Banner Logo


Sermon Graphic

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Mike Moffitt, September 19, 2021

Enter the Narrow Gate That Leads to Life

Text: Matthew 7:12–23

In the spring of 1977, I started my first job as an over-the-road truck driver. I had driven a straight truck delivering tile and carpet, but I had never driven what experienced drivers call a “Big truck.” For 6 weeks I was placed with a trainer whose job was to teach me how to be a “real” truck driver. He was an excellent teacher and a very experienced and skilled driver. Many years later I was one of those trainers who would take a young man out of truck driving school and prepare him for the realities of the real world of truck driving. So many of these guys had an image of a truck driver as the “last American cowboy” and were just itching to “get in the saddle.” Many of them had just graduated from a 4 to 6-week truck driver training academy and considered themselves truck drivers. The recruiters by and large painted a very exciting picture of life as a tractor-trailer driver and the enormous amount of money they could make. I considered the recent graduates as dangerous because they thought they knew all about it but hadn’t been really tested. In reality, most had unrealistic expectations as to what the job entailed. Being a truck driver is more of a lifestyle than it is a job, and the turnover rate is huge. Many paid up to $5,000 to attend a school and didn’t make it more than a few months. Learning the mechanics of actually driving the truck doesn’t take that long; it’s the conditions that you will drive under that’s the problem. Some find they aren’t willing to deal with the long hours alone, having to drive in heavy rain, ice and snow, put up with heavy traffic jams in big cities, unrealistic pick-up or delivery expectations, missing out on holidays, special occasions with family, or crazy 4-wheelers buzzing around them like gnats, oblivious to how dangerous these trucks can be. I spent many years in that lifestyle and put somewhere between 2 ½ to 3 million miles under my belt. The man I was in 1977 when I first started as a trainee and the man I was at the end of 2006 when I retired from driving didn’t remotely resemble one another. It’s not just that I was older and hopefully wiser, but I was experienced and knew exactly what the job entailed and what was expected. To be honest the job itself is not that complicated and is actually easy to explain. You pick up a load at one place and take it to another. However, the process in between has a lot of things going on that you have to put up with, but if this is how you earn a living you have to do it.

I see my relationship with Jesus Christ as being very similar to my life as a career truck driver. Whether or not someone perseveres as a Christian has very little to do with walking an aisle, praying a particular prayer, or being baptized. It has everything to do with walking in faithfulness to the commands of God and seeking to know Him better every day through His word and Spirit. It’s that in-between time of your profession of faith and final breath that we walk out our lives as Christ followers. The relationship of love grows sweeter and more desirable as time goes on. There are always serious bumps in the road and times of trials and failures.

In order to do that we each need God’s help and the encouragement of others who you are walking with Him. God has given us His word to follow, not to merely consider whether or not it suits our lifestyle, but to obey, model and teach others. When we present the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must be willing to mentor and disciple so that we are there with the new convert. This is why the church is so vital in the life of every believer.

All of our scripture readings this morning point us to the basics of what it means to be a Christ follower, and what it looks like when we are. However, they also point us to what it looks like when we are not. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first let’s discuss the truth of where we are as a culture and why we must be willing to allow God to change us.

Today, our country finds itself coming apart at the seams because we have by and large become a secular culture where many, if not most, no longer believe there is any fixed moral code by which they should live. It is considered wisdom to instruct our children to “find your own truth” and “follow your own heart.” It reminds me of the Old Testament Book of Judges where the 450 years period between Joshua’s leading the children of Israel into the Promised and the coming of the prophet Samuel, Israel turned away from the Lord. It was an age of total moral chaos that led to terrible evil, bloody conflicts, and tales of great human suffering. The writer gives the reason for this in Judges 17:6 and 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Shane Morris a senior writer at BreakPoint, a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview wrote an article for “The Federalist” on October 10, 2016, entitled, “Survey Finds Most American Christians Are Actually Heretics”

A survey of 3,000 people conducted by LifeWay Research and commissioned by Ligonier Ministries found that although Americans still overwhelmingly identify as “Christian,” startling percentages of the nation embrace ancient errors condemned by all major Christian traditions. These are not minor points of doctrine, but core ideas that define Christianity itself.

Seven out of ten respondents in LifeWay’s survey affirmed the doctrine of the Trinity—that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons but one God, and six in ten agreed that Jesus is both human and divine. Their orthodoxy—and consistency—ended there. More than half went on to indicate that Jesus is “the first and greatest being created by God,” a heresy known as Arianism, which the Council of Nicaea condemned in 325 AD.

