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The Narrow Way

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The Narrow Way

July 2, 2006

Matthew 7:13-14

“Phil Johnson, the Evangelical Covenant missionary to a newly independent African nation, encountered a ferocious looking, man-eating lion as he was walk­ing from one mission station to another. Johnson fell to his knees and buried his face in his hands. Nothing seemed to be happening; the lion was silent. The missionary peeked through his fingers and saw the lion on its knees, its face buried in its paws. The missionary said in a trembling (but relieved) voice, "I'm thanking God for delivering me from the jaws of death. But what on earth are you doing?" The lion growled, "I'm saying grace"

When Marcy first read this story her comment was, funny but there is no where to get it on topic. I agree, so I’ve used it because it is funny. It has absolutely nothing to do with today’s message.

Someone put up a sign along one of the muddy roads in rural Alberta during the rainy season. It read: "Choose your ruts carefully; you'll be in them for the next ten miles."

That sign may invoke a smile, but actually it offers sound advice. When roads are slippery, it's for your own good that you get into a rut. But make sure that you choose the right one or you will surely end up in the ditch or you’ll be begging for God’s deliverance from your plight.

In a much more profound sense, Jesus likened our destiny to choosing the right road to travel. After describing qualities of the Christian life, listen to His concluding words from Matthew chapter 7 and verses 13 & 14 on the Sermon on the Mount (I’ll wait a minute while you find it): "You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way.
But the gateway to life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.”

The Broad Way of Destruction

Elaborating on the Golden Rule, Jesus presented the clear way of access into righteousness. The righteousness He demanded (does not come through the wide... gate and the broad... road. Rather it comes through the small... gate and the narrow... road. In light of the whole sermon, it was obvious Jesus was comparing the wide gate and the broad road to the outward righteousness of the Pharisees. If those listening to Jesus followed the Pharisees’ teachings, their path would lead to destruction (apōleian, “ruin”). The narrow gate and road referred to Jesus’ teaching, which emphasized not external requirements but internal transformation.  As Romans 12:2 puts it, “Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is. “ Even the Lord Jesus acknowledged that few would find the true way, the way that leads to life. 1 Corinthians 15:51 tells us
But let me tell you a wonderful secret God has revealed to us. Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed.”

 

Most people, Jesus says, journey on the road that requires no commitment to get through the gate nor conviction of truth to stay the course. It's the easy way of the world, where you give allegiance only to yourself and do whatever satisfies your own fancy. And since it's the popular way to go, you need only follow the crowd.

The broad way is the easy way; it is the popular way. But we must not judge spiritual profession by statistics; the majority is not always right. The fact that "everybody does it" is no proof that what they are doing is right. Those of you who have raised children will remember your child blurting “He did it!” or “She does it!”. For an expert opinion let’s ask Janette. How about it, does this sound familiar? Those of you without children have a lot to look forward to! The point is that children to not have to be taught to follow the crowd. It is part of our sin nature. Why does Jesus call us sheep? (you don’t really want me to tell you, do you?) You must choose the narrow way otherwise you will fall into the broad path of the crowd, which is highly unlikely to be the right way.

Quite the contrary is true: God's people have always been a remnant, a small minority in this world. The reason is not difficult to discover: The way of life is narrow, lonely, and costly. We can walk on the broad way and keep our "baggage" of sin and worldliness. But if we enter the narrow way, we must give up those things.

Here, then, is the first test: Did your profession of faith in Christ cost you anything? If not, then it was not a true profession. Many people who "trust" Jesus Christ never leave the broad road with its appetites and associations. They have an easy Christianity that makes no demands on them. Yet Jesus said that the narrow way was hard. We cannot walk on two roads, in two different directions, at the same time. If we are children of the King, we will bear fruit – fruit that is good, fruit that lasts says John. Romans 7:4 tells us, “So this is the point: The law no longer holds you in its power, because you died to its power when you died with Christ on the cross. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, you can produce good fruit, that is, good deeds for God.” What if we’re not producing good fruit? What if we’re not producing a rich harvest of good deeds? Romans goes on to tells us that if this is the case, we are still being controlled by our old sin nature which produces a harvest of sinful deeds. It has to be one or the other. If you are in Christ, you will turn away from the broad way and follow the narrow path. There is always a price to pay for doing what is right!

