11th Sunday after Pentecost
Intro. This morning, as we kick off the school year, sending our kids into the care of their teachers; ...we hear St. Luke report on the teaching that goes on in his day. In this case, the teacher is the Lord of the church; and He’s on the move – "teaching" – through the towns and villages. But, this is no ordinary whirlwind, teaching tour. Yes, there is a purpose in His teaching. He was teaching about the Kingdom of God; and about the will of God. But there was a far greater purpose in this journey. The bible says He was making His way to Jerusalem. Earlier in Luke's gospel, "Jesus set His face towards Jerusalem." Ever set your face towards a destination or a purpose in your life? I mean, come on, ...where are you headed on this 25th day of August, 2019?
The Lord’s teaching career lasted a little over three years. And we know that His teaching did not go unnoticed. Words of the teacher from Nazareth had a great impact on all who came in contact with Him then; and all who have come in contact with Him since then, through the written Word of God. His teachings have created quite a sensation over the last 2,000 years. But the teaching was not, strictly speaking, what was about to make a difference in this world. The difference was in His destination.
He was making His way to Jerusalem. Had He not arrived in that Holy city, the name “Jesus of Nazareth” would have been only a footnote in history. But we know, you and I know ....that He made it to Jerusalem. He made His appointment with the Cross on Mt. Calvary. It was the ultimate "object lesson" of all time. !In His thirty year walk on this planet Jesus taught us how we ought to live; but in six hours of agony He showed us how only He could love! Amen? In this one-time demonstration of the love of God that can never again be duplicated, the far reaching effects will continue until time is no more. So how, dear friends, for His sake....would you like your life ro be remembered?
By the death and resurrection of Jesus, our sins are forgiven; we have peace with God; we are declared righteous in His sight. But there is more! If He was through with us, we would already be in His heavenly presence. But there still remains the mission that He has given us: to make disciples, to baptize, and to teach.
We follow in our savior's footsteps. We teach the same Word that He spoke; by baptism, people are connected to the benefits of His Cross; and all the while, our faces are set towards the "New Jerusalem." We who are identified as followers of Jesus are asked the same question that someone asked Jesus in our text: "Are only a few people going to be saved?" — What are my odds Lord? Do I stand a chance? To those who look at the prospects of heaven as one big "crapshoot" – the Lord has something to teach. Since His ascension, He no longer stands in visible form teaching a crowd. !But through the power of the Spirit, ...by the grace of God, Jesus still teaches! He’s teaching here today! So class...the lesson is:
The Three Doors of Difference
Often, we hear people say: "What's the difference" – in matters of teaching the truths of the bible, we find people today to be "indifferent." This is born out in a statistic that shows over 50% of Lutherans pick up the bible once a month, less than once a month, or never! These are people "at risk." If they continue in their "indifference" – they risk coming up against:
I. The Door Shut Tight... In a bible class, one evening, someone asked me: "If I believe in God's promises, why do I need the Church?" This might be a question many of us think about, but never ask. Are we thinking of the church as just one more organization to belong to; like a political party, or a civic organization, or neighborhood association. In Luke's gospel, Jesus raises the possibility that people who have such a "casual" relationship with God and His church will one day be on the outside frantically knocking and calling, "Let me in! Let me in!" But the door already will be shut tight, the end of the age will have come.
The "owner of the house" – God Himself, will have gotten up to shut the door. Once it is closed, no amount of pleading will open it again. Lord, don't you know I'm still on the books as a member of [NLC – StMLC] – I stay informed at what’s happening – I still make it to worship on the two big days – Christmas and Easter! And I hear your teaching. All the time I watch "my favorite" televangelist pump out his "happiness gospel" – I always keep up, on Facebook or other on-line sights, with the latest trends in religious thinking. I’m interested and I’m curious about God! Surely you wouldn’t shut the door in my face!
Anyone who has gone out to shop for a last minute gift on Christmas eve, and walked up to the door of the department store one minute past the advertised closing time, has some idea of what Jesus is saying. Except that the stakes are much higher! The door will never open again; and what’s so sad – the gift that lies on the other side of the door has been paid for, been placed on "lay-away" for you about 2,000 years ago – your eternal life! There is one other difference about this door. There is no advertised closing time! No one knows when it will be. People will often speculate about it. Remember, as we got closer to the end of a thousand year measure of history (millennium), many groups started getting ready for closing time. But the Bible says that no one knows when Christ will return; Jesus says, He’ll come like a thief in the night.
