Two Ways One
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father 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 deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’
Well, we have one more week after this left in the SoM. But we’ll have to wait to the 15th to end. Next week is homecoming and that interrupts our regularly scheduled programming. David Gravitt will be coming home and preaching for us, I am looking forward to that and I hope you are too.
As I said last week, Jesus has finished the ethical part of his sermon by summing it up in the Golden Rule and he now turns to some warnings of what will happen if we are not living the way he taught when he returns.
Let me say, that he is not saying that good deeds save us. He is saying that If we love him and understand that the source of our salvation is in him and not works, that we will do the works out of that love. This is what he is referring to as fruits. If you are a disciple then you will be fruitful. Let’s unpack theses 3 sayings of Jesus this morning and see what we can learn.
On the surface it looks like that we have three saying that do not connect, like last week. However, on closer examination you will see that Jesus is talking about two ways we can live. This would not have been a new message to his Jewish audience.The idea of two ways is found in many places in the Old Testament. The two ways are the way of life and the way of death. Verse 13-14 is seen as a proverb buy most, because it directly reflects the Book of Proverbs. The book of proverbs was the training manual, if you will, for young men of royalty. In there you will find the two ways. For example we find in the introductory material of Proverbs in Chapter 2, wisdom is personified and tells the young man if he follows the instruction of God:
You will be saved from the loose woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the partner of her youth and forgets her sacred covenant; for her way leads down to death, and her paths to the shades; those who go to her never come back, nor do they regain the paths of life. Therefore walk in the way of the good, and keep to the paths of the just. For the upright will abide in the land, and the innocent will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.
There’s that word, paths, road, way, gate. Two ways. remember the Didache I mentioned last week, here is the first line in that book:
“There are two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and there is a great difference between the two Ways.”
The way to life is this: “First, you shall love God, who has created you; second, your neighbor as yourself. Whatever you do not want to happen to you, do not do to another.”
3a This is the teaching [that comes] from these words:
The metaphor of the roads would have spoken to the folks as well. By law a private road was 4 cubits wide and a public road was 16 cubits wide. 4 cubits is about 6 feet 6 inches. 16 cubits of course would be 4 times that. Kinda think of it as the narrow road is your drive way the wide road is 285. The wider road is the most dangerous, but you can travel faster avoiding all the traffic. Your driveway is much smaller.
Discipleship is not easy Jesus is saying. the way of life is narrow, but the way of death is much easier and there are many who take it. remember this when we get to verses 21-23.
Discipleship is not a path that we can travel by ourselves. it is tough enough to be a Christian especially if you are not surrounded by a support system that is on the same path as you.
not surrounded by a support system that is on the same path as you.
Jesus now turn his attention to our fruits. Also an OT theme about someone who follows the way of YHWH. He tells us to be aware of false prophets. As Wesley commented; False prophets open wide gates! Once again the Didache tells us that there were many traveling, itinerant prophets during the first century churches. We could see them today as a kind of traveling evangelist. The old fashioned kind with a tent. Thes prophets would travel from town to town preaching the word of God. they would stay in homes and depend on the hospitality of the churches.
They all looked the same on the outside. They all looked like sheep, but there were the false prophets, like Paul criticizes in Galatians, that preached a false gospel. Jesus said we will know them by their fruits! That is they are hypocritical, not doing what they say. We have seen our share of these false prophets over the years. Jim Bakker would be an example for our day in time of what Jesus is talking about here.
So once again we have two ways here. The false prophet can lead to death, the real prophets to life and if we watch closely we will identify them by their actions.
What Jesus says about the bad fruit tree being thrown into the fire concerns their judgement when he returns.
We have now reached the most convicting saying in the section we are dealing with. Not everyone who professes Jesus as Lord will make it into the Kingdom. OUCH!
It is natural that this would follow the teaching about the false prophets. They are a prime example of what he is referring too here. But, he is also talking about self deception. here is a great comment on this from one commentator:
“Perhaps no passage in the NT expresses more concisely and more sharply that the essence of discipleship, and hence of participation in the kingdom, is found not in words, nor in religiosity, nor even in the performance of spectacular deeds in the name of Jesus, but only in the manifestation of true righteousness—i.e., the doing of the will of the Father as now interpreted through the teaching of Jesus. Relationship with Jesus is thus impossible apart from doing the will of God.”
We have to take a step back look in the mirror and ask ourselves are we doing the will of God, for the right reasons? Are we doing God’s will thinking we are earning our salvation? Are we doing God’s will, especially acts of social justice, because it makes us feel good, like we are really good people? Are we testing what people say about the gospel or do we blindly accept it because its sold a million copies? Have we confused politics with religion? In other words do we vote a certain way because the candidate professes they are Christian, but there actions once elected or fruits show they aren’t.
Our actions do not save us. our words do not save us. Salvation is in the Lord. Disciples do the will of God out of the love that God has shown for us. Our actions are not in self interest, they are in the interest of Christ.
Remember what Jesus said at the start of this sermon, that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees.
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
We live in a day of fast food and quick hits. We lie in the day of wide gates and wide roads. beware of fast food Christianity. We have a choice. We get to choose between ways. but we do not get to choose the consequences. This is Jesus warning to us this morning. Living in the Kingdom is not easy its a 6 foot wide way, but what lies at the end is worth every sacrifice. its up to us. The way of death or the way of life.