September 9, 2007: Christian Competition?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we know that You have come to save our souls. We know that You have done everything to insure our heavenly future. And for that we thank You. But, since we still live in this world of doubt, we often take its weight upon us. We apply its principles to our relationship with You. And then human doubt begins to undermine our Christian confidence. Lord, today resolve that conflict in our minds by centering our thoughts on You, alone. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SAVIOR OF SOULS!

TEXT: Luke 13: 22-30

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

Being human means being conflicted. Think about it. We’re mortal humans who possess an immortal soul.—There’s a source of conflict. We’re American citizens who owe allegiance to our nation, but we also belong to families. And if forced to choose between the two, usually our family ties would win out.—There’s another source of conflict. Our jobs take time away from our children. But we have to provide for them.—Another conflict. Money is needed to survive. But money doesn’t buy true happiness. In fact, often it compounds our troubles.—Still another conflict. Whoever said: “Life ain’t easy,” had it right, didn’t they?

In the religious realm, our human side struggles with the reality of our pride, or take credit attitude, alongside God’s grace, or: give Him all the glory approach. Is the common human adage that: as long as you try to be a good person, God will reward you, is that correct? Or, is Christ correct when He caused Paul to write: “By grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not from yourselves, it is a gift from God, not of works, so that no one can boast.”?

Today Christ addresses this inner/often outer conflict. And we’re going to examine it a bit more in depth. So,

WHICH COUNTRY DO YOU LIVE IN—SPECULATION OR CERTAINTY?
I

There’s a reason that the 1st commandment is first. That reason being: all humans want to shape and mold God to conform to their image of how He should be and how He should act. Our pride causes us to super-impose our views about life unto God Almighty. And one of the most insidious ways we do that is to subscribe to the common view that “good, moral people” will obviously go to heaven. It is the common view that: I’m a good person because I work hard, don’t steal (at least blatantly), don’t sleep around, don’t use really bad language, am nice to kids and animals, and so God should reward me with glory because that’s what I’d do if I were Him! Folks, that is pure, human speculation. And it is the basis behind the question posed to Jesus in our lesson when some people asked Him: “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

Then, as now, there were those who were intrigued by Christ, but still clung to their prideful views of how He should act and how He should treat them. They were attempting, like many today, to hedge their bets, to straddle the fence between total allegiance to Him and His ways and their own human notions about life. Jesus comes down hard on them. “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 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.’ Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers.’”
Allegiance to Christ is an all or nothing proposition. Merely hanging out with Christ and having a nominal relationship with Him isn’t enough to insure heaven. He wants your heart, your mind, your soul. After all, He saved all of you with His blood and righteousness on the cross. The broad door is really no door at all. He’s not a God of speculation, but certainty. He’s not a God Who is content with a few good intentions, but a God Who demands total perfection. And the door of perfectibility is extremely narrow. It is built upon His grace, allegiance to His perfect love for lost sinners.

II

When judgment day arrives, when He finally closes the door to heaven once for all time, human religious speculation will give way to absolute certainty. That’s the import of His final words. “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed, there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

What country are you living in?—Speculation or certainty? Well, Jesus lives in perfect certainty. He, not us, has ordained how He will save souls from every point of the compass. He will do it by grace alone. Grace, which He purchased and won on a cross, and now gives to us through the gift of faith. God’s way of saving us is really quite wonderful when you think about it. He doesn’t play favorites. He doesn’t look at certain human achievements and then overlook the lack of others. He doesn’t weigh percentages. He simply says that His love for you and His forgiveness won for you is the only thing that matters. Human speculation doesn’t matter. No, only the certainty of His love matters.

One final thought. That last little sentence about the first and last being included into heaven is also a comforting one. In this world everyone wants to be first. It’s a point of honor for us, isn’t it? But God doesn’t use a human ranking system. He’s divine. He’s loving. And His Godly love extends to all His faithful believers in the exact same way. Think of a cruise ship that you’re on which is sinking. There is only one serviceable lifeboat. Most passengers are blissfully walking around the deck speculating when the Coast Guard will arrive, or talking about how unsinkable the ship is due to its safety features, or just living in denial. But a few begin to board the lifeboat. The first one on board is grateful, so is the 2nd and 3rd. But are they any more grateful than the final passenger who boards that small lifeboat? And when the giant ship sinks and they are saved, aren’t all equally happy and relieved? Well, right now you and I live in two countries, one of speculation and one of certainty. We can walk with the multitudes through the broad checkpoint, or go through the narrow one. So, who will you trust to lead the way?—Christ, or the prideful masses living in speculative delusion? Amen