More Prayer Much More Prayer 1 Timothy and Luke 16 shrewd steward

[for the audio of this sermon click on the icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who want to be shrewd for Jesus said … AMEN!

Leveraging, OPM, basic B-School concepts. We Christians have become so caught up trying to appear pious and that is not what we are about. For example “money is the root of all evil”, complete quote is the “love of money is the route of all evil”. Money is a tool, how do we use that money, are we using it for the Kingdom, the proclamation of Christ or does our money go to things that are worldly?

This is not the only place in Scripture that Jesus tells us to be shrewd. Despite what many think, there is nothing in Scripture that says “be stupid”. Seems as a Church we’re supposed to roll over and play dead for every ridiculous concept the world foists on us, meekly schlep along, agreeing with everything the world says about the hottest topics now: “Obviously the Bible is wrong about these things, because our human/earthly institutions insist that these things are right. So maybe the Bible needs to be updated. We find over and over again that the Bible is indeed right, but it seems we all have to crash and burn with the rest of society when we fall all over ourselves to accept what is the newest and coolest. We have a loving Father who waits for us at the crash site to keep us from getting seriously hurt, while many insist on avoiding God’s outstretched hand and hitting the hard ground.

Not only does the Bible not tell us to be stupid, Jesus has told us a few times, be smart. We can play the world’s game in the power of the Holy Spirit beat the world at its own game, we leverage what the Spirit gives us in the world. But we insist the institutions around us are right. Jesus commends shrewdness in Matthew 10: Jesus sends His disciples to the world with these words: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” He tells them a lot of the people they go to meet are going to be judged, they will be condemned and destroyed. He qualifies that in the same passage by saying His disciples are going to get the brunt of things too. They are going to be delivered before governors and judges and will be cruelly punished. Not because what they are saying is wrong, but there’s a cruel world out there that rejects Jesus and His hope and promise and insists on its own silly, worthless words that it always finds out are wrong in the end.

Let’s talk about prayer, something very much on my heart. Before I really realized the importance and need for prayer Marge and I were the coordinators for the National Day of Prayer in our hometown of 100,000 and after three years, the coordinators of the Commonwealth of Mass. We had some really great day long rallies on Beacon Hill and got a lot of attention from elected officials, some of whom served on the state committee and who actively participated. Even bugged a governor because we went over time in front of the “Grand Stairway” in the state house and cut into the governor’s time. But we realized that when we took prayer right to the public forum, leveraging prayer to the best interests of the worldly people around us who saw how we could come together, grow in prayer, especially when those same people were included and helped to understand the importance of what we are doing.

Leveraging, OPM, often used cynically, by practitioners of these trades. The Gordon Geckos who have a very narrow vision of what life is about. We in a shrewd manner, like the steward in the pericope, use the resources of the world, not cynically, but positively, we stand strong in the things we do as Christians, in prayer, faithful to Christ’s teachings, ignoring the nonsense the world continually foists on us. That other “churches” buy into and are never successful in pursuing, even worse trying to leverage what the world tells them to those who are seeking Christ, they are revealed as phonies and cause many to become disillusioned in Christ because of their dysfunctional church, even reject Christ and condemn themselves. I don’t want to be a leader of any of those churches, I don’t want to stand before the Judgment Seat and explain to our Lord why I was the instrument of so many people denying their faith and coming into eternal destruction.

We can be smart about it, we can be shrewd about it. Talk about the ultimate “leverage”, that Jesus “gave Himself as a ransom for us”. Technically, it’s more in the sense of propitiation, He paid the penalty for us to be free and saved. But for us what He did really is OPM. That we have been given eternal promise and hope by what Jesus did. If you look at this as leveraging OPM so that we derive the return, that would be a great way to think about it. Not in a cynical way, but in a way that gives us a bright future of eternal bliss, and eternal life, what Jesus says is “life and life more abundant”. Paul is emphasizing prayer to his student, one of the men who he calls his son in Christ. What does he say about prayer? “ESV 1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

When we did the National Day of Prayer we had the mayor of a large city, other city officials. At the state house we had many legislators, some city officials, both parties who were very supportive. None of them got upset that we were praying for all our public officials, they seemed to be quite pleased to be prayed for like this. No cynical attempts, a very shrewd, positive outpouring that we wanted to pray for these men and women. That the more we supported them in prayer, they would lead our state, communities in ways that would be positive, and help us all to grow.

