Sapphire Sky

April 29, 2019

What Does It Mean to Be a Real Christian?

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 12:57 am

white and black lighthouse near the cliff and white and red house

Thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount …

 

I grew up with Joe. We went to the same church and were involved in the same activities. We had the same children’s Bible Club leaders, the same Sunday School teachers, and the same youth leaders. But as we went through high school, something changed. Joe’s parents stopped making him go to church, so he stopped coming. Joe went on with his life, but Christianity was a thing of the past for him.

Laura was an active member of our college fellowship group. She was energetic, outgoing, and always telling everyone about Jesus. I lost touch with Laura after graduation and it was not until many years later that I found her on social media. She was no longer interested in the things of God and had chosen instead to live a lifestyle of active rebellion against Him.

Craig was a nice guy. We would see Craig and his family at church regularly and he always knew the right words to challenge and encourage you. But it was not until his marriage started to fall apart that we realized that it was all an act. Craig knew how to act one way at church on Sundays and another way with his family and friends.

We encounter people like Joe, Laura, and Craig all the time. We may be like them ourselves. We may be like Joe, where Christianity has been forced on us and we have no desire to know God for ourselves. We may be like Laura, full of excitement for God but lacking in enough depth to weather great temptations in her life. Or finally, we may be like Craig, where Christianity has become a comfortable lifestyle, but there is no desire to obey God if things do not go our way.

What does Jesus have to say to people like these? What does He have to say to people like us, when we only let Him in on our surface and refuse for Him to change our hearts?

Jesus concludes His great Sermon on the Mount with a call for action. He has been showing His disciples what it means to truly follow Him, and to be part of the Kingdom of God! He has shown that our happiness is not in what we have but in how poor we are in His sight (see here). He has shown what it really means to keep the law on God’s terms (see here). He has shown God’s true standards for anger, purity, marriage, honesty, and revenge. He has shown what true worship looks like (with good deeds and prayer) and what it means to really trust Him with both our valuables and our anxiety. He has shown how we need to confront each other and yet guard ourselves (see here).

But it is one thing to talk like you are part of God’s kingdom, it is another thing to act like you are part of the God’s kingdom. It is the difference between a true disciple of Jesus Christ and one who only pretends to be His disciple. And it is the difference between life and death.

Jesus ends with warnings. Beware!

Beware the easy way that leads to death!

Beware the false teachers who would mislead you!

Beware of fooling yourself, and not knowing Him!

Beware of the destruction that will come if you refuse to obey Him!

Matthew 7:13-27
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Beware the easy way that leads to death!

Matthew 7:13-14
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

The ancient city of Jerusalem had twelve gates along its city walls. These gates were built to be wide in order to accommodate a large amount of traffic, of all types of people, and going in both directions. But the wide gates would close at night for security. There would be a small, narrow door next to the wide gates which the guards could open at night in order to allow citizens to enter. 6

“Jesus Christ says, ‘The way into My kingdom is like this small door. There is no room for two-way traffic; there is no room for masses of people. The way is small; restrictive. Take that door and enter in that gate.’” – Stephen Davey 6

A popular choice is not necessarily the right choice. The easy way may be the most destructive thing you could possibly do.

Jesus opens his warnings with a very clear line. The consequences are life or death. But it is more than a warning, it is an imperative – you need to take the narrow way for it is the only way to life!

“[The wide way] is the way of self-will, of disobedience to God’s Word. All are on the broad way who refuse to own their needy condition and who ignore the claims of Christ. It is entered by a wide gate, for all men naturally choose this road.” – H.A. Ironside 2

“The broad way is the easy way; it is the popular way. But we must not judge spiritual profession by statistics; the majority is not always right.” – Warren Wiersbe 4

But we are told to “enter by the narrow gate“. The language is imperative. We must make this choice, and make it now! 6

But how do we find the narrow way? Do we just keep searching around, hoping that we are on the right path? Should we not be a bit worried that we are headed to destruction?

Jesus uses the final three warnings to show the narrow way. It is the leader who produces genuine fruit. It is not the religious person with the pious words and actions, but the one who truly knows Jesus Christ. It is not the person who only listens, but the one who listens and obeys Him. That is the way from death. That is the way to life. 18

Proverbs 14:12
There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.

 

Beware the false teachers who would mislead you!

