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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:One Way or the Other
Text:Matthew 7:13-29 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Running the race

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

Text: Matthew 7: 13-14 (Scripture reading: Matthew 7: 13-29)

Reading Sermon at Bethel URC on 2-7-21


Beloved brothers and sisters of the Lord Jesus Christ, every day of our lives we make a series of choices. Most of those choices are of little or no consequence: what shirt we wear, what cereal we eat for breakfast, which road we take to work. For the most part, none of those choices make a huge impact on our day to day lives. We wouldn’t classify those as ‘life-changing’ decisions.  


Whereas, what university do we attend, which career path do we choose, what house to buy, and which church to join, those are more significant choices. And we often describe the process of making those life-changing choices as “standing before a crossroads”.


We picture ourselves standing at a point with several paths lying before us, each heading in a different direction. But which path do we choose? We must decide. Which way will we go?     


I want us to think of this passage from Matthew 7 in that same light. Here, Jesus describes two roads, two very different paths that go off in two different directions, leading to two very different destinations. The one path is small and narrow and difficult. The other is broad and wide and easy.


And Jesus is not just describing these paths to us, but he’s calling us to choose. Christ wants you and me to envision ourselves standing at the crossroads – standing at the trailhead where these two paths diverge – and we must choose. We must walk one path or the other. Which one will we take?   


Here Jesus Calls His People to Choose the Narrow Path. Let’s observe these two points:

  1. The Choice that Jesus Presents.
  2. The Pathways that Jesus Describes.


1)  The Choice that Jesus Presents.

To begin with, let’s take just a few moments to see how these verses relate to the surrounding context. These verses are part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus began that sermon back in Matthew chapter 5, and here in chapter 7 He is drawing the sermon to a close, to its conclusion.

And how does Jesus do that? Just as we might expect from the greatest evangelical minister on earth, He calls his listeners to make a decision. He moves the people beyond the point of being a passive audience to that of actively responding to his sermon. Jesus engages them. He calls them to see that a choice is before them. Two pathways are before them. And each one of them must choose which way to go.  


The fact that there are only two paths is significant. It follows the same kinds of comparisons and contrasts that follow. In vs. 15-16, Jesus speaks about a false prophet and a good prophet. How do you determine who is true and who is false? Jesus says, By their fruit you shall know them.


Then in verses 17-20 Jesus describes two trees which produce two different kinds of fruit: one produces good fruit and the other bad (vv. 15-20). Then in verses 21-23 Jesus mentions two kinds of people – those who claim to know God, but really don’t (they are the hypocrites); and then there are those who really do know God because they do the will of the Father (again, they are made known by their fruits).


Finally, in the last section of chapter 7, Jesus describes two houses built on two very different foundations: one of made sand and the other made of rock. And Jesus describes what happens to each house as they both are exposed to the storms of life. One house has a true foundation that will withstand the storms; while the other has a false foundation which will fail.   


So what point is Jesus making here? In showing us these side-by-side comparisons, Jesus is emphasizing the fact that in this life there are only TWO directions, two paths, two options, only two destinations. There is the pathway that leads to eternal life and there is the path that leads to eternal destruction and death in hell. All of humanity is headed in one of those two directions. There is no middle ground. There is no third option. There are no other pathways to choose.


On that very point, author John Stott points out that what Jesus says here is not very popular in our day and age. This eliminates the popular notion of syncretism – which is the idea or belief that there are many gods, and many religions, and that all every paths leads to the same destination.  


So, what Jesus says here would be considered highly insensitive and offensive to many people today. Clearly Jesus was not worried about being politically correct. His only concern is the state of men’s souls, and that is why his preaching is so direct and deliberate.


Notice as well, Jesus makes no concession for those who claim to be “non-religious”; for those who want to have nothing to do with Jesus, or who deny that there is a heaven or a hell. In other words: “not choosing a path” is not an option. You are either for Jesus or you are against Jesus.