Seventy percent of participants—who ranged across socioeconomic and racial backgrounds—agreed there’s only one true God. Yet sixty-four percent also thought this God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism and those that believe in many gods.

A full 60 percent agreed that, “everyone eventually goes to heaven,” but half of those surveyed also checked the box saying that, “only those who believe in Jesus will be saved.”

Why does it matter that we’ve become a nation of doctrinal dunces? What harm is there in flunking Christianity 101? Well, for Christians, the answer is obvious. If we really believe what we profess—that the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important fact of history and eternity—then we’d better improve our grade. Knowing who the God we claim to worship is can no longer be a third priority if we want the world to take us seriously as his followers.

We are in a war between light and darkness, good and evil, God and the devil. Throughout the world we read of Christians daily being persecuted and killed but so far it doesn’t seem to be happening here. Why? I believe that a major reason is that professing Christians have shown a willingness to compromise the truths of God’s word for the sake of unity. To be frank, for the most part, the enemy doesn’t find many who claim to know Jesus Christ as a threat.

I have been saddened by many of those who claim to know Christ who have concluded along with the left that abortion is a woman’s right and that the LGBTQ+ agenda should be embraced so that those caught up in that viewpoint might feel welcomed and accepted but not confronted. They say it in such a way that to disagree surely means that you aren’t showing the love of Christ but are being hateful.

We came out of a denomination that decided that God’s word was no longer relevant and sadly other denominations have fallen for the same lie of the enemy. It should remind us of the enticement of the serpent when talking to Eve in the Garden of Eden, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Adam and Eve’s sin was not that they ate of the forbidden fruit but that they questioned the reasonableness of the command of God. They decided they had the right to make the decision between what God commanded and what the serpent suggested. Eating the fruit was simply the outcome of their sin. That is a fatal mistake that humanity has made since our first parents.

To be a Christian is not merely concerned with recognizing that you are a sinner in need of a Savior but to acknowledge that apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ you have no hope. In turning to Christ we also commit to following God’s word and living for the glory of God as our first priority.

As I mentioned earlier, each of our scripture readings this morning points us to the simplicity of the offer of God to restore our relationship broken by sin but also reveals with clarity what the commitment looks like. Let’s briefly consider each reading.

In our passage from Deuteronomy 30:15–19,

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.

Moses called for a decision and made it clear that this was not open to negotiations. Jehovah Elohim, the Lord their God, was creator and ruler of all creation. All that they could see both around them and in the heavens belonged to the God who created it out of nothing but simply spoke it into existence. The fact that this glorious, powerful, amazing and holy God would offer to love and bless such an obstinate, stiff-necked people should have been enough to guarantee their loving obedience. But, if not, they would not experience blessing but death. There was not a third option to consider. Take it or leave it. So they would not forget or later claim that no one told them, Moses wants them to know that God’s word here is final. Listen to verses 19 and 20,

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

I think that is really quite clear and the choices are only two. Later, as Israel prepared to inhabit the land they had conquered under Joshua, he would give them the same command and conclude, “but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

In our Gospel reading this morning Jesus, who is greater than Moses or Joshua, calls His disciples to enter the narrow path that leads to life. In that reading again we find the simplicity of the offer. 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. 14For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

There are two choices, two gates: one leads to destruction, and one leads to life. What could be simpler? Again, there is not a third option, and this is not open to negotiation. Jesus, God incarnate, did the unthinkable by coming to us and rescuing us by shedding His blood for our sins. To reject the only hope of salvation leads to destruction, and rightly so. Jesus knew the heart of men and how easily we are deceived by those who tell us what our flesh wants to hear. So he gave us a warning. Matthew 7:15–17,

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.

Let’s return back for a moment to what survey’s claim about the religious faith of the American population. On the Answers In Genesis website reporter Avery Foley posted this report.

The American Culture and Faith Institute (ACFI) on May 2, 2017, conducted nationwide surveys of over 6,000 people to determine how many Americans have a biblical worldview—that is, how many Americans use the Bible as their filter for reality, to determine right from wrong, and to shape their beliefs, attitudes, and actions. Despite the growing number of religiously unaffiliated people, over 70% of Americans still claim to be Christians. Yet only 46% of US adults would say they have a biblical worldview. But do almost half of Americans really possess a biblical framework through which they view the world? But according to this study, one of the first of its kind, a mere 24 million American adults actually have a biblical worldview. In other words, less than 10% of Americans think and act according to the most basic biblical principles. This is a gap of a staggering 88 million people who believe they think biblically, but whose beliefs and actions do not match up with biblical truth.

