Now we're turning in our Bibles again to Matthew's gospel and chapter 7, Matthew chapter 7, beginning to read at verse 13 - and I've entitled the message today "With Christ At The Crossroads". We'll take time to read the remainder of this chapter in the last portion of the Sermon on the Mount, because it's very important in our exposition this morning that we put these two verses that we're looking at - verses 13 and 14 - in the context in which they are found, and the train of thought that the Lord Jesus is speaking with in this chapter.
So beginning at verse 13, the Lord Jesus says: "Enter ye in at the strait gate", or the narrow gate, "for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because narrow is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into 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 thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes".
Any preacher will know that every good sermon will end, or should at least end, with a challenge - a challenge to obey the word of God that he has been preaching. Ultimately with that challenge there should come an invitation to enter in to the truth and the principle that has been expounded. Of course, the Lord Jesus is and always shall be the Prince and the King of preachers, and we have exactly this in these verses that we have read together this morning - specifically verses 13 and 14. You have the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, we are given a challenge at the end of the Sermon, and indeed an invitation to enter into all that He has been outlining in this great Sermon. You see that He does this by a contrast between what is true and what is false. Right throughout this Sermon He's been outlining and expounding for us that in life which may seem to be righteousness, may seem to be a righteous way of life, but the fine line that there can be between true righteousness and hypocritical righteousness, or self-righteousness. He's outlined for us right throughout the Sermon the true and the false, and now He comes into the conclusion, He's speaking again of the true and the false.
In verses 13 and 14 He talks about a true gate, the narrow gate; and then He talks about the false gate that is the wide gate. In verses 13 and 14 He talks about a wide way and a narrow way, in other words the true way and the false way - but as we continue down this passage we see in verses 15 to 20 that He talks about true prophets and false prophets. In verses 21 to 23 He talks about true professors - those who genuinely possess the life of God in their hearts - and false professors, those who profess faith in Christ, and may do many mighty things, and say many mighty words, but the life of God does not dwell in their hearts. Then we read at the end of this portion, verses 24 to 27, that He talks about the wise man and the foolish man - those who take the truth of the word of God and build their lives upon it, and others who take falsehoods and build their lives upon them. So right throughout even this passage we have the true and the false.
So the Lord is coming, at the conclusion of His sermon, with an invitation for us to enter in not to what is false, but to enter into the truth of what He has been teaching in these words of this great Sermon. He gives us four warnings, each offering paired contrasts. He talks of two ways, two trees, two professions and claims, and then two builders each building their buildings on something different. So the whole crowd around the hearing of the words of the Lord Jesus is now invited to enter into the truth of what He is saying. We too, as we've been following the Lord in His teaching over these last few weeks, we are asked now to weigh up our devotion, our dedication and our profession to the Lord Jesus. He has been contrasting right throughout this Sermon that which is only an outward profession, an outward appearance of godliness and righteousness, and that which is a deep, real, living, vital faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that is seen and witnessed through an outward life of true righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees.
So right at the end of this Sermon, what is He asking us to do? 'You've heard all that I have said, now I want you to ask yourself: do you belong to this true righteousness, or do you belong to this false righteousness? In other words, do you have only an outward, Pharisaical, self-righteous appearance of religion that professes to be wise, that professes to have the truth, but denies the power thereof - or do you have a vital, genuine relationship with Christ as a true disciple and follower of His?'.
Now the general picture is very clear within these verses that we're looking at this morning. There are two gates, two roads, two crowds, and two destinations. We're very familiar with choices in our lives, and in fact I would vouch to say that most of you are faced with choices every day. Your life is like a crossroads, and many crossroads that you face day after day. When you got up this morning you decided, probably, what you would wear - at least I think most of you decided, looking at you, what you were going to wear this morning! You decided what you were going to have for breakfast, maybe as you go to work in the morning you decide and choose what route you're going to take - what will be the fastest on any particular day, if the schools are off, or if it's a Bank Holiday or whatever. You go through work, and you may have to make decisions in your employment and in your vocation. Generally speaking we live in what we would call consumerist society - there are so many choices round about us, we live in a materialistic society, that anything that we can stretch our hands out to we can bring to ourselves, we can own, we can buy even if it may be on 'HP'. We have many choices that we can make, and we live in a generation today that perhaps we could say has a choice of many things that no other generation has ever had. We live in the 'supermarket mentality', where in every realm of life we can enter into the vast hall of goods, with a myriad of choice, and we can just choose our fancy. Decaffeinated coffee, caffeinated coffee, different types of ground coffee, different types of cereals, different types of breads and milks, and all sorts of foods and clothing and cars and you-name-it - we have been conditioned in the age in which we live to choose things out of a vast myriad and a vast selection of choice.
