Good morning, Bereans, our study this morning will be part 2 of The Narrow Way and the Rock. As I said last week, this study came out of our last study of 1 Thessalonians in which Paul gave them the following commandment:
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 ESV
We could paraphrase this verse this way: "Rather than seek vengeance, go after the other person's highest good with a vengeance." Think about that! They do evil to you, but your response is to go after their highest good with a vengeance. This is how we are called to live. This is not normal or natural; it is supernatural. This is how a disciple of Yeshua lives. Launching from this verse, we then looked at Matthew 7.
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14 ESV
I said that I believe that the narrow gate is not the gate to salvation but discipleship. Discipleship is living in fellowship with the Lord, living a life of obedience to His teaching, and abiding in Christ. It is difficult. Living this way takes discipline, but it leads to an abundant joy-filled life.
Becoming a Christian is not an agonizing difficult task; it happens simply by our believing the Gospel. We were all dead in sin and, thus, separated from God when Yahweh, by his grace, gave life to those he had chosen. And once we receive life, we believe. The only condition of eternal salvation is faith in Christ.
Now those who hold to Lordship salvation contend that salvation requires more than just believing. One must also commit his life to Him, turn from his sins, confess Him, obey Him, be baptized, etc., etc., etc." As we said last week, this is not what we learn from the only New Testament book whose stated purpose is evangelistic. Search the Gospel of John and you will see that the only condition for obtaining salvation and eternal life is believing in Christ. And I think that if people would understand the difference between a Christian and a disciple, this whole Lordship versus free grace debate would end. We are saved by grace through faith alone, but as believers we are called to live in obedience to Christ as his disciples.
Those on the Lordship side of this debate teach that the Lord himself said that only those who do God's will enter heaven. So, salvation is more than believing. One must also obey to be saved. Let's look at what the Lord said.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21 ESV
According to Yeshua, who is it that enters the Kingdom? Very clearly it is: "He we does the will of My Father in heaven." But what does it mean to "do the will of God"? We'll look at this in a minute, but let's look at the context first.
Yeshua has warned his disciples about the broad road that leads to destruction. Then in verse 15 He warns about the danger of false prophets who lead people down that broad road. Verses 16 through 20 explain how we are to distinguish between a genuine prophet and a false prophet. Very simply, Yeshua says you will know them by their fruits. You must examine them very closely, because the better the counterfeit, the more carefully it must be examined before it is possible to determine that it is counterfeit. Yeshua is saying that the doctrines they hold and the character of the teachers' lives reveal whether or not they belong to God.
Then in verses 21-23, Yeshua enforces his warning by conceding that many of the false prophets will do and say wonderful and impressive things - "they prophesied in His name, cast out demons in His name, and did many wonders in His name." They do some very impressive things, but they are not of God. In verse 20, Yeshua again says:
Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Matthew 7:20 ESV
Tte context of verses 21-23 is dealing with the false prophets. These false prophets may say, "Lord, Lord", but they are not of God.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21 ESV
Those who hold to the Lordship view assert that Yeshua used the expression "the will of My Father" to denote that those who are saved are characterized by obedience to all that the Father has commanded. Thus, those who do the will of the Father would be people who live in obedience to God's revealed will.
If "doing the will of God" in this text means living in obedience to God's moral will, then I think we are all in trouble. Notice again what Paul said to the Thessalonians.
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 ESV
This means that those who do God's will do not seek vengeance when someone wrongs them, but they go after the wrongdoer's highest good with a vengeance. Will a person who fails to do this be eternally damned? They are not doing the will of God! Do you see how complicated it gets when you require obedience as a necessary element of salvation?
Look at what Paul said about faith.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 ESV
The truth is, technically, we're not saved by faith but through faith. Faith is the instrumental means of salvation; grace is the efficient means. We're saved by Yeshua. We're saved by His grace. We're saved through faith. You would know what I meant if I said to you "I put the fire out with the hose." Now hoses don't put out fires. But hoses are the channels for water that puts the fire out. The hose is the instrumental means; the water is the efficient means. Faith is the instrumental means by which we are able to access our salvation through Yeshua.
