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Faith and the Narrow Way
Grace to you and peace from
God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is the common theme among the unchurched—and even among those who claim to be Christians but refuse to attend worship—that the Church is full of hypocrites. “Yeah, you Christians talk a good game, but when the rubber hits the road, you don’t live your lives according to the Bible.” The accusation is that we don’t live up to the standard set before us in the Ten Commandments; that we don’t fear, love, and trust in God above all things; that we don’t love our neighbors as ourselves. And if we examine ourselves according to the Law of God, we have to admit the truth of the accusation. We are poor, miserable sinners. We sin in thought, word, and deed, by what we do and by what we fail to do. And sinners, even with the best of intentions, cannot perfectly live what we believe.
In the epistle, Peter is telling you that you must walk the walk of faith, that you must strive to live as the redeemed children of God, not as a spoiled child who takes advantage of a doting and doddering Father who allegedly refuses to show the discipline you deserve. No, the good works you do will not save you, nor will your refusal to do the evil works that tempt you. Nevertheless, you are supposed to live your faith in your daily life. You are supposed to display the love of God in Christ to your neighbors.
Jesus describes the way a Christian walks as a narrow and difficult path. Even the most gifted gymnast has difficulty walking on a balance beam. Anyone who has tried walking on a curb knows how difficult it can be to stay on a narrow path. Sometimes I can’t even stay on a sidewalk. And the daily walk with Christ is even more perilous because of the dangers on the way. St. Peter says that you must walk humbly, that you must remain alert, because Satan is always lurking about, ready to push you off the road and snatch you away. The writer of Proverbs says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” God has made you in His own image, and He wants to keep shaping you in His image, while the Old Adam wants you to be proud of your sin. If you are not constantly aware of that Old Adam, you will be so busy looking at a god who looks like what you see in a mirror that you will wander from the path God has set before you.
These dangers are real, and they may come when you least expect them. There are many who call themselves Christians, but they have stepped away from this narrow path, many without even realizing it. They may even continue to worship and do good works. But they no longer order their lives according to the Word of God. They have deceived themselves into believing they can serve both God and their own agenda. They have believed the lies and distractions Satan has set before them. They have looked at the Word of God and have tossed away those teachings that don’t harmonize with their own ideas and goals.
Do you hear those words and wonder if St. Peter is talking about you? For me, it would be a joy to toss away what the Bible teaches about gluttony. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Many…are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly…” The Old Adam wants me to believe that I can fill my plate as many times as I want. Satan even tells me that I am honoring God’s First Article blessings by overindulging in the gifts of daily bread. But in reality, I am destroying the body God has given me, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. What idol, what false god, is trying to lead you from the narrow path?
Standing firm in the faith and resisting Satan and your Old Adam will be uncomfortable. Peter acknowledges that as he says, “…The same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” It is true that such suffering is unpleasant on the narrow way, and your wisdom and power are never enough to perfectly resist the trial or endure the suffering. But your suffering is not permanent. God will end it in His good time. Meanwhile, He has given you the power of Christ. He has placed your feet on the path. He has prepared you for the journey by washing you clean and covering you with the robe of baptismal righteousness. And Christ has even become the Way for you.
And when you stray from the path, when you fail to live as you believe, He seeks you out and brings you back. He says to you, “Cast all your cares upon me, because you belong to me. I have won the victory. For the sake of My own suffering and death, I forgive you all your sins. I will always welcome you back to the path, and I will see you through that narrow gate. I give you new life, eternal life.” The God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, washes you with the bloody water from our Savior’s side and feeds you with His own body and blood to “perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” Through these gifts, and with His Holy Spirit who has been given to each believer, God will guide and strengthen and bless and keep you unto that final exaltation on the Last Day. In thanksgiving we pray, “To Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever.” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.