We seem to get a little prissy when we come to passages like this one. We’ve been dealing with passages like this all summer. Jesus isn’t some milquetoast, quaking, pious little fella, who doesn’t want to offend. He’s not concerned with who He offends. If someone takes offense from God the Son, the One who makes the rules, who created all of everything, that’s on them, it becomes their problem. If they are so obsessed with their way, their agenda, and they reject God and His agenda, and then they’re surprised they end in eternal condemnation? Who’s being dumb here? Doesn’t sound like a shrewd move on their part. These people love to tell you how smart they are, genuinely smart people do not try to outsmart people they know are smarter and will shut them down. Smart people are shrewd people, they leverage what they have in order to move in their lives. Jesus wants us to be shrewd and smart, for the Kingdom, for the eternal life and salvation of all those around us. We can go right down the street to the county seat, we can go right across the bridge to the state capital. We can leverage our power of prayer, using OPM, in this case God’s currency and show people what life genuinely is in Christ. Or we can keep being hang-dogs, follow along in the world’s agenda, then wonder why we’ve crashed and burned with the world. We had the shrewedest, smartest, most powerful of all in Jesus and instead of being smart and shrewd, threw Him over for the silly, naïve, greedy, grasping, immaturity of the world. I’m smart enough to know where I should be focused.  Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

My pictures at the Sermon on the Mount, Capernaum, Sea of Galilee

More or my pictures from Israel.

The top pictures are from the church where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. The picture with what looks like a stump/rock, is where Jesus was supposed to have sat when He gave the Sermon on the Mount.

The beach pictures are where Jesus told Peter; “Feed My sheep”.

The canvas over the foundation is what is thought to be Peter’s house in Capernaum. What looks like a church is the ruins of a Christian church built over a Jewish Synagogue in Capernaum, the synagogue that Jesus would have worshiped. In.

Finally the Jordan River at the site that John the Baptist conducted his baptisms.

Humble Loving Shepherd Ezekiel 34

[for the audio of this sermon click on the icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son T and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are glad that Jesus found you, one of His lost sheep said … AMEN!

Our preface to today’s readings notes; “True to our broken nature, we all wander away from our Shepherd’s provision, wrongly assuming we can find our own way … We all stand in need of rescue!” There’s tough guys who tell me they don’t need anyone to rescue them, blah, blah. I need rescuing we all do. We can tell ourselves how tough we are, we find our own way back which must be the right way ‘cuz gosh, it’s our way. I’ve had to pull a few out of harms way who thought they were know it all tough guys. There was these two guys, from New Jersey, dropped their anchor right in the middle of the channel going into the tank farm. They thought it would be a swell place to fish for flounder. We told them they needed to move, they shared their uninformed opinion with me that they were good where they are. Shortly into our chat we realized there was an oil tanker coming down the channel. An oil tanker can’t just stop. An oil tanker has to stay in the channel, Boston Harbor gets very shallow and the channel is really goofy. If that tanker goes out of the channel and aground, starts leaking oil, in a busy harbor, where the channel would be closed in order to do cleanup, disrupt the flow of oil coming into Boston. I and the other guys have been trying to get the anchor up and it’s obviously fouled on something and there’s no way I’m getting that up. At which point I now hear a danger signal, five short blasts, from the tanker, one of those things you know exactly what it is when you hear it. At that point I pull out my handy dandy Ginzo knife and over the protests of the boaters who are going to have to pay the boat rental for the line and the anchor, cut the line, get a line on the boat and drag it out of the channel before we are crushed like a bug.

