“Emmanuel’s Warning Part 1” – Matthew 7:13-14

April 26th, 2015

Matthew 7:13-14

“Emmanuel’s Warning Pt 1”

 

Service Orientation:  The Gospel is full of life and broad, but at first glance appears to be extremely narrow-minded.  The way of the world is restrictive, destructive, and narrow, but at first glance appears to be extremely broad-minded.  Jesus helps us  see the truth.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.   — Luke 13:24

                                                               

Background Information:

  • Here Jesus presses his point by a series of four contrasting images. He speaks of two gates (and two paths), two trees (or teachers), two claims (or professions), and two builders (or foundations).  In each case the choice of the one way leads to heaven; the choice of the other leads to hell.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 112)
  • All the way through the sermon it has been obvious that there are only two ways to live: the way of the Lord and the way of the world (however disguised in religious dress that may be).  Now, in his closing words, our Lord challenges us to make up our minds.  There are certain issues that must be settled.  There can be no room for negotiation or compromise.  A choice has to be made.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 162)
  • (v. 13) The narrow gate is not, as so often assumed, doctrinal correctness. The narrow gate is obedience–and the confidence in Jesus necessary to it.  We can see that it is not doctrinal correctness because many people who cannot even understand the correct doctrines nevertheless place their full faith in him.  Moreover, we find many people who seem to be very correct doctrinally but have hearts full of hatred and unforgiveness.  The broad gate, by contrast, is simply doing whatever I want to do.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 275)
  • (v. 13) “Destruction” (NIV) means ruin, squander, man’s worse enemy, everlasting state of torment and death. (Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol I, 396-7)
  • (v. 14) Stenos (narrow) comes from a root that means “to groan,” as from being under pressure, and is used figuratively to represent a restriction or constriction.  It is the word from which we get stenography, writing that is abbreviated or compressed.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 455)
  • (v. 14) “Life” (NIV) means vitality, knowing who you are and your place in this world, life present with love, joy and hope.  (Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol I, 396-7)
  • 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.”  Men are lovers of Aristotle and of his golden mean.  The most popular path is the via media.  To deviate from the middle way is to risk being dubbed an “extremist” or a “fanatic.”  Everybody resents being faced with the necessity of a choice.  But Jesus will not allow us to escape it.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 196)
  • There is no point in listening to the sermon if you are not going to do anything about it. The remainder of Matthew 7 is grand, motivational application.  The Savior refuses to let his listeners bask in the grandeur of the sermon’s thought.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 241)
  • Here we can safely say that our Lord really has finished the Sermon as such, and that from here on He is rounding it off, and applying it, and urging upon His listeners the importance and necessity of practicing it and implementing it in their daily lives. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 476)
  • Christ assumes the right to speak decisively and authoritatively with regard to the ultimate issues of human conduct, in a way which, as I believe, marks His divinity, and which no man can venture upon without presumption. Of the one path He declares without hesitation that it leads to life; of the other He affirms uncompromisingly that it “leads to destruction.”  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 351)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What is Jesus trying to teach us by referring to gates, roads and where they terminate?

 

Answer:  There is only one choice of roads we will make in our lives; between the world’s or God’s.   The first is easily accessed, popular and ends in destruction.  The second is difficult to access, unpopular and ends in life.  Any questions?

 

The Word for the Day is . . .Terminus  (Dt 30:15, 19; Josh 24:15; Ps ch 1; ch 73; Prv 15:19; Jer 21:8; Dn 12:2)

 

Webster’s Def. = The final goal or finish point.   End of transportation line or travel route.

 

Either we conform the truth to our desires or we conform our desires to the truth. (Ops Guinness;  Time for Truth, 110)

 

For the wise men of old, the cardinal problem of human life was how to conform the soul to objective reality; and the solution was wisdom, self-discipline and virtue.  For the modern man, the cardinal problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of man, and the solution is a technique.  (C. S. Lewis; The Abolition of Man)

 

What is Jesus teaching us here in these two verses?

I-  The gate (entrance ramp) and the road to destruction is wide, easily accessed, and popular. (Mt 7:13; see also: Prv 14:12; 16:25; Mt 3:12; 7:22-23; 18:8; 25:41-46; Mk 9:43; Jn 3:19;  Phil 3:19; 2 Thes 1:9; 1 Tm 6:9; Jam 4:1-7; 2 Pt 3:7; 1 Jn 2:15-17 Jude 6-7)

 

One way is easy.  The word means ‘broad, spacious, roomy’ (AG), and some manuscripts combine these images and call this way ‘wide and easy.’  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.  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.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 194)

 

The way to life is on God’s terms alone; the way to damnation is on any terms a person wants, because every way but God’s leads to the same fate.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 449)

 

