Jesus is Narrow | Matthew 7.13-20 (Snoh)
May 4, 2014 Series: The King Has Come | Matthew
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 7:13–7:20
Matthew 7.13-20 | Jesus is Narrow
INTRODUCTION | Jesus ends His Sermon
There are two kinds of people in Jesus’ crowd—irreligious and the religious. Everyone in the crowd desires blessing from Jesus, but they don’t all desire relationship with Him. In fact, most do everything they can to avoid relationship. The irreligious avoid relationship through sinful living, making saviors out of creation. The religious avoid relationship through moral living, making saviors out of themselves. Our relationship with God and creation is what men destroyed by their rebellion, but God graciously chose to love us, chose pursue us, chose restore us through the death and resurrection of His Son, so that He could be with us. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is essentially what a restored relationship looks like. He does not say live like this to become a citizen of the King. He says you are a citizen of the King, live like this.
The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best description of a Christian. Sadly, because none of us live this description perfectly, few of us take it seriously. More than any other gospel writer, Matthew recorded not only all that Jesus DID, but all that Jesus SAID. This is Matthew’s effort to fulfill the 2nd half of Jesus’ Great Commission—“teach them to obey all that I have commanded.” We’re studying Matthew to learn what it means to be obedient. And Jesus intends for us to take what He teaches literally, seriously, and joyfully.
How does Jesus expect us to live?
1. Christians approach life humbly aware of sin
2. Christians mourn their own sin/sin of others
3. Christians live quietly, trusting in God’s strength
4. Christians hunger for righteousness
5. Christians show radical mercy
6. Christians pursue purity at a heart level
7. Christians work for peace
8. Christians act as salt and light in the world.
9. Christians perform good works for the world
10. Christians uphold God’s law as a blessing
11. Christians restrain their tongues and resist anger
12. Christians pursue reconciliation
13. Christians forgive 14. Christians love their enemies
15. Christians fight against lust
16. Christians cherish their spouses/marriage
17. Christians keep their promises—integrity
18. Christians resist retaliation/love their enemies
19. Christians pray in order to know, delight, and depend on God’s glory—not to impress
20. Christians ignore men’s approval
21. Christians help those in need
22. Christians give generously
23. Christians trust God will provide without fear
24. Christians invest eternally
25. Christians judge rightly and lovingly
At this point, Jesus’ sermon is essentially done. Matthew 4.17 that Jesus preaches so that men will “repent”, turn away from the unrighteousness ways of the world’s kingdoms and toward the righteousness ways of God’s Kingdom through Christ. Having explained all that He wants men to turn toward, He now brings His hearers to the place of decision. Decisions are difficult because it means “killing” the alternative path. De-CIDING to follow Christ means sacrificing an entire way of thinking, seeing, feeling, and having in every area of life. We cannot love the way of the world and Christ at the same time. Most of you have heard Jesus entire sermon—you also have a decision to make. No one who understands who Jesus is, what He did, and what He expects from you, will ever have a “hmmpphh” response to Jesus. Jesus is not calling people to consider or admire Him; He is calling people to follow Him. There is no standing still, you will either walk the way of Jesus or walk away from Jesus.
ENTER – Action, decision, movement
Jesus instructs us to ENTER the narrow gate. Jesus says there are two paths to walk, one is wide and one is narrow, one is easy, and one is hard, one leads to death, the other to life. The first thing to note is that entering the gate at all takes action—you cannot fall into obedience. In truth, everyone feels this world is broken. Everyone, at their core, wants to be rescued. Everyone desires meaning and a sense of hope that there is more to this life. Most people will refuse to enter through the one gate where it is all found—if it were not for grace, all would refuse. As it is, most will follow a way of living that feels right, a way of living that is popular, and a way of living that is easy; but in the end it will lead to destruction. In the parallel passage of Luke 13, Jesus was asked, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” Jesus responded by telling his disciples to “strive to enter the narrow door.” Jesus doesn’t want us to worry about where everyone else is headed; he wants us to consider what path we are on.
WHAT IS THE WRONG WAY: WIDE GATE– popular, easy, destructive
There are only two paths to walk in life. Most walk the WIDE path that leads to destruction believing it leads to life. This path is wide because it is popular, common, and typical. The wide path is popular because it is easy; it does not require a love for God, only a love for the self—something that comes quite naturally to us. There are TWO LANES on the wide path—both rooted in the self (Make no mistake, the wide path is not necessarily just the path of the world; it is also the way of many so-called Christians).
