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. (Matthew 7:13–14 ESV)
Jesus ends his sermon with a call to enter by the narrow gate. The reason for this call is because it is easy to miss the way that leads to life. What Jesus says in verses 13-14 is so contrary to what people want religion to be. Our world says that the road is wide that leads to life. In fact, they say there are many roads that lead to life. But it is difficult to be on the road that leads to destruction. But please consider Jesus’ own words. There are only two paths. One path leads to destruction and one path leads to life. We do not want to talk about how there is a path that leads to destruction. Nor do we want to admit that many are going to find the path that leads to destruction. Further, the path to life is small and narrow and few find it. The path to destruction is wide and easy and many find it. Few find the way to life. Why is this the case? Jesus explains why. Jesus says that the path that leads to life is hard. Why are so few going to find the path and stay on the path that leads to life? Because this path to life is hard. Please let this sink in. The road that leads to life is hard. If you are finding this journey with Jesus difficult, there is nothing wrong. That is exactly what Jesus said walking with him would be like. In fact, if you are finding your journey easy, then you could very well be on the wrong path. You might think you are on the path that leads to life. But Jesus said that the path to life is troubled and difficult. Now here is the good news. Jesus is going to explain in the rest of this sermon how to be on the narrow path and why you should want to be on the narrow path even though it is difficult.
Watch Out For Words (7:15-20)
Jesus begins by telling us to watch out for people who claim to speak on God’s behalf. Isn’t it interesting that 2000 years ago Jesus saw the same problem in his culture that we see in our religious culture. There are a lot of fake religious people. There are a lot of fake religious leaders. There are a lot of people who say that they are leaders, pastors, preachers, shepherds, or some other title, but they are false. Jesus even says that they will be among you like a wolf wearing sheep’s clothing. This is a problem. It was a problem then, it is a problem now, and it will continue to be a problem. So how can you know?
Jesus gives the clear answer in verse 16. You will recognize them by their fruits. You will know by their actions. Jesus says this again in verse 20. You will recognize them by how they live. Jesus says that you should not just listen to their words. You should also watch how they live. You should see the people who speak God’s word trying live by the words they speak. No spiritual leader can say, “Do what I say but not what I do.” We are to do all we can to practice what we are preaching.
Why is this important? Look at verses 16-18. Jesus says that good fruit does not come from bad trees and bad fruit does not come from good trees. Watch out for people and leaders who claim to follow Jesus but their words do not match with their behaviors. This is so important to our Lord. In fact, think about the qualifications for shepherds that are given in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. Did you ever consider that the qualifications are not merely that they say the right things? The qualifications are the fruit from the life of the person. The qualifications are not what they say but how they live. The fruit tells you about the tree. The actions tell you about the heart.
More Than Words (7:21-23)
Now listen to what Jesus says next in verse 21. Not everyone who calls on the Lord’s name is going to enter the kingdom of heaven. Just because you say you are a follower does not mean you are a follower. Just because you think you are a Christian does not mean you are a Christian. But look at verse 22 because you might be surprised by what Jesus says. Just because you do religious things does not mean you are a follower of Jesus either. In verse 22 we read about people who were prophesying in the name of the Lord, casting out demons in the name of the Lord, and doing many mighty works in the name of the Lord. Do you know what Jesus says to them in verse 23? Jesus says that he does not know them.
Just because you say you follow Jesus and just because you do religious things or good things does not mean you will enter the kingdom of heaven. Just because you go to church does not mean you will enter the kingdom of heaven. Just because you do some good things does not mean you will enter the kingdom of heaven. Just because you do good works in the name of Jesus does not mean you will enter the kingdom of heaven. Do you see why there are many on the wide road that leads to destruction? All kinds of people say they are Christians. All kinds of people do good works. All kinds of people do things in the name of the Lord. But that does not mean they are on the narrow path that leads to life.
So what does it take to be on the path that leads to life? Look at verse 21. The one who does the will of the Father in heaven will enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus tells us that we cannot say religious or spiritual words. Jesus also tells us that we cannot do religious and spiritual works. We must do what God’s will is. We must follow what the Father tells us to do. We have to change our lives to match exactly what God has revealed to us in his word.
Notice that Jesus makes this point in verse 23. Jesus will tell those who were doing all these spiritual works that they are workers of lawlessness. Jesus calls these people who saying the right things and doing good things as lawbreakers. How are they lawbreakers? How are they lawless? They were not doing what God said to do. Doing good things in your life does not mean you are living according to God’s will. I want you to see the wide road that many find in verse 22. Jesus says that on that day MANY are going to say these words to him. There are many who think they have been doing the will of God when they have not carefully looked at what God has asked for them to do.
What House Are You Building? (7:24-29)
So Jesus is going to leave us with an illustration. All of his sermon has been leading up to this final picture. Look at verse 24. Everyone who hears Jesus’ words and does them is like a wise master builder who is building his house on a rock. Now look at what happens in verse 25. The pains of life will now beat on this house. What you are doing in your life is pictured as building a house. If you build your life listening and doing what Jesus says, we are told that when the struggles and hardships of life beat on you, your life will hold up. Your house will stand firm. Why will your house stand firm? Because you built your life on rock. Listening to how Jesus tells you to build your life shows that you are smart. Listen to what Jesus says about marriage. Listen to what Jesus says about raising children. Listen to what Jesus says about submitting your will to him. Listen to what Jesus says about the sins of the flesh. Listen to what Jesus about listening to him and following him. If you will do this, then when your life gets blasted by the storm, you will be able to stand.
Now look at the contrast in verse 26. Notice what the distinction is. The difference is not in hearing the words of Jesus. Both are doing that. Both are hearing what Jesus says. But in verse 26 we read that the person who hears but does not put these words into practice is like a fool building his house on sand. When the storms of life hit this house, it cannot stand. We saw the horror of this in Miami at Surfside where the engineers said that there were structural problems with this residence and how it is built on the sand. But no one did anything about. Lives were lost and the collapse was staggering. This is what Jesus is telling us. If you hear what God says but you are not doing it in your life, you are building a house of cards. You are building something that cannot stand. It is not going to make it. You are not building your life well. The storms are going to wipe it out. We see this regularly during hurricane season. Somehow north of us you can still build a house on wood stilts where hurricanes come through. Those houses never make it. They are not built ready for a hurricane. You are going to experience life hurricanes. Jesus just said that you will. If you do not build your life listening to him and doing what he says, your life will collapse and you are going to wonder why it collapsed. Jesus is telling us clearly that it is because we did not do what he said. We only heard the words.
The reason why the road is wide that leads to destruction and many find it is because it is easy to hear what God has to say and ignore it. It is easy to hear what God says and only do a few of the things he says. It is easy to pretend we are followers but our lives do not match up with our words. Do you know what is hard? It is hard to hear what God says to do and actually do it. It is hard to do what God actually says to do in your marriage, in your family, in your friendships, in the workplace, in your community, in the church, and in the world. It is hard. But please listen to what Jesus is saying. If you do not listen to him and do what he says, then you will experience eternal loss (7:21-23) and you will experience earthly loss (7:24-27). You are building a house that is going to fall down in this life and in the life to come. You will have nothing.
Having the blessed life is more than words. Having the blessed life is more than hearing Jesus’ words. Having the blessed life is more than doing some spiritual or religious works. The blessed life will come to those who are building their house on the will of the Father. There is no shortcut to the blessed life. There is only the hard, narrow road that leads to life. There are a lot of fake and false people claiming to serve the Lord. Please make sure that you are not that person. You will have to go against culture, go against human wisdom, and go against your personal desires to build the house that will withstand the storm and give you life.