If You See a Crowd

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

Daniel and I were invited to a baseball game this past summer. It was a scorching 100-plus degree day, and after finding our seats, I left Daniel and went to buy 2 Cokes. I got in a line that looked like it led to the refreshments. About 10 minutes later I realized I was in a line for the bathrooms.

No one is ever born a Christian, raised a Christian, or becomes a Christian by accident. Eternal life is found and only a few ever find it.

Think a moment about 3 of Christ’s words in Matthew 7:13-14: narrow, difficult, and few. Those are stark words.

More than 8 of 10 Americans claim to be Christians. We see churches filled with people on Sunday morning, some by tens of thousands of people. I heard a pastor say he could get anyone saved in just 10 minutes. Anyone.

How does this match those 3 words of Jesus: narrow, difficult, few?

Salvation isn’t for those desiring an easy entrance into Heaven while walking their own pathway. Christianity isn’t for those looking for health, wealth, and a prosperous life here on Earth. Jesus isn’t an add-on to our lives; rather, He makes all things new. Christ Jesus is for those who are spiritually helpless, who mourn over their sin, and hunger and thirst after a righteousness only He provides (Mt 5:3, 4, 6).

God’s way of salvation is quite simple: trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sin.

There are many people on the broad and easy road, yet God’s way of salvation is so narrow and difficult that only a few ever find the Gate. So if you see a crowd, you’re probably on the wrong road.

Many are called; but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14).

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The Ark of His Testimony

Revelation 11 begins with a scene from the earthly temple of God and moves to the temple of God … in Heaven where John sees the ark of His covenant. In the heavenly temple, the ark of His covenant is a reminder that God’s promise of salvation isn’t about us, what we deserve, or our religious rituals. Salvation is about the covenant promise God made and fulfilled in Himself.

The word ark means chest or container used to store something precious.

God had Noah build an ark. Into that ark God sent two of every kind of animal with Noah with his family. Of special note is Genesis 7:16. When the ark was finished, the Bible says those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him, and the Lord shut him in. The Lord shut Noah, who was precious to Him, into the safety of the ark.

About 900 years later, God had Moses build a small box known as the ark of the covenant or the ark of the testimony. The ark symbolized God’s presence among His earthly people Israel (Num 10:35, 36). Once a year the Jewish high priest sprinkled sacrificial blood on the ark to symbolize God’s covering of their sins (Lev 16:2-16).

Inside this ark were three precious symbols of God’s covenant: the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments revealing the will of God, Aaron’s dead walking stick that came back to life and budded, and a jar of bread from Heaven called manna. None of these symbols were man-made. God made them and they testified of Him.

Today we understand that the ark of the covenant symbolized Jesus, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9) and He testifies to the character of the invisible Father (Jn 1:14, 18).

As our Prophet, Jesus perfectly delivered and fulfilled the Word of God that we break (Mt 5:17). Our our Priest, He didn’t offer a sacrifice but gave Himself as a Sacrifice, His blood taking away our sins, then was resurrected to forever minister on our behalf (Heb 4:14-15; 7:24-25). As our King, He provides for us eternal life, feeding us with Himself, the Bread of Heaven (Jn 6:32-35).

Jesus the Nazarene

word-became-fleshAnd the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

The more we ponder it, the more mysterious and marvelous the Incarnation becomes; the fact that the eternal Second Person of the Godhead became fully human and yet remained fully God.

The Son of God took on mortal human flesh and became subject to all the same things you and I are subject to. He sneezed and coughed. He got hungry and had to relieve Himself. He got tired and slept and then cried when death touched a friend. He got headaches and an upset stomach. Every morning He got up, washed His face, combed His hair, then put His hand to the hammer in Joseph’s carpentry shop.

As a Man, Jesus got sick and was subject to death. The eternal Son of God could die – and He did! Three days later, what was mortal was swallowed up by immortality in the resurrection.

Today that same resurrected Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father in Heaven. As you read these words, the incarnate God is praying in the flesh for you (Rom 8:34).

How could God become Man? How can He, right now, be in the flesh? Yet this is exactly what the Bible says. In all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in the things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18).

We are left to wonder at the mystery of His Majesty and stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene.

Keeping Busy with Religion

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! (Luke 13:34).

The Biblical history of Israel reveals a startling truth: they killed the messengers God sent to them.

The murder of the Jewish prophets wasn’t by heathen immigrants or foreign armies, but by those busily following the Old Testament law of Moses.

Every day the Jews were offering their animal sacrifices by the thousands in the temple. They were diligent to pay their tithes – even of their salt and spices. They prayed many times a day. They memorized large sections of the Scriptures and even wore Bible verses tied to their arms and foreheads. They claimed to be devoted followers of God and as they were busy being religious they rejected the Word of God and killed His messengers. Their devotion was outward for show and had no inward reality. Jesus said that they rejected God.

False religion always hides among true godliness.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will  … have a form of godliness but deny its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1, 5).

Feelings – A Poem by Martin Luther

 

 

 

 

Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God –
Naught else is worth believing.

Though all my heart should feel condemned
For want of some sweet token,
There is One greater than my heart
Whose Word cannot be broken.

