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Author:Rev. A Veldman
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Southern River
 West Kelmscott
 www.frcsr.com
 
Title:Christ's instruction about entering the kingdom of heaven
Text:Matthew 7:13-14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2001-02-11
Added:2004-01-27
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading : Matthew 7, 13-27
Text : Matthew 7, 13 & 14
Ps. 119 : 1,4
Ps. 119 : 14
Ps. 73 : 8,9
Ps. 25 : 2,4
Hy. 53 : 1,2
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. A Veldman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

The text for this morning's sermon is taken from the last section of Christ's Sermon on the Mount. In this final section the Lord Jesus stresses very emphatically that we must be not only hearers but also doers of God's Word. Says Christ, "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." We can faithfully come to church every Sunday, but if in the meantime we do nothing with the sermons we hear, we are as foolish as that man who built his house on the sand. A house that perhaps on the outside looked very nice and impressive. But when the rain came down, when the floods came and the wind blew beating against that house, it fell, since it had no secure foundation. Great was its fall, says Christ.

It is with these serious words that Christ concludes His Sermon, which He had started so beautifully:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth."

Beautiful words, indeed! Beautiful words with which Christ wanted to comfort those who were listening to Him. At the end of His sermon Christ does not take anything back from these rich promises, but He stresses they will not be realised just automatically. For My Father in heaven also requires obedience to the word I have spoken, and this not just outwardly but He asks an obedience which comes from the heart.

Well, beloved, that same obedience the Lord also requires from us. We are to serve Him from the heart. We must love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, and with all our strength. In addition we also are to love our neighbour as ourselves. This is surely not an easy command. It re-quires self-denial, as Christ Himself once said it as well, "If anyone de-sires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Thus following the Lord Jesus Christ requires sacrifices.

This becomes clear also from the words chosen as text for this morning's sermon, where Christ says that the gate to life is narrow, and the way to life difficult. Because of this it is only few that will find it. And yet this difficult way is the only way to enter the kingdom of heaven. For who-ever opts for the broad highway, thinking one can serve the Lord there as well and this in a much easier way > says Christ, in the end that person will find himself standing outside the kingdom of heaven.
It is this serious warning, with which Christ concludes His Sermon on the Mount, on which I would like to focus in this morning's sermon. I have summarised the message of this text as follows,

CHRIST'S INSTRUCTION ABOUT ENTERING THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
In this instruction He points to
1) the sacrifices which are required
- the gate is narrow and the road difficult
2) the isolation involved
- those who find it are few

I) The words of this morning's text, Br. & Sr., are well-known. I think we all are quite familiar with the figure speech used here by the Lord Jesus: the straight and narrow road on which it is not always easy to travel over against the broad highway on which one seemingly can travel without any worries. A familiar picture! Yet although familiar I wonder whether it is indeed clear to all of us why the Lord Jesus calls the gate leading to the kingdom of heaven narrow and the road to travel on diffi-cult.

In former days many a Christian family had a print on the wall with a pic-ture on it of these two ways mentioned in our text. On this picture the broad highway passed the pub, the nightclub, the cinema, and a lot of other worldly entertainment; in short: a picture of a real offensive way of life. On the other hand the narrow road was pictured really narrow, pass-ing along steep cliffs; indeed hard to travel on! The purpose of this print was to warn against a worldly way of life and as such it was surely in line with the warning we read in our text.

At the same time I wonder wether the contrasting colours of this picture were of much help. For if travelling on the broad highway was only a matter of indulging oneself in all kind of worldly entertainment, perhaps the vast majority of the church members were not so much in danger of walking on this road. At least I hope so. But does this do justice to the warning Christ voices in our text? Surely not!

For a start in this sermon Christ is not addressing unbelievers asking them to enter through the narrow gate and therefore to leave the broad highway that leads to destruction. But He is addressing the NT church, those whom at the beginning of this sermon He had called 'blessed', 'the salt of the earth', and 'the light of the world'. For a proper understanding of our text we do well to keep this in mind.
For as regards these two ways, beloved, it's surely not so that once you have chosen to travel on that narrow road, you are no longer in danger of coming into contact with all the things the broad highway has to offer. Like the cycle path along the Swan River, for example; cycling on this path you don't have to worry about all the cars that pass by along River-side Drive. You are quite safe.
One would indeed love that it was like this with these two roads men-tioned in our text, so that travelling on the one path you don't have to worry about the traffic on the other path. Yet the story is totally different, since the narrow road and the broad highway of our text continually meet each other. Within the analogy I could say: there are many crossroads, where one has to be very careful not to make the wrong turn and in doing so endanger his life. That's why we do well to take the warning of our text quite serious. It's not so that this is a warning only for some of us; a warning only for those members of the congregation who perhaps have a desire to indulge themselves in all kind of worldly entertainment. No, with this word Christ addresses all of us, since we all are in danger here. This may become clear when next we will address the question why Christ speaks about a narrow gate. Yes, what is it that makes the gate to life narrow and the road to life difficult to travel on?

