Have you ever tried to squeeze through a small opening? The struggle and discomfort you had to go through to get to the other side seemed to take forever, and you wondered if maybe you should have taken the easier route. This was the picture I was given this morning after reading Matthew 7:13-14. Jesus has just finished the Sermon on the Mount and has begun to tell the people what it is going to take to get into the Kingdom of God.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
At first when I read this passage, a few things jumped out at me. The first was the word “narrow”. I pictured myself trying to squeeze through the opening of a door that was barely opened and the struggle that it would take to get through it. The word “narrow” is written as “strait” in the King James Version, and means narrow because “it runs counter to natural inclinations”. (Vines Expository Dictionary) The narrow gate is the entrance to life eternal, the entrance to the kingdom of God. It goes against the natural tendencies of our world and fleshly desires. The narrow gate takes us down a one way street going in the opposite direction of the flow of traffic.
The second thing that jumped out at me was the word “way”. This word is used metaphorically in this context and means a course of conduct, the way we live. We can either live for God, or we can live for ourselves. Every day we are given a choice to either walk with God through the narrow gate, or take our own path through the wide gate. This gate is the entrance into any state of being; it is the way leading to life or to destruction. It is our choice which one we choose.
The path through the narrow gate requires sacrifice. Our society is more about self-preservation than sacrifice. But to be one of the few we must sacrifice, we must go through the narrow gate. This gate will cause us to struggle, to have discomfort and will cause us to squeeze through a small opening to get to the other side, the kingdom of God. It is the same principle as trying to squeeze yourself through a small doorway. You will be uncomfortable, it will cause you to question your decision to take this way and you will struggle. But, when we do choose the narrow way, we will find the path of life. Are you willing to squeeze through to enter the Kingdom of God, or would you rather take an easier route?
“Being saved entails much more than just going forward and repeating a prayer. This is where it often begins, but it is a changed life, a strict obedience to the word of God.” (Pastor Chuck Smith) There is a right way and a wrong way, Jesus wants us to decide to go the more difficult way because He knows it is the only way. Jesus is our example, He came to show us the way to life everlasting. He suffered, He sacrificed, and He was persecuted, and struggled in the flesh. Our walks are to be no different. We must choose to take the narrow gate, meaning that we too choose to take the path of sacrifice and death to our mortal flesh.
Jesus says to us in Luke 13:24 that we are to “strive to enter the narrow gate”. The word strive means to agonize. The gate we are to take is narrow and difficult; it means we have to give up those things God has required of us. It means we may have to let go of friends and even family members who tempt us and lead us astray. It means we will face the pressure and persecution from the world we live in; but, my brothers and sister, there is no other way.
We must enter the narrow gate in regards to our conversations, our thoughts, our actions and our motives. There is no gray area with God. It is right or wrong, good or evil. There is no such thing as a little sin; sin is sin. Speaking against your sister in the Lord is just as sinful as going out and killing someone. We can’t say we are Christians unless we are willing to go through the narrow gate and live the life of holiness that Jesus taught us on the Sermon on the Mount. Don’t be deceived, broad is the way which leads to destruction, and many of us are walking that path now. But narrow is the gate which leads to life. This gate means that we have to lay down of our fleshly desires, deny ourselves, and choose to go willingly down the path of sacrifice and squeezing. There is no other way.
“One wonders how many members in our churches today assume that they are saved when in fact they treat Jesus’ teachings lightly- people who give no thought to their temper, their mental chastity, their integrity and so forth during the week, then pretend to be religious or even spiritually gifted in church. Do we have the courage to communicate Jesus’ message as clearly as He meant it to be conveyed, to warn ourselves and others that it is possible for people to assume they are saved and yet be damned? Some texts in the Bible provide assurance to suffering Christians that the kingdom is theirs; this challenges “cultural Christians”, those following only Christian tradition rather than Christ Himself to realize that they need conversion.” (IVP Commentary Series on the NT)
So how do we know which path we are walking on? One way to determine if you have taken the wrong gate is to look at the world around you. Those that are in the world act and look like the world, if the world loves you, then perhaps you should take a good look at your feet and ponder the path you are on. Jesus tells us in John 15:18-19 that “if the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
If no one can tell you are a Christian Monday through Friday, but you profess His name on Sunday, you are most likely walking the broad way, and that way leads to destruction. Jesus will go on to tell us in Matthew 7:21 that not everyone who says “Lord” shall enter the kingdom of Heaven. It is only those who do the will of the Father that will enter. We must not take the word of God lightly; we must live it, moment by moment, day by day. We must look at sin with rose colored glasses, but we must squeeze it out and enter into the narrow gate. There is no other way. We are deceiving ourselves if we think that we can live our lives the way we want through the week and then go to church on Sunday, ask for forgiveness and go about our way. Many live that way now and call themselves Christians. Which one are you? Are you the few who find the gate and enter into the sacrifices it takes, or are you the many who go and do as you please until Sunday rolls around? Enter the narrow gate, because the other gate leads to destruction. The choice is yours, which gate will you choose?