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The Golden Rule, and the Narrow Gate Mt. 7:12 - 14

January 18, 2015 Speaker: Jim Galli Series: The Gospel of Matthew

Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 7:12–7:`14

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12“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

13“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

This is Martin Luther King sunday.

Raise your hand if you never expected to hear me say that.

The fact is, I'm very lucky, looking back now as an adult.

I never got to know my father's family very well. They were in South San Francisco. He was the black sheep of their family, going to Los Angeles after WWII and marrying a WASP.

But my mother's family, my grandmother and my great grandmother were racist. Not as big a deal in the era that they lived as it would be now. They both thought they were better than people of color. Or even people not of color.

My great grandmother asked my mom, why can't you just find a nice white boy to marry. My dad, full italian from Northern Italy where the italians had hauled gallic people's over the mountains and made them slaves, was about as brown as any good frenchman.

Clearly not white enough for my mother's grandmother though. She was capable of racial slur's and bigotry, and she was the sweetest little christian lady you'd ever want to meet.

It was a different time.

My mother's cousins got a logical dose of the same. But for some reason, my mother taught us that black people were no better, no worse, no dummer, no smarter no anythinger than we were.

Some of 'em are bad, some of 'em are good. Some are smart, some, not so much. They're just like us, except their skin is brown. Period. Their blood is the same color as yours.

That was remarkable considering the time frame and her upbringing. I'm thankful. My dad was the same way, pretty much. Course he was an italian, so he couldn't say much.

The church in America is riddled with racial ill will. 150 years have come and gone and still there is racial tension. Amongst christian people. How can that be?

12“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Vs. 12 is magnificent in it's simplicity. It's so profound and simple that people give it elevated names, and tell their children to do it, and go about their lives like it isn't there. The Golden Rule no one keeps.

In the late 1700's, William Wilberforce was wealthy, charming, and magnetic in his personality. He was brilliant. He had drawn a good hand. Tall, good looking, smart, wealthy, aristocratic, trained as a child by evangelical Anglicans, he walked away from religion for a time.

Then he took some trips to Europe and chose as his companion a brother of one of his childhood teachers who was brilliant in the sciences and mathematics, and also a christian. A devout orthodox Anglican evangelical who loved the Lord.

Wilberforce was smitten with the idea of a man of learning, highly intelligent and skilled in the sciences, and yet an articulate theologian. He was converted, and radically so.

For a time he thought to get out of Parliament and go into the ministry, but his friends persuaded him to be a force for christianity right where he was.

After prayer he settled on 2 things he would try to accomplish in his role in parliamentary government. Abolition of slavery, and what was then called, manners, but amounts to what we would call public morality.

He couldn't get Matthew 7:12 out of his mind. 12“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

It wasn't so much that the world was ignoring this, they were, but it was that the church was blindsided to it when it came to slavery.

In the late 1700's, the English had stolen more than 3 million men and women from their loved ones and families. All of them were black. Most of them were taken to the Americas and sold, like so much chattel.

It breaks your heart to think of human beings being ripped from their loved ones, treated like animals, degraded, chained, transported across the seas, sold like a horse or a cow, then worked in a situation that was not just hopeless, it was OK for your master to beat you to death. Because your skin was black. Astonishing.

In 1792 Wilberforce introduced a bill to make human trafficking illegal in England and anywhere else by the citizens of England. The British empire.

It not only failed, he suffered beatings and humiliations and threats because of the huge amount of money involved.

He re-introduced it every year and went through the punishment every year until finally, in 1807, it passed. Slave trading was banned. It would take 25 more years for ownership of humans to be banned in England. That passed in 1833 just 6 months before Wilberforce died.

A single verse had turned the tide of history.

It took 30 more years in America for the slaves to be emancipated.

But with Jim Crowe laws they were almost worse off than when they were slaves. We all know the history is ugly and tragic. It's right to celebrate Martin Luther King's achievement in forcing the issue that Jesus stated in vs. 12. In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Here we are 50 years later, and the very idea that white peoples would steal and traffic in black people simply because of skin color is still so audacious that we can't seem to get over it.

Look with me again at Vs. 12“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Notice the word therefore. The little conjunction oun. Some of the translations have it as the word, So. Some skip it altogether. And many read like the NAS.

In all things, therefore,

Whatfore? What is this referring back to.

