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Discovering The Narrow Gate

(Part of a series on the Sermon on The Mount)


Matthew 7:13-14 (New King James Version) The Narrow Way

13 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. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Luke 13:22-30 (New King James Version) The Narrow Way

22 And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 Then one said to Him, "Lord, are there few who are saved?" And He said to them, 24 Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ 26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. 29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last."

Introduction

When Jesus speaks of a "narrow gate" and a "broad way" He is talking about two very different modes of existence. The following table draws out some of the contrasts between the narrow gate way of wisdom and spirituality and humility versus the "broad way" of sin and folly and pride.

Narrow Gate

Broad Way

Wisdom

Folly

Higher Nature

Lower Nature

Spirit

Flesh

Holiness

Worldliness

Living Faith In God

Idols, Superstition, Luck, Myths & Legends

Righteousness

Lawlessness

Kingdom of God

Kingdom of Darkness

The Cross Accepted

The Cross Rejected

Taught of God

Doctrines of Demons

Word of God

Traditions of Men

Fruit of the Spirit

Works Of The Flesh

Born-Again To A New Nature

Attempts to Fix The Old Nature

Grace

Legalism

Patiently Seeks Things Above, Heavenly Reward

Impulsively Seeks Self-Gratification, Pleasure

Forgiving

Resentful

Peaceful, Conciliatory, Willing To Yield

Self-Assertive, Divisive, Contentious

Humble Quiet Wisdom

Envy and Selfish Ambition

Compassion

Selfishness

Loves God

Materialistic

Impartial

Corrupt

Following Christ

Following The World, The Flesh and The Devil

The Narrow Gate Is Christ And The Christian Life

Christ is the door, the narrow gate that must be found and is our entrance to Heaven:

John 10:7-9 HCSB So Jesus said again, ";I assure you: I am the door of the sheep. (8) All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn't listen to them. (9) I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.

Hebrews 10:19-22 ISV Therefore, my brothers, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, (20) the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), (21) and since we have a great high priest over the household of God, (22) let us continue to come near with sincere hearts in full assurance of faith, because our hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

And the pathway we follow is the constant pursuit of the fruits of the Spirit:

2 Peter 1:3-11 MKJV according as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue, (4) through which He has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, so that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (5) But also in this very thing, bringing in all diligence, filling out your faith with virtue, and with virtue, knowledge; (6) and with knowledge self-control, and with self-control, patience, and with patience, godliness, (7) and with godliness, brotherly kindness, and with brotherly kindness, love. (8) For if these things are in you and abound, they make you to be neither idle nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (9) For he in whom these things are not present is blind and cannot see afar off and has forgotten that he was purged from his sins in the past. (10) Therefore, brothers, rather be diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things, you shall never fall. (11) For so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Seeking The Narrow Gate

The narrow gate is not locked, but it is hard to find, so some effort must be made, and some diligence and suffering put in. Salvation is free to all, but it must be found. If I hid a million dollars in the church car-park it would be free to however found it, but nevertheless some seeking would be required. The person who did not seek, would not find.

Many modern evangelists have made out that salvation requires no effort at all, other than saying a short prayer. They argue that any other doctrine would be "salvation by works". That is confusing the issue. The fact that God asks us to search after Him is not the same as God requiring us to do special religious works such as attending the feast days of saints or pilgrimages to Mecca. We cannot work our way to Heaven, but we have to seek after Heaven.

God is not a vending machine that hands out "Get Out Of Hell Free" cards to whoever prays a little prayer. God is a complex spiritual and personal being who wants us to seek genuine relationship with Him and to love Him with all our heart, mind and strength.

True Christianity involves a true life-long commitment to God - not easy-believism:

Matthew 16:24-25 HCSB Then Jesus said to His disciples, ";If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. (25) For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it."

Many people are given a chance to believe, and hear the gospel, but make no or an inadequate response. That is why Jesus says many be called, but few chosen".

Matthew 20:16 KJV So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

In the time of Noah salvation was very restricted - only eight people out of the whole world! This was after 120 years of Noah's preaching! Everyone heard the message but only his own family responded to it, then the door of the ark was shut.

1 Peter 3:20 HCSB who in the past were disobedient, when God patiently waited in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared; in it, a few--that is, eight people--were saved through water.

Just how many people are saved is up to God, but everyone should continue to press on into salvation and take their spiritual life as something of the utmost seriousness.

