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Matthew

The Narrow Gate

Matthew 7

Lesson audio

Lest any of us consider that the Christian life be one of ease and relaxation, swinging gently in the hammock, Christ gives us instruction to the contrary. To wit:

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. "Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? "Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

(Mat 7:1-12 NASB)

The Golden Rule defines for us the principle of the internal yardstick. In everything you do, you put yourself in the other fellow’s position and ask yourself how you’d like to be treated. Fair’s fair. But Christ adds to this some additional teaching, given for our guidance in applying this rule.

Correction vs. Judgment

The problem is one which hits every Christian at one time or another. How can not judge? Your Christian brother is mired in his own sins, and often will use this very passage to keep you from action. How can I “judge not” when the sin is so obvious?

We need to distinguish correction of sin from judgment. Correction is done in love and mercy; judgment belongs to the Lord. So how do we make this distinction clear to the sinner? It is not what we say but what we live that will stand answer for this question:

  • We are taught to hate the sin and love the sinner. Slipping off the tongue this sounds rather pious. But there is one Christian for whom your “love the sinner” is obvious. That’s you. You must be clear that whatever has been done does not affect the fact that you’re dealing with a child of God. Wouldn’t you like that kind of treatment for your sins?
  • We have one example to give them: our own self-judgment. If we are known as one who judges himself, then correction is easier to take.

This is a rather dangerous business. Judging others comes very quickly to the human mind. Chrysostom cites the example of a monk sitting down to a (rare) feast of a meal – to find that those about him do not rejoice that the man in poverty is eating well tonight; rather, they condemn the size of his dinner. Do you see the beam in the eye?

Beware indeed, therefore, of how easily the loving correction taught becomes the quick judgment of the hypocrite.

Pearls

One very good reason to avoid judgment is that it soon will be applied to those outside the church – whom God alone is to judge.[1] The plain truth is that offering Scriptural advice to those outside the church is (if I can borrow a metaphor) like trying to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. Indeed, in evangelism it is the function of the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin and judgment. Until this happens, none of those outside the church would accept correction.

Ask, seek and knock

One thing you will find: if you care for someone, it is not long before you take that person to the Lord in prayer. Do you not see that God will have nothing to do with your request if it’s made with the beam in your eye? But if you judge yourself, look what He opens up!

Much has been made of the progression “ask, seek, knock”. The reason is simple: most of us give up far to quickly. If your heart is right with God – that’s the reason this injunction is given in the context of judgment – why wouldn’t He grant your prayers? If you know how to be kind to your children, how much more will He be to His children?

Therefore

Do you notice that the Golden Rule is given following that word, “therefore”? That’s a dangerous word. It connects what went before to that Golden Rule, don’t you see. Why shouldn’t I judge others? Because the same standard will be used on you. Therefore be sparing of others and God will be sparing with you. Am I to be judge over those outside the church? No, that’s God’s task. You are to be prudent in your dealings with them instead – so that they may see you as one who forgives, not one who judges. Therefore be persistent in prayer, just as you would have those praying for you. Ask earnestly. Seek what you ought to, not your own pleasures. Knock at the door with the beam removed, in humility.

The Narrow Gate [2]

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "So then, you will know them by their fruits.

(Mat 7:13-20 NASB)

Precision guided munitions

Have you seen the pictures of precision guided munitions going into a building – by a particular window – and then exploding? Those things are expensive, compared to ordinary bombs. But they are worth it for they take out a specific target. Your life as a Christian is like that. You have a target to hit. The target is small; the way to get to it, narrow. You must go along the right roads:

  • Travel down the road of sacrifice – taking up the Cross. It is not a low cost item.
  • Travel down the road of suffering – for suffering and persecution you will have.
  • Travel down the road of child-like faith – not the cynical freeway.
Decoys

As if narrow were not bad enough, there are decoys along the way:

  • The Pharisees lured with the decoy of legalism. Just follow the instructions to the letter – it doesn’t matter if you are sincere or not, if you know the rules.
  • Others will provide you with cheap grace – a forgiveness and a pat on the head, then no real work required. Drop by the church now and then, listen to a sermon – you’re just fine.
  • And – particularly strong in our time – is materialism. Things make you happy, and dull the longing for the God of Truth.
Fruits

Sounds like a bad situation on the battlefield that is life. How do I know the truth from the fraud? Christ’s answer is simple: what results do you see? Be warned; this method has its drawbacks:

  • It takes time. You might have to be patient with someone or some church.
  • It will probably be a source of argument. Listen with your ears – and with the Holy Spirit.
  • It may be a long lesson in patience, too.

Is the matter important? It’s a heaven and hell decision, as we now see.

Lord, Lord

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. "The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall." When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

(Mat 7:21-29 NASB)

Rejection

Rejection is a terrible thing. We often think the loving God would not do such a thing (despite the history of the Old Testament.) Just what, or whom, does He mean by that?

  • He will reject name only Christians. These are not hard to find; they’re in church every Sunday. They will compliment the preacher on his fine sermon, and show up again next Sunday. But the words never actually affect there lives.
  • Others who appear to be working for Christ – but actually lining their own pockets[3], or building up celestial brownie points.
The test

He tells us simply how to determine this. The test is whether or not the test-taker is doing the will of the Father. Here are some tests for you:

  • Do you live in the imitation of Christ? Ask not only what He would do; ask also how He would be.
  • Do you search out the will of God, or wait until someone mentions something interesting.
  • Having searched it out, do you take time to meditate upon the word of God?
  • Having done that, do you go out and do the will of God?
  • As you go, are you judging others?
Results

Christ gives us a test of how we have done. He portrays it here in a rainstorm.

  • First, note that He says “when”, not “if.” Even in Palestine, the rains are going to come. It is going to rain. Troubles, triumphs and tragedies are going to happen to you.
  • If you wish to withstand live, then you must build on the right foundation. There is only one true foundation, and that is Jesus Christ.
  • If you are wise, you will build on it now – and not wait for the rain.

[1] 1 Corinthians 5: 9-13

[2] It should be noted for those with varying translations the narrow way is often referred to as the “strait” (as in “strait and narrow”. The word is “strait,” not “straight.” Strait means narrow, not linear. We might describe someone as being in ”dire straits” for example.

[3] The temptation to mention TBN at this point is overwhelming.

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