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BROADWAY IS NOT ALWAYS THE BEST AVENUE

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

15 SEPTEMBER 1991

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Proverbs 22:1-3, 7-8
Ecclesiastes 1:1-11
Matthew 17:13-14
James 2:1-5

Preparation Verses: (Matthew 17:13-14)

“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”

When you think of an avenue named Broadway, what do you think of?

At first thought, I usually picture a broad roadway lined with trees. It is usually a business district that has the best of everything, with shops, restaurants, and perhaps a hotel or an apartment building.

There may be some theaters also, especially if I connect the name with New York City.

But then something else happens to my mental image. I begin to picture some of the urban decay, and how a once beautiful avenue is no longer what I remember.

This is particularly evident when I visit the area around Times Square, or the Broadways of Albany and Rensselaer, New York.

From today’s point of view, Broadway is not always the best avenue.

Sometimes, I believe that Jesus must have been picturing a similar image when He said: (Matthew 7:13-14)

13. "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.

14. "For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it."

Satan tries to make us think that the broad way is always the best, because it's an attention catcher and it's full of other people, and he knows we usually want to be part of the crowd.

But just off the Broadways, and Fifth Avenues, and Park Avenues, along the narrow side streets are some very good restaurants and shops, and some of the better apartment buildings; and their prices are much better, too.

Because of this less expensive condition, there are many poor people, or less fortunate people, as well.

And another thing: there are far fewer people on these streets.

I've noticed something else, also. The people on the avenues all seem to be in a hurry, but just turn the comer onto the side streets and things begin to slow down.

Have you noticed these things, too?

But we're really not talking about physical streets and avenues; we're envisioning the courses set before us during our lifetime.

Last Sunday we talked about learning to walk in God's promises, and that this is the only way to acquire true wisdom and joy.

I also made a statement that wisdom is the ability to utilize knowledge constructively; to use the knowledge we have acquired for good purposes.

Then Monday night, at the Bible study, I asked if wisdom could be used for evil, as well as for good, and everyone agreed that it could.

Then I asked for some examples, and I got some really good ones.

But when I asked what it was that these evil people really have going for them, what application their wisdom almost universally takes, I also got a lot of good answers, but not the main one.

The main thing that these people have going for them is that they know that, by far, most people in the world will go along with them if what they say sounds good, if they address a problem in their lives, and give them a way to blame and scapegoat others for their bad situations.

They know human and worldly nature.

In other words, they have to be good salespeople, even if they have to use all kinds of lies and deceptions to convince others.

But why is this successful?

Because societies are made up of mostly followers who won't take the time or put in the effort to really find out about the truth of the matter.

This is what Jesus was warning us about.

Just because something looks good at first glance, or sounds good, or has a lot of other people doing it, or following along with it, doesn't mean that it is the best thing for us; in fact, it may be the worst thing for us.

The broad way may not be the best way.

Sometimes we start off with every good intention, and then get caught up in something that leads us astray.

I've been listening to some of the Senate hearings with Judge Clarence Thomas, and I am trying to judge for myself if he is the best person for the Supreme Court.

My problem is that I have just as much trouble separating the out-of-context statements and questions being offered by some senators, from the truth, as I do knowing if Judge Thomas really means what he says.

One question that stands out is the one he was asked about a statement he made concerning governmental agencies: that they should not be needed.

The question was taken out of context to make the Judge seem like a nut case, but he answered very well, so that if the senator would put his statement back into context, it made a lot of sense.

If we lived in a perfect world, where people really treated others as equals, there would not have to be an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which he headed for a time.

But, the Judge said, "This is not a perfect world, so we need some way of protecting against discrimination, thus the agencies."

Later, I heard Governor Mario Cuomo comment on this, also. He said, "If Adam and Eve had not eaten of the apple, or Cain had not killed Abel, or the people that followed them had not done the evil things they did, Moses would not have been given the Tablets."

Discrimination, jealousy, and disobedience, in any form, are the tools of those who weave deception and bring about the destruction along the broad way upon which most people travel.

True wisdom, Godly wisdom, will reveal this deceptive and false wisdom for what it really is: a work of the devil.

Proverbs 22:1-3 sets forth some of these truths:

1. A good name is to be more desired than great riches,
Favor is better than silver and gold.

2. The rich and the poor have a common bond,
The Lord is the maker of them all.

3. The prudent sees the evil and hides himself,
But the naive go on, and are punished for it.

Often times we think it's hard to live in this world and still be a Christian.

And the unfortunate problem is that most churches also seem to want to be on Broadway with all the people, with little or no regard for the rest of God's creation, particularly the animals, and those who care about them.

