September 9, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Tuesday after the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 76, 2 Sam. 23:8-17, 2 Cor. 11:1-15
Evening – Psalm 72, Mt. 7:13

Commentary, Matthew 7:13-29

Our Lord makes three enormous points before beginning His conclusion in verses 24-29.  The magnitude of the points is almost hidden by the scarcity of words used to make them.  But in short, simple language, our Lord says, first, few will find the way of life, while many will take the road to destruction.  Second, False teachers and false gospels abound, and many are found inside the Church disguised as Christ’s sheep.  Don’t follow them.  Third, many who think they are going to Heaven – are not.  Please read these verses carefully.  You will also do a good thing for your soul if you read the comments on these verses by Bishop J. C. Ryle in his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels.  They are in the first volume, which, naturally, is about the Gospel of Matthew.

It is the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount that will occupy the remainder of tonight’s comments here.  And even here the comments will be as brief as the Lord’s words themselves.  Our Lord says there are two kinds of people.  The first are the wise.  They are not necessarily the people the world calls wise.  In fact the world usually calls them fools.  The world excludes them from its places of privilege and power.  The world calls them backward, obsolete, haters, and bigots.  The world blames most of its problems on them and their religion.  The world persecutes them because they see that the wisdom of the world is the real foolishness, and the fear of God is the beginning of real wisdom.  The people of the world have created gods in their own image; gods that bless and conform to their values and ideas, therefore they hate those who follow The God who testifies that their gods are false and their deeds are evil.

These people are wise because they hear the word of Christ and build their lives upon it.  They are content to walk the narrow way and ignore the teachings of the false prophets, both religious and secular.  Their trust is not in man, not even in their own selves.  Their trust is in Christ, and they are devoted to Him and His will.
Christ says they are like a man who builds his house upon a rock.  It is very easy to see that the house is the person’s life and soul.  It is everything that he is, and everything that shapes him.  He builds it all on the rock.  The rock, of course is Christ.  It is also all the things of Christ.  It is the faith once delivered to the saints, the Bible, the Church.  It is all the things Christ has given to lead us to Him and keep us in Him, now and forever.

The rain, floods, and winds are the sorrows and temptations of life.  But they are also more than just ordinary problems.  They are the attacks of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  They are persecutions and temptations and doubts.  They are the attempts of Satan to tear the faith out of you, to beat it out of you, to beat you into submission to him, the false prophets, and the secular values of the world.  But the one who builds his life upon the rock will stand.  His house will stand not because the house is strong, but because the Rock protects it.  The Christian stands in the face of all trials only because the Rock protects him.

The foolish man builds his house upon the sand.  He walks the broad way to destruction.  He listens to the false prophets.  He presumes that his actions are good enough to make him acceptable to God, if there is a God.  This person is the real fool.  The storms wash the ground out from under his house.  The conflicting values of the world, and their demand for total and unthinking obedience are like winds beating on his house from different directions, each ripping the house apart while promising to make it strong.  The house finally and eternally falls.  It could do no other.  The sand does not, and cannot protect it.

Our Lord’s words cause us to look over His sermon again.  They prompt us to ask ourselves if ours is a religion of the letter, or the religion of the spirit.  Are we trying to get by with just an outward appearance of godliness?  Or are we truly dedicated to Christ in our hearts?  Finally, have we realized that our efforts are not what makes us right with God?  Have we realized that only grace makes people like us acceptable to Him?  If we have realized this, and have cast ourselves upon the mercy of God, and have trusted in the sacrificial death of Christ to bear our sins away, then we have understood the message of the Sermon on the Mount.  Give us understanding, O Lord Christ. Amen.