Good preachers typically offer an application of the content they have delivered in their sermons. Often, an exhortation is given and the congregation is called to make a decision based on what they have heard. People need to be encouraged to act after God’s Word has been delivered. Once we have heard what the Lord demands of us, we will be held responsible if we do not obey.
Pastors follow the model of Jesus at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount when they call upon their flocks to make a decision. In today’s passage, our Savior makes final application of all that He has said in Matthew 5:1–7:12. Now that we know what He demands of us, we must choose to follow Him. Ultimately, 7:13–27 shows us we have only two options. We will either follow Christ wholeheartedly or we will go down the path of destruction. There can be no half-hearted commitment to Jesus; if we are not on the narrow road of discipleship, then we are on the wide road to eternal damnation (vv. 13–14).
This call to decide does not mean we are able to choose the right path before we become Christians. Salvation is by grace through faith, a gift to God’s people chosen from the foundation of the world (Eph. 2:8–9). However, those whom the Father transforms by grace inevitably choose to serve Christ. Good works, including our confession of Jesus and our obedience to His commands, follow necessarily from a changed heart (v. 10). Moreover, we still need this grace even after it first sets us on the true way of Christ in our conversion. We must daily turn to the cross and seek Christ in order that we might finish the race. Our Creator gives more grace to all who humble themselves, admit their weaknesses, and ask for strength (James 4:6–10). As Matthew Henry writes: “We can neither go in, or go on, without the assistance of divine grace; but it is as true that grace is freely offered, and shall not be lacking to those who seek it and submit to it.”
Our Lord echoes the great prophets and leaders of Israel when He calls us to choose the narrow path of godliness (for example, Josh. 24:14–15). Lest we apostatize as the nation of Israel did, let us commit ourselves each day, by His grace and Spirit, to live out the kingdom ethic as Jesus has commanded.
Matthew Henry summarizes Jesus’ teaching in today’s passage: “We must endure hardship, must wrestle and be in agony, must watch in all things, and walk with care and circumspection. We must go through much tribulation.” Christ’s way is narrow and we dare not pretend otherwise. As we share the Gospel, let us tell people that following Jesus means we abandon our agenda for His. Following Him means a reorientation of life, one that might make others hate us.
For further study:
The Bible in a year: