Thursday, February 28, 2019

"Two Paths To Follow" (Pt. 1) (Feb 28, 2019)

Allen Raynor Weblog: “Two Paths to Follow” (Pt. 1)

(Feb. 28, 2019)


          We live in a confusing world in a confusing time.  Everyone, it seems, claims his/her own path to success, satisfaction, and fulfillment.  One auto manufacturer claims to make the best cars, then another makes the same claim, then another, and on it goes.  A multitude of restaurants claim they have the best steaks, the best chicken, the best pizzas, the best salad bar, etc.  Several insurance companies make the  claim they have the best rates and the best coverage.  Cellular companies each advertise saying they have the best service, fewest dropped calls, and the best customer service.  It is hard to maneuver through this world of advertising with its endless sea of claims, gimmicks, and promises.  Who is telling the truth?  If we can hardly figure out how to maneuver the treacherous waters of advertising, then how much more do we struggle when it comes to decisions which have “eternal” implications!  Especially since we know that Satan is actively working to confuse and distort the truth and work against us at every turn.

          In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus said “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.”  Today, more than ever, people are claiming many paths/ways to God.  They are saying it all leads to the same place – but does it really?  Our culture has slowly become inclusivistic.  It desperately wants, and even demands, to believe “I’m ok – you’re ok.”  Anyone who does not embrace an “inclusivistic” outlook is seen as “narrow,” “closed-minded,” “ignorant,” “ill-informed” and perhaps “stupid.”  While we may feel like we need to be concerned what others are saying and thinking; in the end it really only matters what Jesus said!  People who are confronted with their sins these days will often say something like “God is my judge,” or “Judge not lest you be judged, (Mat. 7:1)” even quoting the Scripture they neither know nor trust in.  While these statements are true, they are only true in their context and in the way God meant them.  These are meant as warnings for all people to give careful heed to His Word and adjust their lives accordingly.  God does not judge on some arbitrary, whimsical basis, but always in accordance with His Word.  Many people these days are, in effect, proclaiming they want to be judged by a standard they do not really know rather than a standard of which they do know.  They do not really like the standard God reveals in His Word so they cling to a false hope that there is somehow another unknown standard that exists whereby God will judge them in a way more favorable to their liking. To make the statement “Only God can judge me” is to say one of two things 1) Yes God will judge me according to the precepts and truths revealed in His Word, or 2) God will judge me according to a standard by which I really know nothing about, but I am confident that it will come out good for me in the end.  There is absolutely no basis for the second statement, but the consistent, overwhelming message of Scripture fully supports the first statement.

          In Matthew 7:13 and following Jesus gives a series of contrasts.  In each case, one is right and one is wrong; one is good and one is bad; one is desirable and one is undesirable (Two Paths vs. 13-14; Two Trees vs. 15-20; Two Claims vs. 21-23; and Two Houses vs. 24-27).  Beginning in verse 13 Jesus teaches that there is a superhighway to destruction.  Throughout the course of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been laying out a case for the superiority of the Kingdom of God and why anyone hearing His Words should want to become a citizen of that Kingdom, inherit eternal life, and escape the wrath and judgment which is to come.  But, for most people it seems easier to follow the crowd.  We have all said to our parents at some point “Mom/Dad, everyone is doing it!” or “Mom/Dad, everyone’s got one!”  Then parents say, something like “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?”  In some situations we realize that following the crowd is not a good idea, but in other situations we seem to think it is a very good idea.  Jesus is making it clear that if you follow that wide road, or enter through that wide gate you are headed for destruction along with “the crowd” of many others who are also going through it.  John MacArthur writes “The way that is broad is the easy, attractive, inclusive, indulgent, permissive, and self-oriented way of the world.  There are few rules, few restrictions, and few requirements.  All you need do is profess Jesus, or at least be religious, and you are readily accepted in that large and diverse group.  Sin is tolerated, truth is moderated, and humility is ignored.  God’s Word is praised but not studied, and His standards are admired but not followed.  This way requires no spiritual maturity, no moral character, no commitment, and no sacrifice.  It is the easy way to floating downstream, in ‘the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 2:2).  It is the tragic way ‘which seems right to a man,’ but whose ‘end is the way of death.’ (Prov. 14:12).” (John MacArthur; Matthew Vol. 1; 454-55)

