New Testament passage for Wednesday, January 8, 2014: Matthew 6:25-7:14
“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7:1-3 (NKJV)
13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV)
The Great Teacher
It is not uncommon to hear even atheists commending the teaching ministry of Jesus. The most famous atheist of our day is Richard Dawkins. In the October 2011 issue of The Guardian, he writes, "Jesus was a great moral teacher."
The famous atheist Bertrand Russell admired Jesus' moral character and praised His teaching. He wrote that the only "serious defect" was Jesus' belief in hell.
Without fail, liberal Christianity praises Jesus' ministry as teacher while denying His priestly sacrifice and His kingly rule. Jesus is reduced to a counselor giving good advice and is no longer a Savior bringing redemption.
The Favorite Sound Bite of Jesus
Honestly, this is ludicrous! One cannot pick and choose the ministry of Jesus. Either take it all or take none. In our day, Matthew 7:1 is trumpeted.
This has become the singular quote of Jesus that sums Him up. In the name of tolerance, all standards are denied. All is allowed. Nothing is any longer sin. It is common to hear Christianity described as acceptance and non-judgmentalness.
This is done while ignoring the demanding, difficult sayings of Jesus. Sayings such as John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." His teachings about the narrow gate and the difficult path are passed over.
We should take a moment to examine further what Jesus actually meant when He said "Judge not". He was NOT saying throw out discernment. He was NOT saying everything is acceptable. He was addressing the judgment of MOTIVE. None of us can see clearly the motives of others. We can, however, evaluate their ACTIONS.
The Narrow Gate
No where is the teaching ministry of Jesus more controversial than in the closing words of the Sermon on the Mount. He talks about the "narrow way" -- the "narrow gate". He tells us about paths that lead to either destruction or to life.
This is not popular teaching. As Jesus describes His path, we find it to be radical. It is challenging. It is narrow and difficult. What in the world is Jesus talking about? Frankly, I have not found Jesus to be severe or offensive. I have found Him to be wonderfully gracious and forgiving.
Following the Greatest Teacher
The narrow gate is one that demands that we enter ONE AT A TIME. This is not group salvation. You must come ALONE. It is a personal decision. No one can do it for you. That's the way this works. You must come to Him in a one-on-one relationship.
This gate is RESTRICTIVE. You can't bring personal credentials. "Nothing in my hand I bring...only to Thy Cross I cling." Ego, pride, and self-determination must be laid down.
The destination is singularly important. One path leads to life. The other leads to destruction. DESTRUCTION! That word is not culturally palatable in our day. But Jesus used it.
As Christians, we have decided to follow the greatest teacher of all time. He is more than a moralist -- more than an educator. He is Lord. He invites us to become His disciple. This means faith. It means surrender. It is not only an ideology, it is a life lived to the full -- the path to eternal life.