The Narrow Minded….

Matthew 7:13-14

“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.

Tucked in the middle of Matthew 7 (the concluding lessons from The Sermon on the Mount) is this short discourse on the “two ways” wherein Jesus challenges us to consider our personal path and examine our steps. Jesus begins with a present imperative: “Enter through the narrow gate.”  The fact that the gate appears first and then a way implies that this is referring to one’s coming to know God in a personal way through Jesus’ teachings and then following where He leads. This verse implies that salvation is not an easy decision which fits in with the mainstream of culture, but a decisive change of life which issues in obedience to the principles of God. The fact that one way leads to destruction shows the ultimate outcome of those whose lives are lived independent of God.  Jesus is inviting the people to come to Him – to enter the Kingdom of Heaven through Him – in order to find true life … abundant life … eternal life.  You can see this metaphor with similar connotation used in the Gospel of John:

John 10:1-10 (NIV)

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for Him, and the sheep listen to His voice. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what He was telling them. Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

So Jesus is the “small gate” that leads to a “narrow road” whose destination is “life”; as contrasted by a “wide gate” that leads to a “broad road” whose destination is “destruction”.  And the issue of great concern here is the number of people who travel down each path.  Many are those who remain in the deception of the world and its darkness; and few are those who embrace the light of the Gospel and follow Jesus and obeys His commands. There is something of grave importance for us to observe from this passage … and we need to examine the direction of our walk before God.  Have we truly entered the narrow road (lifestyle) that leads to life through Christ Jesus; or have we entered the superhighway of the world and the culture (lifestyle) as its speeds toward its own destruction?  Sometimes it is hard to distinguish professing Christians from those of the world; and I think this parable anticipates that phenomenon….

If you continue to read beyond Verses 13-14, you will find a series of “contrasts” related to “religious” people

1.         The two ways of approaching God (Matthew 7:13-14)

2.         The two types of religious leaders (Matthew 7:15-23)

3.         The two foundations of a religious life (Matthew 7:24-27)

The question is not so much which lifestyle or group of religious people Jesus referred to; rather, the focus is on how people respond to their understanding of God’s will. Some discard God and religion altogether.  Some use religion to gain immediate praise and rewards from other people … but in vain. (Cf. Isaiah. 29:13-15; Colossians 2:16-23). True disciples; however, order their lives in light of Jesus’ words about the present and coming Kingdom of God.  He knows the sincerity our hearts!  As Jesus said, the time is now when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth – for they are the kind of worshipers that the Father seeks. (Cf. John 4:23-24) Until you have Jesus, you do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. And without the Holy Spirit, you cannot worship the Father in the Spirit or in truth….  So the small gate and the narrow road are significant in our response to the lavish grace and mercy of God for our salvation. Jesus made it quite clear, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:6)

This parable from Matthew 7:13-14 is paralleled in Luke 13:23-27, and I would like to contrast the two so you can see the intent of the message:

Luke 13:23-27 (NIV)

23 Someone asked Jesus, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

Note here the “many” who will try to enter and will not be able to do so – because “the owner of the house gets up and closes the door”.  Herein lies the pressing nature of the Great Commission … the evangelical mission to share the Gospel and to urge people to “enter” through the “narrow door” while there is still opportunity to do so.  It is appointed for people to die once, and after that to face judgment. (Cf. Hebrews 9:27) When the door is shut from a hardened or deceived heart, death, or the Second Coming of Christ, there does not appear to be any more opportunity to intentionally trust Jesus Christ for salvation.  Again, “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.”  Jesus bids all people to enter through Him.  It may seem “narrow-minded” to have this view (as Christians are often accused), but Jesus declared He is the only way!  And as each day passes, the door inches a little more towards the frame and latch. Oh, I pray we will be about the Father’s business, inviting people through the door that leads to light and life – to an authentic encounter with our Lord and Savior. Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Saved From Condemnation

John 3:17

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

Our verse today came as John 3:17 … but it is proceeded by the “universal” verse known so well and quoted so often – John 3:16. But verse John 3:18 following has an equally important message that should be placed in context; so I have decided to reprint the entire passage together for your reference.

