Hard realities

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Prepare

Jesus anticipated the problem of dangerous pretenders who would try to join his followers. Notice how he looks ahead to these practical challenges.


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Bible passage Matthew 7:13–23


The Narrow and Wide Gates
 13"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
A Tree and Its Fruit
 15"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

 21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'


New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Audio Bible passage


The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


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Finding the way
Jesus wasn’t afraid to confront problems. One enduring concern was how to distinguish those with a pretence of faith from those who are truly responsive. What guidance does he offer?

First he warned against being enthralled with numbers. His imagery of narrow and broad gates pointed to his refusal to moderate his teachings for the sake of popularity. As we’ve seen already, Jesus was devoted to those drawn to his Father, and he labelled this the narrow road. He recognised that other attractions are in competition with God and will usually draw greater numbers.

Choosing truth
Second, if a community has both true and false members, Jesus invited discrimination. Grapes come from grapevines. So if thorns keep appearing in some lives, instead of grapes, be suspicious! All who are truly devoted to Jesus and the Father will walk in the paths of that love.

Finally he warned against accepting the thorn-bearing types as true followers even if they’ve displayed various forms of dramatic gifting. The only true litmus of faith is a wholehearted devotion to the Father.


Respond


Most of us are optimists about our fellow Christians. We readily embrace all those who profess a devotion to God. But cases of ‘ferocious wolves’ wearing sheep’s clothing call for caring discernment (v 15).

Ron Frost


Deeper Bible study


Lord, grant me wisdom so that the decisions and choices that I make today will bring you honour and glory.

Having finished the main body of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus continued with a few more comments. He exhorted his listeners to reflect on the Sermon and to consider carefully the choices before them and the consequences of these choices. He made it clear that the stakes were high, using two illustrations to contrast those who selected the narrow rather than the wide gate and road (vs 13,14) and to contrast those who bear good rather than bad fruit (vs 15–23). The choice one makes has eternal consequences. We are judged as either true or false disciples.

These words are sobering indeed. Scripture often describes life as a choice between two ways. We choose to follow either God’s way or our own way. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had to decide between the way of obedience and the way of disobedience (Genesis 2:16,17). Later, Moses presented before Israel the choice between the way of faithfulness and the path of rebellion: one led to blessings, the other to curses (Deuteronomy 30). Later still, Joshua set before the people a choice of serving God or foreign idols (Joshua 24:15).

The ultimate aim of reminding us of the two ways or choices that are before us is to help us to see life from the perspective of where we are heading. Apart from encouraging obedience and faithfulness and warning against disobedience and faithlessness, it also challenges us to consider how each of our decisions will ultimately affect us and others.

Kar Yong Lim


Choose who to serve


Making the hard choice
Jesus sets a choice before us: a narrow gate, or a broad one. As is so often the case, God lays out the options and invites us to make the decision. He does not force us to love him, nor does he demand our attention. He must be sought out.

There are other texts that speak of God choosing us (eg Ephesians 1:4,5). This one indicates that there is an equal sense in which we choose God. And doing so will not be easy.

Continuing well
Dick France1 wonders if the gate is at the start or the end of the journey. He suggests the answer ‘may not be important’. It represents either conversion or final salvation; both are appropriate for the message, and both equally important.

What certainly is important is that we continue along the whole road.

Starting well is essential, but so is running the entire distance (see Philippians 3:12–14). We need the power of the Spirit for this, but we also need to be engaged with the task and not assume that the Spirit does it for us. Though Jesus doesn’t mention them, we can be certain that there are plenty of ways to lose our direction and end up on the broad way, even if we initially found the narrow gate at the start.

1The Gospel of Matthew, Eerdmans, 2007

Bible in a year


Read the Bible in a year.

Genesis 24,25

Matthew 9
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Meditation on being fruitful


Picture your life as being like a tree, with each branch representing a different aspect of it. For example:

• the relationship you are in
• your attitudes
• your job
• your thought-life
• your friendships

Be honest with yourself and ask God to show you how much good fruit you are bearing in each part of your life.

Which branches seem to be fruitful and which are unhealthy?

Give thanks to God for anything that shows the fruit of obedience in your life, and have a good think about the bad stuff. It can’t just stay there, as it threatens the whole tree.

Pray that God will help you to live with integrity in every area in which you struggle. He will give you his strength and his grace, but he asks for your honesty and obedience for his integrity to take root in you.

