Monday, April 23, 2018

Come In Through the Gate

Introduction           
In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus said, 13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”  And in John 10:9 Jesus said, “I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved."
Looking back over my life, I am so thankful to the many people who helped me find THE GATE, Jesus Christ.  There was my Mom who took me to church as a child (and I know it wasn't always easy to take four kids to church who didn't always want to go).  There was my Grandma who instilled a deep respect for the Bible, the Word of God.  And as an angry young teenaged boy needing a father figure, there was my Karate instructor, Jeff Carmichael, who invited me to go to church with him.  As an 18-year-old getting ready to graduate high school, there was a girl named Laurie Stewart who I didn't even know, but she was my girlfriend's friend and had invited her to church; in turn, my girlfriend, Kelly (who is now my wife), invited me to that church--Wesley United Methodist Church on Harley Bridge Road in Macon, GA.  I'm so thankful to all of these people and others who invited me to come in through the doors of a church and meet with Jesus.  Each one influenced my life and the man I am today.
            Jesus told his disciples, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)  And after his resurrection, Jesus commanded his followers--and us--to make disciples.  This is our mission, but how do we do it?  What are the steps? 
            Jesus demonstrated how we make disciples by the way he made his own.  Jesus started with only 12 followers.  He befriended each of them and invited them to come and be his disciples.  More and more people began to follow Jesus as people invited their friends to come meet Jesus.  Here's the pattern: 1) Start with friends (it all starts with relationships).  2) Invite people to come in through a gate.  3) Go deeper.  4) Go serve.  Today, I want to share about coming in through a gate.

Luke 5:17-20
17 One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seemed that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus.

18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, 19 but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.”

21 But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? 23 Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? 24 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man[d] has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

25 And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, “We have seen amazing things today!”

Jesus Has Power!
            Jesus has amazing power.  He has the power to forgive sins and the power to heal (in the story it is the same thing).  Isn't it interesting that Jesus tells the paralyzed man, "Your sins are forgiven."  Yeah?  So what?  He can't walk, Jesus, and you're focusing on his sins?  If Jesus is focusing on forgiveness, maybe it's a clue to us all how important forgiveness is.  We worry about the looming problems of sickness, financial problems, who are we gonna date/marry, our career, our kids...  We are so wrapped up in these because we think they are the priority and Jesus says, "Your sins are forgiven."  Now we could get angry at the Son of God because he seems to misunderstand what's really most important in life, or... we could take a second look at our priorities and consider if maybe we are looking at things all wrong.  Maybe sin is the real problem.  Maybe the solution to our other problems is getting our lives back in alignment with God's will.  Maybe it's true for our friends too.  Matthew 6:33, "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."
            Jesus says to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven."  This really bothers the Pharisees and teachers of religious law because only God has the power to forgive sins.  That's true.  But Jesus is God and to prove it he heals the man's paralysis as well.  I mean, anyone can say "Your sins are forgiven," but only God can tell a paralytic to stand up and walk and actually have him do it.  You see, Jesus has power!  He has the power to heal the lame and forgive sins.  He has the power of God!  And Jesus has the power to change your life.  But will you let him?  Will you come in to see Jesus?  And will you bring your friends to see Jesus so he can change their lives too? 

Key Idea
            The key idea today is in verse 18-19. “Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus.”
            Whatever it takes, you’ve got to come in and see Jesus so he can change your life.  And if you're going to follow Jesus' command to make disciples, you've got to bring your friends to come in and see Jesus too. 
            The paralytic's friends were desperate to get their friend in to see Jesus.  They knew Jesus had the power to help.  Unfortunately, the door to Jesus was blocked by the crowd.  But they weren't going to let that stop them.  They climbed up on the roof and dug a hole to make a new door!  Whatever it takes, bring your friends to come see Jesus.
            At my church, we understand how hard it is to get people to come see Jesus.  As Jesus said, the road to destruction is wide and many people travel it.  But the gate to God's Kingdom is narrow and few choose to enter.  So, we try to make as many opportunities as possible--as many figurative gateways or doors for people to come in to meet Jesus.  Some of the gates we offer are:  Sunday Worship, lunch groups, Wednesday night dinner and study time, Rock Solid Children ministry, Youth, Sunday school, Bible study, the Elizabeth Circle, Chrysalis, and the Walk to Emmaus.  We also sponsor special events like vacation Bible school, Super Bowl Sunday, community Easter egg hunt, truck or treat, model train exhibit, etc.  These are all great ways for people to come in and they are excellent opportunities for the disciples of our church to bring friends to see Jesus.
            That being said, sometimes you just gotta make a new door! Like the paralytic's friends who climbed up on the roof to dig a hole and make a new door to get their friend in to see Jesus, sometime you might have to make a new door to get your friends in to see Jesus.  What could you do?  What new event, program, Sunday school class, Bible study, etc. could you help start that would get your friend or others to come in and see Jesus?