I’ll trust in God’s unchanging Word
‘Til soul and body sever,
For, though all things shall pass away,
His Word shall stand forever!

― Martin Luther

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper (Psalm 1:1-3).

A Shooting Star

My grandfather warned me of shooting stars in the church. Beware of shooting stars. As quickly as they appear they burn out. 

A shooting star is a small, rapidly moving meteor. As it enters Earth’s atmosphere, friction causes it to burn, leaving a blazing trail of rock, dust, and ice behind it. When there is nothing left to burn, it vanishes.

Many pastors give special recognition to new converts. They are allowed to testify, or because of their eagerness to be involved, given a part in the work of ministry. Sometimes these new converts are elevated because they are seeking attention; sometimes it’s the pride of the pastor desiring to be recognized for leading someone one Christ. Either way, the problem created is two-fold.

First, it is impossible to know that someone has been born again until that person’s faith has been tested. Anything else is a dead confession or profession. No matter what someone professes, Faith without works is dead (James 2:20).

Jesus warned of the deceptiveness of counterfeit converts in a parable. He said, He hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Others hear the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he become unfruitful (Matthew 13:20-22). Salvation is marked by the growth and increase of Christian virtues (Mt 13:23; 2 Pet 1:3-11).

Second, being recognized so quickly creates a false assurance in that person. He believes he’s saved, after all the pastor said so. When faith proves to be counterfeit after being paraded in the church, it causes other believers to stumble.

How do you know true regeneration? Not because you repeated a prayer, joined a church, were baptized in water, or accepted Jesus in your heart. You know you are born again because the Holy Spirit is actively producing and increasing the fruits of Christ-likeness in you. That is something proven only by the dual tests of time and trials.

Don’t create shooting stars which are here today but burn up and disappear tomorrow.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7).

Blind Spots

By pride comes only contention, but with the well-advised is wisdom (Proverbs 13:10).

One of the first lessons of driving a car is to watch your blind spots. These are areas where because of the design of the car, you can’t see in certain areas around you. Every car has them and when driving a car that is new to you, you have to beware of.

In my car, when I’m making a lane change, after I check my mirrors, I always turn and look behind me. I know the blind spots in my car.

You and I have blind spots too. Areas where we don’t – or maybe can’t – always see. The thing about personal blind spots, is that very often we are blind to areas in ourselves. We might have great perceptions of others, but we can’t see ourselves clearly. Self is always going to be your greatest blind spot.

Personal blind spots are interesting because they reveal our pride.

How do you know if you’re proud? By the way you react when someone pops into your blind spot.

When someone points out a possible area of sin, a blind spot, how you respond reveals either pride or humility in you.

A short time after Kim and I married, she said a certain aspect of my driving frightened her. If I’d had a policeman in the car with me, would I be driving the same way?

What did I do? Get angry? Defend myself by saying I’m not breaking the law? Justify myself by saying everyone does it? Excuse myself because I’ve been driving 35 years? Strike back with, “You don’t trust me! Besides, when you drive you …”?

Pride angrily defends ourselves, justifies ourselves, excuses ourselves, or strikes back to make the other person look as bad as we feel.

What if Kim was totally wrong in pointed out what she saw as a blind spot?

Whether Kim was right or wrong wasn’t important. Because I loved her, I didn’t want to scare her. So I apologized for frightening her and worked at changing my driving habit.

The Subtlety of Satan

Satan seldom approaches with temptation or false doctrines dressed as the Lord of Darkness (Gen 3:1; 2 Cor 11:3-4, 13-15). If he came this way, we’d recognize and avoid him each time, but he is much more subtle and deceptive than that.

When I was a boy, there was a television program each week called Lost in Space. It was the story of a space-travelling family whose ship had been thrown off course and they were … lost in space. Each week, the Robinson family worked to get back to Earth, but there was always an evil foe, sometimes within their own spaceship and from among their own friends, scheming and manipulating to keep them lost.

This is exactly how Satan works. He doesn’t come offering a blatant lie smelling of rottenness and oozing with evil. He brings the lie shaped according to the desires of our own hearts, and packaged in a pleasing bright-colored wrapping with a nicely tied bow on top.

How can we know truth from error? We must be so familiar with the truth that we know error when we hear it; we may not know exactly what the problem is, but we know there’s a problem. Truth is determined and defined by the Word of God because God is truth (Jn 14:6Rom 3:4).

Jesus prayed to the Father, Thy Word is truth (John 17:17).

Enduring Hardship

We are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5).

Nothing reveals the heart of a person faster or more accurately than trouble. People are often willing to follow an idea or a leader as long as it’s made easy and doesn’t cost anything personally. Trouble and temptation weed out those who are only emotional or mere intellectual followers (Mt 13:20-22).

Even today there are many false followers of Jesus. They appear by all outward scrutiny to be Christians, but in reality are Christian in name only and not from a changed, born-again heart. These people are along for the ride because it’s culturally popular, it satisfies a personal longing, or it fulfills a tradition. Trouble or temptation strikes and they abandon their drummed up faith.

Christian faith, however, doesn’t fail when trouble rises. Saving faith is a gift from God (Eph 2:8-9). The Christian doesn’t endure hardship because he is strong, but because he is held and kept by a strong Saviour.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).