Jesus warns us that the way to Heaven is narrow. It does not always look like the easiest of ways. And yet it is the only way to eternal life lived with Him. Nicole and Sharon talk today about this unpopular Christian position, and how we get this belief straight from our Founder - our Lord and Savior - Jesus Christ Himself. Join us for the discussion about believing there is one way in a world that believes there are many.
Speaker 1 (00:02):
Welcome friend. It’s time to hit pause on your busy day and enjoy the Sweet Selah Moments podcast. Let’s ponder God’s Word together and find the encouragement we need to work well and rest well. The Sweet Selah Moments podcast is brought to you by Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries.
Welcome to episode 23 of the Sweet Selah moments podcast. Today’s episode is called The Narrow Way. We’ve been studying the Sermon on the Mount this fall season and this is our last episode. We’ve discovered a lot about Jesus, his heart, and what he says is important. And it often does go against what we self centered humans might think is best. Sharon, looking back on this fall what are some of the harder lessons you recall from this series?
Oh, there were a lot.
I think being happy when you are persecuted has to rank right up there. To consider it an honor, to be different and looked down upon because we follow Christ is hard for people pleasers, but it’s really fitting that we should learn that and do it. So, but the narrow way says that I choose Christ even when it’s unpopular. I think another hard one is to love enemies and turn the other cheek. My first response is normally to push back and Jesus’ teaching that I need to respond with love is so good and so hard. How about you, Nicole?
Oh, that anger, anger boils up so quickly for me. And there is plenty to be angry about in our world right now. You know, that lack of justice is really just, Oh, it’s hard. And I’d second the ‘turn the cheek one’. Again, so difficult, but worth the effort to learn to do.
You know, one of the things that has come across just about every episode we’ve done together is that although God’s ways seem hard, they are always right and lead to blessing.
We’ve seen it over and over again. No matter how hard it is to obey, in the end, we see the beauty in it and acknowledge that the one who made us really does know best how we should live.
So this last section of Jesus’s famous sermon, underlines that obedience to the narrow way is right. And it gives some warnings about being sure we’re on it. So Nicole, why don’t you start us off and we’ll read a Sweet Selah Moment together, reading God’s word.
All right, Matthew seven, 13 through 28, the Narrow Gates. ‘You can enter God’s kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad and it’s gate is wide for many who choose that way.
But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult and only a few ever find it.
The tree and its fruit. ‘Beware of false prophets who come to you as harmless sheep, but are really vicious wolves.’
‘You can identify them by their fruit. That is by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?’
‘A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit.’
‘A good tree can’t produce bad fruit and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.’
‘So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.’
‘Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions,’
True disciples. ‘Not everyone who calls out to me Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my father in heaven will enter.’
‘On judgment day many will say to me, Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’
‘I will reply, I never knew you get away from me. You who break God’s laws.’
Building on a solid foundation. ‘Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise like a person who builds a house on solid rock,’
‘Though, the rain comes and turns and flood waters rise, and the winds beat against that house it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock,’
‘But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish like a person who builds a house on sand.’
‘When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.’
‘When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching.’ There’s a lot here as always. So why don’t we just choose a few verses to dissect and talk about today from this chapter? What verse or verses stood out to you and why?
The first section that stood out to me was the tree and the fruit section. That first verse is pretty vivid in its description. And it grabs your attention. It brings a term to mind ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing” and here it says ‘a vicious wolf’. So they appear harmless. And the same as us, God’s little flock of sheep, but these wolves, they’re deadly. A wolf in nature is only trying to kill sheep and get them away from their shepherd. And I think that in relation to people, they might try to sneak in saying the right words, maybe, or doing good deeds or good things like we read about earlier in this chapter, but they can’t keep that disguise on forever. They can’t keep pretending to be a sheep forever. The list Jesus gives us in this sermon are all things we cannot do on our own strength. That’s the crazy thing. We can’t produce fruit on our own. We need him to do these things that go against our sin nature. I will never naturally want to put others first. I just won’t. So that goes into the second part of it that we need to be on guard against these false prophets. They’re not to be taken lightly and we can identify them by their actions, or fruits, which is helpful.
Yes, it is.
They may say one thing, but how do they live? This is a great reminder to me that if I want to be a good tree, that produces good fruit, I need to be well planted in God’s Word, talking to God all throughout the day and meeting with other Christ followers who will encourage me to stay close to him. And that’s the last verse: that others will see I am his by the fruit in my life because they’ll know this isn’t anything I have done.
