Sunday, August 22, 2010

Are You Asking the Wrong Questions?

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 22, 2010
Luke 13:22-30

True theology is asking the right questions. What you need to know as a Christian is dependent on you listening to God and hearing what He has to say to you, not what you’d like to hear.

So when you come to portions of Scripture where someone asks a question of the Lord, you ask, Is this the right question to ask, or the wrong question? If you ask the wrong question, Jesus’ response will show you that you are not seeking what He wants you to know but rather how you would like things to be. If you ask the right question, you will already know that what He has to say to you is what you truly need, because He has come to bring about for you what is best for you.

What prompts us to ask the wrong questions of God? Our sinful flesh clings to us so tightly that we too often want our walk with God apart from the cross. The world wonders why we’d want to be in a religion where you are to be humble and where you are to let others take advantage of you. Our sinful flesh is pretty compelling for us and we admit that it’s hard to live a life in which it doesn’t always appear that God is working for what we need, certainly not always for what we want. And so we ask our questions of God, so often the wrong ones.

Who of us has not wondered what that man in the Gospel reading was wondering? Will those who are saved be few? Who of us has not looked around and wondered that if God is so great and Christianity so true, why are there not more who believe? Why are there so many religions out there? So many different beliefs that, according to the Bible, are wrong? Who of us has not wondered what is the mind of God in these things? But we are asking the wrong questions, desiring to know the things that God knows and that only He has the right know.

Since the man asked the wrong question, he got an answer that dealt with his problem, not what he was wanting to know. Why are you concerning yourself with things that are beyond your reach? Why are you not looking to yourself and your own need for salvation? It’s one thing to be concerned about others, to have a genuine heart for others. It’s another to place yourself in the position of God and want to know what is not given you to know. What is given you to know is your own need.

Jesus says: “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” What if you were to see everything God sees? What if you knew everything He knows? You would understand completely. You would see things as they are and would know why they are that way. You would have no questions. You would not seek answers. You would not wonder why things are the way they are.

But you are not God. It is not given you to know all things. It is given you to narrow your focus. It is not given you to see how many will be saved. But it is given you to know how salvation is gained. It is not given you to know who is in and who is not. But it is given you to know that before it is too late that there is a too late. It is one thing to wonder why so many are not saved. It is another to admit that you in no way deserve salvation.

We Lutherans are always making the point that of all strains of Christianity we alone get the Word of God right. That we alone state the doctrine of the Bible most clearly and faithfully. But in our zeal for that do we boast of our salvation? Are we ready to meet our Maker because we were faithfully in God’s House every Sunday? Because we lived a good life, doing many good things, staying away from many bad things? From that stance do we then ask our questions of God, why only a few, and thank God we’re among them!

Jesus turns our questions on ourselves. Take all the energy you use in asking the wrong questions and expend it on the narrow door of salvation. On that door is a sign: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” It really is that clear. You stand before that door and see the message. Believe in Jesus and you’re in. The Kingdom of heaven is yours. There is no room for boasting in who you are or what you have done or how you are as a person. A room is just that. It has lots of room, to fill our heads up with all kinds of stuff that leads us on the wide road to destruction. But Jesus talks about a door. It is a narrow passageway that leaves no room for anything we’d bring to the table.

Once you open that door, you will see on the inside of it another sign, it reads: “It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works.” Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV] Listening to Jesus means hearing what He has to say to you, not what you’d like to hear. We want to be able to enter the Gates of Heaven being able to hang our hat on a few things. We don’t want to have to stand there with the only thing to offer a darkened and filthy heart. Jesus’ response tells us that we by our sinful selfish nature want heaven the easy way. We want good things from God because we’re pretty good people. Jesus says there is no easy way. You must strive. You must enter only through the narrow way. You are not in just because you think you’re in.

This is the amazing irony that we sin-filled, stubborn, prideful, selfish people don’t get through our thick heads! We want God to give us the easy road to heaven but we don’t want it in the no-strings-attached way He gives it to us. And that’s just it, we don’t want it given to us. We want the easy way, we want to be able to have it our way, so that we don’t have to submit to His eternal unfathomable will. That’s outside of our control. That’s not easy.

So He tells us we must strive. He tells us that it’s a narrow way. He makes it clear that it’s His way or the highway. He tell us that when we come knockin’ that He will take one look at us and not recognize us. What He will see are workers of evil that He can only turn away.

This is what happens when we ask the wrong questions.

So what are the right questions? The right questions are what our Lord points us to. He says that we will see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God. How did they get in there? Well, it’s true that they are pillars of the faith. It’s a fact that they are held up as examples for us to follow. It goes without saying that they were godly men who carried out the vocations God called them to.

Oh yes, there’s one more thing. None of that had anything to do with why they were saved. There was only one thing. And all those people who stood before Christ as He spoke His words of judgment could say that they ate and drank in His presence and that He taught in their streets, never really saw Him for who He was. Never believed in Him as the one who was on His way to a cross. Never stripping away their own self-righteousness so that their eyes could focus on the One who was taking anything but the easy way. The one who was striving toward that one thing. That one thing that is the only reason Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob, or David, or Peter, or Andrew, or you, or me could get into the Kingdom of God.

There is no easy way. There is only the way of the cross. The narrow path Christ walked led to Jerusalem and the hill of Calvary. When you stand before the Gates of heaven there will be only one thing that your Lord will show you and that is the righteousness that flowed from the cross as surely as the blood flowed from His body. The ones from the east and west, the north and south, from the ends of the earth, will be in the Kingdom of God for the same reason—not of works, or any easy way, but simply the way of the cross, the way of grace.

Will there be few? Will there be many? If we’re intent on asking the wrong questions we will have an eternity of going over them even as we can’t think straight from the torment of the weeping and the gnashing of teeth of hell. But if we listen to our Lord and hear what He has to say to us, the right questions will come. Even if it’s, Lord, can you teach me the way? He is ever patient, ever merciful, ever stretching out those blood-stained hands to us as welcoming us into the Kingdom.


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