One lane is the way of life is irreligion. It is the path of self-indulgence. It is the “fun” path. It is a path without any rules, without any moral obligations, and without any social responsibilities. Life without rules may be many things (chaotic, pleasurable, painful, etc.) but it is, without doubt, easy. My decisions are mine, my time is mine, my money is mine, and my life is mine. I can do what I want, when I want, how I want. Not everyone becomes Adolph Hitler in their self-indulgent pursuits. But everything they do, good or bad, is to serve themselves. They pursue what makes them happy (even if that is making others happier with them) and avoid what makes them unhappy. The seek fulfillment, , escape, and joy apart from God.
The other lane on this two way pleasure cruise to hell is the way of life called religion. It is the path of self-righteousness. It is the “fundamentalist” path with no fun. It is a path with many lists, many rules, and many responsibilities. At first, one might think that living with rules isn’t easy—but it is much easier than genuine Christianity. It easier to forbid everything the world abuses rather than try to use it the way God intended. It is easier to deal with sin(s) in my body than it is with the sin in my heart. It is easier to categorize the world into good and bad, than it is to consider whether good can be bad—to have a list of taboo words rather than discern how to use my tongue to build up.
Both of these paths promise freedom, but both lead to slavery. Both of these paths promise salvation, but both lead to idolatry. Both of these paths promise blessing, but both lead to death in every sense of the word. In both, we were seeking EXTERNAL solutions to an INTERNAL problem; we were trying to find or be our own saviors, develop our own righteousness, and thereby keep control of our own life. This way leads to eternal death because it keeps us unrepentant, self-dependent, and lost.
WHAT IS THE RIGHT WAY: NARROW GATE – different, hard, and life-giving
There is a third way that is neither self-indulgent/righteous. The third way comes through belief in the gospel; it is the way of self-denial. This is what Jesus calls the narrow way—it is the way of Jesus. And, if Jesus life is any example, the way of Jesus is different, hard, but ultimately life-giving.
The Narrow Gate is DIFFERENT |This way of Jesus is a way seeing the world and all that it offers fundamentally different. Authority, status, power, wealth, suffering, are all viewed differently through the lens of the cross. The way of Christ is counter-cultural and even counter-intuitive. It is offensive to the world and it is even offensive to our own experience at times. When Citizens of the King live like Citizens of the King, they will be persecuted with deep hatred, a loud mockery, or a quiet exclusion. In his longest and final prayer for his disciples Jesus said, “14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17.14-17). The world does not like what the Bible says because it is in conflict with what the world wants. Even though everyone wants to be liked Jesus warned us in Luke 6.26: “Woe to you when ALL people speak well of you, for so their father’s did to the false prophets.” When YOU live WHO YOU ARE in Christ, then YOU will not be liked. The Christian He has a different IDENTITY. He has a different LOYALTY. He has a different TRAJECTORY.
The Narrow Gate is HARD | The narrow gate is not only different, it is hard. It is hard because it is not just a narrow gate, it is a narrow way. Faith in Christ is not simply a decision; it is a lifetime of decisions motivated by Jesus, empowered through Jesus, and modeled after Jesus. If having a life like Jesus is the goal, we see that a God-glorifying life is difficult. It requires self-sacrifice. The narrow way requires you empty yourself of everything valuable. The gate is not wide enough for you to bring your bags in. The cross is at the center of our faith. The narrow way requires delayed gratification. This is hard in a culture of instant-gratification. We are promised future reward, meanwhile, we are told to love people we would rather hate. We are called to give money to people who can't pay us back. Jesus tells us to fast when we can't even comprehend skipping lunch. The narrow way includes suffering, persecution, and pain. Suffering is not meaningless or even something to try and avoid; on the contrary, it is one of God’s most effective tools to change us. More than anything, the narrow road is hard because it requires relationship(s). The narrow path is a marriage with Jesus and marriage is hard. The narrow path is participation in a family and family is hard. The narrow path is a mission to love our neighbors and neighbors can be hard.