The broad way gets narrower as it goes along.  It is brooded over by a lord whose realm is darkness, whose rule is bondage, and whose reign is characterized by revenge against God–revenge in the form of the ruin and damnation of mankind.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 126)

 

On the wide road if your thing is nature, that is okay.  If it is meditation, that is okay.  If it is morality or sensuality, that is okay too.  The road has plenty of room for everybody as long as one’s thinking does not turn to value judgments.  It is okay to compare and contrast philosophies, but to say one is better than the other is anathema.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 243)

 

The broad path gets narrower still as old age creeps in with its handicaps and limitations.  Ill health becomes the norm, faculties begin to fail, friends die, and the way grows increasingly lonely and frightening.  Then death comes and those who reach the bitter end of the broad road discover too late that Jesus was right all the time.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 127)

 

The modern workplace not only diminishes accountability but also undercuts the cogency of religious belief and morality.   Cities create their own psychological environments by bringing together in close proximity a wide range of worldviews, cultural and ethnic differences, and personal values.   The kind of pluralism that is necessary to eliminate antagonisms among the competing views has the effect of reducing the values of each inhabitant to the lowest common denominator.   City life requires the kind of friendliness that allows us to cohabit with the mass ethnic.  It is typically assumed that this sort of friendliness must be divested of moral and religious judgements, since it is difficult for our society to see how judgements about truth and morals can escape the charge of social bigotry.   And so we settle for the kind of friendliness within which all absolutes perish either for lack of interest or because of the demands of the social etiquette.  (David Wells; No Place for Truth, 75)

 

“A river becomes crooked by following the line of least resistance.  So does a man!”

 

Tolerance is the virtue of a man without conviction.  — C.K. Chesterton

 

Tolerance is the enemy of justice.  Justice undermines everything that Tolerance stands for.   Tolerance and Justice cannot coexist.  Justice = moral base.   Tolerance is the negation of a moral base.  — Josh McDowell

 

It is amazing to observe how people instinctively like to conform to pattern in custom, habit, and behavior; and indeed, at times, it is even amusing.  We hear certain people objecting to the tendency in modern legislation to regimentation.  They voice their objections to it strongly, as they do their belief in individuality and freedom.  Yet they themselves are often just typical representatives of the particular section or group in which they have been brought up, or to which they like to belong.  You can tell almost at once the school or university they have attended; they conform to pattern.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 480)

 

The current of society always moves in the direction of conformity.  (Andy Stanley, Visioneering, 210)

 

We do not have to look far to see the application to our own lives.  The siren song of popular culture is to avoid pain and take the easy way, the path of least resistance.  But God’s Word still speaks truly:  “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tm 3:12).  Jesus embraced the cross by refusing the easy way, and as his followers, he says, we must do the same:  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Mt 16:24, 25).

If we embrace the logic of Jesus’ refusal to take the easy way, we will see that taking the path of least resistance, to follow comfortable expediency, is idolatry–it is worshiping a false God.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. One, 136)

 

Most dangerous sin of all is conformity.”  (William Barclay; Commentary on 2 Peter,  326)

 

Diogenes said that “false teachers were those whose method it was to follow wherever the applause of the crowd led.”  Today Diogenes would say that False teachers and false scientists’ method is to follow wherever the buck led.” (William Barclay, Commentary on 2 Peter,  315)

 

People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.  — Blaise Pascal

 

People don’t base their lives on what is true, but on what they see as attractive.  — Porter Paraphrase of Blaise Pascal

 

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. — William Shakespeare.

 

I have known educated people, professing Christians, who purposely gathered together for religious discussion men and women representing the widest possible varieties of religious conviction.  This was far enough.  But unfortunately their aim, as they put it, was to get everyone to make his “individual contribution” (how fraught with error this phrase can be) so that collectively they might arrive at the truth.  Now there is much to be said, socially and intellectually, for bringing together people of different outlooks and beliefs; but there is no rational basis for the notion that by mixing a number of conflicting views you are likely to arrive at the truth.  You cannot construct truth from a mass of dissonant and disparate material.  You cannot construct truth at all:  you can only discover it.  And the more noisily opinionated people intervene with their contributions, the less likely you are to discover it. (Harry Blamires; The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?, 112)

 

. . . tolerance becomes the cardinal virtue.  Under the postmodernist way of thinking, the principle of cultural diversity means that every like-minded group constitutes a culture that must be considered as good as any other culture.  The postmodernist sins are “being judgmental,” “being narrow-minded,” “thinking that you have the only truth,” and “trying to enforce your values on anyone else.”  Those who question the postmodernist dogma that “there are no absolutes” are excluded from the canons of tolerance.  The only wrong idea is to believe in truth; the only sin is to believe in sin.  (Gene Veith; Postmodern Times, 195-6)

 

Jesus’ claim of exclusivity skewers the myth that all religions are basically the same.  But there’s another myth, which says that even though Christianity may be different, it’s just one philosophy among many, and it’s only as valid as any other system of religion.  This is the “you have your truth, I have mine” idea.

