Monday, June 04, 2018

Keys to the Kingdom – The Sermon on the Mount - 14 DIRECTION

On her way to work, a woman hears on the radio that, on a heavily-traveled Interstate, there is a driver going the wrong way. She realizes that her elderly father is on that road. In a panic, she calls him on his cell to warn him. “Daddy, there’s a car going the wrong way on the highway! Be careful! He answers: “What do you mean, ‘a car?’ Why, there’s hundreds of them!”
For the other lessons in this series, click on the "Keys to the Kingdom" link.
Every journey begins with a destination in mind. Then we choose the route that we believe will take us there. Life poses a fork in the road, with just two options. Only a few will take Jesus’ narrow path, which is steep, hard, and less-traveled. Why? Because they know it leads to life! The alternative is a wide, easy, popular highway that ends in destruction.
From the beginning of the sermon, Jesus has been presenting to His disciples a series of sets of two choices. Two vaults, two lenses, and two thrones. Treasure on earth or treasure in heaven. No one can serve two masters. Two types of priorities. Two ways of looking at our faults and the faults of others.
Now He describes life as a matter of choosing one of two roads.
Reading: Matt 7:13-14
He makes it clear that most people are on the wrong road and that that road leads to destruction.
Fishers of Men evangelism training class. Put three questions on a card and ask people, “Which of these three questions is most interesting to you?”
Is there a God?
Will there be a Day of Judgment?
Will the majority of people be in heaven one day?
Then we would ask, “Would you like to see in your Bible what Jesus said about that?” His answer to that third question is shocking indeed.
Stott: Enter by the narrow gate, he begins. The contrast between the two kinds of righteousness and of devotion, the two treasures, the two masters and the two ambitions has been portrayed; now the time for decision has come.
Mt 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Mt 7:13 Εἰσέλθατε διὰ τῆς στενῆς πύλης· ὅτι πλατεῖα ἡ πύλη καὶ εὐρύχωρος ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ἀπώλειαν καὶ πολλοί εἰσιν οἱ εἰσερχόμενοι διʼ αὐτῆς· 14 τί στενὴ ἡ πύλη καὶ τεθλιμμένη ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ζωὴν καὶ ὀλίγοι εἰσὶν οἱ εὑρίσκοντες αὐτήν.
Note the absolute nature of the choice before us. No middle ground. No, “all roads go to the same place.” No pluralism.
Note that we do not create the road we travel; we only choose it. The narrow road is what it is; we cannot change it or redefine it. We may travel it or not, but we may not make it smoother, wider, or easier. It is the narrow road.
In Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and elsewhere, an advertising agency launched a campaign using billboards and buses to present different so-called “messages from God.”
One of them asks, “Will The Road You’re On Get You To My Place? – God”
Here are some others that were used:
“Let’s Meet At My House Sunday Before the Game – God”
“C’mon Over And Bring The Kids – God”
“What Part Of ‘Thou Shalt Not…’ Didn’t You Understand? – God”
“We Need To Talk – God”
“Tell The Kids I Love Them – God”
“Keep Using My Name In Vain And I’ll Make Rush Hour Longer – God”
“Loved The Wedding, Invite Me To The Marriage – God”
“That ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ Thing, I Meant It – God”
“I Love You … I Love You … I Love You … – God”
“Follow Me – God”
“You Think It’s Hot Here? – God”
“Big Bang Theory, You’ve Got To Be Kidding! – God”
“My Way Is The Highway – God”
“Need Directions? – God”
“Need A Marriage Counselor?  I’m Available – God”
“Have You Read My #1 Best Seller? There Will Be A Test. – God”
Two Gates: Wide and Narrow
First, there are two gates. The gate leading to the easy way is wide, for it is a simple matter to get on to the easy road. There is evidently no limit to the luggage we can take with us. We need leave nothing behind, not even our sins, self-righteousness or pride.
The gate leading to the hard way, on the other hand, is narrow. One has to look for it to find it. It is easy to miss. As Jesus said in another connection, it is as narrow as a needle’s eye.
Mk 10:25 “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
stenós means “narrow,” “thin,” “poor,” the noun stenochōría denotes a “narrow place,” and the verb stenochōréō means “to confine,” “to compress.” The ideas of a narrow door and a little trodden way occur in philosophy, e.g., in the difficult ascent to true culture.
Further, in order to enter it we must leave everything behind—sin, selfish ambition, covetousness, even if necessary family and friends. For no-one can follow Christ who has not first denied himself. The entry is also a turnstile gate: it has to be entered one by one.
If we determine to find it we will! We must!
Two Ways: Easy and Hard
Stott: Second, there are two ways. Psalm 1 contrasts “the way of the righteous” who delight in God’s law, bear fruit and prosper, with “the way of the wicked” who are driven like chaff before the wind and perish. Now Jesus elaborates.
