Matthew 7b

Matthew 7 B: The Wrong Way

As we have been studying the Sermon on the Mount, we realize the Lord Jesus is teaching us not only what we are to know and believe, but what we are also to do toward God and one another.

The so- called Golden Rule is taught by Jesus as the sum of all the Laws and Prophets. “ So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do unto to you.” Remember we are told the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord, thy God with all your heart, mind, will and emotions. And the second greatest commandment is like unto the first which is to love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus said on these two commandments are all the laws and prophets based.  It is God’s Law of Love. John 3:16- tells us God so loved the world He gave us His only begotten Son.  The law of love is about giving- not taking. And here is this well- known rule, we understand, the Lord Jesus is teaching us to give others the respect and treatment we would have them give unto us.  Mutual respect, kindness and fairness.

I read a book not long ago by Thomas Friedman entitled: “ That Used To Be Us: How America Invented the World and then Fell Behind and How it Can Get it Back.” The author is an editorial writer for the NY Times and an expert on China, often visiting and writing about it.  His politics are different from mine. I would disagree with some of his solutions and agree with others. But what is evident in reading his book, is he loves this country and is concerned about the state of our nation.

Recent poll questions have asked the question- ‘ do you think America is headed in the right direction?  Let me ask you– Are we headed the right way or the wrong way?  Where is the majority of our nation’s people headed?  Surely you recognize the truth of the President of the United States when he proclaimed: ‘ we are no longer just a Christian nation.’ So goes the majority of the nation’s people, so goes the nation.

God in His Wisdom has given us His Word, the story of mankind from creation and its beginning to its final chapter and eternity.  Paul writes: “ For everything written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of Scripture we might have hope.” ( Romans 15)   This is why we sing our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.  God has given us stories of individuals – people just like us, that we might learn from their life stories, as well as the stories of nations that we might learn from their history. For in each of these stories , we see what happens when we go as individuals or nations- the wrong way.

We have made a series of significant wrong turns in the latter part of the 20th century and now many of us look back with longing and tears in our eyes and  think of those days of our history and say- ‘ that used to be us.’

The Two Ways.

Isn’t it interesting, if you spend any time talking to people who are not church goers, you discover we live in a society where people never bother to think through what they believe and why they believe it. Yet clearly Jesus states the absolute truth of there are only two directions one can take.  There are no short cuts and there are no other options or alternate routes. Jesus says: “ 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.” ( Matthew 7: 13,14)

In Jeremiah 6: 16: “ This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths , ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Ancient paths?  We consider anything before the age of technology as having been antiquated, out-dated and old fashioned. Let’s look at the paths our founding fathers chose for a moment to get a perspective of what they considered the good way.

The United States was founded and built on a belief in God. The founding document of our country was The Declaration of Independence.  Consider what was the purpose these men believed was the role of government: “ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” They believed government’s role was to secure and protect these rights given to us by our Creator.   Thus began our history as one nation under God.  And I believe God has blessed America for much of its history. Sin is and was always present, just like in Israel. Israel had a covenant agreement with God and were called to a special relationship to be a blessing to all the nations. If they followed the ways of God, they would remain and become the most blessed of all nations. But if they did not they would face God’s judgment.

Israel could not seem to handle prosperity- their history shows time and time again how they departed from God and from His Ways. At one time, the laws He had given them were no longer in the public arena. What have we done in America?  We have removed prayer and scripture from the public school.  We have removed the Ten Commandments from public view, taking them down by our own government’s decree.

Interesting that church attendance began to drop at the same time. But God made man with a desire to worship something- and when God is removed as the object of worship- idols will rush in to fill the void.   We will see this is the lifestyle on the broad way for those who have entered by the wide gate.

One thing I have noticed and also experienced myself when we choose the broad way and enter the wide gate, it is a frenetic pace on that broad way and there is a restlessness that makes one always looking for, hurrying to the next party, the next event, the next trip, something to entertain and occupy and hopefully satisfy the hunger we have. We live in a restless world. And we know as the popular song tells us-“ In  a restless world like this is- love is over before it begins.” But according to the same song, what we really want is ‘ when we fall in love, it will be forever.’

Paul writes in Ephesians 5- ‘ See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.’  Walk wisely, Paul says.  The Psalmist says ‘ Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly’ ( Psalm 1:1)   And all through the Bible and through our hymns we sing to our Lord – our Shepherd to guide us and lead us. We pray as Jesus taught us- ‘ lead us not into temptation.’ And the disciple John wrote- ‘ walk in the Light as He is in the light.’( I John 1)

Quite often, the Christian is called ‘ narrow-minded’.  And in a sense this is a compliment because it means we believe this is the only way. And again, we do not believe it because it is our opinion based on arrogance; we believe it because the Lord Jesus told us : I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father except by Me. ( John 14)   There is no other name under heaven by which man can be saved. “ This is the way, walk in it.” ( Isaiah 30:21)

Why did Jesus say you cannot serve two masters?  For  you can only go in one direction, and you must choose who you will follow.

