Two ways to live - Matthew 7:13-29
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Two ways to live
Are you someone who likes making decisions? Or would you much prefer an endless period of deliberation and debate without any final deadlines?
We all know there are key moments where our choices shape our future direction. Will I go to university? Or will I choose to learn some practical skills that will actually get me a well paid job? Will I accept that promotion at work? Will I say yes to the marriage proposal? Will we try for children? Is it time to move into residential care? The list could go on.
We may not like making decisions that determine our future options but that’s the reality of our lives.
At this point in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is going to force us to make some choices. Remember who he has been talking to. The disciples and the crowd gathered around the edge. Remember what he has been talking about. What life will be like under his loving Lordship.
As he draws to a conclusion he doesn’t want people to walk away thinking, “Hey, that was interesting. I’’m glad I went to that lecture. Now what shall we eat for dinner?” No, he wants everyone who has been listening to him to make some key decisions that will shape their future.
What decisions does he want people to make?
- He wants some people to start following him (Vs 13-14)
- He wants all his followers to be careful who they listen to (Vs 15-23)
- He wants all his followers to do what he says (Vs 24-29)
First, he wants some people to get started on the right road! (Vs 13-14)
Look at what he says in verses 13 and 14.
If I am trying to get into a building I look for the big door. Why? It’s easier.
If I want to drive a long way I look for the nearest motorway. Why? It’s easier and more comfortable.
Jesus is using what we know to talk about the choice set before us spiritually.
He says that following him is to be likened to going through a narrow gate and walking along a narrow path.
The alternative is to continue with ourselves in charge. He likens this to entering through a wide gate and walking along a broad road.
What does he mean?
Following Jesus. It’s a difficult start followed by a difficult journey
Why is it a difficult start? We have to acknowledge our sin and accept a Saviour. We find this difficult. We love to pay for things ourselves. Becoming a Christian means that we admit there is something that needs to be paid for and only Jesus can pay it!
Why is it a difficult journey? It is also a life of dying to our self for the glory of Christ.
By contrast living with ourselves in charge is much easier to choose at the crucial point of decision. And it’s much easier to live like that everyday. There is no dying to self. Instead there is living for self. And one of the features of this broad road is that it’s really busy. We’ll have lots of company in this life decision. Many others around us who will encourage us in our personal preferences.
Why would you ever choose Jesus over self? It’s all about destination. One road leads to life and the other road leads to destruction. Where we will be in 200 years time must determine our choice of path now. The journey is not everything. The destination is crucial.
Are there people today who need to start following Jesus?
You don’t need to know everything. When you know everything make sure you make a start.
Secondly, Jesus wants all his followers to be careful who they listen to (Vs 15-23)
Jesus’ warning is in verse 15.
False teaching is harmful - both for this life and for all eternity.
We will hear it both outside and inside the visible church of Jesus Christ.
It is easier to spot outside the church, especially by those who are not calling themselves Christians and who say nothing about Jesus.
It gets harder to spot the more a person speaks about Jesus and the more Christian they appear to be.
In this part of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is warning his followers about the danger of false teaching within the Christian movement.
What does he say about it? First, expect it to be be present. Second, expect it to be difficult to spot. Jesus speaks about a wolf in sheep clothing. Don’t think of the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood dressed up in Grandma’s clothes. This is someone who will claim to be a Christian and in many ways will act Christianly. But they will teach things which if you believe and follow will destroy you in this life and into all eternity.
How can we spot them? Look at what Jesus says in verse 16. Read verses 16-20.
By your fruit you will know them. This is how we identify different kinds of trees.
What kind of fruit will be seen? Let’s not guess. Let’s read on and see what Jesus says next.
Read verses 21-23.
What is this fruit? It’s not the ability to preach powerful sermons or the ability to do mighty deeds. We would often take big numbers and miraculous powers as a clear sign that someone is a true prophet and should be listened to. Not according to Jesus.
The will of the Father is that people believe in Jesus, have their beliefs determined by Jesus and have their behaviour determined by Jesus.
What will Jesus say to false teachers on the final day? Away from me you evil doers. And so what do you think our reaction should be to them now? The very same. They must be identified for what they are and the sheep protected from their influence.
Thirdly, Jesus wants all his followers to do what he says (Vs 24-29)
I was tempted to call this section something like, Jesus wants all his followers to listen to what he says but that’s not actually the big focus of this paragraph.
We know the story very well. Two people. Both builders. The storm hits. Different outcomes. Why? The foundations are different.
What does this mean in real life? It would be tempting to answer that the secure life is the one built by listening to the words of Jesus. The life that will break apart is the one which is not built on the words of Jesus. But that’s not the big contrast Jesus makes.
No Jesus says in verse 24 that “…everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” And in verse 26 he says, “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”
Jesus is speaking to people who have all heard him. The only difference is that some have put it into practice.
The note books for those in secondary school. They say - JUST DO IT.
If you listen and do what Jesus says your life will stand when the storm hits.
- The ultimate storm of God’s judgement - believe the gospel
- The multiple storms of life
There will be a range of people here this morning. What decision does Jesus need you to make today?
- Do you need to start following Jesus?
- Do you need to watch out for false teachers?
- Do you need to start putting the words of Jesus into practice?
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