Summary: Being a genuine Christ follower requires more than just our words or actions – it requires a heart to know Jesus.
When I first began to prepare the message this week, I had a nice attention catching illustration that I was going to use to open the sermon. But the more that I worked on the message this week, the more I became convinced that this is such an important message that I don’t want to waste even a few minutes of our time on any “fluff”. In fact, I’m convinced that this is undoubtedly the most important message that I’ve shared with you in quite some time so I want to encourage you to stay with me this morning.
As I pointed out last week, Jesus ends His teaching in verse 12 of chapter 7 in Matthew’s gospel account. And then beginning in verse 13, Jesus issues an invitation to His followers. Actually “invitation” may not really be the right word – it is in fact a command that Jesus issues with these words. We’re going to take the next three weeks to wrap up our journey through the Sermon on the Mount as we consider these words of Jesus which still speak to us today. Although this morning, we’ll only focus on a few verses, let’s read the entire closing section of the sermon so that we can keep everything in its proper context.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Matthew 7:13-27 (ESV)
Jesus uses a teaching method here that was common both within Judaism and Greco-Roman philosophy as He uses a series of contrasting “twos”:
• Two gates
• Two ways
• Two destinations
• Two trees
• Two fruits
• Two professions
• Two destinies
• Two houses
• Two foundations
With these nine contrasts, Jesus is calling His followers to a decision. He is not leaving any middle ground. In doing so, Jesus is committing here what the modern world probably considers the very worst sin of all – that of being narrow minded. In our culture today, that is one of the worst things you could say about another person. In fact, we tend to cut other people down with sayings like these:
• He was so narrow minded that if he fell on a pin it would blind him in both eyes.
• He was so narrow minded he could see through a keyhole with both eyes.
• She was so narrow minded that her earrings knocked together when she walked.
While we may chuckle a bit at those clever sayings, the issue that we’re going to deal with this morning is no laughing matter. And I think the words of G.K. Chesterton help us to put all this in a proper perspective:
Merely having an open mind is nothing; the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.
That’s our goal this morning – to take our minds and shut them on something solid – the words of Jesus.
The greatest danger this morning is probably not for any who are here this morning who have never committed your lives to Jesus. Certainly the command that Jesus issues here is relevant to you because you do need to enter through the narrow gate. But at least it should be quite apparent to you that you haven’t yet done that.