Preached @ Anchor Community Church on June 15th 2014
“In much contemporary evangelism, there is little concern for whether or not God will accept us, and much concern for whether or not we will accept Him. Little attention is paid to whether or not we please Him, and much to whether or not He pleases us.”
Our passage today is the beginning of Jesus’ Epilogue. It serves as Jesus’ “So what do I need to do,” so prevalent in any sermon. He has just given us His famous summary statement known by many as the “Golden Rule.” As we saw last week, Jesus’ version is the positive tone, which emphasizes the kingdom’s ethic of proactively loving others, rather than the man-made copy to avoid doing wrong to others since it would affect you. That sums up man’s laws. It’s wrong if it hurts others, while Jesus’ command is an outward appeal to do acts of sacrificial love because it in of itself images God the way we were created to do. Man’s Law is Self Centered (Only wrong if it offends the self), while God’s Law is Other Centered and God centered. In other words, it’s wrong because it offends God, not just when it offends others.
Jesus’ Conclusion is the Sell, an appeal for a decision. Encountering Jesus and His kingdom doesn’t allow us to be neutral. We’re in, or we’re out. No middle ground here. Jesus preached the “Kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14-15), and His preaching is not in vain. He has shown us His Kingdom, and He bids us to come and live according to the Kingdom ethics, because we are ambassadors of His Kingdom and living as Aliens in a strange land. The things Jesus preached (Love, sacrifice, forgiveness, etc..) everyone tends to agree with on every continent, but few seem to follow. They are rules and guidelines we want others to follow, but often fail to follow them at all. People want verse twelve without verse 13. Love yes, follow/commit; no way!
The Golden Rule forces us to stop “Judging” and start loving. It forces us to walk with others; to understand, and to “Do unto them.” Now, Jesus is saying, make a decision! What’s it going to be?
Jesus isn’t preaching Principles of ethics. He is calling us to a whole new way to live (Paradigm Shift). Jesus is demanding a different life, one that is difficult to live, and the reasonwhy we need prayer (See Matthew 7:6-11). This is Jesus’ Alter Call. He bids you to come, follow Him!
Big Picture: In the end, Jesus calls all men to Himself as the ONLY pathway to Abundant Life!
From the Head…
So far we have seen a series of contrasts
- Path to Life/Path to Death (Abundant Life)
- Good Fruit/Bad Fruit (Nourishment)
- Solid Structure/Poor Structure (Security)
Jesus has been describing Two Ways to Live (See Matthew 6 and contrast with “Hypocrites”). And it’s not religion vs irreligion, but gospel vs false religion; Relationship vs rules. Our passage is contrasting a destructive False Religion with Gospel Truth
I want to take a look @ Five Observations from our text…
The Path to God Is Narrow
The Path is Narrow. The Greek word Stenē means Narrow, or The Road Less Traveled. We do not determine our own way, and all religions aren’t the same; they don’t all lead to God. Men do not gain the Kingdom of God by worshipping nature, doing pious works, or through hedonism and pleasure. The road to the Kingdom of God begins with and ends with Jesus, and His work on the cross. Acts 4:12 iterates this truth in scripture, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The Path to God Is Hard
Isn’t the Christian Life Easy? Isn’t God going to give me“A Wonderful Plan for My Life??” Jesus Is A Poor Public Relations Official Sound Heretical? Think about it. He pulls no punches, and He is totally a straight shooter. He’s very honest about what it means to follow Him. Mark 8:34-35 says, “…and calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” This is not the slogan of a man trying to get re-elected. The word used for “narrow” isStenē (See Stenachoria. It is used in Romans 8:35 meaning “Distress” A narrowing of the Path (Difficult Passage). “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” The word He uses for “hard” is Tethlimmenē (From Thlibō) to Stress, Afflict, Compress, Hard. The same word is used in 2 Corinthians 4:8; “We are afflicted (thlibō) in every way, but not crushed (stenochōreō); perplexed, but not driven to despair” The fact is Jesus promises abundant life, but He is extremely clear about the conditions to get there (See too John 16:33). He wants His disciples to sincerely follow Him, not add Him to their already busy lives, and live as defeated, half-hearted people.
The Path to God Is Not Found By Popular Opinion
The “Many” are heading to the “Easy” Path that leads to destruction. The “majority” path leads to Destruction/Waste(apōleian). Majority, Practical or Logical Paths are not always the Healthy Choice. Pragmatics can be dangerous. What “Works” is not always what is right, or best in the long haul? Pragmatics is short sighted, and often gives immediate pleasure/results with destructive consequences. The majority is not always right, and is often wrong. God’s way may be difficult, but it produces life.
The Path to God Cannot be Found If We Are Purely Motivated By Pleasing Men
Matthew 6 made it clear that doing our works to please men has its own temporal reward, but has no place with god. We are either motivated by pleasing man or God. Joshua 24:15 says, “…Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Sometime being a solid, loving leader means to do what is unpopular.
…to the Heart
The opposite of the Gospel is not “Irreligion” and license, but Religion itself. Our context isn’t pitting ungodly behavior against pietistic behavior, but a relationship with God and humanity’s religion. Jesus bids us to come to Him.He calls us to a different way to think, love and live. He promises Life Abundantly, through death to ourselves. The Christian way is the hard way, but it Promises Life (John 16:33). The world’s way promises the world, and delivers destruction. Will you choose Jesus today?
Questions To Ponder
- What does the world offer that is so alluring to us?
- What is it in all of us that are allured by it?
- How can we live the way Jesus is calling us to live?
- In what way(s) do you understand Jesus’ words?
- In what way(s) do you struggle with His words?
- What is Jesus calling us to do? Why?
For Further Reading
A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener
The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Michael J. Wilkins
The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1A, ed. Manlio Simonetti
Sermon On the Mount; Sinclair Ferguson