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O Lord, whenever we sing this song, one of my favorite hymns, I am struck by that third verse already read for us, “Why was I made to hear Your voice and enter while there’s room; when thousands, millions, make a wretched choice and rather starve than come?” Lord, may we never lose sight or fail to give thanks for the miracle of Your election, Your sovereign choosing of us, and as You have chosen us, may we, too, make the choice that will last for all eternity, to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, because You have first enabled our hearts to make this choice. You have first given us the gift of faith, O Lord, we pray that now You would give us ears to hear, You would give us minds to understand, You would give us hearts to feel and believe and You would give us wills to obey, that Your Word would do its work in us. In Jesus we pray. Amen.
We come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapter 7. One more sermon next week, two wrap up verses, which are not just wrap up verses so do plan on being here next Sunday, but this is the end of the Sermon proper. We come to chapter 7, Matthew 7, verses 12 through 27. Whether you’re hearing this for the first time or if you’ve read this hundreds of times, listen to God’s Word and to Jesus preaching this Word to us.
““So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. 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.””
Like any good preacher, Jesus knows how to end a sermon. Think of all that He’s been talking about. After talking about what it means to be truly blessed, chapter 5, after telling the disciples be salt and light in the world, reaffirming the authority of the Law and the prophets, after giving then six examples of the kind of righteousness that surpasses the scribes and Pharisees, after providing a model for prayer, after teaching about money and worry and judgmentalism, after urging us to ask, seek, and knock, and then after summing up things in verse 12 with the so-called Golden Rule, then in verses 13 through 27 Jesus comes to His conclusion. And it’s a provocative conclusion.
Jesus wants to drive us to the point of decision. He wants us to see that there is a choice we must make, and Jesus would have us choose wisely.
I can’t help but think about the end of the Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade. Use viewer discretion if you want your kids to see it or not, but you have to choose the grail and he chooses, I don’t know, the bad guy, one of the Nazis, chooses the fancy one and, you know, this is right out of the Bible somewhere, he ages at 100 years in a day and his hair grows and his face sinks in and he dies and then the Knights of the Crusade there says to him, in a matter of understatement, “He chose poorly.” Indeed he did. If your face melts off, bad choice. And Indiana Jones, of course, chooses the humble carpenter’s cup and chooses wisely.
Well, Jesus is talking about something a little bit different, but reminds us how important it is in life that you choose wisely. In fact, there’s no more important choice than this.
And here’s where I want to make sure that we don’t ignore what this passage is about, either because we’re familiar with it or because here we are, on a Sunday evening, Memorial Day weekend, most of you have probably been to a church service a time or two before, if you haven’t, we’re very glad you’re here, you’re in the right place, but most of you have probably been to a lot of church services. You’ve probably studied Matthew 7. You’ve probably heard many sermons about trusting and choosing Jesus.
Well, yes, this is a message for those who for the first time ought to put their trust in Jesus and turn from their way of sin and follow Him, but we would be mistaken if we think we do that once, we join the church, we sign a card, we pray a prayer, we do something to signify that decisive turning, and then we don’t have any more choices to make. No, that’s not what life is like.
You have may been a Christian for 50 years and yet we are faced week by week, month by month, with these sorts of decisions. Sometimes we can think, as Reformed Christians, that choice, choosing, decision, is a bad word. No, we believe, Jesus Himself says unless the Father draws, you can’t come. So we believe that God’s choosing is prior to our choosing, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t talk about making choices, about making a decision to follow Jesus.
Think of Joshua 24, “Choose for yourselves whom you will serve. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
John 6:37: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me. Whoever comes to Me, I will never cast out.”
You still have to come.
And remember that what we have as the Sermon on the Mount in three chapters, it would maybe take 20 minutes to read, was very likely a longer sermon. We have maybe a Reader’s Digest version. Jesus maybe elaborated on these points. Remember, Jesus sometimes preached so long that people needed food to be brought in. So it could be a lot longer.
So it’s not like Jesus is here trying to just toy with their emotions, trying to bring them to some quick decision. No, He’s probably given them a lot of content and now He wants to lay out the very stark reality of the choice before them.
You have to remember who it is who’s hearing these words. Go back to chapter 5, verse 1, at the very beginning. Remember, “Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain and when He sat down, His disciples came to Him.”
