Matthew 7:21-29 Reading

Matthew 7:21-29

21 “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. 22 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?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 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. 26 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. 27 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.” 28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

A few thoughts for meditation:

In this final section on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus finished with powerful warnings about the nature of his divine authority. Jesus was not just some religious teacher like many others. Notice, Jesus claimed to be the divine judge at the end of time, “I will say… depart from me…” He was God in the flesh and claimed divine titles and power for himself. If you ignore Jesus, you are not just ignoring some good advice, you are ignoring the mercy of God’s appointed King and Savior, who told you exactly how to repent of your sins and find mercy at the end. The Judge himself has come down to point out the way of salvation. Wouldn’t it be foolish to ignore him?

The first warning Jesus gave here was to those who claimed to be true believers but in fact were not. They did not know Jesus even though they knew a lot about him. This is an ominous warning indeed. These are people who performed miracles like prophecy, casting out demons, and other “mighty works”. Jesus never denied their claims about these acts. But they still did not “know” him. They said, “Lord, Lord,” but still did not truly know Jesus. Judas Iscariot was a prime example of this. He preached and performed miracles along with the other 12 disciples, and walked with Jesus for 3 years, but Jesus called him “the son of destruction”. It’s possible for God to work through the labors of unbelievers. Jesus pointed out the mark of their failure; they did not do “the will of his Father” and were “workers of lawlessness.” In other words, they did not obey the Lord. They performed public works before the crowds in Christ’s name, but in their ordinary lives, they did not have a relationship of trust and obedience to the Lord. This is a theme we see often in the Sermon on the Mount; outward obedience but inward “secret” hypocrisy and unbelief. They thought they were doing ok because the crowd around them provided some affirmation. But they did not truly know and follow Jesus from the heart when no one else was watching. And notice, Jesus did not say “I knew you before you fell away.” No, he said “I NEVER knew you.” This is a good point for reflection. What is the substance of your faith? Are you just going through the motions, even good motions, without any vital relationship to Christ? Are you putting on a good public show, but ignoring God behind closed doors? Is your religion done only to please others, or do you truly seek to know and follow the Lord through the hard and narrow gate?

Jesus finished the sermon with another note of judgment. Those who build upon his Word are like those who build a house upon a foundation of rock. While those who ignore him are building on sand. Notice again, there is a period of time before judgment comes, just like the previous verses. It takes time to see the end of the wide or narrow road, or to see the fruit of false teachers, or to see the true nature of prominent leaders in the church, so it takes time to recognize whether or not your house will stand when the waves of judgment come crashing through. Before that time of testing, both houses may look impressive from the outside. So, how do we know whether or not we are building on the right foundation? Jesus told us, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them…” That is the objective criteria through which you measure and build your life. Do you listen to Jesus? Do you stand in awe of him and his teaching, like the people did here? Do you obey his teaching because that is how we were designed to live as people made in his image? Do you relate to God from the heart on the basis of grace, looking to him as your merciful and generous Father, not as a debtor who owes you for your good works? Is your devotion to God consistent, both in secret and in public? Will you forgive others the way God forgave your sins? Do you look to Jesus as your Savior and King, and live for his kingdom first? Is that the ultimate desire you build your life upon, even when no one else will? Is Christ the one treasure of your heart? If so, then you are building on the rock, and you have every assurance that you know Jesus and he knows you, and the waves of judgment will not harm you but leave you standing firm in eternal glory with him in the end.

Matthew 7:13-20 Reading

Matthew 7:13-20

13 “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. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

A few thoughts for meditation:

In these final sections of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus concluded with some important warnings about false teachers and the importance of recognizing and trusting in His ultimate authority.

Jesus first warned about the hard road for disciples. Often people will object to the exclusiveness of Christianity saying, “if the truth is so clear, everyone should be able to see it” or “if it’s true, then it won’t be hard to follow.” But such objections don’t take into account the strong influence of our sinful hearts and communities. Jesus just finished saying we were “evil”. Our sinful hearts are hostile to God, love their sins and idols, are lazy and undisciplined, and they are dull and slow to understand. There are many other ways to live apart from God, many religions or philosophies to choose from, many more “comfortable” paths to follow, and there will be many companions to join you on these roads, but they all lead to destruction. Christ offers a narrow road, a road that excludes all the others. Only those who follow Christ will find eternal life at the end. And this road is hard, not just because the standards are high (as we’ve seen with all Jesus’ teaching before this) but because so many others resist you with what looks like an easier life. It’s much harder to commit to hard work when you think it is in vain compared to the perks others enjoy with much less labor. So, disciples must always keep the eternal perspective and end goal in mind when it comes to following Jesus. We are resisting a fallen world to pursue eternal life with God, through the only way God revealed it, through Christ.

