"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. - Matthew 7: 12-14 (ESV)
Jesus is starting to wrap up His teachings from the Sermon on the Mount. He has covered so many topics which would have been controversial in His day and remain so to this day. From who inherits the kingdom of God to how much the Lord hates hypocrites. From outlining how to pray to the dangers of confusing darkness with light. This week we continue by looking at two principles we have heard of before but perhaps not truly grasped. The second deals with where we are headed and the first deals with how we are to get there. Let us work in that order today.
Beloved there are only two choices for where we are headed. There is no curtain number three for us to consider. Jesus is not Monty Hall and this is not Let's Make a Deal. There is only heaven and hell. There is only eternal joy or eternal suffering. I understand that the humanistic teachings of the day will dismiss this. They are wrong. They are making it up as they go because they, like Lucifer before them, want to be God. That is the essential definition of humanism. It is making man into God. The problem is we are a poor excuse for a god. That aside, there remains only two choices and as the song once said - if you choose not to decide you still have made a choice. Everyone will have had the opportunity to accept or reject God and they will be without excuse.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. - Romans 1: 18-25 (ESV)
Claiming to be wise the foolish men of this world deny a God who is all around them. Whose creations screams at them that there is a Creator. Yet instead of listening to those screams they invent fairy tales to put their faith in like evolution and the big bang theory. The deeper down the rabbit hole of their own creation they go the darker their hearts become. They exchange the truth about God for the lies they have concocted to avoid having the admit there is a God.
The world however are not the only ones who have become futile in their thinking. They are not the only ones who have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for mere images. Shades of a god they create. I am speaking of course about the church itself. The modern apostate church is in far more danger than the world because they have convinced themselves that their darkness is actually light. There is a prevailing misconception that many have which believe that church attendance equals salvation. That saying a three sentence prayer makes one right with God. When you ask a modern churchgoer about salvation, they will hearken back to the day they went up for altar call. It will not be a memory of the day their lives changed. That they took off the old man and put on the robe of righteousness. This is how so many will stand before Christ on the last day and be utterly confused:
"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. 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?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' - Matthew 7: 21-23 (ESV)
Beloved these should be some of the most frightening verses for believers today. Am I saying we should be frightened? Yes! The Bible says to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, not kittens and rainbows. Look at who these people are! They are obviously churched and possibly were in some leadership capacity within the church as well. The next time you have someone in your church or on television claiming to be a prophet or prophetess - remember these verses! Did we not prophesy in Your name? The next time you see false signs and lying wonders or hear about nonsense such as glory clouds, gem stones, gold dust, angel feathers and the like - remember these verses! Did we not do mighty works in Your name? Did we not cast out demons in your name? Away from me! Who? You who practice lawlessness! Jesus has lamented on more than one occasion - why do you bother calling Him Lord if you refuse to do what He says? This is a word for someone today. It is time to look around us and see what road we are on.
The first choice is the broad road that leads to destruction. How can we tell if that is where we are today? The key verses give us two clues. The way is easy and the gate is wide. Let us deal with easy first. The dictionary defines easy as requiring no great effort or labor. This should not be the definition of our Christianity. People get this so confused because the acceptance of salvation is easy. It is a free gift paid for already by Jesus Christ. The Bible however does not make any claim that following Jesus somehow requires no great effort or labor. In fact it teaches the opposite:
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? - Matthew 16: 24-26 (ESV)
Sadly the answer in many churches is nothing. We give nothing in return for our very soul. They preach a gospel that costs you nothing. No cross to bear yourself. No sacrifice of your life. Absolutely nothing. In fact the gospel becomes about you. We become the star and the focus and Jesus gets Best Supporting Actor. If you are in a church where the pastor is constantly writing you into the Biblical narrative then that is a bad sign. You did not slay Goliath. You were not placed in the Lion's Den. You did not hang on an old wooden cross. The Bible is His story, not ours. It cost God everything so that the gift is free. Once accepted though it costs us everything to follow Him. We must be willing to sacrifice what we have for what He has done. In the Old Testament David once took a census he should not have and it angered the Lord who sent a plague among the people. David's prophet Gad instructed him to build an altar and make sacrifices to God on the property of someone named Araunah. Since David was the king, Araunah offered him his threshing floor for free and the animals needed for the sacrifice. David though understood what sacrifice meant:
But the king said to Araunah, "No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. And David built there an altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord responded to the plea for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel. - 2Samuel 24: 24-25 (ESV)
I will not offer a sacrifice that costs me nothing. Yet that is what we see today all the time. People being sold a false Christianity through a false Christ that costs them nothing. The Bible tells us that when the disciples followed Jesus they left everything behind. They did not lead rock star lives either. They were constantly persecuted. All except John were martyred violently for their faith. Following Jesus cost them everything in this temporal life. Yet many preachers today cheapen it to the point where they proudly say during an altar call that it will only take a few minutes of your day. The broad way is easy beloved. It offers no resistance to the sinful heart. In fact, the model of the purpose driven church is to meet the carnality of the world where they are at. It offers them the same carnality they presently enjoy just with a pious sounding bow on it.
The second clue we are on the broad path is that the gate is wide. The path to destruction has to be broad because there are a lot of people on it. The key verses even teach that those who enter by it are many. There is a human condition that believes there is safety in numbers. That so many people cannot possibly be wrong. This thinking is contrary to what the Bible says however. People view the success of a Joel Osteen for example and wrongly assume that the 50,000 + attending his church is a sign of favor. It is not. It is a sign of the times:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, - 2Timothy 4: 3 (ESV)