Challenge
            I'd like to repeat the challenge I made last week.  I challenge you to pick three people you can pray for, help, encourage, and mentor for the next year.  Discipleship all starts with relationships.  Pick someone to whom you can be a friend and help along.  Invite them to come in and see Jesus.  Carry them in on a mat if you have to!  Cut a whole in the roof and lower them down (not really, but create a new opportunity for them to come if you have to).  
            We can all probably think of someone who influenced us, encouraged us, invited us to church, prayed for us, or helped us along life's path.  Someone who made a real positive difference in your life.  Aren't you glad they cared enough to help you?  Why don't you "pay it forward" by helping someone else in the same way?  That's what it means to make disciples, to be fishers of men.
            In closing, I want to read a letter I wrote to thank someone who made an eternal difference in my life.  Maybe you would like to write a similar letter to someone who helped you.  You don't have to give to them; you can if you want, but just writing the letter will remind you how thankful you are and may encourage you to do the same for someone else so they can come in and see Jesus.

My Letter

Dear Children’s Church Helper,

You probably don't know me, but when I was 8-years-old, you used to help lead children's church at Pine Forest Baptist Church in Macon.  This was in the mid-80s.  Anyway, I’m sorry to say I don’t even know your name.  You see, I was just a kid and I only attended your church for a few short years.  But I do remember going to children’s church.  I didn’t really know any of the other kids, but you had a friendly smile that made me feel welcome.  I could tell you had a special joy in your heart and I’m so glad you shared it.  I wish I knew your name, because I’d really like to get in touch and let you know how much your efforts as a children’s church volunteer meant to me.

The Old Chapel of Pine Forest Baptist Church in Macon, GA
In children’s church, all the kids would gather in the old white chapel while the adults worshiped in the main sanctuary.  I’m sure it was a task to keep all the kids under control and focused, because we didn’t always want to be there.  But y’all did your best to help us have fun and learn something.  We would sing songs like: “Father Abraham” and “Do Lord, Oh Do Lord, Oh Do Remember Me” and “I’m in the Lord’s Army.”   Then, we would listen to a Bible story.  One Sunday, you told us about heaven and hell and about how Jesus came to save us from our sins so we could live with him in heaven.  You said we needed to let Jesus into our heart.  I knew I believed in Jesus and I knew I was a sinner and needed to be forgiven and to let Jesus in my heart.  But I was a shy kid and was afraid to say anything to anyone.

Y’all used to have an altar call at the end of children's church every Sunday and you would sing the old invitational songs like "Just as I Am" and "Earnestly, Tenderly, Jesus is Calling".  Well, I felt Jesus calling me to invite him into my heart during children's church in that old chapel while you were singing.  There was just something about your tenor voice and the way you seemed transported as you sang “Come home!  Come home!  Ye who are weary, come home!  Earnestly tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling Oh sinner come home!”  Even as a kid, I could feel it.

It took 3 weeks for this shy 8-year-old to get up the nerve, but I finally answered Jesus’ invitation to come home.  I walked to the front of the chapel while you sand and someone took me aside to pray to receive Christ in the good ole Baptist way.  I became a Christian that day and I’ve known ever since that one day I will be with Jesus in heaven.  And I’m so thankful I walk with him now.  Thank you for the part you played in my salvation.

You changed the course of my life.  I'm 44 now and I try to live my life for Jesus every day.  My faith in Christ carried me through some rough years as a teenager and the struggles of young adulthood.  But Jesus never let me down and led through it all.  I’ve been a Methodist minister for the last 18 years.  So, I just wanted to say thank you.  Thank you for giving yourself to the kids who attended children’s church.  There’s no telling how many eternities you altered, but I’m so thankful you altered mine. 

I hope you’re doing well and will always be willing to invite someone to church or just pray with them or tell them or show them God's love.  And whenever you have a chance, invite them to let Jesus come into their hearts.  Maybe they will, just like I did.

Sincerely, You're Brother in Christ,

Reverend Chris Mullis