Sproul points out that this belief has a certain amount of appeal because, on the surface, it reflects the tolerant and pluralistic attitudes of our country.  Under our Constitution, all religious opinions are equally protected; people are free to believe whatever they want.  But some people jump to the erroneous conclusion that just because different religious viewpoints are equally protected, they therefore must be equally valid.  That’s just not the case.

The idea behind what the U.S. Supreme Court has called our “marketplace of ideas” is that truth and falsehood should be free to grapple in unhindered debate so in the end truth will prevail.  While the law protects everyone who expresses an opinion, it says nothing about which viewpoints are based on truth and which are misguided or blatantly false.  (Lee Stroble;   God’s OUTrageous Claims, 187)

 

For the conforming American, democracy is not simply a political system but an entire worldview dictating, among other things, that culture and truth belong to the people and in a sense are determined by the people.   Our custodians of culture and truth are constrained to operate within the bounds of popular consensus.   They can lead only so far as the people are willing to follow, which is to say that their leadership is essentially tied to public opinion. (David Wells; God in the Wasteland, 57-8)

 

“One extremely popular television preacher will not talk about sin, on the grounds that doing so makes people feel bad.  Preachers are to preach to felt needs, not necessarily real needs, and this generally means telling people only what they want to hear.

Was Jesus amusing?   Were Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, or Jonathan Edwards entertainers?”  (James Boice;  Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age, 93)

 

Perhaps the most blatant example of this perverse bias toward compromise was the World Council of Churches’ dictum in 1966, “The world must set the agenda for the Church.”  Three decades later, it is hard to believe that such an advance warning of preemptive capitulation could have been trumpeted as a lofty and self-evident principle.   But it is also worthy checking to see whether there are similar inanities in the church-growth movement today.  (Os Guinness; No God But God, 167)

 

“Tolerance” can be a genuinely harmful force when it becomes a euphemism for moral exhaustion and a rigid or indifferent neutrality in response to every great moral issue—when, in G. K. Chesterton’s phrase, it becomes the virtue of people who do not believe in anything.  For that paves the road to injustice. (William J. Bennett; The Death of Outrage, 122)

 

The point remains the same in each case; not the path but the path’s destination is of ultimate significance.  The tragedy is that otherwise reasonable men become so enamored with the spaciousness and the popularity of their path that they take little thought as to its destination.  Should they hear that it leads to destruction, they will deny it, arguing that they are no worse than most others on the same road, and that in any case God would not permit the destruction of so many.  Let me state emphatically that the Scriptures do not encourage such optimism.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 133)

 

II-  The gate (entrance ramp) and the road to life is narrow, difficult to access, and rarely used.  (Mt 7:14; see also: Ps 16:11; Prv 4:18; Mt 7:21-23; 16:24-28; 19:16-30; 22:14; Mk 8:34-36; 10:17-31; Lk 9:23-27; 13:22-30; 14:26; 18:18-30; Jn 3:3-5; 6:27; 15:18-19; 17:14; Rom 12:1-2; 1 Cor 1:18-2:16; Heb 10:39; ch 11; Jam 4:1-4; 1 Pt 1:4; 1 Jn 2:15-17; 3:13; Rv 21:1-7)

 

It is only Christian people who are to be found along the narrow way, and you do not make yourself a Christian by entering in.  You are entering in and walking upon it because you are saved.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 495)

 

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.  Further, in order to enter it we must leave everything behind–sin, selfish ambition, covetousness, even if necessary family and friends.  The entry is also a turnpike gate:  it has to be entered one by one.  How can we find it?  Jesus Christ himself.  “I am the door,” he said, “if any one enters by me, he will be saved.”  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 194-5)

 

Though entering the narrow gate may be difficult, and certainly involves repentance and self-abasement, on the other side of the gate the way is ever-broadening, and leads to life eternal.  The easily-entered wide gate opens on to an ever-narrowing defile that leads to destruction.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 43)

 

In order to enter by the narrow gate one must strip himself of many things, such as a consuming desire for earthly goods, the unforgiving spirit, selfishness, and especially self-righteousness.  The narrow gate is therefore the gate of self-denial and obedience.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 369)

 

We cannot enter at the strait gate and walk the narrow way and at the same time be tolerant of sin, expect the praise of men, hold hands with the world, indulge the lusts of the flesh, listen to the lies of the devil, and be in step with the spirit of the age.  This world crucified our Savior and will be no friend to those who follow in His steps.

