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The Narrow Gate

 

by Rev. Steve Allen

 

Matthew 7:13-14:

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

 

I want everyone to answer the following questions aloud:

  • Coke or Pepsi?
  • Paper or plastic?
  • Coffee or tea?
  • Hot or cold?
  • Thin crust or pan pizza?
  • Night owl or morning person?
  • Tagalog or English?
  • Spicy or mild?
  • Giants or Jets?
  • Yankees or Mets?
  • Spaghetti or Pansit?

 

We enjoy having choices, don’t we?  And, up to a certain point, the more choices we have, the better we like it.  (Do you ever get frustrated when there are too many choices?)  But choices, or decisions between options, can be frustrating in other ways.  One of the ways that choices, or decisions, can be frustrating to us is when the options are too limited.  I think this is especially hard the longer that you live in America, where our culture has grown up spoiled and expecting to have lots of choices.  If you give them a choice between only two things today, many Americans—and others—will try to add additional choices, such as “both” or “neither,” or they may insist that there really is no need to choose at all.

Our lives are filled with decisions—what to wear, what to eat, where to go, what to do, what to say, what to buy, whom to marry, what career to follow, and on and on.  Many decisions are trivial and insignificant, and some are essential and life changing.  The most critical of all is our decision about Jesus Christ and His kingdom.  That is the ultimate choice that determines our eternal destiny.  It is that decision that Jesus calls us to make in Matthew 7, because He wants us to be ready, When the World Ends…

As Pastor Jerry has been sharing in detail from the book of Revelation, this world is not all there is, but this life is the only one that we have to live.  Someday this world will end, and our one and only life and the way in which we have spent it will be the basis for determining where we spend eternity, When the World Ends.

The choice Jesus describes in this passage is between the one and the many—the one right and the many wrongs, the one true way and the many false ways.  The contrast He makes is not between religion and irreligion, or between the higher religions and the lower ones.  Nor is it a contrast between nice and upright people and vile and degraded ones.  It is a contrast between divine righteousness and human righteousness, all of which is unrighteousness.  It is a contrast between divine revelation and human religion, between divine truth and human falsehood, between trusting in God and trusting in self.  It is the contrast between God’s grace and man’s works.

From here throughout the rest of the sermon (vv. 13-27), Jesus repeatedly points out two things:  the necessity of choosing whether to follow God or not, and the fact that the choices are two and only two.

There are two gates, the narrow and wide; two ways, the narrow and the broad; two  destinations, life and destruction; two groups, the few and the many; two kinds of tress, the good and the bad, which produce two kinds of fruit, the good and the bad; two kinds of people, who profess faith in JC, the sincere and the false; two kinds of builders, the wise and the foolish; two foundations, the rock and the sand; and two houses the secure and the insecure.  All preaching of Jesus demands a verdict and calls for a choice.

In vv. 13-14, Jesus deals with the first four of those contrasts:  the two gates, the two ways, the two destinations, and the two groups.

 

I.         The Two Gates.

In Verse 13, Jesus uses the word “Enter.”  This word is a command, an imperative, it demands a definite and specific action.  The command is not to admire or to ponder the gate but to “enter” it.  Many people admire the principles of the Sermon on the Mount, this part of Jesus’ teachings in which the teaching about Narrow Gate is found, but they never receive Him as Lord and Savior, because they never “enter.”  Because they never receive the King and never enter the Kingdom, they remain as separated from God as the worst or most rebellious unbeliever.

Jesus’ command is not simply to enter some gate but to enter “the narrow gate.”  Every person ultimately enters one gate or the other; that is unavoidable.  Jesus pleads for you to enter the “right” gate, God’s gate, the only gate that leads to life and to heaven.

The Bible helps us to understand why we should believe and teach a narrow gospel.  We proclaim the narrow way because it is God’s way and God’s only way for men to find salvation and eternal life.

 

  • We proclaim a narrow gospel because Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father, except through me”  (John 14:6).
  • We proclaim a narrow gospel because Jesus said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved” (John 14:9).
  • We proclaim a narrow gospel because “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12),

and because “There is one God and one mediator between men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). We proclaim a narrow gospel because that is the only gospel God has given and therefore the only gospel there is.

The narrow gate is like a subway turnstile.  You must enter it alone, one at a time.  You cannot make someone else’s decision to enter for them. And you have to enter with no baggage.  Like the hymn, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to His cross I cling.”  We cannot claim any worth or value or worldly accomplishment that makes us deserving to enter heaven.

Most people spend their lives rushing around with the crowds, doing what everyone else does and believing what everyone else believes.  But as far as salvation is concerned, there is no security in numbers.  If every person in a group is saved it is because each of them individually comes into the kingdom by his own decision, energized by the Holy Spirit, to trust Christ.  When the world ends—or when your life concludes—only those who have entered the narrow gate will stand with Christ before the Lord of the universe, blameless because His sacrifice.

 

II.        The Two Ways.

The two gates lead to two ways:  The gate that is wide leads to the way that is “broad,” and the “narrow gate,” which is small, leads to the “way that is narrow.”  The way that is broad is the easy, attractive, inclusive, indulgent, permissive and self-oriented way of the world.  There are few rules, few restrictions, and few requirements.  All you need to do is profess Jesus or at least be religious, and you are readily accepted in that large and diverse group.  Sin is tolerated, truth is moderated, and humility is ignored.  God’s word is praised but not studied, and His standards are admired but not followed.

This way requires no spiritual maturity, no moral character, no commitment, and no sacrifice.  It is the easy way of floating downstream, “which seems right to a man,” but whose “end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:22).