But Jesus experienced this, too; so he gave us the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we might overcome the world and realize that the broad way can lead to destruction.

He has given us the strength to turn off onto the narrow way.

We quite often confuse the difference between having a good name and having a well-known name.

We like to associate with the rich rather than the poor, perhaps in the hope that some of it will rub off on us.

And, the churches are no different, for they all to often cater to the rich and ungodly interests in the hopes of getting larger donations and more members.

They become people pleasers rather than being true followers of Christ.

Note verses 7-8:

7. The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower becomes the lender's slave.

8. He who sows iniquity will reap vanity,
And the rod of his fury will perish.

In James 2:1f, he cautions even us Christians about this:

1. My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.

Just because we know the truth doesn't make us any better than any other person, for that same truth is being offered to everyone else, also.

Godly wisdom shows us when someone is putting on a show for us, and when someone is truly living in the truth of their salvation.

Pride is for those who are in such a hurry in their travels along Broadway.

Then James points out our problem of favoritism toward others:

2. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes,

3. and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,"

4. have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?

5. Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

Here is another one of those promises we are to walk in.

But the greatest part of our walking in this promise is our true acceptance of what God has given us, as well as our contentment.

King Solomon had everything anyone could ever need or want, but he kept seeking more.

God gave him much wisdom, but he used it for both good and evil.

Solomon wasn't prejudiced, for he loved many women of many races; in fact, one might even say he collected them.

And as with any collector, he showed off his collection.

He even built the “broad way” with its Temple and palaces; but then he added other temples and places of worship to please his wives, and Broadway began to turn into a slum, and those who remained upon it were heading for hell.

God has so much more for us, if we would just remember to look to Him and his promises, and forget about the ways of the world.

The Ecclesiastes passages (1:1-11), that we read this morning, are the words of a very depressed Solomon, when he realized the mess he had made of his life by turning the narrow but comfortable way to God into a broad way to destruction.

1. The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

2. "Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher,
"Vanity of vanities! All is vanity."

3. What advantage does man have in all his work
Which he does under the sun?

Solomon got caught up in the hustle and bustle of the Broadway happenings to such an extent that he lost sight of his original love, his love for God.

When he realized his mistake, he came to the conclusion that everything he did was of little or no value, which wasn't so, but he thought that it was.

This is what happens to people who get depressed. They forget about the good things, and that they have a Redeemer.

Solomon did many good things; he just can't see them any more.

Yes, he did a lot of very evil things in his life, too; but while in his depression, he believes everything was for his own pride and thus, vanity; he can't understand that God is still able to forgive.

4. A generation goes and a generation comes,
But the earth remains forever.

5. Also, the sun rises and the sun sets;
And hastening to its place it rises there again.

6. Blowing toward the south,
Then turning toward the north,
The wind continues swirling along;
And on its circular courses the wind returns.

In his depression, he sees an unchangeable earth with absolutely no value to the efforts of his lifetime.

And it’s interesting that he uses the word “roo-akh,” the Hebrew word for wind and spirit, including the Holy Spirit, and that he recognizes that the wind returns to us; but he doesn't envision that the Holy Spirit will return to him, something that his father, David, never forgot.

But when we spend too much time on Broadway following Satan, things can get pretty messed up, including our minds.

7. All the rivers flow into the sea,
Yet the sea is not full.
To the place where the rivers flow,
There they flow again.

Note the degree of real wisdom and understanding in his observation, yet he doesn't seem to be able to see the love or presence of the Lord right next to him.

8. All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing.

This is the problem with the lusts in our life; we get bored with them.

The things of the Lord are never boring. They lighten the soul and brighten the spirit, and give us new hope for the future and the wonders it holds.

But Solomon is still in darkness.

9. That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done.
So, there is nothing new under the sun.

10. Is there anything of which one might say,
"See this, it is new"?
Already it has existed for ages
Which were before us.

11. There is no remembrance of earlier things;
And also of the later things which will occur,
There will be for them no remembrance
Among those who will come later still.

Nothing new?

In this century alone we have seen airplanes and space travel, radios and televisions, and computers.

What do you think Solomon would say if he could see all that is new under the sun?

The future holds much more for us; but the greatest of all will be when we go to be with the Lord. Then all things will be new.

And we can indeed recall the things of Solomon's time and before, and by holding on to God's promises, we likewise can remember what the future holds for us all.

But first we must remember to get off Broadway, and begin to walk with the Lord. Then we will be filled with the Lord's love and contentment all the days of our lives.

And the whole of creation will be blessed along with us.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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