But Jesus says what?

“I never knew you; depart from me you workers of lawlessness.”


I would suggest because obeying…doing what your “Lord, Lord” tells you to do…

Is definitely not just saying the right words…you can force yourself to say the right words…

Is not even doing the right actions…you can force yourself to do the right actions…

It’s doing the right things for the right reasons…

  • It isn’t the words.
  • It isn’t the actions.
  • It is the heart.


  • It isn’t the words.
  • It isn’t the actions.
  • It is the heart.

You cannot change your own heart.

Only God can.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ but do not do what I tell you?”

Because your heart has not been changed.

Until your heart is changed, you will have “Lord, Lord” cognitive dissonance.

You cannot change your own heart, but you can prevent God from doing so by refusing to let Him.

  • Even if you aren’t a Christian you may think you are a “good” person…you may be convinced of your own righteousness.
  • If you are a Christian you may praise God whenever given the chance.
  • You may attend church every Sunday.
  • You may sacrifice for the Lord left and right.
  • You may even appear to do “mighty works.”

It isn’t the words.

It isn’t the actions.

It is the heart.

You cannot change your heart.

Only God can.

Let Him.

Yes. Call Him “Lord, Lord.”

Because He is.

Don’t have cognitive dissonance. Don’t be passive aggressive.

But let Him be “Lord, Lord” not only of your words.

Let Him be “Lord, Lord” not only of your actions.

Let Him be “Lord, Lord” of your heart.


1Cognitive dissonance. (n.d.). Merriam Webster. Retrieved May 31, 2014, from

2Passive aggressive. (n.d.). Merriam Webster. Retrieved May 31, 2014, from

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Alan is an ordinary guy, living in a small, high plains Colorado town...and humbled to be a minister of God...

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