Augustine, who lived from 354-430, wrote, "Faith is nothing else than to think with assent." John Calvin wrote, "For as regards justification, faith is something merely passive, bringing nothing of ours to the recovering of God's favor but receiving from Christ what we lack."
Back to our text. When Yeshua spoke of doing the will of the Father to obtain kingdom entrance, based on the analogy of faith, I believe that He had one act of obedience in mind: believing the gospel.
Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Yeshua answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." John 6:28-29 ESV
Notice that the crowd wanted to know what they must do in order to do the works (pl) of God, but Yeshua answered using the word works in the singular. Yeshua uses a play on words when he says, "This is the work. What is that work? That work is to believe. But, of course, believing isn't a work at all, is it? In other words, this is what God requires of you, not works, but one thing—to believe.
The significance of the modifying phrase "of God" indicates that the "work" of faith is not our effort but the gracious gift of God enabling us to trust in Christ. That faith is to be "in" the one whom God sent.
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:40 ESV
Believing in Yeshua is doing the will of God. A person who trusts in Christ alone for his eternal salvation obeys the will of the Father in respect to the gospel. Such a person obtains absolute perfection before God, positionally speaking, since Christ takes away all of his sins and gives him His righteousness in exchange (2 Cor. 5:21). And, such a person can be 100% sure of his salvation because he can know with certainty that he has done the will of the Father (in relation to the gospel) once and for all.
Saving faith is not a matter of doing something; it is accepting the testimony of God. Do you believe that Yeshua is the Christ? If you do, then on the testimony of Scripture, you are saved, and you possess everlasting life.
John Robbins, in the foreword of Gordon Clarks' book, Faith and Saving Faith, writes, "Belief of the truth, nothing more and nothing less, is what separates the saved from the damned. Those who maintain that there is something more than belief, are, quite literally, beyond belief."
Now, when you talk about free grace the question often arises, "Since we are saved by grace through faith and faith alone, does it matter how we live once we are saved?" Absolutely! It makes a tremendous difference—not in your eternal destiny—but in your quality of life, here and now. Notice how Yeshua closes his sermon.
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." Matthew 7:24-27 ESV
Yeshua has just finished delivering the message that contained all the great ethical precepts of His teaching. In it, Yeshua lays it all out: love your enemies, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, forgive those who wrong you, forgive those who wrong you time and time again, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Then, as a conclusion to the message, He tells this little story (a parable). What is the essence of this parable? What is it illustrating? What separates the wise builder from the foolish builder? It is a one-word answer. Obedience!
Do you see anything in this parable about believing? His stress here is on DOING. This is very important! We are saved by faith alone, but here Yeshua is talking to those who believe in Him and stressing the importance of obedience. Yeshua says something like, "It's important to actually do these things I've commanded you to do. Do not just think it's a good idea to do them but actually follow through and do them."
There are some questions that we must answer: What do the "houses" of the wise and foolish builders represent? What "storms" is Yeshua talking about? How can we "build" so as to be able to withstand the storms?
Let's begin by identifying the "houses"; I suggest that the houses represent our lives. Each of us is building a life. A life that will respond to the many ups and downs that come our way. Yeshua is saying in this parable, "If you want to protect your life from damage, you've got to be wise and obey my commandments and my rules for your life." Please notice that this obedience results in quality of life and preservation of life.
This teaching about obedience and life preservation runs all through the Scriptures.
When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever. Proverbs 10:25 ESV
Look at Old Covenant Israel. When they obeyed Yahweh, they were blessed but when they disobeyed Yahweh, He judged them and made their lives miserable.
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: "Stand in the gate of the LORD's house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: 'This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.' "For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever. Jeremiah 7:1-7 ESV
They were trusting in the temple of the Lord rather than in obeying the Lord and humbling themselves before Him. The false prophets had assured them that as long as they had the temple, then all would be well for them. They thought that because the temple of the Lord was in their midst that God was on their side and all was well. God was obligated to protect them and give them His bountiful provisions. Because of their sin, they would be judged. Like our forefathers, our preservation in the storms of life is tied to our obedience.
