Summary: The entry points of faith, the results of the faith choice, and the solid and enduring life that is built on faith.
Options, choices, alternative, opportunities! The richness of life is found in these. Part of what makes a trip to the ice cream shop a delight is choosing between cinnamon drop vanilla, chocolate fudge swirl, and oreo crunch mint for your ice cream cone.
Everyone of us makes dozens of choices everyday. Most are routine; which clothes, which cereal, coffee or tea. But some of our choices have the potential to be life-changing. Often we cannot imagine how today’s choice will affect tomorrow. Toss a small stone into a pond. What happens? Ripples spread across the surface of the water from the place where the stone splashed into it.
Our decisions have that kind of ripple effect in our lives and those who live around us.
The central truth of this message is: The choice of obedience to the will of God has eternal consequences.
In the Scripture text this morning, Jesus talks about choices and consequences.
Turn with me to Matthew 7.
2 Gates, 2 Trees, 2 Foundations
[ read 7:13-27 ] [ PRAY ]
All choices have a beginning, an entry point that shapes the process. For those of us who would be followers of Jesus, the beginning point of our decision-making must be our willingness to enter,
to embrace the will of God in our daily choices.
By the will of God I am not so much speaking about the specifically revealed daily plan of action as much as I am speaking of our overall moral framework. We must decide clearly whether we regard our life as belonging to us alone or to God as Lord and Master. Jesus calls on us to understand if we declare Him Lord certain choices and/or options in our life will be limited by that decision.
He uses a powerful illustration of this truth.
In the time that Jesus spoke these words cities depended on walls for defense against invaders. Each night the wide city gates that allowed passages of carts and large numbers of people were closed. Inset in the large gate or to one side of the gate was a narrow door that allowed passage of a single person at a time. That gate was guarded and only those who were known to be inhabitants of the city were allowed in.
Are you entering the narrow gate of obedience to the will of God?
Such a question goes directly against our cherished American ideal of unlimited personal freedom. We value personal choice in every area of life - in ways that become ridiculous.
∙ Conceive a child at an inconvenient time in life? Exercise your freedom, your right, to end the pregnancy.
∙ Want a sexual experience that is not available in your marriage? As long as nobody gets hurt, go for it!
Everyone talks about their rights, but few are discussing their responsibilities. The idea of sacrifice of self for the greater good of a family, a community, a church, or even God is not a popular idea today. Many people’s highest goal in life is simply to be happy at a given moment in time.
Even serving God is being turned into a deal-making proposition. Many people think,
"OK, I do what God wants me to God as long as I feel that there is a direct benefit in it for me."
Jesus calls on those who would follow Him to be prepared to forsake the broad gate of unlimited personal choice for a narrow gate of choice shaped by the plan and purpose of our holy God. Our vocational choices, our choices regarding possessions, our choices in relationships, our sexual choices - every choice we make - He asks that we fit that choice to His desire for life. While limiting our options may seem undesirable to us initially, Jesus promises that in the end the narrow gate will lead us to a fuller life.
The second major point of this passage concerns what is produced in our day to day life, the kind of fruit that our words and actions produce.
Our internal reality will become evident in what we say and do!
We have spent weeks considering Jesus’ words in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. The repeated emphasis is on inner reality versus external image. Here we are reminded, what you are inside; how you think and what you value, will show up in the way that you live. In Galatians 5:16-24, we read....
...live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want..... The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.