At times, Islam or Hinduism or Universalism are thought to be preferable faiths because they proclaim a “broad” path, an easier way, or that all paths lead to the same place.  But the Greek word that Christ uses for “narrow” is means “groan” as if you are under pressure from restriction or constriction by a tight situation.  The narrow way is like the New York City street that you drive down with cars parked on both sides and with people double-parked or with garbage trucks almost blocking the way.  You move forward with effort, almost holding your breath, but not with ease.

The fact that “few are those who find” God’s way implies that it is to be sought diligently.  Jeremiah 29:13 tells us that “you will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” No one has ever stumbled into the kingdom or wandered through the narrow gate by accident.

When someone asked Jesus, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” He replied, “Strive to enter the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:23-24). The word “strive” that Jesus uses here is the same word that Paul uses to describe the Christian who pursues God like an athlete competes in a competition.

Leading up to chapter 7, Jesus shared in chapter 5:3-4, 6 that the kingdom is for those who come to the king in poverty of spirit, mourning over their sin, and hungering and thirsting for His righteousness to replace their own.  It is for those who want the kingdom at any cost, who will sell all they have to purchase this “pearl of great price” that He talks about in Matthew 13:44-46.  We can pay nothing for salvation, yet coming to Jesus Christ costs everything we have.”

If anyone comes to me,” Jesus says, “and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.  Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

The narrow way is narrow because, when we identify ourselves with Jesus Christ, we declare war on the devil, and he declares war on us.  The one whom we formerly served now becomes our great enemy, and the ideas and ways we once held dear now become our great temptations and pitfalls.  In this life, the “narrow way” can be a difficult way and even a way of suffering because of this.  But God also promises us that our hearts will be made glad and our lives fulfilled when we stand with the one who has “overcome the world” (John 16:33b). And when the world ends, only those who have traveled the narrow road will enter into God’s rest.

III.       Two Destinations.

Both the “broad” and the “narrow” ways point to the “good life,” to salvation, heaven, God, the kingdom, and blessing—but only the “narrow” way actually leads to those.  There is nothing here to indicate that the broad way is marked “Hell.”  The point that our Lord is making is that it is marked “Heaven” but does not lead there.

That is the great lie of all false religions and human achievement.  The two very different destinations of the two ways are made clear by the Lord:  The “broad…leads to destruction,” whereas only the “narrow…leads to life.”  Every religion except Christianity follows the same “broad” spiritual way and leads to the same spiritual end, to hell.  There are many of those roads, and most of them are attractive, appealing and crowded with travelers.  But not a single one leads where it promises; and not a single one fails to lead where Jesus says it leads—to destruction.

Now be honest with me, when we say this—or even hear it said, it sounds almost unreasonably, unbelievably narrow, right?  How could there only be 2 ways and only one of them right?  How could Christianity be the only right way?  How could any single religion claim to be the only right way?

Think about it like this, you’ve seen lines where people crowd in from every angle, chaotically pushing their way in some taking turns, others forcing their way to the front—a lot like the entrances at the toll booths of the Lincoln, Holland or one of the other tunnels.  Now, be honest, when you are in the midst of that kind of chaos and you are watching the cars around you, do you really believe that all of those cars got to their place in the line the “right” way?

When you look at any group of people, do you really believe that all of them, regardless of whatever path they are taking in life, are all headed to the same destination, Heaven?  All roads do NOT lead to the same place, and not all paths lead to the same destination.  That means that there is a right way and a wrong way, and Jesus tells us that the way that is broad enough to accommodate many different views of life and eternity is the wrong way.

God’s way, the way that is “narrow,” leads to eternal life, to a right, everlasting, heavenly relationship with God.  Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).

But the way that is “broad” leads to the destination of death, eternal death and damnation—complete and utter separation from the love of God and from any release from torment.  Before the world ends, you must make a choice—only one destination can be yours, which one will you choose?

 

IV.       Two groups.

Going into the two gates, traveling down the two ways, and heading for the two destinations we find two groups of people.  Those who go in through the wide gate and travel the way that is broad toward the destination of destruction are many.  The many will include non-Christians, pagans, those who are “Christian” in name only, atheists, etc.

The group that goes through the narrow gate and travels the narrow way and is destined for life is few in number.  Believers are few in number because the gate is too narrow or too small to accommodate more.  But, there is no limit to the number who could go through that gate, if they go through in God’s way, in repentance for their sins and in trust in Jesus Christ to save them.  Heavenly space is not limited, nor is God’s grace.

2 Peter 3:9“God is not willing that any should perish but that all come to repentance.” To “repent” means to make a U-turn.

 

In New York, if you are on a “broad” street and you realize that you need to be traveling in the opposite direction, (or if you see a parking place on the other side of the street, what do you do?) As my GPS says, you should “turn around when possible.”  If you are on the “broad” way of life and you realize that you can only reach God by traveling the narrow way, your only solution to save yourself and to get on the right path is to make a U-turn, to repent.  This means to turn away from your trust in things, individuals or gods other than the one true God and His Son Jesus Christ.

Every person who will come to Jesus may and can come to Jesus.  He says in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to me I will certainly NOT cast out.”

In Matthew 25, Jesus describes the Final Judgment, when the world ends:

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.  34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world….” 41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.

Jesus is saying to you today that there are TWO GATES–a broad one and a narrow one–,which lead to TWO WAYS–a right one and a wrong one–,TWO DESTINATIONS–the one that leads to life, and the one that leads to destruction—, and TWO GROUPS–the few, who find mercy and life from the Lord of Life, and the many, who receive the consequences of their sin and disobedience to God, destruction.  Which will you be numbered amongst today?  Will you be one of the few, the sheep, who choose the narrow gate, the narrow way and the destination of life?