They weren’t happy, sure they could get the anchor up, they didn’t like me, stupid, ugly, blah, blah. The fact was they drifted into something they had no idea about, put themselves in danger, and being the smart guys they were, sure they could take care of themselves. That tanker wasn’t going to stop for them, crushing them was the easier option then creating an oil spill and serious ecological damage. We chose to go our way, wander off as a sheep, because we want to, we should be free to and then we are in a serious problem and when the Good Shepherd, the Uber shepherd, comes and rescues you, sweeps you away from the danger bearing down on you at the last second. Instead of falling for Satan’s tricks, the Holy Spirit moves you out. Walther writes: “The Law calls: “You have distanced yourself from God by your sin and have become His enemy… Do you not see the abyss you are hurrying toward?” Then writes the Gospel says: “Be comforted you straying lamb. You are not lost. See, here is your Shepherd… Your Good Shepherd will bring you to His flock… protect you from all dangers and finally take you through the gates of death into His heavenly fold.”[1] Is that forgiveness? I’ve seen some startlingly ungrateful people in my life. People know they’re going the wrong way, they insist on sitting or moving right into that collision with that tanker that will simply crush them. It is up to the Holy Spirit to swoop in, He uses me as the under-shepherd to move in to save someone. Of course the under-shepherd has to listen to all the well that’s not sin! Why are you so judgmental! I can do what I want I’m forgiven! Just let me do what I want? Judge not! Those will be the same people who months, years, maybe weeks later will come back and why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you help me? Why did you let me wander off by myself? Too often pastors can’t win. Medical doctors have patients die, so do seel sorgers, soul doctors, healers as Luther called them, people who die spiritually. They wander off, no longer have the security of being in Christ’s church. They become either spiritually starved or malnourished. They become victimized by those who will prey on the defenseless like shysters who take people’s money for various cons.

Happily, quite often those who drift off or chase the Holy Spirit away, do come to realize they need Jesus. The entire time, Jesus is looking for the opportunity to step in just as He tells us in Luke. He will look for that 1out of 100 sheep. Talk about an act of incredible humility. The all-powerful creator of the entirety of the universe, all creation and what does He compare Himself to? A shepherd. The humblest of vocations in Israel. Shepherds couldn’t even testify in a court, they were not well regarded. For Jesus to compare Himself to a humble, even a little disreputable, is a stunning testament to what Jesus does for us. If He makes a point of comparing Himself to a shepherd to emphasize that He cares for us and wants to protect us, often from ourselves, is a striking comment on how much Jesus wants to do for us.

Having said that, if we are spitting in Jesus’ eye by rejecting Him, and yes we will be forgiven, when we … offer sincere repentance. The Greek word is meta,noia we understand repentance to mean realizing we’ve gone astray, we have offended Jesus, that we have sinned. The Greek word literally means: a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or something he has done.” Think of it as ok, I’m sorry, I was wrong it literally means I went the wrong way, I’m going in a direction that I shouldn’t be going. We can think of it as going away from Jesus and going towards what we know is destructive in the world. What does Jesus do when we reject Him, ignore, walk away from Him? The great Creator of everything who could just as easily be shaming us, demanding we come crawling back to Him on our hands and knees begging for forgiveness. He is actually out looking for us, He knows we’ve gone the “wrong way”, wandered off from what we should be and where we should be in Him, the Greek understanding of “going the wrong way”. He wants us back and will do what is necessary to get us back. But we have to be repentant. Jesus wants to forgive us and is not interested in us groveling, but in order to forgive, he who needs forgiveness needs to be repentant, ask for forgiveness. As early as Ezekiel, God tells us He has every intention of doing whatever He can to save us from ourselves, to make us righteous for Him. But He’s not taking us back with the attitude that it’s all about me and God’s just going to have to get with my plan. We need to recognize that what God wants for us is what is best for us. That He wants us to have “life and life more abundant”, where we have life more destructive. We think we’re all that, and have our way in whatever we want. Usually our way is because we want to get back at someone, we want our idols- what’s really important to us – not Jesus, but money, power, prestige, sex, drugs, alcohol, possessions, anything but Jesus because we’re entitled. Yet Jesus waits to give you what we need; hope, promise, true eternal life in Him. In the meantime He promises to provide for us, maybe not as much as we want or as fast as we want, but still what we truly need.

