October 25, 2009

The Way of Life - Oct 25, 2009

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Do you have any idea how many times the term “Christian” is used in the Bible? This week I was surprised when I found out. What do you think? How many times is “Christian” used in the Bible?

“Christian” or the plural, “Christians” is used only THREE TIMES in the whole Bible. It’s used once in Second Peter, and twice in the book of Acts.

Followers of Jesus were first called Christians in the city of Antioch. Open your Bibles to Acts 11, verse 25.

“25Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:25-26 NIV).

You know, the funny thing is, we don’t even know whether this was a name that they chose for themselves, or whether it was a derogatory term that others put on them, “Oh, they’re just a bunch of ‘Christ-ians’”.

Either way, it’s a great name. Christian: one who belongs to Christ. Christian: a person who believes that Jesus is the Christ, the chosen Savior of sinners.

But this wasn’t the first name for Jesus’ followers. There was another title and it was a good one too.

Turn to Acts 9, verse 1. What we’re going to read here takes place before Saul became a follower of Jesus. This is when Saul was still trying to round up the followers of Jesus in order to stamp them out.

“1Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2 NIV).

The term for “Christians” here is “The Way”. What a fitting name. For we all are on a journey. That might sound a little corny, but it’s true. All people, not just us here in this church building, but ALL HUMAN BEINGS in the world are on a journey. That’s what the Greek word “hodos” means: a road, way or journey.

All people are headed down one road or another towards some final destination.

But Christians are on the road of Jesus. A Way that is not obvious. A Way that is in some ways very narrow and restrictive. A Way that is not heavily travelled.

The Way of the Christian faith is the Way of Life. That’s what Jesus is going to talk about today in the Sermon on the Mount. Turn to Matthew 7, verse 13.

“13“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV).

This is the picture that Jesus paints: There is a grand, wide archway. Like an archway cut into a castle wall. It’s huge. And this huge archway stretches over a grand, wide road. A six lane highway of sorts. And this roadway stretches out to the horizon, where it drops off a cliff into the abyss of hell. This roadway is filled with travelers. There is plenty of space for everyone, but the road is full of people. All of them shuffling steadily down the road like lemmings.

But off to the side, set in the wall, there is a small door. It’s about the size of a man. It’s unobtrusive and easily missed. It’s almost hidden by its simplicity. Unlike the huge archway, this door must be pointed out to travelers or they will miss it altogether. Which would be tragic indeed, for behind this little door is a way, which though it may be narrow, leads to the very throne room of the Creator God. This way leads to heaven. These are the two Ways that Jesus describes.

So, what is this small gate? What is this narrow road? It is Jesus Christ. The small gate is Jesus Christ. The narrow road is Jesus Christ.

The Turn to John 10, verse 7. Here Jesus says…

“…“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:7-10 NIV).

Jesus also calls Himself “the Way”. Turn to John 14 verse 6.

“6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV).

Jesus is the Way of life. He is the Way to heaven. But like the little door in His parable, this fact is not obvious. This truth doesn’t come naturally to the minds of sinful people like you and me and everyone else. This truth has to be revealed by God. God uses His Bible to do that revealing. The Holy Spirit speaks to the sinner’s heart through the message of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

If you were going on vacation to a new place, you wouldn’t pack up the car and start on your way without having a map. Or at least some good directions.

If you were going to meet a friend at Starbucks you would want to tell them which one, and how to get there.

If you want to watch a TV show you have to have directions! Which channel? When?

These things are pretty obvious. Pretty common sense to most people. But when it comes to getting reaching heaven, people are naturally stupid. We naturally figure we can find the way ourselves. But we need directions. The Way must be revealed. For there is ONLY ONE WAY.

A while back I got a Global Positioning System as a gift. This thing is awesome. I just stick it on my windshield and turn it on, and I’ve got an instant navigator to tell me which way to go.

The satellites communicate with this little gadget and give numerous choices for how to get to a location. I can pick the fastest way, the shortest distance, the way that uses most highways or the way that uses least highways.

Usually there are a number of different routes that will get me to my desired destination. But, not always. Sometimes there’s just one dirt road that will bring me to where I’m trying to go.

That’s the way it is with the Way Jesus describes. It’s a restrictive Way, for there is only ONE Savior.

Some religious teachers say that there are many roads to heaven, and it really doesn’t matter which path we pick. That obviously isn’t what Jesus says. And that isn’t what the rest of the Bible says either.

