After having spent the last several months reading, studying, & now teaching through the Sermon on the Mount, I have drawn a couple of conclusions for myself that I don’t think I had before (or at least hadn’t identified.)
In this passage of Scripture, Christ defines exactly what it means to be His disciples:
in how we relate to & obey God & His commandments.
In establishing our priorities & values from which we live our lives.
in how we worship Him, not merely with our outward actions, but from the bottom of our hearts, with all that we have.
In how we interact with & care for other people.
Matthew 7 concludes with Jesus telling His disciples they have 2 choices: follow Him & walk in His ways, on His terms, or do anything else. He does this comparing:
2 gates, the narrow and the wide. The narrow gate leads to life; the wide to destruction.
2 types of trees, good & diseased, the good, which produces good fruit, the diseased which brings forth bad fruit.
2 types of disciples – the ones He knows (those who do the will of the Father,) & those He doesn’t know, regardless of what they think they’ve done in His Name.
2 foundations – Rock & sand, with the foundation of rock representing the person who hears & puts into practice His words; sand is the life foundation of the person who has heard His words, yet ignores them.
To me, the entirety of Matthew 5-7 can be summed up in Matthew 7:13,14 – the only way to experience God’s life & purpose is to enter through the narrow gate (Jesus) & to walk the hard road of obedience to God’s word, humbly choosing to do His will over our own. After re-reading this over & over, what stands out to me is that I cannot “self-define” where & how I will be Christ’s disciple. He’s already done that, & my choice is to embrace that & start walking with Him, or to choose the lesser (& easier) wide gate through which I can do what I’d like, how I like it… sifting through Christ’s commands & picking up those that are palatable, while leaving behind those that I deem are not.
Following Christ is hard – Jesus said it would be, because it involves denying our own selfish ambition, picking up Jesus’ way, & moving forward WITH Him.