The Gate (Matthew 7:13-14)

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Jesus had begun His discussion of the Law by warning His followers not to   look to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law as examples of how to enter heaven, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” He then taught the better application of the Law of God as being instructive of God’s character. Those listening to Him found the Law is not so much a rule-book to be legalistically applied as a revelation of God’s character to be embraced by those who would identify themselves as God’s people. 

Having finished teaching His followers, Jesus moves on to a series of admonishments to ensure that they are not led astray anymore. He begins, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

When Jesus talks here about entering, He is talking about entering the Kingdom of Heaven. Everyone wants that, but the problem is that there are two paths that people thread on in attempts to get there. There is a broad road that leads to elsewhere and a narrow road that leads to life. The broad road is the way many are on. For most are choosing to be their own standard of righteousness. They are following the ways of the Pharisees and teachers of the law in trying to earn their way into heaven through ritual and legalistic application of God’s law. Confident in the self-righteousness they so accumulate, they see the way to God’s presence as self-attainable. In their minds it depends entirely on what they’ve done and what they’re doing. Yet as all flesh does, they eventually come to a point of no return. Then they find that beyond is not life, but utter waste and destruction, for those who go the wide way of the world find nothing more past the point of no return than the limitation, fault, sin and brokenness of themselves.

The narrow road that few are on also leads past a point of no return. The original language wording Jesus uses indicates that the narrow road is a path of some difficulty. For this path is a way of righteousness that far exceeds that of the most diligent practitioner of legalistic ritual. It is a righteousness that we cannot earn, no matter the personal sacrifice we make or the time we spend. Few grasp it. But having it, going beyond the point of no return we find exuberant vitality, abundance, joy and a fullness of life we can hardly envision.

Jesus is encouraging us to consider the path we’re on BEFORE we get to our point of no return. For all can pause and consider the road they are while they walk it, but we do not get to choose our destination once we pass the point of no return. To some that point comes suddenly. To some it comes slowly. All must go beyond it. What horror to get just past that point and realize that you walked on the wrong path, and arrived at the wrong gate! Yet we can know which is the right gate. For Jesus later said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” 

We can be saved from destruction. We can be saved to eternal life. This we can be sure of. He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

This is truth. Those who go the narrow way of Jesus find their destination is not so much a place as a person. Just as Jesus is the way, the destination is God our Father. Those who go through the gate of Jesus find God’s Kingdom of heaven, and there they find eternal, abundant, life!

You cannot enter the strait and narrow gate in a crowd, borne in by others, but you must come in separately and distinctly yourself.

Charles Spurgeon

APPLICATION: Intentionality

We cannot push others through the narrow gate. But we can call them off the wide path by pointing to the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The Mirror (Matthew 7:12)

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The disciple of God cannot help but notice that way back in the beginning of  His Sermon  on the Mount, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Now concluding His teaching, Jesus says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” The entire section between these two statements – from chapter 5 verse 17 to chapter 7 verse 12, is about a right interpretation of the Law and a right application of the Law. His final summary on the matter – what we call the “Golden Rule” is an easily memorized practical application point of the whole. 

The importance of that fact must not be lost. Barclay wrote, “This is probably the most universally famous thing that Jesus ever said. With this commandment, the Sermon on the Mount reaches its summit. This saying of Jesus has been called ‘the capstone of the whole discourse’. It is the topmost peak of social ethics, and the Everest of all ethical teaching.” Likewise, Warren Wiersbe wrote of the wide reaching application of this truth, “This great truth is a principle that ought to govern our attitudes toward others.[…] It must be practiced in every area of life. The person who practices the Golden Rule refuses to say or do anything that would harm himself or others. If our judging of others is not governed by this principle, we will become proud and critical, and our own spiritual character will degenerate.” 

Yet the application is broader still. AW Pink said “In the practice of this golden rule Christians are to consider not only how they would be dealt with by men, but by God Himself, thereby elevating the precept high above the ethics of the heathen. Whatever usage we expect to meet with at the hands of God, the same in our measure must we dispense to others. How can we expect God to be merciful to us if we be merciless unto our neighbour? How can we expect Him to deal liberally with us if we are eaten up with selfishness? Let us not forget that whatever need others have of us, the same need have we of God. According as we sow sparingly or bountifully, so will our reaping be (2 Cor. 9:6). I am therefore to consider how God will deal with me if I am rigid, severe, and demand the uttermost farthing from those in my power.

Indeed. How else shall we expect God to respond to us? Matthew Henry noted long ago, “Fitly is the law of justice subjoined to the law of prayer, for unless we be honest in our conversation, God will not hear our prayers […]. We cannot expect to receive good things from God, if we do not fair things, and that which is honest, and lovely, and of good report among men. We must not only be devout, but honest, else our devotion is but hypocrisy.

So it is. To expect to be treated by God differently and better than the way we have treated others is ultimately the most unfair and unjust thing we could expect from Him. Doing so is not unlike the dishonest manager expecting to be rewarded for holding the post of manager, knowing that their dishonesty has been exposed. Further, to be treated by God as we have treated others is perhaps the fairest and most just thing we could expect from Him. Though He will certainly treat us according to His character and not according to ours, to expect better than we have done is to presume much, for it was not without reason that the Lord said, “If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” The Christ-follower therefore understands that treating others better is not merely a nice option, but ultimately part of what it means to be a Christ-follower. Ultimately, we must treat others the same way God has treated us.

We are to be mirrors of grace to others, reflecting what we have received ourselves.

R.C. Sproul

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Think back over the past week. How have you treated others? Let us repent of doing anything less than treating them as Christ would treat them.