Our Master Teacher, Jesus Christ, issues a call for his disciples to follow. He challenges his hearers not only marvel at this teaching but more so to do it. Jesus concludes his Sermon on the Mount with a call to action. He wants us make up our minds and finally journey towards Celestial city.
This is where the rubber meets the road. It separates the believers from the hypocrites. God grants his kingdom to his people and enables them to live under his rule. And in the end, they will finally do it. To follow God means to obey Him and to do what is pleasing to him. God wants to transform us in the image of his Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit, he renews our minds, regenerate our hearts, and reform our wills through his Word.
Today, Jesus closes this sermon series with a call to action. He wants us to do it now and begin the journey towards the end. As God’s people, we are pilgrims of this world; we are all passing by. Our citizenship is in heaven and this world is only our temporary residence. We belong to Christ both body and soul, in life and in death.
Our preaching ends with the exposition of Matthew 7:13-29. Jesus warns us here against three falsehoods: 1) Against False Ending; 2) Against False Teaching; 3) Against False Living.
How can we walk in the way Lord? Simply put: we follow God the path of wisdom. Wisdom gives us the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, true from false. It allows us to live wisely and not foolishly. God demonstrates his wisdom through Word and enables to his people to live according to it by his Spirit.
So let us hear God’s Word preached. Before we begin, let us pray…
Against False Ending
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.Verses 13-14
Jesus distinguishes between the only two possible outcome of our lives here on earth. He gives us the most valuable perspective in life that would help us see it as a whole. Our Master Teacher lays them down to us into two ultimate end. It is either destruction or recreation. In our journey towards Celestial city, we will either proven to be hypocrites, eventually apostatize, and then fall away. Or, we persevere in end, vindicated, and as true regenerate believers enter glorification.
And in order for us to properly discern who an where we are, Jesus gives practical descriptions of the nature of the path and the company it keeps. According to Jesus, the path to destruction, in contrast to the way of life, remains broad allowing anyone to see them and easily gets into them. It is mixture of everything and indiscriminately accepts everybody who wishes to walk in it. Simply put, it is a wide road where many goes through. Jesus wants us to discern against the false ending which comes with false authorities.
At the same time, false endings comes with false securities. We often forget the importance of checking things for ourselves because we think, if we cannot beat them, join them. There is strength in numbers and I agree but great numbers do not monopolize truth. We tend to be less critical and let our guards down when we are at the company of people we trust. Our Filipino Asian culture reinforces this mind-set because we put a premium in relationships we treasure and keep.
This is not necessarily false but often detrimental to truth when we assign absolute authority to those intimately related to us. It is not necessary wrong to have relational authority structures. In most Asian society, we designate respect automatically to those who are older than us. Those are indeed God-given authorities but they are not ultimate. Scripture as God’s Word infallible hold to this position. It is our only source of truth and our final designation of authority. It speaks for God and as God’s people, He is the only Ruler of our lives.
The narrow path comes to us with a singular voice and by the divine authority of God himself. As God’s people, we consider Scripture as “…a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).” It is our only travel companion and guide. King David describes the wise who “…delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:2).” So let us continue to receive wisdom from God’s Word and walk in them day and night.
Against False Teaching
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’Verses 15-23
Jesus contrasts the true teaching of God’s Word and its absolute authority against false teachings that undermines God’s ultimate authority. He warns us against false teachers who pretends to be shepherds but were actually wolves. According to Jesus, they are two ways we can wisely discern who they are. And while no one can identify interior motives, we are know them by fruits or by their actions.
First, False teachers do not take care of the flock but leave them on their own. They are divisive and protective only their own selfish interest. Jesus warns “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
False teachers who teaches false doctrines will finally and ultimately result to false piety and practice. Sadly, their destructive actions will wreak havoc to the church and will destroy communities and relationship but that is key to learning from what Jesus warns against here. He wants us to guard the church against those who destroys rather than build up.
False teacher or pseudo-pastors, elders or office-bearers do not take of the flock but leave them unattended. They do not labor to teach and organize. They are content with simply taking care of themselves rather than attending to those who are in need. Blinded by their own inability to discern their own faults, they are divisive rather than collaborative. They are selfish rather than grateful. They are self-serving rather than self-denying. Jesus teaches us “you will recognize them by their fruits.” It is a promise given by God to those who, by the power of the Spirit, increasing desire to lay down their own lives for the sheep. God’s people will distinguish between true and false leaders and teachers.
Second, False teachers only want power and not service. They major in the gifts rather than in grace. Jesus again warns, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. He wants us to discern against teachers who so ordered the church according to their own perceived strength. These false leaders of the church hide their weaknesses to the people in order to deceive them.
False teachers will deceive many by their false profession. It is often hard to distinguish between false and true professors for no one can see the hearts of men. If only God can know our hearts yet Jesus warns us against these false professors. So how can we do it? False teachers direct others to follow them and their gifts rather than God’s Word and his Gospel. A true preacher of the Gospel points to you to Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). He directs your attention to God’s will that comes from God’s law taught in Scripture. He teachers you the way of salvation found in God’s grace that comes to us from God’s promises taught in Scripture. Godly leaders of Christ’s church teaches you the whole counsel of God.
Against False Living
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.”Verses 24-29
John Gresham Machen asserts “Christianity is a way of life founded upon doctrine”. Simply put: Doctrine is for living. We are called to hear and obey our Lord to walk with Him to follow His path. Against false endings and false teachings, Jesus calls us to follow him to path of right living. That path is founded upon right doctrines and leads to eternal life.
A hypocrite pretends to know the truth and impresses others with this knowledge and understanding. One of my favorite antagonists in Pilgrim’s progress is Talkative. He is more concerned with talking rather than living. Curiously, he talks, and talks, and talks but was never mindful of his own walk. He foolishly projects what he learns as reality of his own life but never actually lived in them. Christian, the protagonist in the story remarks,
“This, TALKATIVE is not aware of; he thinks that hearing and saying will make a good Christian, and thus he deceives his own soul. Hearing is but as the sowing of the seed; talking is not sufficient to prove that fruit is indeed in the heart and life: and let us assure ourselves, that at the day of doom men shall be judged according to their fruits.“
Saving faith is demonstrated by the fruit is produces. False professors pretend to posses these fruits but in realty, Jesus never knew them. They are living falsely. Jesus warns us against them in order to draw our attention to what makes us persevere in the end: it is by the sure foundation of God’s Word.
As a means of grace, Scripture guards for us the treasure of God’s promises. It is the divine deposit of God’s will over our lives. God’s special revelation assures us of his divine pleasure and by the illuminating and regenerating work of the Spirit, God enables us to live according to them. And as Christians, we build our lives over them.
Surely, it is long and hard path. It is difficult and requires hard labor. Yes, it will take more time and requires patience but according to Jesus, it is only way to wise living so let us walk in them.
ZCRC (Imus), let us walk in the way of the Lord. Let us rid ourselves of false teachings and follow the path of right living. God’s Word shows us the way of Wisdom. Let us continue walking in God’s presence. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.