John 3:16-19 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

Observe that God gave His Son to save us.  Our salvation is a gift! We cannot earn it.  As Paul expounded in Ephesians 2:8-9: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not of works, so that no one can boast.  And “through faith” means that you believe in His Son – Jesus Christ.  Through placing your complete faith in Christ and His finished work, His sacrificial blood for atonement, and His resurrection from the dead, you are no longer condemned but have passed from death to life. (Cf. 1 John 3:14) Yet, notice how Verse 18 continues to admonish: “Whoever does NOT believe stands condemned already.”  Why? Because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son – Jesus.  In Verse 19, the Apostle John goes on to explain why people do not believe: “People love darkness instead of light.”  In essence, people love their sin more than they love God….

The Prophet Ezekiel spoke some difficult words … under the Old Covenant … which we would be wise to contemplate:

Ezekiel 33:12 (NIV)

“Therefore, son of man, say to your people, ‘If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person’s former righteousness will count for nothing. And if someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation. The righteous person who sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous.’

However, in the New Testament, you will find a more expansive theology shared by the Apostle Peter to consider:

2 Peter 1:3-11 (NIV)

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them (these qualities in increasing measure) is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things (additions to faith), you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

There are several key themes we can find in this apostolic instruction from Peter. First of all, everything we need to live a godly life comes from His divine power – namely the Holy Spirit.  Second, the glory and goodness of Christ avails us of His very great and precious promises (i.e. wisdom, knowledge, gifts of the Holy Spirit, etc.) which allow us to participate (take part in) the divine nature.  As such, knowledge of His Word and gifts of His Spirit, equip us to mature in our faith – to bear the fruit of the Spirit in and through our lives. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) So Peter encourages us to move forward in maturity of faith in order to confirm the calling and election of God upon our lives!  Maturity through a growing faith will keep us from stumbling; and it promises great reward in the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ….

Paul reminds those who believe of this same truth: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) But there is more in the following verses to put this into context and congruence with what Peter articulated in his epistle. I have reprinted it below for you:

Romans 8:1-11 (NIV)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh (our sinful nature), God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives lifebecause of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who lives in you.

It is clear that to believe in Jesus Christ goes beyond just a mental assent as to His Deity.  We are called to “participate in the divine nature” which God equips us to do through His divine power … the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  Paul asserted if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Him.  As the Apostle John wrote: “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.” (1 John 4:13) A life IN Jesus Christ is a Spirit-filled life.  There can be no other possible conclusion.  And a Spirit-filled life will produce the fruit in the life of a believer “in increasing measure” so that he/she will be effective and productive in His Kingdom. The Apostles are quite consistent with what Jesus Himself taught:  “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (Cf. John 3:5-6)

So the good news is that fallen, sinful man does not have to remain condemned to separation from our Holy Father … the God of all Creation.  God sent His one and only Son to save us … to reconcile us and restore us to Himself … as He determined and ordained before the foundation of the world.  All a person needs to do believe in Jesus Christ and begin to follow Him into the discipleship of a Spirit-filled life of Kingdom service.  His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.  He invites us participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires, and to walk in the Light of His glory and goodness….

I pray each of us with grow in knowledge and go on to maturity in the Spirit … to confirm our calling and election … to live lives worthy of the Lord Jesus … to please Him in every way … bearing fruit in every good work … growing in the knowledge of God…and strengthened with all power according to His glorious might. (Cf. Colossians 1:9-11) I ask that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of our hearts will be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which God has called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people,and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength God exerted when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms…. (Cf. Ephesians 1:17-20) Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Great Intercessor

Hebrews 7:25

Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews presents a great theological “pillar” for us to examine.  His view is that the Messiah (Christ Jesus) serves as a priest … that He ministers as an intercessor before God on a continual basis for those who believe in Him (come to God through Him).  The rationale, within the context of Hebrews Chapter 7, is that the eternal nature (endless life) of Jesus affords a “permanent priesthood” for the purposes of our atonement, salvation, and ongoing intercessory prayer needs. (Cf. Verse 24) And so the conclusion, based on this premise, is that Jesus is able to save completely (or forever) those who come to God through Him … because He always lives to intercede for them.  His intercession is undoubtedly prayer (Cf. Luke 22:32; John 17:9, 15, 20), but Jesus also serves as our Advocate (our lawyer) against the Adversary or Accuser (Satan) before the throne (court) of God. (Cf. Revelation 12:10)

The writer affirms this role was prophesied by King David in Psalm 110:4 where he declares, “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: “You are a priest forever,   in the order of Melchizedek.” So, who was this Melchizedek … this forerunner or archetype of the priestly role the Messiah would assume for us?  Well, you can read about him in Genesis 14; but the connection or prophetic association with the Messiah is explained in further detail in Hebrews Chapter 7.  I encourage you to study these sections at your leisure to get a fuller picture of this application.

