Not all paths lead to God. Truly, most paths in life lead to emptiness. Grasping for the “sweet” thing in life – possessions, experience, power, sex, pleasure, status, we find nothing inside of it all. Meaning in life is not found through knowledge, pleasure, power, money, work, style or popularity. The path that leads to God is the one that makes us turn away from all these deceptive empty riches that ultimately kill us inside-out. It is the path that makes us turn back to Him in humility, obedience and repentance. It is the narrow path that frees us from the scramble for success, approval and money, and the death sentence of power and pleasure. It is the narrow road that takes us back to face one another in love and forgiveness, drawing our hearts closer to each other and to the heart of God.
As Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious and easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it!” “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved… I am the way…” (Matthew 7:13-14, John 10:9, 14:6)
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When the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near one time, Jesus’ brothers wanted him to go and proclaim his power. So they advised him, “Leave here and go to Judea so your disciples may see your miracles that you are performing. For no one who seeks to make a reputation for himself does anything in secret. If you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” (For not even his own brothers believed in him.)
But Jesus replied, “My time has not yet arrived, but you are ready at any opportunity! The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I am testifying about it that its deeds are evil. You go up to the feast by yourselves.”
As a matter of fact, time after time he said “do not tell anyone” after he had healed someone or done a mighty miracle. It is us, who are so caught up in the business of making a name for ourselves, claiming and proclaiming our personal power and work, showing ourselves to the world, that if Jesus’ brothers told us those words, we’d eagerly say “yes!” Just look at Facebook’s personal profiles to know my words are true – you’d even know how awesome your neighbor looks in her nakedness and how health and environmentally friendly someone is by what they have to show they’ve had for breakfast. Why would we want to keep such things secret?! We have to show to the whole world how pretty, good and enlightened we are after all, right? By showing ourselves off we can lead others into greatness, right? Or so thinks the ego…
But Jesus wasn’t in the business of making reputation for himself, or making bad people good. He is into the business of making dead people alive.
After his death, resurrection and ascension, his brothers finally understood. James, Jesus’s brother even understood as he wrote in his letter to the twelve tribes of Israel dispersed in the Diaspora of “ faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. For human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. So put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the message implanted within you, which is able to save your souls. But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves. For if someone merely listens to the message and does not live it out, he is like someone who gazes at his own face in a mirror. For he gazes at himself and then goes out and immediately forgets what sort of person he was. But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out—he will be blessed in what he does. If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile. Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
My brothers and sisters, do not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby filthy clothing also comes in, do you pay attention to the one who is finely dressed say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit on the floor.” If so have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters! Did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor! Are not the rich oppressing you and dragging you into court? Do they not blaspheme the good name of the one you belong to? But if you really fulfill the royal law as expressed in this scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show prejudice, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as violators. For the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a violator of the law. So speak and act as those who will be judged by the law that gives freedom. For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 1:19 – 2: 13)
Rabbi John Parsons notes, “The worst kind of bondage is when you are so oppressed by yourself -so enslaved by your inner urges – that you are no longer able to think outside of your desire or to choose otherwise. It might be greed, the desire for pleasure, fear, or the “need” to be right (i.e., pride), but whatever controls you is ultimately your taskmaster. Self-deception entices us to deny the consequences of our passions or to excuse them by pretending we are victims. Because of this, we become further enslaved to our own sense of self-importance, and we are ensnared within the prison house of the all-demanding ego. We can only be delivered from the inner tyranny of ourselves by God’s power: “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). This is the truth of God’s power of deliverance given in Yeshua (Jesus) our Lord (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18). The truth sets you free not merely in some intellectual sense (i.e., made free from error), but in a volitional sense, in the core of your being, when your will is no longer enslaved to the power and inner darkness of sin….”
“Then Jesus said to those Judeans who had believed him, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)