But here in the Sermon on the Mount, at the conclusion of these great words that the Lord has been speaking, He only gives His listeners one choice - only one choice! In the pluralistic society in which we live, a polytheistic society that has so many gods; and if you like in the religious realm we live in the supermarket of religious choice, that sees one choice as absolutely foolish - if you don't have every god under the sun to choose from - religion today is fusing together every god, every kind of faith and religion, so that there's no choice at all. It's not a choice between millions of gods, but we just all follow the one god, and everything is the same. We don't have a choice from millions of deities, and millions of religious faiths, we have no choice at all because they just put them all together in a big snowball and say that we worship 'the one true god' - and no one really knows who he is.
But the Lord gives us one choice, one choice and only one - and as we go through the word of God, and even history, we find that all great men give other men great choices. The theme of two ways that we're looking at in these verses - verses 13 and 14, and indeed right throughout the passage - is the theme that's right throughout the whole of the word of God. It's a Jewish theme, it's common in Jewish literature, and you will remember - going to the very end of the Pentateuch, at the end of the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 30 verses 15 and 20 - as Moses is leaving the Biblical scene he says these words to the people of Israel: "See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil...therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live". He's given them the law of God, all the precepts and commandments that are laid down in the first five books of the Bible, and now as Moses is leaving them he says: 'Now I've set before you the way of life and the way of death; now choose, today, life, that you may live and that your seed may live'. And incidentally you will remember how the Lord Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, has been mirroring the law of Moses, and He's coming to fill up the law of Moses, not to destroy it, but to fulfil it in its perfect completeness - and now He, as the new lawgiver, is coming and doing exactly the same as Moses: 'Choose what I have said. I've set before you life and death, now enter into it and choose this narrow gate, choose this narrow way, and you shall live'.
Joshua, when he was laying down the leadership of the nation of Israel at the end of his life, he presented those people with the same choice. He said: 'Choose you this day whom you will serve'. Jeremiah, the great prophet, heard the voice of God saying to him: 'Unto this people shalt thou say, Thus saith the Lord, Behold I have set before you the way of life and the way of death', and Christ comes in the New Testament era and He gives us the greatest choice of all!
The big question is: what is the choice? You may say: 'What do you mean?'. Well what I mean by that simply is this: many people have debated theologians and scholars down through all the years what this choice is, what He is actually asking us to enter into. What is the gate that we have to go through, the narrow gate? Or what is even the wide gate that people enter through? What is the narrow way? What is the broad road? What is the destination of destruction and the destination of life? What exactly is it? Let me say to you today that the Sermon on the Mount is not a black-and-white sermon, and it is very difficult in some places, and indeed the word of God is difficult in some places - and we do the Scriptures a great disservice when we just push them into our little scheme and apparatus of doctrine, despite all the evidence that seems to be before our eyes.
I want to say at the outset of this exposition today: I don't hold all the answers, and I don't claim to have them all, but I'll say this: it is better to debate something and come up with no answers, than to come up with an answer without debating anything. We've got to be honest with the word of God, and many people say that this way, the narrow way and the broad way, are the ways that lead to hell and the ways that lead to heaven. There's no doubt about this, that this text can be applied to the Gospel, for in John chapter 10 and verse 9 the Lord Jesus said: 'I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved'. There's no doubt about it, the only way to enter into life is through the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that in one sense the destinations here are heaven - life; and hell - destruction. But that is too simplistic in the context of where we're reading today, and I'll show you why.
If you go back to chapter 5 and verse 1, at the very outset of this Sermon, you will see that the Lord saw the multitudes and: 'he went up into a mountain: and when he was set down, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught [his disciples]', saying these words. So the words, specifically in this Sermon, are to be applied to the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ specifically. No doubt destruction and life do mean heaven and hell in one sense, and I have no doubt whatsoever that this text can be applied to the Gospel, and I have done so myself. But what we have to remember is that right throughout this Sermon He has been speaking to these Jews as if they are part of the family of God - and now, as the family of God, He's given them the family prayer, He's taught them how to pray, how to fast, how to do alms, He now comes to them and asks them to enter in.
