GROWTH AND SUCCESS IN LIFE – Lessons Learned at the Feet of Jesus – Sermon on Mount (Part 31)
So far this Sermon on the Mount has covered citizens of the Kingdom, their blessedness and relation to the world, the righteousness which the King grants and demands of them, and now the invitation to enter into this Kingdom. Few questions carry more importance than eternal destiny. This question drives, puzzles and even paralyzes many around us. Death is terrifying to many people. You see it on some faces at funerals. Preoccupation with health, wealth and life duration. No greater mistake then mistaking time for eternity, of mistaking the body for the soul. Hence, the question of eternal destiny. Now Jesus extends his warnings about the broad and narrow gate by reminding His followers of the phony and counterfeit leaders and messages around them.
Matthew 7:15-23 15“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘LORD, LORD,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘LORD, LORD, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ “1. Choosing the Narrow Gate Means Understanding the Phony Leaders and Their False Message. Lest there be any misunderstanding, Jesus doubles down on the message of choosing the path (fork in the road) of life verses destruction. For every good and true option, there are more (wide gate) bad or dangerous options that will destroy the seeker. These are false prophets, dressed up like sheep – though wolves, offering good fruit – but from a source of thistles and thorns, destined for the fire. The point: from a good heart and true message comes good; from an evil heart and false message comes evil. Again, no fence sitting in this analysis. We are either agreeing that Jesus is “the way, the Truth, and the Life, and no man comes to the Father but by Him,” or we are distracted by a contrary message that leads to rejecting this truth and evil results, from leaders that are evil.
2. Shocker – Heaven Not for the Phony or Counterfeit. Now, tripling down on this message – the narrow gate, rejecting the false message and messenger, to now realizing that eternity is only for the ones who follow the person and message of Jesus.
- Rejects in Kingdom – ones who prophesied in Jesus’ name, driving out demons, performing miracles. If the values of a disciple were determined only by looking at the RESULTS of others, we would miss the narrow gate. In other words, messages and actions that seem God-ordained are not – if they are not measured by the person and message of Jesus. Even acts that seem miraculous are not by themselves an indication of truth. This is expanded in Matthew 25-34-46.
- Recipients of the Kingdom – not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” In other words, without leaving anything in doubt, Jesus ties His life and work to the heavenly Father. As the disciples will see during the next three years, rejecting Jesus is rejecting the heavenly Father leaves one outside the Kingdom. This is plain-speak. Doing the will of my Father.
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:41-26.
I have always believed that the citizens and lines in heaven will be other than what we think. Many who we think will or should be in heaven will not be. They rejected at the core the message of Jesus and the cross. Others will not only be in heaven, but likely in front of me in line! In other words, those quiet saints who did the will of the Father, who cared for the least of those around us. No wonder James said, this is pure religion, to visit the widows and orphans in their distress… James 1:27. Be careful in the path and persons you choose and follow. Measure everything by the message in this sermon from Jesus.
Next week…How to make your life and investments count for eternity. Stay well.
— John Moore