Keeping on the Straight and Narrow
Jesus tells us that we need to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. How do we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness?
I believe that there will be a day we stand before God and on that day many who thought they were in; really believed that they were Christians but Christ will be asked, “Who are you? I don’t know you!”
- I certainly believe that we are saved by God’s grace and that it is nothing that we do that brings us salvation.
- But I also believe that we have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil.2:12-13) I believe that we need back up what we believe in actions.
- Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV) 12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
How is your memory? In 1989 during the World Series Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants a major earthquake occurred about 8 PM EST. When the earthquake hit, the third game of the 1989 World Series baseball championship was just beginning. Because of the unusual circumstance that both of the World Series teams (the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics) were based in the affected area, many people had left work early or were staying late to participate in after work group viewings and parties. As a consequence, the usually crowded freeways were experiencing exceptionally light traffic. If traffic had been normal for a Tuesday rush hour, injuries and deaths could have been higher. The initial media reports failed to take into account the game's effect on traffic and initially estimated the death toll at 300, a number that was corrected to 63 in the days after the earthquake.
I was on my way home from a hospital in central PA – where my mother had skin cancer removed from her face. You might ask what does this all have to do with the scripture that we are about to look at. I had tuned in my radio to the ball game and was overwhelmed with the news of the earthquake and missed my turn – it was an easy turn to miss. I noticed after about an hour something was wrong – because I started seeing signs for Philadelphia and I needed to be heading toward Pittsburgh – what should have taken me an hour and half took me two hour out of my way. In this morning’s scripture Jesus talks about missing the turn. He talks about 2 different roads. Listen as Levada reads from Matthew 7: 13-23.
Matthew 7:13-23 (NIV)
13 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 15 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT)
13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.
According to this passage Jesus is saying that many people take the wrong road and only a few find the narrow gateway. If that is true wouldn’t make sense that we slow down and make sure that we are on the right road.
Isn’t it possible that we are set on cruise control and the radio is blaring some good Christian music like Mercy Me and we have a Jesus fish bumper sticker on our back yet we are on the wrong road? How we miss the turn? Where did we get mixed up? I thought we were cool with Jesus – so how can He say only a few ever find it?
It wouldn’t surprise me if Jesus said a few will stand before God on Judgment Day convinced that their mansion was ready but find out that it never got started. Actually He doesn’t say a few or some He actually says that many will not have a room prepared for them. That is not what I was expecting. But that is what the Master tells us. Check this out - Here is what Jesus says later – it’s the Message’s translation:
21-23"Knowing the correct password—saying 'Master, Master,' for instance— isn't going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, 'Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.' And do you know what I am going to say? 'You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don't impress me one bit. You're out of here.'
So if you pulled the car over and checked out the GPS to make sure your on the right narrow path - Let me pose a few questions that I believe this Scripture wants us to ask ourselves; these are questions I ask myself regularly:
- Does Our Life Reflect What We Say We Believe?
- Do We Think We’re on the Right Road Because of What We’ve Done?
- Do We Know Jesus and Does He know Us?
- Does Our Life Reflect What We Say We Believe? 21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
- We have become quite comfortable with separating what we say we believe with how we live. To really follow means more than saying we believe it means putting the saying into practice.
- Do our beliefs impact the way we live? Do we truly love our neighbor who is a real pain in the neck?
- Let me give a couple of quick examples:
- How many of you think it is important that we become healthier? We need to eat right and exercise, right? What did you eat at the state fair this week or did you get that corndog at the Cherry River Festival. So you wanted a sweet tea at McDonalds – did you also get the fries that have a ton of salt on them?
- It’s hard to put our beliefs into practice.
- We are saved by grace it is essential that we accept that grace and believe. But biblical belief is more than confession with our mouths it is confessing with our lives. In the book of James – James describes biblical belief this way:
James 2:14-17 (NIV) 14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
- When I was a kid we had chores to do – and we would tell our mom that we were done. And she would say I got to see to believe it. Jesus is saying that He has to see our belief in the obedience and actions. In other words show me.
- Do We Think We’re on the Right Road Because of What We’ve Done? Just as dangerous as what we say alone; show that we are on the right road is the assumption that what we do alone moves us down the right road.
- Jesus describes some people have done some pretty awesome things in His name: prophesied, drove out demons, preformed miracle. They are confident that their righteous acts will get them in. But it won’t get them in.
- I want to say to you that is a pretty awesome list – I don’t have one like that and if they aren’t getting in I’m in trouble. My list looks pretty unimpressive compared to theirs.
- That is exactly the point that Jesus is trying to make we can’t earn it. No matter what we accomplish for the kingdom that is not what makes us a follower.
- Ultimately the question that will identify us as a follower and on the narrow path isn’t what we say or what we do. Those things matter, but only to the extent that they reflect the answer to the last question. Do We Know Jesus and Does He know Us?
- Do We Know Jesus and Does He know Us? Do you know Jesus and does He know you? That is what it comes down to. In verse 23 Jesus says “I never knew you.” It comes down to a personal relationship with Jesus. The saying and the doing are more measurable and more tangible and we can point to them as evidence. But Jesus identifies His true followers based upon an intimate relationship.
- What we say and what we do are overflows out of our relationship we have with Him.
- Jesus is not interested in enthusiastic admirers who practice everything in moderation and don’t get carried away. He wants completely committed lovers who are willing to follow. Jesus talks about us being the bride and He the bridegroom. He wants a total commitment.
- John Douglas story – total commitment.
Revelation 3:15-16 (NIV)
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
16 So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Jesus wants us all and there is no “buts” or anything that is half way. He wants our total commitment – nothing less. His invitation is an all or nothing invitation.