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On Solid Ground
"Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad
that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.  "For
the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are
those who find it.
 "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing,
but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  "You will know them by their fruits.
Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are
they?  "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree
bears bad fruit.  "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a
bad tree produce good fruit.  "Every tree that does not bear good fruit
is cut down and thrown into the fire.  "So then, you will know them
by their fruits.  "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will
enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who
is in heaven.  "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we
not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your
name perform many miracles?'  "And then I will declare to them, 'I
never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'
 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon
them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.
 "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew,
and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been
founded upon the rock.  "And everyone who hears these words of Mine,
and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house
upon the sand.  "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the
winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its
Jesus concludes his Sermon on the Mount, and we conclude our series
this morning with an invitation for His listeners to make an important
choice about three things: the path they will follow, the teachers they
will listen to and what they will do with His teachings.
In verses 13 and 14, Jesus advises his listeners to choose the correct
path for their lives-to go through the "narrow gate." To go through the
narrow gate is to go against society's grain. Most people go through the
wide gate, but on the other side they find destruction. Robert Frost wrote:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/ And sorry I could not travel both/
And be one traveler, long I stood/ And looked down one as far as I could/
To where it bent in the undergrowth/ Then took the other as just as fair/
And having perhaps the better claim/ Because it was grassy and wanted wear/
Though as for that, the passing there/ Had worn them really about the same/
And both that morning equally lay/ In leaves no step had trodden black/
Oh, I kept the first for another day!/ Yet, knowing how way leads onto
way/ I doubted if I should ever come back/ I shall be telling this with
a sigh/ Somewhere ages and ages hence/ Two roads diverged in a wood/ And
I took the one less traveled by/ And that has made all the difference
What path are you on? Are you traveling through the wide gate on a path
to destruction, or are you on the road less traveled? Are you going through
the narrow gate that leads to life?
For those who've traveled through the narrow gate, Jesus gives a warning.
He says to be careful who you listen to. In verses 15 to 23, Jesus says
that not every prophet is from God and that believers must test them by
examining their fruits. Though I would encourage you to trust your leaders,
I must also say that the final authority in this church is not the teachers
that serve here, the deacons or your pastor, it is God's Word!
But I am also aware that we are not the only voices you listen to. Most
of you read books, magazines, listen to Christian radio, and hear other
preachers. Let me give you a rule of thumb that I learned from my beloved
professor Dr. Fred Fisher. He taught us to: "Respect every teacher, but
to also suspect them." Respect them for their calling and the office they
hold, but suspect that they could be wrong in what they teach and their
motives might be less than pure.
Jesus said to be fruit inspectors, to observe whether or not teachers
are following the will of God. A teacher who isn't following God's will
is a wolf, and will devastate the flock if we listen to them. The test
isn't how charismatic a leader they are, or how profound a thinker they
are, or how many books they've sold, or even how large a following they
have. The test is: are they following God's will? The issue isn't whether
what they are right in what they are saying. The issue is, are they right
with the Lord? Today, the Church is hungry for men with high character
who will not succumb to the seduction of celebrity.
This October I served on the faculty at the Glorieta Christian Writers
Conference. Among my duties for the week was to meet with aspiring writers.
My job was to evaluate their work and give them advise how to improve their
craft. Some of the writers were quite good, others struggled with writing
a complete sentence. I tried to be as encouraging as I could as I gave
these writer's my honest evaluation. A couple of times I got past the surface
issues to ask a heart-wrenching question, "Why do you want this work published?"
Each time I asked that question, the person flinched, and stammered around
for a few moments without really answering the question. It was evident
to me that they hadn't even considered that question before.
You see, I believe the "Why" of writing has to come before the "What."
Some aspiring authors know what they want to write, but never wrestle with
why. If the "why" is to achieve some level of celebrity, it is an invalid
reason. The only reason to write, or teach for that matter, is because
the message is burning a hole in your heart and you can't keep from communicating
it to others.
Like Peter and John, Christian communicators should cry out, "for we
cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:20 NASB) The
test, is whether or not the communicator is in God's will, and we are all
to be fruit inspectors.
After settling the question of which gate to walk through and which
teachers to listen to, Jesus asks his listeners to decide what they will
do with His teachings. He said that those who heard and didn't apply His
teachings are like a fool who builds his house on the sand. In contrast,
those who heard and applied His teachings are like the wise man that build
his house on a firm foundation.
Which are you? Notice that both the foolish man and the wise man listened
to His words. It is not enough just to hear what He says! If we are wise,
we will heed His words.
If you've listened over the past eight weeks, you've heard a call to
revolution. A call to live a radical Christian lifestyle. Together, we've
discovered Jesus' call for us to be a preserving influence in our culture
and to boldly shine the gospel's light into the darkness. We learned that
Jesus expect us to do more than what is expected--to do more than is right.
We are to totally depend on Him by resisting the temptation to worry and
to humble ourselves before Him and pray.
My question to you is, "What are you going to do about it?" Are you
ready to join the revolution? Do you want more out of your Christianity
than putting in your time and your tithe? Do you want to change the world?
Or do you want to just shake my hand at the end of the service and say,
"Nice tie, Pastor," Or "Good sermon," and go home and build your house
on the sand?