Actually, the broad way is the natural way to go — the way all of us are born to travel. As the Scripture says in Psalm 51:5: "I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."  Contrary to what Dr. Spock and others say, man is not born good! Let's admit it. We are all sinners. As Romans 3:10 & 11 "There is no one righteous, not even one . . . We have all turned away.". One does not have to curse God to be lost. Hebrews chapter 2 and verse 3  tells that we just need do nothing — keep meandering along the path of least resistance and "ignore" the call of God to take the road that leads to life. The important thing to remember is there are no fence-sitters: you are either God’s child or Satan’s. You are either heaven bound or bound for hell. You must choose God. If you do not you’ve chosen to follow the enemy. We cannot be neutral! So, have you chosen to follow Christ? Have you accepted His sacrificial death as the only way to God? If not, then today is the day of your salvation! Choose God!

What we tend to overlook is that neglecting to choose God is itself a choice, and as with all decisions, there are consequences. Roads lead somewhere. Foolish is the person who sets out on a journey and does not consider where it will end.

Jesus wants us to understand that the broad way "leads to destruction." Often He spoke of hell, a place reserved for the eternal punishment of those who forget God. Characterized by the loss of all that is good, He likened it to "darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" as it tells us in Matthew 8:12, an endless torment of pain and "the fire is not quenched" it says in Mark 9:48. The terms used by Jesus to describe this habitation of the damned are doubtless in part figurative, and only by comparing them with what is within our mental grasp can we understand even in a small way the horror of hell. Jesus is not trying to scare us. He is a realist and simply wants us to know that everyone who continues on the road of destruction will some day face the day of reckoning with God.

It's hard for those of us in the "now" generation to look ahead and consider the end of our journey. The gusto of the moment seems too much fun to think about the future. Yet have you noticed as we get farther down the road, the pleasures of sin become less exciting, and down deep in the soul there is a nauseous sense of loneliness — a yearning for true happiness that is not satisfied. This unfulfilled desire breeds restlessness, and attempts to find fleshly remedies only bring more despair.

You often see this in the lives of some celebrities. After his last show in Las Vegas, at age 44, Elvis Presley was asked by a newspaper reporter, "Elvis, when you started out you said you wanted three things out of life: to be rich . . . to be famous . . . to be happy. Are you happy?" The king of rock and roll replied, "No, I'm not happy. I'm lonely as hell"1

Remember Marilyn Monroe, the sex symbol of her day who reveled in the adulation of her fans. Finally coming to realize the meaningless of it all, reflecting on her career, she confessed to a reporter, "Fame will go by, and so long . . . I've always known it was fickle." Not long after, she committed suicide.

Think of Aristotle Onassis, who through his business enterprises became at one point the most wealthy man in the world. But in interviews after the death of his son, he said: "Until now I always believed that money could give a man everything he wanted in life. But now money means nothing . . . My own life has become pointless." Wiping tears from his eyes, the broken-hearted father could only say, "What now?"

Yes, that is the question. “What now”? When the treasures we have lived for in this world have lost their luster, and the end of life's journey looms ahead, what now? The Bible has the answer in Hebrews 9:27. "It is appointed unto all of us once to die, and after that to face judgment."

Are you ready for that judgment day? Or is there in your soul an uncertainty, even a fear of what lies ahead. Don't you think that God has something better for you?

The Narrow Way of Life

Thankfully, there is another way - a road that truly leads to a fully satisfying life - a life abounding with joy and full of praise, life overflowing in love that grows sweeter as the years go by. Sounds wonderful, doesn't it. But Jesus tells us that "small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it."

It's not politically correct to be out of step with the majority, sometimes called in derision "narrow minded." But I have come to realize that ridicule can be expected when we choose the road of life.

For one thing, it's narrow because Jesus is the only way. "No one comes to the Father except "through me," He said in John 14:6. "I am the gate," He affirms in John 10:7 & 8, "all who ever come before me were thieves and robbers."

There are many religious leaders who claim devotion from their followers, but only One who accepted in His body the guilt of our sins, bore our judgment unto death, then rose victoriously from the grave.

