The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity September 10, 2000
8, 138, 512, 552
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. For they cannot sleep till they do evil; they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall. They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. Here ends our text.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, the one Way through whom we can come to the Father, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
As far as roads go, bigger is better.—At least that’s the way I’ve always felt. For instance, my family lived in Lynnwood when I was growing up, very close to the western terminus of Highway 2. Whenever I had to drive to Spokane, I was tempted to take Highway 2, but I never did. I always went all the way down to Interstate 90 and then west. On the map, it looks much shorted if you cut straight through the middle of the state on Highway 2, but in the end I just never wanted to bother. It’s easier to just stick with the broad, four-lane highway. If you ask me, the bigger the road, the better. Maybe you feel the same way as I do when you’re driving.
For a Christian traveling the road of life, however, it’s just the opposite. Jesus once said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” When you come down to it, there are really only two roads to choose from in travelling through life, and in this case, bigger does not mean better! This morning Solomon, the author of the book of Proverbs, tells us about these two roads, and gives us some advice about which one we should be travelling on. Our theme today is:
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to listen to advice from the Bible when you don’t think it applies to you? One pastor I know noticed such a problem with gossiping among his members that he finally preached a whole sermon on Eighth Commandment, warning his people about the seriousness of talking about someone behind his back. He got a shock, though, when, after the service the very worst gossip of all shook his hand and said, “That was a great sermon, Pastor—you really gave it to them!”
Well, at first glance, you might not think that the words of our text have much to do with you, either. “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.” “That’s no problem,” you say. “I haven’t been associating with any convicts or ax-murderers lately, so I guess there’s no danger of me ‘walking on the path of the wicked.’” That’s not what Solomon’s talking about, though. The words that we have translated “the wicked” and “evil men” in the original are most characterized by one thing—these are people who refuse to serve the true God. People who are still stumbling around in the darkness of unbelief. Does that sound familiar to you—a little closer to home, perhaps? There are a lot of those kind of people right there in your community. Oh yes, their path is very nearby, and the road of unbelief is dark and inviting.
Paul, in Galatians, tells a few of the ways we can recognize those who are on the path of unbelief, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.” Gal 5:19-20. Now that’s got to sound familiar to you! Fornication? Why, couples today would much sooner live together than commit themselves to something as old-fashioned as marriage. Drunkenness? One in six Americans has a drinking problem. Revelries? Today’s youth seem to have taken up a new motto, and the motto is: “Let’s Party!” Our text says doing the wrong thing is as natural as eating and drinking for these people. They’re on the wide, easy road that leads away from God. And don’t kid yourself—that dark road runs through your town, too!
Worst of all, those people aren’t satisfied to travel the road alone. They want you to come along for the ride. “…They cannot sleep till they do evil; they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall.” They are expert recruiters. “Come on,” they’ll say, “let’s celebrate! Let’s go out and really tie one on!” Or, “Be a good guy and join the lodge. We all believe in the same Supreme Being, after all.” Or, “How about coming to bingo tonight? It’s a lot of fun, and it’s not really gambling…” Or, “It won’t hurt you to skip church a few times. I know a spot where the fish are really biting!” Do you recognize any of those voices? Have you felt their insistent tug on your shirtsleeve?
There’s a strange carnivorous flower in South America. Ironically, it’s shaped just like an Easter lily. Insects are attracted to the sweet nectar inside of the cone. But the liquid is slippery, and eventually they slide lower and lower until they drop into a pool of liquid at the bottom, and drown. The dark road of sin is the same way—it’s easy to get on, but very hard to get off. Solomon says, “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked… Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.”
Which is “our way”? How will you avoid the wrong road, and pick the right one? And who will provide a light for you on that road? Paul says, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore God says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.’”
CHRIST WILL GIVE YOU LIGHT! Jesus is the light along the road of faith! That’s the other road that runs through your town. It’s not a wide road, and it’s not an easy road, but it’s there, alright. It’s there for everyone who wants to travel it, rich or poor, great or small, young or old. It’s the bright, shining road that leads to salvation. And the best part about it all is that we don’t have to provide the light along that road—we couldn’t do it anyway, with our own feeble good works. No, God has given us Jesus as the powerful light that brightens that road. As Paul says, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor 4:6. The righteousness that Jesus earned for us is what we call an objective reality. It’s a historical truth. It’s done, and nothing can change it! Jesus righteous life and innocent death has freed us from the power of sin—freed us to travel the bright road that will end up at the very gates of eternal life!
Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” You’re here listening to His Word right now, that means you’ve realized that Jesus is the only Way to salvation. But there may be something you don’t realize, and that’s just how few of us there are who believe that. There are many who think that believing in some god—any god—is good enough. There are many so-called “Christians” who think that good works must be combined with faith in order to save us. But there are very, very few who have found the path of truth, who know that Christ is everything. The Holy Spirit has given you faith to believe that Jesus is your only hope of salvation. In so doing, He has put you on squarely on the road to heaven. If you really take a good look around you, you’ll find that, today, there are fewer people than ever travelling that road with you! Does that make you feel privileged? You are privileged to know Jesus as your only Savior! Our Lord said that “many are called, but few chosen.” Rejoice that you are one of the chosen few!
Well, the Bible tells us to get on that road and stay there, not looking either to the right or to the left. And you know something else? The Bible says that the road will get brighter and brighter as we go! Our text says that “the path of the righteous those who are righteous in Christ is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”
I’ll tell you something that perhaps some of you have already learned from experience: the more you dedicate your life to Jesus, the brighter your path through life will become. The more things you can do to put Christ first in your life, and the life of your family, the more overwhelmingly His joy and blessings will be poured out upon you and yours. The Bible promises—and this literally happens—that every little thing you give to God, that God multiplies it by ten and pours it right back into your lap! Try it and see—it’s almost funny the way it comes true! It’s like a beautiful circle; the more we are blessed with a light-filled life, the more we love God, the more we serve Him, the more we SHINE!
The great Christian scholar C.S. Lewis once wrote a symbolic story about the coming of Judgement Day. He described a faint light lingering on the horizon. For unbelievers, he said, that is the light of the sun that has just set, and soon they will be plunged into eternal night. For believers, it is the light of the sun that is just about to come up, signaling the dawn of the eternal day! May God grant that you and I may be firmly established in path of Jesus’ righteousness, for “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” In His saving name we ask it, AMEN.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.