So the road to Heaven is a narrow way, but it broadens out as we grow in grace and increase in the knowledge of God.  This road is a path of wonderful friendships–links of love forged with those of like precious faith.  The road to Heaven is a path of intellectual challenge, emotional fulfillment, tremendous opportunity, and “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Pt 1:8).  The path broadens out and ends in the fullness of eternal life.  As Solomon wrote, “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Prv 4:18).  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 128)

 

Many who preach the gospel today are out of step with Jesus in this matter.  They may preach a gospel, but they make it sound easy to become a Christian and be saved.  Jesus did not.  William Hendriksen had it right when he wrote, “Our Lord does not follow the method that is used by certain self-styled revivalists, who speak as if ‘getting saved’ is one of the easiest things in the world.  Jesus, on the contrary, pictures entrance into the kingdom as being, on the one hand, most desirable; yet, on the other, not at all easy.  The entrance-gate is narrow.  It must be ‘found.’”  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 113)

 

If we really want to come into this way of life, we have to leave our “self” outside.  And it is there of course that we come to the greatest stumbling block of all.  It is one thing to leave the world, and the way of the world; but the most important thing in a sense is to leave our self outside.  Yet it is obvious, is it not?  We are not to take our self with us on this way.  That is not being foolish; it is typical NT language.  Self is the Adamic man, the fallen nature; and Christ says that he must be left outside.  “Put off the old man,” that is, leave him outside the gate.  There is no room for two men to go through this gate together, so the old man must be left behind.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 482)

 

When you come to the topmost level in any walk in life the company is always smaller.  Anybody can follow the ordinary; but the moment you want to do something unusual, the moment you want to reach the heights, you will find that there are not many trying to do the same.  It is exactly the same with respect to the Christian life; it is such an exalted life and such a wonderful one, that there are but few who find it and enter it, simply because it is difficult.  We need not emphasize this.  Consider what we have been told as we have gone through the Sermon in detail.  Look at this kind of life as our Lord has depicted it, and you will see that it must be narrow because it is so difficult.  It is the highest, it is the acme of perfection in living.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 483-4)

 

Jesus is speaking of a narrow gate and a narrow road as contrasted with a wide gate and a wide road, and he is warning us against taking the easy as opposed to the difficult way.  At this point the two images work together, which is why he combines them as he does.  Both teach the comparative ease of drifting along through life to damnation as opposed to the difficulty of pursuing and gaining eternal life.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 113)

 

It is a fact that revealed truth imposes a limitation on what Christians may believe, and revealed goodness on how we may behave.  And in a sense this is ‘hard’.  Yet in another sense, as Chrysostom pointed out centuries ago, Christ’s hard and narrow way is also to be welcomed as his ‘easy yoke’ and ‘light burden.’  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 194)

 

We have no reason to be discouraged and cast down if the religion we profess is not popular and few agree with us.  We must remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in this passage:  “small is the gate.”  Repentance, faith in Christ and holiness of life have never been fashionable.  The true flock of Christ has always been small.  We must not mind if we are thought singular and peculiar and bigoted and narrow-minded.  This is “the narrow road.”  Surely it is better to enter into life eternal with a few, than to go to “destruction” with a great company.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 52)

 

From what has been said on the preceding pages the erroneous conclusion must not be drawn that the tremendous crowds streaming through the wide-gate and now traveling on Broadway are free and happy; while, on the other hand, those individuals who have found the narrow gate and are now proceeding on the constricted way are to be pitied.  Actually this “freedom” and “happiness” of the majority is of a very superficial nature.  “Everyone who is living in sin is a slave of sin” (Jn 8:34).  He is as truly chained as is the prisoner with the iron band around his leg, the band that is fastened to a chain which is cemented into the wall of a dungeon.  Every sin he commits draws tighter that chain, until at last it crushes him completely.  Since the wicked have no inner peace (Isa 48:22), how can they be truly happy?

On the other hand, “Great peace have they that love thy law” (Ps 119:165; cf. Isa 26:3; 43:2).  Though, as has been pointed out, entering by the narrow gate and walking on the constricted way implies self-denial, sinful nature has not yet been completely conquered.  For “the new man” (the regenerated nature) there is joy unspeakable and full of glory (1 Pt 1:8; cf. Rom 7:22; Phil 2:17; 3:1; 4:4; etc.).  the “few” who have entered through the narrow gate are “afflicted but not crushed, perplexed but no despairing (2 Cor 4:8 f.), “sorrowful yet always rejoicing, poor yet making many rich, having nothing yet possessing all things” (2 Cor 6:10).  And in addition to the treasures which they possess even now, they know that riches greater by far await them, for “Our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an everlasting weight of glory, far beyond all measure and proportion” (2 Cor 4:17; cf. Rom 8:18).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 370)

