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Make Up Your Minds

 

Matthew 7:13-29
Related Sunday School Lesson, Family Bible Series, Nov. 25

 

Stubbornness is a trait typical of Southern men. My dad is a prime example. He’s a great guy and I love him, but it’s hard to persuade him if he’s wrong.

For example, years ago my mom told him that the “Check Engine” light had turned on in her car. He did his basic inspection program which consisted of checking the fluids and belts. When everything was in order he declared the car was fine and the warning light “was on ‘cause of a blow’d fuse.” Mom kept saying that the light was distracting her so he taped a piece of paper over it.

You laugh and shake your head, but he’ll point out that the car – although hardly driven – works fine to this day.

We pick roads in our lives and continue down them, often with a stubborn manner because we made the decision to go this route. Many of us model the caricature of the husband claiming he’s not lost as he drives through the mountains while his family is dressed for the beach. Despite the fact that some choices are mistakes, we’d rather live with them than be humbled and admit we need correction.

 

About life’s directions - Matt. 7:13-14

Life is full of choices. There are small ones such as what to have for lunch and larger ones like choosing a career. In the end, though, all decisions lead to one of two directions – destruction or eternal life.

In this passage we are presented with two gates. When we picture a gate, the vision is of a road leading to it. Here, each one is the beginning of the road. Two doors. Two paths. Each leads to a single destination.

One gate is hard to see because there is nothing flashy about it. No neon lights jostle for the attention of those outside. It’s simple and humble. Behind this narrow gate is a narrow pathway. To stay on it one must have his focus on what’s ahead. There is no room for distractions on this road, for a specific goal is found at the end of it.

This road is narrow; it’s also tough. There are potholes here and there. Hills appear that make travelers tired and wanting to leave the road. The ones on this road realize that not many have made the decision to follow them.

The other gate is wide. It’s flashy. It’s marketed well and invites everyone to come inside. Beyond it is a wide road that is paved smooth. There’s plenty of room for everyone to be comfortable.

Though the travelers are always moving – for there’s a lot to see with all the shops and vendors catering to every whim – they don’t seem to be getting far on their journey. There’s a lot of activity, but little progress.

Jesus has called us to the road less traveled. It’s the road that our flesh shrieks against, but our spirit tells us to go down. There are no promises for an easy life, but there is a promise that our Lord is with us on this journey.

 

About life’s influences - Matt. 7:15-23

Words are cheap and mean little unless there’s authenticity behind them. Jesus warned His followers of those who know how to appear holy, yet inside their motives aren’t Christ-like at all. The distinction is as sharp as between a sheep and a wolf.

The legacy of Jim Jones is one of a religious charlatan who hoodwinked more than 900 people into drinking poison, securing their deaths in a steamy South American jungle in 1978. He first became popular for his church’s stances on racial equality and social justice, but Jones gradually learned the intoxicating power that came through manipulation.

Tragically, he became very good at it. In fact, many see what came to be known as the Guyana Tragedy not as a mass suicide but the largest single act of mass murder in American history. A fact we can’t lose is that Jones knew Scripture. He could more than hold a debate on it.

An irony in the story is that his influence over his followers had begun to wane after the move into seclusion. Being able to see Jones up close, his drug abuse and other characteristics contrary to Christ became evident to his rank and file members. The lesson learned too late was that someone’s eloquence and charisma may be able to hide their true self for a time, but when compared to Jesus, they are revealed in their sin.

Verse 21 is one of the scariest in all of Scripture. On the day of judgment there will be some who are convinced they’re in. They’ve done what they were supposed to do. They prophesied in Jesus’ name. They drove out demons.

They did many miracles, all of these in His name. Their resume is as solid as could be. No way will they be denied their spot in Heaven.

However, acts done to glorify oneself have nothing to do with Christ. With the wrong motivation, they only serve to exalt the individual, not a risen Lord. Jesus’ chilling words cement this: “Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!”

 

About life’s foundations - Matt. 7:24-29

Not that I’d know personally, but personal trainer seems like it would be a thankless job at first. Their responsibility is to push someone else into literally becoming a different person. They have to make someone break harmful habits and replace them with new ones that lead to healthy living.

If their client is tired and sore, the trainer has to make them do one more set of exercises or run a little further. When the diet is not kept in check, they must take steps and become a parent of sorts, monitoring what is eaten.

The trainer knows the end goal and what must be done to get there. The trainee isn’t there and doesn’t fully understand the cost. Simply hearing Jesus’ words doesn’t make us followers of him. An authentic commitment to Him and persevering obedience shapes us up for the storms that are sure to hit us at some point in life.

The fool hears the truth but doesn’t act on it. We know the truth. There’s a book called the Bible that proclaims it. It’s not a collection of nice stories. It’s not the earliest version of Life’s Little Instruction Book. It’s God-breathed and total truth. Too bad many give it about as much of a look-through as the safety instruction card on airplanes.

Living according to Jesus’ teachings doesn’t mean we’ll never make a mistake. But it also doesn’t mean we can sin and expect an aw-shucks-don’t-do-that-again-you-little-rascal response from our Lord. Our foundation is built on a holy God. Our security is found in Him.

It may be a hard road at times, but in the end it’s the single clearest decision we’ll ever make.