TWO GATES, TWO WAYS
Heavenly Father, I want to hear Your Word to me. Let Your love possess me and constrain me to obedience.
Read MATTHEW 7:13–20
The Narrow and Wide Gates
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
True and False Prophets
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Write the lessons of this Sermon upon our hearts, that we may tread the path that leads to life.
The Sermon reaches its conclusion with a series of exhortations to the disciples: to enter the narrow gate, tread the less-traveled road, and ensure that life is built on the foundation of rock, not sinking sand. The metaphors of ‘gates’ and ‘roads’ reflect the context of the imperial world in which the Romans celebrated their architectural achievements and the network of roads which criss-crossed the empire. If, as many scholars believe, Matthew’s Gospel originated in Antioch, its first hearers would have known that travelers entered that city through a magnificent gateway built by Tiberius and topped with a depiction of a she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. The entrance to the kingdom of God could not be more different; neither it nor the road to which it gives access is designed for mass transit, but for the few who find it and recognize it as the path to life.
Jesus nowhere disguises the cost of discipleship, but He warns that the quest for popularity and social acceptance will result in ‘false prophets’ (v 15) preaching cheap grace and promoting religion which, like the salt which has become useless, is good for nothing. The final words of this wonderful sermon pose a profoundly disturbing question for Christians in secular cultures where religion has been ‘thrown out and trampled underfoot’.1 Secularization is often explained in terms of the unbelief of the world, but Jesus suggests that a church ashamed of the ‘narrow gate’ (v 13) and concealing the cost of discipleship is itself the cause of the rejection of faith. Lesslie Newbigin wrote that the only way a secular world will turn to Christ is through being confronted by the living reality of communities of disciples who believe the gospel ‘and live by it’.2
Pray for grace that in our lives and churches belief and practice may, together, offer an attractive alternative to the broad road that leads to destruction!
Dear God, I thank You for my church family. My prayer for us is that we believe the gospel and live it out in community. May others find Christ through our witness.
1 Matt 5:13 2 Paul Weston (ed), Lesslie Newbigin: Missionary Theologian, SPCK, 2006, p152