 

There are not many roads to heaven, but one.  There are not many good religions, but only one.  Man cannot come to God in any of the ways that man himself devises, but only in the one way that God Himself has provided.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 451)

 

Jesus said, “Enter in at the narrow gate,” or, as the parallel saying in Luke’s Gospel puts it, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door” (Lk 13:24).  Clearly it is not enough merely to listen to preaching about this gate or to study its architecture.  It is not enough to praise it.  It is not enough to stand by it.  It must be entered.  That means that everyone who comes under the preaching of the gospel must make a personal decision to enter into Christ.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 251)

 

So this text says that the way of discipleship is “narrow,” restricting, because it is the way of persecution and opposition–a major theme in Matthew (see on 5:10-12, 44; 10:16-39; 11:11-12; 24:4-13).  Compare Acts 14:22: “We must go through many hardships, [‘through much persecution’] to enter the kingdom of God.”  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 188-9)

 

There must be a new heart, and a new spirit, and old things must pass away.  The bent of the soul must be changed, corrupt habits and customs broken off; what we have been doing all our days must be undone again.  We must swim against the stream; much opposition must be struggled with, and broken through, from without, and from within.  It is easier to set a man against all the world than against himself, and yet this must be in conversion.  It is a strait gate, for we must stoop, or we cannot go in at it; we must become as little children; high thoughts must be brought down; nay, we must strip, must deny ourselves, put off the world, put off the old man; we must be willing to forsake all for our interest in Christ.  The gate is strait to all, but to some straiter than to others; as to the rich, to some that have been long prejudiced against religion.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 92-3)

 

The first article was an interview with economist Jim Gilmore who presented the latest approach in retailing and marketing–providing “an experience.”  He pointed out that what shoppers are seeking (and smart retailers are providing) when they venture out to the stores is not a particular item, but a pleasurable or meaningful experience.  The obvious question was then asked, “So how does all this ‘experience providing’ apply to the church?”  Note his perceptive response:

It doesn’t.  When the church gets into the business of staging experiences, that quickly becomes idolatry…Increasingly you find people talking about the worship experience rather than the worship service.  That reflects what’s happening in the outside world.  I’m dismayed to see churches abandon the means of grace that God ordains simply to conform to the patterns of the world.  (Interview with Jim Gilmore, “No Experience Necessary,” Leadership 22, 31)  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 185)

 

Truth does not depend on a consensus of opinion.  — Barbara Johnson

 

“Some time ago, the staff of “The Bible Study Hour” prepared a brochure that compared the world’s thinking and the Bible’s teaching in six important areas:  God, man, the Bible, money, sex and success.  The differences were striking, but what impressed me most as I read the brochure is how right many of the world’s ideas seem if we are not thinking critically and in a biblical way.  This is because we hear the world’s approach so often, so attractively, and so persuasively, especially on television.

Here are some of “the world’s” statements we printed:

“I matter most, and the world exists to serve me.  Whatever satisfies me is what’s important.”

“If I earn enough money, I’ll be happy.  I need money to provide security for myself and my family.  Financial security will protect me from hardship.”

“Anything is acceptable as long as it doesn’t hurt another person.”

“Success is the path to fame, wealth, pleasure and power.  Look out for number one.”

How about the Christian way?   From the world’s perspective, the Christian way does not look attractive or even right.   It says such things as:  “God is in control of all things and has a purpose for everything that happens . . . Man exists to glorify God . . .Money cannot shield us against heartbreak, failure, sin, disease, or disaster. . . Success in God’s kingdom means humility and service to others.  Because we are so much a part of the world and so little like Jesus Christ, even Christians find God’s way unappealing.  Nevertheless, we are to press on in that way and prove by our lives that the will of God really is “good pleasing and perfect” in all things.” (James Boice; Mind Renewal in a Mindless Age, 122)

 

On the narrow road our thoughts about God and truth are both enlarged and confined.  Truth is not left up to the tyranny of democratic consensus.  Those who follow Christ will not and may not believe what most people believe.  And those on the narrow way will not be popular for their beliefs.  For example, our thoughts about God are narrowed.  Certain conceptions of God are true, and others are false.  Certain views of him are degrading, and others are exalting.  But in believing the truth, our vision of God goes far beyond any vision ever dreamed by anyone on the broad road.  The Biblical vision of God is electrifying!  Who would ever have dreamed of a God who was not confined by nature but was above nature, who holds things together by the word of his power, who is our Father but who also became a man in order to redeem us.  So the narrow way brings an incredibly spectacular, immense conception of God.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 244)

 

Briefly one may sum up the clash between the Christian mind and the secular mind thus.  Secularism asserts the opinionated self as the only judge of truth.  Christianity imposes the given divine revelation as the final touchstone of truth.

