“SERMON ON THE MOUNT – AND BEYOND !!!”
Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
—Matthew 7:13-20 (NKJV)
It is suggested by some scholars that this passage marks the beginning of the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Perhaps the Savior is taking His disciples down off the mountain to where they can see the outskirts of Jerusalem. Each city has a Main Gate! Throughout the Old Testament, the “gate” referred to the Main Gate near the city’s entrance. There are 385 uses of the word “gate” in Scripture!
A casual reading of the Book of Job will find several fascinating references to the “Gate”. Allow one passage to be mentioned here as an help to our study. From Job 29:1, 7ff:
““Oh, that I were as in months past, as in the days when God watched over me;
““When I went out to the gate by the city, when I took my seat in the open square,
The young men saw me and hid, and the aged arose and stood; the princes refrained from talking, and put their hand on their mouth; the voice of nobles was hushed, and their tongue stuck to the roof of their mouth.”
In the midst of his misery, suffering, and pain, Job looked back to those days when life was simpler – and when he was the object of respect in the land of Uz. He would go to the place known as The “Gate By the City”, the place where often business dealings were consummated. Did you notice what Job really hungered for? He looked again for the proper recognition given to him by both young and old alike. And that recognition took place at the Main Gate. And there was only ONE “Main Gate.”
Into that very familiar picture our Savior begins His final words to the disciples, and to those of the multitude who were eagerly listening as well. He said “enter by the narrow gate…”. There was only ONE narrow gate. There were not MANY narrow gates. There was only ONE. There were many WIDE gates which lead to destruction. But there is only ONE narrow gate.
There is a story told about a little boy visiting New York City for the very first time. Perhaps one day in YOUR life YOU were that little boy! I know I was that boy once! I grew up about 30 miles outside of the Big Apple. So when my parents took me to New York City, well, that was a special day! The wise parents thought their son would enjoy traveling on the train, so they took him to the majestic Grand Central Station. Dad went to the ticket counter and bought two adult tickets and one child’s ticket for the train. And then? And then they went to a GATE. Up to this point, the little boy could only hear the noise of the hustle and bustle of the traffic of the train station. He could only hear the occasional train whistle. He could only hear the distant “All Aboard” of some shouting conductor. Those noises were far away. Before him was The Gate. There was only ONE GATE into Grand Central Station [ok, ok, I’m embellishing the story a tad – can you imagine only ONE GATE for a zillion people who enter and leave Grand Central Station each day? But listen on!] Dad gave the little boy his ticket and gave him the instructions as to what to do with the ticket. With excitement, the little boy gave his ticket to the Nice Man by the ONE GATE. And then the Nice Man said, “Welcome, son, into the joy of Grand Central Station!”.
There is only ONE GATE to Heaven. It is a “strait” (KJV) or “narrow” (NKJV and others) gate. That ONE GATE leads to Heaven. All OTHER GATES (and there are MANY!) lead to destruction.
There is ONE GOOD TREE! “Every good tree bears fruit”. This second point is connected with the ONE GATE, and gives a further illustration for the ONE GATE. If you are going through the ONE GATE, you will be a GOOD TREE which bears GOOD FRUIT! The key to this TREE is that ALL OTHERS – did you catch that? – ALL OTHERS bear bad fruit! Our Savior is creating a brilliant visual of the difference between the GOOD SERVANTS of the Lord and those who are not, which He calls the “FALSE PROPHETS”. The “false prophets” are those “merchants and traders who really love a good religious revival! YOU know who they are, right? They are the religious scalpers. They are the spiritual exhibitionists! They are the hawkers who want your money. They may even tell a good “Christian” joke or story to get your spiritual juices flowing. But dear people…what is the KEY to these “FALSE PROPHETS”? Do you know? Have we learned together yet? The KEY to these “FALSE PROPHETS” is that they did NOT go through the NARROW GATE! They are the ones who think there are MANY GATES which lead to LIFE! Yet Jesus said there is ONE GATE which leads to life, which leads to a GOOD TREE which bears GOOD FRUIT. There are MANY paths which lead to DESTRUCTION. And on that path will be many often well-meaning folk, religious, spiritual good talkers. They are the FALSE PROPHETS of both Jesus’ and our days.
Finally, there is ONE TRUE LIFE! Do you have a “B.C.” and an “A.D.” in your life? Is there a “Before Christ” period of your life? For me it was 19 years. For my wife and our daughter, it was only 8 years each! I know of a precious man – who is now “with the Lord” – who came to know Jesus as Savior at age 70. At age 70 he began his “A.D.” – his “after dying to self, his dying to and trusting in Jesus and the cross. He lived to be 90 years old! But OH what he did in those last 20 years of his life. He had been a carpenter by trade, and for those 20 years he served the Lord through his carpentry. But you know what he told me when he turned 90? What do you think he said? He said, “WHY didn’t I trust Jesus when I was younger? I could have lived ALL MY LIFE for Him!”.
There is only ONE TRUE LIFE, and that is the life lived for Jesus’ glory. It is the life that began by “walking” through the NARROW GATE of faith at the cross. It is the life that bears GOOD FRUIT. It is the ONE TRUE LIFE. All other lives are, well, empty.
Have you read the Book of ECCLESIASTES lately? Solomon the Preacher begins by telling about his life. He had many pursuits, and in those pursuits he had plenty of this world’s goods! He had land! He had money! He had valuables, which in his day were horses and buildings. He had everything his eye hungered for. He wrote,
“Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.” (2:10)
And then he looked over ALL HIS STUFF. He looked over ALL THAT HE HAD SPENT A LIFETIME LABORING FOR. And do you know what his conclusion was? Do you have ANY IDEA?
Solomon wrote, “and indeed, all was VANITY and GRASPING for the wind. There was NO PROFIT under the sun.” (2:11).
We understand “vanity”. “Vanity” is the shallowness which is the fruit of seeking something which has no substance. But what about “grasping for the wind”? You may KNOW what it means without realizing it! Remember the toy we all played with as a kid? In one hand you had a stick with a circle at one end. You would take that stick with the circle and place it in a bottle. You would then pull the stick with the circle out of the bottle. And then? And then you would blow into the circle! And what would happen? Out would flow a floating bubble of various sizes. And THEN? You would chase that bubble, perhaps even successfully catching it in your hand. And THEN? The bubble would…BURST! THAT is “grasping for the wind.” A bubble that bursts. You have no substance to show.
AND WHY NOT? Because there is only ONE TRUE LIFE. All other lives which did not begin by going through the NARROW GATE, by not seeking the GOOD FRUIT of the GOOD TREE results in an empty life.
“Oh, yes,” you say. “I have it all! I have my horses: I have riches. I have homes. I have cars. I have it all.” Like Solomon you may have it all. And you are EMPTY.
There is a song I heard for the first time many years ago at a concert. The lady was the “opening act” for the main attraction. You know, I don’t remember who the main attraction was. But I’ve never forgotten the song the intro girl sang. The song is “He’s the Only Reason”. I have not been able to find the name of the author. It is a brief song. Two verses and the chorus. I close with this song.
I’ve been blessed with so many things, God’s been good to me
I have family and friends who share in all I do
But if I lose it all and I am left with nothing
If I have the Lord, then I know I’ll make it thru
You may have tried a lot of things to find real happiness
But if you’ve looked very long then you know it just can’t be found
Until you find the Lord in the power of His spirit
Jesus will be your reason to live and He’ll never let you down
Chorus: He’s the only reason I live but, Oh what a reason
He’s the only reason I live but, Oh what a reason
There is nothing in this world worth living for
It only leaves you empty and longing for more
He’s the only reason I live but, Oh what a reason
As you re-read Matthew 7:13-20, ask yourself: “is this the song of my life?”.