Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Beauty of An Open Gate

Acts 3:1-7
3 Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.  2 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; 3 who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms.  4 And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.”  5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.  6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”  7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.

It is one thing to have had your strength and the use of your limbs, to at one time to have had the needful and desirable substance and then lose it, because at least you would have a point of reference to look upon, and remember how good it was.
If you were brought up in the church and you had experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit and at least in some measure you had felt the peace of God and experienced some measure of Joy, you are a blessed person, because somewhere in you there is a God consciousness.  Like the person who had their sight and then lost it, or had their hearing and then lost it because at least you have the memory of how good it used to be.  You can remember how beautiful a sunrise can be and you know the soothing sound of the rain falling on a roof.
But that is not the case when someone has been born lame.  Their life has been on long nightmare of rejection, abuse, deception, and confusion.  Like an orphan for example, many have grown up with no father in the home and no real mother to nurture them.  They seek substances or relationships to fill the gap in their life that has been left empty, a gap that was intended to filled by God’s Holy Spirit.  They often jump from one abusive relationship to another.  When they do have a good one they run from it because it is unfamiliar to them.  Their life becomes a series of continual disappointments.  They usually have no reference to discern true love so they continue to live in hopelessness and often become dependent on substances and other things to try and find true happiness.
They were not taken to church and taught about the love of God and a many times they have come to believe that church is for weak people and Jesus is just a crutch.  They have no point of reference and they cannot look backwards or forwards and see that there is hope because they have no idea what hope is.  And they are all around us, just outside the church, “lame at the gate.”
A gate is just a door, it is a movable barrier in a fence or wall, a portal to something, an entrance a hinged barrier used to close an opening in a wall or fence.  An open gate signifies admission and acceptance, but a closed gate signifies refusal and rejection.  Too many times churches are guilty of putting a wall where God intends for us to put a door.
The text says this gate was called beautiful.  The most beautiful thing in this world is the church fulfilling its destiny, filling the need of the hour, being whatever is needed to whoever needs it.  Bringing food to the hungry, praying for the sick, visiting those in nursing homes and prisons, or simply inviting someone to church.  We are what we were called to be when we are an open door for those in need.
But too often we are guilty of keeping the gate closed, of turning our churches into social clubs when God called us to be lighthouses, and of “having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.”  We are called beautiful but at times we are not living up to our name.
To one of the seven churches in the book of Revelation Jesus said, “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.”
The first thing we must ask ourselves as God’s people, and it’s a difficult question to ask, but we have got to ask it, are we truly beautiful?  Are we fulfilling our calling?  Are we driving towards our destiny?  Are we striving to reach the goal for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus?  Are we meeting the great physical and spiritual needs of the hour, or are we just called beautiful?
The second question the church needs to ask is, who calls us beautiful?  Is it an adjective that we have conferred upon ourselves?  Did we decide that we are beautiful because we have a nice big church, great music, gifted musicians, great programs and an anointed pastor?  Is it because we have great youth ministries?  Is it the size of our offerings?  Is it because we speak in tongues, and feel the Holy Spirit?
If we really want know whether we as individuals, or corporately as the body of believers are beautiful or not, we have to determine if our gate is open or closed.  Are we like Jesus, beckoning the lost to “come?”  The Church members were first called Christians at Antioch and they were called Christians because they were acting like Christ, and that’s beautiful!
The Church should be functioning in the character, in the authority, and in power of Jesus Christ, or we are in danger of claiming to be alive when we are really dead.  We should be functioning in the power of the Holy Ghost and doing what is impossible to do in our own names and character, in the character and name of Jesus Christ.
Peter took the lame man by the hand and lifted him up, he told him that he might be financially unable to help him, he has nothing of his own to offer, but he has one thing that can change the man’s circumstances, the name of Jesus.  Praise God!
We might not have the biggest church building in our area, our finances might not be overflowing with alms for the poor, we might drive beat up old cars instead of BMW’s and Cadillac’s, but we have at our disposal the ability to speak the name of God’s son and to see the sick healed and the broken made whole.  But not if we close the gate.
This is the Church in action, lifting people up, raising people’s spirits, giving them value, hope and a purpose, bringing people out of the brokenness and destruction of sin, and the emptiness of life without Jesus.
It says in this passage that Peter took him by the “right” hand.  Reference to the right hand in scripture always speaks of acceptance, it speaks of authority, and it is the place of honor. (Jesus sits at the right hand of the father)
This means that Peter accepted him and raised him from a place of dishonor to a place of honor, from a place of weakness to a place of strength.  The true beauty of the gate beautiful was not it’s appearance but that it was a place where the suffering and less fortunate could go and expect to receive some measure of benevolence from those who entered.
I am worried that our focus has shifted, and we are more enamored today with the beauty of a thing than the reason for which it exists.  Our focus shouldn’t be on how awesome our building is, or how good we can sing, or can we preach, or can we have church, but are we reflecting the image of His Son Jesus and do our lives touch people with the transforming power of His name.
Are we occupying enemy territory and making a difference in this world or just occupying space?
I am concerned today that there is a world that is lame at the gate and we are too busy enjoying ourselves and the “things” around us to notice.


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