And it's taking us back to the magnificent promises in Vss. 7, and 8.  Mt. 7:7 - 8

Treat other men, the way God treats you. How is that?

Graciously and magnanimously, God opens up the floodgates of heaven for us. If we ask, He answers. IF we seek Him, He let's us find Him. If we knock on the door of heaven, He opens wide for us.

Based on that example and the incredible wealth of it, We are to treat men the way we would like to be treated by them.

Does that work? Anybody tried that? In what sense is this the entire Law and the Prophets?

Walk through a large prison some time and ask the men in there if they are guilty. You'll find out, to a man, they are innocent. Every one of them. That's the human condition.

Do the same exercise in this church group. A fine looking group. Sweet people. Gracious people. How many of you keep the golden rule?

We all do! Right! To a man. To a woman. We all keep the golden rule. Our mama's taught us that.

We're just like the guys in the prison. Here's how it kind of works with me. Even on a bad day.

I engage with another human. Mostly, mostly, I start out treating them with kindness and earnest respect. Dignity. They in turn, treat me curtly, churlishly, or don't give me whatever it was I was hoping to "get". Then the daggers come out. Just about that fast.

I treated you nice. You treated me poorly. Oh! You want to go down that road do you? Just so happens I'm in a 14 year old pickup truck and I don't much care what happens to it. That's how we'll proceed down that road. I gave you your one chance, now I'm going to run you down, maybe roll you into a ditch.

That's how we roll. That's how we keep the golden rule. Some of you are more magnanimous than me and give 2 chances before you steam roll the other guy into the ditch.

The law was given to show us we're hopelessly broken. We need a Saviour. We can't do it.

If God wanted to cast every one of us into hell, He could dismiss all of the other gajillion laws and just narrow it down to this one here.

Big long line of people at the judgement seat stretched all the way to mars. We'd each get there. How'd you do on this one law.

12“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

You'd argue, it doesn't say you have to keep on doing that, treating them that way, even though they're treating you rotten!

Oh? Where's that clause? Where does it say treat them decent one time. Give them one chance to respond in kind? We turned the law into treat them how they treated us. With sugar on top.

God gives grace to us. No hope of repayment. He says, give grace to others. No hope of repayment. Give, and give and give and give that grace. Like He does.

You say, how can I do that. I'm not God. I don't have the resources to do that! Oh, don't you. Look again at vss. 7 & 8.

How many would enter heaven? Just keep the Golden Rule. How's that working out for you?

Well, in fact, that's what the next verses, the next words out of Jesus mouth in this sermon, covers.

Mt. 7:13 - 14  13“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Everybody thinks they're keeping the golden rule. And everybody thinks they're going to heaven.

wide, broad, many = hell
small, narrow, few = heaven

This is a severe and frightening warning. All those guys in prison are innocent. All of us golden rule keepers are innocent. All of us are going to be fine. God grades on the curve, right? And we made it, right. Those other guys, who treated us badly, they're the ones that didn't make it in, right? Not us!

It's hard to make the math add up. Because innocent people in prison and golden rule keepers, that's just about everybody!

But, that number corresponds to "wide" "broad" "many". So something's wrong here. This isn't adding up right according to Jesus words.

Maybe the words will help us.

Enter in at the strait gate. I'll come back to that. For wide, plateia, is is the entrance. Plateia is the word you'd use to describe a wide great highway. You know, like when you're on an expressway and you get to the toll gates. And suddenly a 4 lane road broadens to 12 lanes wide in order to not hold up traffic.

Or the mob at Disneyland moving like a river down the sidewalk until you get to the entrance of the park. Suddenly it's acres wide with ticket booths and turnstiles to get the mob paid and inside efficiently. plateia.

We transliterated it to playa. Been out on a dry lakebed recently. That's the road to hell. Broad. Flat. Easily traveled. Nothing to restrict. In fact you can take a car to Bonneville and go 400 miles an hour on the playa. There's nothing in the way.

and the way is broad that leads to destruction, A broad flat place. euruchóros (yoo-roo'-kho-ros) A compound word taken from two words. Eurus which means wide and flat, and choras which means lands or fields. This is the great plains. Flat from Denver to Kansas and beyond.

and there are many who enter through it. polus (pol-oos') This is the word for a multitude. The masses.

Are you getting the picture from the words. Let's look at the words Jesus used to describe folks entering the Kingdom of God.

