Hebrews 4:12-13, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Matthew 19:23-26, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
How many call Jesus, Master? We all acknowledge that Jesus is Master of many things and that many religious leaders of His day called Him Master, many times sarcastically, but even though Jesus was a Master Teacher, He was also a Master of the discussion! His wisdom in teaching in such a way as to draw others in with questions is exemplified throughout the Gospels. You just don’t hear too many teaching on that particular mastery.
Jesus knew how to set up His lessons with comments, parables, analogies and stories that caused those listening to want to ask questions. It wasn’t always the Jewish religious leaders and lawyers trying to trip Him up, for many times, it was just the average citizen wanting to hear what this “new” teacher had to say! Which of course, because of Jesus’ authoritative style of teaching, would lead to questions.
The problem that so many of us have today is that when we just READ the Bible we don’t always develop any questions for ourselves and when we don’t do anything to understand its setting or whether some of the stories are historical, analogous or parables, it can and does lead to misunderstandings and many times the very MEANINGS that Jesus was trying to convey end up getting lost in the details!
Remember, the Bible is the LIVING Word of God. It isn’t just the letter, the literal translation of the words, but the Spirit behind the words that cause it to live! (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). It is meant to stir up our minds and hearts and should cause us to have questions, to want to get answers from the Master! Because of those who do not make the attempt to understand this, we have teachings that become “religious fads,” based on one or two Scripture verses, many times taken out of context, we have teachings that are not backed up by the Word of God as a whole or taken literally when in fact they were meant as an analogy or as a parable to make a point.
One of the most misunderstood chapters in the New Testament is one I have taught on many times concerning judging; Matthew Chapter 7. Basically because Jesus is discussing judging in the form of sentencing or condemning to eternity and discerning right and wrong character as well as introspection, judging ourselves within. When this chapter though, is taken as a whole and you look at the different points that Jesus IS trying to make, the lesson He is TRYING to teach, you look at the behavior of the righteous in a whole different light.
On one hand you can see His warning against condemning another to a sentence of eternal punishment when in fact we are ALL condemned to an eternity of damnation by our sinfulness. Therefore, how is one person who is condemned able to be above another by pointing out another’s condemnation? Only from our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ is judgment going to be meted out.
Jesus is trying to show that our Heavenly Father is a loving, giving and merciful Father and One that any of His children can approach openly. BUT, He also shows us what constitutes being a child of His. This is where a type of judging, or in other words, discerning what is true and what is false is important in becoming a child of our Heavenly Father.
Jesus is telling and showing us that our actions can demonstrate to others what is truly in our heart. It is a path that is narrow, one that leads forward in a straight-forward manner and, not everyone is on that path. Rather, the majority of people will take the more commonly traveled path, the path where everyone else is going in a certain direction, but their actions will show a “discerning” person what path that is. We are to be on a path that leads through Him and His Words, not the path that appears the most pleasing and easy because the “flow” is going in that direction.
As I have taught before, it is not always what a person says that they believe, but rather what a person does to backup what they say that translates into the right actions. Luke 6:43-45 are some parallel verses to Matthew chapter 7, “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
“From the abundance of a person’s heart the mouth speaks,” is a common Scripture that I have used and it doesn’t take long to listen to a person to know what it is that they truly love or what is a priority in their lives. But, what is in that person’s heart, also translates to what they do and this is what Jesus is trying to get across. It isn’t ALWAYS what a person says that makes them a child of God Almighty, for it is also actions, and this is what Jesus will ultimately have to judge a person on; is their heart in the right place, motivating them to deeds of righteousness or to deeds and acts of lawlessness?
The point though comes down to looking within ourselves. Does our heart motivate US to righteousness or are we playing a game TRYING to hide our true selves from everyone around us? As the Scriptures tell us in Luke 8:17, “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.” We can try to hide from others who we truly are, but from our Heavenly Father, through Christ, it is impossible!
Jesus finishes Matthew 7 with words of faith. FAITH? Where’s the faith in His admonitions in verses 24 through 27? You follow My words or you don’t; if you don’t you will experience a fall, and destruction! Yet, just as you will find in the writings of the Apostle James a confirmation of what constitutes faith, you will find confirmation of Jesus’ summation in Matthew 7 as words of faith; James 2:14-26, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
It is not just what you say; it is not just what you say you believe, it is also how you put those beliefs into action. Jesus is reiterating that, when He states that if you act upon His words, then you are acting wisely, acting in FAITH, believing that what He says is true, and so on, leading to wise action!
But, this is only part of the point that I am trying to make. Being able to take the WHOLE counsel of the Word of God is what allows us to grow into a whole person, more complete in Christ Jesus Himself, more able to effectively claim to be His disciples, His followers, no longer JUST servants, but friends, (John 15:15) truly Christian in not just what we say, but in what we do!
One of the discussions that Jesus had, led to the questions of eternal life, some of the same discussion that He had in Matthew 7, but here is where the details sometimes overshadow the point that Jesus is making in this modern age with our modern translations.
