Sermon on the Mount-Matt 7:13-20
I want to start off this morning by asking the question-what’s on your bucket list? What are the top couple of things you really want to do in life before you-kick the bucket? Turn to the person next to you and answer that. What did you come up with? As we’ve just had the 4th of July-I would like to see the fireworks along the Brooklyn Bridge. I would like to hike the Pyrenees Mts in France, see the reindeer herdsmen and the Northern lights in Lapland, go to Area 51, run the Boston marathon, and eat a really good lobster roll! Hopefully you have some good bucket list goals too-and can do them one day. As we’re often told-life is short, carpe diem, seize the day. So hold those thoughts about your bucket list-because we’ll return back to that topic later.
But the other topic I want you to think about is the gospel. First of all, the reason why we exist as a church is to proclaim, teach, communicate, and explain the gospel. Now that’s one of those religious words you hear a lot that gets tossed around-and it tends to be influenced by our background or upbringing. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word gospel? Maybe it makes you think of some sort of fiery preacher saying “Repent or else”, maybe the gospel makes you think of a little 4-step tract or booklet someone passed out to you, maybe the gospel makes you think of altar calls or revival meetings at church, maybe the word gospel reminds you of a certain style of southern gospel music, or maybe the gospel reminds you of nervousness. I can remember my Campus Crusade leader in college saying, “C’mon Jim, we’re heading to campus to share the gospel with people.” He was brimming with excitement and I was shaking in my boots at the thought of talking to random students about the gospel. But the word gospel isn’t just defined by those associations that we have with the word. In fact, if you open your Bibles to Matthew 4, you’ll see the first time the word is used in the NT. It’s just before the Sermon on the Mount-Matt 4:23. So there it is, Jesus is proclaiming the gospel.
And the word in Greek is euangelion which is a compound word with two parts. The first part, eu, is the Greek word for good. So next time you say, Eu! to something remind yourself in Greek it means good. But the second half of euangelion is angelion which is the root word for message or messenger. Angelion is where we get our English word for angels, who are God’s messengers. So euangelion literally means good message, or as we would say good news. Now I’ll be honest, I always used to think that the best good news you could ever get was that visit at your front door from Publishers Clearing House, remember that? You’re just sitting there one day minding your own business when a bunch of people with balloons, a camera crew, and a big cardboard check ring your doorbell. Hey you just won $10 million dollars! How great is that news? You’re posing with the check for a photo; instantly you’re rich! Who hasn’t longed for that good news! But look at the substance of Jesus’ good news-4:23. And why is that good news? Look at 4:17. The kingdom of heaven, the place we’re all longing for, eternal paradise, is at hand; meaning it’s close, it’s accessible and available, the door’s open. And that’s good news because when was the last time mankind saw paradise? When was the last time humans got a glimpse of God’s perfect world? When Adam and Eve were waving goodbye as they got kicked out of paradise and the way was blocked by an angel and a flaming sword. It was closed, the door was shut. Because of their sin they weren’t getting back in, paradise lost, as John Milton titled his famous English poem. But here Jesus is saying-Hang on, I’ve got some really good news for you. The way to paradise, the kingdom of heaven is no longer closed, it’s open; no longer lost, it’s here at hand and accessible. So you need to hear the gospel, you need to hear this good news. Now I don’t know about you, but it’s far too easy to think that Jesus came to tell us a bunch of bad news, things that aren’t any fun-Love your enemy, turn the other cheek, deny yourself, pick up your cross. Look at the Sermon on Mount-5:3a. And you think-That’s not good news, who wants to be poor in spirit? But you have to see where Jesus is going-v. 3-and that’s really good news. Jump down to v. 8-10-and that’s really good news that far outweighs any earthly persecution-v. 11-12. And what’s more valuable or important than that? The focus of everything Jesus is saying here in the Sermon on the Mount isn’t bad news at all, but the good news of the kingdom of heaven. He’s here to tell us that it’s not paradise lost, but paradise restored; that what lies beyond the horizon of this life is so much greater than the here and now, that the pain and struggles of this life are only temporary because there’s something incredible up ahead. He wants us to understand that there’s real, tangible good news out there that will radically change our lives and bring joy and anticipation like we’ve never known before. But it all comes down to a funnel, to a single point because the gospel is a crossroads, it’s a decision we all have to make-7:13-14.
