The path is Narrow

Matthew 7:13 & 14, “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 find it.”

Jesus of course was speaking of the afterlife. Why is it that it’s so hard for people to get to heaven?  And why is it so easy for us to find ourselves in hell? Apparently if human kind were a pie graph, a narrow 10-20% sliver would be in heaven and the other broad part of the pie would easily be in hell. The thing is, we LIKE doing bad things. We like to drink in excess, eat in excess, and smoke our paychecks away. There’s plenty of evidence that Americans fornicate without restraint as well. Look at divorce rates (even among Christians), look at how many have sexual relations before marriage, and how many registered sex offenders there are. And when it comes to gossip, complaint, little white lies, slander, or plain ol’ discouragement . . . look no further than the social giants of the internet. Pleasure however, is not happiness. And if we continue to revel in what pleases us, what we are really doing is refusing Christ. We would do well to remember that.

The truth is that it takes discipline to do right. It takes restraint and focus to keep ourselves safe from, well ourselves. But there is hope and His name is Jesus Christ. Even if we fail at trying, that’s something. It means that we are no longer just stopped, but we’ve turned around, and made an effort to move toward Jesus. We don’t need to be perfect by any means, because Jesus did that for us. Still, there’s a difference between messing up and regretting it, and knowingly messing up and justifying it.

Sin Has Consequences

“What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?….For the wages of sin is death…”Romans 6:21-23

As you can see, I’m still pondering January’s theme. Beth Ann’s post about abortion made me think of this verse.  Not just because abortion kills babies, but also because as Beth Ann said, a piece of her died also.  When we disobey God, we harm others, and we also harm ourselves.  Sin may look pretty, or easy, or feel good for the moment, but it has consequences that are not good for anyone. We’ve all experienced this.

Guess what else I notice in this verse.  We earn the consequences of our sin.  It is the wage we receive for the things we do. It’s not foisted upon us; it doesn’t just happen–we work at it!  In case you have any thought like, “I haven’t done anything too awful, so this doesn’t apply to me” listen to this:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

Not some of us, or most of us, but ALL of us are sinners.

Fortunately, I haven’t given you the full story.  Here’s how Romans 6:23 ends:

“…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And Romans 3:23:

“…and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

God gave us a way out of our sin.  We don’t earn this;  it is a free gift.  We don’t choose our salvation, but we can choose how we live in view of it.

“…I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”  Deuteronomy 30:19

Choose obedience.  Choose life.

 

 

 

You Can’t Go Wrong With This Fruit

“But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control;  against such things there is no law.”  Galatians 5:22-23

I love how the apostle Paul shows us a bit of humor in these verses.  There are laws against many things.  Some are the laws of our government, meant to keep us safe: laws against theft, murder, assault, drunk driving, etc.. Other laws are moral:  we may not go to jail or be fined when we transgress them, but we know they are wrong and can harm us and others:  failing to honor God, false witness, adultery, coveting, and others mentioned in the Ten Commandments.

However, there is no law against practicing the qualities mentioned as fruit of the spirit.  You can never go wrong by being loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and temperate.  You will not be fined;  you will not be chastised, nobody will be angry with you, you will not endanger anyone.  In fact, if the fruit of the spirit is displayed in your life and actions, you will be loved and admired.  People will enjoy your company and want to be your friend.  They may, in fact, begin to emulate you.  You will grow spiritually, and you will influence those around you to grow as well.

Think about the opposite “fruits”:  hatred, sorrow, discord, anger, meanness, selfishness, betrayal, rudeness and gluttony.  Does behaving like this get us anywhere?

So my question is, why aren’t we willing and eager to be cultivate the right “fruit”?  Are we afraid we’ll be taken advantage of?  That we’ll be seen as wimps? Or are we just not willing to make the effort it takes?

Paul is telling us that our actions have consequences.  When our actions reflect the fruit of the spirit, the consequences are only good ones.  So… what results do you want?  Comment and tell us how the fruit of the spirit has been a positive influence in your life.