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Read scripture: Matthew 7:12-14
This passage is near the end of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. The sermon on the mount was an extraordinary message. I want to give you a brief breakdown of this sermon given by our Lord. We have to move through it quickly because there is so much information in these three chapters. Christ is preaching a message to the scholars of His day as well as to the lowest economic class of His day. He begins with the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-11. Sinclair Ferguson says “Essentially the beatitudes are saying in the kingdom of God you must first be emptied to be filled”. And, that was and is a beautiful picture of what Christ did for us. He came down truly God and truly Man. He empties Himself on our behalf, and without His emptying of Himself we can never be filled.
We find this exact example in Philippians 2:5-8 “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but, emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
These beatitudes as we call them, were not Law but a depiction of what the Christian life represents. He then continues to explain us as the salt and light in Matthew 5:13-16. A light to the desperate world. Then Jesus explains that he came to fulfill the law in Matthew 5:17-20. We could spend all day in these verses but briefly Jesus is saying the Law must be fulfilled, He came to fulfill all old testament law, and the law shall not be belittled. In other words, The Bible is one book not two. Jesus goes on to make His “You have heard” or “It has been said” statements. What Jesus is doing in Matthew 5:21-48 is explaining the law. He is correcting the theology of the Pharisees by presenting the law and using the old testament to explain commonly misunderstood and misused passages. In Matthew chapter six Jesus is dealing directly with the heart behind the believer. He is condemning prideful giving, unintentional prayer, boastful fasting, condition of the heart, and self reliance. Now through chapter six He condemns these behaviors but also instructs on how we shall uphold ourselves throughout these behaviors. Now, in chapter 7 Christ has warnings and instructions for us and ultimately at the end of the sermon he is described as one with divine authority.
Now, back to our section of scripture this morning.
Starting with Matthew 7:12 “12 So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Throughout this whole sermon Jesus does not pull any punches and neither should we when preaching the truth. As believers in Christ we must fully accept, believe and trust God’s revelation to us. His Word.
John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” If we don’t fully accept what’s in this book we are not fully accepting God. We read the Word to know God more, and to be pushed by Him into further depths of sanctification. Let’s look at some parallels to Matthew 7:12.
Leviticus 19:18 “18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord”.
The outline of chapter 19 in Leviticus is a guideline to practical holiness. This is the most often quoted old testament text in the new testament. The second great commandment. Also this verse from Leviticus is ultimately quoted in Matthew 5:43-44, Matthew 19:19, and
Matthew 22:38-40. Which Reads “38 This is the great and first commandment(speaking to loving the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind). 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend the Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus explains the first commandment before giving the second. In this parallel to Matthew 7:12 Jesus uses the word love to describe how to treat our neighbors. I like that and I will get more into that but I want you to know these verses are not a call to self love. We do not love ourselves for selfish reasons in the christian walk. That’s not what these verses call us to do. They are an explanation that our faith should shine like a beacon from. Why? Because, our love and our actions are different. We turn the other cheek, we forgive, we protect and we seek what glorifies God.
I am under the impression that believers in Christ understand and convey love in a way the world does not understand. We no longer seek fleshly desires that the world uses to build themselves up and create idols to give them a false sense of hope. I want to be clear! There IS no hope for the lost if they don’t put their faith in Christ. He is our only hope and their only hope. Before I get into why I am under the impression Christians have a different understanding of love than the world I want to get into verses 13 and 14 and then we’ll tie it together.
Matthew 7:13-14 “13 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. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Throughout scripture we see this contrast of two; two gates, two trees, two fruits, two foundations, two destinations and two types of people. Leonard Ravenhill once said “There are two kinds of people in the world-only two kinds. Not black or white, rich or poor, but those either dead in sin or dead to sin” What an amazing statement and very practical to these verses. Brothers and sisters understand that this sermon was not preached to a group of pagans who had no idea about the Word and the coming Messiah. This was preached to a crowd who knew the Word and were very familiar with the way, the gates and the paths Jesus refers to. The old testament prophets and priests had preached about this way and this gate Jesus refers to.
In Psalm 16:11 David says “You make known to me the path of life”.
And a contrasting verse from Solomon David’s son.
Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death”.
These two verses would have been well known to most of Jesus' crowd. Jesus is clarifying what was supposed to be known. He was not changing. He was explaining. Now Proverbs 14:12 is very similar to the destructive path that Jesus describes in Matthew 7:13. This path seems right, it seems good. This path seems like it may even bring you to God. This path is our path if we walk in self righteousness or deceive ourselves into a false sense of salvation. This path was for the Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of the time. This path says “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name and do mighty works in your name?” RESPONSE! A declaration from the Lord “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness”. Matthew 7:22-23. How terrifying it would be to be on the other side of this declaration. The jaw dropping, gut wrenching, sorrow filled receiving end of this declaration. But, the truth is this is declared by our Lord everyday. Someone is hearing this every single day. Notice how our Lord says “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are MANY.” And then in verse 22 “On that day MANY”. Many men and many women will deceive themselves into this false sense of hope. Many who claim to be Christians will go down the wide gate and will hear this declaration from the Lord. They will be rightly judged by a just God. This will not just be the Mormons, the Catholics and Jehovah’s witnesses to name a few who have been deceived by the evil one and claim to be Christians. Evangelical Christians will hear this. Those who claim to be of our faith will hear this. I am not trying to condemn you or scare you. God is trying to warn you. Through His Spirit and by His Word.
