Locked out of heaven…

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Matthew 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. 16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred?”

We often think of Jesus as being meek and mild, but not here. He basically goes off on the “scribes and Pharisees” – the clergy of his day. Why? Because they made rules and rules and more rules for people to follow, though they often failed to keep the rules themselves. Jesus said they “lock people out of the kingdom of heaven”.

Have you ever felt locked out of heaven, separated from God? I know I have. What kind of image or memory comes to mind? (Take 60 seconds and reflect on this)

People loved Jesus because, instead of heaping burdens on them like the scribes and Pharisees, he set them free from guilt and shame. Are you carrying around guilt and shame today? Let’s take the opportunity to be released from this burden through confession and forgiveness.

Lord Jesus, you indeed came into this world to set sinners free. Sinners like us. Because we all make mistakes, our sins can begin to pile up. They can be very heavy indeed. This morning we confess to you our sins. (Take 60 seconds and tell Jesus your sins. Be specific.) We repent, dear Lord, and ask your forgiveness once and for all. Give us grace to change our minds and our hearts to be more like you. We ask in your precious name. Amen.

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