There you go, yes. And there’s always that fruit of the Spirit that they can see in our lives, the love and joy and peace and patience. And, I think that’s part of the fruit that’s borne out when we do yield to God, that isn’t there, even with the people that are doing all these great miracles and stuff that Jesus said, he never knew.
So, you know, I was always troubled by those people who did all those great things in Jesus’ name and then Jesus said he never knew them. But you healed, you cast out demons, you were doing all these things. But then I really honed in on verse 23. So they tell Jesus that they prophesied in his name and they even performed miracles. They sound like the real deal. But Jesus, in verse 23 says, I never knew you, get away from me you who break God’s laws.
And the word that moves me there is the word ‘knew or to know’. I never knew you says, Jesus. You know, it’s sobering to realize Nicole, that we can do things and even say, we do them because we are Christian, but we can do them without knowing or following Jesus at all.
But we can without knowing him at all. It brings me back to our Sweet Selah ministry slogan, taking time to know God and love him more and more. We’ve got to know him first.
Jesus says they actually broke God’s laws. And if they didn’t love and know him, they did, they broke the greatest commandment. The greatest commandment is to love him. So even if they were doing the right things and yes, it is right to cast demons out of people. Not that I’ve ever done that, but it is right and good to do that.
But Jesus said they still weren’t obedient because they weren’t obedient to the primary, which is knowing him, loving him, surrendering to him with all their hearts, not the stuff they did that impressed people. It’s to love God with all their hearts. All their fancy actions and impressive stunts don’t impress Jesus. If they weren’t aligned with him in their hearts, listening to his spirit, doing his work in his way and in his timing, they were just plain wrong. In fact, they were using Christ’s name for their own fancy ends. Not for his glory. Yikes. No wonder Jesus said, get away from me. Stop associating yourselves with my name when you don’t even know who I am and you don’t care what I want you to do. What the bottom line is, is that we’ve got to know him and hear from him. We can’t just kind of do the right things. We have to know the right One. And out of that comes doing the things that he wants us to do. All the things we do have to come from a place of listening and obedience to our Lord and Savior. We don’t get to be in charge, even if we are doing fancy, fun, nice stuff. He’s in charge. So therefore I have got to really listen to him in my quiet times. I want to obey him. I want to be known by him. First we know him. Then we do the good deeds. It cannot be backwards, or we’re doing the good deeds without even paying attention to what he is telling us to do.
So, those are my thoughts on that.
I like that part. That’s, that’s a good way to… that makes more sense when you put it that way.
Because otherwise it’s pretty scary. How do I know I’m saved?
Right. And you’re trying to, well, I think it’s hard because when you do become saved, sometimes you get caught up in like the, some of the Christianese stuff and like do good work, do good things. But if you start it too soon on your own strength, just to appear that you’ve changed, it’s not… The whole purpose of that is to know God, like you said. The first thing. Love him and know him and by loving and knowing him, the good deeds will naturally come out of you.
Yes, and they’ll be from him and they’ll come with the fruit of the spirit, the love, the joy, the peace, the patience, whereas good deeds done in our own strength – we’re awfully irritated usually with other people because they’re either not noticing we’re doing them or they’re not getting aligned with us, you know.
Yes that’s true and it’s exhausting trying to produce them on your own.
And we’ve all done it on our own at times.
Yes, exactly. So that’s part of the fruit test too. Is there the love there? Is there the joy there? Have we rested in God to the point that we’re doing it in his, in his power, his Holy spirit power where that kind of fruit shows.
That’s a really good reminder and a heart check, you know. So let’s see, the next verse that caught my eye was verse 25. And it says, ‘though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house it won’t collapse because it’s built on bedrock’. I just love that beautiful picture of stability, of complete trust. And the fact that your house will not fall down. I believe Jesus is using this as a reference to our lives and how sturdily, we built our lives on either him or, you know, our own thoughts and stuff. And, Oh I just, I want that stability for my life. What’s described in this verse with the rock, knowing that no matter what horrible storms or troubles get blown at me, I am safe and solid on Christ the rock and what he did for me.
And how do I get that stability? Back in verse 24, by listening to his teachings and following it. So the teachings of Jesus that we just read in the last few episodes, all the Sermon on the Mount, we say it all the time, but I need the reminder. God’s commands are for our good, we would be wise to follow and obey what the Bible says and build our lives on those truths.
Oh, I so agree. And if we build on anything else we’re set for collapse. I mean, who would build a house on shifting sand? You know, have you ever seen those mudslide houses in California that are halfway down the cliff?
