August 28 - Message Update

Present Matters - Matthew 7:12-21 – Pastor Josh

 

There may and are many things that we do to prepare for our imminent, immediate futures here on earth. We can save our money, study for our tests, or try to prepare for retirement but what are the things we are doing to plan for an eternity with Christ? Not even arguably, this is the most important by far type of future planning any of us can ever do because how well we plan and live by that plan will determine where we end up for eternity. This brings us to our take home truth, what we do now matters in light of eternity.

 

Knowing this, it's important for us then to know what exactly are the things that we ought to be doing now that matter for eternity. This is the big question we should be asking ourselves, what are the things we do now that matter for eternity?

 

(1) How we treat others in the present matters in light of eternity. (v12) It's easy to love and treat well the people that you like and know. But how are we treating everybody that comes across our path?

 

This verse summarizes everything that Jesus has said up to this point in the Sermon on the Mount. But beyond just summarizing the sermon on the mount, this verse summarizes all of the Law and the Prophets. It sounds straightforward enough. Do to others as you would have them do to you, treat others how you want to be treated, love as you want to be loved.

 

This idea is not new. We see it in other religions as well.  However, depending on how you interpret it, it can be practiced differently.

 

Some critics would say that very principle of a Golden Rule assumes some sort of public awareness for what is or is not appropriate behavior. Essentially, it's tricky to assume what it means to do to others as you would have done to yourself because everyone's morality or moral compass is different.

 

Whichever way we decide, the point isn't about the quantity of people we can treat well but about the quality with which we treat others. Whether or not someone is a neighbor or an enemy, we are radically called to care for their well-being.

 

Our love for God is reflected in our love for our neighbor. If we do not love our neighbor, then we do not love God. This is what it means when we say how we treat others in the present matters in light of eternity. Because how we love our neighbor, thusly how we love God, determines which side of eternity we will get to spend with God. This brings us to our second point ...

 

(2) How we make choices matters in light of eternity. (vv. 13-14) We should always treat others well but that should also be done in light of how we make choices in general in light of eternity. The choices we make now do in fact have eternal consequences, good and bad.

 

Just as you've probably heard the Golden Rule before, you've probably heard of these gates too.

 

The kind of gate that Jesus is talking about here isn't a backyard gate but more in line with the gates surrounding Jerusalem as people entered and exited the city. Open and wide for thousands of people to travel through versus having a tiny little door set to the side that's only there to find if you're looking for it.

 

There has been some debate whether or not the road comes first before the gate or the gate comes first and then the road. Depending on how you interpret this, there are going to be different takeaways.

 

If the road comes before the gate, that's like saying you have to walk on a narrow, moral, and altruistic path of life while always unsure of your salvation until you pass away and that's when you’ll see Jesus and He'll decide then and there whether or not you get into heaven. This type of interpretation and life ends up becoming works-based meaning you'll only get into heaven if you've only done all the right things.

 

If the gate comes before the road, then that means life will be filled with many decisions and each time we come across a dilemma, then you must decide to choose Jesus or not. Instead of a gate locking heaven away from us as in the first interpretation, this interpretation means Jesus is the gate and He is the one we are facing in every decision.

 

I would lean towards the second interpretation as this is the natural order and reading of the text itself. Works-based salvation as found in the first interpretation is anti-gospel. This is wrong and simply not true. Grace-based salvation is how Jesus continues to meet us and woo us towards Him while transforming us into His likeness.

 

The wide gate leads to the easy path, but this is the same path that leads to destruction. This way is the path that many people take and is the easiest to go with the flow with.

 

The narrow gate leads to the more difficult path, the path that is less traveled. It's set off to the side and we have to intentionally look for it in every choice we make. Sure, this is harder to do but this is the way that leads to life.

 

It's not impossible to step away from the crowd but it is much easier to stay with the crowd. And it's the same with the decisions that we make each and every day.

 

So, what are the other things we do now that matter in light of eternity? This leads us to our third point... (3) How we recognize false teachers matters in light of eternity. (vv. 15-20) Let’s learn how we should identify them.

 

Firstly, Jesus first warns us to beware.

 

These are people who will, like a sheep, come across as innocent and unassuming as if they pose zero threats but inside, inwardly, they are ravenous wolves ready to devour us and lead us astray. So the first thing Jesus is saying we need to know in trying to identify false prophets is to simply know that they ARE there and they will LOOK innocent. Be aware!

 

Secondly, we can identify false prophets by their fruits.

 

What's good for us is that since we have been going through the Sermon on the Mount we have many things to consider when looking for good fruit. Someone who has not been transformed by the reality of Christ cannot live in accordance with this sermon so if we see any deviations from it then there is a good chance that there is something wrong there. 

 

This isn't to say we should go around like a wayward witch hunt and excommunicate people from the church or “cancel” popular writers and speakers without much thought, wisdom or grace. In the same breath, if we choose to ignore people like those Jesus is describing here then we are setting ourselves and our church up for failure. Like a gardener or a farmer overseeing their garden or orchard, there will come a day of judgment before Jesus for these folks and like a good shepherd guarding his or her flock we must be ready and prepared to protect our church.

 

Last but not least, what is the last thing that we can do now that matters in light of eternity that Jesus addresses here at the end of the Sermon on the Mount?

 

  • How we believe in Jesus matters in light of eternity. (v. 21) Sure we can talk the talk but do we walk the walk?

 

There are many who call Jesus Lord. In Jesus’ day, the word “Lord” was used to address God and that was correct and proper. At the same time, it was also a term that was used to address a person of high esteem generally. We didn't have to recognize a person as God at all in order to call them Lord, we could just see them as someone like a boss or someone who had a high standing in society’s eyes.

 

This means that we can see Jesus as a person of high esteem and treat Him as such but if we aren't doing the will of Jesus, doing the will of the Father who is in heaven, then we don't get to spend eternity with Jesus.

 

Again, this can sound like another contradiction. “I have to do something in order to get into heaven? Josh, I thought you just said that salvation is grace-based not works-based.” Yes, that's true! But take a peek over at verse 23 for a second, “and then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Press pause real quick.

 

“I never knew you.” THIS IS THE KEY. If we know Jesus, if we have a relationship with Him and are taking the time to get to know Him, then we will naturally fall in line with His will. The impetus to action then isn't the desire to gain salvation but to return the love and grace that Jesus has already granted to us.

 

It isn’t just professing faith in Jesus but KNOWING Jesus personally. Even demons profess a belief about Jesus but they don’t trust or love Him; they don’t know Him. He’s calling us to know Him, to be in a relationship with Him. Doing things for God is part of faith, sure, but those acts must first come from a heart for Jesus.

 

This is why the things that we do in the present matters in light of eternity; because the things that we do are a reflection of the inward reality of our hearts.

 

 

Praise Songs: Psalm 90, Be Thou My Vision, I Will Offer Up My Life, Reign In Us, Doxology