The marks of truth as Christianly conceived, then, are:  that it is supernaturally grounded, not developed within nature; that it is objective and not subjective; that it is authoritative and not a matter of personal choice.  (Harry Blamires; The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think?, 107)

 

“The antithesis of worldly behavior, and the cure for conformity to the world, is set forth particularly in the “upside-down kingdom “ of the Sermon on the Mount.  The lifestyle of the kingdom is not proud but poor in spirit, not self-confident by meek and sensitive to conviction of sin, not self-righteous but repentant, not praise-seeking but God-obeying even to the point of suffering persecution, not vengeful but forgiving, not ostentatious or laborious in piety but secretive and simple, not anxious or acquisitive but content in serving God, not judgmental but merciful.  If these patterns can be nurtured in the church, they will affect the moral structure of the rest of humanity.”  (Richard Lovelace; Renewal as a Way of Life, 97)

 

God’s Way – exactly the opposite of my natural inclinations.  — Proverbs 14:12

 

Yet I find a bishop quoted as saying that moralizing is “one of the least attractive of human characteristics.”  I do not know how important the bishop in question considers the distinction between the moral and the immoral to be.  And I do not know that our lord sought to make himself “attractive” when he gave advice on human behavior.  It is not enjoyable to moralize.  We Christians know too well now that spelling out the truth in today’s world is never going to win popular applause.  If we measure the value of anything we say or do by its “attractiveness” we are lost souls.  (Harry Blamires; The Post Christian Mind, 46)

 

Cebes, the disciple of Socrates, writes in the Tabula:  “Dost thou see a little door, and a way in front of the door, which is not much crowded, but the travelers are few?  That is the way that leadeth to true instruction.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 278)

 

This gate leading to life is narrow not because it is difficult to become a Christian but because there is only one way and only a few decide to walk that road.  Believing in Jesus is the only way to eternal life because he alone died for our sins and made us right before God.  The road is hard because true discipleship calls for sacrifice and servanthood.  Following the crowd along life’s easy path results in destruction.  Choosing the narrow way of difficulty and sacrifice ultimately leads to eternal life.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 135)

 

A frank statement of the hardships and difficulties involved in a course of conduct does not seem a very likely way to induce men to adopt it, but it often proves so.  There is something in human nature which responds to the bracing tonic of the exhortation:  “By doing thus you will have to face many hardships and many difficulties which you may avoid by leaving it alone; but do it, because it is best in the long run, being right from the beginning.”  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 342)

 

(Luke 13:24) The Lord’s call to “make every effort to enter” (v. 24) or “strive to enter” (RSV) is the Greek word agonizomai, from which we get our word agonize.  This is the kind of moral effort necessary to enter the kingdom.  “We are not saved by effort, but we shall not believe without effort.”  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. Two, 98)

 

(Luke 13:24) The verb to strive, as it occurs in the original, has given rise to our English verb to agonize.  It places us not on the battlefield but in the arena or in the wrestling-ring.  The struggle is fierce.  Our opponents are Satan, sin, self (the old, sinful nature).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Luke, 706)

 

Naaman wanted to be healed as a great man in the court of Damascus.  He had to strip himself of the offices, and dignities, and pride, and to come down to the level of any other leper.  You and I, dear brother, have to go through the same process of stripping ourselves of all the adventitious accretions that have clung to us, and to know ourselves naked and helpless, before we can pass through the gate.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 1-8, 345)

 

III-  Choose to get on the entrance ramp and stay on the road that leads to life through the means of grace.  (Mt 7:13a; see also: Ps ch 73; Mt 10:22; 24:13; Mk 13:13; Jn 10:7-10; Gal 5:1; Eph 4:14; 6:13-18; 1 Thes 3:8-13; 2 Tm 1:12-13; Heb 4:14; 10:19-25; ch 11; 12:1-15; Ja 1:12; 1 Pt 1:3-9; 5:8-11; 2 Pt 1:3-11; 3:17-18; Rv 2:7, 10-11, 17, 25-27; 3:5, 11-12, 21)

 

This deception is why the NT has so much to say about man’s future destiny.  It does not teach merely “pie in the sky when you die.”  The very opposite is the case.  It is only when we live in the light of the future, says Jesus, that we can make the right choices now.  For appearances–in any light other than the light of eternity–are bound to deceive.

