August 31, 2014
I can’t think of a worse tragedy than for someone to think he’s saved, only to find out that he’s not after death. In 2012, the American Religious Identification Survey said that the overwhelming majority of Americans (73%) identify themselves as Christians, that’s nearly 3 out of every 4 people. Apparently, a lot of people […]
I can’t think of a worse tragedy than for someone to think he’s saved, only to find out that he’s not after death. In 2012, the American Religious Identification Survey said that the overwhelming majority of Americans (73%) identify themselves as Christians, that’s nearly 3 out of every 4 people. Apparently, a lot of people are in for a rude awakening and a shock of eternal implications! Jesus said so in verses 13 and 14. There’s a huge disparity in the amount of saved souls versus lost ones. We’re told in this recent survey that most people believe they’re going to spend eternity with Jesus! Imagine their shock when after their last breath, they’re ushered by demonic hosts through tunnels of fire into their eternal house of pain!
We’d all like to believe our claims of being Christians are true, but Jesus said many will be deceived. You see, many sit in churches week after week, professing that Jesus is the Son of God, but they never really entered into a personal relationship with Him. You may even attend Bible study week after week and have a good grasp of the Word of God. But intellectual faith isn’t the same as saving faith. Mt 8:29 and Luke 4:34 make it clear that it’s not enough to know facts about Jesus or even to believe that He is the Son of God. Even the demons believe that! Salvation involves a lot more than knowledge of Jesus; it requires a relationship with Him and trusting that He paid the penalty for your sins. And when that happens, you receive His forgiveness. And when you receive His forgiveness, you turn away from your old sinful ways.
When a person gets saved, it’s because He’s made Jesus Christ the Lord and Master of his life. And as Master of your life, He has the right to govern what you do. It’s no longer all about you! It’s all about Jesus! His Holy Spirit then takes up residence within you and that means you’re going to change my friend! And if you haven’t, you’re not saved….period! You can’t be because the Holy Spirit continually works to remove sinful attitudes and behaviors. That’s what He does! We recognize a person’s salvation not just by his profession of faith, but by his fruit! Jesus said so Himself right here in our Scripture reading. If you’re truly saved, your character will become more Christ-like over time and your desire will be to obey Him. This doesn’t mean you’ll be sinless or won’t stumble every now and then, but the overall direction of your life will be one of obedience and you will have forsaken your former sinful lifestyle.
In looking at our Scripture verses, there are only two choices given here and one must be chosen. The two are the bad way of sin and the good way of holiness. There are but two ways, the right and the wrong; the good and the evil; the way to heaven and the way to hell. We are all walking in either one or the other. There is no middle ground. We are either saints or we’re lost and bound for hell. The distinction will swallow us all up in eternity.
That distinction is spoken of as the wide gate and the narrow gate. The wide gate has lots of takers. You’ll have a lot of freedom to do as you please entering through that gate. And it stands wide open to tempt those that go merrily on their way. Through this gate you may enter with all your lusts because it doesn’t check your appetite and passions at the door. The road through that wide gate is broad and there are no obstacles for those that walk in it, but they wander endlessly. Because it’s a broad road, there are many paths in it and a smorgasbord of sinful ways. You’ll have a lot of company in that way. It spreads open its arms wide for you and says, “Enter here and do as you please!” That’s a very appealing sign for most people, but if we follow the multitude it will always be to do evil.
Think about the obvious disparity between those two gates, the wide and the narrow. Who wants to go through a narrow anything? It goes against our nature. It’s requires effort. The wide gate is so wide that sheep travel through it in huge numbers. They follow each other right through it with no effort at all, clumps of grass in their mouths along the way, talking it up and laughing it up, trading stories about their strolls through the valley of pleasure without a care in the world, until they get to the slaughterhouse. And then it’s too late to turn around. “Why did I take this road!” they cry out. It seemed like everyone else was taking it, that’s why. They didn’t want to be different. But Christians MUST be different. How different you ask? They must be born again! They are washed in the precious blood of the lamb!
The wide gate is so easy. You get no resistance. You’re not labeled a rebel or a trouble maker. You were just following the crowd! What’s wrong with that? Everything! When the crowd is lost, everything is wrong with that! You may say “Well I didn’t want to ruffle feathers? You wanted to be… (I truly hate these two words)…politically correct. Satan loves that term! The world calls Christians “Narrow minded.” Guess what? I’m blessed to be narrow minded! Because it’s the narrow gate and the narrow road that leads to heaven! There IS NO OTHER WAY! When it comes to salvation, Christians MUST be narrow minded! One mega church prosperity preacher denies that Christ is the only way while on a national television audience. When asked, “Are you saying that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven? He buckles and says, “Oh, I don’t want to judge anyone.” What? That’s not what you were asked! He didn’t ask you to judge anyone. He asked you, in essence if you believed John 14:6, that Jesus said, “I am The Way, The Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.” And you dodged the question, which means you denied the exclusivity of Christ for eternal salvation. Hey, is that Bible you’re holding up at the beginning of every one of your sermons what you really believe? What are you doing? What are you afraid of losing? I’ll tell you what! He’s afraid of losing his empire! And God will hold him more accountable than anyone else. To whom much is given, much is expected! (Luke 12:48) What about you? What are you afraid of losing? Because you’ll also be held accountable! Jesus said “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).
