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Summary: This message looks at how we sometimes block the door for spiritual seekers and keep them from finding God.

BIG IDEA: We can point people to God, but we can also stand in their way.

- Matthew 23:13.

- The idea here is blocking the door or pointing someone in the wrong direction.

- This is something we should pause and consider how heartbreaking the image is: someone seeking spiritual truth, someone hungry for more, someone trying to find an answer to their emptiness – they turn to us because they know that we’re a Christian and we end up pointing them in the wrong direction.

TWO OF THE BIGGEST WAYS WE STAND IN THEIR WAY: Hypocrisy and partial truth.

- These are two things that Jesus came back to again and again in His criticism of the Pharisees.

a. Hypocrisy.

- We talked a few weeks ago about the prevalence of hypocrisy here in Matthew 23. You can pretty much say it’s the one word summary of Jesus’ criticism.

- Let’s talk for a moment, though, about how that specifically plays into the spiritual life of others.

- In this situation, the standing in the way would look something like this. They are hungry for spiritual truth, but they see the hypocrisy of our lives, presume that Christianity must not be the right way, and wander off in another direction.

b. Partial truth.

- For most Christians in America, it’s not that we’re preaching something that’s totally whacked out and completely insane.

- Rather, it’s that we’re only sharing part of the story. But part of the story is enough to get someone off track.

- Paul in Romans outlines saving faith in four parts: repentance, belief in Christ’s death and resurrection, you’re a new creature in Christ, and then walk forward in the power of the Spirit.

- Today, though, in many evangelical circles, we basically just preach the belief in Christ’s death and resurrection and neglect the other four. As a result, we have a ton of people who claim to be Christians because they believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection, but have little awareness of their sin and no sense of living a changed life.

- Similarly, as we look as Jesus’ frequent call to obedience as the proof of salvation, we see that many churches speak as though grace means that obedience is an optional extra and not the natural progression of having received grace.

- In both cases, we aren’t preaching something that’s intrinsically wrong, but rather we’re preaching partial truth – only telling a portion of the story.

- In this situation, the standing in the way would look something like this. Someone is searching for spiritual truth, they come to us because we’re a Christian, and what we tell them sends them down a wrong path.

HOW DO WE HAVE THE POWER TO "SHUT THE DOOR" FOR PEOPLE? People often trust “religious experts,” yet they’ve often just trusted the tradition they’ve been taught.

- Nicodemus was a religious leader, yet didn’t know the basics of spiritual life.

- John 3:9-10.

- Just because you have the title and reputation as a leader and expert doesn’t mean that you actually have spiritual insight.

- You might have been thinking a minute ago when I was making the last point: “But how could that many religious leaders be so wrong?” Well, as Nicodemus shows, it’s happened before.

- We tend to trust “experts” and not question their opinions, whether it’s a doctor or lawyer or plumber.

- Yet if you have expertise in a particular area, you know that there is a whole spectrum of levels of understanding and a variety of approaches (some solid, some questionable) to solve problems.

- When it comes to faith, many people simply receive what the preacher says without any thought of looking things up themselves or questioning anything he says.

- Few actually read Scripture. Almost no one checks up on what we’re saying.

- But often the preachers are just sharing the inherited tradition they’ve received and never questioned.

- It’s striking how many parts of the Bible we overlook without anyone within our church’s complaining, because few are doing the hard work of digging into the Word themselves and allowing it (and not tradition) to be their guide.

- It’s amazing what congregations will unthinkingly swallow if presented with enthusiasm and conviction by someone they trust.

- Many people are content to receive what they’ve been taught as being their tradition and never bother to dig into the Bible themselves.

- Even more, fewer come regularly to God and ask Him to take them deeper and show them more of Him and His truth.

- We do all this in mind of the fact that Jesus warned that the gate that lead to life was narrow.

- Matthew 7:13-14.

BIG DEAL: It is a weighty thing to publicly claim to be a Christian.

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