This morning, we’re coming to our 17th week of studying the Sermon on the Mount. Today, we read where Jesus remind people that their choices impact their very destiny.
WHICH PATH ARE YOU TRAVELING ON?
Each day we are confronted with choices. Many might be trivial or insignificant, but some are life-changing. What college will I go to? Who will I marry? Will we have children? What career will I choose?
We all come to the CROSSROADS:
READ Matthew 7:13-14
Your choice at the crossroads has eternal implications.
We all come the crossroads
There is a right and wrong gate - only one gets you to the Kingdom.
Jesus reverses our expectations. Wouldn’t everyone want to get into God’s Kingdom?
But have you every entered a small doorway? Bump head and have to fit sideways!
That doesn’t mean that everyone is intentionally throwing their lives away. In fact, most people are trying really hard to find and fulfill their purpose.
Some pour their lives into obviously destructive things like alcoholism or workaholism or sexual sin.
Others take good things and make them into god-things, which makes them bad things.
Regardless, anything they are trying results in more and more destruction.
Going with the flow means that you follow what everyone else is doing. It is the path that most of the people will encourage you to walk down. As you stand at the crossroads looking down the paths, are you going to be swayed by what “everyone else” is doing?
Jesus wants us to avoid this broad way! He wants us on the narrow path.
The narrow path is more like a winding rural road, one of the dirt roads that goes between corn fields. You’re not sure where it leads, but you can know that it is the right path.
A narrow path is not easy to find and therefore not easy to get on. You have to be careful how you travel because often times it is not paved or straight or fixed up. You can’t go very fast, because rocks might fly up and do damage.
Early in the pandemic (so these have gotten worse), a Barna Group survey:
2/3 were no longer attending their pre-COVID church in person
Over 1/4 stopped attending altogether
1 out of 8 switched churches
1 out of 7 attend multiple churches online
That means 2 out 3 radically changed their attendance to the local church.
The narrow path can also be very restrictive. There is no room for chasing after the world and its pleasures, no room for unforgiving spirits, no room for self-righteousness, no room for materialism, no room for false beliefs, and no room for an unloving spirit.
Jesus promises, however, that this path, the small country road is the road that leads to real life.
This is why Jesus says in John 14:6:
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
That’s why the writer of Proverbs says:
Proverbs 14:12 CSB
There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death.
The choice to the narrow path takes a step, not just a nod.
Lot’s of people prefer the wide gate and the easy path.
He paints a picture of a highway that has many people on it. Imagine the broad way for a moment. The broad way is just like I-80 or any other major highway:
It’s easy to get on and you can carry with you as much as you want. It allows for wide loads and even hazardous materials!
You can travel very fast and while there is a speed-limit, as long as you only slightly break this law, you will be safe from tickets!
The highway has billboards along the way that can entice you.
You can quickly exit the highway, partake in whatever pleasure without accountability, and get right back on again.
Even a wide gate beckons in a way that a narrow gate does not; a wide gate suggests an important destination
It is called the Broad Way, because it will allow anything, and anyone to travel it. You can carry all kinds of baggage with you. You can carry any sin. You don’t have to give up a thing. You can come just as you are, and not make any changes. There is no repentance on the Broad Way! No Life Changes have to be made. Anything, and anyone is allowed, no exceptions! That’s the way of the Broad Way.
Three ways that the Church is on the Broad Way:
1. Aligning itself with a political party.
2. Allowing fringe theologies to permeate.
3. Listening to conspiracy theories like Qanon.
A preacher named Chris Gowen points out, however, that the Broad Way has “room for everyone, except for one person. This was made plain in Bethlehem. When Jesus was born, there was no room in the inn. This world has no room for Jesus. Yet, on the broad way...everything else is allowed. The promoters of the Broad Way say: ‘You can make a profession of faith in Christ and hang on to your sins. You don’t have to change anything!!!’”
You see if we make the choice to follow the broad way, Jesus tells us that destruction awaits us.
If there is only way in, and it is a hard path to follow, then it would make sense that there aren’t going to be many who walk through that gate.
