Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Narrow Way

It is Whitsunday, also known as Pentecost, and so we celebrate the Holy Spirit, but since we are going through the life of David, I don't want to leave him out, so he his going to teach us about the Holy Spirit through one of his Psalms.

Let us begin with these verses in Matthew:

"Enter by the narrow gate.  For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13-14)

What does this verse have to do with the Holy Spirit?  Remember, we are saved by faith alone.  We need to have faith in God.  Those outside the church are through the wide gate on the easy way that leads to destruction, because they have no faith in God.  Also, those in the church who have faith in a false version of God are through the wide gate.  This is why mere membership in a church does not save you.  Remember, the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life.  Believing in "Jesus" is not enough.  You must believe in the Jesus of the Bible.

An example: Jesus feeds the 5000 in John 6.  In response, they try to make him king.  Jesus tells them that they are seeking the wrong things.  They are seeking the bread of the flesh.  They are seeking "Genie Jesus" who will grant them wishes and make every earthly dream come true.  No, he tells them, they must seek Jesus himself.  He IS the bread of life, and whoever believes in HIM (not his ability to create miracles) will have eternal life.  This is the difference between believing in a false Jesus (a magic Genie, in this case) and the true one of the scriptures.  Faith in the true Jesus brings earthly suffering and persecution but in the long run, eternal life.

Our second example is from Acts 2.  The Holy Spirit comes upon the congregation, and they begin speaking in tongues.  As soon as this miracle takes place, Peter stands and begins to preach.  He begins his sermon with the supernatural event that has just taken place, but he immediately afterward turns everyone's attention to the Jesus of the Bible:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it." (Acts 2:22-24)

The miraculous work of the Holy Spirit is not an end, in and of itself, but it points ultimately to Christ himself and the gospel.  The disciples suddenly being able to understand foreign languages was a miracle that pointed to the fact that Jesus performed miracles to prove he was God, and WE KILLED HIM ANYWAY.  The Holy Spirit leads us right to the crucifixion, the atonement, and the salvation of all who believe.  Christ defeated death by dying, a miracle that puts to shame the speaking and hearing of foreign languages we haven't studied.  But the latter miracle is a launching pad for the former.

Now, Peter uses Psalm 16 to show that David, too, was pointing to Christ.  Breaking down this psalm, we see that

1. Christ is the ark of the faithful.  Inside him is the only place we can find refuge from the wrath to come.

2. God is the source of all goodness.  Without him, all is darkness.

3. All believers are a source of encouragement and gospel-sharing with each other.

4. All unbelievers are a source of despair and eternal sorrow.  Our faith deteriorates in their presence, and our faith strengthens in their absence.

5. All of our earthly life should be lived for God.  He is our cup, our sustenance, and our lot, our destination.  As we make him our life goal, he grants us an eternal inheritance.  Our gifts are not the goal but the tools God gives us to glorify him.  He, himself, is who we seek.

6. The Lord directs us through his written word, but he has placed his Spirit in our hearts, also.  The Holy Spirit guides us, and we know it is God when we are directed to Christ.  If we are directed to something or someone other than Christ, we are still following our sinful desires.

7. Without God we can only feed our flesh.  With God, both spirit and flesh are nourished.  Christ's resurrection gives us assurance that death has been defeated and that we are destined for eternal life.

8. Christ's presence for us this day is the Holy Spirit.  He makes known to us the narrow gate and the hard way (the path of the true Christ) and he brings us a spiritual joy that assures us we are on the correct path.  This is joy in suffering.  Our flesh may be burned, but we have the love, the deep charity of Christ that sustains us with an exquisite joy that cannot be replicated by the world.

Peter finishes his sermon by reiterating that the primary reason God has poured out his Spirit on all flesh is so that they may understand the gospel, that Jesus is both Lord and Christ, and that we crucified him.  "Now, when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.' (Acts 2:37-38)" The Holy Spirit makes alive our awareness of our own sinfulness.  He brings us to a penitent faith in Jesus.  And he provides us assurance of persevering into eternity.