Choose a Side, Pt. 1
May 09, 2021
The last thing someone says is usually the most important thing they will say.
- At the most memorable.
These verses are Jesus’ conclusion to his sermon.
- A theme emerges within Jesus’ final thoughts and he is pressing this home.
- I have made this an emphasis preaching Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
- Current pressures beg for a decision to be made.
- The Bible leaves no room for middle of the road Christianity.
- Either a believer or not a believer.
- Christianity is binary.
One or the other.
- Identifications traced from Genesis to Revelation.
- There are two races.
- The line of Adam and the line of Christ.
- You have Cain and Abel.
- Jacob and Esau.
- Israel and Egypt.
- Jesus and the Pharisees.
- Sheep and Goats.
- Light and Darkness.
- And in the end, those who take the mark and those who overcome.
- Either inside the fellowship outside.
ESV Ephesians 2:19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, (Eph 2:19 ESV)
ESV 1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1Jo 2:19 ESV)
These are the designations I have made between: worshippers and consumers.
- Christians gather to give, not forcing themselves into heaven through their wills of works.
Jesus’ final statements make this point over the over again.
- Like in any good sermon, Jesus cuts to a decision point.
- Placing the burden squarely on the hearers so they must declare a side.
Siding with Jesus in five ways.
- Love like Jesus
- Jesus draws the line by how someone loves (v. 12).
- Bifurcating someone’s attitude toward others.
- Either selfless or selfish.
- Lead to Jesus
- Jesus draws the line in terms of how someone leads (vv. 13-14).
- Bifurcating how someone leads themselves.
- Submitting all their life to Christ or to the world.
- Learn from Jesus
- Jesus draws the line by how someone learns (vv. 15-20).
- Bifurcating between discerning truth from error.
- What you discern by someone’s fruit.
- Live for Jesus
- Jesus draws the line by how someone lives (vv. 21-23).
- Bifurcating between living a true relationship with Christ or living a lie.
- To live for Jesus is to actually know Jesus.
- Listen to Jesus
- Jesus draws the line by whether someone will hear from him or not (vv. 24-27).
- Bifurcating between those who heed Christ’s warning or those who ignore it.
- Hearing is saving, ignoring is damning.
This is the first way someone sides with Jesus.
1. Love like Jesus (v. 12)
Christ begins his end, with a summary.
- Jesus words, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you” could be restated as, “Therefore everything you want that others would do to you” are summaries of every kind of interaction.
Interactions with people are very powerful and quickly become problematic.
- They basically affect how we feel about everything that is going on around us all the time.
- There is a misnomer that I have found that says, since Christianity is defined by self-sacrifice, then that means to think about ourselves is the opposite of real love.
- When the very opposite is true.
First, no one is ever truly selfless.
- Jesus’ statement for us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” proves as much.
ESV Matthew 22:39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mat 22:39 ESV)
- Also, when Paul taught for husbands to love their wives as their own flesh, he quickly qualifies with what we know to be true, that “no one ever hated his own flesh.”
ESV Ephesians 5:29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, (Eph 5:29 ESV)
Loving yourself is not automatically sinful or lustful.
- Selflessness is not monasticism or isolationim.
- Sociopathic behavior is not Christian spirituality.
- It is dangerous.
- And what creates anti-Christian cults.
- Loving others as you love yourself, assumes that this is by design.
- You will take care of yourself.
- In terms of survival.
- Even physiology is automatically self-protective.
- Body’s require sleep, nourishment, will store fat, shut themselves off, or adrenalize just to stay alive.
We have gender specific elements in that females naturally nurture.
- Women are born with a maternal instinct engaging the desire to care for children.
- Women follow godly leaders into marriage.
- Men are naturally drawn to protect, defend, provide and lead.
- Men instinctively make decisions.
Natural satisfaction is found within these categories and that is not sinful selfishness.
- Enjoying a good meal, creation’s beauty, physical activity, art and science is normal.
- I would argue necessary to be healthy.
- Solomon’s wisdom is filled with these principles (i.e. Ecclesiastes).
- You see these values in how Jesus taught.
- On nature and households and businesses.
- Paul’s references to athletics, work, and quotations from artists fill this out.
- Scriptural commands harmonize this with our desire to be joyful and fulfilled.
- Peter exhorts husbands to “live with their wives in an understanding way” the warning that follows is to do so, “that your prayers would not be hindered.”
ESV 1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1Pe 3:7 ESV)
- If you want to communicate with God and not be shut out, then “listen!”
“Does this seem to be the same thing as sinful selfishness?”
- What about a mom who loves spending time with her children or a grandmother with grandchildren, does that seem like a selfish use of her time?
- Is that being all about herself?
- The answer is “Yes”, but not sinfully so!
There is a line people cross when “loves” become “lusts” - when goals become “idols.”
- This is subtle and must be held in check with Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
- Zeal for life is not automatically, “Narcissism.”
- What is irrefutable where responding, “No I am not” will not cut it.
- Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom lust, where he fell into self-absorption, reduced to an animal, is a danger to be avoided at all costs, but zeal for life is not that.
