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Re-Thinking Your Destiny

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(5/26) Since the beginning of the Revolutionary War, more than 1,325,000 people have given their lives in service to America. In modern times:

  • Over 405,000 died in WWII
  • Over 36,000 died in Korea
  • Over 58,000 died in Vietnam
  • Over 8,000 have died in Iraq and Afghanistan

This weekend has been set aside to honor their memory, and remember that the freedom we enjoy has come at a great price. While we gather to picnic, cook-out, or sit on the beach, thousands of families will remember the empty chair at the table, and the one who didnít come from over there, to protect our freedom and peace here. And today, over 65,000 are still in harmís way and we pause to remember and pray for them, and their families. Take a family memberís hand, and letís have a moment of silence and then I have asked four of our veterans to offer prayers.

For the last 40 years America has operated with an all-Volunteer Military. We stopped drafting soldiers in Dec. 1972, with the last draftees reporting in June 1973. For the last 40 years, every Soldier, Sailor, Airmen, and Marine knows that even if he or she enlists during peace time there is the possibility of being called to face danger. That is why everyone goes though basic combat infantry training and periodic drills and training times. When someone joins the military, they may be thinking about the benefits of serving that they will receive; like, skill training, college money, a career, character building, health insurance, a steady income, and an early retirement. Or, they may be have a strong desire or feeling of obligation to serve the country they love. Yet, every one of them knows, as does every police officer and firefighter, that the possibility of dying in the line of duty is a potential reality. We thank God for our military and we pray for those who are grieving over or worrying about their loved ones today.

Joining the Military is a decision, a life altering decision. The enlistee basically gives up the rights to self and life, and becomes a G. I. (Government Issue). You belong to Sam for the period of your enlistment. You do what Sam trains you to do and tells you to do. You go where Sam tells you to go and you stay there until Sam tells you to leave. Your life, for your enlistment, belongs to Sam. You get the skill training, the character building, the income, the college money and the pride of patriotism in exchange for your life. Guys would you say that is an accurate statement? Generally speaking, one knows this before enlisting or accepting a commission. This is so much like what our Lord is presenting to us here in this Sermon on the Mount.

We have moved past the body of content of His sermon and are now at the decision making point. He is placing ball in our court. The move is now ours or yours. What will you do with this information? You can ignore it; that is, make no decision, which in itself is a decision or you can choose a different way than He has presented or you can accept His way. In my opinion, that is what a sermon is supposed to do. It teaches truth, and calls for an action. If you come to church and donít leave challenged to do something, I have failed in my job. Letís review by going back and looking at what Jesus has been saying.

  • Matthew 4:17, "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
  • Matthew 4:23, "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people."
  • Matthew 5:1-3, "And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
  • Matt. 5:10-12, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousnessí sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
  • Matthew 5:20, "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven."
  • Matt. 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
  • Matt. 7:21, "Not everyone who says to Me, ĎLord, Lord,í shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."

Jesus is encouraging people to be prepared for the Kingdom of heaven. The King is coming. The King demands absolute allegiance. Now is the time to repent, or re-think your life. Do you understand this? The King is coming. Jesus will return just as He said. But even if that is not in your lifetime, you will meet the King at your death. You will want to enter Heaven. Few people seriously want to go to or experience Hell. But you need to understand now, that where you spend eternity or where you will be when the King returns, depends on the decisions that you make now. The Ball is in your court. Young people, you must listen to this life lesson. You will not go to heaven because you came to church with your parents. You cannot ride their faith train into heaven. And you cannot go there because you came to church. You must decide for yourself. Your decision will determine your destiny. This has been Godís message throughout the Bible. Look and listen at:

  • Deut. 30:19, "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live."
  • Joshua 24:15, " And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
  • 1 Kings 18:21, "And Elijah came to all the people, and said, "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him." But the people answered him not a word."
  • Jeremiah 6:16-17, "Thus says the Lord: "Stand in the ways and see,

And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ĎWe will not walk in it.í Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, ĎListen to the sound of the trumpet!í But they said, ĎWe will not listen.í

