Saturday 17 June 2017

I want to turn with you this morning 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. He makes uncompromising and tough demands of commitment, which many people cannot take, and are not prepared to commit.

Then as now, some are ready to listen and walk with Him, learning to depend on Him, whilst others are just occasional supporters. Here we find Jesus talking to His disciples and to a great crowd of people gathered on a mountain. He is preaching to them describing the character for Christians and the rules by which they are to live. He turns to teach about salvation.

He taught there are two gates, to two roads, and two masters, oneself and Christ. He said there are two destinies, heaven and hell and divided people into two classes. There are only two roads, no third, no alternative. This is not generally liked as it is seen as being too restrictive, too bigoted and intolerant, and we don’t like to be judged. 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. This does not apply apparently to other faith speakers.

Yet in spite of all this, Jesus says we must enter through the narrow gate. So let us look at the choice we face and consider honestly which road each of us is on and to where heading.

It is like coming to a crossroads each road going in the opposite direction. On the broad road you enter by a wide gate and the road is spacious, there is plenty of room on it and there are plenty of people on it. It is the road of self-gratification without any restrictions. There are even otherwise decent men and women on it, so many claiming to be Christians albeit without due cause. It is widely assumed, and strongly encouraged by the secular press, that if you are honest and sincere you will go to heaven.

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.

You see the Bible is all about commitment. 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.
Easy to profess being a Christian.
Easy to say I read the Bible.
95% of the population today believe as long as you are honest, kind and helpful to others and do no harm, you are a fully fledged Christian

With its freedom of self expression the broad road attracts many.

As we come to the narrow gate leading to the narrow road, which Jesus wants us to take but says only few take it, and those who do must do through Him. John 14 despite being non correct in many Churches now, still states ‘no one can come to the Father except through Jesus Christ.’ He is the only way.

Being narrow these days means you are classed as bigoted. You are expected to be broad minded, be modern, 2+2=5. The road is narrow because it is the way of truth and truth is always narrow. It is the way of holiness and righteousness.

Jesus said there is a life to come and it is a long life, it is eternal, and there are only two destinies, and as you come to the crossroads, you alone choose, God will not push you. He gave you the ability to choose and lets you do so. Where you end up in eternity will be determined by which road you take, so what you do in the world is important.

One of these roads leads to destruction the other to life with Jesus. He took time to remind people of the seriousness of salvation. He wanted all to be sure of the future. People do prefer the easy road in life but Jesus made it plain He wants us to journey down the difficult road and enter the narrow gate.

Jesus then spoke of false prophets, who are like wolves in sheep’s clothing. In New Testament times they were men who wandered around the country giving out messages which people wanted to hear. They were not part of the Church. Now we have them within the Church. Their basic motive was, as it is now, self interest to disseminate their version of the truth, and they can cause enormous damage.

Jesus said ‘by their fruits you will recognise them’ What determines whether a preacher is a false prophet is whether what he/she speaks is in accordance with biblical teaching, that is the test.

In today’s times there is sadly a great divide on issues, 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. True disciples of Jesus Christ will not play to the galleries or form values according to the passing approval of people in general. God’s approval is all that matters.

Finally Jesus speaks firmly and rather profoundly when He says not all who think they are to enter the Kingdom of heaven will in fact do so. But 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.

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 a Southern county. 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.

Jesus ended His discourse with a call to build on strong foundations so that outside forces cannot come and destroy. May we do so and walk through the narrow gate to our eternal destiny with the Lord, and be so worthy that He will grant us entry into the Kingdom of heaven.

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