Thursday 29 November 2012

I want to turn with you to the 21st verse of the 7th Chapter of Matthew’s gospel. Jesus said, ‘not everyone who calls me Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven’.
In every action of life we are confronted with a choice, where we must make a decision to do one thing or another. In this passage, which comes at the end of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is confronting us with a hard or an easy way. Here we find Jesus talking to His disciples and to a great crowd of people gathered on a mountain. He is telling them what it means to be a follower of Him, the way they are to live, and what would be expected of a Christian.

He laid out clearly that we have to make a choice which will mean commitment on our part, which still applies to us in our time. Such commitment will make demands that many people will not be prepared to accept. He leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind what is required.

Jesus taught there are two gates, two roads,two masters, and two destinies, heaven and hell. The choice we make will form us into two classes. There are only two roads, and this is quite definitive, no third way. This is now very unpopular and generally not liked or approved as it is seen as being too restrictive, too bigoted and intolerant.

We have come to a state in this country now where a Christian person may not express a personal view based on sincere religious belief if it might offend someone or even seem to offend someone. This does not apply apparently to other faith speakers.

In the current debate regarding same sex marriage, any person expressing a view against that is deemed to be bigoted and homophobic, even though personal sexuality is not entering into the discussion. Similarly with the question of women bishops, to oppose is to be sexist and misogynist.

But Jesus says we must be prepared to enter through the narrow gate and on to the narrow road. It is like coming to a crossroads with each road going in the opposite direction. On the broad road you enter by a wide gate and there is plenty of room with plenty of people on it. On this road there are no restrictions and you can do your own thing. There will even be men and women on it who were ordinarily nice and decent people; some may have considered themselves to be Christians even if that might have overstated the fact.

Whenever a controversial subject arises regarding the Christian faith, such as in fact women bishops or infant baptism, the press commentators get very emotional and suggest as long as you are honest and sincere you are a full blown Christian with your place in heaven secure.

In all the thousands of funerals I have taken over the years, in every case there has never been any doubt that the deceased is in heaven irrespective of the manner of living. We see the paradox when a relative tells in admiring tones of all the dubious activities the deceased got up to.

Others say if you just follow your conscience you’ll be fine, but consciences become dulled and hardened. Taking the lead from politicians, people can look you in the eye and lie without any qualm of conscience.

We are reminded of the superficiality of commitment in our own time. Less than 10% of people think God worthy of one hour per week to visit a Church. Yet if you were to ask people their religion, the vast majority would reply C of E and seriously consider they were Christians. They would be mortally offended if you suggested otherwise. Yet very few people seem bothered to think of Jesus, even less to do anything about it.

It is easy to say ‘I am a Christian; the popular view is that if you are not an atheist or a member of another faith, you are a fully fledged Christian. So there will be room enough for all who do not wish to make a positive commitment to follow Christ.

Jesus said, ‘no one can come to the Father except through me. I am the only way’. All who enter through the narrow road, which Jesus wants us to take, must be prepared to accept what He says, however much it is deemed as being non correct in many Churches. The road is narrow because it is the way of truth, holiness and righteousness.

God has given us the ability and free will to choose and lets you do so. We have to think of our eternal destiny, remembering one of these roads leads to destruction the other to life with Jesus.

Jesus went to warn of false prophets which have always been a problem, no more so than today. We have sadly a great divide on issues, where people are placing their own ambitions and preferences before the wider interests of the Church, and the people outside the Church are naturally confused. If we in the Church cannot agree with what Scripture says, we cannot expect those outside to believe or be interested in us. The Bible loses all credibility and so do we.

Neither can the narrow road be pursued if we are motivated by a desire to please society. We are allowing some to try and create a secular agenda within thee Church. True disciples of Jesus Christ will not play to the galleries nor form values according to the passing approval of people in general. God’s approval is all that matters.

It can be hard to be a Christian in this country at the present time and many find the going too hard and strenuous and the opposition oppressive. Any open expression of our faith is likely to lead to suspension or dismissal from work. There is so much harassment of Christians which is not reported here and you have to listen to the American news channels to discover what is going on in this country.

Nearly 70 years ago brave young men took to the skies to fight the Battle of Britain against a ruthless foe. Today, as Christians, we need to fight the battle for Britain, against equally ruthless foes who want to drive Christianity out of public life and turn it into a private cult. We are like fighters in enemy occupied territory.

The government has sold out to the liberal lobby and has taken legal powers to prevent Christians from opting out of that which contravenes their beliefs. How Jesus would weep over Britain today as He did over Jerusalem, as He sees the obstacles put in our way.

As Christians we must always seek to glorify the Lord in our ways and speech. Church members can let the Lord down if things don’t please them. We find people walking out of Church if someone says something they disagree with, or proposes something different with which they disagree, or if they are not given the deference they feel due. There is no subject, which should be beyond Christians to resolve amicably.

You may have read of the Vicar and Curate who gave a very literal exposition of Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians on the duties of husbands and wives, a little adventurous and imprudent for Sevenoaks perhaps. Rather than enter into a discussion with the Vicar, a number of women walked out taking their direct debits with them. Such action falls from grace and only tends to drag Christianity through the mud.

Jesus warns us that there must be a clear acceptance of His teaching and total obedience to it. Just to recite a creed and attend Church is not enough. We honour Jesus by calling Him Lord and sing hymns expressive of our devotion to Him. The lips that sing His praise should never be the lips that start trouble.

No comments:

Post a Comment