In the post we are continuing to look at Matthew 7. This is the final chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. It is part of the closing argument so to speak. Jesus has been talking about what the Kingdom of God is like, and now He is wrapping up this message. We talked about His warning of self righteousness and how we are to understand ask, seek, and knock in a helpful way. Today I want to begin to look at the next couple of sections because they really go together.
Here is what Jesus says:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“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 who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
Now again it’s important to note that this is the closing of the sermon, not the opening. Jesus has been talking for a long time about who is who in the Kingdom, how one in the Kingdom should live and what it all looks like together.
It is from that point that He says, “Enter through the narrow gate. . . ” This is not really that complicated. Jesus is saying that the road to the Kingdom is narrow. Most don’t choose that road. We can wish these types of sentences away but the truth is not everyone gets a trophy at the end. At least that is what Jesus, the scriptures as a whole (with any sort of intellectually honest reading), along with 2000 years of Church teachings say.
Now we can argue about final salvation if you want. But at the least, and this is the absolute minimum, the way to the Kingdom life is narrow. Jesus says it over and over. He says He is THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE. NO ONE comes to the Father except through Him. Some will have rewards in Heaven, others not so much. Some will not be there at all. Again, this is clear. I’m not here to presume who is in and who isn’t. But we can clearly presume that some are in and some aren’t.
This matters on so many levels right now. In today’s postmodern culture this idea is completely counter cultural. The message of postmodern culture is that there is no absolute truth. Not only that, but the message is that each person is ok within their own truth. You don’t have to strive to be better so much as strive be true to yourself and “your truth”.
But that is not what Jesus says. The message of the gospel is that none of us are yet who we are supposed to be. We should strive toward The Truth and The Way. Not only should we be striving for that, while realizing that we will not reach it in the temporal life, we – as Christians – should be leading others there. We should care that others are on the wide path while working to not end up on it ourselves.
But we don’t like this striving. However, the striving, if we do it with Jesus is what sends us on the narrow path and God uses that path to shape us, sanctify us and make us holy.
This is hard. But you know, it’s always been hard. In every culture. Everyone always wants a different way. John 6 tells a story of exactly this hardness. Jesus has just fed the 5000 and then walked on water. When they get to the the other side a large crowd gathers. Here is how that scene goes in my paraphrasing:
Jesus says: “You all are here because of the bread and fish yesterday.”
The crowd says: “Well yeah, obviously.”
Jesus: “If you really understood, you would ask me for bread that lasts and you’d never be hungry again and this bread will give you eternal life.”
Crowd: “What works must we do in order to earn this bread and eternal life?”
Jesus: (Actual quote): “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He sent.”
Now here’s the thing. They wanted a formula. A set of rules or activities. Maybe a prayer to pray. Something of that nature. But Jesus says, the work is to believe in Him. That word for believe doesn’t mean believe it’s “true for you.” It doesn’t even mean believe its true intellectually. That word for believe means to stake you life on. To believe it as THE TRUTH” They of course don’t like this answer and then Jesus ends up infuriating them even more – we’ll cover that story at a later time.
My point here is that staking your life on Jesus, basing everything on Him is work. Yes step one is to believe it’s true. But that’s the beginning not the end. It gets us just inside the narrow gate. It’s from there that with Jesus we strive to stay on the narrow path. And as we’ll see in the next installment, we aren’t our own judge of whether or not we are on it.