          From the time each of us understood “salvation” or what it meant to be “saved,” we have understood that mankind could not save himself no matter how hard he tried.  We came to realize we had to rely on a Savior (Jesus).  The world will often refer to God in a very generic sense but even the mention of Jesus’ name is highly upsetting to many folks.  Why would Jesus upset so many?  It is because they want to do what they want to do without having to answer to anyone.  We live in a culture where “individualism” has run amok!  Everyone is expected to celebrate and applaud the individualism of others no matter how crazy what they are doing seems, with just a couple of exceptions.  1) You cannot harm/hurt others against their will 2) The Christian worldview is simply not acceptable.  All viewpoints are given a fair hearing, tolerance, and often applause, except for the Christian worldview.  This is seen regularly, for instance on college campuses, where Christian speakers are barred from speaking. 

          The broad road, Jesus says, leads to destruction.  It will always seem to lead to life and happiness.  It seems right because so many are on this road.  It seems right because it strives for political correctness.  It seems right because, by its broadness alone, it conveys safety in numbers.  It seems right because it protects the rights of the individual to say, do, or be anything he/she wants to be.  But Jesus says, this is not the path to Him, nor the one that leads to life.  No matter how attractive or alluring the broad road, it always leads to destruction. 


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

"Persistence in Prayer" (Pt. 1) (Feb 13, 2019)

Allen Raynor Weblog: “Persistence in Prayer” (Pt. 1)

(Feb. 13, 2019)


          For more than twenty centuries archaeologists, tourists, and tomb robbers had searched for the burial places of Egypt’s pharaohs.  It was believed that nothing remained undisturbed, especially in the Royal Valley where the ancient monarchs had been buried.  A British archaeologist named Howard Carter carried on a search, however with only a few scraps of evidence.  He was privately funded because nobody felt there was anything left to be discovered, but he was convinced there was one more remaining tomb.  Twice during his six year search he came within only two yards of the first stone step leading to the burial chamber but finally he found it.  When the tomb was excavated it was found to be full of wooden animals, statues, chests, chariots, carved cobras, vases, daggers, jewels, a throne, and a hand –carved coffin of a teenage king.  It was the priceless tomb and treasure of King Tutankhamen (King Tut), the world’s most exciting archaeological discovery.  Howard Carter’s great perseverance brought him King Tut’s treasure.  How much greater our rewards, as believers, when we persevere in praying for God’s spiritual treasure!  In reality, King Tut’s treasures brought him no happiness; and if you were as rich as he, the effect would be the same.  King Tut left it all behind.  It goes to show that the kind of treasure the secular world is seeking does not matter. 

          Believer’s are children of a King!  In fact, Our Father (Aba; Father; Daddy) is in Heaven and He has promised to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  He extends to us the invitation to ask for things, and ask with persistence through prayer.  Jesus taught in Matthew 7:7-11 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is there among you who if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If you then, being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”  We are first to “ask.”  It is very mild, calm, and non-threatening.  We are next told to “seek.”  It is slightly more intense.  Now, you are searching for something; looking for something, and there is some level of urgency involved.  We are told that if we “seek” we are going to find it.  Thirdly, we are told to “knock.”  Now it is more urgent.  We are told that if we “knock” the door will be opened for us.

          Jesus gave a parable that illustrates what He is saying in Matthew 7.  In Luke 11 we read “And He said to them, ‘Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him; and he will answer from within and say, Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you?’  I say to you, ‘though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.’” (Luke 11:5-8)  This seems to indicate that some prayers are only answered because of persistence.  Which brings up an interesting challenge to us.  What do we care about strong enough that we pray with strong persistence?  We have lots of calm prayers, but what are we really praying for urgently?  We are told in verse 8 that the “asker” receives, the “seeker” finds, and the “knocker” has the door opened for him.

          There are so many examples of people who have had such walks with God that seemingly everything they asked for in prayer was given.  Men like George Mueller, and Robert Sheffey (the American circuit riding preacher).  Many of these people are mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, preachers of tiny churches, widows and widowers who were faithful prayer warriors who simply trusted God and believed His Word.

          Some have suggested that “prayer” is a “blank check” just waiting for us to fill in the amount, but that is not accurate.  The “name it and claim it” erroneous theology, promoted by some, love verses like this and they take them and turn them around and in the end make it much more about them than about God!  Instead of the emphasis being on God and His desire to give, it ends up being about them and what they want!  We should be very careful to never make prayer just about what we want.  Prayer is yielding to God and without that yielding, prayer is merely going through the motions and is not really getting in tune with God.


In Christ,

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor