|John Goh||012 207 email@example.com|
|Dr Lee Fook Sin||019 230 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Moh Ee Lin||019 273 email@example.com|
|Ng Cho Hoo||012 878 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Susanah Ng||012 email@example.com|
Kindly contact any of these Gamma Facilitators. They will be hosting Zoom meetings for Discussions every Wednesday starting from April 1, 2020.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS – STUDY 15
Please look at the questions and discuss the answers. The case histories are designed to let you apply what theoretical knowledge you have gleaned from the study. There are intentionally many more questions and case histories than you can manage in one session but this is designed to
cover the many and varied needs of the individuals in the church hence please pick and choose which ones to discuss as long as it gets people sharing and applying the Word to real life situations. Never feel obligated to finish all the questions. The answers will be posted on the web the next day
How we interpret the passage will depend on how we view the entire Sermon on the Mount. Now if we take the entire sermon the mount as the greatest moral teaching for us to live by then we will conclude that the narrow gate is for the people who are good enough to follow the highest ethical standards of the Sermon on the Mount. It is so high a standard that looking at your neighbour’s wife with lust is the same as having an affair with her. Scolding your neighbour in anger and condemnation is the same as murder. So the gate to righteousness is indeed very narrow and the way is hard because very few people will be able to live like this. So Jesus is saying going to heaven is very very very difficult. Most of us go away feeling totally guilty depressed and lost. So the take away is you must try very very hard and if you are obedient enough and meet this standard then God will accept your obedience as righteousness and give you eternal life.
This is not likely to be the reason Jesus is preaching the sermon on the mount because it is useless to preach about a standard which is virtually impossible for any one to fulfil and at the same time talk about a narrow gate and a wide gate when the narrow gate is so arrow that no one will be able to fit through.
For this metaphor there are four essential features
The nature of the gates …one narrow and one wide.
The road after the gate …one hard and the other easy
The numbers of people deciding on each gate, the overwhelming majority will take the wide gate. The outcome of the decision to take that particular gate …One leads to life and one leads to eternal destruction. The reason Jesus is the gate and that the gate does not refer to our own efforts to get through the gate is because right from there start of the sermon Jesus has already stated. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Jesus starts out the sermon with blessing, makarious. He is looking at his group of disciples and saying to them blessed not because they are even remotely able to reach those impossible standards of the kingdom. In fact the reason they are blessed is because they are the total opposite, they are helpless as described as being poor in spirit and mourning that helplessness and sin. He is saying to them that these of the folk who are blessed not because they have the highest ethical standards but because they have recognised they don’t cannot live up to these impossible standards. They are the people who have come to realise that they are spiritually bankrupt and are mourning this fact of their lives.
They are the ones who recognise that even our righteous acts are like filthy rags before a holy God as we read in Isaiah 64: 6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. It is only when they recognise their spiritual poverty that they will come to the conclusion that there is only one gate to enter into true and complete righteousness and that is through the person of the one preaching the sermon Jesus Christ>
That is why Jesus says in Matt 5:17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. There is only one person who can fulfil the ethical standards of the sermon on the mount. There is only one person who has ever looked at a woman and not committed adultery in their hearts. There is only one person who has ever been angry at another person and not committed murder in their hearts. That person is Jesus. The taste is so narrow that it goes through the person of Christ. We are spiritually bankrupt and cannot do it but we can trust in Jesus who has done it. The narrow gate is Jesus, so our union with Jesus Christ who is the origin and source of all spiritual blessings and all discipleship.
So the purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is not to teach someone to merely live a better moral life. Throughout the sermon Jesus is the person through whom God speaks, Jesus is the person through whom God redeems, and Jesus is the person through whom God reigns. So the “enter” demand is a summons to Jesus first and foremost. The gate is narrow because it requires a person to turn from sin to follow Jesus, to do the will of God as taught by Jesus. This is very difficult indeed for most people because most of us will never admit in our pride of hearts that we are helpless and hopeless and that is the reason the gate is narrow and way hard because we will not accept our own helplessness. We will not let go
There is a quote by DA Carson “ It is true, of course, that no man enters the kingdom because of his obedience; but it is equally true that no man enters the kingdom who is not obedient.” What does he mean? Can your group discuss this? Why is an understanding of this crucial to the faith?
The gate is narrow because it goes through only one person and we live in a world of pluralistic beliefs which cannot accept absolute exclusivist is truth. The gate is narrow and way hard because it require a radical repentance and total dependance on Jesus and not upon our own efforts to gain merit and righteousness which is the default mode of the human heart.