  • John 6:66-69, "From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Our Blessed Lord now tells His audience, including the disciples and the multitudes that came to hear (Matt. 4:23-5:1), that they must decide where they go from here. Our text is 7:13-14, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." There are just two choices. The rest of chapter seven is all about two choices that involve two gates, two paths or roads, two kinds of lifestyles, two destinations, two kinds of teachers, two trees, two kinds of fruit, two responses from God, two kinds of builders, two foundations to build your faith and security on, and two results of storms that tests our lives. Listen carefully. I am going to do something I never do, and have said I wonít do usually. I am not standing in judgment of these men, I am just noting the difference in their preaching and Jesusí. Men like Robert Schuller, Norman Vincent Peale of Guideposts, and Joel Osteen, like to rest in the power of positive thinking and always preach encouraging words, and they strive to never preach negative vibes. But, Jesus, in the manner of John the Baptist, said, "Here is your choice. You must choose wisely, because your decision will determine your destiny." There is destruction (v.13), Fire (v.19), a denied entrance (v.23), and a great fall (v.27), or there is life, entrance, and a secure foundation. Your decision determines your destiny.

Letís consider the two gates and the two ways, or paths, or roads (Vv.13-14).

Before you leave this mountain side and go home, or before you leave this school and go home, you must decide. How am I going to approach the rest of life and death and eternity. Letís first consider the:

ē The Wide Gate. The wide gate most likely is the way that the teachers and lawyers of Jesusís day were teaching people. That is, as long as you attend to law as we teach it, and our own interpretation of the Bible, you could do what you want. Remember in 5:20, Jesus said, unless you are more righteous than the religious, you canít enter the kingdom of Heaven. He said, at least 6 times, "You have heard it said, But I say to youÖ." He said in chapter 6, donít do charity the way they do, donít pray the way they do, donít fast the way they do." I personally believe that the rest of 6 and 7:1-12 is about being different than them. Itís not resting in being a Jew or that your parents were Jews, or that you are just as good as those who attend the synagogue. Itís not about not having killed, not having stolen, not being divorced, or not having an affair. Itís not about attending synagogue, listening the Torah, being circumcised, tithing, keeping the feasts, or being Bar Mitzvahed. Itís not about being good. But all of these things were the common teachings and beliefs.

ē Today, it is no different. The wide gate is the popular voice; the latest philosophy. It is by religion that teaches that all faiths are like rivers that flow into the same ocean, after all there is just one God, so it doesnít matter what you believe as long as you sincere. America has embraced the post-modern philosophy of relativism. Relativism basically says that there is no such thing as absolute truth (which is strange, because that sounds absolute), and therefore truth is whatever you or anyone perceives it to be. What is true for you may not be true for me. Today, there are churches and teachers telling people that being good is good enough for God, because a loving God wouldnít send anyone to hell. The Bible after all is a relative book, why any two people can look at a passage and get two different meanings from it and besides you really canít believe everything in the Bible is for today. It was written from an archaic perspective and we are much more civilized and educated today. In fact, we believe that while the Bible may contain Godís word, it is not entirely Godís word. Science and education have enlightened us, not the Bible. If science and education tell us different than the Bible we have to go with science and education. Does any of this sound familiar? This is the wide gate and the broad way. And sadly, this is the way of the majority of the people you live with, work with, go to school with, play with you, and even worship with. Itís the way many of you once went as Ephesians 2:1-3 reminds us. Jesus says, "Many who go in by it." Perhaps into eternity by it. I remind you all of the writings of Solomon in Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25; "There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death."

ē The Destination. If you decide, young people listen, to go away with no decision, or that believing in God and Jesus with your head only, or that it doesnít matter what one believes, or that relativism, or science and education are the way, or that all that matters is that you go to church, you are in for a rude awakening. That ship is sinking just like the Titanic. Jesus said, "Itís your choice, but know this ship canít float" (v.13). It will not produce good fruit and is destined for the fire (v. 19), it will be shut out of heaven (v.23), and will crumble when tested (v.27). Letís look ahead at the scene for a moment. Turn to Revelation 20:11-15. "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." Jesus spoke about hell more than any other person in the Bible. This is what He came to rescue us from. This, He wants us to know, is where the wide gate and broad way ends. This is the rude awakening of dying having not passed through the narrow gate. And even if your choice is no choice, this is the result of your choice. This is why He cried with shoulder shaking uncontrollable grief over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). This is why He wants us to go into all the world and show and tell people about Him and His life, death and resurrection.