Psalm 37:4 is where David said, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
ESV Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psa 37:4 ESV)
Acts quotes Jesus as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” These are not selfish motivations, but these are nevertheless motivations, pure motivations!
ESV Acts 20:35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
(Act 20:35 ESV)
I have said to couples considering marriage who ask, “How do you know if this is the one?”
- “When you are together, are you the best version of yourself?”
- “Does this person bring out the best version of you?”
- If he or she does, then you know are on to something.
I am not promoting the psychotherapy called “self-esteem.”
- The exact opposite of what I am talking about in that self-esteem is not something we are ever called to do.
- This is acting like we are two different people.
- Trying to pump ourselves up by a false version of self-confidence.
- Christian “counselors” will place the wrong emphasis on Jesus’ command to, “Love your neighbor as yourself” to make the point that you must “first love yourself” by growing self-esteem before you can love someone else.
- Jesus is making the opposite point.
- Assuming you love yourself and now need to love your neighbor in the same way!
- “Love yourself”, “Like yourself”, “Forgive yourself” are all forms of self-worship.
Humanism works in terms of “self” building up “self” - Christianity builds “others” up which in turn, builds up “yourself.”
- Why John wrote in his first letter, “these things I have written to you that your joy may be full.”
ESV 1 John 1:4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
(1Jo 1:4 ESV)
- Exhorting the church to “obey for joy!” – to “know Christ for joy!”
- In his third letter, he models this himself testifying, “there is no greater joy than to see my children walk in the truth.”
ESV 3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3Jo 1:4 ESV)
Back to verse 12. “How do you know how to love like Jesus?”
- Jesus asks yourself, “How would I want that person to love me?”
- I admit I am not automatic with this question.
- Too wrapped up with life to take the time to think about the proper way to love someone.
- Do not miss that fact that Jesus is making the case, that by answering this question you are summarily living out the entire Law and the Prophets.
This is what I love about the Sermon on the Mount.
- For three chapters, Jesus has been unmasking false, religious, soul-darkening interpretations of the Law (and the Prophets).
- Making corrections, by targeting the heart.
- We all agree that following Jesus should not be hard to figure out.
- And though we have big Bibles and much to learn, we should through pure simplicity, follow Jesus’ Word.
- By asking yourself, “How would I want to be treated?” you are in fact, “loving your neighbor.”
- This is what it looks like to be selfless, others-centered, and to “esteem others higher than yourself.”
- What motivates Jesus who was rich, to become poor.
- When Jesus chose to make himself a servant.
- This kind of selflessness is joy.
J.C. Ryle said of this: “How many intricate questions would be decided at once if this rule were honestly used!”
- Confucius, the paragon of Chinese sages, 500 BC:
“What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”
- Worldly rabbi Hillel, who lived 30 BC, just before Christ:
“What is hateful to yourself do not to someone else.”
- I am not convinced Jesus was correcting what was only halfway measures.
- Self-protection is a half-measure step most will take.
- But loving someone as a driving motive is what Christ asks for.
- Love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself defines a Christian’s heart.
Social Justice trends indict the church as if it is not loving someone’s neighbor.
- First, let me say, this not a lack of a church program.
- The social justice movement is a man-made, sociological, indictment to manipulate for power by leveraging false guilt.
- The church is not doing enough for the poor, abused, or victimized.
- This to indict for lacking compassion.
- Worse, the claim is that without social action you do not have the true Gospel.
- The problem with making this kind of indictment against the church, is that there is no way to measure how much social activism - would ever be enough!
- What would it take to tip professing Christians into the Kingdom.
- Our good works would never measure up to what Christ requires for heaven.
- God’s Word is careful not to put the cart before the horse.
- We love and do because Christ first loved and did!
- You love because of a changed heart.
- A heart changes by saving faith, alone! Period!
- Doing more church programs does not make a more authentic Christian.
Obey this simple command by keeping it simple.
- When you see a need, ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you were in that situation, then within the Bible’s wisdom, respond.
- Do so with zeal for life!
- This flows from faith in the truth not by adding a work to complete the truth.
This is what it means to be on the narrow road where our next verse takes us. Jesus has summarized the heart of the Law and now opens the door to the Kingdom.
Love like Jesus, now Lead to Jesus.
2. Lead to Jesus (vv. 13-14)
Admittedly, my point uses some forced in language but is nevertheless direct.
- I am asking, “Where are you leading yourself to?”
- Jesus now brings this to the crossroads.
- Choose between Jesus or everything else.
- The Gospel is exclusive not inclusive.
- This sounds so harsh unless you believe this is the only way to life.
“Enter” represents Jesus’ general call to salvation.
- Making the claim that Jesus is the only way will label you as harsh and unloving.
- When in fact, the general call of the Gospel is for the whole world to believe.
- The onus is on the hearer to choose Jesus’ way or there way, but there is only one way.
- The way of grace not works.
- Light not darkness.
- Truth not lies.
- Love not lust.
