|zt: highway or byway. 窄门，宽路|
|送交者: 雅1 2017年03月13日08:32:57 于 [彩虹之约] 发送悄悄话|
“Highway – or – Byway”
March 12, 2017 (Lent 2 A)
It’s been said many times before, but I’ll say it again: “Life is a journey.” I think we can all agree that’s true – but only Scripture can give us insight as to what it means and where we are headed. The Bible raises that most vital question of all: What road am I on? Jesus Himself puts that question before us in Matthew 7:13-14 “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.”
The Apostle Paul in Romans 4 so clearly describes those 2 different roads that we can call: The Highway – and – the Byway. Maybe you’ve heard this phrase, or come across it in literature: “He’s travelled the highways and byways of our land.” We all know what a highway is. A “byway” is an old English term – and if you’ve ever been in rural England you’ve probably seen (or been on) one. It’s not exactly a road by North American standards. It’s more like a narrow PATH, which can prove rather challenging if you meet another vehicle coming from the opposite direction. The highway is where all the traffic is – but the byway is that narrow road blazed by Christ / the Way of Faith / the way Abraham went and the way his spiritual descendants follow after him – as Paul describes in verses 13-17 of this chapter:
Romans 4:13–17 (NIV 11)
13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
The “highway” is salvation by works / salvation based upon the LAW in any and all its forms. And . . . it’s so alluring to human nature; it’s the default path all of us are on and it’s just how things work in the world we live in. You get ahead and excel by doing the right things and by NOT doing the wrong things. Paul was on that spiritual highway, along with so many of the religious leaders in Israel. They missed the whole point of FAITH, the worship life of Israel, and the key role of the Promised Messiah. They loved and clung so tightly to the Laws of Moses for all the wrong reasons – they reasoned that if they kept them well enough (staying in the lane) then those laws could lead them to earn their own place in heavenly glory.
There are multiple “lanes” on this highway – and, as time marches on, people continue to build more. Roughly 600 years after Christ, Islam added their own lane, with their own laws and practices – promising their faithful eternal life, if they kept well enough in their lane and did what they were supposed to do. All man-made religions have their own set of laws, trying to attract as much traffic as they can, preaching some view of salvation by following whatever guidelines they have set down. Even the new lanes of our secular age that have removed God entirely and even tried to remove any sense of objective morality . . . can’t escape from having laws; they just have different ones. Those lanes claim there’s no destination at the end, but promise you all the happiness and freedom you want along the way – as long as you don’t hurt anyone else, or offend anyone, and you make sure to be mindful of protecting the planet.
It doesn’t matter what particular LANE you are on – there’s no salvation on that highway! They make up and follow whatever laws they want, but what they don’t know is that they will all be judged according to GOD’S high and holy perfect standards. If a person could possibly get to heaven that way – they would certainly have something to boast about, but they can’t . . . it’s impossible to ever reach God’s standard of perfection (as both the Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures tell us).
Therefore God opened up a DIFFERENT way – the byway – that can and does bring the sinner home to the glory of heaven. Christ Jesus blazed that path by His righteous life and His sacrificial death. But, as Paul proves here so clearly in Romans 4 – that path was open even before Christ blazed it. Before it was accomplished, it was a PROMISE. And, when God promises to do something . . . it’s as good as done. As Paul so clearly and eloquently proves from the Old Testament Scriptures themselves – Abraham was saved by FAITH in that promise, just as we are now saved by FAITH in what Jesus has accomplished.
That path is salvation by FAITH and by GRACE – not by works of the Law in any way. That “byway” is by faith alone / by grace alone / by Christ alone. It’s a totally different road – and there is no mixing them. You cannot drive on them both at the same time. You are either on the highway of works – or – the byway of Faith. By God’s grace we are on that blessed path – what an honour / what a privilege / we are on our way to heaven, thanks entirely to Jesus and through absolutely no effort, merit, or goodness of our own.
There are, however, a couple common misconceptions about life on this BYWAY that Scripture clears up for us:
If it’s ALL by faith / ALL by Christ – and has nothing to do with good works . . . then the laws and requirements of God must be useless to people on that path. Not so at all!! God’s Moral Law (the 10 Commandments) remains absolutely essential. First of all – it’s essential to getting ON that path. God’s Law shows us “the highway” is headed in the wrong direction – and that we can never, ever, live up to God’s demands or be justified / righteous before the Judgment Seat of God by our own actions or behaviour. Secondly – it keeps us ON that path. It hammers our pride and shatters our selfish hearts in ongoing, genuine, repentance. It exposes the ditch on either side of the road, along with those dreadful lies that call us back to the “highway” everyone else is on. In a good way it keeps us terrified of ever sliding or slipping off that narrow path.
The second common misconception is that it’s SMOOTH sailing and super easy on the “byway” of Faith. It’s ALL Jesus . . . so I can just “set the cruise control,” put my feet up, and slide on home to heaven. NO – it can be a really challenging road to travel down at times. Simply look at Abraham’s journey – God had him uproot his life and travel to a foreign land. God promised this old man he would have a son – and it seemed so impossible, and he had to WAIT so long! His faith was tested. He then asked this man to sacrifice his beloved child – the promised son . . . his faith was pushed to the limit. When he failed, he was forgiven, and he learned from it. When he succeeded, he was praised and encouraged. Paul’s journey of faith was very different, but certainly NOT an easy one. Just consider all the heroes of faith down through the centuries – the road of faith is not an easy path to travel, but God has big plans for His people and He holds our hand every step of the way.
If you have been travelling the “Byway of Faith in Christ” for any length of time – you know how challenging and rough it can be. The Law of God continues to hammer us and keep us on our knees in humble repentance. It’s often an arduous trial to be faithful / honest / upright / pious / growing / sacrificing to be a light shining in the darkness pointing the Way to eternal life . . . carrying our unique crosses as we struggle to put one foot in front of the other and keep going day after day. Our faith can be pushed or even strained to the limit, sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fall flat on our faces and have really tough lessons to learn.
Abraham’s encouragement / Paul’s encouragement / Scripture’s encouragement / GOD’S encouragement: follow that path blazed by Christ – that path traveled by all God’s people down through time. Do not veer to the right or to the left. Do not fall asleep at the wheel. Do not give up when it gets really tough. Do not give in to those alluring lies and temptations to go back to the popular highway that seems so smooth and easy. Do not quit trying to show Jesus to the world. Trust Him. Live by faith; one step at a time. Keep going. God will provide the strength, wisdom, forgiveness, support and encouragement you need. For . . . Christ is on that path / Christ is that path – and He will make sure you get across every bridge, through every valley, and over every obstacle . . . all the way home to eternal glory.