Oh yeah. Those are incredible.
Oh, my word it is so scary.
To see it? Yes. Or sink holes. Oh, I don’t like sink holes. I don’t even like the thought of sink holes.
There is something very disconcerting about a hole suddenly opening in the earth as you’re driving around.
So where you build a house is important. You want that rock under it. You want a foundation that’s bedrock and why would building our lives be any less important? We have got to build on things that aren’t going to just crumble underneath us, like following the latest fad or believing a horoscope. Oh, for crying out loud, anything that is not solid ground. It’s just going to collapse underneath our feet. And we don’t want that. So, let’s end this with a statement of Jesus that is very controversial in this age and culture. Now, we’ve talked about those things, but this next verse is a tricky one in our culture today.
Jesus says this, you can enter God’s kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad. And this gate is wide for the many who choose that way. I don’t like that. I want everybody to choose the right way. And it is just not always the way it happens. Jesus says you can enter only through the narrow gate. And if we believe and we do, that God’s Word is true. And that what God says is true, then there’s only one way to get there and it’s narrow. It’s just, there’s no other way in, right? This is why Christians are passionate about sharing our faith. There’s only one way to heaven. It’s through the saving work of Jesus Christ. It may not be popular, but if you are a Christ follower, then you are kind of stuck with this truth. You just are. And that’s why we need to share it.
Jesus repeats it in other places. In John 10, he says, I’m the gate. There’s one gate. I’m it. In John 14, he says, I’m the way, I’m the truth and I’m the life. And no one comes to the Father, except through me, the way, the truth, the life. It’s really inescapable. There really is a penalty for our sin. It’s death. There really is a way out and it’s through receiving the gift Jesus gave us when he died in our place. That’s the way it is. We want to be nice and say, there are other ways, but if there really aren’t other ways, that’s not nice.
We’re doing a disservice by lying.
We are. Okay. So imagine with me, you and I are on a mountain and we have been to the top of the mountain and we’re at a fork in the trail. And we know that choice number one, the narrow choice, looks briary cause it is, it looks steep and it is, and twisty and turny and dark. But we know that you’re going to break through that in a little bit on trail number one. And you’re going to end up on the top of the mountain with the most gorgeous view of lakes and, you know, shininess and rainbows, beautiful place. So we know that’s the way to go. The other way is broad and it looks much easier. Also it’s lighter. And there are, let’s make it even prettier, there are rhododendrons in bloom along this wide way.
And no rocks.
And no rocks. Exactly! But we know that at the end or actually sort of before the trail ends, all of a sudden there’s been a mudslide and the trail is gone and you would plunge a thousand feet to your death. And you’re coming around a corner and then there it is. And many people have died going that way.
So when people meet us and they say, so, which way do we go? Trail number one or trail number two? We say trail number one, trust us. Even though it looks hard, it is the one that’s going to get you to the top. And when they say, well, we like the other way better. We choose it. We don’t go, Oh, well go right ahead then. There are many ways to the top. Right? Because there aren’t!
Because there isn’t and you will die on that one.
You will die on that one. And if we really believe that then we don’t just say, well, pardon us, go on to way number two.
Enjoy your walk.
You know, we, we don’t stop trying to convince them that trail number one is the right path,
It just is. And that all the hardness that comes from having to submit to God. In the end, that brings you to a place of rainbows and blessing. It just does.
It’s so worth it.
So I have to just remember that when I’m talking to people. The passage might be hard, but it is not ambiguous. God tells us the way. We need to choose that way. The end.
The way it is. Or our story will end badly. Now, do I believe the people who have never heard of Jesus then are without hope? No, I do not. I know that he comes in visions to many people. I’ve heard story after story about how he has met people, even in their last moments of life. One of the sweetest things that ever happened to me in my whole life was sitting with my mother-in-law when she was dying, literally dying and her breathing had slowed and the nurse told me it would just be a couple more hours. And I was holding her hand and all of a sudden she opened her eyes and she looked at me and she said, I think I just saw him.
Oh my goodness.
And I said, Jesus? Mom, mom, did you see Jesus? And she looked at me, Nicole. And she said, merciful, merciful.
That’s all she said. Oh, it was just so incredible for me and such a comfort to me that if first Peter five, something (I can’t remember the scripture)… says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to him in repentance. Then I can trust that even in the last moments of life, he can stop somebody on that wide trail before the cliff hanging drops you know? He’s so good that way. And he says in Romans one that even looking at creation, someone that says, look at those stars, someone must’ve made those stars. Hello, Someone, I don’t know who you are but you made the stars .Or you know, whatever.
