The Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7 may be the most well known sermon ever recorded. The sermon is simple, yet far from simplistic. It is both direct and demanding. While this remarkable sermon begins with the possibility of attaining blessings from our loving Creator, it ends with four very grave warnings. Our prayer this week – Lord, help me heed your warnings.
The first warning is about following the wrong path (Matthew 7.13-14). Intellectually, this imagery is easy to understand. There are two ways. One way leads to life and one way leads to destruction. Emotionally, this is more difficult to accept. Consider three practical lessons from this warning. (1) The majority are wrong. As we will find out, it is about following Jesus and not the majority. (2) Discipleship is difficult. Jesus already taught that blessings may come in the form of persecution (Matthew 5.10). He taught that marriage is for life (Matthew 5.32), which is becoming increasingly unpopular. He taught that one’s priorities must be related to the God’s kingdom (Matthew 6.24-33). This is easier said than done. (3) Destruction is a reality. While we are certainly not the judge, we must recognize that there is a judge (Hebrews 9.27-28). Again, intellectually, this is easy to accept. Yet, how many want to realize this reality?
The second warning is about following the wrong teachers (Matthew 7.15-20). The first thing that we must notice from this is the existence of false prophets and teachers. The second thing that we must notice is that they apparently will not look dangerous. Biblically speaking, the imagery of sheep conveys at least two ideas. The first is that of being harmless. The second is that of being religious. In other words, detecting these individuals demands more than a casual glance. It requires me to search a little bit deeper. Lest we fret, Jesus reminds us twice in this text that it is possible to spot them.
The third warning is about the wrong actions (Matthew 7.21-23). This one may be the most difficult to accept. After all, the scene depicts individuals who supposedly prophesied, cast out demons, and did many wonders in, of all things, THE NAME OF JESUS. These are people who thought they were following Jesus, yet Jesus makes it very clear that He will have no part of them. If we can borrow warning number two for a moment, these actions sound like incredible works (or fruit). But, I want you to consider something for a moment. Did Jesus ever address any of these items in His sermon (Matthew 5-7)? Did He ever say something like, “Blessed are the miracle workers…?” Jesus was concerned with the simple rather than the supernatural. His concern was character over sensational. Also, note the element of self confidence. “Did not we…?” When we stand before God, do we actually think that we can persuade Him with our magnificent abilities and works? The only hope that we, as sinners, have is His mercy and grace. The penalty for not responding to Jesus by doing the will of the Father is eternal separation.
The fourth warning is about building on the wrong foundation (Matthew 7.24-27). Again, the imagery is very clear. We both hear and do His words or our foundation crumbles. There is one practical lesson that I want you to consider. Building on the proper foundation does not eliminate the storm. Instead, it protects us during the storm as the wind and waves crash against us. After all, if there was no storm, then the foundation of sand would suffice. The most well known sermon ends with the destruction of those who hear Jesus foolishly.
Lord, help me heed Your warnings.