THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In this lesson, we will finish up the Sermon on the Mount. We have taken quite a bit of time to look closely at all the wonderful but challenging things Jesus taught in this great sermon He preached. I hope you have found everything we have looked at to be interesting and that it has opened your eyes even wider to the high standard that Jesus wants us to live up to. The main principle we have seen over and over again was not to be like the Scribes and the Pharisee who had the wrong attitude about God and His Word. They had just been going through the motions of what God commanded without putting their hearts into it. They also had corrupted much of what God had taught and only did good deeds and other works to be seen by men. Jesus message is this, He wants us to push forward in our faith every day, and He wants us to give God our whole hearts, minds, and souls. He wants our deep love and respect for God to be our motivation to keep His commandments. If we simply go through the motions of what God has said, then we are really not any better off than the Pharisees.
In the remainder of Jesusí sermon, we will see Him stressing the point that we must make a choice in this life. We either live for God and make it to heaven, or live like the world, which ends in hell. Let us begin by reading:
Matthew 7:13 " Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.† 14 "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Many do not like to think about verses like these. In fact, they like to turn it around and make it say something entirely different. As they cross their eyes and squint at what Jesus just said, they turn it upside down. Instead of accepting the hard saying that only a few will be saved and the way to heaven is difficult with a narrow gate, they will say that many will make it into heaven because the road is wide and the path is easy. Then they will say the road to hell is almost impossible to find and a very few will find themselves there.
As Christians, we need to uncross our eyes and open them wide when we read what Jesus just said. He said we must enter by the narrow gate. Also, notice what Jesus says about this in:
Luke 13:23 Then one said to Him, "Lord, are there few who are saved?" And He said to them,† 24 "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
Not only are we to enter the narrow gate, we are to strive to do so. The word strive means to fight or struggle. I also like how the BDAG Lexicon defines this word regarding our verse it says:
strain every nerve to enter Lk 13:24 (BDAG).
This teaches us that it takes great effort on our part to be saved, which is why Jesus said it is the difficult way that leads to life. We must dig deep and be completely focused on living for God down to every nerve in order to stay on the right path. Living the Christian life is not an easy one. We have to be prepared to stick with the choice we made no matter what life may throw our way. No one should enter the life of a Christian lightly. When it comes to choosing the difficult road that leads to heaven I like Jesusí explanation the best as found in:
Luke 14:25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them,† 26 "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.† 27 "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.† 28 "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it -- ††29 "lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, †30 "saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'† 31 "Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? †32 "Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.† 33 "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. †
Jesus is teaching us the importance of counting the cost of choosing the road that leads to heaven. You cannot just wake up one day and just say I think I will try this road out without knowing what lies ahead of you. You must do your best to sit down and ask yourself, ďam I ready for what it will take to endure to the end.Ē
If you told people you wanted them to run 100 yards, most would say no problem, but if you told them you wanted them to run 10 miles most would not attempt it until they had time to train for it and more importantly have their minds set on believing that they can do it. This can be seen in many ways. For example, those who want to lose weight need to set a goal for themselves where they want to be weight wise, and they must realize that they are going to have to give up the way they eat right now for many months, and they are going to have to push themselves to exercise along the way if they want to speed up their weight loss. They must realize there are going to be temptations along the way that will try and pull them back down, but they must never give up. Those who consider the hardships that are going to come from their decision, it will help them to deal with them as they happen on their weight loss journey.
Jesus gives us two examples. First, is the person who is going to build a tower. I can relate to this example because the same principle applies to building a house. While I would have loved to have built a 3000 square foot home for myself, I did not have the money to do so. A lot of work went into figuring out much of a house I could build with the money the bank would loan me. You have to take everything into consideration, from who are you going to hire to build parts of your house †to the cost of every single thing that will go into it. Then you have to add in an extra cushion because something always seems to come up that you did not expect. This is why a lot of people hire a contractor to do the work because it is not easy to do all this yourself. So, when it was all said and done, I had to go with a 1500 square foot house with me doing most of the work. Since I counted the cost, I was able to build my house and I barely made it fit within the money that I borrowed.
Second, Jesus uses the example one king going to war with another. For example if Canada wanted to go to war against the USA it would be foolish for them to do so because they do not have the resources to stand a chance. So, if they were to think things through, they would seek a peace agreement with the USA and not go to war.