The resurrection of Christ confronts the world with a bewildering problem. For when someone dies who has power over the grave, you must ask, why did He die? The Bible gives the only answer in Romans 4:25: "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification". Facing this fact, everyone now must come to terms with the crucified and risen Son of God, for “There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them."  According to Acts 4:12. Jesus Christ is Lord! By Him alone can we enter through the gate into the Kingdom of God.

Secondly, It's narrow too, because to go this way we must repent. As Luke 5:32 tells us, Jesus came to call "sinners to repentance". And "unless you repent," He said in Luke 13:3, all of us will "perish".

Repentance means a change of direction. Seeing ourselves responsible for what happened at the cross, in godly sorrow for our sin, with brokenness and contrition, we choose to leave the road of destruction and start to follow Jesus. We confess our sin and resolve to turn away from everything displeasing to the Lord. We make things right. If you think you are without sin, did you know you are calling God a liar? Please turn to 1 John chapter 1 and follow along as I read verse 10: “If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. “ At the worst, verse 8 says that saying you are without sin is fooling yourself, denying the truth. Fortunately for us, both verses 8 and 10 of 1 John 1 are couched in the wonderful promise of 1 John 1:9 which says this: “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”

Evidencing this change of heart is willingness to make restitution where others have been wronged. I knew a man who after his conversion got a wheelbarrow and spent half a day taking back the tools he had stolen when he worked for the railroad.

The act of repentance issues in a state of penitence, a continuing responsiveness to the truth whenever the Spirit of God reveals further areas of our life out of line with the character of Christ. And as "we walk in the light" He sheds on our path, quick to "confess our sins," we never have to go to bed at night with a guilty conscience (I John 1:7,9).

Thirdly, to go this narrow way, moreover, we must believe in Christ. Everyone "who believes," Jesus says, "has eternal life" says John 3:15. But, He adds in John 3:18, "There is no judgment awaiting those who trust him. But those who do not trust him have already been judged for not believing in the only Son of God.”

Jesus made it clear in John 11:25 & 26: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies." Then He asks, "Do you believe this?"  Now I ask you this question, do you believe?

Belief, as Jesus used the word, means far more than intellectual acceptance of His work and teachings. We are told that after He drove the moneychangers out of the temple during the Passover "many people" believed in His name. "But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them" it tells us in John 2:23,24. Their faith was merely an acknowledgment of His awesome authority displayed in "the miraculous signs." They were unwilling to renounce their own self-righteousness in loving surrender to the Savior. As I often say, even Satan believes.

Saving faith is complete trust in Christ, impacting our whole personality — affirming His word, embracing His love, consenting to His plans for our life. Attempts to impose our will upon God are gone, and in its' place comes a new quest to follow Jesus. Such childlike devotion to Him is so liberating from our previous vain efforts to earn favor with God that it's like being "born again". It is being “born again”.

I remember when my two young daughters would see me coming home, they would jump off their tricycles and run to me. I would pick up one in each arm and hug them until they would squeal with delight. They had no fear that I would let them fall, not even a thought of insecurity. For they knew that I loved them — I was their daddy — and in my arms they were perfectly safe.

That kind of confidence is what makes belief in Christ so beautiful. Living by faith is simply resting in the arms of Jesus, and in that sweet assurance, giving all that we are, all that we hope to be, to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Barclay’s Daily Study Bible has quite a bit to say about today’s Scripture passage:  There is always a certain dramatic quality about life, for, as it has been said, "all life concentrates on man at the cross-roads." In every action of life man is confronted with a choice; and he can never evade the choice, because he can never stand still. He must always take one way or the other. Because of that, it has always been one of the supreme functions of the great men of history that they should confront men with that inevitable choice. As the end drew near, Moses spoke to the people I Deuteronomy 30:15-20: "See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil.... Therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live" When Joshua was laying down the leadership of the nation at the end of his life, he presented them with the same choice in Joshua 24:15: "Choose this day whom you will serve". Jeremiah heard the voice of God saying to him, "And to this people you will say, Thus says the Lord: Behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death", so says Jeremiah 21:8. John Oxenham wrote:

“But to every man there opens
A high way and a low,
And every man decides
The way his soul shall go."