Some have said: 'Well, the choice is for a more developed Christianity'. In other words, Christ had not yet gone to the cross, He had not been buried, He had not been risen from the dead and ascended to heaven to His intercessory ministry, the Holy Spirit had not come in His Pentecostal capacity to form the church, the mystery of the church had not yet been revealed to Paul through the epistles and so on - and there's no doubt about that, that these disciples still had to enter into a greater understanding of what final Christianity would become. There's no doubt about the dispensational capacity and the historical context of the words that we're reading today. But nevertheless, that does not explain everything - why? Because the Lord is asking these people to enter in - not that they have entered in, and they still haven't reached their destination, but He is asking them to start and to enter in!
I hope you can see it, and I hope you can see that He's telling these people that there is a danger, these disciples that there is a danger that they can enter into the wide gate. Do you see that? He's not talking about being born on the wide road, as many people say, that's not what the text says - it says that you can enter in to the wide gate. You know that we are all born in sin and shapen in iniquity, you don't enter into it through sin. But whatever this is, people are entering into the narrow gate, but there's also the danger of them entering into the wide gate. I'll tell you what I believe the interpretation of this passage really is, and I believe that it is the only contextual interpretation, it's the only one that does justice to where we find it within this Sermon. It is this: the choice that the Lord Jesus is giving to His disciples here is the choice between a bogus and a true Christianity.
If you look at verses 13 and 14 you will see that they are found within the context of talking about entering into this way; verses 15 to 20 progressing along this way and not listening to false prophets, false peddlers of Judaism or Christianity; verse 23 onwards talks about living in the light of the ultimate day of judgement when all our works and all our doctrine will be analysed by the eye of God. I believe that it is a choice, ultimately, between a bogus, false Christianity, false spirituality, false righteousness, and that which is true. I believe that in the narrow way, the narrow gate, the narrow way and life; the broad gate, the broad way and destruction, you have a direct mirror image of the Lord Jesus Christ's claim when He said this: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life'.
Now there's no doubt about this, that this passage can be applied to the unbeliever as I have said, but if I could give you a mirror image of how this text ought to be interpreted, it would be to turn to Revelation 3 and verse 20 to the text that says to the church at Laodicea: 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me'. You and I both know that that verse is applied so many times to unbelievers, that Christ is knocking at their heart's door, and if they open the door they can believe and they can be saved - and that can be an application of that text. But the scriptural, contextual interpretation is not that! For that statement of the Lord Jesus is spoken, as you know, to a lukewarm church - a group of Christians that Christ was ready to vomit out of His mouth - and they are being invited to enter in, to enter into something, communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. I would see it as almost identical in application as what we read in the Sermon on the Mount.
Is your faith a Pharisaical faith, the faith of the false prophets that was only an outward appearance, or is it the depth of an inward reality? If I could put it like this in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 5 and verse 20 in our Sermon: 'Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees' - it must exceed in its extent of righteousness and in its quality of righteousness. Yes, it can be applied to heaven and hell, and no doubt the destruction and the life is heaven and hell, no doubt that these disciples had a lot more to enter into - but my friend, in the context of where we find this text, it is telling us that as disciples of Jesus Christ there is a choice that we have to make of entering into the full extent of the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ that is laid down in this Sermon. In conclusion what He is saying to us is: 'Will you enter in? Will you make a decision to enter into all that is outlined in the Sermon on the Mount?'.
With any choice that we make in life there are pros and cons, there are facts that we have to way up - and the Lord helps us to weigh this up, indeed in this text He is summing up the whole matter for us so that we may choose well. Now in summing up He gives us the two options: one, the wide gate is lethal to the many; and two, the narrow gate is life to the few. As He looks at these two options He gives us two things to think about in each of them. First of all there is a deception in each of them, neither of them is all that it's cracked up to be in the sense that it's not what it seems to be - there's a deceptiveness about these choices. Not only is there a deception, there is a reception in the sense that there are different types and different groups of people that are received by both of these gates.