The Way of Jesus says that He suffered Hell on the cross so that sinners wouldn’t have to. All who trust in Jesus ALONE for COMPLETE salvation are forgiven. They are on Jesus’ Way. The Way of Life.

Any faiths that DO NOT look to Christ alone for salvation are not teaching the Way of Life.

There are religions that completely reject Jesus. They are directing people to the broad road.

There are religions that use Jesus’ name, but deny that He is the Son of God and the compete and only Way to heaven. They are directing people to the broad road.

There are people who claim a connection to Christ, but whose hearts do not trust in Him. They are on the broad road.

There are people who claim to be Christians who’s real hope is in their own righteousness. They compare their own lives to the lives of others, and believe that because they’re not as bad as others God will accept them. But God doesn’t grade on a curve. They are on the broad road.

Some people claim that they believe Jesus is their Savior, but live lives which deny Him. Like the practicing homosexual who says, I follow Jesus also. He is on the broad path.

Jesus teaches that all sin is utterly unacceptable. It is damning. But Jesus also teaches, that He is the only Savior. And that He has completely served the sentence for our crimes against God.

The Way of Jesus is as wide and as narrow as His Word teaches.

There are two very sad words in this section of Jesus’ sermon: Many and Few. Let’s read it one more time concentrating on these two words.

“13“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV).

It’s hard to stand alone. There is strength in numbers. But numbers alone do not decide the truth. Jesus says that there are MANY on the road to destruction, but only a FEW on the way of life. But it’s still the way of life.

I mentioned my Global Positioning System earlier. You know, sometimes I don’t even use it to get to a place. I just use it as insurance in case I get lost. If I get lost, all I have to do is turn on the GPS and put in my address.

When this happens, sometimes the directions are not at all what I would have expected. I can see a busy road up ahead. It’s got stop lights and lots of cars. It looks like the road I should be on to get home. But the GPS says, turn left down this alleyway. And then turn left again because your going the completely wrong way.

Sometimes the obvious way is the wrong way. The road with the most people on it, leads away from home. But it doesn’t matter to me what the road looks like when I know the GPS is leading me home. I know it’s the right way, even if there’s hardly anyone else on it.

Sadly, the Way of Jesus is the road less traveled. But it is not God’s fault that only a few find it. Satan would love you and me to blame God for this, when instead we should rejoice that God has taken us from the broad road and placed us on the Way of Jesus by faith in Jesus.

Instead of being saddened by the few travelers, let’s be thankful that we are among them. And let’s direct others to that small door, that narrow way. For it may be small and narrow, but it leads to life. And let me tell you, life’s not all about the journey, it’s really about the destination.

Imagine for a second how this might have sounded to Jesus’ listeners. To the Jewish people crowded on the hillside around Him. To the Pharisees who put so much stock in the consensus of opinion among their scholars. To the little band of disciples sitting at His feet. Might they have had doubts about Jesus? I’m sure they did. Perhaps some of those doubts huddled around numbers. There were so few of them. They were the only people in the world that believed Jesus was the Savior. Maybe they were wrong. Could they really think the whole world was wrong and they were the only ones who got it right?

But Jesus said it. Enter through the narrow gate... small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

It’s not the number of people who testify to it that matters. It’s the Holy Spirit that testifies with them saying, this is true.

And the same comfort comes to us today, so far away in time from this Sermon. We have doubts too, don’t we. Most of the world says the Bible isn’t to be trusted. Most of the world says Jesus is not God. We’re part of a small group of people who believe that Jesus is the Savior. Is the whole world wrong and we’re on the way of life?

That’s what Jesus says.

Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for taking us off of the broad road which leads to eternal destruction. Thank you for calling us by the Good News of Jesus. Thank you for washing our sins away completely through His Sacrifice. Thank you for giving us your Holy Spirit so that we can believe this precious thing. Guard our walking on Jesus’ Way, so that we NEVER put our hope or trust or sense of worth in our own lives and actions, but let our everything be Jesus. To whom we belong. To whom we owe everything.

And help us to be joyful followers Jesus. Help us to be filled with light and happiness because we remember our failings are erased. Our sins are forgiven. Our souls are cleansed. And help us to joyfully get the attention of those who still walk on the broad path. An by our message and Your Spirit make them our brothers and sisters.


The Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

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