HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, June 26, 2022
Teaching Series - “Doing Life with Jesus"
Weekly Topic - “True Disciples”
Texts – Matthew 5:13-16, 7:13-27
Today, we conclude our study of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with a number of metaphors Jesus used to describe what it means to be a true follower of his.
We’re going to begin by first going backward to chapter five. At the beginning of Jesus’ teaching as recorded by Matthew we were introduced to the upside-down values of God’s kingdom, which we know as the Beatitudes. Jesus assures us that when we live God’s way we will act as salt and light to our flavourless and dark world.
WE ARE TO BE DIFFERENT
Matthew 5:13-16, NLT
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
Jesus describes what our influence in this world is to be like…salt and light. And who doesn’t like either of those? But too often, the flavour of Jesus’ followers is more bitter than salty and our light more blinding than illuminating. Or there’s the other side of the problem. Many of us are living our lives as flavourless salt or as lights hidden away. We need to seriously reflect on the impression we leave with others. When someone who doesn’t know God makes our acquaintance, do they get a taste of God? Do they see his light and truth and love for them through us? They really ought to or we should be asking the question, ‘Am I truly a follower of Christ?’
This does not mean that we will never make a mistake again; however, the life of a follower of Christ is one of ongoing transformation. Month to month, year to year, we should become more and more like Jesus in our attitudes, thoughts and actions. Our lives should look different than those who are not Christians because we have found a different road to travel, which will now take us to the end of Jesus’ sermon in chapter seven.
WE ARE TO TAKE A DIFFERENT WAY
Matthew 7:13-14, NLT
13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”
Jesus describes the road to hell as a highway with a wide entrance. Just this week, my husband and I travelled to Toronto for daughter's convocation. You can get to Toronto via a network of roads. You might begin on a smaller rural road, but at some point, all join up with the 400 series of highways and you will find yourself on a vast network of roads, with express and collector lanes, all heading for the same city. Now, I’m not equating Toronto with hell (though some might), but if you want a picture of the highway to hell think of the bumper to bumper, high speed, traffic jam plagued, sometimes erratic, often angry conditions that are found on major roadways. This is a picture we might more fully understand than Jesus’ original audience! Jesus tells us this highway is easily travelled, it’s not difficult to find and many choose it. But the ultimate destination will leave people with eternal regret.
On the other hand, Jesus describes the road to heaven as a path with a narrow gate. Think of this road as more like an unkept nature trail. The only means of getting on the path is to find the entrance which is often obscured to preserve its surrounding nature; once on the path, we can see the imprint that others have left as they walked along and sometimes there are directional markers painted on trees to guide us, but it is often filled with tree roots, mud puddles and rocks that are not easily maneuvered around. The path can be challenging with the addition of sharp inclines and steep declines. We can walk for miles with seemingly no end in sight, until suddenly we see a break in the trees and there before us is a waterfall, or panoramic view from a cliffside, or a cascade of water rushing over rocks or some other awe inspiring natural phenomena. And in that moment, we realize the hard walk was worth it.
Many people miss this treasure because they refuse to take the path or miss the gate altogether in their rush. Jesus said that the path to heaven is similar. The only way to find it, is to recognize that belief in Jesus is the gate to the path. And, it isn’t easy to walk at times…temptation to live for ourselves, the hard work of obeying God’s laws (like love your enemy) and the disappointments that we sometimes face can all cause us to reject Jesus’ path to heaven. Most people choose other paths that all join together to make the wide road…they hope that their chosen path will lead to an enjoyable life and heaven, but Jesus said that the wide road can never take anyone there. Jesus is the only way.
We will sometimes have company on his path, but it can also be a lonely trek. Some who have begun walking the path choose to turn back much like Jesus’ parable about the seed that falls on the path, rocky soil and weed patches (Matthew 13:18-22). Others are content to walk alongside the path in hopes of reaching heaven without fully committing. Jesus, however, gave us a warning about these supposed followers whom we will at times encounter. He describes them as ‘wolves’, ‘thistles’ and ‘unwise builders.’
BEWARE OF FAKES
Matthew 7:15-23, NLT
15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”
The Bible often refers to those who follow God as ‘sheep.’ However, Jesus warns that not everyone in the flock belongs to him…there are also ‘wolves.’ They have made their way into the Church, but for ulterior motives. They aren’t there to be shepherded by Jesus…they’re there to get fat off of the sheep! Unfortunately, they aren’t always easy to spot…they come disguised and claiming to speak for God, but are really lying. In recent years, the #metoo movement threw a spotlight on some wolves that had infiltrated the Christian community and were preying on those they claimed to be caring for. Many Christian churches and whole denominations are still in the process of cleaning up the mess that ‘wolves’ were permitted to wreak amongst Jesus’ followers.