There’s the crossroads of the gospel. It’s two paths that fork in different directions, it’s two gates that lead to opposite destinations. Here’s a painting done by an English artist in 1883 that hangs in the British Museum that visualizes these two ways. Right away you can see how the wide path says Welcome in big, bold letters inviting everybody in, while the narrow way is just a small door in the side of the wall. On the wide path you can see all sorts of people strolling, chatting, walking, meandering, even riding cars and pulling wagons down the broad way, while there’s only a few on the narrow path. But what you can’t miss looming on the horizon are the destinations. There’s heaven on the narrow path-the home Jesus is preparing is standing tall-and then there’s destruction and ruin on the broad path, the flames are rising high over the city. And there’s the Lord looking down on both paths-the reference is 1 Pet 3:12 were it says the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears open to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. And that depicts these two paths-the way of the righteous and the way of evil-but here’s the question that stands out to me. Since there are two paths to take, with such clear, distinct destinations, who wouldn’t take the narrow one? Who would willingly take a path that leads to destruction? Nobody says-Yeah, sign me up for the road to ruin-that seems like a good option. So shouldn’t this be reversed? Shouldn’t the verse say that the road which leads to life is wide and lots of people go down it, and the road to destruction is narrow because of course there’s a few bad apples out there, a few stubborn stinkers who want to go their own way, but most people are wise enough to travel down the road to life? That would make a lot more sense to us. No one keeps driving down the highway when they know the bridge is out up ahead. Who wants to drive off a cliff? Even if it’s a longer route people logically take the detour. But when it comes to our spiritual lives, Jesus is saying that a lot of people don’t do the logical thing-v. 13b.
Do you see that scary word? It says many, meaning lots of people, a whole bunch of people, are going down the road to destruction therefore-v. 14. And that’s the other scary word-few. Why is that? That’s the question I’m sure we’re all asking because it seems so backwards. If you have the NIV it translates it as broad for the road to destruction and small for the road to life. Here’s the picture I’m imagining for the broad road-Champs Elysees. This is a huge, major road in Paris leading to the Arc de Triumph. Look at all these people flooding it, many call it the most beautiful boulevard in the world. And if you’ve ever been Paris you know in other parts of the city it has some really narrow roads-Latin Quarter. And so shouldn’t this small road be the road to destruction where only a few find themselves? That’s what I would think. But the answer is right here in the text-the way is easy that leads to destruction and the way is hard that leads to life. And let’s be honest, avoiding hard things is what we do best, right? Trips to the dentist, exercise, doing our taxes. We avoid that stuff at all costs, and it’s no different spiritually. We don’t like the hard way so that’s why people take the easy road. It doesn’t require anything, it’s not challenging, it doesn’t stretch you or change you. You can stay just like you are and go down the wide road. But the narrow way, the gospel, is different. It will change you, stretch you, humble you. Jesus is clear: it’s hard. People easily just wind up on the wide road to destruction, but no one accidentally stumbles upon here onto the narrow way. This is intentional, it’s a decision of faith, an act of turning to the Lord and going in the direction He says. So in the time we have left I want to examine why the narrow road is hard, but also see how it’s totally worth it.
So first of all, Pt1:The narrow road is hard because: it requires trust-leaning upon Jesus, not ourselves. Now I believe that if there’s one thing we don’t like as humans besides hard things, are things where we have to trust someone other than ourselves. I only have to look at myself as an example. What’s my default way of thinking? That I don’t want to put my life in God’s hands; I’ll take care of things myself. I don’t want to trust God’s timing, that’s too hard because I want it now; I want things accomplished in my timing and my way. I want to see and know what’s up ahead because what if I don’t like God’s plan? What if I don’t want to go through the things He has in store for me? Maybe you’re like me in that a big part of my problem with trust is that I still think I know better than God. Now yes-I know what the Bible says-that God is all-wise and all-powerful and knows everything there is to know. I get that-but my struggle is when it comes to my life and I have this ideal picture of what I want my life to look like, the things I want to accomplish-and I don’t want God messing with that. Maybe you feel like that too. You know what you want and you want to know that everything is under your control, not His. You want to know that you’ve got this-because you believe that you know what’s best for your life. Lord, if you just do what I say and answer my prayer request like I’ve asked all will be good. But when we say that we’re buying into the very same lie Adam and Eve bought into-that God is out to spoil our fun and we’ve got to stop Him from that. The devil said to them-Did God really say no to you about that tree; that was some good looking fruit? Why would He deny you that? And what’s the devil trying to do? To get them to question God’s goodness, to doubt God’s plan, to think that God’s just a big meanie who always says no, he wants them to believe that God can’t be trusted. Don’t go down His narrow-minded road of rules and regulations, go down the wide road of pleasure and fun-everybody else is. God’s road leads to dullness and dreariness-why take His path? But that’s not what the Bible says about God-look at some of these verses-Ps 23:1-2; Ps 84:11; Rom 8:28; 32. Without a doubt God can be trusted because He loves you far more than you could ever imagine. His plans are far greater than you could ever conceive. So yes, giving up control and trusting God, might seem hard in the moment, but it’s the most freeing step you could ever take, saying-Lord I’m done trusting myself and my own thinking, which only gets me stuck, I trust you and what you’ve done for me. It’s putting your life into His hands.