James teaches that our deliverance from the destructive effects of sin is directly connected to our obedience to the Word of God. The theme verse of James is:
Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:21 ESV
The purpose of the book of James is to teach us how we can save ourselves from the damaging effects of sin. James says we are to receive with meekness the "implanted word." When was it implanted? At our salvation.
Why should we receive the Word with meekness? Because it is able to "save your life." The word "soul" is psuche which can also be translated "life." The word "save" is the Greek word sozo which means "to deliver." It is used here in a temporal sense of saving your life from the damage that sin brings. The expression "Save your soul" is never found any place in the New Testament to describe the conversion experience. James is writing about the temporal life and how to preserve it from damage. "Save" has the idea of prolonging and enhancing your life. It is used this way in 1 Timothy 4.
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:16 ESV
Paul tells Timothy to watch his doctrine and his life and in doing this he cannot only save himself but those who hear him. Save from damage is the idea here.
In 1:22-25, James states and illustrates the need for active obedience to the Word which will save us from damage.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 ESV
"But" indicates that something further must be said. It's not enough to hear; obedience must follow. Literally, it reads "Become ye continually doers." Do believers always put the word into practice? No! Many Christians mark their Bibles, but their Bibles never mark them. "Doers" is poietes, which means "a performer." It is used 6 times in the New Testament, four times in James. Why didn't he just say, "Do the Word?" Because it's one thing to fix a car, but it's another thing to be a mechanic. It's one thing to build a house, but it's another thing to be a builder. We are not just to occasionally do the Word. We are to be doers of the Word.
"Not hearers only" - akroates, which is a classical term for an academic auditor who listens and maybe even takes notes but has no assignments, responsibilities, or tests. They listen, but don't do any of the work. Many people want to audit Christianity. They don't want to get involved in service; they just listen. Many attend church services the same way they would watch a movie. They're just spectators who listen and then evaluate the message as to how it appealed to them. Hearing is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end.
"Deceiving yourselves"—is the Greek word paralogizomai, which means "to misreckon, to delude or beguile, deceive." It is fallacious reasoning; you are making a huge mistake. This word is only used one other time in the New Testament and that is:
I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. Colossians 2:4 ESV
If you think that all that is required is listening, you are making a big mistake.
James now gives us an analogy of someone who hears but doesn't do.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. James 1:23 ESV
The word "looks intently" is the Greek word katanoeo, which means "to observe fully, to look carefully and intently at oneself." Why do we use mirrors? To see ourselves. Why do we want to see ourselves? So, we can make corrections where they are needed.
For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. James 1:24 ESV
He looks at himself and sees all the flaws, but instead of fixing them, he walks away from the mirror and forgets what he saw. Have you ever done that? Looked in a mirror and saw your faults and then walked away without dealing with them? I doubt it!
Now James gives us the other side of the analogy—the doer.
But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:25 ESV
"Looks into"—is the Greek word parakupto, it means "to bend beside, to lean over (so as to peer within) to examine closely." Your attitude when you come to the Word means everything. Are you teachable? Do you come here in prayer saying, "Teach me from your Word, O Lord?" Or is your attitude, "I sure hope that David's interesting today"? Do you read over the text before you get here? Do you memorize and meditate on it asking God to teach you? If you are here just to audit, I need to warn you that you will be tested. In chapter four James says:
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17 ESV
James calls the Scripture the "perfect law of liberty." It is God's perfect will for our lives. Seneca said, "To obey God is liberty." Our liberty comes through obedience. If you want to have freedom to drive down the highway, you had better obey the highway laws.
James says that this man "perseveres" in the perfect law of liberty. The word he uses for perseveres is parameno (from para which means "beside" and meno which means "remain or continue"). The emphasis here is not on the manner of looking but on the duty of continuing or persevering in the observance of the law. This man doesn't forget what he looks like; he keeps looking and looking.
People, for the most part, don't want to seriously evaluate their lives because they're afraid of what they might see. We need to be willing to look honestly at ourselves, and we can only do this through the Word.
In Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, there's a story about a couple of Pilgrims who were on their way to the Celestial City. As they got into the mountains, they ran into some Shepherds. And the Shepherds gave them a beautiful looking glass. "Now the glass was one in a thousand," writes Bunyan,
It would reflect a man, one way, with his own features exactly; but turn it another way, and it would show the very face of the Prince of pilgrims Himself. Yea, I have talked with those who can tell, and they've said they have seen the very crown of thorns upon His head by looking into this glass; they've seen also the holes in His hands, in his feet, and in His side. Yea, such an excellency is there in this glass, that it will show Him to one, if he has a mind to see Him...
James goes on to say that this man "being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." The word "blessed" literally means: "Oh, the happiness." "Blessedness," as the Bible defines it, is the heart condition the whole world is looking for. You see, "blessedness," biblically defined, is that almost indescribable, but very real "inner sense of well-being." It's an inner feeling of security and contentment and a positive outlook on life. It's to experience an unusual level of joy. "Blessedness" is a calm assurance of self-worth. It's the vitality of spirit that comes when you know deep down that all is well between you and God. Please notice that it is the "doer" who is blessed. It is the person who lives in obedience to the Word who is blessed.
In the book of John, Yeshua said:
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:10-11 ESV
It is through keeping the commandments that we find full joy.
This man is blessed, not by hearing alone, but by being a doer of the work. He is blessed because he continues to stare into the Word of God and lives his life in obedience to it. Joshua teaches us this same truth.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8 ESV
In this context "meditate" is defined by the command, "The Law shall not depart from your mouth." This negative way of speaking implies a strong positive.
These passages give insight into what meditation involves. Meditation is the outward verbalizing of one's thoughts before God, of the pouring over His teaching and works. It means to articulate thoughts of worship, wonder, and praise.
What is the difference in these two men that James presents to us? One walks away from the Word without dealing with his sin. The other continues in the Word and by the power of the Spirit he submits to the Word, he lives it out in his everyday life.
So, obedience to God brings us a quality of life, a blessedness. That is great, but we also need to understand that God is pleased when we live in obedience to His Word.
And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 ESV
Yahweh delights far more in obedience than in the performance of worship ceremonies without it. God takes pleasure in our obedience, because our disobedience is idolatry.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king." 1 Samuel 15:23 ESV
When God says one thing, and we then stubbornly choose to go our own way, we are idolaters. We have actually esteemed the direction of our own mind over God's direction and become guilty of idolatry. And worst of all, the idol is our own self.
God takes pleasure in us when our obedience shows that we put our treasure in Him and not in the enticements of sin. He delights in the humility of our submission that loves to make a name for God and not man.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Colossians 3:20 ESV
Believer, do you understand this? Obedience pleases God, and disobedience displeases Him.
Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 1 Corinthians 10:5 ESV
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 1 John 3:21-22 ESV
We don't earn our salvation through obedience. The Bible makes it clear that when we disobey Him, we're not pleasing Him.
Many have a wrong idea about obedience. They think God is just a cosmic wet blanket, out to ruin everybody's fun. "Don't have fun, or you'll be sinning, and I don't like that." That's the way many people view God, and sometimes Christians reinforce that view of God as somebody who doesn't care what you do so much as what you don't do. However, the reason God wants us to obey Him really has very little to do with His wanting to keep us from fun. It has to do with His caring about us so much that He doesn't want us to get hurt. God's guidelines for our behavior are there to protect us. Think about something that is considered a sin in the Bible. It doesn't matter what it is; a person will always be safer and better off if they don't do it. I could name many examples, but it's almost silly to waste time doing so now. Pick a sin, any sin, and a reason to avoid it can be quickly thought of.
God delights in our obedience because everything God commands us is for our own good. Ultimately, what God is really delighting in when he delights in our obedience is our deep and lasting joy.
And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. Deuteronomy 6:24 ESV
"And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? Deuteronomy 10:12-13 ESV
God's commands are not arbitrary. They are meant to make us well and happy. Every command of Yeshua is meant for our good. The word Torah is usually translated as "Law," but to the Hebrew it meant "the journey." To a Hebrew, a "command" is the direction for the journey. "Righteous" is traveling on the path. And "wicked" is lost from the path. If we could grasp this Hebraic concept about Yahweh's Word, it would change our thinking and our walk.
