Summary: The gate you take determines your fate, therefore keep it straight before it’s too late!
Taking the Narrow Road
Rev. Brian Bill
“One Way” (www.worshiphousemedia.com)
In 2008, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life conducted an unusually detailed study of faith in America. According to Luis Lugo, the director of the Pew Forum, Americans “are very open. In terms of various paths to heaven, and even in interpreting the teachings of their own faith, the majority tell us that there’s not just one right way to do that.” The study found that 70% of Americans – even 57% of evangelicals – believe that many religions can lead to eternal life (www.pewforum.org).
In a particularly insightful op-ed in the New York Times this past Tuesday, Ross Douthat points out the worldview behind Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code” and the current blockbuster movie “Angels and Demons.” “In the Brownian worldview, all religions…have the potential to be wonderful, so long as we can get over the idea that any one of them might be particularly true. …the polls…reveal the growth of do-it-yourself spirituality, with traditional religion’s dogmas and moral requirements shorn away.” His conclusion is spot on: “For millions of readers, Brown’s novels have helped smooth over the tension between ancient Christianity and modern American faith. But the tension endures. You can have Jesus or Dan Brown. But you can’t have both” (5/19/09, www.nytimes.com).
In the words of sociologist Christian Smith, civil religion in America is tolerant and inoffensive. He refers to our post-Christian future as “moralistic therapeutic deism.” He then lists some core elements of the new catechism (Ross Douthat, www.theatlantic.com). Here are three of them:
* The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
* God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
* Good people go to heaven when they die.
As we near the end of our study in the Sermon on the Mount, we’re going to discover what Jesus said about getting to heaven as He drives home the necessity of putting what we’ve heard into practice. Specifically, we can’t just agree with what He said and leave it there; we must apply what we’ve learned. In our passage for today, Jesus makes a stunning statement that runs counter-cultural to our politically-correct, totally tolerant society.
Our primary passage contains only two verses but they pack a wallop. If this Scripture doesn’t make us squirm, I don’t know what will. Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Jesus is using a common teaching method to contrast two decisions and two destinations.
Succinctly put, this sermon could be summarized like this: The gate you take determines your fate, therefore keep it straight before it’s too late! Where you wind up later depends on which road you take now.
I see four imperatives that we must apply.
Enter the Gate!
Let’s begin by looking at the very first phrase in verse 13: “Enter through the narrow gate.” We see immediately that there’s an action that must be taken – we must actually enter through the narrow gate. It’s given in the form of a command which means that we’re to do it now, with a sense of urgency. Don’t just admire the principles of the Sermon on the Mount – accept and receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior. This means that it’s not automatic; it doesn’t just happen by osmosis because you’re an American or because you’ve gone to church your whole life.
Incidentally, this would have been scandalous to the Jews who were listening. They thought they were going to heaven because of their heritage as “God’s chosen people.” Jesus actually describes two different gates.
1. The narrow gate. The gate to God is narrow, meaning that it not only takes effort to find it, but it takes determination to enter through it. Jesus made it narrow without checking with us for our ideas of how wide it should be. Actually, the gate is Jesus Himself as stated in John 10:9: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” Have you ever heard someone say that Christianity is too narrow-minded? Most of us run away from this term but we need to come to terms with the fact that Jesus said the gate is narrow. Martin Lloyd-Jones compares the narrow gate to a turnstile that admits one person at a time.
In John 14:6, we read these pointed words: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…” Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. There is no other plan but the person of Jesus. There is no way to get to heaven unless we go through Him. Wow, that’s a pretty strong statement, isn’t it? It’s strong but true.