Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Matthew 7

February 13th, 2011 by Vic

February 13, 2011

Matthew 7

“What Separates the Wise From the Foolish?”

Let’s begin at the end of the chapter.  Jesus says in verse 24, “Therefore”.  Here is the conclusion of His sermon.  After everything is said and done, remember this.  “Therefore, whoever hears these words of Jesus and lives by them is like a wise man.  And whoever hears these words of Jesus and does nothing, is like a fool.”  Doing separates the wise from the foolish.  If we do not obey we are fools. If we practice them we are wise.  We hear, read and talk about what Jesus is teaching, but it is imperative to practice it.

In this chapter, there are 7 brief teachings, but the bottom line is found in verses 24 and 26.  We are to be doing the words of Jesus.  To him that knows to do good and does not do it is sin.

7:1-5 Jesus says do not judge.  But in 7:6 He says don’t throw your pearls to pigs.  In 7:15 He says watch out for false prophets.  We are not to judge, but we are to make judgments.  How can this be?  In verse 1 the Greek word is ‘krino’ which means to condemn, to sentence.  It is a judgment of condemnation following a trial.  7:16 tells us to be fruit inspectors.  Romans 16:17 warns us to watch out for false prophets.  The Greek word is ‘skopeo’ which means to scope it out.  This is a judgment of identification.  We are not to condemn, but to identify.  Wolves do not eat grass.  Scope it out.

Jesus says don’t make a judgment of condemnation.  Remember that the standards you use to judge others will be the standards that God uses to judge you.  The things you feel in your heart to be sin and not right for your brother to do, God says you should not be doing them either.

Notice in verse 3 that both the speck of sawdust and the large plank are just pieces of wood.  This is a hyperbole that probably brought some chuckles.  Both the sawdust and the lumber represent the same sin.  We are all sinners.  Jesus reminds us that a wise man judges himself before he tries to help his brother.  If you feel that God has made you a judge, remember that you must be a judge of yourself first.  A hypocrite deceives himself.  He does not see his own sin.  Remember the story of King David.  He had justified his sin and was quick to judge another until Nathan the prophet said, “You are the man!”  (2 Sam 12)

Later David wrote the prayer, create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me… then I will teach transgressors Your ways (Ps 51:10-13).  After I confess my sin then I can humbly help others with theirs.

7:6 The judgment of identification is required to know when to give and when not to give, when to share the gospel and when not to share the gospel, when to be kind and when not to waste your time.  God loves a cheerful giver and Jesus says here that God expects us to be wise givers.  We are to use common sense.  The first teaching suggested that the fool is one who does not judge himself.  This verse suggests the fool is one who does no judging at all.  He does not care who gets the aid for the flood victims.  The government gave everyone the same amount whether they had any damage or not.  During NT times dogs were vicious and pigs scorned the values of man.  Those that get money unjustly are not thankful.  They are laughing at the government’s foolishness and proud of their ability to lie and cheat.

7:7-8  God has shown you how to give.  God gives Himself when you ask, seek, and knock.  It is foolish to give something precious to someone who does not want it or is not ready for it.  If you share the gospel with someone who is spiritually dead, they may get angry and curse God.  They may curse you for your generosity.  But if the Spirit has prepared their heart, they will be receptive.

This verse is not so much a promise as a simple statement of how kingdom things work.  If you really desire God, you will ask.  If you really desire to know God, you will make an effort to seek.  If you really hunger and thirst for righteousness, you will persistently knock.  God is a generous giver.  He wants us to be generous.

7:9-11  Think about your kids.  You know how to please them; how much more so does God!

God Himself is the only real limit of His gifts.  In His endless fullness, He gives to us just as much of Himself as we desire to have.  We have available everything we need for life and godliness.

7:12  The Golden Rule sums up the law and the prophets.  This was a very radical way of stating a common proverb.  There was a common saying, but it had never been said like Jesus said it.  Around A.D. 20 Rabbi Hillel was asked to summarize the Law and he said “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else.  This is the whole law; all the rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.”  This proverb was stated negatively in many different ways.  Jesus turns the common negative proverb upside down and changes it from a rule to an attitude.  The golden rule is really not a rule but the conduct required to fulfill the law and the prophets.  It encompasses everything you are doing right now in the present.

In its negative form it is a common sense statement.  It tells you what not to do.  It is always easier to do nothing than to do something.  It is easier to say, “I’m not going to hurt you” than it is to say, I’m going to be kind and help you.”  It is easier to treat you as the law allows than as love demands.

7:13-14. There are only 2 ways.  God has made life simple.  There are not many ways that lead to God.  We have an either/or choice.  The one gate is hard to enter, the other easy.  The one road is narrow, the other broad.  There are 2 groups of travelers–the big group and the few.  There are 2 destinations, life and destruction.

When you enter the narrow gate, it is restrictive and the road is immediately restrictive.  Tribulation starts inside the gate.  It is not an easy decision to make.  But when you enter the broad gate you can bring all your baggage with you.  No planning is required.  You can go with the flow of the crowd.

Jesus is telling us to choose the narrow gate.  It does not look as popular.  There is grass growing in the trail.  There are no fast foods.  The narrow gate is not an end in itself.  The narrow gate is not your destination.  It is the beginning of eternal life.  Follow in His steps.  You can’t take a lot with you, but remember He feeds the birds and clothes the lilies.  As you walk you see the footprints of Jesus.  This road requires discipline, discomfort, difficulty, but Jesus promised to be with us.  Enter the gate marked by suffering.  Jesus also said He is the door that leads to life.

