At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the first major sermon that Jesus delivered, He gave a few tips on what we need to do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Much of what Jesus shared in the Sermon on the Mount was in contrast to what the religious leaders known as the Pharisees were teaching. The Pharisees had a long list of rules they believed needed to be followed to enter heaven and they did not accept Jesus as being the Son of God. Even today we have many religious leaders who espouse misguided regulations rather than depending solely on the work Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross.
As we listen to Jesus teach, we discover the path to heaven is far less cumbersome than the Pharisees or today’s legalistic religious leaders would lead us to believe. Jesus began by encouraging those listening to engage in persistent prayer, expressing their needs to God.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 (NIV)
The pathway to heaven begins with regular communication with God. Jesus continued by explaining that all the laws found in the Bible can be summed up in the simple understanding that we need to love our neighbor. If we approach every human interaction with love, no one will ever be mistreated.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 (NIV)
Next, Jesus pointed toward the one and only way into heaven – faith in Jesus Christ – not the long complicated path prescribed by the Pharisees or today’s legalistic religious leaders.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)
We find this simple explanation of what the Pharisees were missing given in the book of John:
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29 (NIV)
In order to drive His point home, Jesus essentially described the Pharisees as false teachers who had nothing to show for their misguided rules and regulations.
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:16 (NIV)
Jesus was at this time performing extraordinary miracles to demonstrate the authority of his words, but the Pharisees offered nothing but useless thorns.
In conclusion, Jesus tells us if we follow the wrong teachers our path to the Kingdom of Heaven will be washed away and destroyed because it is built on unstable ground. The only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. When you stand firmly on that, understand your salvation is secure.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24 (NIV)
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