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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
 www.bethelurc.org
 
Preached At:Lynwood United Reformed Church
 Lynwood, IL
 www.lynwoodurc.org
 
Title:One Way or the Other
Text:Matthew 7:13-29 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Running the race
 
Preached:December 11,
Added:2016-12-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Text: Matthew 7: 13-14

Scripture reading: Matthew 7: 13-29

Songs: 217, 204, 339, 459

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


One Way or the Other

Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, everyday we make countless choices. Most of those choices are of little or no consequence. We choose which shirt to wear; what to eat for breakfast; or which we drive to work in the morning. And every now and again we are faced with choices that DO have a lot of significance, like what career we pursue, what person we marry, and even what to name our child (sometimes that can be the toughest choice of all as the Hill family found out).    

 

But all those choices pale in comparison to the choice presented to us in the text this morning. Here in Matthew 7 Jesus lays before us the single-most important choice we will ever make.  It is the ultimate choice because it not only determines the direction of our life here on earth, but that choice determines our eternal destiny.   

 

The biggest decision of anyone’s life is whether he should follow the narrow path or the broad path. Our Lord explains what that means to us this morning. Here Jesus Calls His People to Choose the Narrow Path.

1)The Choice Jesus Presents

2)The Paths Jesus Describes

 

1)  The Choice

As Jesus draws this sermon to a close, he demonstrates the way every great evangelical minister should preach. By that I mean that he moves his listeners beyond the point of being a passive audience to the point of making a conscientious decision; a decision of the will as to whether they are going to believe in Jesus and follow his way, or reject Jesus and go their own way.

 

In other words, it was not enough to sit back and listen to Jesus preach and admire his style or eloquence; or be impressed his clarity or candor or his boldness to speak against the establishment. It is not enough to admire Jesus for his wisdom and for his grasp of the Scriptures.

 

Sometimes people get caught up in that, you know. They judge a sermon not by its contents but by its delivery, its presentation. I’ve had unbelievers listen to my sermons and they come to me after church and say how they were quite impressed by the ease with which I can stand before a crowd and speak; or by the power and passion of my delivery. They say: that was a nice speech.

 

The problem with that is that the Gospel demands more from its listeners than a critique of the preacher. The Gospel demands a verdict. It demands a response. And Jesus brings the crowd to that very point. In today’s terminology someone might refer to this as an altar call, but no matter what you want to call it, the point is the same. Jesus brings the crowd to a moment of decision.  

 

Now, I realize that as Reformed Calvinist we get a little nervous when someone talks about decisions and choices for Christ. After all we confess God’s absolute sovereignty in election; we believe that it is God’s Spirit who moves us to seek God, who is already seeking us. And yet we also subscribe to the teaching that God uses means to call us to faith.

 

We believe in the genuine call of the gospel whereby the Lord of the Word comes to us and calls us (and all mankind) to repent and believe on Jesus Christ so that we can be saved – lest anyone reject Jesus as Savior and perish in their sin. 

 

And there are plenty of passages to prove that God does put choices before us. In Genesis 4, God came to Cain and said, If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must master it. God gave Cain a choice – to do the right thing. But Cain chose to do the wrong thing.

 

Later in Deuteronomy 30, God called out to Israel through Moses saying: choose life in order that you might have life, by loving the Lord and obeying his voice. The people had a choice as to whether they would obey God’s commandments and have long life and prosperity in the land, or disobey God’s commandments and suffer the consequences of exile or death.

 

Then there’s the well known passage from Joshua 24:15. After entering the Promised Land, Joshua called the people together to renew their covenant with God by saying: Choose you this day whom you will serve.

 

Those passages speak clearly of man’s responsibility. God is sovereign but man is responsible; and man is held accountable before God for the choices he makes in life; and in the end, man will be judged by God for that decision.

 

Here in Matthew 7, Jesus illustrates life’s most important choice by referring to these two paths that stand before a traveler. The fact that there are only two paths is significant – for the same reason (in the verses that follow) that Jesus speaks of two trees which produce two kinds of fruit – good and bad (vv. 15-20); and two kinds of people – those who claim to know God, and those who really do know God (vv. 21-23); and two houses with two very different foundations – one of made sand and the other of rock (vv. 24-27).

 

These side-by-side comparisons not only emphasize the necessity of a choice between the two, but it highlights the fact that in all of life there is but two directions; there are but two options. There is the way that leads to life and there is the way that leads to death. All mankind is headed in one of those two directions. There is no middle ground. There is no third option.

 

Furthermore, and this speaks directly to the millennial generation: Jesus makes no concession for those who claim to be non-religious; who want nothing to do with Jesus, or heaven or hell, and would prefer a ‘safe-space’ as opposed to being forced into a decision. There is no sitting out the decision. Not choosing a path is not an option. You are either for Jesus or you are against Jesus.

 

Another point to consider is this: of the two paths which Jesus speaks, the broad path represents the MANY, MANY roads to destruction. There are many roads that lead to death. We’ll talk about that in a few moments. But the narrow path (on the other hand) represents the ONE way of salvation. So there are many paths that lead to death, but one way that leads to life.  

