Yes, the Way is Narrow! P3

Matthew 7:13-20

Have you ever locked yourself out of your house or car? How did it feel? How would it feel to be locked out of Heaven because you made a lot of wrong choices? Thank Christ, He gives us Grace, when we trust in Him!

The Christian life can be a difficult journey! We live in a fallen world corrupted by sin. Consequently, all we do is imperfect, and a struggle. We will make choices that affect the direction in which we proceed in life and in relationships.

In so doing, we affect others around us in both positive and negative ways. Yet, when our efforts and motivations are centered upon being righteous, we will be doing as we are called to do, and even be blessed for it.

As Christ’s disciples, we must be willing to be led by the truth of His Word and by our faith and trust in Him. Everything that is worthy and excellent requires more work, from painting a house to preaching the Word. This journey of difficulty should not discourage us because it will build us up to be much better, stronger and of better use to God as we put into practice what He puts in us (Phil. 2:12-13).

So, enjoy your Christian journey! See it as an adventure from which to learn and grow. Our character will improve and enable us to overcome all obstacles and help others through them.

Thus, we should make it a point to give Him our best for His glory because He first loved us, and we respond to His Grace with our gratitude. At the same time, we can take comfort in the fact that He will not give us anything we cannot handle (Phil 2:10-13; Heb. 2:10)! So, let us live with excellence, to our best for His glory!

For reflection and small groups:

How is the Way (Christian life) simple in concept? Why do some people feel the need to add to it?

Read Matthew 7:13-20, how is it that the illustration of trees and fruit (Fruits of the Spirit, Gal. 5:18-23) can be the quintessential proof text of who you are?

Making a public profession or testimony of faith may be good, but do you believe that until it moves your Will and feet, it is of no good to God or those around you? Now, think through what you can do to make sure your testimony stays on God’s track and the fruits you produce are from Gal 5:22-23, not from verses 18-21?

What happens to your church, neighborhood, and relationships when you produce fruit to nourish and impact others?

What happens when you give out your rotten fruit to discourage and repulse all the people whom God brings to you? Can you see this from the perspective of others, or perhaps how God might see it?

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Yes, the Way is Narrow! P2

Matthew 7:13-20

What is the price for choosing the wrong, or big gate? How can you help motivate others not to make that big mistake?

The illustration of trees and fruit is the quintessential proof text of whom you are, where you came from, and what you have, or can become. You have the choice to live out Galatians 5:19-21 or Galatians 5: 22-23.

The choice is yours; the fruit is to be made by you through the Holy Spirit.

The key is to receive and work it out (Phil. 2:12-13). You can be a good tree or a bad one. You can produce fruit to nourish and impact others, or give out your rotten fruit to discourage and repulse all those who are brought to you by God. Faith that is professed may be good, but until it moves your will and feet it is no good to God or those around you!

Today, it is no different. We still need to be “set straight” because of so much false, bad, shallow and lazy teaching in the church. Churches often add in what is not there, and lead people far away from the simple, yet profound teachings of our Lord. Leaders tell us to carry what we do not need, or cut essential aspects from the Gospel, as if it were a buffet.

Added to this, we have so many false religions, cults, lifestyles, and ways of living, we can be overwhelmed and confused. The price for choosing the wrong, or big gate is the ultimate cost of eternal consequences and despair. Do not cheat yourself, and exchange what seems easy and fun for ultimate loneliness and desolation.

In what ways is the Christian life hard?

“Difficult” is the Christian way. To teach that it is easy is true on the surface; however, it minimizes who and what Christ did and the price He paid (Acts 14:21-22). It also minimizes the realization of how much you have been forgiven, and how much sin corrupts and destroys. We will go though difficulties and sufferings, but these cannot distract us; rather, we need to see the hope and glory we have to come.

“Fruits,” is an illustration of good and valuable food such as barley, figs, and pomegranates, versus what is worthless and harmful to the harvesters, such as thorns or thistles (Isa. 5:2-6; 27:6; Hos.10: 1-13; 14:7-8; Prov. 11:30-31). This, in the O.T., refers to being obedient to God in order to receive His blessings. Now, it is more of a mirror to our character, to who we are, or can be in Christ (Gal. 5:18-23).

Do not focus on your situation, but on Christ.

The Christian life requires surrender of our Will, as in self-denial and obedience to Him (Rom. 6:3-7; 17-22). Few people desire to be convicted or challenged from their thinking and comfort zones. They see this as confining, or bigoted. What needs to take place, besides the work of the Spirit, to make this happen? In so doing, will it change our behavior, which is the main theme of chapters 5, 6, and 7 (Matt. 28:19-20)?

What is the price for choosing the wrong, or big gate? How can you help motivate others not to make that big mistake?

Yes, the Way is Narrow! P1

Matthew 7:13-20 P1

Why is it appealing to be open-minded to the point that everything is acceptable and permissible as long as no one is hurt? How does this philosophy destroy?