Next, Jesus warned about false teachers. Another reason the way is narrow and difficult is because false teachers appeal to these sinful desires in our hearts by offering an easier or more attractive way than Jesus offers. Or some will even try to offer Jesus plus the satisfaction of our sinful desires. But the “fruits” of such false teachers will become evident over time. Their teaching may sound appealing and orthodox at first, but the trajectory of their teaching will gradually divide and attack the Christian faith and lead you away from Jesus and the gospel. Sometimes false teachers are obvious, but other times they are more subtle, “ravenous wolves” in sheep’s clothing. This will require patience, discipline, and study as you seek to love and follow Christ on the narrow road. But Jesus also included a warning specifically to the false teachers too; any tree not producing good fruit would eventually be “cut down and thrown into the fire.” Their teaching may sound smoother and easier but, like the wide easy road, it ends in destruction. In the end, you really need to ask yourself, what do you really want? Eternal joy, redemption, and life with Jesus? Or just your best life now with the crowd? You can’t have both.

Matthew 7:7-12 Reading

Matthew 7:7-12

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

A few thoughts for meditation:

As Jesus brought the sermon to a close, we should be impressed by the crushing moral demands. It’s not that these standards are wrong or disagreeable, but that they are so high we are powerless to obtain them on our own. In answer to this weight, Jesus reassured us that all which God demands of us, he also freely provides to those who ask. He stressed this in three ways, “ask… seek… knock” all with the assurance that God will answer. It is important to keep this prayer in context though, and understand it in light of the Lord’s Prayer taught earlier. Jesus focused on the kingdom of God and our place within it. That is the “good” we are called to ask for and freely receive, not whatever our sinful desires may crave.. Whatever we need in the moment to be a more faithful disciple, God will freely provide to us when we ask. That is part of his generous Fatherly care for us.

Jesus illustrated the generous character of God by comparing it to the defective generosity of sinful mankind, arguing from lesser to greater. Mankind is “evil”, fallen, corrupt, in bondage to sin. And yet, even evil human beings know they should provide their children good things when they ask. In this case, the children ask for simple food, bread and fish, and most parents know they should not answer with stones or serpents. God of course is good and perfect and knows exactly what good gifts his children need, and will freely and generously give those good things when we ask him. This picture of the generosity of God is important to keep in mind. Too often, there lingers in the back of our minds a picture of a stingy God, who withholds good things from us. This was part of the temptation Eve faced in the garden. Satan caused her to doubt the goodness and generosity of God by asking her why God would hold back the forbidden fruit from her. That is often the fear at the heart of legalism, that God is holding back good things until we earn them. But Jesus painted the opposite picture here. God freely offers to provide “good things” when we keep asking, seeking, and knocking. These are acts of faith, acts of trusting God, who rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6). So as we seek to be faithful disciples, servants, and children of the Father’s kingdom, he promises to provide every good thing we need for that mission. Again, the “good” promised here is “good” as God defines it, not how we define it. Too often our definition of “good” is corrupted by our sinful or short-sighted desires. But our Father knows the good we need even when we don’t, and when he does not give us specifically what we ask for, it’s because he is giving us the good thing we should have asked for instead. When a child asks for carrot cake, the father may give him a carrot instead, not because he is stingy but because that is what the child needs more in the moment.

Finally, Jesus summarized the moral demands of this sermon with what is often called the Golden Rule, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” This closed what he began in 5:17, when he began teaching what it meant to fulfill “the Law and the Prophets”. The phrase forms bookends around the body of teaching. This idea of the Golden Rule is not unique to Jesus. Other ancient teachers used it, but it was usually stated in a more negative way, “whatever you don’t want others to do to you, don’t do to them”. In other words, if you don’t want people to steal from you, don’t steal from them, etc. But what is unique to Jesus here is that he stated the Golden Rule in a more positive form, whatever you want others to do to you, do to them. By this switch, Jesus included not only the sins of commission (i.e. stealing killing, lying) but also the sins of omission, withholding good to others which we should actively give. If you want people to be generous to you, be generous to them. If you want them to be friendly to you, be friendly to them. If you want others to help you in time of need, then you help others in time of need. In other words, it’s not enough to just refrain from outward evil, but we must actively promote goodness and love from the heart as God defines it. We cannot expect to wait for others to do good to us before we will do good to them. We must seek to live as Christ did, regardless of how others respond to us. This is true obedience to the Law and Prophets.

Matthew 7:1-6 Reading

Matthew 7:1-6

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

A few thoughts for meditation:

In this next section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addressed how we should confront one another (especially fellow believers) about our faults. The basic principle is given in vs. 1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” This is probably the most quoted and misquoted Bible verse in our culture right now. Many think that it means “don’t be judgmental” or “mind your own business”. That is not what Jesus said at all. He explained exactly what he meant in the following verses.