How can you tell a follower from a fake? It isn’t always that easy.
Video – spot the fake fruit - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMhNt4E0YrM (0.00-1.10)
So, how do we tell the wolves from the sheep? Jesus tells us by the way they act. He then introduces a new metaphor. A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit and a bad tree doesn’t produce good. You cannot pick apples from a thornbush and an orange tree will not produce thistles.
Likewise, the fruit of the Spirit is observable in those who follow Jesus; if someone who claims to be a Christian is not loving, joyful, peacemaking, patient, kind, gentle, good, faithful and able to exercise self-control, something is wrong. As I’ve said, we all have momentary slip-ups, and our transformation into being like Jesus is a lifelong process, but if the Spirit’s fruit is in short supply in an individual’s life and they don’t appear to making any progress, we have cause to question whether they have given control of their lives to Jesus at all.
Long story short, we’ll know them by their fruit. But what is the fruit? Miracles? The use of Jesus’ name? Casting out demons? Prophesy? Not according to Jesus. At the final judgment, some people who thought they were ‘in’ will find themselves surprised by Jesus’ rejection, “I never knew you.” Yes, they have had the appearance of being one of his followers and even used his name prolifically, but they were missing one crucial ingredient…obedience! Are any of us trying to ‘eat our cake and have it to?’ Ensure our place in heaven, but fudge a little when it comes to obeying God?
Belief in Jesus without submission / surrender / obedience will never be enough, because each is required to find the narrow gate and stay on the path that will lead us to heaven. It should cause ourselves to ask the question, “What have we substituted obedience for?” Good works? Financial giving? Christian paraphernalia?
When an individual’s behaviours give us pause or concern, sometimes the worst thing we can do is to turn a blind eye. However, we are also not called to hold inquisitions to ferret out the imposters. Rather, we are to concern ourselves with producing good fruit through our own changed lives. We are called to be ready to intervene for the good of others, but also to keep our own walk with Jesus on the right track. There is a balance to be struck and God’s discernment is needed when dealing with those who appear to be misusing Jesus’ name for their own benefit.
Unfortunately, imposters learn how to hide in plain site; and just because someone seems a little ‘odd’ doesn’t mean they aren’t sincere followers. Paul tells us to reserve judgement for Jesus in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 – “So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries. 2 Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful. 3 As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. 4 My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.
5 So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.”
But only a few short paragraphs later he writes:
1 Corinthians 5:1-8 – “I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. 2 You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.
3 Even though I am not with you in person, I am with you in the Spirit. And as though I were there, I have already passed judgment on this man 4 in the name of the Lord Jesus. You must call a meeting of the church. I will be present with you in spirit, and so will the power of our Lord Jesus. 5 Then you must throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed and he himself will be saved on the day the Lord returns.
6 Your boasting about this is terrible. Don’t you realize that this sin is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. 8 So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread of sincerity and truth.”
Obviously for Paul, some things are more easily discerned than others, but we must act on the knowledge that we are given. Overt sin must be dealt with. We also aren’t to grant a blind seal of approval or automatically mistrust someone. Only God knows a person’s heart motivation.
Jesus has one final metaphor for those who wish to follow him to end his sermon.
WILL WHAT YOU’RE BUILDING LAST?
Matthew 7:24-27, NLT
24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
Jesus’ final metaphor tells us that we are to be wise builders rather than foolish ones. Over the course of the past two months, we have examined Jesus’ full sermon as recorded by Matthew. Each one of us has had areas in our lives exposed that need further transformation by the Spirit. We need to reform our values so that they reflect God’s not the world’s. We have been challenged to love our enemies…not to worry, but trust in God’s provision…to not allow anger to get the better of us and to keep our commitments…to be anonymously generous…to reserve our loyalty to God alone…not to judge, but to always treat others the way we wish for God to treat us…and much more.
If we’re tempted to toss in the proverbial towel because Jesus’ teaching is just too hard, or let ourselves off the hook, ‘Afterall, no one’s perfect,’ this final portion of Jesus’ sermon is for us. If we choose to build our lives on anything other than the truths of his teaching, what we build cannot endure. Because obedience to Jesus’ teaching is the bedrock we need…everything else is sand that is ever shifting with the tides and the wind.
I wonder if Paul had in mind Jesus’ teaching from his sermon on the mountainside when he wrote the letter to the Colossian church and specifically the verses I have chosen as our theme verses for this year, from Colossians 2:6-7 – “6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
We each must choose how we will respond to Jesus’ teaching each and everyday. The people in the crowd knew that this was out of the ordinary, “28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.” Will we walk away impressed like the crowd…or determined to make a change, determined to receive Jesus’, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Sunday, July 3, 2022 – 2022 Theme - “Doing Life with Jesus – Help Is Here” – Canada Day long weekend – In-person and Online
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!