The choice is yours to make. Jesus wants you to choose whether you will be his admirer or his follower. One day all of humanity will have chosen to be in one of two camps: those who follow him; and those who reject him. There will be no third option. The choice is yours.
Where will you be? And when will you make your choice? As you read this final Summary page, please realize that now is your moment to decide.
The Sermon's Final Words
Matthew 7:28–29 [Click to open, re-click to close, this and all other links.]
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
We've come to the final words of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Having studied numerous principals presented in "the greatest talk ever," I have a question to ask you. "Are you an admirer of Jesus?" Yes? No? He's been speaking to crowds of people who were mostly made up of "admirers."
Although Pastor Ortberg's final-session message is limited to the Sermon's last two verses, the closing section (chapter 7:21–29) includes Jesus continuing to talk about the kingdom of heaven while correcting his listeners’ understanding of what it takes to enter this kingdom. If we step back a moment and consider the sermon as a whole, we see that this is what Jesus has been teaching the entire time. What is the realm of God’s rule like? Who are those who are close to God and entering his kingdom? Who are not? From the beginning (v. 5:1), Jesus has been surprising his listeners with his answers to these questions. Jesus starts this teaching with the astonishing proclamation, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Somewhere along the line, the kingdom of heaven had become something that one would earn by external obedience to the law. One’s relationship with God had come to be viewed primarily as a conditional contractual agreement. If we conform to the God's demands,he'll let us in and reward us with a place in his kingdom.
Clearly, Jesus is challenging this view of righteousness. He's told his admiring listeners that their righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Alas, how can they do so if righteousness amounts to external obedience to the law? The scribes and Pharisees were apparently devoted to following the law scrupulously. Well, as we've seen in several of these 14 sessions, the righteousness that Jesus desires from his listeners is not based on fulfilling obligations of a contract! Rather, it's one of trusting in God to make us pure and have a right relationship with him. This relationship of "faith to receive from God what he gives" is what Jesus came to make possible in us. So, for us to continue to attempt to create our own righteousness by being “religious” is to follow false teachers who head down the path to destruction. The path that Jesus wants us to take is the one on which we continue to trust in God and faithfully seek ways we can serve him and contribute to his Kingdom.
The Faithful Path of Trust and Service
That desired path of trust and service is best remembered in Jesus truthful ultimatum (v. 7:21): "Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Instead of merely seeking him with an attention-getting, "Lord, Lord," Jesus exhorts us to obey God's Word and do as he wills. Only then — I repeat, "Only then" — will we be able to enter his kingdom of heaven!
Getting back to the Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of his Sermon, he feels that we're to "live as if poverty in spirit is a blessed attitude." Why? Because in such poverty we recognize our complete and utter inability to make ourselves right and whole. We also see clearly our need to be continually filled by Jesus, continually receiving from him, our Lord.
The only "obedience to his Lordship" that he expects from us is an obedience that flows through faith in him to be our Lord. The words and teachings of this entire sermon are meant to (1) lead us to trust fully and completely in him as our Lord and to (2) encourage us to live a life that exhibits a complete, living trust in his gracious and powerful Lordship to make all things right. Only when we trust, obey, and faithfully serve God will he himself be the Rock of our lives, our true Lord.
The Choice Is Yours
Throughout chapter 7 of the Sermon we find a series of illustrations that Jesus gives. Pastor John documents that every one of them involves this stark contrast designed to force people to choose between remaining "an admirer of Jesus" and becoming "a Jesus follower." Here's a clear line that distinguishes an admirer from a follower.
Bottom line: Have you wholly devoted yourself to following Jesus? Not, do you admire him. Not, do you believe in him. Are you a follower?
Hopefully, you've read and heard Jesus's words and teachings throughout his Sermon. Yes? That's good because he's spoken those words to you personally. Now that you've simply heard his Sermon, you need to become ready to listen to it. When you listen intently to Jesus' Sermon with conviction, you should find that you're ready to surrender your focus on him. When God sees you in full surrender, he'll say, “Follow me!"
Will you follow Jesus?
Pastor John's Closing Invitation to You
I want to speak to those of you who have never really or never clearly made this "admirer to follower" decision. I know that a lot of you have already committed your lives to Jesus. There may be issues that God is kind of raising that you need to pray about right now, so you go ahead and do that.
I want to speak very clearly to you if you've never clearly committed your life to Jesus. You've never clearly confessed your sin and repented and wholly devoted your life to Christ. I want to give you a chance to make that commitment now and to express it by telling the Lord, “God, I'm coming out of the crowd. I'm crossing the line from admirer to follower. No more playing games. No more half measures. I've never really fully devoted my life to following Jesus, nor have I expressed this to you, as I'm doing right now.”
If that's your decision…if that's your intent, I want to invite you right now to briefly tell God that you've made the decision to no longer be a mere follower but to happily declare that you're Jesus' follower. This is between you and God. God bless you!
You know, when you make this decision, you'll see that it's the most important thing a human can do. It brings joy and delight to the heart of God. When somebody says, “Alright God, my life, my time, everything I have, is yours,” the Lord is well pleased.
Assuming that you've now told Jesus of your decision to become his follower, he'll meet you and he'll help you. He's delighted beyond words at your devotion. Now I want to encourage you to find a fellow follower of Jesus, a Christian brother or sister, and tell her or him about the decision that you've just made. The Holy Spirit will help you as he helps all of his followers.