Jesus was confronting the problem of self-righteous attitudes toward others, confronting their sins as if you had none yourself. He continued to confront the problem of pride and hypocrisy which he addressed in the previous chapter. The attitude with which you judge others will be used against you. That does not mean you remain silent when your brother has a problem. That is not a loving thing to do either, is it? Why let your brother suffer needless without any warning? But it does mean you must confront him in humility, aware of your own faults as well. You approach him as a fellow patient on the road to recovery, not as an unstained superior correcting a stupid inferior. Jesus used a comical picture to explain this, trying to remove a speck from your brother’s eye, while you have a log in your own eye. Removing a speck from someone’s eye requires a delicate and patient touch to avoid damaging the sensitive eye. And it’s near impossible to do if you are blinded by a log in your own eye. You must remove the log from your eye so you can then “see clearly” to remove the speck from your brother’s. So again, Jesus is not at all saying you can never confront or “judge” someone for their faults, but must do so after first taking into account your own faults and struggles and letting your own struggles with sin moderate your attitude and tone towards your brother. Very often, those who are the most critical of “judgmental people” are themselves the most judgmental and most careless with their words as they “say it like it is”. Confronting someone requires humility, patience, tact, and wisdom. It requires a sincere desire for their good. Sometimes blunt forceful correction is needed in an urgent situation. But most often, patient and calm conversation is better. We must pray for wisdom to know how best to approach every situation.

Jesus finished with a final warning about this need for wisdom when confronting others. Good advice and sincere concern can be rejected if not applied at the right time. People must be in a receptive posture. “Dogs” or “pigs” were not considered domestic animals or pets in the ancient world like they are today. They were usually considered wild and vicious animals. If someone is acting like a dog or pig in the moment, your “pearl” will be trampled and ignored and they may even retaliate against you. Timing is important when we try to remove the speck from another’s eye. Some people are receptive to correction from God’s Word, others are not. The idea Jesus is teaching here is the same idea taught in Proverbs 9:8, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” Just because something needs to be said, does not mean it needs to be said “right now” or in the heat of a crisis moment. Again, wisdom is needed and must be asked for from the Father, wisdom not only in how to help our brother, but in how to remove the log from our own eye. What is your attitude when your brother confronts you? Are you patient and receptive? Or are you like a vicious dog or pig?

Matthew 6:25-34 Reading

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

A few thoughts for meditation:

After calling his disciples to serve God instead of money, Jesus addressed the heart of the matter. Why do people trust in money? Usually it’s for the illusion of security. Money buys food, drink, and clothes. Money provides a buffer of comfort between you and some of teh hardships of this world. But can it really keep you secure? No. Jesus was clear that wealth can be stolen, destroyed, or lost. Most importantly, it can’t save you from sin and death. Only God can do that. So Jesus turned our attention instead to God, who alone can provide for our needs.
He first pointed to how God provides for creatures in nature. He feeds the birds. He clothes the grass with intricate flowers. Are not redeemed his children more valuable to him than such creatures? Jesus also pointed to the sovereignty of God over our lives. He has numbered our days. He knows the course of our life and when we will die. Worrying will not add a “single hour” to your life. That is in God’s hands just as much as your physical needs.
Jesus then pointed to the example of the Gentiles, those who do not know God. They served idols to obtain these possessions.They spent their lives pursuing food, drink, and clothing, thinking that if they had them, their lives would be free from worry or anxiety.  And yet how often does that prove to be a lie? Look at how miserable many of the wealthy are; plagued by drug abuse or drunkenness, broken families, and the fear of losing their wealth. The comforts of wealth do not cure the evils of the human heart. In some cases, wealth enables the sinful heart to access even greater forms of sin or greater causes for worry.
But God knows what we need already. None of our needs ever escape his attention. As a good Father, he knows how to care for his children and provide them exactly what they need when they need it. That assurance should relieve the anxiety created when the crutch of money is removed. Rather than propping up on weak crutches of wealth, we are held up by the strong hands of God as our Father. And that frees us to devote our time and energy to seeking “the kingdom of God and his righteousness” rather than our needs. The “kingdom” refers to the saving reign or power of God which broke through with the arrival of Jesus. We are called to seek God’s saving power in every sphere of our lives, and work to spread the message of his salvation to others. By seeking “his righteousness”, Jesus referred to a life of obedience to God and submission to his will. What we prayer for in the Lord’s prayer (vs. 9-10) we labor for with our actions. As we seek to know and please God, God promises to provide all our needs. That does not mean our lives will be full of wealth or free of trouble. Jesus already warned about the dangers we face for righteousness sake. In the very next verse, Jesus said each day already has “enough trouble”. But we do not need to be anxious about our needs because God will provide us all that we need to do what he has called us to do in every situation he puts us in. Just take each day, one at a time. And just to stress that point again, how many times did Jesus say “do not be anxious” in this short passage? We live in very uncertain times when so many of our worldly crutches are being shaken. If these things are pushing you into anxiety and worry, it’s time to lean on your good Father and get back to seeking his kingdom first and let him handle the rest.