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Audio


‘Search me oh God’
Peformed by : Vicky Beeching
Written by: Vicky Beeching
Copyright: © 1997 Thankyou MusicYou can buy this and other great worship songs at www.integritymusic.com

Awesome God (Your Voice)
Vicky Beeching
Copyright© 2001 Vineyard Songs (UK/Eire)
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.vineyardrecords.co.uk




Comments
  • Enyobi Chukwunonso | Friday, 12 January 2018

    "How to distinguish those with a pretence of faith from those who are truly responsive" this is the real problem in Africa, particularly Nigeria. Due to the hard economy people are seeking for signs and wonders. There are fake pastors that use the power of voodoo to perform unbelievable miracles, they make the blind see, the lame walks and they do it in the name of christ but the power behind it isn't the power of Christ. With this they deceive unsuspecting Christians to join their congregation. God being faithful, the law enforcement agencies usually arrest the up coming ones in their secret dens while performing sacrifices, mainly Human sacrifices, which they use in receiving the powers they need. Those that have not been caught are one of the richest Nigerians, with private jets, luxury cars, mansions and super investments in every corner of the country. They have one of the biggest Congregations. They are influential too. But by their fruit we shall know them, they don't preach Christ or repentance, all they preach is wealth.

  • Rachael Hampton | Friday, 12 January 2018

    What an extreme example Enyobi, of what Jesus was saying. Thank you for sharing what it is like in your country. And may we all take care not to be deceived, or to deceive ourselves .... Ruth, I am glad you are being blessed by gracegems. Your Spurgeon quote recently was very helpful.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Friday, 12 January 2018

    In UK ENYOBI it is more a case of many people today think that signing a card, joining a church, giving money, being baptized, and many other “wonderful” works will produce salvation, but they are deceived too. Religious doctrines of man have perverted people’s understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the Book of Eccl says 'What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. We do well to heed 1 Jn 4:12 'No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us'

  • Thelma Edwards | Friday, 12 January 2018

    Reflecting on the examples both Enyobi and Gilvin write about, I wondered what my response should be. Obviously prayer, but I was also reminded that God will have the ultimate say as to what happens to these false prophets, blind guides, wolves in sheeps clothing, those who put stumbling blocks in the paths of those seeking righteousness. Psalm 94 is worth a read when we are frustrated about these things. Jesus says that not everyone who calls Him Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, He speaks of the separation of the sheep from the goats on the day of judgement, are our names written in the Lamb's book of Life, will Jesus "know" me on judgement day, how much 'wealth' or treasure am I building up on earth that will rot, be stolen, burnt up and how much will be of lasting value? I pray that God will expose in His way those working against Him even though they may seem genuine. I pray for all those who are being led astray that they will question what is false and seek answers from Gods Word. The Church is not the spotless Bride yet and there are many whose words and actions bring Christianity and therefore Christ into disrepute and turn people away from Christ. May my light shine brightly generated by the oil of the Holy Spirit and may my life be salt that has not lost its savour, may I see clearly without a plank or speck of dust in my eye, may I seek first The Kingdom of God in all I do and say.

  • John Hartley | Friday, 12 January 2018

    Father, for Enyobi and your children - my brothers and sisters in Nigeria - protection against the forces of Satan - whether dressed in sheep's clothing or openly prowling around looking for prey. Thank you that you are the LORD of all.

  • Angela Munday | Friday, 12 January 2018

    Jesus continually warned against those who pretend to be someone they are not; deceivers. When the God of 'love' lives deep within a person then the powers of darkness can be clearly seen and shunned. Jesus resisted all temptation to walk the wide road to destruction; He has shown us the courage it takes to make the right choices; ENYOBI may you remain strong as you live in God's love and His goodness.

  • Ezekiel Odumogwu | Friday, 12 January 2018

    Ignorance is not an excuse, He said beware of... how can we put this phrase into practice? the word of God says in 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV [15] "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" if we study the word we'll be able to know if the prophet is genuine or false. May God give all of us that seek Him the discerning spirit to be able to follow that which is the will of God.

  • Fiona Battrum | Friday, 12 January 2018

    We are in danger of judging each other. We are all false prophets to a greater or lesser degree. We all bear thorns during our lives. This scripture should surely be meditated on to reveal the complexity that lies beneath it. How can we show love to each other to reveal The image of god that is in each of us? What does beware false prophets mean in the context of this scripture? Does it mean judge and reject ? Does it mean discern ? How should we interact with each other knowing that there is no such thing as a perfect obedient Christian and is there such a thing as a totally evil false prophet with nothing of God within anywhere?

  • Barbara Sabin | Friday, 12 January 2018

    I am reminded of my Mother's teaching she told me to always keep on the narrow path but not to get narrow minded. Getting narrow minded leads to back biting and judging, all of us Christians are travelling the narrow path, the King's highway, If we keep our hearts full of JOY Jesus first, Others next and ourselves last we will be walking right, Travel along in the sunshine On the King's highway; Travel along, singing a song, Follow Jesus day by day. Never mind what lies before you, Never mind what others do; So travel along in the sunshine On the King's highway. https://youtu.be/bOfNnvU28-4

  • David Forbes | Friday, 12 January 2018

    if you have the bible as your authority then we do need to be discerning when it comes to false teachers . it's does make a distinction between sheep and wolves and it has a lot of other things to say on the subject .The very post from our African brother is quite explicit about false teachers. they are very destructive and although Jesus won for us a great victory at the cross the devil now targets the Church. Ephesians 6 tells us to be on our guard.. and we are in a battle against evil powers. This passage says we will know them by their fruit.. so see who continually opposes established truth on core doctrines, who question and divide us the brethern. If we are in the light i think we will know when we experience shades of darkness.

