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Finishing strong

Let’s take to heart the strength of Jesus’ conclusion to his famous Sermon on the Mount for ourselves and for others.

BIBLICAL PREACHING AUTOR 108/Peter_Mead 03 DE AGOSTO DE 2023 10:15 h
Foto: [link]Avatar of user Lance Grandahl Lance Grandahl[/link], Unsplash CC0.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has undoubtedly stood the test of time. It remains well-known in church circles and well-quoted even outside the church. 



However, we might want to question how much it has been taken to heart and implemented.  Jesus knew there was no guarantee that his hearers (and subsequently, Matthew’s readers) would implement it. 



That is why his conclusion is so firm.



Let’s consider the four parts of the conclusion:



 



1. Everyone must choose their path in light of Jesus’ exclusive claims  (Matthew 7:13-14) 



We live in a world that loves the idea of there being many roads and that they all lead up different sides of a mountain to the same lofty peak.  That is a nice sentiment, but it is not reality. 



Jesus taught that there are only two. There are two roads, two gates, two crowds, and two destinations. 



To take the wide gate onto the broad road is easy.  No discernment is needed, no stand needs to be taken, the crowd is large, and affirmation flows freely.  That road leads to destruction.



C.S. Lewis reflected on the point in his education where he began to “broaden his mind.”  He wrote,



“I was soon altering ‘I believe’ to ‘one does feel.’ And oh, the relief of it! . . . from the tyrannous noon of revelation, I passed into the cool evening of Higher Thought, where there was nothing to be obeyed and nothing to be believed except what was either comforting or exciting.”



It is easy to pass through a wide gate.  All baggage is acceptable, even our sins, self-righteousness, and pride.  But getting through a narrow gate requires us to pass through alone – without being propped up by others or weighed down by baggage. 



Jesus is the only way to God.  That may be uncomfortable to hear in our contemporary culture. Still, it is no less valid or demanding than ever.



 



2. The narrow road requires vigilance (Matthew 7:15-20) 



There will be false prophets who seek to lead Jesus’ followers astray.  Two things are true of these false prophets.  They are both disguised and betrayed. 



Disguised means they are not easy to spot – they are not cartoon villains!  But they will ultimately be betrayed by their fruit. 



Both the Old Testament and the New Testament carry warnings of false teachers and false prophets who will do harm to God’s people and lead them astray. 



We live in a time when cults continue to prey on easy targets who may be exposed to the church but who do not have their roots in God’s Word and the church community. 



We also live in a day of new pseudo-religions with their own holy story, original sin, required penance, and witch hunts.



We must ensure that we, and others in our church, know how to stay safe. We need to swim in God’s Word so that his values and truth are familiar to us. 



We need to study the truth and keep a curious and thinking mind.  We need to shelter in the security of a healthy local church where shepherds will protect the sheep. 



We must soak in the church’s teaching (local and global).  And we must be stretched as we grow together in the community of God’s people, being teachable and open to input.



 



3. Jesus wants real relationships, not just word(Matthew 7:21-23) 



These are some of the most sobering verses in the entire Bible!  Of course, saying the right words without any inner reality is possible. 



Remember how Romans 10:9 combines words with reality: “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord” and “believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.” 



The profoundly sober warning here is also a precious gift – Jesus wants his hearers to recognize the danger before it is too late.  The reality he seeks is a real relationship with God the Father so that we want to do his will. 



The goal he has made possible is to say on that day, “I know you!”



 



4. Jesus wants a real response, not just hearing  (Matthew 7:24-27) 



It is possible to hear Jesus’ words but not to apply them. That is the point of this final parable.  Both builders listened to the words of Jesus, but the difference was whether they put them into practice. 



The one who did this was like a builder building on a solid foundation – the one who didn’t put them into practice just built his house on shifting sands.



Again, Jesus offers a profoundly sober warning and a precious gift.  That day is coming, the day when the storm reveals inner reality.  It is better to know now. 



Just as it is not enough to say the right words, nor is it enough to hear the right words.



First, let’s take to heart the strength of Jesus’ conclusion to his famous Sermon on the Mount for ourselves.  We need to ensure that these verses can detonate in our hearts and lives. 



Second, let’s take his conclusion to heart for others. The storm is coming, the day of revealing will arrive, and the people we minister to need to be sure that Jesus’ words have ignited profound transformation within. 



Stern warnings are sometimes helpful.  Genuine transformation and contagious relationships always are.  Let’s start by joining the crowd that was amazed at Jesus’ teaching. 



Then let’s pray for others in our church to be sensitized to these things!



Peter Mead is mentor at Cor Deo and author of several books. He blogs at Biblical Preaching


 

 


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