Matthew 7

Read Matthew 7.

In verse 13, Jesus urged his listeners to “Enter through the narrow gate.” That phrase compares the life and destiny of everyone to two very different roads leading to two very different destinations.

One gate is wide and the road beyond it is broad and there are a lot of people on it. However, Jesus said it “leads to destruction” (v. 13).

The alternative gate is small and the road it leads to is “narrow” but it “leads to life” (v. 14). But, Jesus said, “only a few find it” (v. 14).

Eternal life is hard to find and, comparatively speaking, very few people find it. That’s the obvious teaching of Matthew 7:13-14.

But verses 15-23 go into more detail. They tell us the implications of the fact that very few people find the road to eternal life. Jesus called out two implications of the narrow road to eternal life in verses 15-23:

  1. First, believers should beware of false prophets (vv. 15-19).
  2. Second, believers should beware of false professions of faith (vv. 21-23).

Let’s focus on the first of those two implications, namely, that believers should beware of false prophets (vv. 15-19).

We think of “prophets” as people who receive revelation from God to either predict the future or to rebuke people who are in sin. Those are both valid descriptions of what prophets in the Bible did. But prophets, generally speaking, were teachers and appliers of God’s word. They brought messages from God either from direct revelation or from scripture. Second Peter 2:16 equates “false prophets” with “false teachers” and I think that’s what Jesus has in mind here in Matthew 7:15.

The command, then, is for believers in Christ, who are on the narrow road to eternal life, to be cautious about anyone who claims to have a message from God.

Being cautious goes against the instincts of most of us. We’re so accustomed to unbelief and even hostility to our faith in the world that we happily receive anyone and everyone who comes in the name of Christ.

But Jesus told us to watch out. False teachers look like true believers. Jesus said “they come to you in sheep’s clothing” in verse 15b. But, despite how they look, they’re in disguise because they want to eat you alive. Jesus said “inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (v. 15c).

So we should be very cautious about every new professing believer we meet. We shouldn’t immediately accept or reject them. Rather, we should look at the product of their lives. Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (v. 16a, 20). This changes the image from sheep and wolves to good and bad trees. Bad trees don’t produce good fruit (v. 16b, 17b) and good trees produce good fruit not bad fruit (v. 17a, 18).

Do professing believers that we meet demonstrate a life that is obedient to Jesus Christ?

  • Are they obedient to his words (vv. 24-27)?
  • Do they hunger for his righteousness (5:6) and for his truth (5:17-20)?
  • Do they strive to treat people right (5:21-22, 7:12) and do everything they can to repair broken relationships when they do treat people wrong (5:21-26)?
  • Do they judge themselves before they try to help others (7:1-6)?
  • Do they go to God to ask for what they need (7:7-12) or do they only apply human effort to get what they want?

And so on…. Do you see Christian growth, Christian desires, and Christian instincts in the lives of people who purport to be Christian leaders and teachers? If not, beware!

Ultimately, you should expect God to expose and remove every false teacher. Verses 19-20 says, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

But the point of this teaching by Jesus is to get you to be more suspicious and more discerning about the supposed “Christian” influencers in your life. The Christian life is a narrow road, found by few (again, vv. 13-14) so there are more false teachers who come in Christ’s name than genuine believers who are also bringing God’s truth.

Because we have media that can broadcast one person’s ministry to millions, it is harder than ever to get a close look at how someone else lives. The less you can see about a person’s life, the more skeptical you should be about that person’s teaching.

Who are the major influences in your Christian life? Do you know anything about how they actually live as a Christian?

Genesis 9-10, Ezra 9, Matthew 7

Read Genesis 9-10, Ezra 9, and Matthew 7 and this devotional which is about Matthew 7, particularly verses 24-27.

As Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7, he left us with a memorable image. Two homes were built. One was built on a rock foundation, the other was built on sand.

Both homes were beaten by rough weather.

The one founded on the rock remained; the one with a sandy foundation was not only damaged; it was completely destroyed.

Each house corresponds to a type of person. Both types of people heard the message of Jesus. It was not a question of ignorance versus knowledge. Both had the knowledge they needed.

No, the difference is that one type of person “hears these words of mine and puts them into practice.” The other type of person hears the words, too, but never acts in obedience to them.

We need to be continually reminded of this warning because we deceive ourselves into thinking that knowledge is enough. If we know God’s word, we think our lives will be rock solid. Temptations may come, trials may blow, but knowing God’s word will carry us through, right?

Wrong.

We often succumb to temptation or lose our way in trials because we have not obeyed God’s word. Obedience to God’s word is what builds a stable life. Knowledge is important, but not enough.

Is there an area (or more than one) in your life where you are living disobdiently to God’s word? I mean a situation where you know what the right thing to do is but you won’t do it.

And day after day after day you keep choosing to do wrong or, at least, you keep choosing not to do right.

If so, please realize that you are building your life on an inadequate, unstable foundation. When life gets rough, your house will collapse.

Jesus said so.

Be wise and change your mind and your ways today.

Matthew 7

Today the schedule calls for us to read Matthew 7, so I recommend doing that now.

This chapter is the end of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” that we started on Friday back in Matthew 5. Right away Jesus commanded us not to judge (v. 1a). The reason? “or you too will be judged.” And the standard for the judgment is the “the same way you judge others, you will be judged.” In other words, God will judge us for judging others. But what exactly is Jesus teaching here about judging?

First, he is not talking about a legal situation. For human society to exist peacefully, there must be peaceful methods for resolving conflicts. That requires some kind of decision-maker: a judge, a jury, an arbiter. So, this isn’t a command for you to avoid jury duty or to recuse yourself from everything if you’re a judge.

Second, Jesus is not talking about using discernment. In the same context down in verse 6, Jesus commanded us not to “give dogs what is sacred” or “throw your pearls to pigs.” The “dogs” and “pigs” are metaphors for a certain kind of person. Jesus was commanding us not giving truth to those who obviously will not recognize it as precious. It takes discernment to know what kind of person is like a dog or a pig and Proverbs commands and instructs us to live with discernment, so Jesus is not forbidding the use of it here.

The attitude Jesus commanded us to avoid is the attitude we label as “judgmental.” It is the attitude of harsh criticism we feel (and sometimes speak) toward others, condemning them as evil or jerks or stupid as if we had all knowledge like God does. An example may help (one that I’m totally guilty of, to my shame): If a person cuts me off in traffic and I think (or say), “that guy is a selfish jerk” I have judged him in the way Jesus spoke against here. Maybe he is a selfish jerk or maybe he’s late for a job interview or his wife is in labor or he’s preoccupied by fear or grief or stress and just didn’t notice me. So Christ commands us not to take on a God-complex and pass judgment on everyone. Instead, we should learn to show grace to others who seem difficult or unkind to us.

If I judge someone’s driving but I don’t know that person and he or she never hears my condemnation, little damage is done. Others in the car might lose some respect for me, but I haven’t done any damage to the other driver. But when we judge others in our lives without having many (any?) important facts, we poison our relationship to that person. We may never speak our judgment out loud, but we start to treat that person differently.

More importantly, when we judge others we are expressing a deep, disgusting sin–the sin of pride. We judge others because we think we are better than they are–smarter, more compassionate, more discerning, more godly, whatever. This puts us at odds with God, the only one capable of judging justly and the one who “resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). So, consider your heart, your attitude toward others and ask God to give you more grace and humility in your relationships with other people.