Now let's look at the first gate, the wide gate that is lethal to the many. Let's look first of all at its deception, and its deception is simply this: although it looks inviting, it leads to destruction. The wide gate is lethal to the many. The Lord Jesus says, look at verse 13: 'Wide is the gate', in other words it is easily entered, 'broad is the road', it is easily trodden. You can enter this gate, and you have to enter it, but you can enter it very easily without any resistance, and you can tread along this road easily also.
One main feature of that which is false in our world, and indeed in religion, is to make gates that are narrow large, to make roads that are narrow broad. It is happening in the church today, where the word of God is being set aside and things are being broadened out, people are being accepted who clearly are not regenerated by the Spirit of God and do not hold to the doctrines of salvation that we have within the word of God - and what we see is an infiltration of what the Lord calls in verse 15 'false prophets'. False prophets are coming in, the gate is being widened, the road is being broadened, and they're telling us that there's plenty of room for everybody through this gate and along this road. It's broad, it's spacious, it's roomy, it's 'Spiritual Broadway', and across the ceiling is written: 'Welcome to each of you and to all your friends, the more the merrier, no matter what you believe. You can enter if you wish, you can travel along as you wish, as fast as you wish, and there are no restrictions to any of you'. There's plenty of room through the gate and along the road, plenty of diversity of opinions, laxity of morals, it is the road of tolerance, the road of permissiveness, it has no kerbs or boundaries of thought or of conduct - and travellers along this road can do as they please, they can go backward and forward, and right and left, according to their own inclinations and the desires of the human heart of fallenness that they own. They can leave nothing behind, they can bring all their baggage through the door - anything goes along the way!
Now, what exactly is the Lord saying to us? He is saying: 'Beware that you don't make your life choice of what road to go on according to the attractiveness, the comfort, the ease and the inviting of the gate and that road'. Do you see it? Is that not what He's been saying right throughout this Sermon? Don't judge by the outward appearance, the outward prayers, the outward fasting, the outward almsgiving, the outward rules and regulations of Pharisaical religion - don't judge this by the outward appearance, don't enter into this kind of faith, but enter into the narrow way, for the wide gate and the broad road leads to destruction. The word for 'destruction' here in the Greek language is simply 'ruin', or 'waste', and it can mean perdition and hell. But what the Lord is saying is that this broad gate that lets anybody enter and brings all sin and baggage in with them, and lets them go along the road of life as they please, it will ultimately end in the ruin and the waste and the perdition of humanity. If you live your life to satisfy the outward eye of other people, you will waste your life, you will ruin your life, and you will eventually damn your life!
There's no doubt about this that what is included in entering into this gate is going through the door of the Lord Jesus Christ and being saved, but the crux of the matter in this text is this: if you choose to go through that gate, you have chosen that road and you have chosen your destination, and if you don't find yourself on the narrow road today it's likely that you never went through the narrow gate! That's His point! It's not primarily how to get saved, but it's how to live your life with the purpose that it exists for, and the reason that you are a Christian. It's talking about discipleship, the difference between true righteousness of the heart and a bogus legalistic style of religion - true discipleship! For anything else that is not following Christ, and taking up your cross and following Him with devotion and sacrifice, is the road to suicide.
The Lord tells us that that is the deception: although it is inviting, it leads to destruction. But He tells us about its reception, He tells us that many, or the majority, most people, enter in. Most people are duped, lured by it. It's very accommodating to travellers of all kinds, and all of their baggage that they bring with them - we could put it like this: it's the most populated gate and road, and it's the most popular. The most populated and the most popular - we could define it in our society today as the sensual gate, it feels good. It's the society-gate, it's the greater opinion and weight of all society; it's the feeling-gate, it feels good, and it's according to the opinions of the rest of humanity. It is the gate and the road that goes with the flow, all your natural inclinations are not challenged, all the small voices of conscience that protest are swiftly silenced. You've an abundance of liberty, you've an abundance of company going down with you to ruin - how inviting it is! But the Lord is saying: 'Don't be deceived by it!'.
The wide gate is lethal to most. The second point He makes in these two verses is that the narrow gate is life to the few. It is deceptive in a sense too: its deception is that although it's uninviting, it leads to life. It's a narrow gate, the sense is that it's nearly that narrow that it doesn't even admit one person - you have to squeeze through it, there's a great resistance. The stronger sense is found in Luke's gospel 13:24, where the Lord said: 'Strive to enter in at the narrow gate' - it's a struggle. Really what the Lord is doing is He's going right back the start of this Sermon, where He tells us: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit'. If you want to enter into this spiritual life of a relationship with God, and a true meaningful righteousness, it's going to be a struggle.