So what prompted this Sermon on the Mount is He was pressed by the crowds, He said, “I need to do some teaching for My disciples,” and so He goes up the mountain and He teaches them, the disciples. But look at what’s happened by the end of this sermon, verse 28, “And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching.” So it didn’t turn out just to be a private little Bible study for the disciples. The crowds found him anyway.
So He’s been speaking here to many people. These are not Christians, not in any post-Pentecost sort of world. He’s talking to a large group of people. Some of them are disciples, as we know them, the 12. Some of them are disciples in the sense that they are literally following Jesus from place to place. Remember at different points in the Gospels He’ll send out the 70 and then there’ll be more than 100 in the upper room. So there’s 12 disciples, we call them, or apostles, but there was a larger group of people who were sort of following around His itinerant ministry.
So you have that circle, and then this larger circle, and then you have the crowds. These are the people who when Jesus comes to town, they hear about His reputation, that He does miracles, He heals people, or that He’s got a following and He’s an amazing teacher.
So Jesus is speaking to a mixed multitude. And even those who are closest to Him, they don’t understand who he really is. They’re just beginning to understand. Might this be the Messiah? What is His kingdom all about?
So everyone here on the mountainside has to make a choice. They’ve not yet come to a realization about who this Jesus is. And it’s true tonight, everyone in this room needs to make a choice. Whether you’ve never done that before or you’re a longtime disciple or you’re a part of the crowd, Jesus wants to know whose side you’re one.
Jesus can be so either/or. You’re in, you’re out.
Now you may have been surprised that I read all of these sections. You may have thought, “Well, Pastor’s just getting tired of all his sermon series and just whoop, let’s get ’em done before the summer.” But there really is a reason for putting all of these sections together, even though you’ve maybe studied them before, section by section.
You may have not noticed that in this final section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us four pairs of contrasts. They’re all driving home the same point. Two paths, two trees, two pleas, two homes. That’s our outline. Two paths, two trees, two pleas, two homes.
So first, the two paths, in verses 13 and 14. Path number 1. There’s a wide gate. It’s easy to spot. Anyone can find it, its big neon lights, anyone can get through it. And on the other side of this gate in path number 1, the way is easy. It doesn’t require a lot of hard work. Doesn’t require sacrifice. It’s a good fit for who you are and what you want to do and how you want to be true to yourself. And this first path, with a very prominent gate, wide gate, easy path, well, it’s not surprise, Jesus tells us a lot of people are on that path. It’s culturally approved. It looks normal. It’s the sort of path that nobody among your friends and peers would be surprised to find you on, because lots of people are on this path.
But what does Jesus say? This one leads to destruction.
Then there’s another path, and just the opposite. This gate is narrow. The word is related to the Greek word thlipsis, which means persecution. This word “narrow” means it presses in upon you. And this narrow gate, sort of gate that you have to turn sideways to squeeze into.
I was, I can’t remember where I was, several weeks ago I was going on a run, I was out of town and I was running. I was in Louisville, that’s where I was, and I was running along the river and I had gone on this run every day because I was there for three or four days, and the last day they were setting up for, it wasn’t the circus, but it was some big carnival that was in town, setting up in Louisville along the river. So they had various fences and barricades, so the normal path that I was on, by the time I was coming back to my hotel on that path, it had all these gates up and I saw some people who were there and they were smoking and had set up the barricades and were just talking amongst themselves, and I got up and didn’t know exactly where I was going. I said, “How do I get through the gate?” and they said, “See that little opening? That’s how you get through.”
Now I don’t want to say anything about them or about me, but I’m a fairly slender person. I wasn’t sure how these people were making it through the gate because I didn’t think I had any chance to make it through this gate. So, now there’s five people just staring at me, and so I go up and I think there’s no way that I’m getting through this gate. If this part of me can, my wife reminds me I have sort of a big head, and it’s a big noggin and that’s the last, that’s gonna be, this, I just have scenes of the Together for the Gospel crew coming, finding Pastor Kevin with his head stuck in a gate.
So I start to climb it, and they say, “No, no, no, no. You can get through there.” And I put one leg through, won’t go into details, it was uncomfortable, tried to get the rest, and then it was down to this big thing to try, and they’re looking very uninterested in helping but very interested in watching, and I’m here to tell the tale, so I did manage to get my head in a proper way to get through this gate and then I ran really fast to get away. That must not have looked very seemly.