When reading the words of our text in their context this question is not so difficult to answer. In the Sermon on the Mount Christ speaks about the righteousness, which God requires of us. I could also say, in this sermon Christ points us to the house rules of the kingdom of heaven. What are these rules? Well, let me just list some as Christ mentions them in this sermon:
living as one family in the house of God we are not allowed to be angry with our brother; and in case there is a conflict we should always be willing and ready to reconcile
we are not to look at a woman lustfully
our 'yes' should be 'yes' and our 'no' should be 'no'
we must love our enemies and bless those who curse us
we must always be willing and ready to forgive our neighbour
we must not lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, but treasures in heaven
we must not serve Mammon but serve God
we should not be anxious about what we shall eat and what we shall drink, nor about what we shall wear, but we must trust our Father in heaven that He will provide always

In short, Br. & Sr., entering through the narrow gate and travelling on the road that leads to life has everything to do with the obedience God re-quires of us. It means that you want to serve the LORD from the heart, without turning to the right or the left.

From this explanation it can be clear that one can easily loose his footing and slip on this narrow road. As I said it before: we all are in danger here. Well, beloved, that's exactly the reason why the Lord Jesus concludes this sermon on such a serious note saying, "You should not just listen to My words, but you now also have to live accordingly. For that's the only way in which your life will really be blessed. Realise that all other ways - no matter how attractive they may seem to be > all other ways lead to de-struction, to death, death eternally!



I think the message is clear, beloved. Enter by the narrow gate, i.e. walk in the ways of the LORD! After all, that makes life beautiful. For then our Father in heaven receives the glory due to Him. He, who in Christ has blessed us so richly! Yes, in Christ, we are indeed tremendously rich.
Yet the paradox now is that it is exactly these riches in Christ, which make the gate to life narrow. Why? The answer is: because the vast ma-jority of the people look for riches and joy rather somewhere else.

Saying this, beloved, I'm not only speaking about unbelievers, but there are also church members - young people as well as adults - who regard the pleasures to be enjoyed along the broad highway more interesting and more precious than the riches they have received in Christ. They don't want to give them up. If you would ask them they would still say that they love the LORD and walk in accordance with God's commandments. But in the meantime they interpret God's commandments less strictly than Christ does it in the Sermon on the Mount.

Br. & Sr., taking the warning of this morning's text to heart we better ex-amine ourselves whether with us there is indeed a true genuine desire to serve the LORD according to His Word; whether we are indeed willing to walk on that narrow road without turning to the right or the left. Yes, do the riches in Christ indeed mean everything to us? And - if necessary - are we also willing to bring sacrifices for it; sacrifices by giving up a sin-ful lifestyle of which deep down we know quite well that it is not pleasing the LORD. This might be difficult. But that's exactly what it says in our text. The way that leads to life is difficult.

Walking on the broad highway one doesn't have to worry about this, and of course that makes life much easier. But note well, that highway which is much easier to travel on is actually a no through road. And also when you have come to the end of that no through road it's too late to turn around, too late to find back that narrow road. Then you are lost. And so we do well to pay careful attention to the road signs put up by the Lord Jesus in the concluding part of His Sermon on the Mount.

Prof. J. VanBruggen in his commentary on this sermon, which has as subheading "a travel guide for Christians", writes the following,
"Although criss-crossed by recognizable and well-travelled roads, the Pales-tine hill-country also contained small paths to villages and fields, sometimes only marked by a couple of stones. Then it's necessary to be careful and pay attention to the marks in the sand or grass. While the wider road often travels around the village, that hardly traceable path leads to it. Whoever finds it, ar-rives home."

Well, let us too be careful to pay attention to these signs to arrive home eternally, home in the New Jerusalem. In terms that are more practical this means to have a safe journey God's Word should always be an open book for us, by which we let ourselves be guided in whatever we do. Without this clear guide or whenever we try to bend this guide our way, we will loose the right direction and the end might well that we loose the road altogether. Beloved, let it never come that far in your life and there-fore make sure that you always carefully follow the direction set out by God in His Word.