I think it's very interesting that right throughout the gospel records the Lord Jesus never ever made it easy for someone to be saved - never! But He told them all the facts, all the pros, all the cons. He levelled with them and told them what they would have to suffer, that there would have to be a minimum of self and a maximum of God in their life. So much of the time we, in our Christian experience, are like Naaman. We're told by God to dip seven times down in the Jordan and we'll be made clean, and the servant said to Naaman: 'Why don't you do it, why do you balk at it? Why is it a problem? I know the Jordan is dirty, but if God had told you to do some great thing you would have welled up in your pride and you would have went and done it'. So much of the time we have pride, we have an inflated ego, a great sense of our own self importance, and that even prevents us pushing our way down that narrow road - but you're not allowed in, you're not allowed down with luggage or with baggage or with anything that will keep you back. The Lord said: 'It's easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man with baggage to enter into the kingdom of heaven'. It's like a turnstile, you can only get in one at a time, you can't bring your family with you, you can't bring a crowd with you, you can't bring your riches and your possessions and your church with you - and once you get through that gate there is a constricted way. It's tight, it's squeezing, in the sense of the word that is used of 'narrow' in verse 14, it's a different word than in verse 13 used for 'narrow' - it's the sense of persecution, it is a restricted way, the way of opposition; the way where you're not going with the world, but the world is going against you.
Who would choose that way? You might say: 'Few would choose it', and you're right, for few do choose it! The difference between a gate and a road that says 'do as you please', and the other that says 'do as He pleases'. Doing what you want, or doing what God wants; being restricted by the will of God and the word of God. My friend, which gate have you gone through? Which road are you presently on? And I say to you, no matter whether you profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ today or not, if you find yourself on a broad road the indication is that you never went through the narrow gate! Of course, there are people who can be backslidden, but I wonder - I never read of anybody who's backslidden right throughout their whole life's experience, I don't see that anywhere. I see people like Peter that had blips, and David that backslid temporarily and maybe for years went through times of darkness and dearth and degradation. But my friend, what I know that Jesus is saying here is that if you are on a broad road there is something wrong, and you need to beware of your destination!
Few ever find it. Do you know why few ever find it? Many people don't even know about it. That's the sense of what the Lord is saying. I used to wonder why - I'll share this with you from my heart - I used to think at times: you know, everybody's against me. All the world system, the philosophy, the popular culture, all of the intellectual establishment, even the church establishment - it all seems to be against biblical evangelicalism. But ought we to be surprised about that? Of course not! Half the world, most of the world the Lord Jesus says, don't even know that this thing is there, that that narrow gate is there and the narrow way is there! Even in Christendom you find that the higher up you go in it, and I mean in the service realm, the more you find that there are fewer and fewer men and women that really have the real thing. They have a parody of it, they have a practice of Christianity, but most of them have entered into the easy way.
I've so much more to say to you today, but I've run out of time. All I would do is ask you today: which gate have you entered into? Which way are you travelling on? And where will your final destination be?
Let us pray: Our Father, these words in this Sermon are very hard to implement within our lives. At times they have been hard for us to understand, but we know that we are brought to the crossroads with Christ today, and we know that these words can be applied to heaven and hell. Lord, we believe that what the Lord is asking us to do at the end of this Sermon, His great Sermon, is to choose: are we going to enter into this life, for this is the Christian life? It is not simply a matter of getting your sins forgiven and being on your way to heaven, but it is a life of discipleship, a life of commitment, a life of devotion, a life of sacrifice, a life of taking up our cross and following Christ. Father, if we have somehow found ourselves on the broad road, help us to analyse our hearts and to see if we are in the faith. If we've taken a detour and are in Bypath Meadows, that we would come again onto that narrow way. Father, we pray that in everything that we would seek, with all that we have in our being, to strive to enter into that gate, and to walk along the narrow way of the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ - that we may have life, and life in abundance. We thank you that He is the way, the truth, and the life. Father, we pray that we will find in Him the way, the truth, and true life. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twenty fourth tape in his 'Sermon On The Mount' series, titled "With Christ At The Crossroads" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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