     That is the choice with which Jesus is confronting men in this passage. There is a broad and an easy way, and there are many who take it; but the end of it is ruin. There is a narrow and a hard way, and there are few who take it; but the end of it is life. Cebes, the disciple of Socrates, writes in the Tabula: "Do you see a little door, and a way in front of the door, which is not crowded, but the travelers are few? That is the way that leads to true instruction." Let us examine the difference between the two ways: the narrow way versus the broad way.

     (i) It is the difference between the hard and the easy way. There is never any easy way to greatness; greatness is always the product of toil. Hesiod, the old Greek poet, writes, "Wickedness can be had in abundance easily; smooth is the road, and very nigh she dwells; but in front of virtue the gods immortal have put sweat." Epicharmus said, "The gods demand of us toil as the price of all good things." "Knave," he warns, "yearn not for the soft things, lest thou earn the hard."

     Once Edmund Burke made a great speech in the House of Commons. Afterwards his brother Richard Burke was observed deep in thought. He was asked what he was thinking about, and answered, "I have been wondering how it has come about that Ned has contrived to monopolize all the talents of our family; but then again I remember that, when we were at play, he was always at work." Even when a thing is done with an appearance of ease, that ease is the product of unremitting toil. The skill of the master pianist, or the champion player on the golf course did not come without sweat. There never has been any other way to greatness than the way of toil, and anything else which promises such a way is a delusion and a snare.

     (ii) We have to choose: the narrow way or the broad way. It is the difference between the long and the short way. Very rarely something may emerge complete and perfect in a flash, but far oftener greatness is the result of long labor and constant attention to detail. Virgil's Aneid occupied the last ten years of Virgil's life; and. as he was dying, he would have destroyed it, because he thought it so imperfect, if his friends had not stopped him. Thomas Gray's Elegy written in a Country Churchyard is one of the immortal poems. It was begun in the summer of 1742; it was finally privately circulated on 12th June, 1750. Its lapidary perfection had taken eight years to produce. No one ever arrived at a masterpiece by a short-cut. In this world we are constantly faced with the short way, which promises immediate results, and the long way, of which the results are in the far distance. But the lasting things never come quickly; the long way is the best way in the end.

     (iii) Again, we have to choose: the narrow way or the broad way. It is the difference between the disciplined and the undisciplined way. Nothing was ever achieved without discipline; and many an athlete and many a man has been ruined because he abandoned discipline and let himself grow slack. Coleridge is the supreme tragedy of indiscipline. Never did so great a mind produce so little. He left Cambridge University to join the army; he left the army because, in spite of all his brilliance, he could not rub down a horse; he returned to Oxford and left without a degree. He began a paper called The Watchman which lived for ten numbers and then died. It has been said of him: "He lost himself in visions of work to be done, that always remained to be done. Coleridge had every poetic gift but one--the gift of sustained and concentrated effort." In his head and in his mind he had all kinds of books, as he said, himself, "completed save for transcription." "I am on the eve," he says, "of sending to the press two octave volumes." But the books were never composed outside Coleridge's mind, because. he would not face the discipline of sitting down to write them out. No one ever reached any eminence, and no one having reached it ever maintained it, without discipline.

     (iv)  We have to choose: the narrow way or the broad way. It is the difference between the thoughtful and the thoughtless way. Here we come to the heart of the matter. No one would ever take the easy, the short, the undisciplined way, if he only thought. Everything in this world has two aspects-- how it looks at the moment, and how it will look in the time to come. The easy way may look very inviting at the moment, and the hard way may look very daunting. The only way to get our values right is to see, not the beginning, but the end of the way, to see things, not in the light of time, but in the light of eternity.”

It's Your Decision:  the narrow way or the broad way?

But there must be a decision.

It's wonderful to fall in love. But have you noticed how narrow we become? That's the way it is when we fall in love with Jesus. The attractions of the broad way of the world lose their appeal in the much more fulfilling journey on the narrow road.

Have you made that decision? No one else can make it for you. That choice which influences other choices along the way ultimately determines your destiny.

God has drawn a line across the conscience of every person. It's a line drawn with an old rugged cross clearly delineating the choice each of us has to make — to go with the crowd on the broad road or take the narrow trail of the cross and follow Jesus. You cannot have it both ways. Finally, for each one of us it's either the world or it's Christ. What is your decision? Choose the narrow way or the broad way.

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