The gate is narrow, Jesus says, and you know what’s on the other side of this narrow gate? The way is hard. It requires sacrifice. You have to die to yourself. You have to submit your will. No surprise, when you have a narrow gate and a hard way, Jesus says there’s few people on it. It doesn’t look normal. It’s counter-cultural. It’s unpopular. But you know what Jesus says? It leads to life.
People like to say there are many paths to God. In a way, it’s absolutely true. Every path leads to God. Only one path, however, leads to favor with God. Oh, yes, every path will lead you one day to meet God. That’s absolutely true. Only one path leads you to life with God, lots of paths lead you to destruction from God.
It’s remarkable what Jesus is saying. We might say, “Jesus, this is not how you start a new religious movement, telling people narrow gates, hard way, unpopular, few people are on it.” It’s like Jesus is purposely gathering all of the criticisms that one might have of His ministry and He owns every one of them.
Christianity is too narrow. Jesus say, “Yep. You’re either in or you’re out.”
Christianity is hard. I don’t like what it says. I don’t like the way I have to live. It makes me unpopular at school, at work, with my family. Jesus says, “It certainly does.”
Christianity is strange. You people will be on the wrong side of history. None of my friends believe it. No one accepts miracles or these stories or these beknighted views of men and women and sex and marriage. Jesus says, “It is strange.”
Yes, yes, yes. Every objection you might want to raise to Christianity, it’s narrow, it’s hard, and it’s strange. Jesus says, “Yes, yes, yes, but it leads to life.”
Don’t we know this to be true of other things? The easy way is very rarely the best way. Is the easy way when you go off to college and the way of parties? Is the easy way in your marriage the way to have a blessed relationship? The easy way in friendship, the easy way in your studies? When has the easy way ever been the way to excellence? Ever been the way to fulfillment? Academics, athletics, music, business… We know it in other areas of life. It is never the easy way.
So it is with Christianity. Our culture is constantly selling individuality, don’t let anyone tell you what to do, be yourself, an army of one, express yourself. So when it comes to following God, you ought to be on the path that everyone else is taking.
But listen, whether you’ve been following Jesus for a long time or not, we all must consider if we find ourselves saying, “Well, I do want to follow Jesus, that’s cool, He seems like a good guy, I’d like that, but I don’t want it to be hard, I don’t want it to look strange, and I don’t want my options to be so limited.” If that’s what you’re saying, then you really don’t want to follow Jesus. Well, maybe “a” Jesus of your own creation, but not the Jesus of the Bible. Maybe follow him as you follow someone on Twitter, where you press a button or “like” something online. That’s easy. But not to really be His disciple. Jesus wants to lay out clearly – there’s two paths.
And there’s two trees. Verses 15 through 20. He says, “Beware of false prophets. Not all prophets are true. Wolves can look like sheep.” Now how do they look like sheep? Well, they talk like sheep. It may be that they have the language of orthodoxy or they’re nice or they feign piety. They may have degrees. They may be ordained. They may have books, credentials, success. But they’re not sheep.
False prophets will deny what has been said about these two paths. That’s one of Jesus’ points. One of the ways to tell a false prophet is the false prophet says get on the wide path that’s easy, not on the narrow path that’s hard.
How do you tell false prophets from true ones? Well, here’s where Jesus says there are two different kinds of trees. Verse 16: “You will recognize them by their fruits.” So Jesus says, mixing His metaphors, there’s hope for all of us in our papers. He goes from sheep and wolves to now He’s talking about trees and fruit.
So you have to get close. Are grapes scattered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? So in order to tell false prophets apart, in order to tell sheep from wolves, in order to tell one tree from another, you have to get close. Isn’t this true? If you’re just flying overhead, you just see below you a canopy of green. It’s just trees. If you’re several football fields in the distance, now some of you are very good at trees, I’m not, I’m like that’s a brown tree with green leaves. That’s, I’m gonna narrow it down for you and then ask Rick Ely to figure it out.
But you need to get close. You need to get close to see are those thorns or are those thistles. You need to get close enough to tell the difference. And you need to give it time. Because over time good trees bear good fruit, bad trees bear bad fruit.
