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Whenever you read the word therefore in Scripture, you should ask what it’s there for. Consider the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders, which concludes the Sermon on the Mount:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
What’s therefore there for? It is there to remind us that we have a choice with regard to following Jesus and that there are consequences to our choice. Today we’ll look at the choice; tomorrow, the consequences.
First, we have a choice whether or not to listen to Jesus. We live in an age in which a myriad of voices shout out spiritual advice to us. Some of the advice is good and much of it is bad, but the cacophony of voices can be very confusing. To whom should we listen? Who is telling us the truth? Whose words illuminate the path to heaven?
When I was young, my mother would take me to the shopping mall with her. Inevitably, as she looked at clothes and I played among the racks, I would become separated from her. It’s a scary thing to be six years old and lost. And there were so many adult voices talking and laughing in the store. But if I listened carefully, I could always hear my mother’s voice saying, “Have you seen my little boy?” To this day, I can pick out my mom’s cough, sneeze, laugh, or voice in a crowded auditorium. I have developed the ability to hear her (and her alone) among the crowd.
Similarly, as we hear a myriad of voices competing for our souls, we must choose to listen to Jesus.
Second, we have a choice whether or not to do what Jesus teaches. There are many lovely words in the Sermon on the Mount, as well as many hard ones. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5.1) has a nice ring to it. But “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5.44) is not easy to do. But if we are to experience the blessings of heaven, we must love our enemies. The two are flip sides of the same coin. The first describes what God gives, and the second what God expects. You cannot have one without the other, any more than you can have a coin with heads but no tails.
Therefore, what do you choose to do with Jesus?