 

As author John Stott points out, Jesus cuts across (what he calls) our easy going syncretism. People in our age (and every age) have embraced the idea that there are many gods and many religions and many paths to “heaven”. While we may differ in our definitions and basic beliefs, the understanding is that every religion is the same in that it draws us to some greater power, to some higher purpose; it motivates us to be make good choices and be good people.

But what Jesus says here destroys that philosophy. Jesus rules out all forms of syncretism. Jesus was not very popular in his day and he would be equally hated in our day. Jesus was intolerant of other religions; he made exclusive claims about himself and his religion.

 

Jesus declared that there are not many ways, but only one way. There are not ‘many religions all possessing some part of the truth’; but rather, there is one faith, one religion that possesses all truth and it is the faith that exalts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, as the One Mediator between God and men.   

 

And all good preaching, all faithful gospel preaching brings the listener to that very conclusion – to the point where we are called to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved; to be members of his eternal kingdom.

 

That choice is presented even to those who already believe and are already saved.  The choice to follow Christ is a daily decision, not a one time decision. I don’t mean that each day we have to decide for Jesus and be saved all over again. No. That only happens once. But the call to follow Jesus, the call to walk along the narrow path, is a choice we make everyday in all our decisions.

 

Will we glorify God in our business dealings, in our personal relationships, in our free time activities? And each time we are tempted to do that which is evil, to do that which goes against the will of God what will we choose to do? Will we obey our parents? Will we love God more than our secret sins? Will we follow Christ?  

 

There are always two choices like these two paths: one is the pathway of holiness that leads to joy, to victory, to life, to fellowship with God; and the other is the path of unrighteousness (the path we know all to well) that leads to sin and brokenness, sorrow and tears; to pain and regret. In the Gospel Christ calls us to choose the right path – the narrow path; the path that leads to life.

 

2) The Paths Jesus Describes

That is the Choice Jesus presents. Secondly let’s look at the Paths Jesus Describes. As we already know there are only two paths, but notice how they differ in terms of their width and destination. Jesus says there is a narrow path and there is a broad/wide path.

 

Jesus not only mentions the width of the pathway but he also mentions the gate, which is like the “trail head”, the opening to the path itself. Jesus is comparing and contrasting the narrow gate and pathway of the Kingdom of God (heaven), to the broad gate and pathway to the kingdom of darkness (hell). Let’s talk about the broad way first.

 

The broad road or the wide road is the ‘easy way’. It is the road that many find and many choose to travel. The reason it is easy and that many people find it (choose it) is because it is the path that we’re born to tread as fallen sinners. The Bible teaches us that we are conceived and born in sin. Our sinful human nature finds itself at home on this path. This is where we long to walk, by nature. It is an easy path.

 

Even as Christians we can testify to this – we feel it in our own heart and soul. What’s the easy thing to do when someone does something mean to you? Boys and girls, what’s the easy thing to do when your brother or sister calls you a name or pushes you in the back or makes fun of you? The easy thing to do is to retaliate. The easy thing to do is to shove them back, to call them names, or to make fun of them.

 

The easy way is not very demanding. It has very few rules; it is (what we would call) the path of least resistance. It is the familiar pathway of human indulgence; of no restraint, of sinful pride, of selfishness, decadence and self-satisfaction. It is the pathway strewn with the promise of earthly pleasures and earthly riches; of self-fulfillment, joy, happiness and ultimate satisfaction!  

 

It is also the pathway of choice for those who make this world their home; who live for today; who give no thought to God, or to the life hereafter. That’s what makes this pathway is so appealing, so popular. That’s why so many people are traveling on it. I mean, who doesn’t want those things! Many believe that this path leads to everything this world has to offer!

But in reality, beloved, the broad path, the wide path is the pathway of the self-deceived. It is the pathway of the spiritually blind. It is the pathway where Satan himself is happily taking everyone by the hand and leading them, enticing them, luring them along -- just as Satan did with Eve. He lied to her and convinced her that God was holding out on her; that God’s way was the wrong way, the boring way. Satan convinced Eve that if she followed him, then he will open her eyes and then she will see and then she will experience what life is all about.

 

So that’s one path. But now, what about the other path?  What about the narrow path? As Jesus says, it’s the path with the narrow gate that few find, that few take. But why is that? And one of the things I always wondered when Jesus told this little story and made this comparison, why does Jesus make his kingdom (following him) sound so small, so unpopular and so unattractive?

 

We begin to answer those questions by first looking at what is required to enter the narrow gate. Now remember again what was required to enter the broad gate? We just have to remain who we are; remain in our sin and live life the way we want to live, and do the things we want to do. But what is required to enter the small gate and walk the narrow path that leads to salvation?