One way is easy. The word means “broad, spacious, roomy” (AG), and some manuscripts combine these images and call this way “wide and easy”.
How many US cities have a street called “Broadway?”
All 5 boroughs of NYC have a Broadway.  The one in the Bronx is the same as the one in Manhattan.
Stott: There is plenty of room on it for diversity of opinions and laxity of morals. It is the road of tolerance and permissiveness. It has no curbs, no boundaries of either thought or conduct. No restrictions. Everything is right, and everyone is right. No hassle. No stress. No sacrifice.
This is the “whatever” road. Anything goes. If it feels good, do it.
Travelers on this road follow their own inclinations, that is, the desires of the human heart in its fallenness. Superficiality, self-love, hypocrisy, mechanical religion, false ambition, censoriousness—these things do not have to be learnt or cultivated. Effort is needed to resist them. No effort is required to practice them. That is why the broad road is easy.
Popular. Go with the flow. Enjoy the party. Don’t rock the boat.
The hard way, on the other hand, is narrow. Its boundaries are clearly marked. Its narrowness is due to something called ‘divine revelation’, which restricts pilgrims to the confines of what God has revealed in Scripture to be true and good. C. S. Lewis described in his autobiography how as a schoolboy of thirteen he began to ‘broaden his mind’. ‘I was soon (in the famous words) altering “I believe” to “one does feel”. And oh, the relief of it!… From the tyrannous noon of revelation I passed into the cool evening twilight of Higher Thought, where there was nothing to be obeyed, and nothing to be believed except what was either comforting or exciting.’
Revealed truth imposes a limitation on what Christians may believe, and how we may behave. And in a sense this is ‘hard’. Yet in another sense, Christ’s hard and narrow way is also to be welcomed as his ‘easy yoke’ and ‘light burden’, because He bears it with us.
One writer notes:
Why is the way narrow?  Because those who have entered the narrow gate find their path constricted. They no longer have all the choices to do what they used to do. Now, Jesus is Lord. He calls the shots in their life. He is their Master. They must do Christ’s will, not their own. The way of life of a Christian is different from the way of life of a non-Christian. A non-believer can choose many different options in life; a Christian can’t. If Jesus is truly His Lord, he must seek to do His will. He doesn’t have the option of living with his girlfriend or boyfriend, or having an affair, or living a homosexual lifestyle, or swindling from his company or abusing drugs or alcohol. He no longer has the option of getting a divorce if he doesn’t feel “in love” any longer. His way is narrow! You see a true Christian seeks to live a holy life. Without the pursuit of holiness no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). You can know if you’ve entered the narrow gate by examining what kind of path you are on.  Is it narrow or wide?  Are there a few people on this path, or many?  Do you live like most other people around you, or are you different? Do others take notice that you live for Jesus, His will, His values, and His glory? Do you blend in and look like everyone else, or do you reflect the character and teachings of Jesus?
How do you know if you are on the broad way that leads to destruction?  It’s not too hard to figure out. First, you haven’t gone through the narrow gate of Christ. He is not your only hope and trust. Second, you aren’t conforming your life to the will of God. Your life looks like most others around you. There are many others on this path, going same direction you are. You don’t have to do anything great to end up at Destruction. Just embrace any other way other than Jesus Christ, and live for your own will and you’ll be sure to end up there.
In a previous post, we listed a series of contrasts between the easy and the hard. What follows is a sample of these. See the full post here:
The Easy and the Hard, by Beverly Heirich
Bad is easy. Good is hard.
Losing is easy. Winning is hard.
Talking is easy. Listening is hard.
Giving advice is easy. Taking advice is hard.
Stop is easy. Go is hard.
Take is easy. Give is hard.
Lying is easy. Truth is hard.
Holding a grudge is easy. Forgiving is hard.
Telling a secret is easy. Keeping a secret is hard.
Play is easy. Work is hard.
Again, there are many more of these. See the full post here:
Two Destinations: Destruction and Life
Stott: Thirdly, there are two destinations. We have already seen this foreshadowed in Psalm 1, where ‘prospering’ and ‘perishing’ are the alternatives. Moses made it clearer still: ‘See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil …, blessing and curse; therefore choose life.’
Similarly, Jesus taught that the easy way, entered by the wide gate, leads to destruction. He did not define what he meant by this, and presumably the precise nature of hell is as much beyond our finite understanding as the precise nature of heaven. But the terrible word ‘destruction’ (terrible because God is properly the Creator, not the Destroyer, and because man was created to live, not to die) seems at least to give us liberty to say that everything good will be destroyed in hell—love and loveliness, beauty and truth, joy, peace and hope—and that forever. It is a prospect too awful to contemplate without tears. For the broad road is suicide road.
