Recently, in our local jail's chapel, I gave a message on Matthew Chapter
3 in which I referred to Christ as God's designated "Train" to Heaven.
I was trying to make the point that, in the end, it doesn't matter what
you or I think of the Lord Jesus. The significant fact is what God, the
Father and Creator of this universe and the next, thinks of Him. Matthew
3:17 tells us that God is well pleased with Jesus. I was sharing with the
men that we all must "get on board" Christ to get to Heaven. God has given
us the train schedule (His Word) and freely offers us our ticket (Salvation
through Jesus), and even calls on us to remind us of our departure (the
Holy Spirit tugging at our hearts throughout this life). Therefore, if
some STILL miss the train, they are really not being "Left Behind." They
have chosen to stay behind. They have condemned themselves to Hell.
Well, beloved, that was another day and another message, but I want to extend the Gospel train analogy here to the wheels that I picture being under the big engine of the Gospel Train. Maybe this is a good time to re-read Ezekiel, starting in chapter 1! At any rate, let's listen as Jesus describes some of the essentials that make His Gospel really move forward.
We are not in a position to judge when people are hopeless. That doesn't
mean we can never notice others mistakes. But we must not "pull the plug"
on anyone spiritually. We must share the Gospel with ALL, and let God figure
out who is beyond hope and redemption.
just concluded above that we need to share Christ with all. Is this verse
a contradiction? I believe it isn't. It is a warning to believers to watch
out for people who are lacking in faith. Temporarily carnal believers (I
still smell like a pig in this way sometimes, beloved) or the worldly lost
may easily drain and destroy our faith, ministry, message and resources.
So while serving Christ, keep a nose to the wind. We have the greatest
gift to share, but even the Master showed us that there may come a time
to temporarily pull back and conserve resources (see Matthew 13:54-58).
It takes wisdom to discern and react properly to the smell of faithlessness.
It is an enigma that God gives us the faith we have in Him (see Romans
12:3, Ephesians 2:8-9). It is very humbling. Some may never have had true
faith. We all can stray from our faith. We may seek it in our sinful selves,
or seek to find it in a man or a movement. But, beloved, when real faith
is in short supply, we must remember Who to ask, and where to seek and
knock. Luke 11:13 reminds us EXACTLY what we are asking for. And it's not
wealth or happiness. We must seek faith so that we may serve Christ.
Rejoice. The desolate can be filled, the beleaguered, restored. This is a prayer the Lord promises to ALWAYS answer!
(Remember, beloved, these wheels
keep the Gospel Train rolling!)
As I like to say, "In basketball, you get no points for fancy dribbling!"
What I mean is we need to know EXACTLY what God expects of us. It has been
difficult for me to trust, even Christ, when He says He has summarized
the entire Scriptures in just one statement. But there it is. Christ's
golden rule. Our only commandment. Obedience, success, failure, all must
be measured here and no where else. It was so simple I missed it almost
completely for years, even as a Christian. I never knew real suffering
or real persecution until I tried to focus on this all-encompassing command.
Yet I would not wish to go back.
Jesus continues with a warning for us not to be distracted from continuously following the strait and narrow path of obedience:
Verses 13-14: "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
Verses 15-20: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits..."
Re-read verse 12! Don't be dazzled by the fancy dribbling. Either a prophet
is seeking to love or he isn't. Watch for it. Pray for a false leader.
Feel his confusion and pain, for we are all false in many ways. So love
him. But DON'T follow him! That's not going to help him or you or the Church:
"...Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."
love is the golden fruit that we must use as criteria for selecting our
leaders. Nothing else matters. Not money, talent, influence, looks, brains...nor
Verses 21-23: "Not everyone
that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven;
but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say
to me in that day, Lord. Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and
in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye
that work iniquity."
Nowhere is talk as cheap as it is in the Church. Christian language has become permanently embedded into the world's languages. The words flow ubiquitously all around us and from us. But Christ is watching to see who is actually following the golden rule through faith in Him. Did you ever notice that the Scriptural record of the ministry of the original Apostles of Christ is NOT called "The Words of the Apostles?"
But not all religious acts are acceptable to Christ, either. Only that done out of His kind of love matters. We can dribble around all we want, He isn't going to be fooled. But, beloved, are we fooling ourselves by the way we serve Him and what we say?
Verses 24-27: "Therefore
whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him
unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended,
and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and
it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And everyone that heareth
these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish
man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the
floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell:
and great was the fall of it."
Verse 12! Verse 12 is our command. It keeps the Great Gospel Train rolling. Jesus says it keeps the house of your soul standing even in the worst of times!