At Gateway Church in Austin, we concluded a series through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). I spoke at the South Campus, and Rick Shurtz spoke at the McNeil campus. We shared some of the following insights on Matthew 7:13-27:
Abraham Lincoln did not advocate the abolition of slavery throughout his political career. He was just seeking to contain it when he was elected to office.
Our culture and context are powerful influences in our life. We are deeply and profoundly influenced by the water in which we swim. Just like the fish doesn’t even realize he’s in water, we don’t even realize how much we are affected by the opinions, views, and convictions of our day. Which I hope troubles us.
What am I believing today, not because it’s both good and true, and noble, but because it’s the prevailing view of our day, or the view that is gaining most ground in our day? How are my views influenced not by depth of conviction but by the breadth of popular opinion?
With those questions in mind, read Jesus words and ask yourself:
• What is Jesus’ passion?
• What’s the burden he carries?
• What’s he wanting us to get?
• What unites this teaching?
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
In other words, beware of popular opinion.
Popular opinion is powerful, the wide gate is persuasive. Beware of it, Jesus tells us. To disagree with popular opinion, is one of those things that’s easy to do in theory, but more challenging to do in practice because it comes at a cost.
Some of the ways we lose:
- The high school student who goes against popular opinion and consequently has a lonely Friday night.
- The sales person who doesn’t lie and loses the deal.
- The girlfriend who doesn’t compromise herself morally and remains single.
- The candidate who takes the unpopular position and loses the election.
There’s going to come a day, Jesus says, when humanity will stand before him. On that day, all will be revealed. “Here’s what you need to know about that day,” Jesus says. “The people who went with popular opinion, and leveraged popular opinion to their benefit, the people who came in ‘first’ in this world, because they knew how to play this world, they will be last when they stand before me, because the true nature of their choices will be revealed. The people who lost things, they lost deals, they lost dates, in some cases they lost deeply important things like relationships, jobs, and opportunities, because they didn’t go with popular opinion, they will be declared first in my sight because they did what was right, despite the cost.”
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Matthew 7:15-20
In other words, Beware of false prophets.
We may think false prophets don’t threaten us unless we carefully consider the function of a prophet rather than the form. We could consider numerous voices in our culture and numerous topics. Jesus tells us… You will recognize false prophets by their fruit, by what’s TRULY going on in their lives, despite what SEEMS to be going on in their airbrushed and photo shopped lives. They might look like they know what they’re doing, but the true fruit of their lives will let you know if you should listen to them.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ – Matthew 7:21-23
In other words, Beware of religion.
Pick most any movement, any cause, any mission, and someone, somewhere in that movement will seek to tack Christ on the top of it and force his endorsement. Racism did this. Nazism did this. But those are easy targets relatively easy to disassociate with today. In our day, it’s much more subtle. It’s not racism or naziism… It’s materialism. Follow Christ, and you won’t have any problems and get all you’ve ever wanted.
Jesus’ sales pitch is dangerously forthright. “Come follow me,” Jesus says, “Not many people are doing so, and it will be hard.”
This flies in the face of much of what parades itself as Christianity in our day. Following Jesus is all too often seen as something responsible people do in addition to contributing monthly to their 401k.
Now to be sure, Scripture gives us the book of Proverbs and the book of Proverbs is incredibly important. It teaches us about work ethic, money management, and relationships. Follow these proverbs and we will have a better life. We will make more money and relate to people more effectively. But, authentically following Christ comes at a cost. It is hard, and in many cases, following Christ will limit our opportunities.
All too often, I hear religious teaching in our day, and it’s nothing more than baptized materialism. Why go to God? Go to God because he’ll teach you how to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. That’s not worshiping God, that’s worshiping STUFF and using God to get it. That’s saying, I’m going to go to God, so I can get what I REALLY want. And what I REALLY want is material success.
If we are going to God to get something else, then it’s that something else that we’re truly worshiping.
That’s all good and tells me what NOT to do. Where’s the positive teaching? What’s Jesus have to say about what I SHOULD do? Which brings us to the final words of Jesus sermon on the mount.
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise person who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish person who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:13-27
In other words, Build upon the rock.
What is the rock? You hear Christ’s teachings, and you do them.
- You do them when they go against popular opinion.
- You do them when they go against false prophets.
- You do them when they go against religious teachings.
Jesus makes it clear. It’s not “If the rains come” or “If the winds come” it’s “when the rains, winds, and floods come.” In this world, we will be challenged. We will face hardship. We will face wind, rain, and floods. Wise is the person who steps back from the sand and builds his or her house on that rock solid, but less popular, foundation.
So what’s Jesus’ passion in all this? I hear him pleading for you.
He’s not just trying to get your allegiance. He wants you to thrive.
He wants you to not be tricked by the voices in this world that will lead you to great harm.
He wants to keep you from self-destructing in this world and having your life unravel by following the ways of this world.
He wants you to experience LIFE.
Wise is the person who turns the volume down on public opinion and the ways of this world, and does what we must do to turn the volume UP on God’s voice in our lives, so we can genuinely and authentically follow him.
Instead, we need to ‘turn the volume of God’s voice up’ in our lives in these practical ways:
- Engaging Scripture
- Quieting ourselves.
- Connecting to Community
Watch or listen to the entire message at www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.