There is no discipline required to go to hell and destruction.  The end of the 2 roads is radically different.  Remember every temptation of Jesus was for instant satisfaction.  He chose to trust God and wait.  He chose to consider eternal consequences.  He chose deferred gratification.

7:15-20 The nature of the tree determines the fruit.  False preachers and teachers grow bad fruit.  Some try to conceal their real identity and motives.  They appear on the surface to be something they are not.  These deceivers are natural enemies of the sheep.  We must watch out for these false prophets.  The nature of the prophet determines his teaching.  The nature of a prophet determines his destiny.  We can identify false prophets by their fruit.  What they say and what they do will identify their nature.  Also we can identify a wolf by what he eats.

An early church manual written for the Christians in the 2nd century says this about identifying a true prophet.  “A true prophet shall remain one day, and, if necessary, another day also; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet.  He must never ask for anything but bread.  If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.  If a prophet, claiming to speak in the Spirit, orders a table and a meal to be set before him he is a false prophet.  If a wanderer comes to a congregation, and wishes to settle there, if he has a trade, let him work and eat.  If he has no trade, consider in your wisdom how he may not live with you as a Christian in idleness.  If he will not work, he is a trafficker in Christ.  Beware of such.”  (Didache, 11-12)  Every Jew must have a trade by which to earn a living.  No rabbi was to accept any payment for his teaching.

A tree is judged by its fruit.  Do the prophet’s words nourish the flock, or just give them a sugar high?  Do his words prove that he is clever or that Christ is Lord?  No great teacher ever desired prestige.

False teachers are compared to wolves.  Wolves eat different food than sheep.  Watch what the false teacher is eating.  Is he feeding himself or the sheep?  You can identify a false teacher by what he wants to eat.  Also wolves do not follow the shepherd.  They do not hear his voice.  Who or what are the false teachers listening to?  Is it all about externals or a change of nature?

7:21-23  We’ve been warned about false teachers.  Now we are warned about false followers.  No one is saved by saying religious words or doing religious deeds.  Not every member who claims to be a Christian is going to make it to heaven.  No matter how many Christian videos you see, no matter how many Christian books you read, no matter how often you come to church, you will not make it to heaven unless you do God’s will.  A Christian has a changed heart.  Jesus does a heart transplant when we confess our sins, believe on Him as Lord and follow in His ways.  A wise man obeys.  He lives by faith with a clean heart.

You could have the gift of prophecy and really impress a lot of people, you could preach every day of the week, you could have some spectacular healing campaigns, you could cast out demons in Jesus’ name, you could heal the crippled, you could be a super-Christian in man’s eyes and never make it to heaven if your heart is not right and your deeds are not done for the glory of God.  Satan has power to work magic.  There is no certainty of truth in the profundity of experience.

The deeds listed here are some of the things that Jesus had done.  The deeds are not being criticized, but the motive of the heart.  There are evil-doers doing good deeds.  As faith without works is a contradiction of terms so doing good deeds with a selfish heart has no merit with God.

The Beatitudes are about attitudes.  This Sermon in the hills was one that Jesus preached many times.  Some say it is the very center of the Christian religion.  Some say it is the ideal of all human conduct.  Some say it is the alpha and omega of Christianity.  But Jesus concludes by saying, this sermon is nothing unless you have had a heart transplant.  You can listen, look, admire, and talk about the words of Jesus all day, but unless your life is built on Him the solid rock, you are a fool.  You must practice and live out the teachings and not just discuss them.

The disciples have been listening to Jesus.  He concludes by illustrating the difference between a wise builder and a foolish builder.  Both wise men and foolish men build houses.  Both have the words, tools, money and materials to build.  It is interesting to note that Jesus does not compare good men and evil men or righteous and unrighteous.  He says wise and foolish.  He assumed that everyone who was still listening to Him wanted to be wise.  The word of God is the building kit for your life.  You can choose the solid foundation for your life.

The storms of life come on everyone.  How the storms effect you is determined by your foundation.  If you are committed to practicing God’s Word and doing God’s will, you are like the wise builder.  If you have not practiced God’s word and have no desire to please Him, you are like the foolish builder.  One life stood; one fell.

Ezekiel 33:32 says the people were wicked because they did not practice the words of the prophet.  They had heard.  They were impressed, but they did not put God’s word into practice.

Jesus’ sermon provides some building material.  What will you do with it?  The decision you make now may determine your destiny.  To build your life as God intended, you must build on the rock.  What will you do with the words of Jesus?  Are you just going to use them as guidelines for your life?  Will you use them as another set of laws to follow so you can somehow please God and get what you want?  Or will you practice them?

To build on the rock, you must invite Jesus to come into your heart and practice His teachings.  You decide if you will be wise and build your life on obedience or on selfishness and your own strength.  Jesus is the solid rock.  Our judgments, our abilities, and the fashions of the day are the sand.  A foolish builder takes shortcuts to make a quick buck.  He covers his inferior work.  His house looks the same.  It’s the same color.  It’s the same size.  Each house looks the same in good weather.  But shortcuts eventually show up.  Instant breakfasts do not satisfy.  Storms reveal the quality of the work of the builders.

Jesus said life is full of storms but He promised to be with us.  Jesus said in this world we will have tribulation but He has overcome the world.  He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world.

Life is not easy.  God sends the storms to strengthen us.  He is growing oak trees not mushrooms.

Be wise.  Follow the pattern.

Judge not to condemnation.  Judge to identify.

Ask, seek, and knock.  God is a generous giver.

Do unto others.

Enter the narrow gate and walk the narrow way.

Be discerning.  Wolves do not eat grass.

Search the Scripture to see if any teaching is true.

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