This is exactly what every person must do when they decide to become a Christian. They have to realize that there is much more to Christianity than simply obeying the gospel, which is the easy part of becoming a Christian. They need to consider that Christianity is a change of lifestyle and one that you must stick with until the day you die. There will be easy days, but there will also be hard days where you might start thinking it is not worth it, but it is. As Paul said:
1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
I know it can be really hard at times to keep pressing forward in your Christianity because it hurts so much, but we need to dig down deep with every nerve and strive to keep going up that difficult way that leads to heaven because heaven will be worth it all. We need to remember verses like:
2 Timothy 2:11 This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him.† 12 If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.
James 5:10 My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.† 11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure.
Matthew 24:13 "But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
If we count the cost of being a disciple of Christ, and we continue to fight the good fight of faith by standing strong for the rest of our days then we will be counted among the few who make it to heaven. We can be certain of this just as Paul was at the end of his life:
2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.† 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.† 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
When Jesus said that only a few will find this path, what does that mean? Well the word few means:
1) little, small, few 1a) of number: multitude, quantity, or size (Thayer).
So, what Jesus means is exactly what He said, only a few will make it to heaven. For example, we read in:
1 Peter 3:20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.
Out of all the people who were on the earth at this time, only 8 were saved. Think about the children of Israel when they allowed their fear to keep them from entering the promise land. Due to their lack of faith, only two of them over the age 20 were allowed to enter the promise land as we read in:
Numbers 14:29 'The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.† 30 'Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in.
These are all good examples of showing what a few is like. Now this does not mean that only 2 or 8 people are going to make it to heaven, but it does mean that the number of those who are willing to live a faithful life until death are going to be few compared to the majority who will travel down that wide road that leads to destruction.
I think we all like to drive on roads that are nice and wide because it gives us more room and we do not have to concentrate on driving as much. This same concept is true when it comes to the wide road that leads to hell. It is an easy road to travel down, and unlike driving a car, it requires no concentration whatsoever. It would be like us all having one of the knight rider cars that drives for you while sit back and read the newspaper or take a nap.
The wide road is one of deception. It can make you feel good, while you inch closer and closer to hell. As the Proverbs said:
Proverbs 14:12 †There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
People who are on the wide road to destruction may think they are right with God when they are not, but we will see this thought more clearly in just a few minutes. So, Jesus makes it clear, we have two roads we can travel down. The question is, which road are you on, and which road do you want to be on?† I hope everyone chooses the difficult road that leads to eternal life because it is the only road that will get you there. So, do not ever think that you have no part in your salvation because you do. No, you cannot save yourself by yourself, only Jesus makes it possible for us to have salvation. However, you do have to choose to accept that salvation and the grace that God offers by being obedient to His will until the day you die. It is not an easy choice or an easy path to go, but it is worth it.
Next Jesus says:
Matthew 7:15 " Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.† 16 "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?† 17 "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.† 18 "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.† 19 "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.† 20 "Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
Sometimes when you go to a seminar, they will give
everyone a name tag so that you can look at and know what that personís name
is. Wouldnít it be great if everyone had a name tag on them and it said whether
or not they were a teacher of the truth or a false teacher? Wouldnít be great
if told you if they are doing something for you to help you or to deceive you?
It would be great, but since this does not exist, Jesus warns us that there are
false prophets and they are not easy to detect at the first glance because they
do their best to look like those who are pure and who speak the truth, but
inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
There are always going to be those who want to distract us from traveling up the difficult road that leads to heaven. They can be some of kindest people who we really like and enjoy being around. When we let our guard down, these are the kind of people who can lead us off the difficult path right onto the wide road without us really noticing, which is why Jesus warns us about this.
I do not care what person enters your life whether it be a good friend or someone you are married to, you must not drop your guard down when it comes to living for God. Remember what Jesus said:
Luke 14:26 "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
Some get confused by this statement, but you have to understand what is meant by it. Jesus is not saying that you must hate your family, but what it is talking about is that you must always put Jesus first and never choose your family over Jesus. This same statement is made clearer in:
Matthew 10:37 "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
While you cannot always determine if a person is trying to distract you from the road that leads to life right away. If you continue to watch them closely, their true nature will come out eventually because the ravenous wolf on the inside can only be hidden for so long. So, do your best to keep your guard up so no one including your husband, wife, or children lure you to the wide road that leads to destruction.
Next Jesus says:
Matthew 7:21 " Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.† 22 "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'† 23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
This is what I was talking about earlier, when I said that some can be on the wide road that leads to destruction while thinking they are ok with God. There are many people today that will say, ďLord, LordĒ and they will do many great works in the name of Jesus. They can be the most sincere people that do not have a mean bone in their bodies. They can be generous people who are great parents and are looked up to by those in their community. While all these are great character traits it is not all that is needed in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
What is important is obeying the will of the Father. You can be the best person in the world and even be decorated as the man or woman of the year, but if you are not doing the will of the Father, then you will not make it into heaven. Many do not like this idea at all, but it does not change the truth. The best example I can think of is Paul. He was a zealous man who was committed to serving God and the way of the Pharisees. Paul said:
Philippians 3:4† If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:† 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;† 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
There are many today that are just like Paul before his conversion. He thought he was doing the right thing by trying to destroy Christianity. He sincerely thought he was doing Godís bidding, but he was wrong. He was so blind to what he raised up to believe that he could not accept the truth that was right in front of him. It took Jesus appearing to him on the road of Damascus to open his eyes to the truth. As Paul said:
Acts 22:6 "Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me.† 7 "And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'† 8 "So I answered, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.'† 9 "And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me.† 10 "So I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.'† 11 "And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus.
Notice, Jesus told Paul to go to Damascus and wait so he could hear what he was supposed to do. We also learn from Acts 9 that he prayed and fasted for 3 days before Ananias came to him and told him what else he must do. I want to point out that Paul believed in Jesus, and he repented based on him fasting. He prayed, and also called Jesus Lord. Though he had done all these things he was not saved yet. He had not fully obeyed the will of the Father. Ananias tells him what he must do:
Acts 22:16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'
We can know that Paul was still lost because his sins had not been washed away yet. So, Paul would have to get up and go get baptized in order to wash away his sins, which was the same thing that around 3000 souls did at the birth of the church as can be seen in Acts 2:38ff. Until you obey the gospel call, which includes believing, repenting, confessing Jesus as Lord, and being baptized you cannot be a Christian. Until you are baptized into Christ, you cannot enter the difficult way that leads to life in heaven. You have to be in the kingdom or we could say church before anything you do even matters. Even if you do much of what Godís Word says and you are not in Christ, it would be like me hiring you to mow my yard, but you mow my neighbors instead. So the first step in obeying the will of the Father is by obeying the gospel plan of salvation, but that is only the beginning. As we have talked about in this lesson, we must continue to endure by upholding Godís Word. We must continue to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord, which means we must commit ourselves to not just doing good deeds, but by doing those things God has commanded. Jesus illustrates this well as He closes out the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 7:24 " Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:† 25 "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.† 26 "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:† 27 "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."†
Oh how wish more people would take what Jesus has been saying to heart. We must learn to be just like Jesus and follow the will of our Father in heaven. This means we must treat the Word of God as being our authority for how we live our lives and by how we worship God because He had told us how do to all these things. We just have to humble enough to do His will and not our own. So many good people in the religious world are lost because they have allowed themselves to believe a lie and many of them have never obeyed Godís plan of salvation. Yes, many of them have been baptized, but they did it as a sign that they were already saved, which the Bible does not teach. One cannot and never will be able to be saved before their sins are washed away, which happens at the point of baptism, not before it.
For those of us what have obeyed the gospel, Jesus is challenging us to choose the difficult road that leads to heaven by doing the will of the Father. Not part of it, but all of it. I hope all you will step up to the challenge and the commitment you made when you put Christ on in baptism. Then our chapter ends with these final verses:
Matthew 7:28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching,† 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.†
The people that heard this great lesson were astonished because He was not like a scribe who simply interpreted the Law of Moses, He spoke with authority. Now that we have finished the Sermon on the Mount, I hope I have been able to show you just how simple yet powerful Jesus Sermon on the Mount really is. If we could all step up to the challenge that Jesus has made in this great sermon of His, we will be far greater Christians than we have ever been before.