Matthew 7

1 This verse is difficult both to understand and to keep. This obviously doesn't mean that we should not recognize evil and avoid it (Mat 7:15), nor does it mean that we can not see what is right or wrong (1 Cor 6:5). But it does mean that we are not to take God's place of judgement. Only God can make the final pronouncement on people. We should also be careful not to slander other people, especially in matters where what is right is not very clear (Rom 14:3). We should especially not judge others when we are guilty of the same things (Rom 2:1). Among God's characteristics we are to emulate, judgement is not one of them. Only God has all the information needed to make final judgements. However, we are to imitate God's related characteristic: forgiveness (Mat 6:12-15, Luke 6:37).
2 Here is an enlightening exercise. Make a list of all the things that characterize "bad" people, and see how many you are (or were) guilty of. As Christians, we should recognize that we were once bad (sinners) too. We should recognize that God's love saved us, and can save anyone.
3 Hypocrisy is sometimes obvious to everyone except the hypocrite. Before we attempt to correct someone else, we should carefully consider our own thoughts and actions. Even when we find ourselves clear of wrongdoing, we should approach others' problems with gentleness and understanding. We all have been (or are) sinners, and different people have struggles in different areas.
5 On the flip side, it is often appropriate that someone who has overcome sin in a particular area teach others to do the same. However, this does have to be balanced against the temptations that come when facing that sin again in other people's lives.
6 This verse looks like it could have a multitude of possible applications. This verse seems to be puzzling because it advocates restraint and withholding.In one sense it might be telling us to not allow non-Christians to participate in sanctified Christian activities, such as Holy Communion.In another sense it might be telling us to not waste time trying to explain difficult or intricate truths and applications to those who do not know God. We can not expect non-Christians to act like Christians because they will not be able to do it. As Christians, we recognize that everything we do or accomplish depends on Christ working through us. When we try to force those who do not know God into a "Christian" lifestyle, they resent it and may lash out.We should share Christ in a way that is sensitive to the needs of the individual. It is also important to remember that "we" do not make converts, God will ultimately change hearts and lives. We are God's messengers, and we can help each other to live godly lives.
7 When we are following God and doing what He wants, we can ask for anything in prayer, and He will do it for us. Many people have been confused and betrayed by incorrect application of this verse. Some people preach that God wants all His children to have lots of money and comfort in this life. In truth, God is more concerned about our spiritual well being than our physical prosperity. Sometimes, God must strip someone from many (or all) of his comforts and possessions before he realizes his true need for God. People who follow "prosperity" Gospels tend to "play Christian" in hopes of obtaining money, not godliness. When their expectations are not met, they leave this so-called "Christianity" in contempt, and are often hardened against honest attempts to introduce Christ to them.

When a Christian is in right standing with God, he will have requests such as, "God, help me to love You more. Help me to love my neighbor. Help me resist temptation and do what is right in Your eyes." God will certainly honor such requests. Jesus also tells us to ask God for the indwelling (and work) of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). We can also ask for direction in ministry to others. There are so many opportunities, that God will certainly help you find the right one for you.

8 What we ask for: salvation, the Holy Spirit, direction, etc.

What we seek: close relationship with God, understanding, His will, etc.

Where we knock: opportunities for ministry (time and gifts), acts of mercy.

9 Stones could fill a child's tummy, but they would give him no nutritional benefit. In fact, such a practice would be harmful or fatal to the child. When our children ask for spiritual advice, it is important to give them good advise that will "nourish" their spirits. Worldly advice may seem deceptively fulfilling, but following it is like eating stones. God's advice, however, is like nutritional food that will save the dying person and help them to live forever.
10 A child might be able to prepare a fish to eat, but would more likely have difficulty with a snake (especially if it was alive). The fish would be nutritious and beneficial, but the snake might be unpalatable, or even poisonous. When a child asks for spiritual advice, we must make sure that we give them God's truth. A lie will not save a person. Swallowing a lie will be counterproductive and could result in permanent spiritual death.
11 Some people object to the notion that "only Christians can do good things." They point to non-Christians who donate money and time to charity, their families, etc. Jesus does not deny that "evil" people can do good things. In fact, He emphasizes that we know what is good. However, doing good things does not make anyone less evil and good deeds do not make us more favorable to God. When comparing our thoughts and actions against God's, each one of us must admit that we are evil. What then is the solution? We can not earn our way into heaven, so He paid the price for us through the death of His Son, Jesus. Our only responsibility is to believe in Him. Then out of gratitude we do what God wants. These good deeds are the ones that God recognizes and honors, not because we do them, but because we allow Him to work them through us.

By contrasting Himself this way, God is saying: "If evil people can do 'good things,' I can do even better because I Am completely good.

