Jesus used three illustrations on how to live to conclude His Sermon on the Mount: 1) Two roads 2) Two trees 3) Two foundations1) Two gates and roads – Matthew 7:13-14 – symbolize the decision to trust and obeyJesus or to rely on self and chart one’s own course.2) Two kinds of trees – Matthew 7:15-23 – show the results of that initial decision in thislife and the judgment.3) The two foundations – Matthew 7:24-29 – reveals how that initial decision works outwhen hard times impact us as well as at the Judgment.The conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount stands as both: 1) an encouragement and 2) as a warning.Romans 15:4 NIV4 “For everything that was written in the past waswritten to teach us, so that through enduranceand the encouragement of the Scriptures wemight have hope.” Romans 15:4 NIVLife or Destruction?Matthew 7:13-14 HCSB13“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad thatleads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gateand difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 HCSB
First, let’s consider the two gates: One of them is narrow and easily overlooked; therefore, few find it(v14). The descriptive term narrow is not inviting. We have heard all our lives that being narrow-minded is not good. None of us want to be hemmed in; we like to go our way singing, “Don’t Fence Me In”. Nevertheless, Jesus had sound reasons for insisting we enter through the narrow gate (v. 13). The other gate is wide, easy to find, and apparently more attractive (v. 13). Large crowds enter that gate, but it isn’t jammed; people readily can see they have plenty of room to enter. Clearly, that gate is the popular choice, for many go through it (v. 13). Some of them assume that because many people enter there, it must be the best choice. Unfortunately, the majority is not always right.
Consider the two roads: The narrow gate leads to a difficult road (v. 14). The word translated difficult literally means compressed. The gate and the road beyond it both hem us in. It wends its constricted way through deep valleys and over high mountains. Rough and rocky patches occasionally mark its surface. The body of the Sermon on the Mount describes that road; walking it is tough. The roomy gate leads to a broad road (v. 13). Freshly paved and well maintained, it offers plenty of rest stops and picnic areas with scenic overlooks. Entertaining and interesting attractions line this road, and travelers flock to them. They claim any fool could see the wide gate as the wise choice, for it led to a road that affords many delights.Consider the two destinations: The narrow road … leads to life (v. 14). What an amazing claim!Deuteronomy 30:19-2019 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before youlife and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendantsmay live, 20 love the Lord your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to Him. For He isyour life, and He will prolong your life in the land the Lord swore to give to yourfathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20Joshua 24:1515 “But if it doesn’t please you to worship Yahweh, choose for yourselves today the one youwill worship: the gods your fathers worshiped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods ofthe Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my family, we will worshipYahweh.” Joshua 24:15
What appears as a foolish choice has spectacular benefits. C. S. Lewis, the effective Christian teacher and writer who helped many take the narrow gate and walk the difficult road, described his conversion to Christianity in a book entitled Surprised by Joy. In a sense, he thought his life had ended as he moved toward God. He expected life to take on hues of gray and black. The book title reflects the reality he experienced. He found life; eternal life in the hereafter, yes, but also abundant life in the here-and-now.John 10:10 NIV10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they mayhave life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 NIVDeciding to trust Christ and walk with Him looks bleakto some unbelievers, sort of like viewing a cathedral’sstained glass windows from the outside.On the inside, the sun shining through the glass bringsalive the incredibly lovely colors that take our breathaway.Trusting Jesus brings us into a personal relationship with the Father Who created us,loves us, and wants us to have the best life possible. That does not mean the Christian life is easy, but it is the most fulfilling and satisfying way to live. So the narrow, difficult road leads to a wonderful life! The broad road leads to destruction (v. 13). What seems so promising at its beginning ends in the worst disaster imaginable, the lake of fire (Prov. 14:12; Rev. 20:15).
Proverbs 14:1212 “There is a way that seems right to a man,but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:12Revelation 20:1515 And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15 Whether or not you view this fire as literal or figurative, the worst aspect of hell is eternal separation from God. No hope abides there, only the deepest and unrelenting regret. Even in this life, the popular path doesn’t live up to its billing. Sin destroys like a corrosive poison that kills the brightest and best aspects of life. What early on brings fun and pleasure eventually brings sadness and misery. Sin kills friendships, destroys marriages, ruins reputations, and bankrupts businesses.Genuine or Counterfeit?Matthew 7:15-23 15 “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly areravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered fromthornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces goodfruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neithercan a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cutdown and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit. 21 “Noteveryone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only theone who does the will of My Father in Heaven. 22 On that day many will say to Me,‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and domany miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Departfrom Me, you lawbreakers!’” Matthew 7:15-23
True story of Donnie the Deceiver here at FBCJ. Religious fakery is not new. Both the Old and New Testaments speak of false prophets, and Jesus warned us to beware of them (v. 15).How can we tell whether a preacher, teacher, or layperson is genuine or counterfeitsince they bleat like sheep rather than snarl like wolves? To do that isn’t always easy, especially with religious teachings on TV and the Internet. Jesus said, however, we can recognize them by their fruit (v. 16).