By contrast, the hard way, entered by the narrow gate, leads to life, even to that ‘eternal life’ which Jesus explained in terms of fellowship with God, beginning here but perfected hereafter, in which we see and share his glory, and find perfect fulfilment as human beings in the selfless service of him and of our fellows.
Two Companies: Many and Few
Fourthly, there are two crowds. Entering by the wide gate and travelling along the easy road to destruction are many. The broad and easy road is a busy thoroughfare, thronged by pedestrians of every kind.
Comfort and security in numbers.
How could so many people be wrong?
It’s hard to stand alone. To be the one voice shouting, “You’re going the wrong way, people!”
The narrow and hard way which leads to life, however, seems to be comparatively deserted. Those who find it are few. Jesus seems to have anticipated that his followers would be (or at least would appear to be and feel themselves to be) a despised minority movement.
He saw multitudes on the broad road, laughing and carefree with apparently no thought for the dreadful end to which they are heading, while on the narrow road there is just a ‘happy band of pilgrims’, hand in hand, backs turned upon sin and faces set towards the Celestial City, ‘singing songs of expectation, marching to the promised land’.
Of course the final number of God’s redeemed will be too many to count.
Yet by comparison, those who are lost will be the far larger company.
One writer notes:
Many people are self-deceived. They think they are going to heaven, and in reality they are going to hell. In a recent Gallup poll, people on the street were asked if they thought they were going to Heaven or Hell.  You can guess the results, can’t you?! 99% of these people said they thought they were going to heaven. However, Jesus said many will go to destruction while only few find life. If Jesus is right, 99% of the people in the world are not going to heaven. Only a small portion of the world’s population compared to the whole will find life. The majority are headed for destruction.
If Jesus is right, most people are wrong. Most are self-deceived. God doesn’t want you to be deceived about your eternal destination. If you are on your way to hell, God wants you to know it, so you can repent and find life while there is still time. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear, but it’s still the truth.
Jesus said:
Lk 18:8 “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
One Decision: Yours
One writer notes:
Not just the threat of destruction … but the promise of life!
Picture this scene with me. You’re walking along an old country road with thousands of other people, and you come to a dead end. There at the end of the road you see two gates. One gate is very large, and you can see that if you enter through that gate, there is a very wide, well-worn dirt road on the other side. The road looks very pleasant and easy to travel on. What’s more, the vast majority of people are going through that wide gate. It looks like easily 95% of them are going in through that gate. It’s very tempting to just go that way. After all, everyone else is going that direction. You think to yourself, all those people can’t be wrong, can they? Then you look at the other gate. It’s narrow. In fact, it’s so narrow, that only one person can go in at a time. And on the other side of that narrow gate, is a very narrow path. Again, it’s so narrow, that only one person can walk it at a time. Also, this path looks like it will be very difficult. You can see that it heads steeply uphill into the mountains with thousand foot drop-offs on both sides. What’s more, only a few people are deciding to take this path. You stand there, looking at both gates, and both ways. Which one should you take? All of us have to make a choice about which gate we will enter, and which path we will walk. In fact, we have already made that decision. Some of you have entered the narrow gate, and you are walking on the narrow way that leads to eternal life. Others of you have entered the wide gate and are walking on the broad way that leads to eternal destruction. The good news, is that it is not too late to change paths! If you have entered the wrong gate, you can still go back to the narrow gate, enter through it, and begin walking on the narrow path that leads to life.
Stott: There are according to Jesus only two ways, hard and easy (there is no middle way), entered by two gates, broad and narrow (there is no other gate), trodden by two crowds, large and small (there is no neutral group), ending in two destinations, destruction and life (there is no third alternative). It is hardly necessary to comment that such talk is extremely unfashionable today. People like to be uncommitted. Every opinion poll allows not only for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, but for a convenient ‘don’t know’. Everybody resents being faced with the necessity of a choice. But Jesus will not allow us to escape it.
Let’s close by noting the parallel passage. In Luke 13:22-30 Jesus responds to the question, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” His answer may have surprised many people. “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
He says that many will seek, but only those who strive will actually enter. The word “strive” translates the Greek word from which we get our word “agonize.” In the original this word related to fighting a battle, running a rest, or exerting oneself in a contest with a mighty foe.
We are saved by grace. We do not earn salvation by perfect, sinless behavior. At the same time, the grace of God is given to those who choose the narrow gate, the hard road, and the relatively small company.
In Jesus’ teaching, He both threatens destruction and promises life. I know what I’m going to choose, and I imagine you do, too.
Possible hymns:
Follow Me
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
Anywhere with Jesus
To Canaan’s Land I’m On My Way
I am Bound for the Promised Land
This World is not My Home

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