Matthew 7:15-19
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Luke 6:43-45
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Beware of the false teachers. They look good on the outside but they are secretly out to destroy you.

The Old Testament warned against false prophets (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Jeremiah 23, Ezekiel 34), and the warning against false teachers continues through the New Testament. Paul also warned the church elders against wolves who would come and destroy the flock (Acts 20:28-31). Peter and Jude both warned of the danger of false teachers (2 Peter 2, Jude 3-16).

Jesus uses two analogies in this warning. The first analogy is of a false shepherd. This is the famous “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, who comes to prey on the flock. But unlike the traditional view, this is not a pretend sheep. The one whom you would expect to be walking among the sheep, wearing wool, would be the shepherd. This is the picture of a wolf who has secretly disguised himself as a shepherd so that he can devour the sheep. 8

How can you tell the real shepherds from the false shepherds? Jesus uses the second analogy to answer this question. Just like plants in nature, so each of us will bear fruit. Just as every plant and tree bears fruit after its kind, so we will bear fruit based on the type of person we are.

But it is not only the type of person that you are. It is also matters if you are diseased or healthy. Only a healthy fruit-bearing tree will bear healthy fruit.

What is the fruit that we should expect to see? John the Baptist used the analogy of fruit to show repentance (see here). A true follower of Jesus Christ will turn away from their disobedience, confess it to God and get back right with Him.

Even beyond repentance, there are other outcomes in your life that show that you truly belong to Jesus Christ. Galatians 5:22-23 shows the results of the Holy Spirit in our lives. See a more extended description of the fruit in our lives here.

“The false teachers are most often guilty, not of blatantly teaching the wrong things, but of not teaching the right things. There is no ‘narrow way’ in their teaching.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones 13

And finally, Jesus is not only warning the disciples, but also the teachers. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and is thrown into the fire. We all face eternal destruction if we do not know Him. Jesus warned even the Pharisees with the same warning in Matthew 12:33.

“We must be careful, therefore, that we do not mistake for the real thing that which looks like true Christianity, but which is in reality merely sham and only outward appearance. The exhortation is that we should teach and discipline ourselves always to look carefully for the fruit.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones 14

“A man is not a sinner because he sins. He sins because he is a sinner.” – H.A. Ironside3

 

Beware of fooling yourself, and not knowing Him!

Matthew 7:21-23
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

This may be the most fearful of Jesus’ warnings. There are people who expect that they are part of God’s kingdom and are going to heaven, but they do not know Him!

Some will have the right words to say. Jesus says that they call Him “Lord, Lord”. These are words of respect and worship for Jesus Christ, but they don’t know Him.

Some will have the right actions. Jesus never denies their accomplishments — their prophecy, they cast out demons and did “many mighty works.” But they don’t know Him.

It does not matter what we say or what we do. What matters is, do we know Jesus Christ? 19

“Mere lip profession is of no avail if the heart and life are not subject to the Word of God. We are not saved by our works, but good works are the test of reality.” – H.A. Ironside2

“Obedience to His will is the test of true faith in Christ. How easy it is to learn a religious vocabulary, and even memorize Bible verses and religious songs, and yet not obey God’s will.” – Warren Wiersbe4

“It is possible to achieve great things for God and not even belong to Him.” – Stephen Davey 6

 

Beware of the destruction that will come if you refuse to obey Him!

Matthew 7:24-27
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Luke 6:47-49
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Jesus concludes with the analogy of two builders. They each built the same house and they each faced the same storm. But the wise man’s house had a foundation and storm was unable to damage the house. The foolish man had no foundation and his house was destroyed by the storm.

There is a popular children’s song saying, “The wise man built his house upon the rock”. But Jesus is not teaching about building houses here. He is giving the final warning. It is not enough to hear what He has to say, we have to also do it!

James gives the same commands in James 1:22-25. James says that we need to be “doers of the word and not hearers only”. We need to listen, but then we need to act.  James warns us that when we fail to act on God’s word, His word goes by and leaves us unchanged.

Jesus teaches us that when we not only listen to His word but also obey Him, we are building a foundation so that we will can survive the disasters in life that will come.

