This morning as I read Jill Carattini’s powerful devotional, “The Sheep Gate” from A Slice of Infinity (http://www.rzim.org/resources/read/asliceofinfinity/todaysslice.aspx), I was seized by the reality that much of what we do in our churches is thief behavior! As Jesus said, “”I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.” (Jn10:1 NIV). He made this statement in a strategic place, the Temple, a busy place where people practiced religion and in some cases even extorted innocent individuals looking for a way into heaven (it was this travesty that caused Him to overturn the tables of the money changers, those who provided inferior alternative sacrifices at inflated prices).
For the most part we mean well (“we” because I too am a churchman); however, no religious exercise, no canned prayer that is prayed, nor aisle walked, can ever substitute for what truly happens in a heart when a person surrenders to Christ alone!
Judaism had become all about legitimate sacrifices and rigorous religious practice, and much of that was necessary, until Christ would come. It was then, the message of the metaphor that God was after, not the continued sacrifice of lambs. He became the lamb that was slain.
Jesus stood in the temple amidst the bleating of sheep, none of which would ever return after their passage through the sheep gate to the place of sacrifice. But, as Carattini so apply communicated, Jesus said, “my sheep go in and out of the door (gate) and find pasture”…he had come to bring salvation to the sheep, not slaughter. By passing through the gate at Calvary, He became our door, and this door revolved with blessing and promise of pasture, not slaughter. He even descended into Hell to preach this new gospel to those who in obedience had carried out the metaphor of religion in hope!
That day had ended and His task now was to break the metaphor and fulfill the realities of the law. Anyone or any well-meaning congregation from that point on, who offered an inferior means of entry or tried to enter the Kingdom by other means would be considered a thief and a robber!
How often I have devised means of getting people to and through the door, for I know the blessings of Christ in my own life, but I am not the savior and neither is the church, as well intended as both I and others are…He alone is the gate!
We must be quick to release ourselves from any device that we conjure up or replicate, even if in some moment of grace God has, through our attempts at religion, attracted sinners to Himself; lest we to be guilty of thief behavior in the temples we have now constructed on almost every corner in America; even if done in sincerity, and the hope of providing an easy way into the Kingdom.
There is no easier way, nor are cheap religious sacrifices any longer necessary, for He is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but by Him!