Monday, December 30, 2013

His Path Our Path

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13–14, NASB95) 

Nearly a hundred years ago Robert Frost wrote the poem, “The Road Less Taken.” It spoke of a choice between two roads diverging in a yellow wood with equal freedom to travel either one. He stood there and considered his options, looking as far as he could down the roads trying to determine which one proved most promising. In making his choice he selected the one less traveled by with the thought that he would likely never come back to this point because life has a way of leading from one path to another. The poem ends with, “I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

There are so many times in our lives that we might be tempted to ask, “What if?” Robert Frost recognized in looking at those two paths that the ‘what if’s’ of life are typically not an option for us. Our lives are so comingled with others and all of the various life events that there is no way to untangle them in order to go back and start again. Rather, the question is what are we going to do with the paths that are before us right now, and what or who is going to guide our decisions? Where are we going to place our hope regardless of what that path may look like? And, how are we going to travel that path once we select it? There are probably a large number of other related questions, but the general idea is that life is not to be relived, but lived.

The Bible has so much to say about God and His direction of our steps, including how He lights our paths, how He brings us through the dark valleys (Psalm 23), and how He provides for us along the way. It speaks of how we order our priorities, how we interact with others along the way, and where that path ultimately leads.

I began with the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 7, where He spoke of two ways or paths that people travel. There is the broad one that is widely traveled which leads to destruction and the one that is narrow leading to life. As we look around us we see so many different theologies or religions or even lack of them out there. But the Bible tells us that all of these lead to destruction. There are the simple yet powerful verses of the Bible which declare that there is not a single one of us who is righteous (Romans 3:10), that all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and that the wages or just due for that sin and unrighteousness is death or destruction (Romans 6:23). This is the wide path; the path that says that what we do matters and we can do it if we try. But its deception is that the end is disappointment and death.

But the narrow path says that there is nothing we could do on our own to make our path straight and our salvation certain. In Proverbs 3:5 and 6 we are told that if we place our trust in God that He will make our paths straight. Something that we cannot do on our own, God does for us if we trust Him.

In Acts 16 the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved, and in verse 31 they replied, “They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31, NASB95) Then they spoke the word of God to him and all who were in the house and they were saved. At that moment the jailer and the rest in his house who believed chose a path that set them straight for eternity. They did nothing to earn it, and to be honest, they likely did not go to sleep that night wondering about it. But when the ground shook and they were presented with the message of salvation they believed and the path they began was settled forever. And this path does ends in life and fulfillment.

“and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” … “just as it is written, “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”” (Romans 5:5-5; 9:33, NASB95)

For them, and all who have placed their trust in God for salvation before and since, our lives instantly became intertwined with God’s Son and indwelled by His Spirit. We have been given His Word to be a lamp to our feet and a light on our path (Psalm 119:105). This does not mean that what we are to do will always be obvious, and there are times when it will likely be very difficult, but our God has promised to be our strength and our help and even to give us His wisdom. There are days when we might not see the next stepping stone, let alone the next bend in the road, and it is even here that God has promised to enclose us before and behind, having His hand on us, and never leaving us alone.

“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.” … “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Psalm 139:1-3, 15–16, NASB95)

In those days cry out to God as the psalmist, “Make me know Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day.” (Psalm 25:4–5, NASB95)

And as we know His presence and His leading and even as we wait on Him with assurance we can praise Him. “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Psalm 16:11, NASB95)

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5–6, NASB95)

God has called us with a purpose, and that includes continually looking to Him and following Him in worshipful service. Paul said in Romans that the only reasonable thing we can do in response is to give ourselves fully back to Him in that way. In Hebrews 12:1-2 we read, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1–2, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (12/30)

I am leading you along a way that is uniquely right for you. The closer to Me you grow, the more fully you become your true self—the one I designed you to be. Because you are one of a kind, the path you are traveling with Me diverges increasingly from that of other people. However, in My mysterious wisdom and ways, I enable you to follow this solitary path while staying in close contact with others. In fact, the more completely you devote yourself to Me, the more freely you can love people.

Marvel at the beauty of a life intertwined with My Presence. Rejoice as we journey together in intimate communion. Enjoy the adventure of finding yourself through losing yourself in Me.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB95)

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB95)

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8, NASB95)

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4, NASB95)

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