October 7, 2007
You know it’s fun to clap at church. It’s really enjoyable to do that, to be demonstrative. Sometimes when I speak, people will clap because I’ll talk about certain subjects in the Bible that make people clap. Other times when I talk, I’ll see some people laugh.
In other environments, a lot of people will say, “Amen,” you know? That fires me up, because the Bible is a very positive book. If you ever hear of the term “gospel”, it means, “good news,” and the Bible is full of good news.
Yet, sometimes I have to talk about things that will not make you clap, that will not make you smile, that will not make anybody in any environment say, “Amen.” I don’t always talk about those subjects, yet I’ve got to talk about them. You know, sometimes we have to talk about things we don’t like to talk about; yet we know we have to discuss those things.
A good friend of mine several months ago went to the doctor, and the doctor checked him, examined him and he looked at him and said, “Rick, I’ve got some terrible news for you. You have a very aggressive form of cancer.” Then this doctor told him his prognosis.
Now, a doctor is going to tell a patient the truth, because a doctor has taken a Hippocratic Oath, meaning they’ve got to talk and explain and tell people what the situation is.
As a teacher, as a pastor, as the leader of Fellowship Church, I’ve not taken a Hippocratic Oath; but I have to tell you the truth about what the Bible says. Many times I want to tell you the truth in a very positive way, in a loving way, and hopefully I do. But I want to talk about things that make you laugh and smile and clap and say, “Amen”; yet sometimes, I’ve got to talk about very difficult subjects. Sometimes when I wake up on Sunday morning, I’m not in to talking about certain subjects.
Well, today is one of those days. I don’t really enjoy talking about this to you; but I have to because Jesus talked so openly and so plainly about the subject matter that I’m going to discuss.
We’ve been talking about change. We’ve been talking about how God changes our lives. We’ve been saying around here that when God changes our lives, we have to come to a point where we say, “You know what? I can’t change.”
And once we make that decision, this exchange takes place; we open the lid of our lives and invite Christ to come in, and we trade our failures for his forgiveness, our guilt for his grace, our pursuits for his plan and agenda. That’s what happens when true change takes place.
I’ve also talked about what happens when we keep change at bay. I’ve talked about what happens when we don’t really change.
Jesus preached the greatest message in the history of the world. It’s called the Sermon on the Mount. You’ve probably heard of that before. And Jesus was talking, pretty much, about change. He talked about, “Here’s what happens when change occurs; here’s how you can help the needy; here’s how you can resolve conflict; and here’s what change looks like.”
Then in Matthew 7, he changes gears as he talks about change because he talks about, “Okay, here is the crux of change.” Jesus said, “Here is the true core of change.” He says, “If God changes your life, here’s the deal.” Then he says, “If you keep God at bay; if you distance yourself from God; if you don’t allow God to change your life, here is what’s going to happen.”
Thirteen percent of Christ’s words were about eternity. Two-thirds of all of his parables were about heaven and hell type issues. Jesus, in Matthew 7, is talking about heaven and hell.
We don’t like to talk about hell. We’ve taken this noun and turned it into an adjective: “That was a hell of a game.” “My golf game has gone to hell.” We never take other terms or other tragedies and use them in our vocabulary. Like we never say, “Man, my golf game has gone to cancer,” or, “What in the 9-11 were you thinking?” We don’t do that. We always use hell.
And so often people joke about hell, and we make light of it and we casualize it. And we make fun of people who live there and we say hell this and hell that. Jesus, though, talks about it. And some of the things he talks about in this chapter are things that will riddle you and me with fear.
I call today’s talk “The Five Fearsome Facts of Christianity.” And again, I’m not into telling you this stuff. I don’t think, “Wow, I can’t wait to talk about hell! Man, this is gonna be fun.” I mean, when I drove to church this morning, I wasn’t saying, “Oh, yeah. I’m going to talk about hell. This is going to be awesome! Yeah, hell! Hell, yes,” I didn’t say that.
I’ve got to talk about it, though, because Jesus talked so plainly and so bluntly about it. And I think as you kind of process these five fearsome facts, you’re going to see this irrational, indescribable love that Jesus has for all of us.
Everyone Is Not Going To Heaven
If you have your Bibles, turn to Matthew 7, and I’ll begin this study with verse 13. That leads me to the first fearsome fact. Fact No.1: Everyone is not going to heaven.
Some of you are going, “Well, okay, I can dig that. Yeah, axe murderers, they’re not going. People who are totally wheels off, they’re not going. But surely most people are going to heaven, Ed. I mean, come on.”
Back in the ‘70s, I knew someone that lived in a gated community. And back in the ‘70s, you didn’t have a lot of gated communities. Today, gated communities are littered all over our nation and our world. Yet in the ‘70s, this gated community was something else.
There was this guard gate out front. I remember driving up to this guard gate, and all I would do is look at the guard, and he would always do this: he would nod, wink, and just wave me on through. It happened all the time. I would look at him; he would nod, wink, and just wave me on through.
We want a guard gate God, don’t we? Our culture does. We hear, “If you’re sincere, whatever you’re driving, whatever you’re doing, it doesn’t matter who you’re following; just drive up to God and he’ll just nod and wink and wave you on through.”
And we think, “If I’m a good guy or a good girl; if I keep my nose clean and throw some money, maybe, in the offering plate or to a charity now and then; God grades on the cosmic curve anyway. He’s just going to wave me into heaven. Because, after all, I’m better than most people. I’m just a good guy, or maybe I’m just a good girl.”
In Matthew 7:13, Jesus said this, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”
Read it in Scripture. Both heaven and hell are gated communities. Jesus is talking in this text about different things. He talks about a couple of gates. And then I’m going to talk about a couple of roads. Then I’m going to talk about, from God’s Word, a couple of trees, a couple of types of fruits; and then a couple of types of houses built on a couple of types of soil.
So Jesus is comparing and contrasting those who experience life change, those who open up the lids of their lives and allow this exchange to take place. He is comparing and contrasting those people with those who keep God at a distance. But everyone is not going to heaven.
More People Will Go To Hell Than Heaven
Here’s the second fearful fact: More people will go to hell than heaven. You remember back in the ‘80s when AC/DC wrote that song “Highway to Hell”? They were exactly right, because there is a highway to hell, and it leads to destruction. And it’s easy to get on this highway because the road is broad. The way is very, very easy to follow. And we think everything is hunky-dory, because self-reliance segues into self-deception, and self-deception will ultimately lead to self-destruction.
And so many are on this highway to hell, and people say things like, “You know, I don’t care if I’m going to hell because I’ll party with my friends in hell, and we’ll have a great time in hell.”
Well, you know what? You won’t have that option, because hell is a location. Jesus said, “It is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.” It is a place where you’re utterly alone; a place of darkness.
So Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”
So a lot of people are on the road, and they don’t realize that around the corner destruction is in the cards and more people will go to hell than heaven.
Verse 14: “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
And Jesus backed this up in John14:6 when he said, “I am the Way,” definite article number one, “the Way.” “I am the Truth,” definite article number two, “the Truth.” “I am the Life,” definite article number three, “the Life.” “I am the way and the truth and thd life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Now, if we take that verse and believe that verse and accept that verse, that means 1.3 billion Muslims won’t make it. That means 900 million Hindus are not going to get there. That means 376 million Buddhists will not see heaven. And that means that half a million Scientologists will not enter the Golden Gates.
Wow! I mean, in our politically correct culture, that doesn’t sell many books; that’s not very popular. Why would God do that? Surely, there are many roads that lead to God. I mean, God’s the top of the mountain, right? And if you’re sincere, you can get to God.
How many here have a cell phone? We all do. What if I told you, right now, “Take your cell phones out and start dialing numbers. Just whatever you want to dial, and my cell phone will ring”? You’d be like, “What?” I mean, there’s only one number that is my number. That’s why Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
Okay. Let’s say, for example, that God had given us other ways; there were other options to get to him. Let’s just say that. Well, if that were true, why would God have allowed his only son to go through that torturous, humiliating death? I mean, God, being a God of love, would have gone, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Jesus, you don’t have to go through that because there are many other options, many other ways.”
