Summary: Many people settle for the cloak of respectable religion. They claim to believe what everyone else believes – no more and no less. But Jesus came to call us into a growing relationship with him.
Me (my dilemma or question / Key Question)
In a recent NCAA cross-country championship held in Riverside, California, 123 of the 128 runners missed a turn. One competitor, Mike Delcavo, stayed on the 10,000 meter course and began waving for fellow runners to follow him. Delcavo was able to convince only four other runners to go with him. Asked what his competitors thought of his mid-race decision not to follow the crowd, Delcavo responded, "They thought it was funny that I went the right way." Delcavo was one who ran correctly.
Citation: Kent Lenard, www.sermoncentral.com
There is way of living and talking that is applauded by the majority but it missed a turn and is headed the wrong way. There is a kind of religion that looks good on the outside but really is not. It is socially acceptable faith rooted in what you know, what family you belong to, what religious things you do and say.
This cloak of socially respectable religion is so easy to slip into. I find that I’ve put it on without realizing it. Like those runners who missed the turn in their race, somewhere I started down a rabbit trail and stopped following Jesus.
We (our common ground on this)
This is a problem for all of us. Americans like us are fairly religious. Many of our friends and neighbors will happily join us in saying they believe in Jesus as long as we act like they do the rest of the time.
We can easily slip on the cloak of respectable religion because we know something about Jesus. We can recite a few Bible truths. We even give and participate in ministry to the less fortunate.
And all the while we are not genuine followers of Jesus. The scary reality is that all across our country this morning churches are filled with people who have enough religion to be socially respectable but not enough to experience a true life-changing relationship with Jesus yet. We can maintain the outward appearance of religion and still be strangers to its life-changing power (2 Timothy 3:5). It is a sobering reality that we must carefully consider. Not everyone who claims to be a believer really is. Not even in this room.
God (what the Bible says about this)
Jesus came into a world much like ours. The majority thought they were running God’s race but they’d missed a turn. Jesus came to show them how to get back on track with God.
He ends the Sermon on the Mount with the passage we’re looking at this morning. He closes with a call to choose. Jesus finishes his sermon with a crystal clear call to think carefully about the choice that we all need to make.
He starts with the Golden Rule which summarizes the morality of his Sermon.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
This summary is a reminder about what is the heart of true religion: a changed heart leading to a changed life. Real religion and a summary of the Law and Prophets are to treat others the way that you want to be treated. Loving your neighbor is the fulfillment of all God’s requirements (Gal 5:14).
That means if we claim to be religious but we are not filled with love for others, then we are not really connected to Jesus. If we claim to believe in Jesus but we don’t do what he says, we really don’t know him. We can claim to believe the right things but if our actions, attitudes, choices, and our lives don’t line up, then there is a problem. Actions reveal who we really are – no matter what we post on Facebook or forward in our emails.
Jesus draws all of this to a close with three warnings and their implied questions.
The Narrow Gate – What path are you on? Who are your trusting?
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Like the 123 runners who missed the same turn and lost that cross country race, many people follow the crowd to the wide gate that leads to destruction.
Jesus is warning us and inviting us to choose the narrow one. The narrow gate is Jesus. He is the only way that leads to life. He is calling you to make a decisive decision about the path you are going to be on. A decision to follow him and him alone leads to life.
There is only one way: trusting in Jesus Christ. This means that you understand who you are as sinner and who he is as Lord. To enter the narrow gate means that you understand who Jesus is and it effects on your life. His call is to believe on him and follow him. The gate and the path are linked.