That God can speak through creation too. So I want to tell people about the Lord and I do. And I believe there’s one way, but God is bigger than anything we can imagine in terms of reaching anyone on the planet for himself. And so we can trust in that and not worry about it. So.
Yeah. It’s not all on us.
Oh, and you know what? I just found it in our script. It’s second Peter 3:9. Oh, what did I say? First Peter, five, something? Oh that was embarrassing.
Well at least it was Peter.
Second Peter 3:9, ‘the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you. Not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance, isn’t that beautiful?
It is beautiful. His patience is so good. I’m not as patient with some people. I’m like, don’t go on that path. It’s death. Like don’t do it. It’s hard to let them, if they just want to keep walking out that wide path.
I know, I know.
But God is patient and he does have a plan and sometimes he will wait until they go down a little bit and scoop them back.
And them scoop them back. And back. Yup. And that’s where Jesus saying, keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. Like we talked about last week it is so important. You never stop praying. You never stop praying for them. No matter how far down that wide path they are, because nothing is impossible for God. His arm is not too short. I believe mid fall down that cliff.
Right. He can.
He can scoop them up anytime. Yes he can. But the fact remains that we need to choose the narrow way. The way of persecution. You know, everybody that says, Oh, the Christian life is all happy and smooth. No, we could see persecution someday.
Yeah. But anything though, anything that we work for or that’s a struggle is so much more precious to us and it’s something of value; you don’t struggle and work hard for something that’s worthless. So I think that even like the narrow path versus the wide path, the narrow path is hard. It’s not easy to be a Christian. We are, counter-cultural in many different ways. We are strange people.
We are strange people.
You know, we just don’t always fit in and God has called us to things that are very hard sometimes that seem difficult to do, but he gives us the strength to do them. And if we walk with him on that narrow path and climb over those big rocks sometimes and push through those bushes at the top, it’s so worth it.
And our faith will be worth it because we’ve, we’ve worked hard with God for it, you know?
Oh, Amen. And you know even along the way, there are vistas. Using our little trail thing, you know, you climb over that rock. You’re not at the top yet, but then it opens up and there’s a stream of living water that refreshes you.
With some blueberries. We just sit for a minute.
Before you climb over your next rock.
Exactly. He does that. He gives us moments of blessing.
So we choose the hard way and it is the right way. And it ends up the best way. And we never stop praying for those that are walking down that wide path. Ever, ever. So, Whoa, well that was a full and challenging passage on which to end the Sermon on the Mount. Let’s finish this podcast by looking at the last verse, verse 28. It says this, ‘when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching.’
You know, I am not surprised that they were amazed because of the countercultural things he said; he covered a lot of territory. He told them to walk the narrow way. He said some really hard things, but then he was also reassuring. He said, blessed are you who mourn you will be comforted. And the peacemakers would be called children of God. So right in the middle was the stream with the blueberries…
In this whole Sermon on the Mount. I think that one of the things that made people amazed at Jesus’ teaching was the confidence with which he talked. In those days it was more common for a rabbi to just ask questions and have people, you know, well, what do you think? And what about this passage? And there’d be a lot of questioning and teasing things out that way.
Jesus just said it. There’s one way, I’m it. Right. And they’re like, well that’s different.
Wow. I hadn’t thought of that.
Well, Rabbi, “Whosie-Whatsit” says it’s this, but I think if you look at this passage… There was more pondering.
Jesus was God in flesh and so he didn’t have to ponder. He knew.
Right. He had absolute authority.
He knew that those who mourn would be comforted. He knew that stuff. And so the amazement in my thought came from the fact that he was that different and that he taught, it says in scripture, he taught as one who had authority.
And he did.
Which is why we need to reread and reread the Sermon on the Mount frequently because it is chock full of God’s truths to us. And I love that about the Bible, Nicole, you don’t read it once and shut the book and say, you’re done.
There are layers and layers and layers that you can dig into and learn, that, speak to your heart at different times. So.
Well and he’s good, he works on one thing at a time with us, because to take that whole sermon and try to do it all at once would just… our heads would explode. I cannot not be judgy and turn the other cheek and I can’t do all of that at once. So God is so good with me. And he goes, okay, today, let’s talk about your judgy-ness. Let’s deal with this, and then after we’ve conquered that, Nicole, let’s talk about your anger. Okay, God, here we go.
Yes, exactly. Exactly. And that’s why it’s a living word too, because you know, if you and I, in our quiet time reading come across it a year from now, a totally different passage might be the one that God highlights for us because that particular verse is for that particular moment. So, but it’s rich. It is every word that comes from the mouth of God is rich. And these are words that came from the mouth of God.
That’s pretty cool.
Well, we’d like to finish out this episode in this series on the Sermon on the Mount, by rereading some of our favorites, remembering all the wise and good words of our Lord Jesus. So Nicole, why don’t you reread one of your favorites and tell us why? And then I’ll do the same.
All Right. I really loved Matthew five verses six and seven. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful for they will be shown mercy. That’s so good. Especially in this world, knowing that justice will be satisfied eventually not in my time and not how I think it should be served, which is probably good because he knows what’s actually just but just knowing that is a good hope to cling to. And that God will show me mercy so I can extend that to others as well.
I love that mercy yes, we need it.
Those are beautiful verses. I like those ones.
Mine are a little odd, but I’ll tell you after I’ve read them why these are favorites. Matthew five 43 to 45. You have heard the law that says, love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. In that way, you will be acting as true children of your father in heaven for, he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just, and the unjust alike. I love God’s love. He does send rain on good people and bad people. He continues to pour out love on unworthy people that don’t even pay attention to him. I am so in awe of that, that that is the God that loves me and that he loves me when I’m loving my neighbor and hating my enemy, although he doesn’t want me to and he loves me when I’m loving my enemy. And also the ‘praying for enemies’ part I have found to be so true in my life that I can’t help love it. When I pray and you’ve talked about this in a previous podcast. When I pray for someone that has hurt me, my heart softens toward them. And I remember that they are loved by God, just as much as I am and that he wants them to live out his purpose for their lives. Just like he wants me to and the greatest good I can give an enemy is to pray that they will live out God’s purpose for their lives.
So it’s a wonderful passage and it shows so much about the way that God loves. So, that’s mine. What’s your next one?
Let’s see Matthew six 30 through 33. And if God cares so wonderfully for wild flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So don’t worry about these things saying, what will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly father already knows all your needs. Seek the kingdom of God above all else and live righteously. And he will give you everything you need. Those are great verses. They’re amazing. You can trust him with everything. Clothes, my food, my thoughts, my everything.
Yes, yes, yes. And when you seek him first everything else falls into place.
Yeah. Those are great.
Yeah. Those should be like engraved on our foreheads or something.
I think those are one of my favorites too. And then I love Matthew seven, nine through 12, because it’s funny. And this is serious. I guess that I just love that humor that comes from Jesus.
That is fun to see that.
So anyways, you guys are wondering what it is so here it is. You parents, if your children asked for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not. So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly father give good gifts to those who ask him. Do to others, whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. And it’s just such a sweet summary of the whole thing that we are to extend to others what we hope is extended to us. God extended grace and love and mercy and forgiveness to us. And who are we to deny that to others who are loved by him the same way?
So, okay. So let’s just keep reading the Sermon on the Mount. Not necessarily on the podcast, but in life because it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful.
There’s so much in there.
Well, let’s pray. Oh Father God, thank you for the richness of your words. Help us as we ponder and reflect on all we’ve learned Lord. To live out what you ask of us in these commands and in this sermon and help us to nestle down with you Lord, and be thankful that we don’t need to worry or be anxious. You’ve got this. You are the good father who gives good gifts. We adore you Lord. In Jesus name, Amen.
We loved walking through the Sermon on the Mount with you, friends. Next week we will move onto holiday talk. We’ll be talking about Thanksgiving and then do a Christmas study in December. We are looking forward to decking the halls with all of you in the days ahead and preparing our hearts as we celebrate God made flesh, Jesus coming as a helpless baby. We’d love to hear from you. What were your favorite verses in the Sermon on the Mount? What stirred your heart from Jesus’s words? Write and let us know @sweetselah.org/podcast. We always appreciate your gifts as well. The gift of prayer is a rich blessing. The gift of financial help enables us to keep producing the podcasts. You can donate @sweetselah.org/donate. We are looking forward to next week’s episode. The Thankful Heart. We surely are thankful for each of you who join us each week. God bless you.
Speaker 1 (30:01):
We are so glad you stopped for a while with us. This Sweet Selah Moments podcast is a cooperative production of Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries. More information about this podcast can be found at Sweetselah.org. Thank you for joining us.
You can download and print the transcript here.