Your eternal destiny is much too important for me to worry about upsetting someone and hurting some feelings. I want the fear of God to overcome you this morning. I want to scare the devil out of you and make room for the Holy Spirit of God. I want your nameto be written in the Lamb’s book of Life, never to be erased. I want to see you in heaven.
Go through the narrow gate! Don’t follow the lost sheep. If you say you’ve been saved, well then you don’t follow that crowd any more brother! You’re a new creature in Christ! The Bible has a lot to say about hanging out with the wrong crowd. Jesus said that some will pretend to be His. Watch out for those wolves in sheep’s clothing! They’ll tear you apart.
The narrow gate is the way to holiness. Conversion and regeneration occur at this gate. This gate is hard to find and hard to get through; like a passage between two rocks. You can’t pass through this gate without a new heart, and a new spirit, and the old things must pass away. The attitude of the soul must be changed and sinful habits broken off. It’s such a narrow gate that we must stoop down or we can’t enter! We must become like little children; pride must be brought down. We must strip ourselves of the world and deny ourselves, forsaking everything for Christ. As narrow as it is right now, thank God it’s not completely shut to us, as it will be shortly, Mt 25:10. The effort that it takes to get through that narrow gate is the very fruit that you’ll produce as evidence of your faith. Anything that’s worthwhile takes effort. Now don’t confuse what I’m saying with works. We’re saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. I’m talking about the evidence of your faith, which is the fruit.
Now, we’re told something about the road after entering the narrow gate. The road that follows it is narrow as well. We’re not in heaven as soon as we make it through that gate, nor were the Israelites in the Promised Land as soon as they went through the Red Sea. No, we’ve got to go through a wilderness, a narrow road. Our flesh must be denied, our bodies kept under control, sinful thoughts mortified, daily temptations must be resisted and duties must be done which are against our normal inclinations. We’ll be going through many tribulations. It is an afflicted way, a way hedged about with thorns, but thank God it is not closed!
The gate is so small and the road so narrow, it’s understandable that very few will find it and choose it. Many will pass it by through carelessness. They won’t spend much effort to find it. They’re happy with the path they’re on and see no need to change their way. “Leave me alone!” they say, “You live your life and I’ll live mine!” Others slow down to look, but they smirk at it. They don’t want to be tied down with all those restrictions. “That narrow gate and narrow road is way too small for me. I need more space than that.” What they don’t realize is that just one hour in heaven will make up for it! Imagine eternity there. Those that are going to heaven are very few, compared with those that are not.
The matter is firmly stated; life and death, good and evil, are set before us. Now let the decision be made. Choose this day, which way you will walk. You cannot abstain, because no decision is a decision for the wide gate. No one in their right mind would choose to go to the dungeon because it’s a smooth and pleasant path. And no one would refuse the offer of a palace and a throne because it’s a rough, dirty road to get there, yet these are the absurdities that people are guilty of!
Don’t delay another minute. Enter today through the small gate; knock at it by sincere and constant prayers and it shall be opened! Grace is freely offered and will not be hard to find by those who seek it and submit to it. Today is the day of salvation!
We’ll know them by their fruits (vv. 16-20). Now I know that taken into context, Jesus is speaking about false prophets here, but throughout the Bible you’ll see that it is a measuring stick for believers in general, such as in Luke 13 and John 15. You see, you can’t always distinguish them by their tree trunks or leaves, or branches, but by their fruit you shall know them. People can profess one thing but eventually their life style catches up with them and it will be evident for all to see. Christ insists upon this, that the fruit and the tree agree. If you know what the tree is, you know what fruit to expect. You’re never going to go looking for grapes or figs from thorn bushes because it’s not in their nature to produce such fruit. Once in a while an apple may get stuck, or a bunch of grapes could possibly be found hanging upon a thorn. And in the same way a good word or deed may be found in a bad person but you can be sure it never grew there. Good fruit is never to be expected from them. But if you know what the fruit is, you’ll know what the tree is. A good tree can’t bring forth evil fruit and a corrupt tree can’t produce good fruit, it’s only capable of producing evil fruit.