We don't like commandments; they seem restrictive, such as "don't do this." But directions are helpful and beneficial, such as "go this way." If you want to get somewhere, you must follow directions. The same is true with Yahweh's directions. If you want a life of fellowship with the Father and, therefore, a life of joy and peace, you must follow the directions that Yahweh has given us. To not follow the directions and to leave the path is to not arrive at your goal of joy and peace. Yahweh has laid out the direction for the path in His Word. It is essential that we read it, study it, and follow it.
And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. Matthew 7:25 ESV
What "storms" is Yeshua talking about? I think that the storms are things that threaten our well-being. This could be literal storms (e.g., tornadoes, hurricanes, floods) which may take away all we own, perhaps even our loved ones. How we respond to such tragedies will reveal the quality of our "building." Will we be emotionally devastated? Will we be able to stand strong, willing to continue on without despair?
It may also involve figurative storms (e.g., illness, loss of loved ones, financial setbacks) which may take away our health, family, possessions. Again, how we respond to such tragedies will reveal the quality of our "building." Will we be emotionally devastated? Will we be able to stand strong, willing to continue on without despair?
Now, you may be wondering how obedience to God helps us weather storms. The answer is that when we live in obedience, we live in fellowship with God.
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." John 14:21 ESV
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10 ESV
When we are living in fellowship with God, we are able to deal with all of life's storms. Job endured the storms of life because he was a doer of the Word. He lived an obedient life in fellowship with God.
And the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?" Job 1:8 ESV
It was because Job lived in fellowship with God that he was able to handle the severe storms that he faced. The same is true of Paul. It was his relationship to the Living God that enabled him to endure the hardships he encountered.
How can we "build" so as to be able to withstand the storms? The metaphorical storms of life are inevitable, but Yeshua reassures us and says, "If you're smart, you'll build a solid foundation by obedience, and those storms won't destroy you."
Let's talk for a minute about the beneficial nature of God's rules for our lives. Once a museum had "Do Not Touch" signs on all their exhibits. Still, however, they had problems with people touching and soiling their priceless furniture and art. They finally solved the problem when a clever employee replaced the "Do Not Touch" signs with ones that read, "Caution: Wash Hands After Touching!"
One can present the Christian life in such a way that it looks like nothing more than a bunch of rules - don't do this, don't do that, don't do anything that might be fun, etc. But that's the worst light you can put it in. The truth is that God's "rules" are more like a "Caution Sign" than a "Do Not Touch" sign. They are there for our own protection, joy, and fulfillment in life.
Yeshua doesn't say, "You'd better obey my words, or the Father is going to punish you." He says, "You'd better listen to and follow through on my words so that you'll be able to survive the storms of life."
And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." Matthew 7:26-27 ESV
Yeshua said that the one who hears the Word of God and does not act upon it is foolish. The word which is translated "foolish" is the base for the English word "moron." The one who hears but does not act upon the Word of God is foolish or stupid. He has not really considered the issues. Notice where the contrast is between the groups. Both groups hear the Word of God, but the difference is in the response to the Word. Response is the crucial issue, and that is where Yeshua wants to focus. Some are doers of the Word and some are not doers of the Word.
God's guidelines for our lives are given for the purpose of our protection and our happiness. There is a wide host of guidelines that God has for us that the world says are ridiculous—guidelines about the sanctity and exclusivity of the marital relationship, about the restriction of sexual activity to marriage, about the emphasis on others before self, about freely giving forgiveness when asked, about the principle that honesty is always the best policy, and about the truth that materialism is not the road to real happiness. Every last one of these "rules," plus all the others that are found in God's Word, are given to us for our own good. And if we're smart, we'll realize that and seek to live by God's guidelines.
So, where do you fit this morning? Are you a doer of the word? Are you building a house that will stand the storms of life? Believers, we are to walk the narrow road of obedience to Christ, we are to build our lives on the rock of obedience to the Word of God. The storms of life will come, but your house will stand if it is built on the rock. It isn't easy to live on the narrow road, it isn't easy to be a follower of Christ. But it is what all believers are called to, and it is a path that leads to joy, peace and contentment in life. Which road are you on?