So, to refuse to choose a path, to refuse to acknowledge Jesus, or to deny that there is a heaven or a hell is the same thing as rejecting Jesus.  An unwillingness to believe anything is still a choice – and it puts you squarely on the pathway to hell.   


In John 14:6 Jesus declared to His disciples: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. That is essentially the same message, the same gospel that Jesus is preaching here in these verses. 


That gospel message is proclaimed to every man, woman and child on earth. It calls one and all to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of our souls – so that we sinners may lay hold of the free gift of salvation offered through the blood of Christ.


And just as Jesus presented that Gospel to the people in his day, so he presents it now to us. Oday each one of us is called again to believe in the Gospel, to put our faith and trust in Christ. That’s the purpose behind reading the preparatory form for communion as well: so we can be reminded this week that when we come to the Table of the Lord, we are coming to Christ. We are coming to eat and drink of the gracious provision that He has made for us through His body and blood!


And that Gospel demands a choice – it demands a verdict. It demands that we choose each day whether we will live for Christ or for ourselves; whether we will follow the pathway of righteousness or walk in the ways of the ungodly. In this week of self-examination, we need to pray to the Lord to reveal to us our sin; to show us all the ways in which we refuse to follow Him.


As Psalm 129:23-24 says: Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.    


2) The Pathways that Jesus Describes

That is the Choice Jesus presents. Notice secondly: the Pathways that Jesus Describes. As we said know, there are only two paths. But notice how they differ in terms of their width and their destination. Jesus says there is a narrow and small path and there is also a broad and wide path.


Jesus not only mentions the width of each pathway but he also mentions the gate - which is like the “trail head”, the opening to the path itself. The broad road, the wide gate is the ‘easy way’. It is the road that many find and many choose to travel.


And there’s a very simple explanation as to why Jesus says that this is the easy path and the path that many choose. It’s 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 is ‘at home’ on this path. This is where we by nature long to walk. It’s where we love to walk. We’re drawn to it!  


Even as Christians we can testify to this -- we feel this in our own heart and soul. Giving in to sin always seems easier than resisting sin. Indulging our lustful desires always seems easier (and more pleasurable) than denying those sinful desires.


Boys and girls, what’s the easy thing to do when our brother or sister does something mean or nasty to us? When they call us a name or hit us? We want to hit them back, to ‘hurt them’ back. We want to take revenge. That’s the easy way, the sinful way, the broad path Jesus is talking about.   


Likewise, in our world, the broad path is pathway of least resistance. It is the pathway of human indulgence; of no laws, no rules, not restraint. It is the pathway of sinful pride, of selfishness, decadence and self-satisfaction. It is the pathway that is strewn with all that Satan promises for this life: earthly pleasures, earthly riches; self-fulfillment, happiness and satisfaction! 


But in reality, the broad path, the wide path is the pathway of the foolish and self-deceived. It is the pathway of the spiritually blind. It is the pathway where Satan himself is leading everyone who will follow him right to the very pit of hell itself. So that’s one path.


But what about the other path? Jesus says, there is also the narrow path with the small gate that few find and few take. But why is that? That is one of the things I always wondered about in this passage. Why would Jesus describe or characterize His kingdom in this way – as if the way is so hard and His followers so few?


To answer that we have to remember that Jesus is comparing these two paths. Remember what was required to enter the broad gate and to talk the easy path? Nothing. All we have to do is remain who we are. To remain in our sins. To live this 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? It requires change. It requires transformation. It requires regeneration. Remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3? Unless a man is born again he cannot see (he cannot enter) the Kingdom of God.


As we know, being born again is not something we can do by ourselves. It is something that God must do for us; that God must do in our hearts and souls by the working of His Holy Spirit!  So in order to walk the narrow path one must first of all turn to the One true God who alone can put our feet on the narrow pathway!


That means (as we said earlier) that we must come to Christ and believe in Him.  As Peter preached 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.


To walk the narrow path requires us to recognize the sin and the folly of going on our way and living our own life. We must want to belong to Jesus and live our lives for Huis glory and for His purposes. It is to die unto ourselves and live unto Him!  

