Matthew 7:1–5, 24–27
All through his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been pointing us toward right relationships with God and with each other. When we looked closely at much of what he was saying, it was about loving God or loving each other.
We find here, at the end of his sermon, that the key to having good relationships with God and each other is having a good relationship with Jesus.
Jesus warns us in verse 3 that we cannot see clearly on our own because we have a great big log stuck in our eyes. Don’t be so arrogant as to think that you know more than you do, or that you can see things clearly. Don’t think you are better than others. You have a log in your eye. You need Jesus. He is the only one who sees clearly.
Your view of other people is distorted by the log in your eye.
And this creates a difficulty in having good relations. First, because we have a horrible tendency to cynicism, gossip and spitefulness. And second, because we are not very clever at spotting false prophets. We cannot have right relationships with each other unless we have a right relationship with God.
As we treat others, so shall God treat us. Do to others what you want God to do to you. You want God to guide you and have mercy on you with a log in your eye, then have mercy on others. This is the Golden Rule.
Treat each person with respect, sensitive to their character and personality. Don’t treat everyone the same. Go the extra mile with self-sacrificial love. Seek always in all of your relationships to contribute positively to the other person.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 that he came to accomplish the purpose of the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. Rabbi Hillel said the Golden Rule is ‘the whole law; all else is commentary.’
The more seriously you try to follow the Golden Rule, you more adventure you will find in life. Where love is our priority, there is always more to give.
Jesus has told us how to fulfil the law. He has taught us about relationships. Before he concludes his sermon, Jesus has one more important message.
There is a gate to be entered, and there is a narrow path to be walked.
The gate is entered by a faith response to Jesus. But once through the gate there is no rest. The path on the other side is narrow and difficult.
The path is our lifelong walk as disciples. It is our journey to heaven. And here we are warned of those who would lead us astray from this path. The false prophets.
Jesus says there will be false prophets in the church. You can be certain of that. And he says they will at first look as harmless as sheep. We shall not know who they are by their appearance, but by their fruit.
He says that on the last day, when these false prophets plead for mercy, there will be no mercy. They will call him Lord (verse 21), and he will say to them: ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
At the core of this, it is about right relationships. It is our relationship with Jesus that is going to be the deciding factor at the end of the journey. It isn’t about calling him Lord, it is about having a right relationship with Jesus.
Everybody knows the story with which Jesus ends the sermon on the mount. It is about two men who built houses, one on bedrock and the other on sand.
The most common explanation is that if you trust in Jesus, you are building on the rock of salvation. This is saving faith, and it is essential. Jesus makes clear his own meaning in verses 24 and 26. “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise. … But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish.”
This story is not one about conversion. Jesus ends his sermon with instructions about discipleship. Jesus is specifically urging on us the need to live out his teachings.
It is not enough to agree that he is wise, or even to publicly state that Jesus is the Messiah. It is not enough to attend church every Sunday and Wednesday.
The life of discipleship is a life of obedience. It is that simple. In the details and the decisions of daily life, however trivial and unimportant, we are called to always put into practice all that we have been taught in the sermon on the mount.
There will be severe storms. False prophets will be blown away. There will be torrential rain on our spiritual journey, surging floods and high winds. The narrow path is not a way to escape from life’s difficulties. It is a way of living that confronts them and overcomes them. Religion is not some magic way to avoid hardship and difficulty.
Some people think that if they have trouble in their life it is a sign that they are following the wrong god, or else following the right God in the wrong way.
Jesus offers no such delusion. His way is a hard way. There is no life of ease. There is no nirvana.
Jesus calls all of us to put his teaching into practice. This is not so that we can avoid the trials and tribulations of life. It is so that we can face the coming hardships and survive. The storms are promised. When they come, will you have a firm foundation?
Only when the storms come do we see clearly the difference between the two houses.
When things were going well and life was easy, it was very hard to tell which was which. Until the storm hit, the one built on sand may have looked nicer, bigger, more luxurious.
But the trials of life clearly vindicate the disciple who has built on rock, a faith that is lived out with love. False faith, the foundation of sand, is the nominal Christian’s life.
We can see it lived out when two people have the same disastrous experience in life.
They have cancer, or a loved one is murdered. One will lose faith and go into a downward spiral of anger and bitterness toward God. The other will rise to new heights of dignity and love as they stare death in the face and welcome eternal life.
Here is what is important for you today. How are you going to respond to the sermon on the mount? This is a critical decision. You have to become a doer of the word, not a just a hearer. The time of the storm is when your faith grows and enables you to stand safe. Don’t later on, once started building on rock, return to building on sand. This can happen so slowly we don’t even notice if we aren’t always alert to Jesus.
But if your life is a sandcastle today, you can knock it down and start again. It isn’t too late. If there is an area of your life built on sand, knock it down and start again. Today.
The gateway to a right relationship with God and with your fellow man is Jesus. It all starts with a right relationship with Jesus the Messiah. And you cannot have a right relationship with him unless you do what he says.
By faith we enter this gate into a new way of life. And there we are set free.
Please please tell your people about this wonderful news. Share Jesus with them. Bring them to the narrow gate so they can enter into a life of adventure.
I urge you to read for yourself the whole sermon and pray about how you can live as Jesus instructs us.
Let’s listen to his teaching and follow it. Let’s invite others to also listen to his teaching and follow it so that they can endure the storms of life with us.