It will mean that we make a 180 turn around and decide that everything we have ever been through about being a good person in order to gain a reputation or merit is ultimately of no value. Most of us have a vision of our selves that while we are not perfect, we sin now and again, after all to errr is human and I have done some good thing and some bad things. It is very hard to really see ourselves as really spiritually bankrupt. Repentance is a complete change of attitude when we realise that this is wrong because the reason we do even good things have always been for ourselves and not for God. It’s like a death to self and the reason it is very hard but it is only when we see ourselves as bankrupt can we ever hope to experience a radical transformation.
The other gate is wide and most are on it and it is easy because it is the default mode of the heart as we cannot give up our own self reliance and control. Even our obedience to God is in exchange for something we want from Him.
The metaphor the false prophets has essential features.
Firstly , they are difficult to identify because they look like any other member of your church. They are described as wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are going to look good on the outside ,holy, devoted and they will probably use a lot of bible language and sophisticated theological terms. Most of these false prophets are Christian leaders and pastors. Look at how Jesus describes them
Matt 7:21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Secondly, they call Jesus Lord…the Greek word is Kurios … The emperor Julius Caesar was also called kurios which was a word for deity. They rightly identify Jesus as God …that means they have right doctrine or they appear to be orthodox in belief in general.
Thirdly, the word Kurios was repeated twice. In ancient times the repetition of a word was used to convert an intensity of emotion. In 2 Samuel 18: 33
And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
David is mourning the death of his evil son Absolom and his name Absolom is repeated as was the phrase “my son” “my son”. So these false prophets or preachers are totally passionate about their faith as they kept calling Lord Lord. They are going to be there at every prayer meeting and every bible study.
Lastly they are tremendously gifted. They prophesy cast out demons and work miracles. You cannot prophesy without the help of the Spirit, you cannot do ministry without the help of the Spirit. In Exodus 21 and 22 the magicians of Egypt could turn their staffs in to snakes just like Moses and even turn water into blood just like Moses. So the performance of miracles and ministry is not a good confirmation that the person is even in a relationship with God because Jesus said “never knew you”.
He describes these folk as lawless. The point of the example of the false prophets is that it is not the miraculous or effective exercise of the gifts that are an indication of authenticity or spirituality. Spiritual gifts is what you do but spiritual fruit is what you are. We live in a world that hungers for the miraculous and spectacular and it is not a reliable indicator of a relationship with God. The metaphor of the false prophet is designed to warn us that kingdom living is all about the spiritual transformation of who you are and the focus is not at all on what you do. Spiritual fruit which is our character is the most important outward evidence of our authentic relationship with God.
When Paul writes to the Corinthian church, they were an extremely gifted group of believers, they could prophesy, speak in tongues and work miracles but Paul writes in 1 Cor 13 : 1
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
I love the last verse (ESV) 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Jesus is challenging us that the key to a real relationship with Him is spiritual fruit, it is love. The key to a successful life is therefore knowing Jesus. These false prophets are adept at using Jesus..exercising spiritual gifts and power but they have missed the whole point of the faith which is to know Jesus. The only clue to whether we really are on the right track is not the number of successful ministries we lead but our personal knowledge of Jesus which then transforms our character.
The last metaphor is that of the two houses built by the two men. On the outside the two houses are exactly the same. The same with the two men they look the same there is no description of either of them aside from the words “ wise” and “foolish “ and these assessments are given based on what foundation they have built their houses on. Then the storm comes and these storms can either be the trials and tribulations that characterise life in general or the final judgment which in the bible is often described as a storm.
The house built upon a rock will stand but the one built on the sand will be washed away. One man is wise and successful to other is foolish ….the Greek is moros …a moron.
You see the foundation upon which we live our lives is not something that is immediately apparent to people on the outside like the two houses. We can look the same in life, attend the same Gamma group or work in the same job and run in the same social circles but it is only when the storm of life comes that the true foundations will be exposed.
Each of us are only given an opportunity to build one house in life, to build one life. We can either build our lives on the solid foundation of Jesus teaching in the sermon on the mount or we can build it on anything else because when the storms of life comes, only the life based on Christ will survive the judgement , anything else is washed away.
Jesus is giving us a warning and a choice at the end of this Gamma course. His words can either remain at the level of our brains and go no further aside from the intense theological discussion we have at our zoom groups our we can take His Words and learn to live by them. Not in order to be saved or present God a record of good works in order to compel Him to bless us but because we have chosen the narrow gate, we have chosen to live in Christ and if we have chosen to live in Christ then His words need to be translated to actions in our every day lives.
Romans 5: 1-5 (ESV) 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us
Suffering with trials reveal our true foundations and hence character and although we lament and cringe in the actual pain and loss of trials we paradoxically rejoice in that they reveal our true foundations and hence our character which has been moulded by the Spirit and this reassures us and fills us with joy and hope. This is the way the Spirit ministers to us in love
Answers are available .