To our culture, this is possibly one of the most offensive truths we believe.
The painful truth that Scripture teaches us is that those who do not surrender to Jesus’ lordship will not enter the kingdom of heaven. They will spend eternity separated from God.
Tell them, ‘As I live—this is the declaration of the Lord God—I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live. Repent, repent of your evil ways! Why will you die, house of Israel?’
The Broad Way says doesn’t make any difference if you are:
Muslim and following the Quran,
Buddhist and following the Eight-Fold Path of Enlightenment
A Wiccan or Druid following their nature-based neopaganism,
or a New Ager following the beliefs of Eastern Mysticism.
Sure, you can even be a Christian, but realize that everyone else gets to heaven too!
If you want, use: Palm Readings, crystals, tarot cards, Ouija boards, and Psychics–all roads lead to heaven. This is what the Broad Way teaches.
Jesus, however, admits the reality of a broad way, but condemns this thinking. He is not one of those "all paths lead to the same God" kind of people. As a matter of fact, He said that if eternal life is what you want, then there is only one way to get there. You must avoid the broad way and enter through the narrow gate.
The path to the Kingdom is difficult but leads to life.
The narrow path is a difficult one.
Just like the dirt hiking paths that take you to summits and waterfalls around here, small paths are often difficult to find and hard to navigate.
We call ourselves a Christian without sacrificing a lot.
For the most part, people at work or school don’t really care about you being a Christian so long as you leave them alone about it.
You aren’t going to prison for following Jesus, and you aren’t likely to have a mob kill you for being a Christian.
However, if you really are a kingdom citizen, if you are actually following Christ, you will find that there are parts of life that get extremely hard.
The narrow path is not difficult to understand, but its not easy.
You are responsible for knowing the Bible & teaching it to your family and friends
Learning to pray
Engaging with non-Christians in a way that is not off-putting but also doesn’t agree with everything they believe
Allowing yourself to be held accountable
Taking up a ministry that helps change the world that you are gifted and passionate about
Constantly seeking the Holy Spirit’s voice in all you do!
Changing your media intake
Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children…
If it is a rigorous way, it is unmistakably also a way of grace.
Jesus called it “taking up your cross”
Jesus warned the crowds following him about this:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it.
Following Jesus is a call to die! As we talked about with repentance, it is dying to my way of living and my dreams and hopes and instead turning to live the life Jesus calls us to.
Even though we have all the power of God available to us, we still have to walk the difficult road of relearning how to live.
Chrysostem: It is not only on the way that the things of excellence become easy. In the end they become even more agreeable. For it is not just the passing away of toil and sweating but also the anticipated arrival at a pleasant destination that is sufficient to encourage the traveler. For this road ends in life!
Jesus is the path that we must enter in. But how is a person a path?
There was a missionary who lost his way in an African jungle. He could find no landmarks and the trail vanished. Eventually, stumbling on a small hut, he asked the native living there if he could lead him out.
The native nodded. Rising to his feet, he walked directly into the bush. The missionary followed on his heels. For more than an hour they hacked their way through a dense wall of vines and grasses. The missionary became worried: "Are you sure this is the way? I don’t see any path."
The African chuckled and said over his shoulder, "Mister, in this place there is no path. I am the path." (E. Stanley Jones)
Jesus says the same – in the thick of life, in the jungle of our existence, only one person is the path – Jesus Christ.
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.
The narrow gate leads to a difficult road that may be filled with persecution from the world around us.
Kingdom citizens can expect persecution as they walk on the road through the narrow gate.
Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter and won’t be able.
The Greek word translated “make every effort” is agonizomai, from which we get the English word agonize. The implication here is that those who seek to enter the narrow gate must do so by struggle and strain, like a running athlete straining toward the finish line, all muscles taut and giving his all in the effort.
Jeremiah 21:8. - But tell this people, ‘This is what the LORD says: Look, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.’
You do not have a life worth living
You do not have a spiritual calling to do ministry
You do not have a guaranteed future in heaven
You do not have good religion
You do not have hope to actually change your life for the better
UNLESS, you have chosen Jesus as the gate and His life as the path.