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2006-10-01_Two Choices_Matthew 7.13-29

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Two Choices

Matthew 7:13-29   |   Shaun LePage   |   October 1, 2006

I. Introduction—This week, I’ve been thinking about choices.

A.   Think about your choices this morning for breakfast. You could have eaten fruit or made pancakes or had a bowl of cereal. If you wanted, you could have gotten up early and gone out for breakfast. Maybe something quick like McDonald’s or something less quick like Perkins or First Watch or the HyVee café.

B.    Think for a moment about all the choices you made on the way to church this morning. Most of us chose which cars we would drive. Most of us have options. Some could have walked. Some could have ridden bicycles. We chose from several possible routes we could have taken. From my house, I took 6th Street down to the K-10 bypass. But, I could have gone down Kasold to 23rd Street and then out to the K-10 Bypass. But that would not have been the most direct route. If I was running very early and wanted to just take a drive, I could have picked any one of dozens of possible routes to church.

C.   Think about your church choices. You didn’t have to come to Community Bible this morning. I’m very glad you did and I hope you are too, but let’s face it. You probably passed 15 or 20 churches on your way here. You could have picked a Lutheran church or a Baptist church or an Assembly of God church. You could have picked a staunch, conservative, legalistic church or you could’ve picked a loosey-goosey, anything goes liberal church.

D.   Our lives are full of choices. Every day in multiple ways. Sometimes those choices are simple and easy. Sometimes they’re very difficult. Sometimes the right option isn’t clear. Sometimes it’s obvious.

E.    When it comes to choices of belief; choices of faith; spiritual choices; it appears at first glance that there are many choices: Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and on and on it goes. But in reality, there are only two choices: God’s way or the wrong way. In fact, within Christianity there seems to be so many choices and options, but in reality, there are only two choices: God’s way or the wrong way.

1.     Turn to Deuteronomy 30:15-19. At the end of Moses’ life the children of the Israelite slaves were about to enter the Promised Land. Moses stood up and said this.

2.     Joshua gave a similar plea toward the end of his life. Turn to Joshua 24:15. And we could look at other examples as well.

3.     CPS: When we come to the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we find again a very clear line in the sand—if you will. Jesus presents us with two choices and invites us to choose the way of life.

II.   Body—Matthew 7:13-29

A.   Observation

Choices—Matthew 7:13-27
Metaphor Meaning
1.Two gates: Narrow and wide Jesus is the door to life (John 10:7-10; 14:6). To “enter” is to trust Him for eternal life.
2.Two ways: Narrow and broad The “narrow way” is the way of discipleship Jesus has described in the Sermon on the Mount. Those who truly choose the “narrow gate” choose the “narrow way” by default.
3.Two destinations: Life and destruction “Life” is the “abundant life” (John 10:10) that Jesus offers to all who choose to be His disciples. It will end in eternal life in heaven.
4.Two groups of travelers: Few and many Few will be saved because few will choose the “narrow gate.” Many—by comparison—will reject Jesus as the only gate and the kingdom-life (Matthew 5-7) as the only way to life.
5.Two kinds of trees: Good and bad The “good tree” is Jesus and all those who speak His “words” (7:24). The “bad trees” are the false prophets (7:15). Though the “bad trees” will call Jesus “Lord” and look good externally, they “never knew” Jesus (7:21-23).
6.Two kinds of fruit: Good and bad “Good trees” will be known by the production of right teaching and right living.
7.Two kinds of builders: Wise and foolish The wise builder chooses to build his spiritual house on the “rock” of Jesus’ “words.” The “sand” is any teaching which contradicts Jesus.
8.Two foundations: Rock and sand To “act” on the “words” of Jesus is equal to “building” on the “rock.” The foundation of a wise man’s actions is the word of God.
9.Two kinds of houses: Standing and fallen The houses may look identical, but when the “rain…floods…winds” of life or judgment come what really matters is the foundation. If the foundation is anything other than the “words” of Christ, the result will be a “great fall.”

1.     What Jesus gave us in this passage is a list of metaphors. The first thing we must do is seek to understand the metaphors, then we can understand the points He was trying to make.

2.     On your handout is a chart. Let’s fill in the blanks together as we walk through the passage. Then, I’ll have a few applications at the end.

B.    Verses 13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

1.     Here we have two gates: narrow and wide.

a)    Other passages make it clear that the “gate” refers to Jesus and that He is the only way to be saved from “destruction.”

