LifeWay Family Bible Series for Sept. 28
Followers of Christ give evidence of citizenship
By David Jenkins
New Hope Baptist Church, Big Sandy
True followers of the Lord Jesus Christ will give evidence of their citizenship in God's kingdom.
Even though first century believers were generally rejected by their society, they reflected the characteristics of Christ so consistently that, in derision, they came to be called “Christ's ones,” or Christians (Acts 11:26). Yet they were not “clones.” They were unique individuals whose natural strengths were enhanced by God's Spirit.
Today God continues to impact a lost world through the various personalities and strengths of his people. Clearly certain basic actions are going to be taken by all who will become genuine kingdom citizens. The Sermon on the Mount concludes with four warnings from Jesus, each explained by four contrasting actions.
Choosing the right path
Often the Christian life is referred to as “the straight and narrow,” no doubt taken from these words of Jesus. Actually, the word traditionally translated “straight” (v. 13) comes from the Latin word “strictum,” which means “narrow.” Jesus meant the “narrow gate” is restrictive and prohibits entrance by those who do not meet his requirements. Obviously, the “wide” gate is far more appealing. The “broad” road is wide or spacious, and easily accommodates the crowd and all their baggage.
In verse 14, a different word for “narrow” or “straight” is used which usually refers to persecution. Jesus was saying the way of discipleship is restrictive and often includes opposition and persecution. The emphasis is not on the narrow and wide roads themselves, but upon where they lead. The narrow road leads to eternal life, which begins with the new birth and is consummated in Christ's everlasting kingdom. The broad road leads to “destruction,” a word used to describe not only the end of physical existence, but also a hopeless destiny of eternal death.
Bearing the right fruit
Jesus was a Galilean and grew up in the most fertile area of ancient Palestine. Fruit-producing vines, bushes and trees abounded. Naturally, he would draw upon agriculture for many of his parables and metaphors.
On his trips south to the Judean territory, he saw many shepherds who spent their lives caring for and protecting their sheep. Certain prophets were like “wolves in sheep's clothing.” They purposely tried to deceive by passing themselves off as true believers.
Several popular cults today teach their followers to use orthodox Christian terminology. Jesus implied that if we look closely, we will recognize they are producing the wrong fruit.
The buckthorn bush produced small, black berries which, from a distance, could be mistaken for grapes. In passing, flowers growing on certain thistles might appear as figs. Pretenders may deceive for a time, but inevitably they reveal their true colors. Jesus told his disciples he was sending them “as sheep” in the midst of wolves, and warned them to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
Expressing the right claim
Jesus turned here from the metaphorical (trees and their fruits) to reality–what will actually happen at the judgment. The title “Lord” during the early part of Jesus' ministry meant little more than “teacher” or “sir.” After his resurrection, however, the word was most often related to worshipping him by confessing his deity.
In addressing Jesus in this manner, these people were desperately trying to claim a connection with him that did not exist. His contention was that mere “lip service,” calling him “Lord,” would not gain a person entrance into his kingdom. Only those who do the will of the Father, which includes repentance and faith followed by works of righteousness that glorify God, will qualify.
These false followers claimed to have prophesied and cast out demons in Jesus' name. Jesus rejected their claim and added not only that they were evil doers, but that he had never known them. Satan is a master counterfeiter and psychologist and is capable of deluding people in remarkable ways.
Laying the right foundation
Jesus' analogy brought to the minds of his hearers the dry wadi beds that can flood quickly when the spring rains come. One man built his house on the flat, sandy bed, while the other man sought out a firm, rocky plateau. When the flash floods of the springtime came, the man who had built in the wadi bed discovered his house was quickly swept away as the swift waters eroded the sand. The same waters had no effect on the solid rock foundation of the house built by the wise builder. Perhaps Jesus had in mind Proverbs 10:25: “When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.”
Jesus' message is that true kingdom citizens are those who not only listen to his words, but dare to put them into practice. Those who give only mental assent to his words will not enter his kingdom. The good works they have done will have only glorified themselves and not Christ.
Question for discussion
What is the only acceptable basis for entering God's kingdom?