General ideas from this post are co-opted from my pastor’s sermon, but it is in my own words and I’ve added a few ideas of my own 🙂
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” –Matthew 7:13-14
Should we follow the crowd in gauging our opinions and reactions in life? Most people, it seems, will follow the crowd’s direction, even if their instincts tell them not to. Studies bear this out.
So, do we need to turn away from popular opinion?
God’s way is narrow, why would that be? Remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Bible? (Or by their Hebrew names: Hannaniah, Mishael, and Azariah.) They didn’t just go through one test, meaning the test of whether they would bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s idol/statue, which meant a penalty of the fiery furnace. They also went through a test before that.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king. Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
Daniel and his three friends mentioned above determined not to eat the king’s meat, which was both dedicated to idols and was not the prescribed “clean” meats described in Leviticus 11. Had these young men not maintained their health eating the vegetarian diet they requested, they could have gotten themselves and their eunuch caretaker in trouble. However, in conquering this first test, they gained confidence that God would take care of them.
To win the “big test” it often starts with a series of smaller tests leading up to the big test. Maybe that is why the Bible is such a big book. Lots of people can talk about what is important in the Bible. But maybe we should simply spend more time reading it and applying it to our own lives. It is like a giant puzzle. You don’t put together a 1000-piece puzzle in one sitting. But the wisdom and mind of God is far more complex than that.
With our temporal existence and human limitations, how can we possibly hope to understand the mind and will of God?
We have to ask for such understanding.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. –Matthew 7:7-8
We see a lot of judgmentalism in today’s world from all directions. This is another way in which people follow the crowd. But there is no consistency. It is fun for people to pile on and give themselves the upper hand to look good. But do the people who are doing the judging keep God’s commandments – like God’s sabbath day, refraining from taking God’s name in vain, and eschewing modern idols like sports teams and players or carnal-minded music stars? No, you see the judging from all kinds of directions. Everyone seems to have their own “pet” sin that they protect. But they are quick to come down hard on someone who offends them for some reason, without any kind of evangelical or loving spirit.
How many Christians consider us transformed from death unto life upon becoming a Christian through baptism and faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice?
If we did, maybe we wouldn’t feel so judgmental. Maybe we would feel more like we should be in the “life-saving” business.
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. –Ephesians 2:1-10
Paul said (we) “were by nature the children of wrath” but God “quickened us together with Christ” and that we are saved by grace.
Still feeling judgmental?
God promises his Holy Spirit to those who believe in Him, and this is associated with baptism in which we die to self. Acts 10:45, Hebrews 6:4, Acts 2:38, Luke 24:49
And how does the Holy Spirit manifest in our lives?
In the below passage, there is a contrast of the fruits of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit. If you manifest one, you cannot manifest the other. This is a measuring stick for assessing ourselves, not for judging others.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. –Galatians 5:16-24
Daniel and the 3 Hebrew young men talked about at the beginning of this story weren’t interested in pointing a finger at anyone else. Nor were they interested in following the crowd, especially when it conflicted with God’s word. They were interested in pleasing God.
We have a clear direction from God.
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” –Matthew 7:24-27
“For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.” –Galatians 6:3-5