Chapter 7 is the final chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. There are six famous paragraphs of red-letter teachings in this chapter of my Bible, so I will give a sentence or so from each. See if you can fill in the blanks around them from memory!
Following this, Jesus healed many people including Peter’s mother-in-law, and two men with demons. There is also the well-known account of Jesus sleeping in a boat being sailed by His disciples when a storm arose, threatening the vessel. The disciples woke Jesus, fearing for their lives. Jesus said, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” and rebuked the storm, calming it immediately.
Oh goodness, how is one supposed to keep it brief when expounding upon the teachings of Christ? I’ll recall in this minute the teaching of Pastor Dave here when he said that we ought to focus first on the big picture. I have titled this blog Enter by the Narrow Gate for Jesus makes several points about truly living for God with one’s entire heart and soul.
It’s no secret that by now we’ve seen how much God detests those who claim to serve the Lord yet only do so in their actions, never with their hearts. Those who would offer sacrifices on one day and extort their neighbours the next, or those who would administer justice in public yet be an adulterer, slanderer, or cheater in private were in a class of disgrace all their own. To have received the revelation of God Almighty only to deliberately profane it was a cause of righteous wrath, and we see it played out repeatedly in the Old Testament. Remember what the Lord said in Isaiah 29: “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” We can draw a line from there to the words of 2 Peter 2:21: “ For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.”
God is not in need of our material goods. He is not like a pagan god of old who needed food given via burnt offering. He has always been after the hearts of His people and their lives and worship are meant to be the result of a surrendered life, not the cover-up for a corrupt one. It is the heart and not the works that please God. Jesus pulls no punches in Matthew 7:21-23, outlining this exactly. He says that even those who call upon His name, who prophesy and cast out demons in His name will not enter the kingdom of heaven if they do not know God and God does not know them. This should instill a right and healthy fear in us. We should let the works of our hands be evidence of His Spirit in us, not a basis on which we might hope to receive His Spirit!
What truly matters is that we give Him our hearts. Anything we could do with our own hands He could do with anyone else’s, but He has made our hearts the object of His desire. He has set His love on us and wants to make good our nature by adopting us as sons and daughters, yet a lukewarm relationship is no relationship at all. What matters is that, after giving Him our hearts, we live in a way that reflects that commitment! Don’t get caught up in how someone speaks or how much they might know – let us all examine ourselves and others to see if there is a life truly surrendered to the Lord.
1 Samuel 16 speaks of this clearly: “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” We are not only to know God, but to build our lives on the rock which Jesus says in the next sentence. Anything else is folly and will ultimately be swept away. There is no point being halfway here, we are all in or not in at all! No wonder Jesus said in this same chapter that “… For the Gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Application and question:
Look back on your walk with Christ and ask yourself what sorts of things have changed in the way you act, live, and think (especially in private). Examine yourself and recall the ways in which you have had to lay down your own will and pursue His.
It is not enough to love the Lord in our heads or hearts but to put that love into action. If we claim we love Him but don’t keep His commandments, it turns out we might not love Him at all. Does this surprise you? It shouldn’t! Just imagine if I said I loved my wife but was regularly mean and distant and unfaithful – nobody could see my behaviour and say that I love her. Why would it be different with Christ? We seem to think that it is enough to acknowledge Christ as Lord with our lips but then wander off and do whatever we feel, never wondering if this is something that is sinful!
Matthew 7 tells us that false prophets (and we can extrapolate the intended meaning here) will be all around us like ravenous wolves, but that they can be recognized by their fruits. What sort of fruits has your walk with Christ yielded so far? What does it mean to deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Him?
Father God, we bring before you our own hypocrisy and double-mindedness. Please forgive us for living with one foot in step with you and one foot out, for honouring you with our lips but keeping our hearts far from you. We ask for the conviction of your Holy Spirit in our lives this weekend, that you might show us how we need to honour you with our actions and our hearts. Let us pursue you above our own comforts and interests so that we might bear good fruit for this hurting world. Thank you for your infinite patience and forbearance! Amen.
Song: His Mercy is More (Shane & Shane)
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.