Have you settled your heart on eternal life?  Have you found it in Christ?  Then you know not to be influenced by the ease of the wide gate and the broad way.  You know not to be influenced by numbers or appearances.  If you have been given new life, then you know not to join those who “follow the ways of this world,” who are following the “desires and thoughts” of the flesh (Eph 2:2-3).  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 164-5)

 

The greatest difficulty in conversion is to win the heart to God; and the greatest difficulty after conversion, is to keep the heart with God.  Here lies the very force and stress of religion; here is that which makes the way to life a narrow way, and the gate to heaven a strait gate.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 13)

 

The trouble ultimately with all who are not Christian is that they have never seen the glory and the magnificence of the Christian life.  How noble and pure and upright it is!  But they have never seen it.  They are blind to it.  As the apostle Paul says, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not” (2 Cor 4:4).  But once a man gets a glimpse of the glory and majesty and privilege of this high calling I cannot imagine that he would ever desire anything else.  Let us be very practical and blunt about this.  Anybody who calls this Christian life “narrow” (in the usual sense of that term) and hankers after the other, is just proclaiming that he has never seen this truly.  He is like those people who say that they find Beethoven rather boring, and that they prefer jazz music.  What they are really saying is they do not hear him, they know nothing about Him.  They are ignorant musically.  As someone has said, they tell us nothing about Beethoven, but a great deal about themselves.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 491-2)

 

A single sin, however secret, when indulged, diffuses its corrupting influence over the whole soul; it depraves the conscience; it alienates from God; it strengthens all other principles of evil, while it destroys the efficacy of the means of grace and the disposition to use them.  It is no less true of any community, that any one tolerated evil deteriorates its whole moral sense. (Charles Hodge; Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 86)

 

Unless the reformer can invent something which substitutes attractive virtues for attractive vices, he will fail.  — Walter Lippmann

 

Your home is the number one influence in the life of your child. The average church has a child 1% of his time, the home has him 83% of his time and the school for the remaining 16%. This does not minimize the need for churches and schools, but it establishes the fact your home is 83% of your child’s world and you have only one time around to make it of maximum benefit.  — Howard Hendricks.

 

Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing. — Albert Schweitzer

 

Effective peer pressure on a child is inversely proportional to family identity.  In other words, a child will submit to peer pressure only as much as a child does not have any family identity.

 

Peer pressure too strong?   Latch onto another peer!

 

The peer pressure you feel depends mostly on which peer you are moored to.  Choose good friends

 

As Nancy Duff has shown, Paul’s argument leads to a redefinition of the imitation of Christ when it is understood in terms of “witness.”  The embodiedness of our existence functions as a demonstration of the power of the gospel in and over its messengers.  What we do with our lives, our embodied existence and the materiality of daily decision making, inevitably reveals the extent of the lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives.  To the degree that the living Lord has drawn us into a new sphere of power, the powers of the present age lose their ability to conform us to the world.  Christians no longer “belong” to these powers because their bodies have been offered as a living sacrifice to God and belong to God as the body of Jesus Christ.  Through the gracious power of God, those whose minds Christ has captured and made new are  inevitably changed in such a way that their lives conform not to the world to which they have died but to the world in which they now live.   (A. Katherine Grieb, The Story of Romans, 119)

 

There is nothing more influential in a child’s life than the moral power of quiet example.  For children to take morality seriously they must see adults take morality seriously.  (Bill Bennett; The Book of Virtues)

 

Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe.  Know Him Who loves you enough to warn you of the wrong gate and path that leads to destruction that appears at first glance to be so right.  (Jn 17:3)

 

That is the trouble with the world, it does not know God.  And the world will never be interested in the Christian message until it has some knowledge of God.

Oh, the church has been blind to this.  She has been trying to attract people to herself for fifty years and more, putting on popular programs, dramas, music, this that and the other, trying to entice people, especially young people, but they do not come.   Of course not.  They never will come until they know the name of the Lord, and then they will come.  (David Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, pgs. 309-10)

 

Revising worship services to make them more emotional and entertaining can only teach the congregation subjectivity and spiritual hedonism.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,” writes the Apostle Paul, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2).  This text alone is enough to shoot down the argument that the church must change according to prevailing social trends.  “The pattern of this world” is not to determine church ministry.    (Gene Veith; Postmodern Times, 228)

 

But in fact for thousands of people and pastors, I fear, the event of “worship” on Sunday morning is conceived of as a means to accomplish something other than worship.  We “worship” to raise money; we “worship” to attract crowds; we “worship” to heal human hurts; we “worship” to recruit workers; we “worship” to improve church morale.  We “worship” to give talented musicians an opportunity to fulfill their calling; we “worship” to teach our children the way of righteousness; we “worship” to help marriages stay together; we “worship” to evangelize the lost among us; we “worship” to motivate people for service projects; we “worship” to give our churches a family feeling, etc.