12 This is also known as the "Golden Rule."We typically (and selfishly) want people to give us good things and do good deeds for us. When we reverse this, we can no longer be selfish, but we must give everything good that is within us. Since we are evil by nature, the only good thing in us would be God's presence (i.e., the Holy Spirit). This is how we fulfil the Law and the Prophets (i.e., the directives given in the Old Testament): by allowing God to work through us.
13 Of course, these gates are not physical gates that we can travel to and enter. Rather, the gates are philosophical, and represent worldviews. How we view reality will dictate our reactions to events.The narrow gate represents the way of God. It is narrow because it is very specific: Jesus Christ alone is the way to God. It is difficult because we must give ourselves completely up to God. This worldview places God as both the goal and the means of man's fulfillment.The wide gate represents all other world views (atheism, agnosticism, etc.) and false religions (paganism, evolution, etc.). This "gate" falsely claims that "all roads lead to God." It is the "easy" way because it does not require that we give up our lives, indulgences, self-reliance, or selfishness. This gate really puts man as either the goal or means to satisfaction.Everyone starts on the wide path, but those who listen to God can enter the narrow path at any point. The reason that so few find the narrow path is not because it is invisible or unavailable, but because man's desire to do things his own way prevents him from turning to God.
15 False prophets are people who claim to be speaking from God, but are really speaking on their own. Honest Christian people will not claim that God spoke to them unless it really happened. But some people take advantage of the fact that we can't know for sure if God spoke to someone in private or not. Some people will naively believe anything that supposedly came from God without considering the source. Wicked men will use God as a facade to control other people (attain power), satisfy their greed (attain material possessions), and justify their sins (sexual or physical indulgences outside of God's will). This is how cults are run. They can look godly on the outside, but inside Satan is running the show.
16 So how do we prevent being duped by false prophets with ungodly worldviews? The secret is to look behind the scenes. Evil is both clumsy and arrogant, and will show through if the mask is poked at a little.There are two levels of discernment that can be used. As mentioned above, men do have a build-in sense of what is good and what is evil (this was passed down to us from Adam Gen 3:22). If you attend a "religious" gathering that mishandles money, abuses people, etc. you should be very careful about getting too attached.The second level of discernment has to do with how a group measures up with the Bible. If a group denies the authority of the Bible, then leave that group immediately. If they deliberately misinterpret important doctrines in the Bible, you should be very careful. Misinterpretations are often easy to see since the majority of important doctrines are clearly spelled out, however, there are some that are less obvious, so if in doubt, pray that God will help you find the right answers, and then check several sources).Now there are different interpretations on more minor issues among genuine Christian believers. These should be treated with tolerance, and are not discussed here.At any rate, when a group abuses scripture, they bear bad spiritual fruit. They don't seek to honor God, but only themselves and their own views. Beware of such groups.
19 Some false groups self-destruct. Some break up after the "leader" dies or goes away, and some end in mass-suicide. Unfortunately, the "fruit" of such groups may not become apparent until it is too late.Other groups will not self-destruct, but they will be judged in the end. Even if we people lack discernment, God knows everything, and He has an absolute standard to determining what is good. Those ungodly groups or individuals that make it through the world undetected will be found out and brought to answer before God. Once judgement comes, there is no plea bargaining, and no parole.
21 The most insidious religions are those that claim to be Christian, but are really not. The saddest people on judgement day will be those who feel that they were Christians, but on judgement day are found to be lacking.The essence of Christianity is not going to church or doing good deeds, but the true meaning is found in the acknowledgement of our total dependence upon God. The most important aspect of this is being reconciled to God through Jesus' death for our sins. After this we can establish a relationship with God and right relationships with people around us. Church (i.e., Christian fellowship) should play a positive role in educating us in the ways of God. Good deeds should be our outward expression of gratitude, and should be powered by God's work within us.When people feel that going to church and/or doing good deeds is enough to get to heaven, they deny their need for God. God will not save anyone who feels they don't need to be saved.This area may seem subtle to us, but to God it makes all the difference.
22 What will surprise many people is when some of the "great teachers" and "miracle workers" don't make it into heaven. It is true that God uses some people in such a way that it looks like they have "special powers." But it is also amazingly easy for evil people to give the illusion of spiritual powers -- especially if the audience is more eager to see miracles than to hear God's Word.I have attended several "miracle" based revivals and the deception is easy to see if you keep your eyes open. These events typically turn into frenetic hysteria. There is so much confusion that people don't notice that the majority of people are not "healed." Often "healing" are events that can not be measured, such as the reduction of pain or mental suffering. There are also several tricks that can be used to make it appear that the lame, deaf, and blind are healed. In my limited experience I have yet to see a truly lame or deformed person restored to normal. Nor have I seen people with real long-term pain and injuries miraculously healed.I am not saying here that miracles are impossible, but that you should be very careful about believing such events. It is also important to remember that we are to follow God alone, not miracle workers.This is why it is very important to study God's Word and pray for discernment rather than just follow a human teacher. When we stick with the Bible, we can not go wrong, no matter what group or circumstances we are in.
23 Again, Jesus emphasizes that it is not deeds or miracle workings that get us into heaven. It is the knowledge of God.
24 Wisdom has two parts: listen to God and do what He says. Listening to God is the good foundation. When one attempts to build his life on something less than the Word of God, it will ultimately result in destruction. The storm could represent God's judgement or final test of a man's work.
28 The teachers of the day often referred to one another as authorities, but Jesus stood by His own word, and did not even refer to any other teacher.
29 The scribes may have known deep down that they did not understand God's word, and thus were reluctant to teach with authority.