The following are the notes from this week’s CROSSROADS lesson. Words in bold identify key phrases from notes pages handed out each week. If you would like copies of our slides, please feel free to reach and request them. As these are from the notes pages for each week, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors.
For the most part, the youth of CROSSROADS are middle schoolers or those who don’t have a tremendous amount of independence (with a few exceptions). As you get older, you are put in control of more and more in your life and you are also held more and more accountable for the decisions you make. Your spiritual walk is no different.
In the Jewish community, boys and girls have a Bar Mitzvah (or Bot Mitzvah for girls) to signify they are becoming an adult. In our traditions, we don’t have the same kind of age milestone, but we still eventually start owning more of our lives and the decisions which shape them. Our spiritual lives are not exempt. The Bible says that we are all responsible for the decisions we make and that there are real consequences for deciding to live our lives our own way instead of God’s way.
The decision to follow God’s way over our own way through life is often referred to as the “NARROW WAY”. Jesus talks about The Narrow Way in Luke when he’s asked about people going to heaven. He is asked ‘are only a few going to get to heaven’? The question, itself, sounds like something we’d hear today. You can almost hear the social justice warriors today saying, “Are you telling me that Jesus is the ONLY way to get to heaven?” with a sarcastic tone. Some of you here might think that from time to time. How close-minded is it of Jesus to only let people into heaven who choose to follow him?
He went through one town and village after another, teaching and making his way to Jerusalem. “Lord,” someone asked him, “are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and won’t be able once the homeowner gets up and shuts the door. Then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up for us!’ He will answer you, ‘I don’t know you or where you’re from.’ (Luke 13:22-25)
The picture Jesus paints is one where those who choose not to follow him on earth get to heaven and knock on the door to get in. Because those people did not ACKNOWLEDGE God’s authority on earth, God refuses to ACKNOWLEDGE their place in heaven. When you put it that way, it kind of makes sense, doesn’t it? Heaven is a place created, owned, and occupied by God. If someone came up to your home, busted in through the windows, and claimed they had a right to be there, wouldn’t you think that person was insane? That is very similar to the picture Jesus is painting. Heaven is eternity with God, unified with God, dwelling with God. The world will try to tell us that there are many ways to God and many ways to get to heaven, but the reality is that there is one path and that path leads directly through the cross and the sacrifice Jesus gave. We must decide to submit to God’s authority and when we do, we are acknowledging God on earth which leads to God acknowledging us in heave.
This leads to an important question: What does it look like to ‘take the narrow way’ to God while we are here on earth? I’m glad you asked.
First, let’s look at one of the greatest examples of hundreds choosing to follow the narrow way. In what was basically the first sermon ever preached, a large group sees the disciples receiving the Holy Spirit and doesn’t understand what is happening. Peter preaches a sermon that breaks down for them who Jesus is, what his sacrifice means, and the need for people to repent of their sins. After his sermon, this happens.
When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what should we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt[k] generation!” So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them. (Acts 2:37-41)
Let’s break down the reaction of the crowd and instructions given by Peter because it reveals a lot about what it means to ‘choose the narrow way’.
1)You CHOOSE TO LISTEN. This is where a lot of teens struggle, and I don’t just mean struggle listening on Wednesday nights. Teens have a lot of distractions in their lives and a lot of things competing for your attention. Many teens simply can’t focus for longer than a few second on any one thing because they have so many things grabbing their attention. Unfortunately, ‘being distracted’ isn’t a really good reason to risk the eternity of your soul. In the first verse of the scripture we read, it says ‘when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart’.
Have you ever seen someone during praise and worship or during a message get emotional? Ever wondered what that was all about? Often it’s about nothing more than people being touched by listening to what God is telling them. It’s a powerful experience. If you want to know what it means to truly choose Christ, you have to first be listening to his calling.
2)You CHOOSE TO REPENT. What does it mean to repent? It means you choose to acknowledge God’s standard of right and wrong. You choose to govern what you do and what you think according to God’s plan rather than your own. Peter says to ‘repent’ and to ‘be baptized’. Why be baptized? Baptism is a physical act you do to follow through with your decision to repent. Ceremonial washing is essentially what you are doing to signify the washing of sins for your soul. What does the ceremonial washing mean if you haven’t ACTUALLY repented of your sins? Is it possible that someone has been baptized and needs to be baptized again? For me, the answer was yes. I’ve essentially been baptized three times: once as an infant, once as an adult when I became a Baptist, and once when I really meant it. It’s that last part that really matters. It’s not just enough to go through the action of baptism. You must repent in order for it to actually mean anything.
3)You CHOOSE TO LIVE DIFFERENT. The last thing it says Peter told the group was to ‘be saved from this corrupt generation’. Does anyone want to argue that our generation isn’t corrupt? We have thousands, if not millions, of people participating in rampant substance abuse, sexual confusion and perversion, lying and deception, corruption, oppression, mass violence, bullying, civil disobedience, and hundreds of other moral issues. We live in a world that is suffering from a cancer called ‘sin’ and it can not save itself. If we are living lives that make us indistinguishable from the rest of the world, what does that say about our lives? Are we truly saved? Have we truly repented? The truth is that if we are living lives along the narrow way, we will look different. We will do, think, and say things the world doesn’t understand. The world will see us and realize that we are not a part of them and by sticking out, others will see God in us.
When you look at these three bullets, they basically boil down to hearing the calling, answering with a change of heart, and answering with a change of action. This is what choosing the narrow way looks like. Now we have to turn the conversation back on us. Can we honestly say we’ve done all these things? Do we listen to God’s calling? Do we truly repent of the evil things we do? Do we live lives which set us apart from the world around us?
If not, what are we waiting for?