A lot of people I talk to get so hung up on this issue: “Oh, man. Could there be other ways?”
And in my travels around the world, I’ve heard people say, “I’m not sure there aren’t other ways. That just messes my mind up. I’m not sure if I can trust Christ, because surely there are other ways.”
Whoa! Just take a chill pill and relax. God is sovereign; God is omniscient. We’ve got to trust God in this issue. We’ve also got to believe that Jesus is the only way, because he said it. I mean, I’m not saying this; I’m just telling you what he said.
But here’s the deal. You have no excuse. The information has been dumped on your life. What are you going to do with Jesus? This issue should fire all of us up to share our faith, to leverage everything we can to tell others about the Good News of Jesus Christ.
We don’t serve, though, a guard gate God who just goes, “Come on in, man. No problem, just come on in! Everything’s cool; everything’s fine. I mean, if you’re good; if you’re this or that; if you’re better than most people; if you’re not an axe murderer; if you’re not just totally wheels off, just come on into heaven.”
I mean, most of us would say, “You know what? I’m a good guy. I’m a good girl.” Well, great that you say that; great that I would say it about myself. But here’s the deal. Scripture says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
I just know how to sin. I don’t know why I could just sin. I’m a natural-born sinner, and so are you. Sin is serious! It’s so serious that it cost God his very own son, Jesus Christ. So at the end of the day, we’re all self-centered sinners in need of a savior. Everyone’s not going to heaven. More people will go to hell than heaven.
Many Who Think They Are Christians Aren’t
The third fearful fact is out of Matthew 7:21-23. Many who think they’re Christians aren’t. Most people who think they’re Christ-followers aren’t.
I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of funerals. And I’ve conducted a number of funerals for people who have kept God at a distance their entire lives. I’ve done some funerals for some reprobates, for some hell-raising people.
And invariably, we’re standing around the gravesite after I’ve read the 23rd Psalm, after I’ve tried to comfort the family, and someone will come up to me and say this. Every time it happens. They’ll go, “You know, Ed, I appreciate your message. He’s in a much better place. She’s looking down at us right now, smiling.”
I don’t want to say it, because I’m not going to say it in this context; but I want to look at them and say, “Are you sure about that? Wait a minute, are you telling me you think that this person is in heaven by the way they lived, by the lack of fruit they produced, by the lack of foundation that they built their lives on?” I want to say, “Come on. I’ve got to wonder. Based on Scripture, I don’t think they’re in heaven!”
I don’t say that. I think that, though. Don’t always say what you think. That can get you into some serious trouble.
Jesus said, though, in Matthew 7:21-22 here, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?”
“Lord, I was Baptist. I was Catholic. I was confirmed. I was an altar boy. I lived a good life. I tried to help the needy. I mean, I…”
In Matthew 7:23 (this is Jesus talking,) “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.’”
Some of you right now are going, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. How can a loving God hurl people to hell? How could Jesus slam-dunk someone to hell?”
God doesn’t; Jesus doesn’t slam-dunk anybody to hell. We volunteer. If we get to the end of our life, and we’ve kept God at a distance, at bay, we go to hell. He’s tried to get near us through that Bible study, through maybe a church service, through a song, through an event, through something good, through a tragedy, whatever. But if we’ve kept him at a distance, he will simply look at you and say, “You know what? You kept me at a distance throughout your life. You’ll have a greater measure of this in eternity.”
“Most people,” Jesus is saying here, “who think they’re a believer aren’t really a believer. They’re not really followers of Christ.”
Only those—read about it in the Scriptures—who produce fruit, who build their lives on the solid foundation are.. Because Jesus goes on to say that a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit. A good tree produces good fruit. Matthew 7:16: “By their fruit you will recognize them.”
Then he talks about homebuilding. He said, “Those who build their house on the rock, when the rogue winds strike, when the storms hit, the house doesn’t move. Yet, those who build their house on the sand, the rogue winds strike, the storms hit, they’re gone.”
It’s all about destruction. Most people who think they’re believers aren’t.
“Now, wait a minute, Ed. Are you trying to get me to doubt my salvation? Come on. Are you trying to get me to doubt whether I’m a Christian or not?”
