Deal With It

You’re driving down the high way of life. No map, just an idea of the destination that seems best to you. Doing life as you please. At some point in your journey, you come to that wall of stone—Jesus is both the wall and the tunnel through. What do you do? You must deal with the situation.

Deal With It
Jesus is Presented in the Temple

When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.

When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Jesus is someone you have to deal with. There’s no getting around the question of who Jesus is. He either is what the scripture declare him to be or he is not. It's a road we all travel. Most people try to make their own way, they wind up in dead ends. Others buy into what Detrick Bonhoeffer called cheap grace. Cheap Grace is the idea that you can accept Jesus but don’t have to follow Jesus. It salvation without discipleship. Cheap grace is a dangerously deceptive dead end. Only the disciple finds the very narrow way through the mountains of spiritual perils in this life. Obedience is the key to walking the path holiness that leads us to the Promised Land.

Where do you think the longest tunnel in the world is located? Wait, no googling for the answer.

A tunnel is an underground passageway, it is often dug through the surrounding rock and enclosed except for entrance and exit, hopefully, one at each end. There are also tunnels that are constructed using an immersion technique. Instead of boring through solid rock the interior of the tunnel is preconstructed and then submerged underwater. The particular type of tunnel that we want to find is for transit. Getting people and goods from one side to the other.

So where would you go to transit the longest tunnel in the world?

You’d go to Switzerland. The Gothard Base Tunnel is 35. 5 miles long underneath the Swiss Alps, connecting the town of Erstfeld in the north with Bodio in the south.
It’s the fastest way across the Alps. Good news is you don’t drive it, it’s a rail tunnel. The bad news is that the scenery is nothing to speak of.

Now where in the States would you find the longest tunnel? The longest Tunnel in the US is the Ted Williams Tunnel located in Boston Massachusetts. It’s part of I-90 and is 1.6 miles long. Good news is you don’t have to drive through downtown Boston to get to Logan Airport. The bad news is the tunnel did collapse in 2006. It is repaired and open now. Yet if I am ever in Boston I think I will take the downtown scenic route.

When it comes to California the longest underground tunnels are found between the US and Mexican borders….

Good news California is now a sanctuary state, make it across the border and your home free. Bad news you get to pay California Taxes when you do.

Now imagine that you are driving through the mountains. You’re on a route that you’ve never been on before. Friends have mentioned it. Media has mentioned it. But there’s no map.  Just the promise of good things, good times. It’s a wonderful day, winding roads, scenic beauty.  Then the vista starts dropping away as you head into a gorge with the mountains rising on both sides. That can give you a creepy feeling. The road begins to narrow. From two lanes to a wide one, signs start reading “beware of oncoming traffic.” Sheer rock on the right now, sheer rock on the left now. Signs start reading “beware of falling rocks.” Starts to feel like you’re being walled in. There doesn’t seem to be a way to turn around. The road narrows even more. Signs read “no shoulder.” Up ahead you see a wall of stone. There’s traffic behind you so no throwing it in reverse, no turning around. There’s a really narrow way through, a tunnel just wide enough that your side mirrors won’t scrap the tunnel walls. A black hole in the side of the mountain. What are you going to do?

This is a picture of life. The road is time, the mountains represent life. You’re driving down the high way of life. No map, just an idea of the destination that seems best to you. Doing life as you please. At some point in your journey, you come to that wall of stone—Jesus is both the wall and the tunnel through.

What do you do? You must deal with the situation.  Dare you try to squeeze your way through not knowing if the tunnel is just another dead end? Do you throw your vehicle into four-wheel drive and try driving up the wall?  Do you just ignore it and stay stuck right where you are? Regardless you must contend with that wall that blocks your path.  

In our scripture for today, the prophet Simeon tells us that Jesus is destined to cause the falling and rising of many.

Jesus is confrontational. Jesus forces you to make a choice. When confronted with the truth, a person’s heart answering love continues their journey through the narrow tunnel. When confronted with the truth if one’s heart remains coldly unmoved, this person becomes stuck. Stuck they become stagnate, stagnate their life begins to rot. 

The Apostle Paul writes this about being stuck:
Ephesians 2:1-3 (MSG)
It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat.

Stuck means a life that is stagnant with sin. Sin is best understood as living in such a way that the relationships with Others and Yourself and especially with God are always crashing and burning. Living the way of the world is just doing what is right in your own eyes, going with the flow, seeking personal happiness as you look out for number one. Breathing in unbelief is sucking in all arguments, rationales, and proofs that support a refusal to enter that narrow way. Exhaling disobedience is nothing but thoughts and behaviors that embrace self-centeredness instead of loving others. 

Stuck. A person either takes the narrow way or remains stuck. That’s the problem Jesus causes, you have to decide what you’re going to do.