In all of this we bear witness that we are confused about what true worship is.  Genuine affections for God are an end in themselves.  I cannot say to my wife, “I feel a strong delight in you so that you will make me a nice meal.”  That is not the way delight works.  It terminates on her.  It does not have a nice meal in view.  I cannot say to my son, “I love playing ball with you so that you will cut the grass.”  If my heart really delights in playing ball with him, that delight cannot be performed as a means to getting him to do something.  (John Piper, Brothers, We are NOT Professionals, 240-1)

 

Gospel Application:  Jesus came not only to show you the path or encourage you to try and stay on the path but came to be the gate/door and path.  He perfectly traveled the road we were supposed to travel.  (Jn 10:9; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Rom 6:23; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 2:20; 1 Tm 2:5)

 

The greatest inducement of all, however, to enter in at the strait gate and to walk the narrow way, is this.  There is Someone on that road before you.  You have to leave the world outside.  You may have to leave many who are dear to you, you have to leave yourself, your old self, and you may think as you go through that gate that you are going to be isolated and solitary.  But it is not so.  There are others on this road with you–“few there be that find it.”  There are not as many as there are on the other way, but they are a very choice and separate people.  But above all look at the One who is treading that road ahead of all, the One who said, “Follow me,” the One who said, “Let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”  If there were not other inducement for entering in at the strait gate, that is more than enough.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 493)

 

There have always been but two systems of religion in the world.  One is God’s system of divine accomplishment, and the other is man’s system of human achievement.  One is the religion of God’s grace, the other the religion of men’s works.  One is the religion of faith, the other the religion of the flesh.  One is the religion of the sincere heart and the internal, the other the religion of hypocrisy and the external.  Within man’s system are thousands of religious forms and names, but they are all built on the achievements of man and the inspiration of Satan.  Christianity, on the other hand, is the religion of divine accomplishment, and it stands alone.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 451)

 

The Sermon on the Mount ends with four warnings, each offering paired contrasts: t wo ways (vv. 13-14), two trees (vv. 15-20), two claims (vv. 21-23), and two builders (vv. 24-27).  They focus on eschatological judgment and so make it plain that the theme is still the kingdom of heaven.  But if some will not enter it (vv. 13-14, 21-23), the sole basis for such a tragedy is present response to Jesus’ words.  At the close of the sermon, the messianic claim is implicit and only thinly veiled.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 188)

 

If is our Lord Himself who said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.”  The man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is not a man who is absolutely sinless and perfect.  There is no such person in this life.  What our Lord is saying in effect is, “My people are the people who want to follow Me, those who are striving to do so.”  They have entered in at the strait gate and are walking the narrow way.  They often fail and fall into temptation but they are still on the way.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 495)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Follow Jesus who not only chose the right gate/door and path but has become the right gate/door and path that leads to life in all of its abundance.

 

There is a narrow road that runs from earth to Heaven, and there is a broad road that runs from earth to Hell.  But there is no road that runs from Hell to Heaven (Lk 16:26).  The broad road intersects the narrow road at just one place:  Calvary.  At the cross one can leave the broad road, accept Christ as Savior, and start along the narrow way.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 128)

 

The Church of our day is sadly lacking in that separation from the world.  The intense attachment and obedience to Christ, the fellowship with His suffering and conformity to His death, and the devotion to Christ on the throne seem almost forgotten.  Where is our confident expectation of the never-ceasing flow of living water from the throne of grace which gives the assurance that the fullness of the Spirit will not be withheld?  No wonder the mighty power of God is seldom known and felt in our churches!  (Andrew Murray, Receiving Power from God, 73)

 

Quotes to Note:

These final verses of the Sermon on the Mount demand decision and commitment of the type that beseeches God for mercy and pardon.  Such discipleship is characterized by that deep repentance which hungers for nothing more than conformity to God’s will.  But because there are only two ways, simple failure to make such deep commitment is already a commitment not to do so.  Jesus’ way demands repentance, trust, and obedience.  Therefore refusal, stemming as it must from an unrepentant arrogance, unbelief, and/or disobedience–in short, self-centeredness instead of God-centeredness–can only be construed as rebellion.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 129-30)

 

There is surely here a stark contradiction between our Lord’s definition and the popular conception today of what it means to be free.  You get to a junction in the road and you are free to turn left or right.  A man or a woman is free to marry or to stay single.  Every citizen is free to vote for a right-wing candidate or for a left-wing candidate.  What this amounts to is that we locate freedom in the empty space before a decision is made.  But Christ’s words seem to locate true freedom in the space that follows upon decision.  You may choose to sin or not to sin, but if you choose to sin you have lost your freedom and have become a slave to sin.  Freedom appears to be something that you gain or forfeit.  It seems to stand on the further side of choice and decision. (Harry Blamires; The Post Christian Mind, 140)

 

 Christ:

The Gate & Way

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