 

As Jesus told Nicodemus, you must to be born again. Only those who have faith in Jesus Christ as Lord can begin to walk this pathway. In John 10 Jesus declares I am the Gate through which the sheep must enter. And then in John 14 Jesus said, I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father, except through me

 

So to walk the narrow path one must first of all find the one way of salvation. And Peter preached about that Name in Acts 4: Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to man by which we must be saved. That name is Jesus Christ.


I believe a second reason that the gate is small and the pathway is narrow is because it speaks to the smallness of the kingdom of God in the eyes of man. It speaks to the smallness of Christ in the eyes of man. In his parables Jesus portrayed his kingdom as tiny as a mustard seed and as a treasure hidden in a field.

There is a smallness and hidden-ness to the kingdom of God. That is even reflected in the Christ of Christmas – in the smallness, the meekness and humility of our divine Savior who came to earth in human form, taking the form of a servant!  The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace came from heaven to earth as a tiny helpless  babe born in Bethlehem.

 

The gate is small; the gate is almost hidden from view. The gate was hard to find for Jews who sought miraculous signs and for Greeks seeking wisdom. To them, following Christ seemed like foolishness. But as Paul said: to those whom God has called, Christ is both the power and wisdom of God!

 

A third reason this path is called ‘narrow’ path is because it is the hard path. As we said before, the broad path is easy because it is the pathway of self-indulgence and self-satisfaction. But the narrow path is hard because it is the pathway of self-denial and self-sacrifice.  

 

And while entering through the narrow gate means believing in Jesus Christ, that on account of what Jesus did for us on the cross, his righteousness has become our own – it also means that we are to strive after holiness each day. The Christian life, the Christian walk is one of ongoing sanctification where God, by His Word and Spirit, calls us to die unto our sinful ways; to put the sinful nature to death; to say no to sin, and yes to righteousness. Again, that’s not easy.

 

In fact, as Jesus also spoke about in his parables, many people begin to walk down the narrow path. They have an initial desire to follow Jesus but then the trials of life press in on them, or the temptations of life cause them to stumble. Some leave the narrow path and go back to the broad path because they don’t want to deny themselves, they don’t want to take up their cross and follow Jesus.

 

And a fourth reason that Jesus calls this path the narrow path: it will cost us something. Following Jesus requires sacrifice. In Matthew 19 Jesus speaks of those who left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake. The disciples did that to follow Jesus. And in our own lives, Jesus calls us to put him first, even in marriage; even in friendships; even on Sunday. I know realtors who sacrificed a lot of business and clients because they refused to sell homes and show homes on Sunday. But following Jesus means putting Him and His kingdom first, and that requires sacrifice and trust.     

 

Some of you may know the name Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a Lutheran minister who was part of the underground movement which opposed Hitler in Nazi Germany. He was ultimately arrested and put to death shortly before the end of the War, but he knew something about the cost of discipleship.

 

He coined the term ‘cheap grace’. It is a term used to refer to those who attempted to follow Jesus at no cost or inconvenience to themselves. He wrote: “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance; baptism without church discipline; communion without confession...Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

 

He would say it is grace without the striving for holiness, without the suffering for righteousness sake, without the sacrifice that is required to follow the narrow path, to follow Christ to end!

 

So yes, walking the narrow path is difficult; it is hard; it is unpopular. And we can look over and we can see ‘the crowd’ over there on the other path, and so often (even as the Psalmist observes in Psalm 73) their way of life looks far easier. And maybe at times we’re tempted to go along with the crowd; to take the easy way once in a while.

 

But Christ calls us to stay on the path in spite of the difficulty. And let’s be honest and clear about this as well. The path before us is hard at times. The path Jesus calls us to follow is fraught with perils and impediments and stumbling blocks. And all of us have fallen along the way. We have all stumbled and fallen and wandered from the pathway, and we’ve needed the Lord (our faithful shepherd) to come after us and bring us back to the safety of the path.

 

And yet, the beautiful and comforting thing is, we never have to walk this pathway alone. That is the promise God made to Finn this morning in his baptism. That is the same promise God made to you and to me. I think of the wonderful words which the Lord spoke though his prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 41.11: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

Then in chapter 43 the Lord says through Isaiah again: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

 

Beloved, the Lord is with us every step of the way, isn’t he? He guides our steps. He takes us by the hand. When we stumble and fall into sin, he helps us up. He forgives us and strengthens our weak knees!

 

And as to the place where the Lord is leading us, as to the destination of the narrow path, we have to remember that the sacrifices and troubles -- the “cost” of following Jesus -- is but a small and think compared to the glory that will be revealed to us in Christ Jesus.

 

Blessings abound for those who follow Jesus – blessings not only in the life to come, but also blessings here and now. The narrow pathway is the pathway that leads to life: to fullness of life. It is the pathway that leads to joy – to true and everlasting joy. It is the pathway that leads to eternal fellowship with God, and those are blessings this world cannot offer. 

 

So which way will you go? Which path will you choose? Today the Gospel calls you, Jesus calls you, to choose the narrow path that leads to life. Amen. 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://www.bethelurc.org/

(c) Copyright, Pastor Keith Davis

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