Jesus elaborated on His analogy of telltale fruit. Thornbushes and thistles do not produce edible and nutritious fruit, so in that sense they are bad (v. 17). Grape vines and fig trees produce edible and nutritious fruit and thus are good (v. 17). To expect a bad tree to produce good fruit is folly; it can’t happen(v.18).Orchard owners know which trees produce good fruit and which do not, and theycut down and burn worthless trees (v. 19). What “fruit” are we to examine? Because the bad trees represent false prophets, the fruit certainly includes their false teachings. We can listen to determine whether the teachings major on “saved by grace” but minimize obedience to Christ. (“Believers’ sins are forgiven, so sinning doesn’t matter anymore; do what you please.”) Do they emphasize God’s love and ignore God’s holiness and righteous judgment? (“God is love, so He won’t allow anyone to go to hell.”) Do the teachers talk more about themselves, their achievements, their education, their Christian work, and so forth, than they talk about the Lord? Do they rightly interpret Scripture or primarily present their own opinions? Do they seriously lift up Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount as God’s will for His people or virtually dismiss them as being unrealistic saying “Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone lived that way?”. Do they imply our obedience, service, and giving help save us? We also can observe the influence of the teachings on the hearers. Are the people becoming godlier or more worldly? Are they seeking to do God’s will or going their own way? Are they putting others’ interests above their own or demanding their own way? Are the people accepting Jesus’ standards in His sermon or explaining them away? Aside from these counterfeit Christians’ teachings, we can examine their conduct. What evidence might point to their having hearts of ravaging wolves? The term translated ravaging indicates they are covetous and prey on others.
They might hunger for money, position, recognition, or power. So, watch how they act. Are their lifestyles selflessly Christian? Are they honest? Do they answer questions truthfully or become evasive? Are they more concerned with their status or with serving the Lord? How do they make and use money? Do they pay their bills? With whom do they hang out? What kinds of cars or homes do they own? Would Jesus wear a Rolex on His television show? When out of the spotlight, are they kind and considerate of others or irritable and impatient? What do people who have known them for a long time have to say about their moral and ethical practices? Obviously, we cannot know or watch Christian leaders who post materials on the Internet, preach on television, or produce written materials. Not all of them by any means are false prophets, but some are. Be cautious about accepting what they say or supporting them financially. The Internet search engines may be helpful in finding what people who have investigated them have to say.Jesus asserted bluntly, “Not everyone whosays to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter thekingdom of Heaven” (v. 21). 25John 15:5 NIV5 “I am the vine; you are the branches.If a man remains in me and I in him,he will bear much fruit; apart from meyou can do nothing.” John 15:5 NIV Are you bearing much fruit? Sadly, many people who assume they are saved are lost (v. 22).
This includes all false prophets and all whose Christianity is superficial. “I never knew you!” supplies the reason (v. 23). The only way to know Jesus personally is to yield our hearts to Him by faith, that is, to make Him Lord of our lives. Anything less is just religious ritual and activity.Some supposed Christians will boast of their Christian service, saying they haveprophesied, driven out demons, and done many miracles in His name (v. 22).Many impressive so-called Christian works have been done through human ingenuity,clever deception, and even satanic influences as seen in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15.2 Corinthians 11:14-1514 “And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no greatthing if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their destinywill be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:14-15Jesus, knowing their hearts, will respond to this boasting, “Depart from Me, youlawbreakers!” (v. 23). They gave time and effort to sensational Christian causes, figuring that would get them into Heaven. Unfortunately, they reserved the right to decide for themselves what they would do and which of Christ’s commands they would obey or ignore. In other words, they held fast to lordship over their lives, never yielding their hearts to the Lord by faith.A number of churchgoers hang onto the notion they can earn a place in thekingdom, ignoring numerous Scriptures such as Ephesians 2:8-10:Ephesians 2:8-108 “You are saved by grace through faith,and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—9 not from works, so that no one can boast.10 For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesusfor good works, which God prepared ahead of timeso that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10 Nail this down: we are saved by faith in Christ. Salvation is the root; good works are the fruit.2 Peter 1:3-113 “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through theknowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 4 By these He has
given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in thedivine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires.5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness,goodness with knowledge, 6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance,endurance with godliness, 7 godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affectionwith love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you frombeing useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 The person wholacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from hispast sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, make every effort to confirm your calling andelection, because if you do these things you will never stumble. 11 For in this way,entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richlysupplied to you.” 2 Peter 1:3-11 Salvation is the root; good works are the fruit. No quantity of good works can offset the penalty for even one of our sins. These are sobering and shocking verses. We who are genuine believers can be assured of our salvation and the Lord’s welcome into Heaven.Still, Jesus’ words warn us to take stock of how well we are responding to His Wordand lordship.