All of God's people need to act like the time for the door to shut is now! Amen? There will be no warning period, no one calling out to the parking lot: "the store will close in ten minutes." We need to be ready now! Friends, if you are satisfied to hear the world's commentary about religion instead of the Lord's self revelation; if you like to cover all the bases by believing "everything in general" and "nothing in particular;" if you are a procrastinator in matters of faith; then you need to heed what our teacher is teaching; yes, ...teaching us even today. You need to trust in Him, who is:
II. The Door Opened to Us... As long as the door has not been closed, we are able to confess our sins and run for refuge through the door of life. If you are waiting for some magical sign, you need to know that God has given all the signs we’re ever gonna get. John says these signs "are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." At the Cross, the door was opened for all people. No matter what novel and unique methods we come up with for approaching God, there is only one door by which ALL who will be saved can enter! I didn’t make this up! Jesus, the teacher, said it! I'm only repeating it: "I am the door; (he says) if any one enters by me, he will be saved." ...Amen?
What is the key to entering through this door? There are only two! First, simply believe the promises of God: "I am THE way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me." I go to prepare a place for you... I will come again and take you to myself" Secondly, we must be willing to accept the charge of admission; the cost to pass through this opened door. That’s the greatest barrier of all. Have you ever noticed that small children never try to second-guess you if you want to give them a gift. They don't try to figure out why you would give them something for free or what they are going to have to give you in return! They simply receive the gift, and say thank you.
When little children are baptized, I don’t hear them at the baptismal font saying, “Oh Lord, you shouldn't have!” But that is exactly what we say when we refuse the free gift of eternal life that comes by the shed blood of Jesus on the Cross. "Oh Lord, you didn't have to go to the trouble. I could have figured something out." Folks, listen to me! Simply receive the free gift of God, ...like a ...little child: ...by faith.
The hardest concept for believers is that this payment is a present reality! In one simple promise Jesus has given us this assurance: "Everyone who believes has everlasting life." If you now, at this very moment, believe that Jesus died on Calvary to pay for your sins, then ...you ...already possess everlasting life. And, then:
III. The Door We Strive For... is simply that final day, when either through death, or by the Lord's return, we enter into His presence for all time. This door is narrow. It has been narrowed by the requirement of faith, nothing else! Having already been embraced by the promises of God, we do not abuse the gift of God, but we are empowered to strive to enter the narrow door. How do we strive? We remain close to our teacher – We know that we know that we are known by Him. We trust Him to take us where we could not go on our own. A story is told about a tight-rope walker who wanted to string a wire over Niagara Falls, and then walk over pushing a wheelbarrow. He had many casual, so called friends, and they wanted to see him try it, just to see if he really could make it. But to his close friends, who really believed that he could do it, he offered the chance to demonstrate their faith. “You say that I can get to the other side with the wheelbarrow; prove that you really believe it; get in to the wheelbarrow!” Dear friends, that is the faith that takes us through the narrow door to the other side. – Getting into ...the wheelbarrow. Amen?
There is risk in following Christ. That's why He said, Whoever wants to save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's sake will save it. Losing our life in Christ is how we actually gain access to the narrow door. We can’t do it on our own, so we give it up and let God do it through us. You see, we are all spiritually handicapped. But being "in-Christ" makes the narrow door, ...the door we ...strive for, handicap accessible.
Often, in the movies, we see a helpless character get rescued by the strong hero type; and it seems that as long as “helpless” stays close to the “hero,” no great threat will arise. But alas, Mr. Hero, assured that Miss Helpless is no longer at risk, goes off to attend to more routine matters, saying to her: "Now, be sure to keep the door locked, and don't open it for anyone, don't even go near the windows!" Now as we watch this scene, we know that our Hero is the only one with whom the victim can be safe; and sure enough, as soon as Mr. Hero gets out of sight, Miss Helpless will open herself up to some danger: a strange noise needs to be investigated outside, or a non-threatening voice persuades her to open the door. As we watch this, we are shouting to Helpless "No, don't do it! Don't go outside that door till Hero gets back!"
Listen, there is nothing external that is able to tear us away from our hero, ...our Lord Jesus. We do, however, have the awesome power to leave Him, and open ourselves up to all worldly dangers without His protection. How does that happen? What would ever be the cause for us to leave the side of "Him who loved us?" I'm convinced that we don't do it deliberately. We become complacent and begin to think that we are masters of our own lives; we are lulled into a false sense of well being concerning our own spiritual needs. ...Growing in the Word by ongoing Bible study and regular attendance at the Lord's Supper becomes no longer important; being involved with other Christians in prayer, fellowship and service becomes a chore instead of a privilege.
These are what keep us striving for the narrow door. When they cease to be important in our lives, when we wander outside of our safe place in Jesus, we are in danger of being caught on the outside looking in. But, ...staying in that safe place, ...remaining in the presence of our Lord, our Savior, and our teacher; nothing "will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." AMEN