In the passage following the words of our text the Lord Jesus warns against false prophets, i.e. prophets who try to widen that narrow road by interpreting God's commandments less strictly. And of course such teach-ing goes down very well with the people. It's much easier to listen to. And again, then we should not give thought straight away to false teach-ing in other churches. It starts much closer to home, often in little things. We just go slightly off the track.
For example in a discussion with someone who addresses us about certain things we do, we say, "What is wrong with this or with that? Don't be so narrow-minded." Yet we say this because we just want to do what we like. We no longer have primarily in mind what God wants us to do. Own pleasures rank higher than God's commandments. We find God's com-mandments too strict. We want more space for ourselves, the space that is provided on the broad highway. We find the road we have to travel too narrow. And we wonder: does it indeed have to be so narrow? For even though I do all these things I still love the Lord. No one should question that. But what kind of love is that, beloved? It's non-committal: the Lord his bit, but also a bit for myself. Such non-committal love would never work in a good marriage relationship. A marriage relationship in which I say to my wife, "I love you," yet at the same time I also spent time with other women. That would never work. Well, beloved, do you think it would work in the covenant relationship we have the Lord? Of course not!

I think the Sermon on the Mount is clear in this respect. As regards God's commandments the Lord Jesus explains these commandments indeed in a very strict way. Let me just mention a couple of examples. Then I think first of all of Mt. 5, 21 & 22, "." This surely is a serious word. When as communion of saints we have to live up to these words there is quite some work to be done among us. Often we shrug this off by taking these words less serious with the result that nothing changes. But, beloved, that's not what Christ wants. He says: this is how God's children should live together in the kingdom of My Father. Yes, then the gate is indeed narrow and the road difficult.


I would like to mention one other example, Mt. 5, 27 & 28, "." With these words the Lord Jesus points to the root also of the 7th Command-ment, condemning even all impure desires, which in today's sexually ori-entated society so easily are aroused also in us. Yes, then it is hard to keep our hearts and lives pure, to live holy before the LORD. Also in this area there are many dangers that threaten us and our children. Again then the gate is narrow and the road difficult to travel on. Difficult, when our heart goes out to the pleasures to be enjoyed in this world. Yet, Br. & Sr., realize all what this world has to offer us is passing away, not lasting, whilst the riches in Christ never pass away, they last forever. Looking at it from that angle it should not be difficult what to choose.

Some months ago I read an article in which the author stated that the main reason for world-conformity creeping into the church is that the riches we have received in Christ are no longer sufficient. We want more: we want to serve the Lord, but at the same time we don't want to give up on all kind of worldly entertainment, e.g., why can I not watch that movie, even though it is rated MA? But, beloved, do we really expect something good out of such a movie? Sometimes we are so used to por-traying sin against the 7th commandment and coarse language in movies, that we no longer realize that it grieves our Father in heaven. But when it grieves my Father in heaven, can I then still enjoy watching it? And so I could mention more examples of not wanting to give up what we think we still can enjoy, even though deep down we know quite well that it does not please the Lord.

I would like to refer here to an expression we meet at various places in the OT, "The Lord is my portion!" This word 'portion' refers to the OT law, where every Israelite received a part of the Promised Land, apart from the Levites. They had to live from the income of the tabernacle: the Lord was their portion. In other words, they were completely depended on what the Lord provided for them and they rejoiced in it.
When in many OT psalms we read: "The Lord is my portion!" it thus means I rejoice in what the Lord gives me, that's sufficient. Well, like-wise today, the riches we have received in Christ should be sufficient for us. Then we do not look for pleasure, wealth and riches elsewhere. We rejoice in being a child of the Lord. The Lord is my portion! Then I agree with the author of Psalm 73,
"Whom do I have in heav'n but Thee?
Who shall on earth my refuge be?
Since I have Thee as Rock and Saviour,
I seek no further wealth or favour.
Although my flesh and heart my fail,
God is my strength, I shall prevail.
For He, who steadfast love is sure,
Will be my portion evermore."

Living in accordance with the words of this psalm makes life rich, tre-mendously rich, rich in Christ! Moreover, these are riches we receive for nothing. In fact they are already ours. They have been granted to us at the day we were baptised. It's like a cheque given to you. You only have to cash it by embracing Christ in faith. Yet whoever considers this cheque as worthless will miss out on the riches it represents.

I hope the message is clear, beloved. The gate through which we may en-ter the kingdom of heaven is narrow indeed. The road to life can be hard to travel on. Yet those who travel on this road are blessed in Christ. And that makes all the difference.