A big controversy exists today concerning the phrase “a camel passing through the eye of a needle” and what is its historical basis and what is its true meaning and yet there is so much research in the academic world trying to prove that the eye of the needle was a door within a gateway, or that Jesus was talking about the word camel being mistranslated from the word rope or cable, etc., etc.
The truth of the matter is that Jesus was trying to make a point that what may be impossible with mankind, whether it be a cable or rope passing through the literal eye of a sewing needle OR a camel going through a man-size door in a gate, it is NOT impossible with God when it concerns His ability to save man! Some readers get hung up on the rich man and his ability to be saved and others get hung up on whether Jesus was talking about a doorway or an actual needle!
There are things in history that can be shown that either ANALOGY can be historical and/or accurate, and either analogy works to prove the point that Jesus was making, but the fact that gets lost at times is the point that Christ Jesus was trying to make! Matthew 19:26, “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
I love Bible history and I have a fondness for all science including archeology, but when it comes to the Word of God and its application to my life, that history gives me a setting and something in which to bring that Word alive! The history itself though, does NOT detract from the analogy or the point that Jesus was making. Those listening to His discussion didn’t question the details of the analogy or parable and neither should we. YET, many, many of my brothers and sisters stumble over NON-LITERAL points in the Word of God. They stumble over the letter, forgetting it IS the spirit of the Word that gives that Word, life!
One instance of this and the circumstance that made me realize just how serious this has become has been on my mind recently for some reason; it was when one of my “pastors” in Arizona began teaching from behind the pulpit that we only have to forgive a person 490 times and many times we don’t have to forgive if they don’t ASK for forgiveness!!! I’m being serious about this! This is no exaggeration to try and make a point; these types of things are being taught in supposedly fundamental “Christian” churches.
He used the incident in Matthew 18 when Peter thought he was being generous in forgiveness where it is recorded, “Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” – Matthew 18:21-22.
Jesus wasn’t being literal, but Peter was for he was referencing a discussion Jesus had with them, found in Luke 17:3-4, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”
This “pastor” I was associated with used the circumstance in Luke 17 to justify NOT forgiving unless a person comes asking, which goes against countless other Scriptures found in the Bible! But He also used Matthew 18 to justify the number of times necessary to forgive, after that, forgiveness is not necessarily given; in other words, you can justify withholding forgiveness!!!
The truth of the matter is that in either case, Jesus is attempting to make the point that forgiveness should be given freely, without restraint, without condition and whenever necessary and in remembrance of our Father’s forgiveness. Don’t forget, when Jesus used the example of prayer in Matthew 6, often termed “The Lord’s Prayer,” he concluded the example by explaining the part on forgiveness given by stating this, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” – Matthew 6:14.
In Peter’s time, seven times seventy, the need to forgive that many times was probably beyond comprehension! Not necessarily the sum, but the necessity, and so Jesus was not being literal, but in essence stating, “forgive as often as necessary!”
Another common NON-LITERAL point that has caused so much division in the Church is again from our beloved Apostle Peter, found in 2 Peter 3:8, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
There are many Christians today who take this ONE Scripture and base doctrines, especially those associated with Creation on this one Scripture! Yet, as evidenced in the whole 3rd chapter of 2nd Peter, we see Peter is stating that time doesn’t matter to God. His analogy was meant to make those of his time realize time is nothing to the God of Creation, to a Heavenly Father who will keep and fulfill His promises to mankind in His own timing!! This analogy was never meant to provide a foundation for doctrine and yet in this modern age, churches and peoples are divided by it!!
Remember, one of the attributes of our Heavenly Father is Omniscience! All Knowledge, ALL SCIENCE! He is the Creator of the laws that govern the universe, that govern CREATION itself and man is only recently exploring the “tip of the iceberg,” as it were when it comes to understanding what governs our universe! With every new scientific discovery, despite the “arrogance” of some (I say some) scientists, I am only more in awe of my Heavenly Father’s Majesty and Glory!!! On the contrary, it doesn’t lesson my faith, but rather increases my faith, for I refuse to put my Sovereign, God, The Almighty in a box! He is truly bigger than my mind or any mind can comprehend!
Our Bible is rich and full and living and dynamic and no matter how many times you read it through and no matter how many times you study various and all chapters and books, you will NEVER be able to get your fill of it, for there is always something more to glean or learn from it! BUT, you don’t enter into the Word of God with a “hit and miss” attitude.
The key to Who our Heavenly Father is, the key to how He wants His children to be and how to relate to Him is all found within the pages of this GREAT and LIVING Word! It is the “doorway” to eternal life and a relationship with our Heavenly Father through our Redeemer, Christ Jesus! It shows us the possibility of the impossible! No matter how many times I have read it, no matter how many times I see others teach on familiar and non-familiar verses, I ALWAYS gain something more with which to wake up and approach each new day!!
The Word of God is a “narrow and straight-forward” path yet also deep and complex when it needs to be to help guide us to where it is pointing! I challenge you; the next time you decide to read “through” it, do so with thought and prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal His goals to your heart and spirit and I guarantee, you will never look at it the same way again!