He is not looking to us for spectacular acts of service but for consistent acts ofobedience. May we bring glory to Him and find peaceful assurance as we walk with Him.1 John 2:66 “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6Colossians 2:66 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord (by grace through faith), continueto live in Him.” Colossians 2:6We all know people whose “fruit” testifies that their faith in Jesus is genuine.Unfortunately, we probably all also know those in whom we “recognize” somecounterfeit fruit.If others were examining your life, what counterfeit fruit might they identify that needsto be “cut down and thrown into the fire”?
Rock or Sand?Matthew 7:24-2924“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like asensible man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and thewinds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundationwas on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act onthem will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and itcollapsed. And its collapse was great!”28 When Jesus had finished this sermon, the crowds were astonished at His teaching,29 because He was teaching them like one Who had authority, and not like theirscribes.” Matthew 7:24-29Word Study: AuthorityAuthority translates a word with several shades of meaning—authority to choose, todo something with great ability, to rule, and absolute authority. The precise meaning is determined by the context. The context of its use in Matthew 7:29 is Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
The audience clearly perceived that He taught “like one Who had authority, and not like their scribes” (v. 29). The scribes often sought to support their teaching by quoting famous rabbinical scholars of yesteryear. Jesus spoke as the One Who had absolute authority in Himself to declare God’s truth.While Jesus certainly has absolute authority, the term’s use in verse 29 likely means thepeople recognized His authority in the sense of His being an exceptionally competentteacher of spiritual truth because He got His words straight from the Father, not fromsome dead sage.Maybe you grew up singing:The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock, the children’s song based on Jesus’words in these verses. This illustration provides perhaps the most familiar part of Jesus’ sermon. At times I can recall a sermon illustration but not the point illustrated. Be sure to catch Jesus’ point here. Although Jesus is the church’s foundation, in this account of two houses the foundation represents doing (or not doing)what Jesus commanded us to do. Jesus contrasted the fate of those who heard His words and obeyed them with others who heard and did nothing.He described obedient hearers as sensible, and the disobedient hearers as foolish(vv. 24,26). Why? Because eventually the rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house. Some interpreters believe the storms represent the damaging and even devastating events that befall all of us in this sin-cursed world. Those who hear and obey Jesus have a foundation that sustains them in hard times. They don’t collapse into bitterness or hopelessness but endure and persevere. Those who hear but do as they please are on their own and will suffer for it greatly. While that interpretation of storms certainly has merit and expresses truth, in this context Jesus may have used the storm image to illustrate the final judgment.The conclusion of the sermon contains strong warnings (vv. 13-22). The broad way leads to destruction (v. 13); worthless trees are cut down and thrown into the fire (v. 19). “On that day” of judgment, lawbreakers will be rejected (vv. 22-23). In line with that, the great collapse of the house built … on the sand easily could stand for falling under God’s righteous judgment (v. 27).
1 Corinthians 3:8-158 “Now the one planting and the one watering are one in purpose, and each willreceive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’scoworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to God’s grace that wasgiven to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another buildson it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no one can lay anyother foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.12 If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, orstraw, 13 each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because itwill be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’swork that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burnedup, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:8-15 In any case, obeying is the only wise choice. We’ve heard, read, studied, and even taught Jesus’ words. That is vital but by itself only puts us in the position of a rookie in the National Football League. He has the play-book, has studied it, and knows his assignment for every play. He is well coached and practices hard. Then he gets in a game, forgets what he’s seen and heard, and relies instead on what worked for him on the college level. Immediately, he is benched. The same would be true of replacement referees in the NFL! We know much of what we should do, but do we keep that in mind as we travel through each week? Do we practice what we’ve learned? Do we allow Jesus’ words to bear fruit that glorifies Him? We should renew our determination to be doers of the Word and not hearers only (James 1:22).James 1:2222 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22
We should choose to trust Christ and walk in His ways as He has taught us. We need to persevere as we walk the difficult road with Christ. May we not only be fruit inspectors but also make sure we produce fruit pleasing to the Lord.Colossians 1:10 NASB10 “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in all respects, bearing fruit inevery good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” Colossians 1:10 NASB We should adopt as our life goal to do the Father’s will. Let’s rejoice that for life’s storms and the judgment to come, we have built on the only foundation that ensures our eternal security — obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, let’s build our lives on Christ and His teachings. Prior to turning to Christ, each of us built our “house on the sand.” Did yours “collapse” at some point? If so, remember that experience, how you felt, and what helped you survive. Allow that experience to make you more diligent in seeking out others whose houses have collapsed or are subject to collapse because they, too, built on the sand. Help lead them to the Rock!
Biblical Truths of This Lesson in Focus: Let us rightly judge ourselves before helping fellow believers in their Christian walk. Let us be honest about our own spiritual struggles rather than pretending we “have it all together.” Let us relate to others with discernment when witnessing to them. Let us pray persistently and confidently for God’s grace to obey and serve Him. Let us build our lives on Jesus and His teachings.As you reflect on this lesson, consider ways you can better build your life on Jesusand His teachings. Next week: From Failure to Salvation John 4: 7-39