ē Letís consider the Narrow Gate and the Difficult Way. Look at the way our Lord Jesus teaches it in Luke 13:24-30, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ĎLord, Lord, open for us,í and He will answer and say to you, ĎI do not know you, where you are from,í 26 then you will begin to say, ĎWe ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.í 27 But He will say, ĎI tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.í 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. 29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last."

The word, Ďstrive,í that Luke uses, is Ďagonize.í This is, in a sense, a struggle. Inside your heart you will wrestle with this because of what it involves. This is not just an emotional decision. Too many emotional decisions in churches end up being empty because they based on emotions and not enough thought. We have always taught that all you have to do is believe in Jesus and ask Him into your heart, and while that it is true, you need to understand what you are believing about Jesus and what believing involves. Believing is when faith results in action. Like sitting on these chairs or using a parachute. You can believe both will work, but they donít work until you use them.

  • The Agony begins when we are confronted with the word, repent (4:17). It means we must re-think the way we are going. We change our minds with a view to changing our actions. I am not going on the right road, or I am going the wrong way and I must turn around. We joke about the fact that men donít like to stop and ask for directions. We have to admit we are wrong, and that donít come easy.
  • The Agony is realizing that there is nothing I can do to merit Godís grace. I have to admit I am spiritually bankrupt to be received into the Kingdom (5:3). This goes against the, "I did it my way," mentality, or I earned my way, paid my dues thinking. It means I canít be good enough.
  • The Agony is realizing that to be in a Kingdom is to submit to the authority of the King. My life belongs to the King. He is the absolute authority. I surrender my will to Him. To give up control of my life and to be totally obedient to the King is the only way. I must bow before Him. It goes against the, itís my life and Iíll do what I want, and believe what I want, kind of thinking. It means I ask what would Jesus do, or what does Jesus teach about this situation, or what is Godís will before I make any decision (Luke 6:46)
  • ē The Agony is that this narrow way relies largely on deferred gratification. That is, it trusts God to meet my needs for today and tomorrow, and it shares todays stuff with the needy, it obeys the King when itís not popular to do so. It trusts the Kingís promises of a reward and looks forward to heaven and standing at the Bema seat of the King for a crown, a casa, a commendation, and a chair at the table with Abraham and the others. Most people donít want to give up the hope for the good life now or they try to find the best of both worlds.
  • The Agony is that there is only one door into the Kingdom, and that door, is the King Himself. (John 10:1-9; 14:6; Acts 4:12; cp. John 3:16-18). There is no other way, than personal repentance, personal humility, personal submission, in the one and only way.
  • The Agony is that though the invitation is to all, few will choose this way. They opt for life of self-desire and self-focus. Many of your family, and friends, coworkers, classmates, and countrymen will chooses the wide gate and broad way. In fact as Matt. 5:10-12 points out, they may even hate and hound you for choosing the narrow way.

But the end of this Path, this Way, this Trail, this road that has been difficult at times, is Life. A Spirit Filled Adventure with Spirit Fruit of Christ-like Character and Companionship now, and a Life with Jesus forever in the place He has prepared for you.

We will see this again in chapter 10 and in chapter 16. Your best life now or the life as a subject of the King with the promise of reward later; that is the choice. You veterans will understand this. There is no difference in following Jesus than joining the military. Itís an all-volunteer force. But if you decide to enter. Your life belongs to King Jesus. Now you must chose. Itís the Jesus way or the Broad way. Itís as easy as dropping to your knees and saying, "I surrender all." Itís as hard as refusing to let go of your-self for fear of what you will miss.

I close with a quick Grandson story. My two year old grandson was at our house last week and my whole family stayed late. The boy was tired. His mother said, Pick up that book and put it away and we will go home." Now he was beside the book and the book case, but he got up and took off running and the struggle was on. He was determined not to pick up the book and his mom was determined that he was. Several times he escaped her hold and ran. Finally she picked up the book, put it in his hand, picked him up, opened the book case and bent his arm to put the book down. (Mom kinda won) And I thought, how much energy that boy wasted and how much agony he endured when all he had to do was pick up the book and put it on a shelf that was right there but he chose to run and resist. How much energy and time have you wasted by running and resisting. Young people you must decide. Maybe even some of you older folks. Itís time to stop running and enter the Narrow gate. Your decision determines your destiny.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman