Thursday in the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 7:13-29; Luke 6:43-49

Doers of the Word

Christians know that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ Jesus – his person and work.  Christ is the Mediator who gave his life for ours, the perfect sacrifice in which the sinless God-man took our place by bearing our sins, and rising to new life that we too may rise.  Those who believe this are born again (Mark 10:45; John 3:3; 20:31; Ephesians 2:8-10).  However, we should never preach this to the exclusion of good works.  It is true that good works save no man; however, one who is truly saved shall do good deeds, and this is what Jesus is telling us in this passage.

Here, Jesus speaks of two kinds of gates that one may enter.  There is the wide gate that many, indeed most, choose.  It is easy and leads to destruction.  A chosen few enter the narrow gate.  It is hard but leads to life.  Why is it hard?  One reason is that Christians carry about them their sinful natures which harass them at every turn (Romans 7:13-25).  Moreover, Christians must always remember that they are pilgrims, aliens – people who do not belong in this world.  Thus, the world hates them (1 John 3:13).  All of this makes the way hard.

And then there are those false Christians, the pretenders.  How shall we know them?  By their fruits, Jesus said.  You see again that works do not save but are proof that one is saved.  One’s deeds testifies to one’s heart; this is true even for a child (Proverbs 20:11).  And then the Lord tells us those frightening words that calling him, “Lord, Lord,” is not proof of salvation.  Even doing great and mighty deeds, casting out demons, preaching – none of this matters.  After all, it would appear that Judas Iscariot did these things when Jesus sent the disciples on their preaching tour (Mark 6:7-13).  But these are rejected.  Jesus didn’t know them because they did not do what he said.  He calls them “workers of lawlessness.”  (Here is a reminder to preachers that building the largest church in the world is no sign of personal salvation if you are living in willful sin throughout your ministry.)  James says that we must be doers of the word and not hearers only (1:22).  This is Jesus’ message throughout the “Sermon on the Mount.”  To hear and do is to build one’s house on the rock – Christ himself.  To hear and not do is to fool oneself.  There is good reason why the Bible tells us to examine ourselves on a regular basis (2 Corinthians 13:5).

The people went away amazed at his teaching.  This is a common response to Jesus.  What is uncommon is following his teaching; narrow is the way.

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