God is telling Ezekiel, 500 years before Jesus: “I will seek the lost and I will bring back the strayed and I will bind up the injured and I will strengthen the weak.” God is saying I will do the heavy lifting, whatever it takes in to make sure My people don’t destroy themselves. But He is also making it clear He is not going to tolerate our sin, selfishness, our attitudes that cause death, destruction, depression, lack of hope, and the things that we see around us. He adds “… and the fat and the strong I will destroy”. That is those people who think that it’s all about them. I have plenty, all I need, I’m nice and comfy or the usual blah, you hear today, I’m strong enough, I don’t have to depend on anyone else, until reality catches up with them and realize they need God or they fall and destroy themselves. Yet our humble, loving, but righteous God will go and look for us, do whatever is needed. But if we are still in our pride and strength, after awhile God lets us have our way, which is death and destruction. God moves in His plan with His people. Those sheep who insist on wandering away from Him? He will stop running after. Jesus says; “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents…” I have no doubt that when one sinner repents and is carried back to the sheepfold by God that the cheering and applause in heaven is deafening. The thrill of one soul coming home to know true life. The one who resists and rebels and insists on his own way, and we see it all around us has only one result, death, destruction and an eternity of misery. You can let the Great Shepherd take you home and give you true life or you can keep on running your own game and know that at some point it will collapse around you and you have no one to blame but yourself. God was working overtime for you and you thumbed your nose at God, told Him to take a hike. Let’s be real, how do you think that course of action will play out?

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] CFW Walther “God Grant It, devotionals” pp 520-521

We are all runaways from God Philemon

[for the audio of this sermon click on the icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have wanted to run away from God said … AMEN!

People have, incorrectly, used the Bible to justify slavery especially in the United States. Paul is not justifying or condemning slavery, simply as a fact that Onesimus is, a slave. There were serious conditions under the Roman Empire dealing with slaves. There were only two classes in the Roman Empire, remember this is the secular, the worldly, the pagan empire that kept slaves, and treat them harshly. The Romans kept tight control of the slaves, there were a lot of slaves in Rome one estimate up to 350,000 slaves in Rome of a total population of 900,000. There were slave revolts in Rome. The slave population was able-bodied enough that if it organized effectively would have overwhelmed the free Romans. The army wasn’t allowed in Rome, you might know the phrase “crossing the Rubicon”. In 49 BC Julius Caesar violated Roman law by bringing his legion into Rome, when he crossed the Rubicon he intended to overthrow the government of Rome, the Roman Senate and establish himself as ruler, eventually emperor of Rome. The Roman army was kept out of Rome in order to prevent future coups. But this left the free Roman population vulnerable to slave rebellion and treated slaves harshly for the slightest infractions. Remember the movie Spartacus crosses of the crucified stretched for miles on the road into Rome. This was not an unusual sight. Onesimus stole money from his master and ran away from home in Colosse to Rome and either to Paul, or to look for him. The point is that regardless of what Paul thought about slavery he knew Onesimus was in grave danger. There were “slave-catchers”, what we would think as bounty hunters. If they caught Onesimus it would not go well. They would probably have returned him to Philemon for a bounty, but they would have probably would have worked him over and Philemon might have decided it wasn’t worth it for him and left the slave-catchers to decide what to do with Onesimus which probably wouldn’t have been nice. How Paul felt about slavery didn’t really enter into the equation. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon more to protect Onesimus and go by the numbers and also be faithful to a Christian brother. Philemon was probably rather wealthy, could have been bishop of Colosse at the time, probably held church in his house. Matthew Henry writes: “The apostles had under Christ great power in the church over the ordinary ministers, as well as the members of it…; they might require of them what was fit, and were …to be obeyed, which Philemon should consider. This was a matter within … the apostle’s power to require,,,,” Paul was certainly recognized as an apostle of Christ, apostle meaning “sent one, one who is sent to represent another”. In Paul’s interactions at Antioch and the Jerusalem council no one in the church disputed that Paul was one sent by Christ. Who did Paul meet on the Damascus road? Paul claims he was taken to the third level of heaven and by his acts and knowledge proved it. Paul was in a Roman prison, he had nothing, some Christians in Rome might have provided for him in prison, but how reliable was probably in question. With Onesimus, Paul had someone who would be there to care for his needs. So Paul could have put it to Philemon saying “the guy who was useless to you, is very useful to me, I will pay his debt, then send him to me.  Paul could do that and would have been within his rights to do that. He certainly had extreme need, and it would not have been a hardship for Philemon.

