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Read Matthew 7:13-29.

Jesus taught us not to judge each other. Besides we are not very good at judging others. It is rather hypocritical for us to try and evaluate and manage others lives when we have enough in our own lives to evaluate and manage.

Yes, Jesus taught us not to judge one another. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t judgment. Not at all, for God judges us all. Now that might come as a rather frightening or disturbing idea at first. After all it is only natural to compare it to the rather poor and inept judgments that most of us have received from people who are really no better at this than us. We need to receive and live within the judgment of God in a very different way. God’s judgment is more than the ruling of a judge. God’s judgment is more than a verdict – it is always a work in progress and it involves his mercy and wisdom.

As Jesus describes it, God’s judgment is given to us as a choice. God decrees that we have two options. We have two ways we can go. Even in this we begin to understand how the judgment of God is interactive – we are interacting with God’s spirit as we make these choices.

Jesus is teaching us what God has done since the beginning – he sets two ways before us...

It is in God’s law ... “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse - the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today.” - [Deuteronomy 11:25-28]

It is the proclamation of God’s prophets ... “See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.” – [Jeremiah 21:8]

And now the son of God, who did not come to abolish the Law and Prophets, but to live out the spirit of both, speaks of two ways and the judgment of God. We can take the broad way that will end up in ruin, or we can take the narrow way. We can follow teachings that yield bad fruit or we can follow teachings that result in good fruit.

Once again, this talk of judgment can make us anxious. The only two ways we seem ready to recognize is the way of grace OR the way of works. Traditionally, we don’t understand how these two can co-exist. We rightly resist the notion that we are saved by works. But just because we are saved by God’s grace doesn’t mean we are out of work. We are saved by works but we are saved for works. The narrow way Jesus directs us down is the way of discipleship as well as salvation. It is about believing and doing.

Yet, our misinformed notions of judgment make us ask “Have I done enough?” “Am I doing enough?” “Did I do this right?” And that’s our measuring stick and our judgment. But Jesus is describing a WAY. It is a way of life. It is the way to the kingdom. And the question we ought to be asking is “Are we faithfully following the way Jesus went?”

The way of Jesus is not only to believe what the Bible teaches, but also to live it out without arrogance and without concern for the way others may judge us or praise us. The way of Jesus is to resist the distraction and worries of this decaying world and to live as if the coming rule of God were in place right now and in every sense. The way of Jesus is to treat others with a neighborly kindness and love that we would want them to reciprocate – but even if they do not, we still share the love of God with everyone we meet along the way.

This is the way of Jesus. It’s not easy; it is a narrow way but it leads to the kingdom. What makes it so narrow is that calls upon us to do more than ride along on the “Believe it Bus.” We have to walk the path and every alternating step is “believing” and “doing.” Some will say things, but not live them out. They do not practice what they preach. But Jesus is teaching us to do more than practice what we preach. He is teaching us to practice what HE preaches. [Even that’s the judgment of God interacting with us: God is showing us the way through Jesus.]

When I preach a sermon I have high expectations – not because I am trying to be professional or because I want to be taken seriously. It is because I choose to believe in the possibility of a different way and a different world. It is because I choose to believe that we really can be hearers and doers of the world. And I am drawn to conclude this because I believe that when Jesus preached, he had such expectations. Jesus really does expect us to be a people who have a high standard of righteousness. He really does expect us to practice a righteousness that goes beyond written rules and to practice our righteousness undistracted by the approval of others and the anxieties of life.

Jesus ends his sermon – a sermon he really expects us to do – with a parable. You have a choice: Where shall you build your house. You can build it on the open plain, the sandy soil that may even be good gardening land. But when the torrential rains come you’ll find that you are living in a flood zone and the waters will wash your house away. But you have a choice, and you could build your house on higher ground. It may be rocky soil and the path to the house may be a little harder to get to, but when those storms comes and the flood waters come barreling down, that house is going to stand up to it.

When a storm hits, everyone’s house gets stormed on – but the wise builders’ house holds up. It has a solid foundation. We are wise builders if after hearing Jesus’ words, we put them into practice just a he expects us to. We are wise if we practice what he preached.

Psalm 119 – The “D” Psalm
Daleth is the first letter in the Hebrew word for "Way"

A prayer for those who get tripped up on the way ...

25 I am laid low in the dust;
      preserve my life according to your word.

26 I recounted my ways and you answered me;
      teach me your decrees.

27 Let me understand the way of your precepts;
      then I will meditate on your wonders.

28 My soul is weary with sorrow;
      strengthen me according to your word.

  29 Keep me from deceitful ways;
      be gracious to me through your law.

30 I have chosen the way of truth;
      I have set my heart on your laws.

31 I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD;
      do not let me be put to shame.

32 I run in the way of your commands,
      for you have set my heart free.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 22 October 2006

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