  • Jill Britton | Friday, 12 January 2018

    Some excellent observations here today. For me there are times when teaching, comments or behaviour makes me feel uncomfortable; I do find though that the Holy Spirit does guide me and in some cases this causes me to realise I need to step up, but there have been times when I have pondered on what has been said/done, measured it against scripture and prayed and then concluded I need to step back. FIONA I consider that when we are confronted we should not judge but yes we need to discern and seek guidance from Jesus through prayer. False prophets are not always that obvious and this passage teaches us that we need to be always watchful, prayerful and seek God's wisdom. May he bless us all with this and "deliver us from evil"

  • Rebecca Huie | Friday, 12 January 2018

    Enyobi, you have given us a wake-up call. A call to pray fervently for you and your country with its obvious false teachers and witchcraft, and for ourselves and our countries and our perhaps less obvious false teachers and witchcraft. How all of this must grieve our Lord and His Holy Spirit, to be mocked and misrepresented by those who are not even remotely Christian. And as we pray, we should add to the list, the conversion of those who are practicing and teaching such false religion. I shudder to think that if they themselves are not converted, they will hear the words of our last verse today: “Away from Me, you evil doers!” and face an eternity without Him. May our loving and merciful Lord draw us all closer and bring into the fold all those who are away from Him. The blessings of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit abide with each of us, now and forever.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Friday, 12 January 2018

    Agreed FIONA that there is no such thing as a perfect obedient Christian. I don't think Jesus is so much looking for perfection in us but faithfulness. Therefore a perfect Christ living through us is when the image of God takes centre stage and self is in the wings. Meet someone living this life and love conquers all. Which reminds me of the Scripture 'we are more than conquerors....'

  • David Chipchase | Friday, 12 January 2018

    Challenging and thought provoking comments here today. Enyobi has made a number of comments about voodooism. I thank God that I am very unfamiliar with it but I find it scary and I pray that Enyobi and other Christians will perceive it for what it is and rout it through the power of the Spirit. From spiritual warfare to health problems; our friend Gill had an MRI yesterday and brain surgery today to remove an aggressive brain tumour. Please remember her and her daughter and three sons - youngest mid 30's - in your prayers.

  • Ruth Lewis | Friday, 12 January 2018

    I find this to be such a good lesson as all of them are, but this one stands out in my mind. First of all we must as Christians not only read the Bible but have a strong desire to study the Bible. We should pray as we study, asking the Holy Spirit toed lead and guide us in the Word. There have been a lot of cults in the United States where people had their ears tickled and followed man whether than following God. One of the worse cults was the Jim Jones Cult. They made a movie from it. So many people died, and once in they couldn't get out. There was another one out of Waco, TX. A man by the name of David Koresh. You can read about them by going to google. The Bible tells us so many things to keep us on the right path. If we read and get it down in our spirit, we will not be led astray by false prophets. We will be in tune to the voice of the Holy Spirit and feeling His nudging that something is not right. It is also good for us to teach our children as they are growing up to read and study the Bible. in the Old Testament it tells us “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9“You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. In the New Testament it says in 2nd Timothy v 15 "we are told to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." I believe when we do these two things no devil in hell can make us stray off of the Narrow road. This is just my way of thinking!!!

  • Ruth Lewis | Friday, 12 January 2018

    My husband and I were driving to Church one Sunday morning, with our son in the back seat. He was home from College for summer vacation. As we rode we listened to a Church Service on the radio. The minister was giving the sermon. Everything was fine until he said something that went against the Word of God. Our ears caught it and so did our sons'. He was the first to speak by saying "Oh Oh" that's not right" We listened no more and turned the radio off. We felt relieved that his ears picked up on the false teaching. Being in College here in the US, you can become involved in many different kinds of thinking, mostly from the Professors. It is very necessary to get your children rooted and grounded in the Word of God before they take off to College.

  • Ruth Lewis | Friday, 12 January 2018

    Thank you DAVID, for the prayer request. I am praying for them in faith that all is well with them because God has answered and is continuing to answer our prayers for GILL and her family.

  • David Forbes | Friday, 12 January 2018

    "Jesus’ command not to judge (v. 1) is a caution against condemning others. Pointing out heresy, however, is not condemning others but merely discerning an obvious error. In this case Jesus urges us to be on the lookout for those whose lifestyles and teachings stand as an indictment against them." NIV Quest Study Bible notes

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