As Christians we can get an attitude, make up our mind; I’m entitled to whatever I want, I should be able to take because I’m under grace and everyone, from the minister through the church should hand over or perform the way I want them to. If we have sixty people is it realistic to think all sixty should get their way? That is why we have doctrine. Dr Luther along with some of the greatest minds from the sixteenth century to the present wrote doctrine to unite us as Lutherans and make it clear what we genuinely believed as a church. We have Christians who feel their ideas and visions of what the church should be are right and the church should accept that and move along. We have no right to make demands of the church and vice versa. If you are not sufficiently moved by the Holy Spirit to serve, to give, to understand, to accept, be unified, you certainly don’t have to. However, if, as Philemon seems to have realized with Paul and Onesimus, regardless of his opinion, or his rights, there was a greater need. I think that the Holy Spirit’s finger prints are all over this pericope. It’s about 2100 kilometers from Colosse where Onesimus started out, to travel to Rome, about 1300 miles. Even in today’s world, most of us don’t just wander somewhere, 1300 miles at a whim. The Holy Spirit had to be guiding this entire scenario, assuring Onesimus got where he was going, that he found Paul, that Paul accepted him, Paul appealed to Philemon as he and Onesimus are brothers in Christ, that letter would get to Philemon and would survive to today. We have to put our individual preferences and priorities beneath the best interests of another brother or sister and to the church as a whole. Paul sums up: “ESV Philemon 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother- especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” Philemon should see Onesimus as more than property, he should see him as a brother in Jesus. That is where we need to be in relationship with each other and in Jesus. We’re not just members of a group that loosely talks about things in the Bible. That through sacrifice, through grace, through our works, and because ultimately we all benefit from the same gifts of grace in Christ and justified by our faith in Him, that we are bound together for the best interests of Christ, of His Church and those of us who are in the Body of Christ. That we are beloved brothers and sisters in Jesus. That our priority is always building our relationship with Jesus’ church and His people and how that church brings Christ into the world. That we remember who we are in the world, that we are Christ’s and His agenda. Jesus says in our Gospel reading that it is our love for Him that takes precedence over everything, our parents, siblings, children, even ourselves. If we don’t take our cross, the things God has given us to deal with in life. Then we are not His, we cannot be disciples of Jesus. Many claim there is a middle choice, we can kind of make it up on our own and chose our own way. I’ve never had anyone explain to me what that way is. I know, if it’s not in Christ, it is sad, it is deadly, a grim if not painful eternity. There is only one way, one hope and one baptism that gives us new life in Christ. That baptism gives us the hope of the true life in the eternal resurrection of Christ which only happens in our forgiveness by our completely just and holy God who forgives all our sins in that sacrifice of Christ. It is how we are led in the Holy Spirit, true life in the life of the Church, His true Body and Blood that saves us. All can only be efficacious if it is truly in Christ and His Church.