(i)   Listen to John 10:7-10: “So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  

(ii)  Remember what Jesus said in John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

b)     “Enter” is a very important word here. It is an invitation. You have a choice. There are two gates—you must choose one and enter. So, Jesus is the door to life. To “enter” is to trust Him for eternal life.

2.     Secondly, we see two ways: narrow and broad.

a)    Since the two “ways” are situated between the “gates” and the eventual destinations (life and destruction), I understand the “narrow way” to be this radically different life Jesus has been describing for us in Matthew 5-7. In other words, the “narrow way” is the way of discipleship Jesus has described in the Sermon on the Mount.

b)    Here’s another important aspect of this. Those who truly choose the “narrow gate” choose the “narrow way” by default. What I mean is this: Jesus assumes that someone who trusts Him as Savior will also follow Him as Lord. This does not mean that every true Christian will automatically live out the Sermon on the Mount. If we become robots the moment we are saved, then most of the New Testament is meaningless. Over and over the New Testament calls us to choose—as an act of our will—to “take up our cross and follow” Christ. So, I believe Jesus simply doesn’t address those here who genuinely trust Him for salvation, but then choose not to walk down the path behind that gate. It just doesn’t make sense. If you choose the gate, it only makes sense to choose the path.

c)    Now again, Jesus and the apostles make it clear that Jesus is the only way to heaven. He is the “door” and He is “the way” to God. In these verses, Jesus makes it very clear that there are not many paths up the mountain. This means that we as Christians are rightly called “narrow minded.” Just because something is “narrow” does not make it wrong. Many things are “narrow” and true.

(i)   Think of math. Did your math teachers ever say, “There are 25 multiplication problems on this test, but don’t worry. If you’re sincere about your answers, it doesn’t matter what your write down.

(ii) Think about airline pilots. Don’t you want your pilot to be “narrow minded”? Or do you want him trying to set that plane down just anywhere he wants? You want him to set it down on the runway at the airport in the city you’re traveling to.

(iii)    Just because something is narrow does not make it wrong—or right for that matter. But Christianity claims to be narrow and true.

3.     Third, we see two destinations: life and destruction.

a)    I believe “life” here in its simplest form means heaven. “Destruction” means hell. “Life” with God is the destination for those who choose the narrow gate. Those who choose the wide gate will end in destruction.

b)    But I also think there is a richer meaning here. Jesus has been describing—throughout the Sermon on the Mount—a lifestyle on planet earth. In the here and now. Yes, it looks forward to the future kingdom of God where we will live this out in perfection, but He is challenging us to begin now—in this life. And, as we know from other places, Jesus came to give us “abundant life”—real life—in the here and now. Any other life will not only end in destruction but will actually be a long, slow slide into destruction—ending in the worst destruction of all: eternal separation from God. 

4.     Fourth, we see two groups of travelers: few and many.

a)    Sadly, Jesus tells us “there are few who find” the narrow gate. Many will choose the broad way and consider themselves very good and spiritual people. But their end is “destruction” because they rejected Christ—the narrow gate. Proverbs 14:12 puts it this way: Proverbs “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”

b)    A few years ago I was in an email conversation with a sweet and sincere person. Our conversation really illustrates how real all this is. It started simple. I just asked her what she believed. She was more than happy to share her beliefs with me.

(i)   She said things like, “I like the idea that God…” and then she’d ramble on about what she wanted God to look like. She also said she just couldn’t “relate to or embrace” the God other people believe in. She said, “I’ve always had a problem with the idea of the ‘one truth path’…everyone sees God slightly differently: (she likes to view God as a Mother) I think we’re all going to the same place, it’s just a matter of how we get there. It may take a little longer for some people, but I believer there’s room for everyone with God.”

(ii)  This might be the first time I’ve quoted myself in a sermon, but here’s part of my reply: “It seems to me that you believe we can pick what we want God to be like. You talked about not being ‘able to relate to or embrace’ (the God of the Bible); you said ‘everyone sees God slightly differently’ and ‘I often think of God as Mother.’ Aren’t you really saying that we can decide what God is like, what His attributes are, what His demands on our lives are (if He has any), and what His nature is? I hope I’m not misrepresenting you, but if that is correct, then I must ask you a question: Is God real? What I mean is, if there is no God, then we can pick and choose the images we like and create our own ‘Creator’ so to speak. It doesn’t really matter what we believe or how we worship if God is not real. We can just make Him (or Her or It) up in a way that makes us feel comfortable—a god we like. But, if He is real, then don’t we have to accept Him as He is and as He has revealed Himself? Don’t we have to come to Him on His terms and relate to Him as He truly is, and not how we would like Him to be?”

c)    Ultimately, many people choose a religion that suits them. They choose what’s comfortable or cultural. They want a god they can manage—not one to whom they are accountable. That just seems right. It just feels right. But it is deadly. Jesus makes it very simple and clear. You have two choices—the narrow gate which leads to the narrow way which leads to life. Or, you can choose whatever you want to believe—the wide gate which leads to the broad way which leads to destruction.

d)    I’ve been talking mostly about unbelievers here. But in the next section, Jesus makes it clear that believers must be careful who they listen to.