The Narrow Gate is life-giving | The narrow path is different and difficult, but it is ultimately life giving. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14.6). Everyone is looking for a happy, a more satisfying better life. Sin brought death to all relationships, with God, with one another, and with the world. A joyful life comes from living according to Jesus commands. John 15.9-11 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. There are only two paths to take. Paul uses metaphors of soldiers, athletes, and farmers. We’re either a soldier who fights or a citizen who sits; we’re either an athlete who runs or a spectator who watches; we’re either a farmer who works and gets fit or a consumer who eats and get fat. There is only one path that Jesus has walked. There is only one path that Jesus promises to walk with us. There is only one path that Jesus promises to reward after we have walked it. The path that is popular and easy promises life in this world; the path that is different and difficult provides life with Christ in eternity.
How do we get on the wide path?
Why do so many people miss the narrow road? In truth, we are all born onto the wide Road. But there are internal and external forces that want to keep us there. Jesus warns us against wolves—false preachers who walk the wide path but pretend to on the narrow. They are self-serving. They are hungry animals looking for people to feed their need to for power, prosperity, or popularity. Some of these wolves are people in our lives. Wolves don’t often look wolves. Dressed in sheep’s clothing, they are LIKEABLE, INTRIGUING, often RELATIONAL people. They are usually people you enjoy: those people of influence in your life who might be family, friends, writers, even popular books, movies, or cultural movements. They are the ones whose lives and words preach to you and your family. They are the things in a position to give you wisdom, even spiritual sounding wisdom, that isn’t necessarily biblical, but because you love or respect them, you listen. Sadly, they often preach you a false gospel indirectly.
Jesus says the most dangerous ones are pastors directly preaching a false gospel. They don’t convince you that the narrow road is wrong; they label the wide road as right—they promise life on a road that leads to death. They preach a perverted gospel that looks good on the surface but, in the end, will kill you and those you love through self-indulgence or self-righteousness. It is difficult to tell if a fruit is rotten from a distance…you have to get close because it appears to be healthy. But in essence, we know false fruit when it preaches a sermon in conflict with the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount.
1. A false gospel preaches a faith that focuses merely on external practices (See Pharisees)
2. A false gospel preaches a faith comprised mainly of prohibitions (See Golden Rule)
3. A false gospel preaches a faith does not require repentance. (See Beatitude #1)
4. A false gospel preaches a faith divorced from real life (See Greed)
5. A false gospel preaches a faith arrogantly separated from community (See City on a Hill)
CONCLUSION | How do we get on the narrow path?
How do we get on the narrow path? There are only two paths to walk in life, we are born onto one; we must be reborn onto the other. We do not enter the road through achieving and reforming. We do not enter through practicing or abstaining from certain things. We do not enter through thinking positively, seeking spiritual experiences, or hiding from the world like a monk. We enter the road through repenting and believing.
Every author, blogger, and spiritual guru has their man-centered plans to achieve happiness. I don’t have seven, five, or even three steps; I have just one—DIE. Deitrick Bonnhoffer rightly said, “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.” In our culture today, you’re not going to sell too many books that tell you the secret to the happy life is to deny yourself and die. Jesus calls you to die because NOTHING can be RESSURECTED unless it has fully died. Fulfillment as a man, woman, husband, wife, mother, father, employee, in all of life will never be realized until you fully die with Jesus, until you full deny your own ability to be “good” and trust in Christ’s goodness. That means: WE DENY our own abilities that we can “do it” if we work harder, we deny our comforts of what we “have to have”, we deny our own pride and our “need to know” all the answers, we deny our own entitlements of what “we deserve”, we deny our own wisdom that believes “we know better”, we deny our own plans of what “we must do”, AND we deny the opinions of men that speak of “who we were, are, or who we should be.” We instead trust WHO God says we are and accept all that we have in Christ.
Jesus is not calling people to consider or admire Him; He is calling people to follow Him. There is no standing still, you will either walk the way of Jesus or walk away from Jesus.
More in The King Has Come | Matthew
May 11, 2014Jesus the Rock | Matthew 7:24-29 (Mville)
May 11, 2014Jesus is (Scary) Gracious | Matthew 7.15-23 (Snoh)
May 4, 2014Kingdom Admission | Matthew 7:13-23 (Mville)