I have decided to follow Jesus: No turning back, no turning back.
On Sunday morning, August 4th, I preached a message entitled Kingdom Entry: Your Choice. My biblical text was Matthew 6:33 and 7:13-23. Jesus is wrapping up His preaching/teaching on the mountainside encouraging His listeners to consider the choices. He says there are two choices.
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus has said that those who are Kingdom citizens are not to worry (Matthew 6:25). And he tells his disciples and potential followers to seek the Kingdom of God and His (God’s) righteousness first above all else. The promise here for kingdom citizens is that our needs will be met. Our needs, as those who’ve been transferred from darkness to light, from death to life, are not to be our priority in this life.
This righteousness that Jesus speaks of is not self-righteousness, as manifested by the Jewish religious leaders, but is a righteousness (right living) made possible by the power of Christ that dwells within every Christ-follower. Self-righteousness is self-earned and self-centered, while Christ-followers possess the capability for right living through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now, the choices. There is a narrow and difficult way that leads to life, but few find that way. The other choice is a wide and broad way that the multitudes follow, and this way leads to destruction. Those listening to Jesus were confronted with a radical truth. These are the choices that you and I face today.
First of all, following Christ is not just a belief that we adopt. It is much more than a mental assent. Consider this quote from Billy Graham, “The word ‘believe’ in the Bible means more than simply agreeing in our minds that something might be true. It means ‘trust’ – that we believe so strongly in God that we are willing to commit our lives to Him and live the way we know He wants us to live. I propose that there are possibly multitudes who have a belief about Jesus, but these same people have no awareness about surrendering one’s life to His authority.”
Secondly, the “narrow way” that few follow is not easy. In our Americanized Christianity there are so many who want their faith in Jesus to be kind of like college electives. In college many students choose electives that are easy and help with a higher GPA. Many churches are so driven by the world’s standards that they’ve watered down the gospel so that following Jesus is nothing more than repeating a sinner’s prayer, being baptized, and maybe some church attendance. When I read Jesus’s description of our choices, I see something radically different from the life of many followers of American Christianity.
Finally, I see a way that the multitudes will follow, and Jesus says it leads to destruction (in this life and the next). There are even preachers who are proclaiming a prosperity gospel. These false teachers promote a “Name it and claim it” theology. The broad and wide way is traveled by the crowds who want Jesus and His church to affirm a worldly lifestyle and make us feel good about who we are though we may not be walking with Jesus. There are a few kingdom citizens who are citizens of the Kingdom of God and their walk with Christ as Savior and Lord is difficult (because kingdom citizens are not of this world).
Jesus offers two clear-cut choices. There is one choice that leads a person to life, and I believe a life abundant (John 10:10). The alternative looks and is popular, but the destination is highly undesirable.
I leave you with two questions this week: (1) Which way are you following in this life? (2) If you’re a Christian, is your faith a mental belief, or are you daily surrendering to Jesus and His plan for your life?
Carlyle Hall, Jr.