Some people justify their lifestyle choices and the direction in which they are headed with the simple justification of- ‘ everybody is doing that now days.’ We live in a society today, where there are not so much people who hate God and hate His Word, they are simply indifferent, intellectually lazy, lacking discernment, discipline and completely disinterested in spiritual things. They are deceived.  There is a veil over their hearts and their minds are made dull, for to this day when they read the Bible, the account of  creation, the miracles and the truths contained within the Word of God, they cannot comprehend spiritual truths.

Yet the Bible teaches and warns us there are two directions- two ways. And we all come to a crossroads where we contemplate the direction we are to take. And unfortunately many are so influenced by the ‘ in-crowd’, the majority whom they consider to be – in the know- they follow after them. It is easier to ‘ go with the flow’ to drift downstream and be carried along with the crowd. It is not exactly a slow drifting, meandering crowd, it is fast moving at a frenetic pace. Did you notice how Jesus described those who are on the broad way? He referred to those on the broad way as pagans ( NIV). And Jesus said they ‘ run after these things’. What ‘ things’? The things of the world, clothing, food, drink, the pampering of their bodies- so they can hold on to youth, and their virility as long as possible. Look how crowded the places of the world are that offer the things pagans are running after and working so hard to possess.  The stadiums are filled on Sundays with people who have come to watch and be entertained by sports teams. The golf courses are filled and the highways are busy with people using the Lord’s day for a day to seek pleasure in the things of the world.  Now there is nothing wrong with the right kind of enjoyment, relaxation and pleasure.

But here stands the Lord Jesus at the crossroads and tells us in plain language. The broad  way leads to destruction. The narrow road leads to life.  The broad way is the way the one who is called a thief, a liar, a murderer, the father of lies, the deceiver tempts us to take. Yet we are told – he comes to steal and kill and destroy for that is his nature. But Jesus said I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly. Eternal life- here and now and forever. John 10:10 .  Who do you believe?  What do you base your decisions on in life?

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ.” ( Romans 6: 21)  The Bible is full of this type of message.  What is the alternative life style?  It is one that leads to destruction. It is referred to as a life that is perishing. It is like those vegetables and produce we refer to as ‘ perishables’- they do not last long, only fresh for a short period of time.  The alternative to eternal life is eternal destruction.

Jesus says : ‘Follow Me!” Where are you going, Lord?  ‘ I am going now to prepare a place for you, so that where I am, you will be also.’ ( John 14)  He is in heaven, but He has sent us His Spirit who indwells us and seals us. So that eternal life begins in the here and now and exists forever. Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people.

We notice the way of the Lord is described as having a narrow gate and a narrow way as opposed to a wide gate and a broad way.  What does this mean?  Let’s talk now about what  it means for us who are on the narrow way, who have entered the narrow gate.  The problem in the church today is not  lack of direction. We know the way. The problem is we do not always follow the way of Jesus. When Jesus says follow me- He is calling us to be followers of where He leads.  We sing about in church- ‘ where He leads me, I will follow.’ But the song of our life is a different one quite often , isn’t it?  Jesus said if you continue in my Word, you are my disciples indeed.’ ( John 8 )  A disciple is one who is disciplined and follows the narrow way. We seem to have decided alternate routes are an acceptable option.

The lost person, also referred to as the natural man, cannot comprehend spiritual truths. For them the supernatural is not something they understand- they relate to what their intellect can understand, what they can relate to through their physical senses of sight, hearing , taste, touch and smell. Their philosophy- ‘ I will believe it when I see it.’ But lacking the Spirit of God, they cannot see  the spiritual. ‘ Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered the minds of men what God has prepared for those who love Him.” ( I Cor. 2)

“ In those days, Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” ( Judges 21:25)  We know the unsaved who are on the broad way want to do as they see fit. They want leaders whom they elect who will do what they want them to do. For Israel when they, as a nation begin to  do as they saw fit as described here in Judges, the nation of Israel begin to come apart at the seams.

Today what we see in America is best described by Paul:  “ But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them”. ( 2 Timothy 3)   That is the epitome of the’ broad way of life.’We must remember we were on the broad way of life at one time.  And our old nature liked that way- it was a way that seemed right; was fun and exciting. Sin is pleasurable for a season.