Tradition says Philemon sent Onesimus back to Paul. Philemon might have been a bishop at the time of this letter, Onesimus becames a bishop. Ignatius writes the slave Onesimus became the Bishop of Ephesus succeeding another of Paul’s beloved sons, Timothy. “Later, as Saint Jerome and other Fathers testify, he became an ardent preacher of the Gospel and a bishop… He was cruelly tortured in Rome, for eighteen days, by a governor of that city, infuriated by his preaching on the merit of celibacy. His legs and thighs were broken with bludgeons, and he was then stoned to death. His martyrdom occurred under Domitian in the year 95.”[1] I believe one of the reasons they were elevated to these positions was they both submitted to the authority of their minister, Paul the Apostle, the sent one who based on their obedience in Christ and the furtherance of the church, recommended both of them for further leadership that the need of their faithful service to the church through this event with Paul moved them to be leaders in Christ’s church by the Holy Spirit. All of this we read 2,000 years later, because three men stepped up to serve each other and the church and to put their own agenda aside.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] https://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_onesimus.html

Very few pass through the narrow gate of Jesus.Luke 13

 

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who strive to go through the “narrow gate”, said… AMEN!

Last week we talked about Jesus bearing the sword, He said, I did not come to bring peace but division. Jesus says that as He brings, discipline and fruits, He is causing division. The world is not going to accept what Jesus brings. We in the world want it our way, and face it, if you have 500 people, you are going to have 500 my ways. With Jesus there is one way; “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” So when Jesus talks about a “narrow gate” He’s saying that it’s going to be His way, it’s not going to be any other way. The obfuscation, confusion, syncretism people try to create, is entirely theirs and has nothing to do with Jesus, because of this, it is those around us who create the division. Even in the church there is division, but not when we talk about the fundamental principles of the Christian faith; who Jesus is, that He was sacrificed, crucified as the perfect penalty for the sins that we have all committed against a totally just and holy God. A penalty had to be paid, Jesus paid th penalty. His sacrifice, what He did for us, He has paid for us /redeemed us, that God has saved us by the payment of sin through Jesus He is the propitiatory, complete payment of our sin. That is the narrow way, the narrow gate.

Big deal! A narrow gate, so? Just take us a little longer to get through the gate, sort of the TSA of the judgment. That’s not what that really means. In Jesus’ time, after the sheep had been grazing out in open fields during the day, the shepherd would gather the sheep together and herd them into a pen. That way sheep couldn’t wander off while the shepherd slept, and was less likely for wild animals to attack any of the sheep. The gate to that pen would be narrow. In order for the shepherd to react quickly and be an obstacle to a wild animal, the gate to that pen would be narrow enough that he would effectively close that gate with his own body. At night, the shepherd would arrange himself to lie across the sheep pen gate to sleep during the night. The sheep wouldn’t try to step over him and if a wild animal was trying to get in, it would have to step over the shepherd, which would wake the shepherd up and give him a chance to defend the sheep.

Who do you think Jesus is saying is the shepherd who has His body across that narrow entrance into the sheep pen? Gives more meaning to Jesus’ quote in John 14:6: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” If you are intended to be in that sheep pen, if you are led into that pen in the safety and salvation of Jesus, there will be no question that is where you belong. That you are under the protection of Jesus. That you have been guided by Him into eternal life. You may still be here on earth, but Jesus is making sure that there is no doubt that you are a sheep of His flock. Ron Graham writes: “The main idea is that only the shepherd has a full commitment to the sheep, and consequently has their full trust. The good shepherd will even lay down his life for the sheep, so much does he care about them.”[1] Jesus says in: “ESV John 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” We grow in our trust and faith of Jesus and each other by knowing Him better. We are all His sheep, we need to know that the shepherd and the sheep can all be trusted. Certainly we can trust those who show us they are in Jesus. Those who know the Shepherd are going to know the sheep in the shepherd. Those are the sheep that are in the “fold”, the enclosed space of His love and protection. Being in that sheepfold doesn’t guarantee that we won’t be dinged on occasion, we certainly will, maybe even more than those who do not know Jesus. But it’s not how many of us, but who of us truly know the shepherd.