As parents we should tell this also to our children, not in such a way that they get a dislike of travelling on this road, but instead may rejoice in obeying God's commandments. Then indeed the way in which we speak with our children is very important. For example, when they come home and ask you, "Dad, why am I not allowed to do this or to do that? Why can't I go that party?" Then we should not just say, "Because I say it and you have to listen! Full stop!" No then we should do what Moses the Is-raelite's fathers told to do. Let us just have a look at that. > Explain Deut. 6, 20ff, "."
See there, how we should speak with our children with warmth and love about serving the LORD, as something to be enjoyed. Telling them also that obeying God's commandments is for our good always! May the Lord through His Spirit bless such teaching, so that also our young people have only one desire: to walk on that narrow road, even though at times it might be difficult.

Young people, you too should remember on that narrow road Christ is on our side. And He will make sure that despite the difficulties you may face on that road, your foot will not slip or falter. Yes, when we cling to Him we will receive the strength we need to walk firmly on the narrow road without turning to the right or to the left. Yes, then we will even rejoice in that we are allowed to walk on this road, this toll free road, which leads to the New Jerusalem.

II) We saw, Br. & Sr., entering the kingdom of have requires sacri-fices. Since the gate is narrow, we cannot take along everything to enter through that gate. Our own proud ego, our old sinful nature, worldly bag-gage, that illicit joint you smoke together with your friend, etc., - these are all things we must do away with first before we can enter through this gate. For this gate is too narrow to take these things along. They will only hinder us travelling on the road to the New Jerusalem. It's no wonder, therefore, that many people rather travel on that other road, the broad highway, where one does not have to make these sacrifices.
Travelling on the narrow road thus can become a very lonely exercise. It brings with it isolation. The Lord Jesus points this out as well, when He says, "There are few who find it."

Again we have to keep in mind, whom the Lord Jesus is addressing in the Sermon on the Mount. Speaking in our text about many over against few Christ is not referring to many unbelievers over against few believers. But addressing His disciples He says that even in the church there are mem-bers who prefer travelling on the highway above travelling on that diffi-cult road. These are members who consider Christ's interpretation of God's commandments to be too strict. They find it too difficult to live this way. They want more freedom, the freedom that is offered on the highway. No, they don't mind to come to church on Sunday. They may even have appreciation for the sermons they hear. But that's all. They don't want to make any real sacrifice for the service of the LORD.

This shows, Br. & Sr., that being a member of the church, being baptised, or even having made profession of faith does not automatically cause one to walk on the narrow road. Serving the LORD requires making a choice every day again, a choice to serve the LORD from the heart and to do away with all sinful baggage, which hinders us to enter through the nar-row gate. Doing so it can happen that even fellow members in the church start laughing at you, calling you a 'goodie, goodie'. "Come on, don't be so narrow-minded. You don't have to take life so serious!" Remarks like these hurt, especially when they come from fellow members in the church. At times it can make life indeed pretty lonely, we feel the isola-tion, not only in the world, but at times even in the church.

No, then we don't have to seek this isolation just for the sake of it. In the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount we read about the church being the salt of the earth. For an example of this salting function I could refer to what we read in Rev. 11 about the two witnesses raising their voices in the street of the great city, which refers to the prophetical calling the church has in the midst of this world. That's how we are to live our Chris-tian life in the world. Yes, then we have to show also the community around us, the community in which live that the gate to life is narrow. Well, you don't show this when at the same time you still join in with all kind of worldly parties or when throughout the week you live life to the full in the same way as some of the unbelieving people around you. We are to make a stand, even when this causes us to become isolated. Be-loved, it is exactly in this isolation that you will find your strength.

Then people may laugh at you, even fellow church members, saying that you are much too serious, much too narrow-minded. But then you carry this cross joyfully for Christ's sake. No, then this might not always be easy. But remember then what Christ Himself says in this same Sermon on the Mount, Mt. 5, 11 & 12a, "."

See there why we don't have to loose heart, even when the road we have to travel is difficult and the number of travellers on that road might be few. For - as I said before - on this road Christ is with us and that makes all the difference. Yes, with the Saviour on our side we can travel on de-spite the hardships we might have to endure.

Enter by the narrow gate. Perhaps, Br. & Sr., we do not always like the narrowness of this gate. Yet when this happens it might well be that we have our eyes no longer fixed on Christ and the riches we have received in Him. For if we would do so then it becomes a joy to walk on this road. Then we feel privileged, even though the journey might not always be easy. After all, nowhere does Scripture promise God's children an easy journey through life. Yet it does promise a safe arrival, as long as we cling to God's promise.

Beloved, may joy in God's promises always determine your life. Rejoice in the fact that the Lord is your portion. Then your walk on the narrow road might not always be easy, but it will be a blessed walk. Blessed, since on this road Christ walks with us and He will keep us safe in His care.
Amen.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. A Veldman, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2001, Rev. A Veldman

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