One day the Lord Jesus was asked a very important question. It is a  question many people want to ignore, or not know what the answer is.  Listen to this question found in Luke 13:  “ Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them: “ Make every effort ( strive,KJV) to enter through the narrow door, because many I tell you will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, Sir will you open the door for us. But he will answer- I don’t know you or where you come from.”

Do you know what else happens on the broad way? The Word of God is trampled underfoot. In a famous parable, ‘The Parable of the Sower’, we read of four types of ground.  What I love about this parable, is Jesus explains it for us as his disciples ask him- ‘what might this parable be?’ Jesus then explains:  the seed is the Word of God. The four types of ground represent the four types of hearers or hearts.

Those on the broad way are described as those by the wayside. The wayside would have been a path where everyone walked around the field.  It was hard packed by the foot traffic. Any seed that fell there was trodden  down and the birds of the air devoured it. ( Luke 8,KJV)

Do you know what else happens on the broad way? You develop a hard heart. In the parable of the sower there is the soil with a rock underneath it.  It has a shallow layer of top soil, so when the seed  lands there is takes root and springs up- but it withers because it lacks moisture. The root cannot take hold because of the stone.  This is why we must be born again- the Lord says: “ A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart…” ( Ezekiel 36)

Other seed falls among the thorns and was choked out.  Jesus said the thorns represented the cares and riches and pleasures of this life.  Now each of us at one time before we were saved- had one of these ‘ heart conditions’.  But the Lord performed a heart transplant, and we received  a new heart and a new nature.

Perhaps among some of the saddest verses in the Bible are found in this passage:  “ Not everyone that says unto me- Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in your name? And in your name have cast out devils? And in your name done many wonderful works?  And then I will profess unto them, depart from me, you that work iniquity.”

There is another parable concerning the rich man and Lazarus, the diseased beggar found in Luke 16. Some believe this is not a parable but actual individuals and a true story.  This story tells of a rich man and Lazarus the beggar. There are two families, two funerals and two futures. This passage tells us of the final and eternal destination of those who travel on the two different ways. It is a sobering story that Jesus relates to an audience that included the Pharisees. There are two characters and Jesus immediately paints a vivid word picture in the opening of this narrative.  What a masterful teacher is our Lord!  We see the rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.  Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6- ‘do not worry about what you eat, or what you shall drink or what you shall put on your body.’  This man’s lifestyle was consumed with those activities.

Now look at the contrast of Lazarus, a diseased beggar with open sores the dogs licked who fed off of the scraps from the rich man’s table.  If we are not careful, we miss something here in this opening of this narrative.  The dogs show a greater compassion for Lazarus than the rich man, who obviously is indifferent to the plight of Lazarus.  Are we not commanded to love our neighbor?  To be merciful?  How can one believe he deserves heaven when they allow dogs to show more mercy and compassion than they do?  Indifference and apathy make a deadly combination.

Now comes that fateful day – they both die. We are told Lazarus is carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom.   The rich man dies and is buried. “ And in hades he lifted up his eyes being in torments and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” Those who enter the wide gate and the broad way- this is your first stop on your final destination. And it does not get better- it gets worse. This rich man was obviously Jewish  for he cries out Father Abraham, have mercy on me! He still thinks he can order about people like Lazarus and wants Lazarus to bring him water.

Abraham tells him: “ Remember in your lifetime your received the good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.” Jesus said when you take the broad way and do things to please yourself – you will have stored up your treasure on earth and received your rewards on earth. In fact- he says the last, like poor Lazarus, will be first. He will be comforted- those on the broad way will not.   The advantage of the disadvantaged.

Now I stated- this is the first stop on the rich man’s journey to his final destination.  He will leave this place called Hades. He will be brought before the Great White Throne, where his punishment will be meted out according to his deeds which are recorded in the books.

This place hades, is a place that contains two compartments is what many believe. It is a place the spirits of the deceased went after their spirits were separated from their bodies in death. Abraham’s Bosom was a place many believe also was the same Paradise, Jesus referred  to when he told the thief on the cross he would be with him in Paradise. When Jesus ascended to heaven, he took those believers from Abraham’s Bosom with Him to heaven. Now when a believer dies and his or her spirit is separated from their body they go to be with the Lord.  This is why Paul wrote- ‘ absent from the body- present with the Lord.’

Wrong treasure. Wrong Master. Wrong Way.   There are two ways- there are two destinations.

Enter the narrow gate, not the wide. Follow the Lord on the narrow way not the crowd on the broad way.

You realize these two ways represent a funnel. The Lord’s way represents an inverted funnel, the opening is narrow but it leads to the abundant life.  The broad way- has the wide open mouth of the funnel but leads to the narrow way- death, eternal death.

Here is the key:  Jesus said not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.

So what should we do as Christians in America in the 21st century?  2 Chronicles 7 tells us.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14