It’s pointed out that Jesus isn’t really answering the question. Well ya, why? It’s kind of the wrong question, isn’t it? Why would you or I really be concerned about how many are saved? I can be faithful in my witness, keep pushing back on people who want to push wrongheaded opinions on me, I can keep everyone I know who is not in Jesus in prayer, there are people I’ve been keeping in prayer for years that they would come to know Christ. I want those people to be saved, to be with them in the eternal resurrection. Wouldn’t I want to be around the people I was so close to in life, be with them in the eternal resurrection? But we all know that what you or I want is not the determinant factor. Jesus knows who is saved, does that mean that one of those people can’t reject Jesus and His salvation? Sure! Jesus gave them the opportunity to condemn themselves. Some call that “free-will”. It’s not, it’s self-condemnation, you can commit physical and /or spiritual suicide, but that’s not a “choice”, that is eternal condemnation. It’s certainly not a rational “choice”.

Cyril of Alexander writes: “To enter the narrow gate requires a steadfast faith and a spotless morality. The wide door is reserved for those who ignore the law and demonstrate this by their sinful behavior.” How many have a “spotless morality”, if you’re in Jesus you do. For those who basically have the “antinomian” attitude, I can thumb my nose at Jesus, the Law doesn’t really matter, do what I want because Jesus loves me and forgives me!? “SV John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” I don’t understand how someone can claim to be saved, decide they’re going to stay out of the sheepfold in their life, and basically tell Jesus when I’m ready I will get it together and be in the sheepfold. At what point does Jesus decide: “you don’t love me because you don’t obey me”, “I can’t trust you as part of my flock because you reject being part of the flock”, …

The epistle lesson in Hebrews: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Heb 12:4) Sound a little harsh, not what you expected? Do you usually discipline the neighbor’s children, scold the child screaming on the airplane or the mall? They’re not yours, it’s not up to you to scold them. If it’s your child? Yeah you do. That’s a good thing, if that’s true and we know we’re getting scolded or disciplined by God, what does that mean? We are God’s, we are His sheep, we are disciplined in our salvation, we are Christ’s in our fruits and we are given access through the narrow gate. The rest of the passage might seem “harsh”, but Jesus is saying, you can’t run your own game over and over disregarding Jesus and then expect to knock at the door and expect the owner of the house to rush down and throw that door open to you. You don’t know His voice, Jesus said strive to enter the narrow way. But in your life what have you done? Gone down the main boulevard with everyone else who is much more interested in their own agenda then salvation in Jesus and then later on show up at the door, go to the protection of the sheepfold and expect the door thrown wide open to you? Just doesn’t make sense. You expect sense and understanding from God and then treat him senselessly and expect him to then act senselessly and rush down to open the door for you? God’s not stupid, He’s not going to play the game. He gives us an immense amount of mercy and grace, but that doesn’t mean He gives license, He’s not an enabler and it’s certainly not your “striving to enter the narrow door.” You want the wide door and the world’s agenda and to ignore Jesus. To think the wide way is supposed to lead to the protection of eternal life in Jesus completely ignores what Jesus has told us right here. The wide way, wide gate Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14; “…wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it.” You have to get into that sheepfold over Jesus’ Body or over one of the walls. Is Jesus laying at that entrance for no reason, just to welcome you despite that He says that few are allowed through that door? Spending a life ignoring His laws, His voice, and then expect to stand outside that door knocking and receive an open arms welcome? What does Jesus say: “…I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…” Jesus’ words not mine. Not a place you want to end up in, we want the safety and comfort of the sheep pen, but we have to make sure we’re permitted in the narrow gate at the leading of our Lord. Do some journaling this week and write about what that “narrow way” is, who do we know not interested in the narrow way?

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] https://www.simplybible.com/f882-shepherd-sheepfold-parables.htm

[for the audio of this sermon click on the icon]