But there’s a second reason Jesus describes the gate as small and the pathway as narrow. It’s because this is an accurate description of the kingdom of God as seen through the eyes of man. There is a smallness, a hidden quality to the kingdom of God. In man’s eyes, the kingdom of God seems small – almost undetectable.


In some of his parables, Jesus describes his kingdom as being as tiny as a mustard seed and as hidden as a treasure that is buried in a field. That truth is reflected in the way Christ came into this world -- in the smallness, the meekness and the humility of God coming in human flesh, coming in a tiny infant, born to the Virgin Mary who was an unwed mother no less.


And Jesus himself was not much to look at. Isaiah 53:2 says: He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. And those Jesus gathered to himself as disciples were hardly the brightest and best theological scholars. Many of them were uneducated fisherman.


Likewise, in his ministry Jesus identified himself among tax collectors and sinners. And it was this Jesus who came to save his people in a most unusual and even scandalous way: by becoming sin for his people; by bearing the curse of sin; by suffering and dying a shameful and cursed death! Never was there a man so badly shamed and humiliated as Jesus was – so who would want to follow a leader like that? Who would put their faith in a man like this who claimed to be a Savior and King?


For this reason, Jesus was a stumbling block to the Jews who sought a more glorious Messiah. And Jesus was foolishness to the Greeks who sought a higher wisdom. But as the Apostle Paul pointed out: to those whom God has called, Christ is both the power and the wisdom of God!


And there’s a third reason this pathway is called ‘narrow’ and the path is difficult. It is because the way of Christ is the pathway of suffering, and sacrifice and self-denial. While following Jesus will ultimately lead us to great gain in heaven, it will almost assuredly cost us something here on earth.  

And that is a sacrifice that not many are willing to make – not even some who call themselves Christians.

In Matthew 19 Jesus speaks of those who made great sacrifices to follow Jesus, who gave up things in this life, and in this world, all for the sake of believing on Jesus and following him. The passage states: Everyone who left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 


The disciples made that sacrifice to follow Jesus. Many of them followed Jesus unto their own deaths as they were martyred for their faith. And to all who follow him, Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow. To be willing to suffer loss and shame and indignity and position and status all for the sake of being counted as his discilpes.


And in our day to day lives, there are choices we make that will show the world, that will show others, that will show our friends, and family, and neighbors day who we are following and which path we are on. Jesus calls us to put him first, to follow His ways in marriage; in our friendships; in our work practices, and in times of temptation when we are tempted to indulge our sinful desires.


Think of it this way: the question is not really what will we choose, but it is WHO will we choose. Will we choose to follow Jesus? Or will we choose to follow our own ways? Will we choose to follow Jesus, or will we follow others who are going a separate way?


And make no mistake about it, walking the narrow path is difficult; it is hard; and it is unpopular. And at times, we look over and we can see ‘the crowd’ on the other path, and so often (even as the Psalmist observes in Psalm 73) their way looks easier. There way may look like so much more fun. At times it may even look like God is blessing the wicked while we are suffering hardship and loss.   


And be aware of this as well -- the path we walk is riddled with perils and impediments – some of which are of our own making. And all of us have stumbled and fallen and even wandered from the pathway at one time or another. But God is faithful! Our faithful shepherd has come after us and He finds us, and He brings us back to the pathway of righteousness.


So which way will you go, beloved? Which path will you choose? Today the Gospel calls you, it call me, to choose the narrow path that leads to life. I want to close with the word of encouragement and challenge from Hebrews 12: 1-3.


It says: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.



Prayer of application:


Our merciful God, you are pleased to condescend to us and to speak to us through Your Word. Grant us all grace, Lord, that we may not only be hearers of Your Word, but doers also.

Give us the grace of Your Holy Spirit that we may believe what has been proclaimed to us. May we bring glory and honor to Your name in all that we do, as You conform us to the image of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. All of this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, Amen.

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