In the ears of my mind, I heard the Lord Jesus’ words move from personal and family imagery to that which is public. Now He gave teaching to the disciples as to how kingdom principles and kingdom living are to be done in view of those around us. He taught them in a series of contrasts that differentiate between those in the world system and those in the kingdom of heaven.
Criticism is something we have to live with every day. Whether I like to admit it or not, I do evaluate others and their activities, and they do the same to me. The challenge is to make sure any judgment is discerning rather than hypocritical. Critical thinking is not what is condemned but the kind of judgment that tears down a person. Usually the tearing down of others has as its underlying motive the prideful building up of my own ego – either to my own self or to others. A bit of sawdust I might see in another person’s eye is very insignificant compared to the board that is sticking out of my own eye. When I think it is time to help another person with “a fault,” it is incumbent on me to deal first and foremost with those things in my own life that need to be dealt with. If I go ahead and pass on my own “pearls of wisdom,” before facing the negative things in me and my own life, the very ones I thought I was going to help will attack me.
Following hard after the awakening of self-examination and the work of one’s conscience, the Lord Jesus taught about asking and receiving from God Himself. The order is important. There is no effective communication with God until I have dealt with my own arrogance and sin. When a person turns in faith to God for help in times of need, the request should be specific. Our heavenly Father knows what is needed. Our need in prayer is to be confident that what we ask for is in the will of God. Some things we may ask for are already given and we need to seek them. Often the answers are already written in the scriptures of truth or has been ministered to us by one who has spoken to us in the will of God. This may happen in public meetings or in a private conversation with one who is in fellowship with God. A knock at the door may actually be a knock at someone else’s home who we know and trust, who will be God’s answer to our prayer. Wise counsel will be the “bread” of the Word of God, not the hard, stubborn counsel that comes from worldly opinion. Answers that come from God will be easily digested like the nourishment of an egg rather than the biting, poisonous venom of vicious advice. Our Father in heaven knows us, and He knows what we need. His answers are not too hard to find after we ask, seek and knock. Do not complicate what God has made plain to us already.
The contrast of the roads we travel in life is not a difficult matter to discern. To live for this world and all it offers is popular with most people. It may be attractive to us because it is open to any and everything one desires. One can do what they want, go where they want, act how they want – except they cannot please God on the broad road, they cannot go to heaven on the broad road, and nothing they do will satisfy their soul and spirit on the broad road. The appeal there, is to the sensual living of those who are dead to God spiritually. Life on that road is only measured by “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” For those who enter the narrow way through Christ the open door, life is far less complicated because the guidelines are clear. “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” So, our lives are guarded by knowing and doing the will of God. Many things do not have to be considered because we know that decision and action would be contrary to the principles of the kingdom of heaven we are to live by. On the narrow road we are not limited to things that bring no lasting joy or satisfaction. Actually, it is just the opposite. The causes of deep joy and lasting satisfaction are to be found wherever we turn. This doesn’t mean we will not have difficulties or causes for sadness, but in the parameters of holy living, we can find joy and experience sorrow at the same time. We can lose everything of material worth and still have “all things” in Christ. The walk of faith by people who live by faith in God, lets us go through persecution and flattery; good times and bad; whether we are full or empty; rich or poor – and still live a life of contentment and rest in the soul.
I heard the Lord give His disciples warnings regarding religion that is based on wrong premises. There are, and will yet be, those whose root stock is without the ability to bear good fruit. Much that pleases people when it comes to “spiritual” things is based on emotions and false promises. People want to feel holy, to feel good about themselves, to feel out of themselves sometimes. They want some kind of ethereal religious experience that false prophets say is a work of God. The Lord gave a simple test to His disciples as to how to discern what is false and true when they hear someone say they are speaking for God. Look for the fruit! What kind of fruit is it? It isn’t hard to see the difference between Christ-likeness and godly living, or worldly likeness and worldly goals. Good trees bear good fruit because that is the nature of them. Bad trees in turn have an evil nature. Man’s way of success and God’s plan for godliness are not at all alike. One is pleasing to the sensual nature of human beings. The other pleases God and will lead to persecution and being separated from those on the broad road. The fruit of kingdom living will be the fruit of the Spirit.
In the public life a believer lives, many will say, “Lord, Lord,” and insist they are a “good person” and are in the kingdom of heaven. The word “Lord” is more than just an acknowledgement of who He is. The implication behind that statement indicates He is the Judge who sees and knows “the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The contrast between what a person says and what they do is not hard to tell. People can “talk” a good talk, but the “walk” proves the validity of the words they say. We must do what is right for kingdom living, not just talk about it. The fact is, what I do cannot be separated from what I believe. Faith in Christ alone is what counts in the difficulties of life; when the test of a personal relationship with God comes; when it comes to having assurance of eternal life now, and what will count when we stand before the Lord Jesus Christ. Building on the fundamentals of biblical truth results in genuine repentance, being born again as a child of God, being a true learner and follower of the Lord Jesus and having real life when the storms of life come.