So why is this of any importance to our relationship and walk with our Lord Jesus?  Well, part of what intrigues me is the language used.  “He is able to save completely!”  The blood Jesus shed was more than sufficient to save us “completely”.  Nothing was partial. Nothing was missed.  There are no conditional requirements.  There is nothing for us to add to His work upon the cross or His resurrection or ascension to the right hand of the throne of God. (Cf. Hebrews 8:1) His priestly intercession is eternally permanent. Your life and I are secure in Him.  And this truth should be a great comfort to believers … especially those who might think that our salvation is conditional upon themselves or their performance … that if we sin after it somehow causes us to lose their salvation … or that God requires us to be perfect once a profession of faith in Jesus has been made.  God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) If we had been or were now able to not sin … there would have been no need for a Savior.  There would not be a need for a permanent priesthood or continual intercession.  But we find both in Scripture!  And the Apostle John affirms, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Such mercy … such grace … such love in the midst of our weaknesses!  How can be not be humbled and always strive to live worthy of the Lord Jesus … and please Him in every way … bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God? (Cf. Colossians 1:10) And I feel we need to be reminded what the Apostle Paul preached in this regard:

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Oh, we need a Savior!  We need an Intercessor!  We need Jesus! 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people. Jesus sacrificed for our sins once for all when He offered Himself.  (Hebrews 7:26-27) Yes, Jesus was ordained by God to be our High Priest forever!  There is no need for an earthly priesthood at all anymore.  Jesus came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Cf. Ephesians 2:17-18) So I pray we will trust Jesus at His Word.  I pray we will completely trust in His finished work to redeem us and bring us to God the Father.  He is all sufficient to give you and I eternal life….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

I AM REDEEMED

1 Peter 1:18-19

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

We have been redeemed! But not with physical, perishable things of monetary value such as silver or gold.  No. Peter proclaims, our redemption from a sinful nature (the empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors) was purchased with something of far greater value … the highest possible value … the imperishable life of God! In Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, God shed His own blood as the “purchase” price required for the payment of our sin debt.  That such an extreme price was necessary to redeem us indicates just how fatal sin of any form or magnitude should be view and understood. The only price acceptable (propitiation) was for God Himself to die on our behalf!  What greater price could there ever be? That is how God views sin….  That is how we should view sin….  As Paul explained:  

Romans 7:5-14 (NKJV)

For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 13 Has then what is good become death to me? 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

Perhaps Paul drew his inspiration and understanding in this regard from the Prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 50:1-3 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? Or to which of my creditors did I sell you? Because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away. When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to deliver you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst. I clothe the heavens with darkness and make sackcloth its covering.”

We were sold under sin!  And through the commandments of God, we have discovered the exceedingly sinful nature of our beings.  Iniquity has been found in each one of us. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) And it is clear that God determined the price of redemption … the price to reclaim us from the death of sin … was exceedingly beyond the capacity of any human to afford.  It cost Jesus His life to pay the required price.  Yes, sin is that costly!  Jeff Bezos is worth over $100 Billion and that would represent the most microscopic Nano-fraction of what had to be paid.  Jesus asked: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26) We simply cannot underestimate or dismiss the fatal cost of sin over our lives.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Not only do we need to realize the infinite cost of our redemption … purchased by the Son of God … we need to understand that is was the mercy and grace of the Father that afforded this salvation to us.  This is the epitome of kindness displayed by a Holy God toward His unholy creatures.  Father God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ Jesus. And His incomprehensible kindness toward us is intended to lead us to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) This is the heart of the Gospel! “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) He died to redeem us from the empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors.  And through His resurrection, we are raised together with Him into new lives! As Paul affirmed in Colossians 1:13-14, “For He has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

Ephesians 2:1-9 (NKJV)

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 

Redemption … Salvation … Eternal Life.  These are gifts from God our Father.  We have received them through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ … who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:4-5) May we never take His great love or grace for granted … and may we always strive for holiness in our lives as an act of worship for the redemption we have received.  As Paul admonished: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Cf. Romans 12:1)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!