Summary: What is the true way to God? Sermon describes the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. But . . . which is the true church? Both spiritual laziness and legalism are denounced, in favor of a sincere service of God, through humbling faith in Jesus.
WHICH GATE SHOULD I ENTER?
Often people ask me which church they should join. I am always tempted to tell them to join an Assemblies of God church, since I belong to that fellowship. However, I believe God needs to direct them specifically. So, I simply encourage people to join one that preaches Jesus and relies on the Bible. Additionally, avoid churches that focus on themselves and do not respect the larger Christian family.
Most Christian churches teach the basic truths of Jesus and the Bible. The reason most people who say they are Christians fail is not because of the church they belong to, but because their religious practice is more of a hobby than a saving relationship with the God of the universe. In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus says: ENTER THROUGH THE NARROW GATE. FOR WIDE IS THE GATE AND BROAD IS THE ROAD THAT LEADS TO DESTRUCTION, AND MANY ENTER THROUGH IT. BUT SMALL IS THE GATE AND NARROW THE ROAD THAT LEADS TO LIFE, AND ONLY A FEW ENTER IT.
Many people practice a religion that will land them in fires of condemnation. How can one avoid the Broad Gate that leads to destruction? How can one go through the Narrow Gate that leads to salvation? Avoiding the Broad Gate means avoiding the extreme, on the one hand, of practicing sin in the name of being under grace, and, on the other hand, of abstaining from life in order to earn a place in heaven. False Christianity can be easy or hard. The Epicurean heresy says to eat, drink and be merry–for tomorrow we die. The modern version of this philosophy can be found in the bumper sticker saying, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” Universalism offers theological endorsement for this credo. Adherents teach that since God is love everyone–even Hitler–goes to heaven. Most conservative Christians reject universalism. Yet, some have been seduced by the Hyper-faith movement. Proponents say that you are a prince–a child of the king. God wants you wealthy, healthy, blessed and always without troubles. It is somewhat difficult to imagine explaining such teaching to the 12 disciples. Eleven of them were martyred for the faith, and the twelfth was exiled on a prison island called Patmos.
While many would askew the obvious deception of lazy and self-indulgent religious practice, the more subtle heresy of asceticism can prove appealing. “The body is evil. Deny it and feed the spirit,” proclaims this seemingly disciplined approach. Christians baptize this dualistic spirituality when they slip into legalism. Adherents proclaim that God only blesses those who do not do anything dirty, and that one is a true Christian, mainly as a result of what he does not do. Another approach that appeals to the spiritual soldier in all of us is the notion of “Last Days Remnant.” Believers suggest that during the rapture only the Christians who are fully perfected and pure will be taken. All the so-called carnal Christians will be left to suffer through the Tribulation. Of course, the small group that makes the rapture consists of those who belong to their particular church or movement.
If neither self indulgence nor self discipline can lead us to the narrow gate of salvation, what can? What God requires is repentance and faith. True Christianity is both easy and hard. It is easy because it is a gift. Jesus said, in John 3:16-17: FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONE AND ONLY SON, THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. FOR GOD DID NOT SEND HIS SON INTO THE WORLD TO CONDEMN THE WORLD, BUT TO SAVE THE WORLD THROUGH HIM. Furthermore, in
1 John 1:8-9 the Scripture says: IF WE CLAIM TO BE WITHOUT SIN, WE DECEIVE OURSELVES AND THE TRUTH IS NOT IN US. IF WE CONFESS OUR SINS, HE IS FAITHFUL AND JUST AND WILL FORGIVE US OUR SINS AND PURIFY US FROM ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.
Simply believe Jesus and ask him to forgive sins–what could be easier? Yet, true Christianity is hard because it calls for humility and self-denial. It is hard to humble ourselves and confess our need of the blood of Jesus. Recall that Judas preferred suicide to facing his guilt. How many others say, “I’ll take my chances based on my own good and bad deeds.” They hope that they are more good than evil, and that God will therefore accept them. Yet the Bible says, “There is none righteous–no not one.”
Why do we rebel so against the idea of calling out to God for mercy and help? We prefer to be our own gods. The reason Satan was put out of heaven is that he was not satisfied to be the greatest of God’s angels. He wanted to be free–and to rule. Likewise, Adam and Eve succumbed to the snake’s seduction because they wanted to be wise like God. Nimrod received God’s condemnation because he led people to try to build a tower to heaven. He wanted to overthrow God. Perhaps the saddest example, because it is so similar to every person who hears the Good News and turns away, is that of the Rich Young Ruler. Jesus told him to give up his god of money if he wanted to follow Jesus. The man became sad because he understood the reality of his choice–yet he walked away from Jesus. Money gave him too much power. He could not give up his own sovereignty. Today, Hollywood has captured the feeling of rebellion well in its oft-used bad guy line, “I’ll see you in hell!” If only we understood the horror of that sentiment!