Dave preached from Matt 7:24-29 this morning, the very familiar parable of the wise and foolish builders. Inspired in part by admiring the apparently sound Methodist building last week (built over 200 years ago) but realising that in actual fact this building is in such poor state of repair that it will shortly have to be demolished, he commented that storms are an inevitable part of life and they actually simply reveal what the real you is actually like. The MPs’ expenses’ scandal did not make the MPs dishonest; it simply uncovered what was really going on behind the scenes. Similarly, Jesus noted that the storms of life – which come to everyone at some time – are not what make believers either wise or foolish. The storms simply REVEAL who is wise and who is foolish.

This parable comes at the end of the Sermon of the Mount and is a disconcerting ending, to say the least. What Jesus has just laid out is a blueprint for discipleship. It’s not about flowery words or memorable metaphors, but life or death issues, words which must be heard but which also must be done. The difference between the wise and the foolish is that the wise put into practice what they have heard.

Jesus taught with authority, we read, not as all the other teachers. He taught with the authority of God Himself, so His words are not mere recommendations that we can take or leave with little or no consequences one way or the other. They are life-giving commands to be whole-heartedly obeyed.

It’s a bit like cement. A bag of cement doesn’t look particularly solid: it looks like a sand-like powder which even a child could move. But when mixed with water, it becomes a substance that will set as hard as a rock, that is immovable. Similarly, Jesus’s words, on their own, are a little bit like that bag of cement. They need the water of faith and action to become cement in our lives.

We need to try to fit all of life – the good, the bad and the ordinary – into our discipleship. We need to see ALL of life through the lens of discipleship. God is interested in building our characters – not just ‘image’ or ‘personality’, but character – which emerges from whole strings of good habits cultivated over a lifetime. We have true character when doing, saying or thinking the right thing, even when no one else is watching or listening. We need to learn to look beyond the importance of things, Jesus says, to the overarching glory of having treasure in heaven. We need to understand that thinking the right way about people is as important to God as what we actually do when we are with them. It goes far beyond surface actions, digging deeper into motivation and our whole way of thinking.

The first people to hear the Sermon on the Mount had jaws slack in wonder and eyes wide in amazement as Jesus concluded. We too need to hear His words with the same sense of awe and wonder and need to mix the cement of His words with the faith of obedience if we are to cultivate lives that can withstand all of life’s storms.