No way. I am challenging you to take inventory, to take stock in your life. Because we’re saved by faith alone, but faith that saves is never alone.
Well, let me just stop and ask you this question. Okay, you call yourself a Christ-follower, a relic. And yet going to church is hell for you? If going to church is hell for you and you call yourself a Christ-follower, then heaven will be hell for you. If you call yourself a believer and you don’t have a heart for the only institution that Jesus ever built, the local church; if you call yourself a believer and you’re not serving within the context of a biblically functioning community; if you call yourself a believer and you’re treating your spouse the way you treat your spouse; if you call yourself a believer and you’re not bringing the minimum worship requirement to the local church, 10% of everything you make to his house, I have got to wonder, based on Scripture, whether or not you’re a Christian. That’s just me.
And you have to answer these questions for yourself; I can’t do it for you. I have to do it for myself. All I’m doing is being the messenger boy. I’m just saying, “Okay, here it is.” But Jesus said, “By your fruits—the stuff we produce, the supernatural fruits—I will recognize you.”
When I was like thirteen or fourteen, I went to a conference with my father. My father’s also a pastor, and we were at this big pastors’ conference, and somehow we got split up. I was walking in the lobby of this conference center. I was just walking by myself and I had a couple of preachers say, “Hey! Hey! You’ve got to be Ed’s boy. You’re Ed Young’s boy.”
And I remember thinking, “How did they know?”
“Oh, man, just by the way you walk, the way you look. I mean, aren’t you Ed Young’s son?”
I said, “Yes, Sir, I am.”
Let’s face it, folks. We can fight it, but we’re all turning into our parents. I mean, we try not to. I am, and so are you. Now, hopefully we improve on that, right? But we’re like our parents. Do you ever do things sometimes, when you’re just like, “Wow! That’s just like my mother! My father has that same look and the same—aarrgghh!” You know?
This is a test. I mean, as you’re living your life; as you’re walking through the lobby of life, when people take a step back and look at you, do they say, “Oh man, that’s God’s boy! I can just tell it by the way he walks, by the way he talks, by his language, by the way he handles himself, by the way he relates to people; where he goes, where he doesn’t go.”
“Oh, that’s God’s girl, there’s no doubt. Her father is all over her. Look at her countenance. Look at the pace of life. Look at her purpose, look at her agenda.” By our fruits, we’ll be recognized by him.
In James 2:19, the half-brother of Jesus said this: “You believe that there is one God? Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”
People say, “Well, man, I believe in Jesus!” Awesome. The devil does. The demons believe so much, they actually shake. And a lot of the demons would make pretty decent church members. Think about it. You ever thought about that? They believe in Jesus. They believe in Scripture. They saw the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. They know the church is the hope of the world. But there’s one problem. They will not submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ. So belief is good. Man, that’s good. But there’s more.
2 Corinthians 13:5, here’s what I’m driving at. Here’s what Jesus was driving at, “Examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.”
My friend, Rick, went to the doctor. The doctor examined him and told him, plainly, the truth about his condition. And then the last part of verse 5 says, “Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”
You Will Not Get Another Opportunity After You Die
Everyone’s not going to heaven. More people will go to hell than heaven. Many who think they’re Christians aren’t. Here’s the fourth fearsome fact: You will not get another opportunity after you die. We’re all going to die. And in a crowd this size, there’s a great chance that next month some of you won’t be here. Just think about it. I don’t want to be morbid, but just think about it.
They could be putting the gas right now in the hearse that’ll take your body to the cemetery. We have no idea how long we have. And people think, “Well, you know, I can cut these deals, man. I can bake and shake and shake and bake; and I can do this and do that, and I’ve read the fine print and I can negotiate my way in.”
Well, the Bible says in Hebrews 9:27 (KJV): “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
Sometimes we have a tendency of being late. Many times we’ll start church, and no one will hardly be here. And then, about 15 minutes into the service, this place is packed with thousands. We’re very busy. Many times we’re late for different appointments.