- Hard not easy.
- Worshipper not a consumerist.
- The narrow gate can be likened with going through a turnstile.
- Unable to get through if carrying baggage.
- Entering through the “eye of a needle”.
- A gate only you can squeeze through.
- John Bunyan, tinker turned preacher, from Bedfordshire England was imprisoned for defying the State.
- It required the Book of Common Prayer during worship.
- This as a means of control.
- So, Bunyan preached over the prison walls to his church standing outside.
- While in prison he wrote The Dangerous Journey: The Pilgrim’s Progress.
- Allegory comparing someone’s conversion experience with a journey.
- This might seem confusing if not understood in terms of someone’s experience.
- Think about when you hear most people’s testimonies.
- Conversion happens in an instant, by grace through faith.
- You know this from Truth, more than experience!
- Understanding conversion from heaven’s perspective, sees conversion point in time.
- Basic Soteriology.
Bunyan captures the opposite perspective not heaven down but from the ground up.
- The view from down here; conversion from ground up.
- Bunyan’s allegory was popular because it is relatable.
Fleeing the City of Destruction: Then [Evangelist] gave him a Parchment-roll, and there was written within, Fly from the wrath to come.
The Man therefore read it, and looking upon Evangelist very carefully, said, Whither must I fly? Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, Do you see yonder Wicket-gate? The Man said, No. Then said the other, Do you see yonder shining Light? He said, I think I do. Then said Evangelist, Keep that Light in your eye, and go up directly thereto: so shalt thou see the Gate; at which, when thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do.
- The wicket gate makes you think of croquet, where a little ball is batted under narrow arches.
The narrow way becomes visible by the illumination of the Word of God.
- Bunyan captures what most describe as their salvation experience, awakening to truth.
- Fleeing the world’s allurements and Hell.
- The world’s easy path, the road of passivity.
- A godless denial of truth.
- The path where every US embassy can fly a Pride flag.
- Protesting truth; biblical morality; Protesting God.
- The world’s gate is as wide as the world’s population.
- The sheer volume of people going through it, is what makes it WIDE.
- This gate “leads to destruction” – destruction used in the context of Hell.
ESV Philippians 1:28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. (Phi 1:28 ESV)
ESV Hebrews 10:39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Heb 10:39 ESV)
ESV 2 Peter 3:7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2Pe 3:7 ESV)
ESV Revelation 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.
- The place of “destruction” is a terrible place to believe anyone could end up.
- The sad fact is that most are going there.
- Not a few but most.
I compare this with the 5 freeway which constitutes six lanes of traffic, driving north/south or south/north through Cali, at speeds of 80 plus miles per hour.
- Southern California, filled with a “not a care in the world attitude” driving at top speed.
- Most on are this road spiritually, not knowing that this road leads to a cliff where cars are spilling over with unstoppable ferocity.
- People mindlessly driving, to be destroyed, with no thought as to where they are going.
- Going to destruction is subtle.
Our world is seducing culture away from seeing Jesus as the true dividing line.
- You either side with Christ, going with him through his narrow gate.
- Or with the world to your peril.
Suddenly, everything in our world is understood through race or racism.
- I understand hatred is real.
- Hatred manifests itself ethnic differences.
- I have pointed this out Biblical examples of hatred based on ethnicity.
Still, whatever your ethnicity or background.
- Following Christ means you are part of his race.
- We are either part his people or Satan’s people.
- Under Adam’s headship or Christ’s headship.
- Fallen Adamic race.
- Or Christ’s redeemed.
“Have you ever been hurried onto a plane?”
- I have been, especially when traveling with several little kids in a former life.
- We were mainly not self-aware when traveling with little all six kids when they were babies.
- I still remember flying up 12 years ago with three between 5 and 9 years old and two – two year old twins and a newborn strapped to mom.
- Loading in herd leaves little room for error.
- The final call over the PA could be all important.
“This flight is departing from O’Hare airport and traveling to Anchorage. If you are traveling to Anchorage, now is time to get off.”
- I have never had to deplane or seen someone deplane.
- Though embarrassing and inconvenient, if on a plane to Anchorage and I was not going, I would get off.
- I would get my whole family off.
- Then I would work to get myself and my family on the right plane.
- Jesus’ call over the PA is the ultimate announcement you will ever hear.
- Do you need to deplane?
- Get off one plane; Get on another.
Verse 14 warns, “…the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life” (v. 14).
- It is never inconspicuous to follow Christ.
- You are going take heat.
Only a “few” will find this “gate” (v. 14).
- Compared to “many” there will be “few”, yet this is the one that leads to life.
- The measure of spiritual success has traditionally been in terms of numbers.
- We want all-comers to hear and believe the Gospel.
- Why we broadcast preaching.
- Why we have VBS, Awana, Youth group, and Grace Christian School, speaking of a 24/7 way to reach out to our community.
- Yet, only a “few” will truly follow Jesus.
ESV John 6:66-69 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?"68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."
What Jesus prescribes as siding with him.
- To love like Jesus
- To lead to Jesus