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03.13.16 Living the Future Today Matthew 7:13-29 Sermon Summary

by on March 14, 2016

Part of the transition to adulthood is taking responsibility for building our lives. Fortunately, as we lose our parental support, Jesus steps in to help.

Summary Points

  • The relationship between future and present in Christ
  • Then warning against false prophets
  • The difficult Word of the true prophet
  • Why some are excluded from the Kingdom of God
  • The purpose of the Sermon on the Mount

People who had a good childhood were surrounded by adults who built and protected their lives. Eventually the child becomes and adult and takes over the project. We begin to make our own choices, including which foundation we will use—rock or sand?

In the conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers his teaching as the foundational rock for our lives. When Jesus speaks of a destination (like “heaven”), we naturally think of the future. It’s usually a distant future. As on a road-trip, we speak of the destination it in terms of time, not distance. We don’t ask, “How many miles is Phoenix from here,” but, “How many hours does it take to get there?” This removes heaven from us both in time and in location.

But Jesus’ destination, while future, is also present. His words about “there and then” address us “here and now.” Theologians calls this the “eschatological future”—a promised future that has a present reality. Jesus called it living in the Kingdom of God. This is how Jesus’ words about the future destination provide the present foundation for our lives. Jesus calls us to live the future today.

In the future, Jesus assures us, the rains will fall, the floods will rise, and the winds will blow and beat against the building of our lives. And what happens then to the lives we’ve built is determined by where we build today. So one of the things Jesus warns us against is false prophets.

We immediately think of preachers and religious leaders. They’re the ones who are supposed to guide us, to help us find the narrow gates and the difficult roads that lead to life. We expect prophets to be like we are, sheep, which is why the false prophets disguise themselves as sheep. But inside, Jesus says, they are ravenous wolves.

The false prophet uses the sheep, the ministry, and the gospel for personal gain. And not just financial gain. False prophets are easily identified by opulent lifestyles. But the inward wolf of the false prophet has other appetites also: The need to control others, for adoration, for a sense of self. These ravenous wolves also make a prophet false.

The true prophet surrenders the ravenous wolves of insecurity to God, like Jesus did in the wilderness. Once these inward ravenous wolves are under God’s control, the true prophet emerges to listens for God’s Word and to relay it to others. The true prophet is able to do this even when the Word is a tough one. Even if the Word is one that cuts and prunes, challenging and painful Words that are necessary for a tree to bear good fruit.

This pruning Word is very personal. We’re tempted to see the pruning that needs to happen in others’ lives, like the speck in our neighbor’s eye which is so obvious to us despite the log in our own eye to which we’re oblivious. But Jesus isn’t talking about our neighbor’s tree. He’s talking about our own.

This is evident when he warns us, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of God, but only one who does the will of my Father in Heaven.” Like the people in the parable, we protest: “Didn’t we prophesy, cast out demons, and do powerful deeds in your name?”

The problem isn’t the deeds. Good deeds are good; by all means, do them. The issue of concern for Jesus is that we do them for the right reason. We’re not to do them so others can see. We’re not to perform for a wide audience like the “hypocrite” (the “actor”) from a few weeks ago. Disciples of Jesus do good to please the audience of one, to please God.

Religiosity for the wider audience may feed our inner wolves (we all have them, not just prophets!), but such religiosity keeps God at arm’s length. The judgment Jesus pronounces is not that people don’t know him. Clearly they do, since they do good “in his name” and are surprised to find themselves excluded from the kingdom. The problem is, when they do good for the wider audience and not for God, Jesus can’t get to know them. “I never knew you,” Jesus says, “depart from me, you evildoers.” Good that keeps us from being known by God turns evil for us.

Here, perhaps, we’ve found the point of the Sermon on the Mount: It is to be known by God, who rewards in secret; to be transformed in our hearts, and not just conformed in our behaviors; to become a good tree bearing good fruit, not a wolf in sheep’s clothing; to build our lives in such a way that they survive the inevitable storm.

And we do it, according to Jesus—in his example and in his teaching—by listening for God’s Word as we journey through this life, as we identify and walk through narrow gates, and along hard roads, with the few who seek and find the life to which God calls us in Christ, as we live our future destination today.

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