Well, death is an appointment we’re not going to be late for. And Hebrew 9:27 says we’re going to die, and then the judgment. We’re going to clock out and—boom—we’re in eternity. Because all of us will spend eternity in one of two places: either with Christ or in a Christ-less eternity.
God will look at your life and mine, and he’s going to look and see if we’ve applied Jesus to our lives; if we have received him. If he sees that paid in full on your heart and mine; if he sees us clothed in the righteousness of his son, he’ll say, “Boom—you’re my boy. You’re my girl.”
But if he doesn’t, I mean, we can’t do some kind of deal like, “Okay, yeah. I knew you were the way. And I know you tried to get near me during that Bible study; I knew you tried to get near to me at that Fellowship Church service, but I kept you at a distance. And I just stiff-armed you. Surely, there’s another chance.”
What we do on this side of the grave affects where we will spend eternity.
This Could Be Your Last Chance
Here’s the fifth and final fearsome fact of this very difficult talk that I didn’t really want to give today, but I’ve got to. This could be your last chance. Today could be your last opportunity to make this decision. It could be. I don’t know, it might not be or it could be. Again, in a crowd this size, with thousands here and with thousands at our campus in Fort Worth and Plano and Downtown and Miami, just statistics could reflect that.
Jesus said something really scary here at Luke 13:25. And again, he talked plainly and lovingly about hell and heaven. He said, “Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’”
How close are you from death? If I take my pulse right now, my heart’s beating like this [Ed snaps his fingers at the pace of a heartbeat]. How close are you? How close are you from death? We’re just one heartbeat away from eternity. And you’re not ready to live until you’re ready to die.
Where are you in this situation? Have you allowed this exchange to take place? As you have done this stock and inventory; as you have taken this spiritual physical today; as you’ve thought about the fruit and the foundation of your life, are you a follower of Christ? I don’t know. I cannot force you to make this decision. You can’t force me. I mean, I can’t. It’s between you and God. I’m just the messenger boy telling you what Jesus said. Have you made this decision?
Maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, Ed, I would like to make this decision.”
You know what I would tell you? Do it! Don’t delay! Now is the time. Now is the only time that we can be guaranteed of, right now. So, make the decision. Seriously, what’s keeping you from it? Just make it.
“Well, how do I make it?”
You can just say these words to yourself; you can look at me, you don’t have to close your eyes to do this. You can simply say to God, “God, I’ve sinned! I admit to you the obvious. I turn from my sin, and I turn to you, Jesus. I believe to the best of my ability, God, that you sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for my sins and rise again. I give you everything I am and everything I’ll ever become—tax, title, and license. Everything, Lord—my mind, my body, my relationships—you infiltrate my life.” Just say that.
Jesus brought you here today for a reason. Our paths have collided for a reason. And it’s for this message. If you prayed that prayer; if you made that decision, awesome! If today you’re making that decision, maybe you thought, “You know what? I thought I was a believer. You know, I thought I was really walking with Christ; but now after I think about these things, I mean, I’m not so sure.” Now’s the time to make that decision, to nail it down. Right now.
If you’ve never made this decision or if you are nailing it down and saying, “You know what? Today is the day for me,” just make that decision, make that choice. Because I’m going to challenge you to do something in a couple of moments. I’m going to challenge you to do something that we don’t do a lot around here at Fellowship Church.
I’m going to challenge you, as we begin this next song, to stand where you’re seated and make your way forward publicly to say, “You know what? I am putting my flag up for Jesus Christ.” Because Jesus said in Matthew 10:32: “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my father in heaven.”
And that’s why we’re doing that. Because when we go public with something, we’re not going to back off and kind of slither around in the shadows any more. And it’s time for many to go public with this incredible decision that you’ve made.
Maybe you’re in the balcony and you’re like, “Man, that’s a long way to walk.” It’s not that far. I mean, we’re talking eternity. Just cruise through a little hallway and down one of the steps, and we’ll wait for you down front. But after I pray and say amen, I’m going to ask you to make your way forward and stand and face me down front. And we want to talk to you briefly after this service about this decision.
Let’s bow for prayer together.
[Ed leads in closing prayer, walk forward invitation and spontaneous baptism.]