February 20th 2022: Graham John

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Matthew 7:1-14

Life is full of choices. This morning, you have already decided what time to get up for church, what to wear, what time to eat, what time to leave the house. There are other decisions we make, more inward decisions. In what spirit will I come? Will I come expectantly or out of tradition? Some decisions have very little impact, others are huge decisions; will I get married, have children, what career will I choose? The ultimate choice is whether to accept Jesus Christ and His Kingdom because that determines our eternal life.

In this passage of Scripture, Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] 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.” (Matthew 7:13-14). These words come towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount. There, Jesus describes the Christian lifestyle, our relationships with other people. Then, He says to us, like a jury, have you reached a verdict at which you’re agreed. This choice will not only affect the last of days but eternity. The Lord says to us, ’Will you be my disciple or will you follow other gods and reject me?’

Jesus speaks of two ways: one broad, full of people, but it leads to destruction. The other, the gate of heaven found on earth, is narrow, sparsely populated, but it leads to life. In just a few words here, Jesus tells us the characteristics of a life that’s going to hell and a life that’s going to heaven. Jesus urges us to make the correct decision, to enter in at the narrow gate.

How do you identify the road to heaven and the way to hell?

The road to hell is broad. It is spacious and roomy. It does not have many boundaries. It is popular and permissive, under no obligation to Jesus. You can believe in a way completely contrary to the Sermon on the Mount. You needn’t forgive or pray. Here, people are utterly worldly, consumed by their own little kingdom. That is life on the broad road. Most follow the herd, like cattle. Even people of reputation and learning are on this broad road. There are many companions because it is agreeable to everyone’s sinful inclination. It is attractive. However, people bump into one another and hurt one another. Little children need boundaries unless they grow into spoiled adults. When we live without boundaries in our own personal world, our freedom means that others are hurt. Your freedom to hate means there are always disputes, there are always family quarrels. Others get trampled upon. That’s life on the broad road.

In contrast to that, the road to eternal life is narrow. The gate is narrow, and the way is hard that leads to life. The way of true life is narrow, says the Lord. Not narrow-minded, but narrow. Those who find it are few. It is narrow, confined. There are boundaries to this road. It is a road where honesty, integrity, integrity, compassion, pity, self-control, self-restraint, mercy and forgiveness are the order of the day. It’s a road where unrestrained lust is forbidden, as are swearing, cursing, retaliation and hatred. You are called on to pray, to give, to fast, to seek God’s kingdom first, not your own. In faith you are to look to Him for all physical needs. It’s a road where you’ll be misunderstood, spoken evil of. People will falsely say all kinds of evil against you.

Because it’s a narrow road there are more laws to keep on this road; not only laws that affect your outward life, but laws that are addressed to your inner life. The world of thoughts are addressed here, of motives and attitudes. Often, we break those standards, certainly if we try to keep them in our own strength. But there is mercy and forgiveness for us from the Lord who died for us at the cross. There is encouragement to press on, not in our own strength but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We can be encouraged by companions on the road, by others who have gone before us. The Lord Himself exemplifies what life on this road means. He was obedient to His Father on this road. We find it’s a road of denying yourself, being pure in heart, being a peacemaker, being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Because we have an expert with us, we can do far more. Jesus is an expert in living this life of obedience. If we keep close to Him, we will still fail but we’ll end up living a life which people on the broad road will be jealous of. Some may say, ‘I wish I had your faith.’

The Christian life depends on whether you’re on the inside or the outside. On the outside it looks confined, like a Tardis. From inside, the Christian life is fellowship with the infinite eternal God. It’s about learning about His plans, the unity of His work down and across the ages. From inside you can know forgiveness and offer forgiveness to those on the outside and those on the inside with you.

A narrow gate implies believing definitive truths, not vague ideas about God and life. People on the narrow road believe the gospel. It is universally applicable across the world. It is everlasting. It applies across the world to all sinners, always. There is no liberty to change it to our own ideas. It never changes to fit people. Christ changes people so they love this gospel out.

The narrow road means few people find this road. Unless a person is changed by the Spirit of God, they won’t be attracted to these things. They won’t love the Lord Jesus Christ. They won’t love His word, His people, His gospel. They will never find this road attractive. The few across the world, down the ages, who find this road, will eventually add to a great host. After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, (Revelation 7:9).

There are many temptations to forsake the narrow road. Sometimes, the two roads seem to run parallel and close to each other. “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.” (Psalm 73:2). You may be the only Christian in your family, your group, at work, but that’s not a reason to join the broad road – rather it’s a reason to encourage others to get off the broad road and join those who are on the narrow road. A disciple of Christ should never pin their hopes on large numbers.