What does Jesus mean by fruit? This is often misapplied. Some people say, well, look, this teacher in the church, wow, they have a lot of success. They’ve sold a lot of books. Or look at how big their church is.
Well, that’s not what Jesus means. He doesn’t mean success.
Or other times people say, well, God wouldn’t want me to live this way, He wouldn’t want me, He would surely want me to embrace this part of my sexuality because that brings me fulfillment, and when I don’t live according to my truest self, then I feel very bad. Doesn’t God want me to bear good fruit?
But fruit here is not equivalent to personal fulfillment. Fruit doesn’t mean, well, he’s nice and appreciated. Fruit doesn’t mean, well, she happens to be very helpful in other areas.
By good fruit, Jesus means two things. First, He means character, Matthew 3:18: Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Do the will of My Father who is in heaven, we see in verse 21.
There’s an interesting example about discerning false prophets in a document from the early Church called The Didache that in particular explains that you look at the sort of life they’re living, you look at what they ask from you, you look at how they handle their money. The document probably dates to the end of the first century, one of the earliest Christian documents we have after the New Testament. That whole book The Didache is built upon two ways to live, marking out the way of righteousness and the way of wickedness. You tell the sheep from a wolf, you tell a good tree from a bad tree by the fruit, which means their character. When you get up close, what sort of person are they?
This is just one of many reasons why we should be not completely oblivious of what happens online, but always cautious. It happens both. I have people who think I’m the worst person in the world. There are many people, there’s a large not-Kevin-DeYoung fan group out there. Someone said one time, “You are literally the Taliban.” Oh, wow. Literally? I don’t know that that passes muster.
And then are other people who think far too many good things about me, and the ones who think far too many, I think, well, that’s nice, but do you really know me? Is that, maybe you just read something. Is that really accurate? And the people who don’t, I want to say, well, do you really know me? Do you want to see what sort of person I really am?
When you just have ones and zeroes, just online, it’s easy to just take something in a vacuum. That’s why there’s never a substitute for your own personal pastors, for your own personal family and friends and small group, and those are the people. They know you, they can see you, they know what sort of person you are. Is this the sort of person that I really should trust? That I really should look up to?
Their fruit is their character.
And the second thing Jesus says, their fruit is their teaching. We see this later in chapter 12 where Jesus uses the same metaphor again, a tree is known by his fruit, and He says, “I tell you on the day of judgment, people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, by your words you will be condemned. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. There the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
The good fruit is shown in good words and the sort of things that you say. The truth that you speak.
So however nice someone is, however much they seem to be on the right side of cultural issues, you must ask, “Is this person, he or she, teaching the truth?” He may seem pleasant enough, but what is his message?
It’s exactly what Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:16: Keep a close watch on what? Your life and your doctrine. That’s how you tell good fruit from bad fruit. Both, orthodoxy, orthopraxy. Life, doctrine. Good fruit.
Two paths, two trees, two pleas. Pleas, that is p-l-e-a-s.
We read in verse 21, 22, and 23 that the number of those who will enter the kingdom of heaven is smaller than the number who claim to serve the King. The number of those who will enter the kingdom of heaven is smaller than the number of those who claim to serve the King. You take everyone on the planet who says, “I serve King Jesus,” and the number of those who are actually in the kingdom is smaller.
Look at what Jesus says. Their profession was orthodox, they call upon Christ as Lord. The profession was earnest, they say “Lord, Lord,” there’s a passion, a zeal. The profession was public, “Did we not do these things in Your name?” Their profession was attended by a demonstration of power, they prophesied, they cast out demons, they did mighty works. Surely these people are on the fast track to the kingdom. An orthodox profession, an earnest profession, a public profession, a profession with great power, and yet Jesus says, verse 23, “I don’t know who you are.”
The word “declare” in verse 23, “homolagato,” translated elsewhere in the Gospels “confess.” Jesus is saying, “I know you have made a very impressive confession, but let Me tell you what I confess. I don’t know you.”
And even stronger, He says, “Depart from me.”
Now why this harsh response for someone who has an orthodox profession, an earnest profession, a public profession, a powerful profession? Why does Jesus say I don’t know you?
Well, look at verse 21. ““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.””