And that’s Pt2:The narrow road is hard because: it requires humility-admiting we need Jesus and can’t save ourselves. And that’s the stumbling block for lots of people. Humility isn’t easy. It’s hard to admit that on your own you’re stuck and will never save yourself. It’s humbling to conclude that you’re a lost sinner. We live in a world that tells us over and over how good we are. We give out medals just for participating and showing up, everyone’s a winner. We don’t want anybody left behind, you deserve it, it’s your right is the pervasive opinion out there. So thinking of ourselves as lost just isn’t popular-but it’s the truth. These two roads are the dividing line, the crossroads, between human achievement and God’s accomplishment. The wide road is the one that says-You’re not too bad, you haven’t killed anybody or robbed a bank. As if that’s a noble standard! But we think-Sure I’ve made a few mistakes, who hasn’t? But God knows how I’ve tried to be a decent person, He knows how I’ve tried to do good in life-that counts, right? But that’s not right. Unfortunately that doesn’t count-and that’s the lie that leads to destruction. Across our planet people have bought into the lie that good people go to heaven-but that’s not the case because we’ve all fallen short of God’s goodness. The truth isn’t that good people go to heaven, instead the truth is that forgiven people go to heaven. So the narrow road is the one that says-As sinners we’re lost. Like stray sheep we’ve wandered away, and we need a Savior to come and rescue us and forgive us. And Luke 15 pictures it beautifully-Lk 15:4-7 Now those people don’t actually exist, but Jesus is making the distinction because the one who humbly repents is the one who’s going down the narrow road. He’s the person who says-I can’t save myself. I’m lost and on my own I’ll die in my sins, which is why I trust in you, Jesus, because you have died for my sins. The humility of the narrow road forces you to realize that you’re more sinful and flawed and lost than you ever thought; but the moment you realize that you realize the even deeper truth that you’re more loved and forgiven in Jesus Christ than you ever dared to believe. Humility is the gateway, it’s the path that leads to life-and few find it because humility never is and never will be popular. Humility bears a cost that few are willing to pay.
And that’s Pt3:The narrow road is hard because: it’s costly-giving up all our stuff and seeking our Savior. Now don’t misunderstand me, you pay nothing for salvation. It’s a gift as Ephesians says, the grace of Jesus that saves you doesn’t cost a dime, you don’t earn it or work for it by being religious; it’s something you freely receive through faith in Jesus. So you pay nothing for salvation, yet trusting Jesus costs everything you have-at least from an earthly perspective. Remember what Jesus would go on to say-Matt 16:24-25. Going down the narrow road means you leave everything else behind. All the baggage of sin, the old habits and addictions, your selfish tendencies, even your desires and wants-I must have this and I really must have that! It’s all left behind because your heart is set elsewhere. All the idols of this world that tug at you are left at the station, you’ve dropped off all your baggage at the gate, all your suitcases and luggage remain behind. This is journey where you don’t need any of that stuff-Charles Spurgeon quote. And that’s not easy-that means death to our old selves, death to the ways we used to live, death to the things we once thought were so important, that we couldn’t live without-but compared to eternity, in the light of Christ and His grace-those things really cease to matter.
