September 20, 2009
INTRODUCTION – Jesus has just talked about prayer & its role in advancing the kingdom – – and the heart of the Father to give so much more to His children than we give Him credit for.
Certainly this is one of the most encouraging passages of scripture in the New Testament.
But the sad reality is – for many who who have read this passage at some time in their life – they will not ever really experience it – – that is – – this practice of continually asking and then receiving, or continually seeking and then finding; or continually knocking and seeing amazing doors opened – – that lifestyle of seeing God intervene and move in their spheres of influence – – will evade many who have been exposed to its possibility. One of the reasons for that lies in the fact that to experience the presence, promises and resources of Christ – – you and I have to accept the precepts, pre-conditions and realities of Christ.
Today we are going to look at three hard realities that Jesus Christ proclaimed to His “so far” followers up on that mountain – – – I say “so far” because we know from the historical records – that as time went on – many could not accept the truth realities that Jesus Christ proclaimed. May the Holy Spirit help us to today to accept and live in the reality that Jesus makes painfully clear in these verses. Matt. 7:13,14
I. The Reality of Two Gates or two Ways – vs. 13,14 A. Command to enter the narrow gate or way – vs. 13a Jesus Christ in no uncertain terms wants His disciples to know that sooner or later other gates or ways will be presented to them. In fact – the Pharisees and Scribes had already presented their gate or way – – which is an ever growing assortment of rules and regulations that if followed diligently – will assure your way into heaven – – they say. And the great thing about their way is – you don’t have to humble yourself and admit you are a sinner in need of salvation and deliverance; and you don’t have to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the only Savior.
B. Lure of Broad Gate or way – vs. 13b 1. Gate is wide – Who wants to squeeze through a narrow gate? The wider the gate, the easier it is for more people to enter through it.
2. Way is broad – many people with many opinions and beliefs can make it as long as they are earnest. The media will probably not contend with you if you choose this way; the aclu will leave you alone; your friends at school will think you’re cool – if you choose this way; Brad Pitt and Barbara Streisand and Ron Howard and Matt Damon will probably not come against you or make fun of you – – if you choose this way.
3. Of course – the creator and tour guides at this gate (namely Satan and his demons) never get around to telling you what awaits you once you get through the gate.
4. Leads to destruction
5. Many enter that gate/way. It is the easier more obvious way. “There is way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” Prov. 14:12
6. A word about “destruction” – – This is not the first mention of the reality of hell in Matthew’s gospel; and it certainly will not be the last. But it is the first time Jesus speaks of “destruction” for those who refuse to bow down to Him as Lord of lords and King of Kings; and who refuse to bow down to Him as the only way to eternal life and to relationship with God the Father. There are at least 11 other references in the New Testament to this fate of destruction for those who reject Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior of mankind. Here is one of them: II Thess. 1:9 “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” (“These” from vs. 8 = “those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”)
C. The Other Gate or Way – vs. 14 1. Gate is small
2. Way is narrow
3. It leads to life – – In John 10:7-10 Jesus uses the analogy of a door , through which those who would seek to know God and receive eternal life must pass through; and He proclaims at the end of this passage that He came that we might have life, and have it abundantly. Later on in John 14:6 – Jesus proclaims that He is the way, the truth and the life; and that no one comes to the Father, but through Him.”
4. Few find it
D. Part of denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Jesus is being willing to be identified with the few.
Example: Broad view of Christ: “Theologian Jay McDaniel points to the recognition on the part of New Testament scholars that “the historical Jesus of first-century Palestine, and the Jesus who speaks in different ways from the pages of the Bible, and into my heart, are not necessarily the same. Much of what we read about Jesus in the Bible is an interpretation of the historical figure, added by the early church, and not necessarily true to his own life” In other words, there is no absolute knowledge of the historical Jesus, and yet there is for Christians a reliable spiritual knowledge. There is Jesus, who is a living presence in our hearts.” Sermon preached on Sept. 13, 2009 and can be found on this Central Coast church’s website
Example: Broad view of Righteousness: Senior pastor of Mount Carmel Lutheran Church in SLO’s letter in newspaper on Friday Sept. 18th
There is a growing chorus today claiming that the main thing is that we all worship God; it doesn’t matter what we believe. Nor does it matter what kind of lifestyle we lead. This is nothing new. Listen to what Jesus said to the Pharisees and Scribes about the relationship their lifestyle had to their worship, (Mark 7:6,7) “And He said to them, Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of your hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as Doctrines the precepts of men.” Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
II. The Reality of False Prophets – vs. 15-20 A. Command to Beware of them – vs. 15 They have a way of sneaking up on us unawares.