And then verse 23: “Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
So they confess the right thing, they displayed great power publicly, passionately, but Jesus gives them this harsh response because they did not do the will of God the Father. They were, in fact, workers of lawlessness.
We have to take this seriously. I know we want to quick, put this through our theological grid and make sure we understand that Jesus isn’t saying that you earn your way into salvation, you’re justified by faith alone, all of that is true, absolutely true. Jesus is not talking about tip the scales, get enough good things, and then you can come into the kingdom.
What He is saying is that there will be some people on the last day who have a great profession and even have powerful works, and Jesus will say, “But you never gave Me any reason in the way you lived to really think that I was your Lord.”
Do you see the irony? They say, “Lord, Lord,” and Jesus says, “Okay, you want to call me Lord? Master? Well, that’s more than just saying the right prayer. That’s more than doing great powerful deeds. If I’m really your Lord, Lord, why didn’t you listen to Me? Why didn’t you let Me call the shots in your life? Why did you always squeeze My Word to say what you wanted it to say? Instead of following Me, no matter the cost?”
Hebrews 12:14: “Strive for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
So we must examine our own lives. I must examine my own life. We can wax eloquent about God. We can wow people with our devotion to God. And it does not matter if we are not actually walking in the ways of God.
That’s why Jesus says, “I hear you, but I don’t really know you. You say Lord. If I’m your Lord and you’re the servant, why didn’t you come to Me asking what you should do? Why didn’t you listen to Me? Why didn’t you live your life My way? No, no, no. That’s a lot of talk, no walk.”
There’s two paths, two trees, two pleas, those who enter the kingdom and those who make a profession, and then Jesus saying, “Depart from Me.”
Then finally there are two homes. Jesus moves to a final contrast. It’s a bit different from the last one. He’s moving from unsound teachers to unsound hearers. From a contrast between saying one thing and doing another. So they had one plea with their lips, and they had another plea with their lives, so the contrast between saying and doing.
Now this contrast, the final one, is between hearing and doing. These two houses look identical except for one key difference. Same materials, same rain, same flood, same wind, different foundations. The wise man built his house upon the rock. The foolish man built his house upon the sand. So it is often the case, a storm reveals the truth about the foundation on which we have built.
Now I thought it would be too jarring, so I didn’t do it, but I was a little tempted to almost show a 45-second video clip, I’m not going to do it, not going to set that precedence, next thing you know you’re gonna want Lord of the Rings clips or something, but I was, maybe you saw this, it was in the news about two weeks ago, I saw it go past Twitter, and it was a house at Cape Hatteras being literally swept away into the ocean. There it was, two story home, and it was, in fact, somebody put it on there and said, “Preacher alert, preacher alert. Matthew 7:24 and following, here it is.” And it was right there. It was a house that had been built on the sand, and it was swept away.
I guess this is happening with some of those and they’re probably on some of those stilts and a storm comes through and you could see it. Just washed out to sea. And it didn’t get very far into sea, you might think, “Ooh, a houseboat.” No, it didn’t last very long.
The storm came, and it revealed, did you build your house on the right foundation?
There’s a neighborhood going in behind our house, 80 some homes, and so we’ve gotten to see for the last two years what it looks like to build a development. I bet some of you have that somewhere around where you live. You can see every single one of those places starts by digging a hole in the ground and building a foundation. So when the storms come, it will stand.
The difference is hearing and not doing versus hearing and doing. That’s what Jesus says. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a man who builds his house on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is a foolish man who built his house on the sand.
Same words coming in. You’re hearing the same truth.
See, sometimes we have this idea, well, I’m hearing and you know, I better not, I want to make sure that I’m being really authentic about it, I’m not being a hypocrite about it, so I don’t want to go and do the right thing until I feel like I’m doing the right thing for the right reason. No, sometimes you do the right thing and later you feel the right way for doing the right thing.
Jesus says the same, you got two people hearing the same words, hearing the same words. So that’s not the foundation. We’re liable to misunderstand that’s what a foundation is, do you have truth? Well, they both have truth. Jesus says the one who hears it and doesn’t do anything is building his house on the sand. The one who hears it and goes and does it is building his house on the rock.