14“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

For the gate is small. stenos (sten-os') Narrow. Small. Strait, like a strait jacket. Stenos has been translated strait. Like a strait jacket. Ever seen those old black and white movies where they've got someone who is mad constricted in a strait jacket. Hands and arms tied behind. Like Houdini.

and the way is narrow that leads to life thlibó (thlee'-bo) Constricted. The space is too small for the entrance without pressure. An interesting word. The best picture may be associated with child birth. It's hard, painful in the extreme, to get that child into the world.

Jesus really defines the word best when He says it's like getting a camel through the eye of a needle. Not some stupid needle gate someone made up. A sewing needle. Squish that camel through there somehow.

Compared to the broad highway, this is a bottleneck and there is pressure. Not an easy way. There is stress. Difficulty, and without divine help, impossible.

I'm right in the middle of reading Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress. Again. I read it like painting the golden gate bridge. It describes a pilgrim on this journey. He's on the strait path to the Celestial City because he had to flee his old city after hearing it was going to be consumed with fire and brimstone.

Find a copy of The Annotated Pilgrims Progress with notes by Warren Wiersbe. After the Bible, this is the first book I would recommend to christians on their journey. and there are few who find it.

oligos (ol-ee'-gos) Singular the word would be small. Tiny in number. In the plural form we have here it means few. Again a small number. A little group, compared to the multitude.

The warning here is consistent with everything else we've seen in the Sermon on the mount. God's standard is hopelessly higher than our achievement. We will not go to heaven on merit.

Everybody from Mother Theresa on one end, to the innocent guys in prison on the other will take their merit, their golden rule goodness and stand before God, at the end of the broad highway over the vast flat plane, and they'll hear, this is filthy rags. This is sewage.

The wide broad highway is the road the religious jews were on. Self righteousness. Self achievement. Works righteousness.

There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Pr. 14:12 The broad road leads to destruction. Most people are on that highway according to Jesus. Some of the folks we love, are on that highway.

Finally, we need to look at vss. 7 and 8 two more times in view of what the Lord Jesus says about un-dealt with sin in our attitudes and relationships with others, and finally in view of the fact that most people think they're good enough for heaven, and Jesus says most people are on a path to hell.

Mt. 7:7 - 8   “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

[A little side bar in case you think we're dragging, going too slow. I'm 62. Chances are I'll never get another opportunity to teach this magnificent passage. And I'm just scratching the surface compared to real scholars.

I'm sure we'll gain some momentum in chapter 8.]

First vs. 12, and then vss 13, 14 send us back to prayer. Fervent ardent prayer.

Last week we looked at prayer and petition in regard to investing our lives in service as slaves to a master.

We ask Him to give us the fruit that will magnify His name. We ask for His kingdom on earth to advance against the onslaught of Satan.

Then in vs. 12 we're faced with a different problem, and again a fervent assault on the throne of grace is the solution.

In vs. 12 we have relationships with others where you give and give and give and give again, and it seems like all you're going to get is a slap in the face in return.

How do you sustain that? It's exhausting! And before very long, you're out of gas.

How do you keep on giving when you're exhausted and depleted? We ask the Saviour. And we seek our strength in Him. We knock on that door until He answers us.

Then finally in vss. 13 and 14. Assurance of Salvation. How can you know you're one of the few? How can you know you're not just traveling the wide road to destruction.

In the parallel passage in the Gospel of Luke, it says.

Luke 11: 9 - 13   “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10“For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. 11“Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12“Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

That's huge.

The difference between the folks on the broad path and the folks on the difficult and narrow way, is the indwelling presence of Jesus. Christ In You, the hope of Glory.

Paul says, test yourselves in 2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

That is the definition of a christian.

Yesterday, at the mens breakfast, we began a study of what we called non-negotiable truths. What are the truths we hold to that set us apart from the world.

Because there's billions out there who 'say' they are christians. The word is pretty diluted. It doesn't mean much.

What is it that we believe that seperates us out of that giant swath of people on the broad easy road.

And the answer is we hold onto the truths that we can have an intimate personal relationship with the God of heaven, our sins carried away by His Son on the cross, our spirits quickened from the dead by the Holy Spirit of God, living in us. Ask. Seek. Knock.

Jesus warning is severe. Most people think they're doing fine. Most people are on the broad highway to hell. Eternal destruction.
The path is narrow and difficult that leads to life. Is Jesus living inside your heart? Have you been quickened from the dead. Made alive together with Him by His Spirit?