B. How to know them: (vs. 16, 20) Distinctives of: 1. Come to you – vs. 15 they tend to be aggressive; not content to just be allowed to believe and pursue what they believe and are pursuing. Want you to join them.
2. Outwardly look like sheep; inwardly are ravenous wolves – vs. 15 They have fleshly appetites that are never satisfied.
3. Judge by their fruits – not outward appearances – 16,20
a. Example of grapes and figs – vs. 16b
4. Principle: Good trees bear good fruit; bad trees – bad fruit – vs. 17,18 So what does good fruit look like? 1. fruit of the Spirit – Gal. 5:
5. Fate of bad trees – vs. 19 Another reference to hell and the destruction that comes in the form of fire
III. The Reality of Lawless Miracle Workers – vs. 21-23 A. Statement of fact: Not everyone who prays to Jesus will enter heaven– vs. 21 even those who address Him as “Lord”
B. Only those who as a lifestyle do the will of the Father will enter. Vs. 21 That is – Obedient ones.
C. Statement of fact: Many people when they are face to face with Jesus at the end of this age will appeal to their miracles, not their character and obedience – vs. 22 Did they really prophesy, cast out demons, and perform miracles?? Maybe, maybe not. The point is – they thought those things would assure them a place in heaven.
IV. Jesus’s Response to these people – vs. 23
A. I never knew you – Jesus Christ of course knows everyone. He created them; and there is nothing hidden from His view. But He never knew them as family members – as friends – – there was never a relationship formed. There was no intimacy.
B. Depart from me – these have to be some of the most horrifying words that can ever be spoken.
C. Their practice = lawlessness
What is lawlessness and why it is so damning? Biblically there are many references to lawlessness in the New Testament. I think one of the most important is the one in Hebrews ch. 1 that says Jesus Christ loves righteousness and hates lawlessness. Lawlessness is the mindset that – I am an exception to the rule. It is the mindset that says, “If breaking the law will help me accomplish my objective, then it is o.k. to break the law. Lawlessness is going my own way; doing my own thing. It comes from a heart of arrogance and rebellion. Lawlessness comes out of attitudes or thought patterns like this: “No one is going to tell me what to do.” “I’ll attend your church on most Sundays, but don’t tell me how to live my life.” “The IRS is corrupt anyways, so they don’t deserve my taxes.”
Its roots are in all of us, which is one of the reasons why we must be born again. We need a new nature to live a new life. Once we are born again, we are commanded to pursue righteousness and like Jesus – hate lawlessness. Paul put it this way in Romans 6:19, “…For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.”
Righteousness is the mindset that Jesus Christ is worthy of my moment by moment – day by day obedience – – and I do not get to pick and choose what I obey. In every circumstance and in every relationship there is a right response, a right attitude, a right course of action that His word has made clear and His Holy Spirit has made possible.
CONCLUSION – Several things we need to accept about our culture as it stands. 1. Most people have chosen the wide gate or the broad way. This way has many eloquent and influential proponents such as Oprah Winfrey. Oprah speaks less about salvation through Christ than she does Christ-consciousness. Likewise, she describes heaven not as an eternal destination but an inner realm of consciousness. And she dismisses the idea that there is “one way” to God, when she says, “There couldn’t possibly be just one way.” “One of the mistakes that human beings make is believing that there is only one way to live,” she said. Instead, “there are many paths to what you call God.” Few find the small gate or the narrow way. If you want to experience abundant, eternal life – – follow the few, not the crowd. Enter the narrow gate. And enter it now. You are not guaranteed another chance to enter it.
2. False prophets are increasing in number and in boldness and influence by the day. Beware of them. Don’t be fooled by their prophecies. Study their fruit (or lack of). Good trees will not produce (as a lifestyle or pattern) bad fruit. When I get around so called prophets or prophetesses, I want to know how they handle and talk about money and material things; I want to know what their family life is like; I want to know if they are humble and broken, or are they arrogant and proud; By the way this is very difficult to do to a person on t.v. or on the internet.
3. There are lots of people in the church world today that use Christian verbiage, but who do not know the Lord, which is evidenced by their character and lifestyle. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you more like Jesus, who hated lawlessness; but loved righteousness. Ask Him to deepen your hunger and thirst for righteousness. Only those who are walking in righteousness can spot and break the chains of lawlessness.
4. If you struggle with fear of man; cry out to God to rid you of it. It will rob you of life and turn you into one of the mob headed for destruction.
5. Seeking to enter the broad way or gate by the grace of God is something our congregation on the whole has been able to resist. We can thank God for that. But I believe Jesus’s word to us this morning would be: 1. Are you growing in your ability to proclaim my truth with love and kindness? 2. Are you growing in your compassion and broken heart for those who are facing sure destruction if they do not repent and turn from their sin to the Savior?
6. Lou Engle’s letter