We live in an age where all ways and religions are accepted as equally valid and good. We are told that we, those who believe in ‘true Truth,’ are narrow minded and bigoted if we suggest anything else. However, political correctness aside, there is only One Way, and it is both the hardest way, and the easiest. Hard, because it cost our Lord so much; hard, because it requires us to surrender our Will; hard, because it is so easy, we think we do not need it. Jesus is the One and only Way, the gate that is narrow, the Way that is difficult, and to say otherwise neutralizes the Majesty and holiness of Jesus, His teaching, and it cheapens His Gospel (Matthew 7:13-20).

“Narrow gate” comes to us from Jesus using the illustration of two gates is from Ezra, and would be familiar to all first century Jews, as that passage is about coming back from captivity to rebuild the temple and the wall (Ezra 4). One leads to Life (water, food); the other, death (waste and dung).

The “wide gate” represents the beginning of the life of destruction as what is seemingly free and open, as it allows us to believe whatever we want. It does not require our Will, because our Will becomes the controlling factor. Materialism, hatred, refusing to forgive, prejudice and the rest of the rotten fruits will take hold and glue us to that destructive lifestyle, then rationalize it as good. It seems the easy path, but will soon be more difficult and destructive that we could have thought (2 Thess. 1:7-9; Rev. 20:15; 21:8).

The “narrow gate” represents the beginning to the “Way” that leads to life (Matt. 14:6; 16:24; 25:46; John 10:1-18).

The narrowness is not determined by God’s anger or callousness, rather by our free Will and sin that rebels (Matt. 6:14-20), so He has to chase after us. Many still refuse His Grace (Matt. 22:14).

Even though the Way is simple in concept, people, since the early Apostles and Judaizers (Jews who kept the Law, especially circumcision, while believing in Jesus), tried to add extra burdens on the Gospel of Grace. From circumcision to the scores of false teachers, Paul and Barnabas were plagued with this until Peter, through the Holy Spirit, set them straight (Acts 10-15).

The Christian life requires surrender of our Will, as in self-denial and obedience to Him (Rom. 6:3-7; 17-22).

Few people desire to be convicted or challenged in their thinking or comfort zone, which they see as confining or bigoted. It will change our behavior, which is the main theme of chapters 5, 6, and 7 (Matt. 28:19-20).

All churches will have fighting and squabbling!



We are all in some process of sanctification and growth and we are not perfect—or called to be so. The question is, are we on the right road that delivers the fruit or are we just stationed at the fruit-stand and not restocking it? A prime purpose of the Church supposedly is to show and give out the Fruit, but many of us find ourselves empty. Are we making the effort to pick out the rotten fruit and throw it away? If you want to be successful in life, church, and ministry, you need to get this point: we are to be fruit makers. The primary purpose of doing church is not to just please ourselves, but to glorify and serve our Living God. Our lives as Christians are about how we live out His work and honor our Lord; we can best do this by applying our faith and growth in Him to display and give out this Fruit in our church relationships.

Having trouble? Take heart! Christ is the One who changes us and forms our Fruit. All we do is affectionately and in gratitude respond by faith and commit to His precepts. This requires our continual commitment to prevent our bad behaviors or body language from discouraging others from Christ and His Church.

Remember, Christianity is not just the proclamation of the Gospel; it is also the example of the Gospel! The action from your faith will reflect our Lord and either build or destroy your church! Consider this; the fruits and character that we have been given freely cost dearly; they are not cheap. Jesus Christ bought them and then brought them for and to us, for our betterment and to His glory. We must not take for granted what cost Him so much!

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

What is in the Way of our Fruit Production?

When we become a Christian either by birth in a Christian family (to slowly understand Who and What Christ is and over time make a commitment to Him) or through evangelism as an adult (a quick response when ones realizes their sin and need for grace and then commits to Christ), a time must come when the reality of who we are in Christ hits home in power and conviction. The black, dirty slime of our minds has to completely change to the new, golden anointing oil of His Fruit, love, and precepts. This will transform us into practical applications of His will in His church. But, our faith just does not come about on its own; something wondrous must take place within us to transform us so we can trust. This is what the Holy Spirit is doing in our Fruit of the Spirit production and cultivation. In other words, we must become the people of God in order to be capable and willing to do the work of God.

Keep in mind this Fruit is mutual; it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to keep us motivated, especially in the leadership of the church and the common places of personal life! This is how the Christian life is to be practical and outgoing—not sedentary and inclusive.

Since God saved us, we in turn are compelled to show our response, to work in Christ’s behalf, to be His agents, powered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel message, even in our own church. This will allow us to have discipline and restraint with obedience to God and others. We must refuse to let distractions derail or remove us from His will and plan so we will not be held back with what Christ called us to do (Prov. 16:32; 25:28; Rom 13:12-14; 1 Cor. 6:12; 9:25-27; Col. 3:16; 1Thess. 5: 22; Titus 2:12; Heb. 12:2; 2 Pet. 1:5-7).