C.   Verses 15-23:

1.     “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

a)    In verses 15-23, Jesus gives us a second command. “Beware of the false prophets…” Why? First, He’s talking about gates and the paths on the other side of the gates. Why switch to a warning about false prophets? Because, false prophets will lead you to the wrong gate. They will convince you that the wide gate is the truly enlightened option. They will use spiritual sounding words in a spiritual sounding way to convince you that the broad way is the best way to go.

b)    Here, Jesus gives us an important picture. Some “false prophets”—religious leaders and teachers—will look very good on the outside. He will look like a true believer. She will sound so wise. He will seem gentle, and godly and biblical. But take a closer look. He’s not a sheep at all. She’s not one of God’s children—not one of His people. In reality, he’s a wolf. And don’t think for a minute this is just about unbelievers not finding the gate. If you’re thinking, “I’ve found the gate, so this doesn’t apply to me,” then please reconsider. You and I can get fooled too. If you’re listening to a teacher—by radio or TV or through books or even in the pulpit of a church—who sounds Christian and sounds spiritual, but in reality is a “false prophet”—a “ravenous wolf in sheep’s clothing”—you can be thrown off course and become completely ineffective in your walk with Christ.

c)    I saw this a lot as a youth pastor. The modern youth ministry culture has—in my opinion—thrown many true Christian students off course. Many will never recover. Now—are all these youth ministry gurus “wolves in sheep’s clothing”? I don’t believe that. Some are, many are well-intentioned people who have bought into a watered down philosophy of discipleship. That movement has encouraged youth pastors to teach students on a very shallow level, to focus on having great experiences together, but not challenging them to think and grow. Not helping them become firmly grounded in the faith. This is why—statistically speaking—the first year of college is when most Christians walk away from the faith. They’ve had a great time in their youth ministry days, but they’re not ready for the intellectual and spiritual challenges they face in the college classroom.

d)    So, Jesus tells us to “beware of false prophets.” Then, He goes on from the warning and teaches us how to test “prophets” or teachers.

2.     “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits.

a)    This is important. Jesus tells us here how we “will know them.” How can you spot a false prophet. If they come in “sheep’s clothing” (yes, Jesus is mixing His metaphors here, but He’s entitled), then how can we spot them? Jesus changes the metaphor to trees—so fifth on your handout is two kinds of trees: good and bad. Trees represent prophets or teachers. Fruit represents what a prophet or teacher produces. Often, we can’t just look at a tree and tell whether it is good or bad. It might flower up and look beautiful and healthy. This is true of teachers, as well. You might not be able to tell at first whether a teacher is a “good tree” or a “bad tree.” Only when the fruit comes can you tell whether it’s a good tree or a bad one. We’ll come back to the fruit in a second, but first let me make a couple more points about these trees. Jump ahead here for a second.

(i)   Look at v.24: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Jesus is contrasted Himself with the false prophets. What this tells us is that the “good tree” is Jesus and all those who speak His “words”. The “bad trees” are the false prophets.

(ii) Look also at vs. 21-23: Though the “bad trees” will call Jesus “Lord” and look good externally, they “never knew Jesus”. So, even though we may not be able to tell exactly who is a “false prophet” immediately, it will eventually become clear because their teaching will bear some kind of fruit.

b)    If it produces “good fruit” it’s a good tree. If it produces “bad fruit” it’s a bad tree. So, the real question is, what is meant by fruit? Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits.” He repeated this twice (vs. 16 and 20) so it’s very important.

(i)   “Fruit represents their doctrines and deeds.” (See Thomas Constable, and Joseph Dillow, Reign of the Servant Kings.) So #6 on your outline is two kinds of fruit: good and bad. “Good trees” will be known by the production of right teaching and right living.

(ii) Sometimes their actions, lifestyle, character will obviously reveal someone to be a false prophet. They will not consistently model the “fruit of the Spirit”—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. They will demonstrate themselves to be “lawless” in their behavior.

(iii)    But, that’s not always a clear indication. Sometimes false teachers will live apparently flawless lives. They will do great deeds—build great churches, inspire enormous crowds, sell millions of books that genuinely seem to help people. Look at vs. 21-23: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” Does Jesus teach here that salvation is by works? No! The point is they apparently did great things “in Jesus’ name” and even thought they were serving God. But in reality, they will not enter the kingdom of heaven because they “never knew” Christ. They “practiced lawlessness” because they were doing religious deeds—even some that appear to be miraculous—without ever genuinely being in relationship and submission to Jesus Christ.  

c)    Look closely at the claims of Jesus Christ here! He will stand in judgment. He will decide whether someone “will enter the kingdom of heaven.” This is a clear claim of deity. Jesus clearly claims to be the Lord and Judge of all. He is the “good tree” who stands in judgment of all. Again, the teachings of Jesus make it clear: There are not many ways to know and serve God. Even if you do great and powerful deeds, but have never entered that “narrow gate” and received eternal life in Christ, everything in your life is leading to destruction.

d)    But His point in teaching all this is to show that we can recognize false teachers by both their teaching and their actions. Their doctrine and their deeds. Look at Matthew 12:33-37. Clearly, Jesus is showing here that “fruit” can be both teaching and actions. Doctrine and deeds. “Good trees” will be known by the production of right teaching and right living.

e)    And it’s our responsibility to “beware”—to make sure we’re not exposing ourselves and our families and our church family to false prophets—false teachers.  

D.   Verses 24-29: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.

1.     The seventh metaphor here is two kinds of builders: wise and foolish. It’s really quite simple: The wise builder chooses to build his spiritual house on the “rock” of Jesus’ “words.” The “sand” is any teaching which contradicts Jesus.

2.     Notice also the eighth metaphor—there are two foundations: rock and sand. To “act” on the “words” of Jesus is equal to “building” on the “rock.” The foundation of a wise man’s actions is the word of God. The opposite of course, is the foolish man. He builds on the sand which means he builds his spiritual house on teachings which contradict “these words of” Jesus. In other words, this is an issue of obedience. Both “hear these words” from Jesus. But only one obeys them.

3.     Finally, notice the ninth metaphor, there are two kinds of houses: standing and fallen. The houses may look identical, but when the “rain…floods…winds” of life or judgment come what really matters is the foundation. If the foundation is anything other than the “words” of Christ, the result will be a “great fall.” Your life is like a building. You can live your life according to the words, the teaching of Jesus. Or, you can live your life according to any other way. Christian—don’t miss this. You too can genuinely trust Christ for salvation but build your life on your own faulty ideas, or your parents’ faulty teachings, or some other influence. Each of us has a daily choice—will we live according to the “words” of Jesus or not? It’s that simple.

4.     Those last two verses conclude the Sermon on the Mount and communicate a lot for us. 28 When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” Jesus taught like no other man. Why? Because He taught with “authority.” Jesus didn’t claim that His teachings were the way to life. Jesus claimed He Himself was the way to life. He didn’t just teach great ideas. He presented Himself as the final solution. The only solution for mankind.

III. Closing. Three things really stand out to me here that we need to take to heart as we conclude our look at the Sermon on the Mount. I believe Jesus wanted us to make some big, hard choices.

A.   Ask yourself: Have I ever entered through that narrow gate? For some of you, perhaps the major choice is about those gates. Will you choose one of the many belief systems available out there, or will you choose what Jesus Christ said was the only way to life? The invitation from this passage is very clear: Enter through the narrow gate: Trust Christ for salvation.

B.    Maybe you need to ask yourself this question: Who am I listening to? Do you really perceive false teaching as dangerous—as Jesus indicates here? Are you careful about who you read? Listen to? Watch? We all need to be like the Bereans. Luke tells us the Bereans listened to the teaching of the apostle Paul “with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Heed the warning of Jesus: Beware of false teachers: Test everything with the Scriptures.

C.   Finally, drink in what Jesus said in that final section: “Everyone who hears these words and acts on them…” is wise. Build on the rock: Act on God’s Word. James—the half-brother of Jesus—would later put it this way in James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Don’t delude yourself. Act on God’s Word. We’ve spent many weeks analyzing every word of Matthew 5-7. All of these hours we’ve spent “hearing” the Sermon on the Mount will have been worth it only if you—and I—will now “do” the Sermon on the Mount.

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