A Tight Squeeze

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy [a that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. –Jesus in Mathew 7

We don’t go willy-nilly into Kingdom Life with Jesus. He inaugurated the Kingdom on earth and explained it in the Sermon on the Mount and invites his hearers to follow him, to listen to his words and do the things he says as a way towards transformation of their hearts and a way to build strong and joyful lives, knowing that no matter their circumstances they can place their confidence in him and experience the Kingdom life.

He calls the entrance into this kind of life a narrow gate, a hard way yet one that leads to life. We cannot enter it unless we are vigorous, trusting and obedient. It’s just the way it is. Life is like that in so many ways. I like the analogy Dallas Willard uses in his book ‘The Divine Conspiracy’. He writes that a math teacher tells his students, ‘Unless you can do decimals and fractions there is no way you will be able to do algebra.’ Some of us have had that experience. You can’t just do life your own way. There are ways and means and disciplines that are strenuous but lead to better life and I the case of the Kingdom, eternal life.

If you want to play the piano there are elementary things you must do first like learning the keys and the scales and then you must practice, practice and practice some more to be good and to enjoy the piano.

If you want to play basketball you must learn that the ball needs to go into the hoop and not in just some vicinity of the basket. You must learn how to dribble, pass and work as a team or you will not make it.

If we are going to follow Jesus then we must know the way that Jesus teaches, the path he sets for us. For example he tells us to forgive. If we say ‘no’, then we will never experience God’s forgiveness. That’s just the law of Kingdom life. Do we want to live that way knowing Jesus is the greatest teacher that ever lived and he is the Son of God as well? He tells us to pray, to love, to rest, and to trust and he tells us to believe that we are the children of God, that God is our Father, our Abba in the intimate Aramaic term.

He tells us there is a door of self-denial through which we must pass. It’s narrow, stress producing and confining but through it leads to open, freeing, joyous life. Not biological life but God’s eternal life that begins now.

Jesus says to stay in his word, read his word. Read it over and over until you have mastered its contents and then mastered its heart, the heart of Jesus. Those words in the Bible have life in them. Paul writes somewhere for us to let them dwell in our hearts.

I live in a gated community and to take my dog, Lucy, for a walk I have to enter through two posts where two different gates come together separating the properties. It is one tight squeeze and here’s the thing, if I gain any more weight I will not be able to get through. Through the gate is life and a long beautiful walk through the woods. Through the narrow gate is life with Jesus, with God’s spirit, with the Father. I don’t have to lose weight to get through but I might just need to lose ‘myself’.

DIVINE MAESTRO

 

Check out this quote by Dallas Willard. Confidence in Jesus as absolute Maestro of the universe is the first indication of regeneration. Is that great or what? And a divine maestro who is a master musician has one goal. He wants to bring about the most wonderful piece of music imaginable. He wants every instrument or voice in tune; every musician performing his or her best. That is the joy of the Master.

In this world Jesus is the Divine Maestro working with his Father to bring about the greatest good, the greatest artwork of creation imaginable. ‘God is good’ declares the Scripture. But, we often look at the world as a jumbled up batch of amateurish performers at their worst and the background of creation is a wreck in the eyes of many. How did the maestro even let some of the players into his orchestra? They seem downright evil.

Thomas Oden, a Methodist theologian, has written of this topic in his book called CLASSIC CHRISTIANITY. He says that we look at the fallen world, this messed up world, with cloudy eyesight at best. This world of all the worlds that might have been created is the best one.

Many of us who take a good look at the entire world throughout history will observe the goodness in this creation, and thus the goodness of God. God does not make anything badly insists the classic Christian writers. The creation has been skewed by our disobedience and still the creator, the Divine Maestro, is at work to take his creation and bring it back to harmony and perfection through his love for this world.

At the beginning everyone knew their notes, their parts and chose, from their own God given freedom, to distort the work, rebel against the maestro and this unfinished world is the result. And so are our unfinished lives.

But to have an accurate assessment of the whole situation you and I must read the score, the whole score. People who bash God and Christian faith have rarely done so.

Just read this account of the Maestro’s character and work from Colossians 1:

15-18 We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

18-20 He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross. (MSG)

Let’s go back to Willard’s quote and see that indeed it is the beginning of faith to realize the goodness of our creator and our savior.

Now there are people like Bill Maher of T.V. fame who make their living denigrating God and Jesus and thus have no clue as to what is going on in this universe. To people like that religion is nonsense and even evil. But I suggest that they get to know the Maestro to understand God and his love for his creation and his desire both for our freedom and hopefully a redeemed responsibility to care as deeply as he does.

According to one of the smartest men who ever lived, St. Paul, this creation does indeed groan but God is working all things towards a good purpose, a good end that some of us see even now amidst the groans. (Romans 8)

The great Maestro of the Universe spent time with his creation, going to each student, one by one, to help him or her learn his or her parts to be able to perform the greatest masterpiece possible. And each student, apprentice will add his or her skill, talent, or new learning to the great work that was designed by the Maestro. Those who don’t want to be in the orchestra will have the choice to walk away. But in this masterpiece even the birds will want to sing, the flowers will bloom, and the trees will shout for joy to their Master.

I detest much that is happening on this earth, and make no mistake, evil abounds. It seems as though the devil secretly steals into the orchestra to create disharmony. But I don’t have the big picture. I see only a few pages at a time and trust that when it all comes together there will be a new heaven and a new earth whose brilliance will be unsurpassed by anything we can imagine. The final score is already written and we are invited to sit under the Maestro and learn the parts that have been assigned to us trusting that the music can be heard even now by those who have ears to hear.