This is why we at ITW and FASICLD are embarking on this new research project to see if our churches are truly displaying Christ or building temples unto themselves. Are we fruitful vines or thorn-bushes? This is entitled, The Fruit of the Spirit as a Biblical Mandate versus Actual Practice in American Churches. The initial results are not good; in fact, they are an abysmal testimony to failure resulting from not taking our lead from God, but seeking to be led from ourselves. Thus, in our wake is left a diseased-ridden and dysfunctional church; if we do not turn around, we will fail beyond measure.

Questions to ponder:

We are called to stretch and grow beyond what we think we can do! Remember, our Lord offers His encouragement for all those who are in Him to grow in Him!

What does it take for you to have a greater desire and ability to grow, practice, and apply your faith?

What does it mean to you to make every conceivable effort to put into practice your faith and fruit? How is this necessary for your life?

What have you received from Christ that drives your life? What is in the way? What are you going to do about it?

 

Remember, Christ is our Empowerment and our Example!

Is your Thinking Right? Are your Behaviors are Right?

Good theology is our right thinking of God’s precepts, including the knowledge of His Fruit. Our mind and thinking must be based on Christ and Scripture through which the Spirit guides us (2 Cor. 4:18; 1 John 2:17). If not, our culture and the pleasures of life will sweep us away from God’s best for us. This is our Christian life and purpose! This is the boot camp and the army is our duty in application. Yet, it is the least thing considered by the average Christian’s pursuit, especially those who never take ownership of their faith, who grew up in a church considering it as cultural and a duty rather than devotion and lifestyle. Thus, our churches become fruit-stands that have no fruit in them, just a shell of a building without His real substance, impact, and power penetrating. The danger is for the Christian to sit in a pew, learn all that he/she can, and take comfort in that knowledge, but never do anything with it. This creates the church that refuses to evangelize or reach others, or display Christ by their words and deeds. The Christian that refuses to share his/her faith usually is one who is not growing in that faith. Thus, faith and Fruit may be miserly trickled out on Sunday but no display or model of Christ is present on Monday. Be aware that you will be harshly judged; you are no better than the Pharisees! The proof test is do you use people, or serve them? Do you just gather information, or do you apply it (Hos.6:6; Mica. 6:6-8; Matt. 12 9-14; 23; James 1:21-27)?

In Romans 12: 1-2, we are called as church folks to passionately pursue God’s will, and that is to think rightly of His precepts. By doing so, we can make our faith real so it impacts others around us. This is what a collection of Christians is called to and should do to build a healthy, well-balanced church that glorifies Christ. The simple way we can do this is to see our lives as extensions of God’s grace and hands, so we are willing and able to be lined up to Him and be better used by Him. We are called to be a living sacrifice, which means we are to be living, growing, and performing Fruit agents of God. We are not alone in this essential matter. As Christians, we are transformed completely by the Spirit; this includes all we are and all that we are to do—our will, our plans, and our opportunities (2 Cor. 3:18). We cannot do this unless we give our selfish will and pride and past hurts over to Him (John 3:30; Gal. 2:20-21; Phil. 3:1-14)!

The incentive for us to surrender to Christ is that His Way is better than ours! He gave us a gift we cannot fathom, let alone earn the gift of grace and eternal life, so why would we not seek to please our Living Loving Lord?

When we are growing in Christ, we will be displaying Christ—our “reasonable service” as church leaders! Then we will have real ripe and pleasing Fruit; God’s will is for us to be willing and able to please and serve Him. This is accomplished when we are on guard so that the distractions of the sinful life will not entice, motivate, or divert us from Him and His plan for us! The call is simple: be willing to allow God to transform you rather than the world; simple? Yes, but it takes diligent effort and the trust we have in Christ to succeed as a church and as individual people of faith! When we do this, our thinking, attitude, and mindset will change and then impact all that we do in life.

How Truthful is your Church and Leaders?

As Christ’s disciples, we must be willing to be led by the truth of His Word and by our faith and trust in Him. Because faith is also in community and mutual, we each partake in Christ and need one another to grow further in our pilgrimage of Christian living. This is what your church needs to be about! In so doing, we share Christ and therefore proclaim Him to those who do not know Him. To be a good church, we are called to glorify Christ in all that we do! In this manner, as both a global Church and a local church, we must also demonstrate His love in how we relate to others. And know this: everything that is worthy and excellent requires more work, from painting a house to preaching the Word. This journey of difficulty should not discourage us because it will build us up to be much better, stronger, and of greater use to God as we put into practice what He puts in us.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Phil. 2:12-13.

So, enjoy it! See it as an adventure from which to learn and grow. Our character will improve and enable us to overcome all obstacles and help others though them. Thus, we should make it a point to give Him our best for His glory because He first loved us, and we respond to His Grace with our gratitude. At the same time, we can take comfort in the fact that He will not give us anything we cannot handle (Phil 2:10-13; Heb. 2:10)! So, let us live with excellence, to our best for His glory!