“People follow a hurried, superficial version of Christianity that has no time for obedience” – John MacArthur 21

“When the testing time comes, the one who has built his hopes for eternity on anything short of Christ Himself will come to disaster.” – H.A. Ironside 2

“The Sermon on the Mount is not to be commended, it is to be carried out.” – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones 14

 

Conclusion

I have lost touch with Joe, Laura, and Craig. Although I hope that they have turned to Jesus Christ, their lives continue to give me warnings:

  • Joe’s example showed me how easy it is to take the wide road, blinding ourselves to the destruction that awaits us.
  • Craig’s example showed me that it is easy to look upright and spiritual, but to have a secret life that only produces rotten fruit.
  • Laura’s example showed me the consequences of what happens when we stop obeying Jesus Christ, and how we can then be destroyed by life’s storms.

But overall, the biggest worry is for those who think they are saying wonderful things about God and doing wonderful things for Him. But at the end, Jesus would have to say, “I never knew you”!

We know that it is not possible to live a perfect life. We are all tempted to take the easy way. We don’t always obey what He teaches, and we all have days where all we can see in our lives are diseased fruit.

But when we consistently fail to obey Jesus Christ, it may be because you do not know Him. If this is you, then Jesus’ original command is for you: “Repent!” (Matthew 4:17). Turn from your disobedience and seek Him!

John 1:11-13
He (Jesus Christ) came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

 

Previous post: What did Jesus say about Judging?


Notes / References

[1] Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold The King, Kregel Publications, 1980, Matthew 7:13-23, pages 115-117

[2] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Matthew 7, The Principles of the Kingdom, Part 3

[3] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Address 22, Secure and Insecure Foundations, Luke 6:39-49

[4] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Matthew 7:13-29, pages 26-27

[5] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Luke 6:39-49, pages 156-157

[6] Stephen Davey, A Matter of Life and Death, Matthew 7:13-27, 7/21/1991

[7] John MacArthur, Which Way to Heaven?, Matthew 7:13-14, May 18, 1980

[8] John MacArthur, Beware of False Prophets, Part 1, Matthew 7:15-20, May 25, 1980

[9] John MacArthur, Beware of False Prophets, Part 2, Matthew 7:15-20, Jun 1, 1980

[10] John MacArthur, Empty Words, Matthew 7:21-23, Jun 8, 1980

[11] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 20, The Strait Gate, Matthew 7:13-14, pages 476-486

[12] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 21, The Narrow Way, Matthew 7:13-14, pages 487-496

[13] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 22, False Prophets, Matthew 7:15-16a, pages 497-506

[14] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 23, The Tree and the Fruit, Matthew 7:15-20, pages 507-515

[15] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 24, False Peace, Matthew 7:21-23, pages 516-525

[16] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 25, Unconscious Hypocrisy, Matthew 7:21-23, pages 526-535

[17] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 26, The Signs of Self-deception, Matthew 7:21-23, pages 536-545

[18] “Does that mean that the majority of people are going to hell? Jesus was asked the same question (Luke 13:23) and He answered, ‘Strive to enter in at the narrow gate.” It is not our business to find out how many others are saved, it is our business to enter in.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones 12

[19] Jesus says, “I never knew you”. This is not a lost salvation or a lost relationship with Jesus Christ, but there was never any relationship at all.

“To none will He say in that day, ‘I used to know you, but I know you no more.’ His word to the lost will be, ‘I never knew you.’ Of all His own He says, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them”’(John 10:27).” – H.A. Ironside 2

[20] There is a lot of discussion regarding the miracles mentioned by the false believers in Matthew 7:21-23. Are the miracles real? There is no reason to doubt that the miracles were real which the unbelievers prefess. Don’t forget that all twelve apostles had power of miracles during Jesus’ ministry — even Judas! The issue is not that they were not real, the issue is that they were not sufficient. 9

[21] John MacArthur, Empty Hearts, Matthew 7:24-29, Jun 8, 1980

[22] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959-60, Volume 2, Chapter 29, The Trial and the Tests of Faith, Matthew 7:24-27, pages 565-574

[23] Matthew 7:25 says, “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall”. Jesus does elaborate on the specific meanings of each individual event of the disaster. Some Bible teachers have interpreted these as separated events while others have outlined them as general parts of a life disaster. The view of one Bible teacher is that: 22

  • The rains fell: Unexpected troubles/disasters in life
  • The floods came: The opposition of the world
  • The winds blew: Direct attacks from Satan

Regardless of the interpretation of the storm, the main point remains the same. The one who withstands the storm is the one who has the foundation built on the rock.

 

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