It is in acknowledging that you are stuck in life. It is by believing Jesus can raise you out of a stagnant life. It is through committing to following Jesus that you live your life to the full. That you get unstuck, enter through the narrow way and start becoming the person you were created to be.

If that’s something you would like to do today—all you must do is ask, for the scripture says:
John 1:12 (MSG)
But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed
and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves,
their child-of-God selves.

Jesus is the way out of a stuck life. He is the mountainous rock wall in our path and the way through.  Those who refuse to recognize Him as the “way” will bash themselves against Him trying to make their own way. For no one gets to the Father except through the Son. Jesus is the “way” forward. And the “way” through. He is the gate to the sheepfold, the green pastures, and the still waters. He is the Tree of Life beyond the gateway to the garden. Only his yoke brings the promise of the abundant life and the Promised Land of peace. Bottom line. There is no way forward without Jesus.  Is Jesus who the scripture says He is or is it all just religious mumbo-jumbo? You decide.

Now we must talk about cheap grace.

The Cost of Discipleship was published in 1937. In that book, Bonhoeffer defined “cheap grace” as “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” Cheap grace occurs when the benefits of Christianity are emphasized to the extent that the costs of following Jesus are ignored.

It is very difficult to escape your time. We are influenced much more than we realize by the culture that we are immersed in. The church can get caught up in what the culture values. Since the 1950’s the culture says bigger is better, growth is key, and the church translated that into nickels and noses. The more money and the more people the more successful. Even in my beloved Church of the Nazarene, it’s the man or woman who has the most people in the seats Sunday morning that are the most influential, and the one who raises the most money considered the most successful. I think that is true for most faith communities in America. A result has been a marketing pitch-Do you want to go to hell or heaven? If you want to go to heaven all you have to do is accept Jesus Christ. What this really translates to is as long as one makes a profession of faith in Christ, Prays the magic words—“I accept Jesus as my savior,” he or she is saved (Romans 10:9), even if there is no immediate obedience to the commands of Jesus and the apostles to live a life of holiness. It is the idea that we can have Jesus as Savior, but not necessarily as Lord.

That’s why I put an emphasis on our need for constantly committing ourselves to following Jesus, to discipleship, to bending the knee to Jesus. The scripture reads
“…without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 (NIV). What is holiness but living a life of love, loving God with our entire heart, mind, soul, strength and all others as our self? What is love but obeying God’s commands (1 John 5:2); Meeting the needs of others (Luke 10:30-36); and keeping ourselves in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25)?  The cost is saying no what you see as the gains, the successes, the pleasures and the roads that seem to lead to happiness,. The paths that seem right to you and saying yes to what God says is best for you.

With cheap grace, you enter the tunnel, but you make no progress through. It seems like a dark long tunnel. The worlds longest. What you don’t realize is that it opens into the abundant life in just a few feet of obedience.

One of the saddest testimonies I have heard is “I tried Jesus, but it didn’t work for me.” What that means is “I thought I got the golden ticket when I believed but things haven’t gotten much better.” What that means is “I’m not getting the dividends I expected when I invested.” What that means is “I tried cashing in on all those promises in the Bible but ended up with insufficient funds.” “I didn’t get what I expected.”  “The salesman lied, the product was misrepresented, I have received no goods or services for my payment of belief.” They bought into cheap grace.

Another sad testimony told to me by someone I have every confidence in goes like this: “I do what I want to do and if I sin, doesn’t matter because Jesus forgives me past present and future because I believe.” They bought into cheap grace.

Here’s my own testimony of cheap grace: “I gave my life to serve God, why am I suffering, why are the good things I pray for not happening, why am I not successful when I am doing God’s will?” We all get suckered with well-meaning teachings of cheap grace. Cheap grace is part of the times in which we live. Being a Christian I should be prosperous, healthy, and die quietly and painlessly in my sleep.

Let me bottom line this for you—If you are a believer, but not obedient to the truth the Holy Spirit has revealed to you, then you are stuck and don’t realize it. Are you stuck?

Here’s a test. Is the fruit of the Spirit maturing in your life?
Is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control maturing in your life? (Gal 5:22-23 (NLT)
Are you sensing an increasing affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity, and contentment in your life?

Are you finding an increasing willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, are you caring more?

Are the relationships in your life improving? Is your circle of friends widening? Are you feeling fulfilled?

The Sin Chair

Are you stuck?
Are stuck in the road of life, facing that rock wall? The only way through is taking the tunnel. Acknowledging and believing and committing, it's accepting the testimony of the scripture to be true and following Jesus.

Are you stuck just inside the tunnel? Cheap grace is dangerously deceptive. Its belief without action, the right thoughts the wrong heart. Jesus is just one of many things, not the one thing in the many.

Only the disciple finds the very narrow way through the mountains of spiritual perils in this life. Obedience is the key to walking the path holiness that leads us to the Promised Land. To get unstuck, walk in the light you have been given.

Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)
"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.”


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