Remember how Jesus continued-Matt 16:26. But that’s the delusion people travelling down the wide road are under-because that way is all about the stuff they think is so important. Gain the world- is what the wide road says-Bring all that stuff with you. Life is about the here and now, you only live once so get all you can, live it up. Accomplish your bucket list and check it off the list. I said we’d return to this idea of our bucket list-and there’s nothing wrong with doing fun things you’ve always wanted or experiencing adventure. They can make for great memories. But I want to say that this idea of our bucket list is a subtle, but dangerous, way of thinking that all the good stuff happens in this life. Make sure you get it all done here, do everything you want-a weekend in Paris, skydiving in Aruba, hiking the Grand Canyon-because God’s not going to let you do that in eternity. Heaven is all robes and harps and clouds-have your fun now because up there it’s boring. But that’s the big delusion, the great lie. Heaven is so far greater and more wonderful than anything here. Jesus is saying in Matt 16 that nothing is worse missing eternity for-not even being king of the world; no earthly cost is too great. Back to Pt3. But the wide road tries to hide that truth. The wide road is indulgent and permissive and self-motivated. On the wide road sin is tolerated, truth is moderated and humility is long ignored. There’s no sacrifice on the wide road, no spiritual maturity or commitment, God’s Word isn’t studied, His standards aren’t followed. There’s no rules or restrictions or regulations on that road. If it feels good to you, if your heart longs for it, if you want it, than do it. The wide road is like the words of Prov 14:12. There’s the destination-death, destruction. Proverbs is saying you can’t follow your heart; you’ve got to follow Jesus because His way is the only way that leads to life. I read a statement this week about that said-The way to heaven is as narrow as Jesus. It all funnels down to Him-He’s the door, He’s the gateway. And yes, it’ll cost you everything you have to enter though Him, the narrow road will change and transform you-but that’s what it’s supposed to do. A person who claims to be a follower of Christ but hasn’t changed isn’t really a follower of Christ. The gospel isn’t for those who want a cheap, easy way to obtain heaven, while continuing to live their same old lives on earth. The gospel is for those who give up their control and entrust themselves to Jesus because they know His way is better than anything on earth, a treasure of immense value.
And there’s one more verse that captures how true this is-Matt 13:44. Now I have to say-I’ve done this maneuver before. Not with a field, but as a kid growing up. I can still picture being at the store not far from our house seeing the different Star Wars action figures on display-and if I came across a hard-to-find one I didn’t have-I would do exactly this-cover it up by putting it in the back until I could save up enough allowance to buy it. I’ll put Boba Fett in the back-no one will ever discover this or see through this tricky plan. And in my joy I would save up my money to buy it. But this is so much greater! Think about it-was that treasure good news for that guy? He sold all he had to get it. He left everything else behind for that treasure. So was it actually bad news for him? Did he foolishly get rid of all his stuff? Should we pity this guy for giving everything up? Not at all-we should envy him! What he left behind, the things he sacrificed pale in comparison to the value of this treasure. Don’t miss that little phrase that Jesus has wisely inserted into this verse-in his joy. Selling all he has wasn’t drudgery or a cold duty this guy had to perform. Finding that treasure was such good news that he was thrilled to obtain it, he couldn’t believe his fortune, he couldn’t think of anything else until that treasure was his. And it’s no different for you and me. Pt4:The narrow road is full of joy because it leads to Jesus and all He’s prepared for us. Don’t forget that! Yes-the gospel is a costly treasure. You will have to leave behind everything you have to obtain it-but there is absolutely nothing worth more than the treasure of the gospel. You can’t think of something else. Nothing in all this world is greater or more lasting or full of joy than knowing Jesus and receiving the eternal life He offers.
So if you stand at the crossroads of the gospel this morning do what Jesus is saying here in Matt 7-enter through the narrow gate. Just like your car can’t drive down two streets at the same time, so you can’t walk down both roads at the same time. A lot of people have tried, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s one or the other. You can join the crowd and stay as you are and take the wide road-but you know the destination-it’s destruction. So instead, humbly take that step of faith, give up all you have, leave the baggage behind, and put your trust in Jesus. Start going down the narrow road that leads to life-joyful, neverending, fully-satisfying, paradise-restored, eternal life in Jesus. And it’s all possible because Jesus gave up all He had on the cross to save us.
Sermon on the Mount-Matt 7:13-20