Now, how important is this you ask? Jesus said that every tree that doesn’t bring forth good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire! That means the body will die and the soul cast into eternal damnation. That’s pretty much up there on the scale of importance wouldn’t you say? John the Baptist actually said it first in Mt 3:10.
By their fruits you will know them, by their words and actions, and of course by their conversation. Observe how they live; their works will testify either for them or against them.
Jesus lets us know here that it’s not sufficient to own Christ only by word of mouth as our Master. Otherwise we’re nothing more than clanging cymbals making noise. We must also do the will of Christ, which is also the will of His Father in heaven. And just what is His will? That we believe in His Son; that we repent of sin; that we live a holy life; and that we love one another. This is His will! And if we don’t comply with it, we mock Christ in calling Him Lord as He Himself said “Why do you call me Lord, Lord when you do not do what I say?” We then mock Him in the same way as those who threw a robe on Him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Here’s a cliché that I know you’re sick of but even Jesus showed us the necessity of applying it: Saying and doing are two different things. He illustrated that in the parable of the two sons in Mt. 21:28-32. The one son said “I’ll go,” but he never took a step. These two things that God has joined together (faith & obedience), we must never attempt to separate and think that we can still enter the kingdom of heaven.
To think that we can offer up other things in lieu of obedience is a mistake. Jesus showed us that we can cast out demons from now until the cows come home and without a true relationship with Him, we’ll end up joining those demons! The plea is this: That in that day, that great day, when every man will show his true colors, when the secrets of all hearts will be exposed, Christ knows the motives. What men rely on now as proof of their discipleship, will in that day be burned up like the chaff in the wind. It won’t stand the heat of the purging flames of God’s litmus test. They cry out “Lord, Lord” with great confidence, “Don’t you remember when I did such and such for You?” Some prophesy in His Name, but God did not send them, they only made use of His Name to serve their own purposes. Note this, and yes it scares the daylights out of me. A man may be a preacher, he may have gifts for the ministry, and an external call to it, perhaps even some success in it, and yet be a wicked man. He may help others get to heaven and yet come up short himself. That should scare the daylights out of anyone. “But Jesus, didn’t I cast out demons in your Name?” And He answers, “Really? So did Judas!”
Some think they’ll go to heaven because they have a good reputation in the church, they give their tithe and participate often in church activities; as if this alone would atone for their pride, worldliness, and sensuality; and lack of true love for God and their fellow man. The church is their confidence, they’re proud because of “their holy mountain” (Zephaniah 3:11); and they boast that they’re in the house of God, Jer 7:4. We must take warning of these things, lest we deceive ourselves.
But the final word will come from the Judge Himself. The same One Who is the Law-Maker, is here the Judge according to that Law, v. 23 in our Scripture reading, and He will overrule the plea of the defendant and He will do it publicly. “I never knew you, depart from Me, evildoer.” Did you notice upon what ground He rejected their plea? Because they were evildoers! “What? But I did all this for You Lord!” And the Great Judge says, “No, you did all this for you!” You see, it’s possible for someone to have a reputation as a godly person, and yet still be an evildoer. And those are the ones who will receive the greater damnation. Secret sins kept under the cloak of a visible profession of faith will be the ruin of hypocrites. Please listen carefully: Living in sin nullifies all your acts of piety, as magnificent as they may be. Jesus said “I never knew you; I never owned you as my servant, no, not when you prophesied in My Name, not when you were in the height of your profession, and were most highly exalted.” This is the person that Jesus always knew to be a hypocrite, whose heart has never been right with Him, and therefore He says “Depart from Me.”
When He came in the flesh, He called sinners to Him(Mt 9:13), but when He comes again in His glory, He will drive sinners from Him. Those that refused to come to Him to be saved at their hour of decision, must now depart from Him to eternal damnation. To depart from Christ is the very essence of hell; it is to be cut off from all hope. Those that go no further in Christ’s service than a bare profession, He does not accept, nor will He own them in that great day! So do you see now? Do you see from what a height of hope men may fall from, down into the depths of misery? Do you see how they may head for hell, by way of the gates of heaven?
This is your hour of decision. You heard the truth today and you are now without excuse. If you’re sitting there listening and you know in your heart that this message is God calling you today, come up here today and give your heart to Jesus Christ, in faith and in service. This morning you came to the realization that “Hey, maybe I’ve been deceiving myself all this time. I’ve never really made Christ the Lord of my life.” This is your hour of decision. He wants all of you because He died for you. You are no longer your own, you belong to Him. Won’t you respond to this call this morning? Tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us and Satan is going to do his best to keep you right where you are in a life of deception. You tell him right now, “Be gone Satan, in Jesus Name, from here on in, I belong to Christ!”