So if better than half of the US population consider themselves Christian, where do they get this identity? Clearly it is not from the word of God but is surely a deception of the enemy.

Right now many of our mainline denominations, who consider themselves Christian no longer believe the Bible is the word of God or has moral authority in their lives. They scan the Scriptures and decide what parts are culturally relevant and which parts if any still are. By and large these same groups would claim that Jesus is only one way to reach God and there are many ways. They believe that everyone will make it to heaven (except maybe those who disagree with them).

As we consider what has happened to these once faithful groups of professed believers we must consider Jesus’ words that we will know them by the fruits they produce. One of the most terrifying verses in Scripture is from Matthew 7:19–23 that we read this morning.

“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21Not 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. 22On 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?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

Craig Keener in his Commentary on Matthew points out,

Yet the image of the tree and the fruit also reminds us that behavior flows from character, and in Christian teaching character comes through being born again rather than merely through self-discipline. Our own best efforts at restructuring unregenerate human nature are doomed to failure. By contrast, a person transformed by and consistently dependent on the power of God's Spirit will live according to the traits of God's character because of God's empowerment, just as trees bear fruit according to their own kind.

This is why a knowledge of God’s word through personal reading, Bible studies and effective preaching matter. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that God’s word is living and active, cutting through and warning the deceitful heart to not be fooled concerning sin and the possibility of falling short of salvation. God’s word changes us and drives us to the Lord in repentance, then thanksgiving and praise. The Holy Spirit opens our hearts to receive the gift of life with Jesus. It also changes our desires and the intentions of our hearts. Referring to a certain day where judgment will be rendered, Charles Spurgeon in his famous sermon, “Disowned” commented,

What is the chief object of your life? Will you think as much of it “in that day” as you do now? Will you then count yourself wise to have so earnestly pursued it? You fancy that you can defend it now, but will you be able to defend it then, when all things of earth and time will have melted into nothingness?

The fact that the people respond to Jesus as “Lord, Lord” suggests a level of intimacy. It’s not claims or feelings of intimacy that matter, or simply good works—even miraculous ones. Doing the will of the Father counts. This involves knowing God, or rather being known by Him.

Our Psalm for this morning is Psalm 1 and this stands at the beginning of the Psalter as a gateway to the sanctuary. Actually, Psalms 1 and 2 serve as introductions to the Psalms and teach us how we should read the rest of the Psalter. Psalm 1 is a wisdom Psalm exhorting those who come to worship to have the right attitude towards the law of God before entering into intimate conversation with Him. Like the other scriptures that we have talked about this morning Psalm 1 makes it very clear that there are only two options here. The righteous love God’s law and they meditate upon it and saturate themselves with it. They do not seek the counsel of the ungodly or attempt to model their lives and thinking after those who do not love the law and the lawgiver. The wicked hate the law of God and ignore it. Those who are righteous keep covenant with and obey God because they love him, demonstrating that they are His. The wicked hate the law of God and willfully ignore its demands thereby demonstrating their contempt for both the word and the authority of God over their lives.

The Psalmist declares that the outcome for each is easy to identify. The righteous are “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” When the righteous follow the commands and instructions of God because they love Him and delight in His word, their fruit is evident. They seek to bear fruit that glorifies God and seek to build His kingdom. However the wicked do not resemble the righteous,

…but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

We are living in a day where the distinction between God’s righteousness and men's and women’s fleshly desires have become more evident. These are not times of compromise and seeking unity at all cost. That is a lie and terrible deception that we have fallen for at great cost. We should have learned by now that our enemy does intend to compromise his goals which are to bring disunity in the midst of God’s people and take their eyes off of Jesus and His Holy Word.

We must be those who believe in the promise of Jesus in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” This means that making God’s sovereign rule and our right relationship with Him our highest priority in life. Worry, and fear are inconsistent with these priorities because they reveal that we are doubting the sovereignty and goodness of God. It distracts us and causes us to take our eyes off the truth that God will provide for all the needs of those who risk all for Him and it may come to that.

Finally, Jesus made it clear that the gate to life is narrow, the way is hard, and few will find it. Get used to that truth and get rid of the mentality that the majority rules. The 70% claim should have been seen as a deception of the enemy. Frankly, I wonder if even 10% will follow Him. If we follow Jesus faithfully, we will pay the price but the reward is life with Jesus. Can you even imagine it?

Let’s pray.

©2021 Rev. Mike Moffitt

Return to top

Sermon Archives