If you want to have a sturdy Christian life, you cannot be passive. Glad that you’re hear on Sunday night, love to have you hear on Sunday morning, glad to have as many people filling these pews at church, but you could be a very foolish person and be at church every Sunday if you just hear words, hear words, hear words, and never go and do them. You have to hear them and put them into practice. That’s what it means to build your house on the rock.
Think about these four contrasts as we put them together. In each case, the differences are initially hard to see. If they were easy to see, then it would not be so dangerous.
Two paths. Well, from a distance the paths can look very similar.
Two trees. If you’re looking from a half a mile away, it can be hard to tell which one has good fruit or bad fruit.
Two pleas. Well, they sound the same. They seem to have the same words. One person says, “Lord, Lord” and they’re not in the kingdom and another person says, “Lord, Lord” and they are in the kingdom. Because they did the will of the Father.
Two houses. They look like exactly the same house. You put them on Zillow and as long as the very smart photographer didn’t show where they were, you’d say, “Oh, great, same house, same market value.” From a distance.
But isn’t the case with the path you don’t know until you get somewhere down the path which one was good and which was bad? It isn’t until you get up close to a tree that you can tell which one is healthy and which one is diseased. It isn’t until you give it time that you can see whose words are really true and whose are false. It isn’t until you face trials that you can tell whether this house has a strong foundation or not.
But here’s the point. In each of these four contrasts, in the end, all will be found out.
See, Jesus wants to make you smart. He’s telling you things so you can learn it at the front end. Because everyone will see at the end that path led to destruction. That tree was not a good tree. That plea was not sincere. That house was not built upon a foundation. There will come a time the world will know, God will know. So God says to us here, Jesus tells us, “Make a good choice.”
We’d like there to be a third way. Why so many this or that, in or out, foolish or wise, is there some third way? Well, that’s sometimes there is, but not here when it comes to following Jesus. Well, the one on the sand, he had some good points, and the one on the rock had some good points. The wide path, well, there’s some good things about a wide path, lots of room to run around and you meet a lot of nice people, and the narrow path, well, that also has some things going for it. Jesus does not find a third way, because there’s only two ways.
Each of the four contrasts follows the same pattern. Two ways that look the same, sound the same, but one leads to life and the other leads to death. Did you see this? In each of the contrasts?
Verse 13 – The way is easy that leads to destruction, the gate is narrow, the way is hard, that leads to life.
Verse 19 – Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Verse 23 – I will declare, “Depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.”
Verse 27 – The rains fell, the floods came, the winds blew, and the house fell down.
In each case, a path that leads to destruction, a fruit tree that is cut down, a plea from a person who is cast away from the Lord, a house that is destroyed.
So what does Jesus want us to do? Well, He wants us to repent. Remember how the Sermon on the Mount started? Blessed are the what? The poor in spirit. Congratulations, we said you could translate it. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Congratulations if you’ve realized that there’s a path that leads to destruction and you want to get off it. Congratulations if you realize you need to get out of this house on the sand and get into a house on the rock. Congratulations if you’re tired of eating bad fruit and you want a tree with good fruit. That’s how Jesus starts because this is how He ends.
Repent. It’s not too late to turn from the wrong path to get out of the bad house.
And then believe. Now faith is not mentioned explicitly, but it’s everywhere in this final section. It takes faith if we’re going to take Christ at His Word, if we’re going to recognize His authority, submit to Him as Lord, know that He is Savior and judge, and then we obey. Repent, believe, obey.
We follow the One in whom we have put our faith. It’s not real faith if it doesn’t lead to following.
Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, Jesus says, but choose wisely.
And just note this. Jesus means to give you joy. Yes, it’s a hard path. Everything about the hard path. It’s strange, there’s persecution, but the end that Jesus has for each of you, He means to give you life. He’s not trying to trick you. He’s not trying to lead you to destruction. He’s saying, “Do you trust Me? Will you believe Me? Will you take Me at My word that I do know what’s best for you? I want you to get to the place of everlasting joy. I want you to experience it now in part, experience it later in full, but you gotta believe Me. And you gotta go on the narrow path, and you gotta get to the healthy tree, and you gotta follow the will of My Father in heaven, and you have to build your house on the rock.”
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we give thanks for Your Word, which teaches us so well and so wisely. May we not be foolish, that we may be hearers and doers of Your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.