Where will these two ways take you?

The broad road leads to the worst place of all – certain destruction. The worst way to die is to die Christless. Jesus warns us to beware of going to destruction. Before getting there, you look like your sins. Sin changes us, our attitudes and appearance. Notice, there is no third destination, which means you have to make a choice. To enter the narrow gate, you need to repent, to trust Christ

How do you get through the gate that leads to life?

On the broad road there is easy access; you don’t have to make any effort to find it. People are on the broad road by nature. They may be unaware they’re on the broad road. The gate to life, however, is small, narrow. Because it is small you have to make an effort to find it. You need to seek it. We must exert ourselves. Christ call us through it. He said to Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6). No-one can enter unless they repent.

Jesus speaks of Himself as the gate, “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:2-3). “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:7-9). Shepherds were gates. At night-time they would gather the sheep into a pen and lie down across the entrance so that wild animals couldn’t enter in, and the sheep couldn’t wander out. They were the gates. Jesus says, ‘I am the gate.’ We have to come to Christ and accept Him as our Saviour and Lord. And that is harder the longer you spend on the road. It is narrow because there is only one way to be saved. No-one who sincerely seeks Christ will fail to find it. The narrow road leads to life, to Christ. Jesus says, All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37). So let us trust Him this morning. Seek Him, to enter the narrow gate so that we may know everlasting life ourselves

August 19th 2018: Alan Davison

Alan Davison - August 18“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 I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Matthew 7:21-23

The Lordship of Christ

These are strong words from Jesus, looking at those who truly accept Him as Lord and those who don’t. Verse 21 is associated with the parable of the Way. Jesus gives a warning of a merely verbal profession of faith. He is demanding we make an absolute choice. If Christ is not your Lord, you are not saved. There’s only one way to God.

There are contrasts to be seen here. When you go to the wide gate you can carry a lot through – sin. But you need to give this up to go through the narrow gate. We must come to a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Everyone travelling along the wide path seeks their own way. Those who travel on the narrow path travel in fellowship, it has clearly defined boundaries, God’s word guiding us in how to behave. Jesus’ direction is for our own benefit. Matthew 11:29-30. He will help us.

There’s also a sharp contrast in the destination. The narrow life leads to life, the broad way leads to destruction. The problem is this grates with our culture which likes choice, it doesn’t want to be restricted.

Jesus follows up this parable by warning against false prophets. These are found by the narrow path, preventing people from taking the narrow path. They will likely affirm that they are followers of Jesus, but do not have Jesus as their Lord.

‘Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). What is holiness? J. C. Ryle states, “A holy man will follow after purity of heart. He knows his own heart is like tinder, and will diligently keep clear of the sparks of temptation.”

Jesus considers this to be an important issue because He expands in verse 22. He says there will also be people who not only make a verbal profession of faith, but also an intellectual profession. Many even think they are Christians themselves (Simon the sorcerer, Acts 8:9-24).

We see Jesus follows this statement with the parable of the two builders. Why do so many people fill their lives with all sorts of things – possessions, careers? They realise something is missing. They look for a belief system that can accommodate the rest of their lives but Scripture tells us they will be like the foolish man who built his house on sand.

Jesus presents us with a stark choice; build on the rock, Himself, or something else. Both of these men in this parable hear Jesus. Neither is ignorant, but one has decided not to listen. There is a parallel with 2 Corinthians 5:17. To be a new creation means we start again, we are re-born spiritually. Building on a new foundation will mean change. We will have a different perspective. We will look at things in light of scripture.

Foundations are only tested when the storm comes. Both houses are subjected to the same treatment. As Christians we still have troubles but we have Jesus Christ to take us through them. To be a Christian is to acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.

Jesus offers Himself. We can depend on His foundation. Every human being faces a stark choice. Jesus is the one who saves us. It will be a difficult path at time but eternity lies at the end. We don’t want an intellectual understanding. We need to out our faith into practice.

We see the crowd’s reaction in verses 28-29. There is no indication here of anyone coming to faith. These people play out the negative side of the parable Jesus has just told. In Matthew 8:1 we see Jesus had many followers. Some may have referred to Him as Lord, but this may be just verbal. His teachings elicited astonishment but they did not put it into practice. They needed to recognise Jesus was God. Even though He made it quite plain – (verse 21, ‘My Father’) – a direct claim to divinity, and again in verse 22, in Jesus’ name, and again in verse 23, He will sit in judgement in the role of God Himself – still they people denied Him as Lord.

See Jesus for who He truly is. Earnestly seek to build holy lives.