Simple Truth

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In our Tuesday morning Bible class in Naples we are engaged in a study of the book of Matthew. This past week we started to look at the most extensive, and possibly the most profound of Jesus’ teaching – the sermon on the mount from Matt.5-7.

  • In this sermon Jesus expounded on the true meaning of the Law of Moses and comprehensively described the character of the citizen of God’s kingdom. He taught on marriage, personal relationships, money, worship, integrity, sexuality, and suffering for the cause of God. The message was so profound and revolutionary that when He finished, the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.  (Matt 7:28-29)
  • Despite the comprehensive and profound teaching of this sermon, there is an undeniable simplicity to Jesus’ words here. I think that is one reason why the people recognized authority in Jesus’ words. He was speaking plainly and they could see His point without difficulty. This must have been a refreshing change when compared to the complicated and difficult traditions of the scribes and Pharisees. The teachings of Jesus are sometimes is too simple to misunderstand.  Let me take you to such a place and let the word of God speak for itself.

 

I.  Read Matt. 7:13-29 – In this section of the sermon He brings it down to a choice between only two contrasting alternatives. (Jesus spoke a great deal in “black & white” – Because most things really are that simple.)

 

A. 2 Paths (vs. 13,14)  – “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

  • The “broad way” vs. the  “narrow way”.  I am not denying that we can have some deep thoughts as we meditate here, but isn’t this passage too simple to misunderstand?  Jesus speaks of only two of everything here, indicating the choice that we must make:
    • There are only two roads to choose, one seems easy, the other hard
    • There are only two gates: one is broad, the other is narrow
    • They are traveled by only two crowds – many and few
    • They end in only two opposite destinations – destruction and life

1. “Enter by the narrow gate” – What exactly does this passage teach?

  • Most people will take the path of least resistance in life, the broad way; and most people will be lost. “There is way that seems right to a man, but it end is the way of death.” ( Prov. 14:12) Jesus says we must choose the direction of our life — not that life chooses it for us, and doing the right thing is usually more difficult than doing the wrong thing.
  • This implies the unacceptability of the minority view on moral issues.  Most people think that your desire to be sexually abstinent until marriage is silly and unreasonable. But you must remember that the way is narrow, and most people will miss it — you must stick to your “sword”.

2.  But many are deluded into thinking that there is some other way, or that there are more than two choices … notice the next verses.

 

B. Two Trees (vs. 15-17) -“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16  You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

– Again  we see two contrasting alternatives.. You can only know a tree by its fruit, and either a tree is good and produces good fruit; or it is bad, and its fruit is bad.  It is legitimate to judge a tree by its fruit. It is also legitimate to judge a person by their actions and the consequences of their decisions.

1.  We have a responsibility to bear good fruit (allow our faith to produce action and character)  This fruit bearing is not mystical, but simply the result of our choices.

2. We are also to be on the lookout for counterfeit teachers. (false prophets). Counterfeits are not easily determined, and most people will be fooled by them. (wild orange tree – it is not what it appears to be)  Could you spot a counterfeit $100 bill?

3.  Revelation 2:2-3 – 2  “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3  and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. – The church atEphesus had tested those who came to teach.

 

C. Two Claims (vs. 21-23) –  “Not everyone who says to Me,’Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ 

  • The contrast here is saying vs. doing. “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord..”  Do you believe this, or is every religious claim legitimate? Do we have the right to judge?

1.  Jesus affirms here that saying is not the same as doing – pretty simple truth isn’t it?  You cannot convince your wife that you love her with words alone. Your words must be reflected in the choices that you make. This is legitimate judgment.

2.  It is universal truth that God has called people to obedience. God has never been satisfied with even partial obedience. When Saul saved some of the spoil (along with King Agag) from the victory over the Amalekites.  – 1 Sam 15:22-23 22 So Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice , And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.”

3.   True obedience goes far beyond simply attaching ourselves to certain truths or even proclaiming them to others. We must be willing to do what God commands.  That though leads Jesus to tell a story of:

 

D.  Two men  (vs. 24-27)  “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.  26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” 

  • Again we are confronted with the dichotomy and simplicity of Jesus’ words. We are either wise or foolish. Jesus is not afraid to assign judgment to our choices.
  • Do you know the song that goes with these verses?  I don’t know if I know all the hand motions that go with it, but the children here can help us out. Let’s sing it:

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

The wise man built his house upon the rock

And the rain came tumbling down

The rain came down and the flood came up

The rain came down and the flood came up

The rain came down and the flood came up

And the house on the rock stood firm.

 

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

The foolish man built his house upon the sand

And the rain came tumbling down.

The rain came down and the flood came up

The rain came down and the flood came up

The rain came down and the flood came up

And the house on the sand went “SPLAT”

 

Notice first the similarity between these two builders.

1. They are building the same thing – a house (representative of a life – values, priorities, lifestyles, etc.)You are building a house. In your daily decsisons you are putting the pieces together.

2.  They both go through a storm – seemingly of the same velocity. (Jesus’ story is not designed to tell us how to find a comfortable setting where life is not threatening – He forces us to face reality – there will be storms!) Read Earl Palmer’s words here – (“The Enormous Exception”)

3.   Consider the contrasts: Though these men are both building the same thing, and face the same storm, these two builders are totally different men. One builds on something solid because he not only listens, but he obeys. The other nam simply hears, with no inclination to do. He is a fool, and so are you if only hear and do not act.

4.  Consider the different ends:

  • The wise man’s house did not fall –  no amount of adversity could bring it down. It was upon a rock.  There are a few builders that come to mind here: Job, Paul,
  • The fools’ house fell, and “great was the fall thereof”. It didn’t matter how beautiful it might appear on the outside. It was doomed to fall.

5.  What does the storm represent? Answer: The ultimate answer is death. Every person will face it equally. It is just that simple.

  • The wise man, even after he dies, has a lasting legacy: he has built his life upon the words of Jesus, in doing them.
  • But the foolish man, because he did not build his life correctly (he did not obey Jesus words) shall find, after death, that he is lost (destroyed). Notice that both men hear the words of Jesus. The difference is in the doing.

 

 

What is the foundation of your life?  For the Christian it is simple:

 

My hope is built on nothing less

than Jesus blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame

but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid rock I stand.

All other ground is sinking sand.

All other ground is sinking sand.

 

Is your life being built upon  the Rock?  Come and obey. It’s that simple.