"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. - Matthew 7:24-29
In this wonderful parable of the builders we see that for both the wise and the foolish the rains fall, the floods come, and the wind blows and beats on both their houses. We will all face storms. The deciding factors are the rock and the sand.
This lesson that culminates Jesus’ Sermon On the Mount is such a simple one. But unfortunately, one that is commonly neglected. To truly hear the word of God requires much more than just ears, and doing the word of God requires much more than just acknowledging.
Only by the power of the Holy Spirit do we truly hear.
For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. - Matthew 13:15,16
We learn of the tragic consequences of hearing God’s word but not doing it in the story of Jesus’ interaction with a rich ruler.
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'"
And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth."
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"
And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."
And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God." - Mark 10:17-27
The rich ruler was a good man by man’s standards. But Jesus knew there was a love and a worship of wealth and power in this man that would be his demise if he did not forsake it and turn and follow Him. The man’s wealth here in this world would contribute to his eternal destruction because it kept him from looking to and following Christ, and therefore Christ lovingly commands him to do what must be done. But the man only hears with ears that can barely hear and therefore he does not understand and turn to Jesus but instead continues on in the worship of his deadly idol. He was unwilling to do the word of God as we all are unless we are blessed to understand that “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God”.
You will not hear this teaching in most of the contemporary Church because man has been taught to rely on the mind of man rather than the spirit of God. Instead of resting faithfully on the promise that all things are possible with God, the modern Christian is instructed to work through their worldly afflictions through programming and self help. And this faithless, cheap Christianity has become so ingrained that many modern Pastors cannot see beyond it to the truth of the power of the gospel and choose to defend the teachings of man over the word of God.
The way through the narrow gate that Jesus teaches about in Matthew 7:13&14 is by hearing and doing the word of God. To hear and to do is to truly die to self and live for Christ. And the vital point for Christians to understand is that the hearing and the doing are not burdensome but the richest blessing.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30
The world is what piles weight upon men’s shoulders - not Jesus.
We must build our house upon the rock. The Church must do so and so must every believer. And we build our house upon the rock by hearing the word of God, by knowing the word of God, and by doing the word of God. Everything other than Christ and His word is just sand. Everything the world offers will eventually fail and lead to destruction.
Ephraim has said, "Ah, but I am rich; I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin." I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; I will again make you dwell in tents, as in the days of the appointed feast....Ephraim has given bitter provocation; so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him and will repay him for his disgraceful deeds. - Hosea 12:8,9,14
So many hear the word of God with ears that barely hear and never do the word of God. The contemporary Church and especially the “Christian recovery” movement epitomizes the heresy of self worship, self promotion, and selfish gain as an endless parade of “Recovery” ministries and programs strive pathetically for the limelight of Christian celebrity.
"As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, 'Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.' And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. - Ezekiel 33:30,31
The fool hears the words of Jesus but does not do them. But the wise hears and does the words of our Lord. There is only one truth and there is only one final authority - the word of God. The words of Christ will stand forever.
The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. - Ecclesiastes 12:11-13
If we desire on that final day to hear Jesus say “I have known you,” then we must hear His word and we must do His word. And our house will be built on the indestructible everlasting rock.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. - Matthew 7:13-14
The many and the few - everyone will end up in one group or the other. There is no middle ground in divine truth. One of the great errors in the contemporary Church and especially prevalent in the recovery movement that has infiltrated the Church is the idea of an all inclusive universal salvation regardless of what someone believes and whether or not they have truly been born again and follow Christ according to His word. Sadly, many Churches rely on Alcoholics Anonymous or its spin off program Celebrate Recovery rather than the gospel in an effort to help the alcoholic and addicted, completely unaware of the heresy put forth by AA. Consider that on page 46 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous it is stated that, “We found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men". That is a complete contradiction of Matthew 7:13-14 and yet so many Pastors and Churches participate in and promote Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery.
But in truth we once again see the razor's edge of Christianity, the clear distinction that there are only two ways in life: right or wrong, good or evil, Christ or the world, faith in Christ or dependence on programs, the narrow gate to heaven or the wide highway to hell, death with the the many or eternal life In Jesus with the few.
The wide worldly gate to destruction is one of enticement, amusement, entertainment, ease, worldly prosperity, self worship, and is all inclusive - open to all without anything needing to be given up or repented of in order to pass through. The lusts and desires and passions of this world are welcome through the wide gate without question or running the risk of insult. The wide gate is easy to find because there is a constant mass of ignorant humanity fighting to get through it.
The fact that we must enter by the narrow gate has been cast aside in “Christian” recovery programs, and traded instead for the faulty idea that the goal is to get someone over their pain - then, when the suffering sinner is better they can be presented with the Christian message. What a destructive heresy man creates when by lack of faith and sinful pride the gospel is manipulated or ignored and the man made concept of recovery is set up as an idol above the commands of Christ. There is a reason the very first command recorded in Christ's ministry was repent.
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." - Matthew 4:17
Christ does not command sinners to clear their head, fix themselves up, get their life back together, and then repent and follow Him. Instead, Christ commands lost sinners to repent and to follow Him faithfully on the hard path to the narrow gate that can only be passed through by grace through faith. But the wonderful paradox lies in the fact that although the gate is narrow and the way is hard - it is a way of inexpressible joy and true peace. Christ does a miracle in the transformation of every sinner that cannot be grasped or understood by the sinful human mind without the enlightening of the Holy Spirit. And that is where faith must be exercised in the sharing of the gospel. Unfortunately, for too long much of the contemporary Church has lacked the faith to simply and lovingly share the gospel with the lost drunk or addicted sinner and pray for the working of the Holy Spirit, and instead has devised man made programs that lead only away from the one true way to salvation. By relying on anything of man other than God even with the best of intentions conveys a severe lack of faith in the power of the gospel by the working of the Holy Spirit.
to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. - Acts 26:18
Consider this question: If someone has the greatest gift and you do not, and because you lack this gift you will die, would you want that person to give you the gift even if the giving of the gift may at first be painful and offensive? Is this what you wish others would do to you?
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. - Matthew 7:12
It seems that if we truly are to do unto others as we would have done unto us that we will strive to love them as Jesus would love them, that we would love for the sake of Jesus Christ and the gospel according to the word. We would not lead someone astray with a false worldly connotation of love. Yet, that is exactly what so many do by leading the suffering sinner away from the saving gospel of Jesus Christ and into programs invented by man.
Jesus tells us that we must enter by the narrow gate, and that if we don’t we will enter the wide way to destruction. He also tells us in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." - Mark 1:14,15
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. - John 16:24
As a Christian, affected by erroneous teachings so prevalent in much of the contemporary Church - how much of Christ do you lack simply because you have never known to ask, seek and knock? How much more glory to God through a vibrant living sacrifice could you send up to heaven if only you could overcome the limitations of your own heart and mind?
Step out of the world. Ask, seek and knock and the Lord will lift you up to heights beyond what you could ever have dreamed of. The burdensome influences and limitations of this world must be cast off!
We must pray and we must ask. Never doubt the radical transforming power of prayer.
Chad Prigmore is Pastor and President of The Way Ministry Church USA & Kenya.