Real quickly, I want to address something I just said that may be controversial. Some of you may be wondering why I put Catholics in this group that will hear a judgmental declaration from the Lord. Many leaders in the evangelical church would have you believe Catholics believe the same Gospel as us. They believe there are minor differences between the Protestant Christian Church and the Orthodox Roman Catholic Church. They believe the issues are secondary and not primary. This was what God used Martin Luther to reveal 500 years ago. Luther called out their heresy and their false doctrines and how does the Catholic Church respond? With the Council of Trent. Affirming uninspired books and rejecting the Gospel of Christ. Listen to what was agreed upon and never rescinded from the Council of Trent.
This is from Session 6, Canon 9 “If anyone says that by faith alone the sinner is justified so as to mean that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, let him be anathema.”
Then, session 6 canon 11 “If anyone says that men are justified either by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ alone or by the remission of sins alone, to the exclusion of the grace and love that is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Spirit and is inherent in them or even that the grace by which we are justified is only the favor of God, let him be an anathema.”
Well I have a response to that
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
This faith is a gift from the Grace of God. So, this passage and many more like it directly contradict what those from Rome decided 500 years ago. These canons also contradict the Gospel Which Paul says is of first importance.
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
I just wanted to make this point in case you may have been confused as to why I put the Catholics with the Jehovah’s witnesses and Mormons. Which by the way there’s not enough time in a day to confront the issues with their false gospels.
Now, let’s confront the issue with the modern American church. Notice how in these verses there is actually three separate contrasting themes. Making a total of six characteristics we see either in the Christian life or in those who live by the flesh. First, we have two gates the narrow gate and the wide gate. Second, we have two ways, the easy way and the hard way. Finally, we have two crowds, the many and the few. Now today in churches around America it is believed and taught that these can go together in whatever order. You can walk the easy and destructive way with many and enter the narrow gate. Rearrange this however you like but, Christ is saying there is only one combination that works. Hard way, narrow gate with few. Look at verse 14, Jesus says “the way is hard”. The Greek verb used here is Thlibo. This can also be translated to crush, oppress, compress, or trouble. It is used here to describe oppression or affliction. Christ is telling us this path is difficult. This path will leave you persecuted and you will walk it with very few. This text causes American Christians to stumble because they’ve been preached a gospel that tells them they can live however they want repeat a prayer and go on living that same way the rest of their lives and they will inherit the kingdom. NO death to self, NO perseverance, and NO being born again. This stems from the issue of man not understanding man. They don’t understand the fall of Adam. They don’t understand or they reject it. Adam fell causing sin to enter the world and causing man to be born inherently evil. Yet, some in the American church believe for some reason that doesn’t apply to them because they’re pretty good. They believe, well I haven’t murdered anyone and I take the old couple down the streets trash out every week and I try to be good. Trying to be good is a death sentence. We must recognize our sin nature to elevate God and to accept how gracious He truly is.
Romans 3:10-12 says “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
You’re not good. In fact, the Bible says you can’t be good.
So, what must we do? How can we stay on the narrow path? How do we enter through the narrow gate? Must we confess our sins to a priest? Must we tally up our good works? Must we ask saints or Mary to present our case to the most high? Must we follow the Law perfectly to be justified? Or, do we just repeat a prayer? Brothers and sisters if we answer yes to any of those questions… we will hear that declaration on that day. If we put our faith and belief into our works we have no true grasp on Christ’s atonement. We have no true grasp on the Gospel. (explain why works no save,here, or after Because He)So, how do we enter through the narrow gate? BECAUSE HE! Because He lived! Because He died! Because He rose! Because He is coming back again! Christians this is the only way. The only path that leads to righteousness. Through Jesus Christ our redeemer and our only hope. He is THE way.(explain the way referred to here and make a note about what early Christians were called… the way) Why do you think the earliest Christians were referred to as The Way. Because they preached this. They preached Jesus as the one way to salvation and the one life to salvation. They preached the hard and narrow life that few would follow. They preached the way and so did Christ and that is why they were referred to as The Way.
Going back to tie in verse 12. When we are truly His we know love in a whole new way. We express our love in a whole new way. Why? Because He rips us up, breaks us down and indwells us. I’ll give you an example. My son is almost 2 years old now and he is becoming more and more stable. Everyday he is capable of something he wasn’t the day before. But, sometimes he falls. But, he is learning that when the terrain is rough or there are obstacles in the way all he has to do is reach out his hand and ask dad for help. And, I can lead him through safely. It’s really a simple analogy. But if only we would reach out our hands or drop to our knees and ask for help. The point is this, Christ indwells us with His Spirit and leads us. If we’re really His he leads us through persecution, through death, through pain, through trials. And, if we are truly His we give everything back to Him. To refer back to our understanding of love being different from earlier. Our love is different because He loves through us. Our actions are different because He acts through us. And we can rest in His finished work and let His Spirit lead us into further and further sanctification and like my son we can be capable of something we weren’t the day before. I’ll leave you with this verse from
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”.
If you are not following the path, the way and the one and only truth I urge you to repent and plea to God to save you and turn you from your sinful ways. To rely on Him and Him alone.