12 August, 2006

Narrow Means Narrow

Matthew 7:13-14
13"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy
that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Luke 13:23-25
23And someone said to him, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" And he said to them, 24"Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then he will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.'

For quite a while now, these two verses have grabbed a hold of me and I cannot get them out of my mind. Until a few years ago, I thought I was on the road leading to the narrow gate. Now I see I was walking with the crowd on the broad road toward the wide gate. Go back and reread the scriptures above to see where the broad road leads us.

What does He mean by '...the way is hard that leads to life'? Notice in Luke, our Lord tells us,"...many will seek to enter and will not be able". This tells us that there are people out there right now who think they are on the road to the narrow door into heaven but are not. This is pretty frightening.

In this day and age of easy-believism and man- centered teaching, this exhortation becomes even more frightening. Think of all the people who have prayed a sinners prayer and been baptized but have not been Born Again and have never entered into the process of sanctification. Think of all the people who have only been told, "Jesus Loves you" but have never been told about His Wrath. What do they think they are being saved from?

These words of Christ have been disregarded in terms of what this really means for people in their every day life. But, if you look down through history, the real disciples of Christ are not the movers and shakers respected by the world. We are the unfashionable. The uncool. The geeks. The losers. The world hates us.

Think of Matthew 19: 29-30 :..."But many who are first will be last, and the last first". The narrow gate turns the world, as we know it, upside down. Of course, these are heart issues and we cannot see someone's heart. We can only see the fruit that bears from sanctification. I cannot speak for others but here are some clues that I was on the road to the wide gate:

  • Going to Church. Yep, you heard me right. I was doing my duty. Showing up. If I went to a Bible study I gave myself extra points
  • Socializing with church people. We call that fellowship. I thought it was quite a bit better than hanging with my old friends who were at best, agnostic. Extra points for hanging with people from church.
  • Listening to Christian music when I was not listening to talk radio. Extra points because it was not the old rock in roll I used to love
  • Being totally family centered. Good Christians always want to be around their extended families no matter what, right? (Matthew 10: 34-36)
  • Not stealing, lying or cheating of any kind. I mean, come on, I was much better than those I worked with every day!
  • Defending conservative values and being politically well informed
  • Reading lots of 'Christian' books and listening to lots of sermons
  • Believing that since my church sold the book in its bookstore it was doctrinally sound
  • Being a good leader at work. I mean, that's modeling Christ, right?
  • Thinking 'numbers'= God's Blessing
  • Hiding embarrassing or negative issues within my family that may make others think less of me
  • Having 'good' pride
  • Being successful and admired for my competence
  • Thinking I was strong enough in the Lord to engage in worldly entertainment

Here are some clues that I may finally be on the narrow road, with a long long way to go:

  • Realizing I was a phoney, a hypocrite. My heart had not really changed. I was 'acting' like a Christian.
  • Worshipping God. Period. At church, home, car, wherever and whenever. Realizing that sometimes, it can be hardest to worship God at church now that we have let the world in
  • Fellowship with fellow travelers in prayer, praise and deep Bible study. Fellow travelers are few in number
  • Realizing that unity in scripture/truth/doctrine is more important than unity in relationships
  • Hunger for the Word and begging the Holy Spirit to give me understanding
  • Testing everything I read or hear that is not directly from scripture
  • Questioning every 'emotional' experience and ignoring 'felt needs'. The heart is deceitful!
  • Recognizing false teaching more often
  • Wanting to relinquish some very dear idols
  • Being appalled and remorseful at my sin every day. Realizing how DEAD I really am
  • Urge to defend the Faith and the Gospel message
  • Diligent prayer- for Mercy. And finally I can pray for those who harmed my daughter and I. Some even claim to be Christians (This one is real hard and I pray for the bitterness to not take root)
  • Realizing I cannot do anything on my own. Remember, I am DEAD and only through Christ do I live
  • Being broken
  • Realizing that I am a nobody...filthy rags
  • Having a real 'fear' of God
  • Being totally amazed at God's Mercy and the sacrifce of Jesus because I do NOT deserve it
  • Realizing that only in the depths of the Valley can we know HIM. The Puritans called it the 'Valley of Vision'
  • Desperately depending on God
  • Losing the world to gain HIM
  • Living by the The five solas:
    Sola fide ("by faith alone")
    Sola scriptura ("by Scripture alone")
    Solus Christus ("Christ alone")
    Sola gratia ("by
    grace alone")
    Soli Deo gloria ("Glory to God alone")

Gee, makes you want to sign right up, doesn't it? But, it does not work that way. Do not be deceived. These are not a to-do list for sanctification. There is no such thing. The things I mention are what I call 'manifestations' of being drawn in by the Holy Spirit. These things may be very different for someone else.

But questions abound concerning the narrow gate: Where did we ever get the idea that being a Christian was easy? Why have we believed that God wants us to have a cushy life? Why have we replaced Holiness with worldly competence as a desirable trait? Why have we believed that following Jesus meant having great relationships, living in nice houses and working out all our problems? The Bible tells us many times that the world will HATE us. Why don't we believe that? Unfortuantly, we even find the 'world' at church these days which makes it even harder for people to know just how narrow is the gate.

Sometimes I imagine what it will be like when we get to heaven. "...But many who are first will be last, and the last first". People we have never heard of may be first: Will it be the preacher in India who lived on 50 dollars a month, was martyred for His faith, leaving a widow and children in a hostile land? Or, the Indonesian refugee who lived in camps all his life preaching the gospel because he refused to convert to Islam. And perhaps, the young man in Africa who was nailed to a tree by his Muslim employer because he refused to deny Christ.

Oh Father! Convict our hearts of the Narrow Gate. I beg the Spirit of Truth, our Counselor, to guide us on this road. Thank you for Jesus, The Name above ALL names.


Anonymous said...

Isn't it interesting that the way is hard AND the gate narrow. This is one of the most difficult passages for me, personally, as a Christian.

Anonymous said...

How beautifully expressed and from the heart. He's The Pearl of Great Price. It is hard and should not be taken lightly. Christianity has been so reduced to a "quick fix" mentality today, especially from the TV preachers, we need to be reminded of the cost! And the ultimate reward!

Tammy said...

It's not just the "tv preachers" that peddle cheap grace and seek to win converts, rather than make disciples. It's rampant throughout the evangelical world. It's evident in our preoccupation with the size of our congregation.