Friday, April 8, 2016

Two ways

Last Friday on my way to a women's retreat I drove through a small town and passed two young men standing on a street corner, each man holding a placard with a Bible verse written across. I don't recall the exact Scripture references but one sign referenced the sure destiny awaiting the wicked, the other the righteous.

Two placards, two ways, two destinies. This sort of polarity is throughout the Bible. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus warns of two gates:

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Later in that same chapter Jesus tells the parable of the two houses:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matt. 7:24-27)
In John 15:4-6, we see the contrast of the two kinds of branches:

Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear bruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine you are the branches. Who ever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gather, thrown in the fire, and burned.
This same polarity is evident in the Old Testament as well. Psalm 1, for instance, contrasts the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. After describing the blessedness of the man who delights in the law of the Lord and who meditates on it day and night, the psalmist compares the righteous to a tree planted by streams of water and the wicked to chaff blowing in the wind. Finally, he concludes,
the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish (Ps. 1:6)
Two ways to live, two destinies. Like the signs the two young men were holding on the street corner, there is the way of the righteous and there is the way of the wicked. There is no middle road. There are true disciples and untrue disciples. There is the true vine and there are fruitless branches, the wide gate and the narrow gate. The house on the sand and the house on the rock. The tree and the chaff.

Which are you? Which am I?

If I'm honest, I have to admit I like this sort of dichotomy when we speak of others. But when it comes to me and my own self-examination and I am forced to think soberly about whether or not I abide in Christ and bear fruit vine like the vine of John 15 or if I delight in the Word of God and meditate on it day and night as does the righteous of Psalm 1, I have to confess that sometimes I do, maybe, and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I do just as Psalm 1 warns: I walk in the way of the wicked and maybe I even sit in the seat of scoffers.

What then? How do I reconcile my compromise with the demands of true discipleship?

The answer is, always, Jesus. He is all my righteousness. He completely and perfectly fulfilled all obligations of life and godliness and He bore the wrath of God for sin in my place. Because He died and rose again, He took my sin and I get His righteousness. The true blessedness (Ps. 1:1) that marks the true believer is this unmerited favor, the amazing grace, of God. There is therefore no condemnation for those of us in Christ Jesus!

So to abide, then, as a true disciple doesn't mean I follow Him perfectly but rather faithfully. It means I persevere and in my perseverance I fail but I confess and I repent and I seek and I follow, again and again and again and again, in the strength and sufficiency of the Spirit. This is the way of the righteous and it ends with glory.

The warnings to the wicked are real and true. If you do not know Christ, please, heed them. Turn to the Lord, acknowledging your sin and your rebellion against Him, believe His promise to save you and forgive you and give you life in Him, and you will be saved. You will be righteous and the sure hope of glory with Him is yours forever.

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