Last week Sam started his talk with this question; When was the last time you spent real time with God? Not because you felt like you had to. Not because it was the good Christian thing to do. But because you wanted to hang out with your dad, your heavenly Father. It is the foundation to living differently.
This Sermon on the Mount is Jesus introducing us to God’s kingdom. Jesus in introducing us to a new way of living. It is radically different than the kingdom we live in, our culture. The only way to understand God’s kingdom and live out what Jesus said is through spending time, real time, with God. That’s why Sam asked that question.
Today, we jump into the beginning of the end of the Sermon on the Mount. In this section of reading, it’s like He is looking back and beginning to summarize everything He said. This is what He says.
13-14 “Heaven can be entered only through the narrow gate! The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide enough for all the multitudes who choose its easy way. But the Gateway to Life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it. TLB Matthew 7:13-14
To better understand this, lets read it in another version. Same two verses but in another translation.
13-14 “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life – to God! – is vigorous and requires total attention. MSG
What is Jesus saying? There is only one way to God, only one way to heaven, and it’s through Jesus. Another way to put it; Giving our lives to Christ and following Him is the narrow gate. Everything Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount is the narrow gate.
Think about the Sermon on the Mount. It is radically different than our kingdom, our culture. And again, in Jesus’ summary of His sermon, it is in complete conflict with what people want to hear. Jesus tells us there is only one way to God, to heaven. That is the last thing we want to hear – isn’t? We want options. We want freedom. We want to do it our way. We want it to be easy. We want it to be fun. We want control. We don’t want to sacrifice or change anything. The last thing we want to hear is that to get to God or heaven is on a narrow path.
Later in Matthew, Jesus says the same thing in a different way.
“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. 25 Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. 26 What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? MSG Matthew 16:24-26
Do you see it? Giving our lives to Christ and following Him is the narrow gate. Putting the Sermon on the Mount into our lives is the narrow gate.
It’s a different way to live. To follow Christ means I surrender my will, my selfishness, my desires for what Jesus wants. I embrace everything that God has asked of me. It is a completely different way to live. Let’s quickly review what Jesus taught and think about how different it is from what is normal in our culture. As I quickly recap what Jesus said, ask yourself, “Is this normal or is what Jesus is saying weird for today?”
You are spiritually blessed when you lose what is dearest to you. You are the difference makers in your culture, salt and light. When you are angry at others for a long time, that is murder. When you look at others with lust, that is adultery. When you get convenient divorces, you are making people commit adultery. When someone mistreats you, don’t get revenge, respond with love. And if you have an enemy, don’t hate them, love them and pray for them.
When it comes to giving, prayer, fasting, don’t be fake and try to get attention. If you want a real relationship with God, if you want those things to connect you with God, do those things in private.
When it comes to money, you can’t love God and money both. In our culture, money is our idol. We believe that, with more money, it’s that thing that will get us everything we want; comfort, success, security, and happiness. Jesus taught, in God’s kingdom, you would be a fool to think you can pursue money and not pursue God and think you would be secure in life.
As you live with people, don’t hold people to a standard that you don’t hold yourself to. Don’t be that arrogant, critical snob who looks down on people.
Think about those things that Jesus taught. Are the normal to our culture? Are they weird to our culture? Giving our lives to Christ and following Him is the narrow gate. It will demand our full attention. You will have to be passionate about it. Scripture used the word, ‘vigorous.’ It’s not popular in our culture to live that way. It’s not normal to live that way.
Because God’s kingdom is weird to us, everything inside us will want to find a reason why what Jesus said doesn’t apply to us. We might believe in God, but we don’t want to go all in. It’s seems radical. It seems weird. It might require too much trust or faith in God.
Hear me tell you, there is only one way to God, only one way to heaven, and it’s through Jesus.
That’s why Jesus told us very plainly,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me. NCV John 14:6
Jesus continued to give two common reasons why people look for shortcuts to God. The first is false prophets. Maybe a better way to put it; religious leaders who lead people away from Jesus. This is what Jesus said.
15-20 “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.
Be aware of leaders who look and sound really good. Be aware If they give you a comforting message that gives you an easy way of life, no sacrifice, no self-examination, no awareness of sin and confession and healing. Be aware if their message makes you feel good but fails to talk about truth, grace, sin, judgement, holiness, redemption of God. Be aware if they tell you, there is more than one way to God or to heaven. Be very aware of their character. The way you know who they are, is what they produce in their own personal life.
A false prophet or a fake religious leader will lead people away from Jesus and His grace. If giving your life to Christ and following Christ is the narrow gate, a false religious leader will steer people away from Jesus.
The second reason people miss Jesus is religion. That means doing the right things but for the wrong reasons. This is how Jesus put it.
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.’ Matthew 7:13-23
Religion is evil because it looks so right, it looks so good but it has nothing to do with being in a relationship with God. We are supposed to be in a relationship with God. That means we carve out time and space to read the Bible, pray and rest with God. Religion comes to us and replaces that time with God with things to do. Good things. We end up doing so many good things, we become too tired to be alone with God. But, because we are doing good things, we feel like it’s okay. We end up walking through life, powerless, exhausted, stressed and anxious.
Religion ruins everyone. If giving your life to Christ and following Christ is the narrow gate, religion will steer people away from Jesus and into good things.
As Jesus begins to close down the Sermon on the Mount, He is making it clear, there is one way to God, one way to heaven, and it’s through Jesus. Giving our lives to Christ and following Him is the narrow gate.
I want to ask you today; have you have given your life to Christ? Have you experienced God’s grace? Do you want Jesus to reach into your life and rescue you, save you? For some of you, it may be for the first time. For some of you, you gave your life to Jesus, and you have moved away from that relationship with Jesus. You have attended church for years but you are tired, powerless, stressed and filled with anxiety. Today is your time to walk back into that relationship.
If you want God to love you, redeem you, save you, come upfront.
Giving our lives to Christ and following Him is the narrow gate. Putting the Sermon of the Mount into our daily lives is the narrow gate.