Two Ways

There are higher" and lower" ways of viewing the same reality. Some people when given a gift see the love and thoughtfulness, while others just work out how much it cost the giver and simply see it in monetary terms. Or on visiting a forest some stop and sense the beauty, while others trample noisily and heedlessly around oblivious to the speech of Nature. Or in reading a book some try and find the deeper meaning and learn from it, while others just want to get through it and write the term paper. Take a bunch of teenagers to an art show and a few will stop and ponder, while many others will simply point and giggle. One of the ways the Bible describes these higher and lower natures is as spirit and flesh.

Romans 8:5-7 HCSB For those whose lives are according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those whose lives are according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. (6) For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. (7) For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God's law, for it is unable to do so.

This higher way of thinking is the "mind set on the Spirit" and is equivalent to the mind set on things above.

Philippians 4:8 MKJV Finally, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think on these things.

Colossians 3:1-3 MKJV If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. (2) Be mindful of things above, not on things on the earth. (3) For you died, and your life has been hidden with Christ in God.

Isaiah 32:8 HCSB But a noble person plans noble things; he stands up for noble causes.

The Christian is called to higher ground, to a noble way of thinking. We are to think about lovely, good, high-minded things and to set aside the vulgar, trashy, fleshly and selfish thoughts so common to our age. We have to start thinking differently, following the Spirit and thinking our own deep inner thoughts, hearing the tune of a different drummer".

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. (Henry David Thoreau, Walden, Conclusion, 1854)"

The mind set on the flesh is death. The lower way of thinking leads to loss of impulse control, addictions, and many frustrations in life. The mind becomes filled with the psychological equivalent of rotting garbage and stinking thinking" develops. Sin is never fully resisted or transcended. Instead it is often pondered, and even indulged. Gradually the soul becomes darkened and deadened to all that is higher in life - including God.

The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. The higher and better way of viewing life leads to the ability to function properly in life, to achieve goals, to react rightly to life's problems and to master numerous skills with grace and wisdom. Sin is resisted and uprooted and transcended by walking in the Spirit. This is not necessarily a very religious life, full of church services. Rather it is a noble life full of quiet and good thoughts and actions.

A rough analogy would be the contrast between fine classical music and punk rock. Fine classical music leaves me feeling peaceful and mentally alive, full of good thoughts. Punk rock is full of violence and anger and sin and leads to rage and to suicide. (I am not saying you have to like classical music to be a good Christian.) These are illustrations of ways of thinking - higher and lower.

Now the mind set on the Spirit mediates on Scripture, sees beauty in nature, prays often, thinks on Christ, and looks for beauty and truth in all things. The mind set on the flesh is only interested in gratification of one kind of another - from sexual gratification, to revenge.

So the mind set on the Spirit puts aside the clamor for instant gratification and goes on a quest for God, for beauty and for truth of all kinds - whether it be cultural, historical, scientific or theological. The mind set on the Spirit is saturated with reverence and awe and lives in the constant joy of the surprises of God.

Hebrews 12:28-29 HCSB Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe; (29) for our God is a consuming fire.

The spiritual mindset judges all things spiritually and is able to understand Scripture and view life with purity and grace.

1 Corinthians 2:12-16 HCSB (12) Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, in order to know what has been freely given to us by God. (13) We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. (14) But the natural man does not welcome what comes from God's Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to know it since it is evaluated spiritually. (15) The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. (16) For: who has known the Lord's mind, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.

James 3:17-18 HCSB But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. (18) And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Paul seems to have had a real pastoral problem with lower thinking" people on Crete and characterized their inhabitants as being liars, evil beasts and lazy gluttons. When he sent Titus there he said:

Titus 1:15-16 HCSB To the pure, everything is pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled. (16) They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, and disqualified for any good work.

So we see that the lower nature, and the lower way of thinking, makes people unfit for doing God's will. For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God's law, for it is unable to do so."

Indulging sin, coarseness, vulgarity and fleshly appetites is not harmless. It subverts our whole being as Christians and makes us useless to God. The broad way, the way of the flesh and the vulgar crowd, leads to destruction. It leads to us becoming slaves of our sins and our impulses and reduces life to a continual craving for this or that. When Jesus says broad is the way that leads to destruction" he is speaking as one who knew human nature better than anyone else. Being self-destructive is the easiest thing in the world. There is nothing easier than drunkenness, gambling, and sexual immorality. There is nothing easier than being a fool, you do not have to pass any tough exams for that! There is nothing easier than being proud, arrogant, boorish and opinionated. And there is nothing easier than throwing tempter tantrums and hitting people and engaging in acts of reckless violence. And there is nothing easier than blaming others for your own mess. Stupid, self-destructive living is so popular because it is easy.

Discovering The Narrow Gate

The easiest way to discover the Narrow Gate is to head towards Christ and away from the world. For instance:

  1. To be thankful when everyone else is grumbling.

  2. To be pure when everyone else is impure.

  3. To be full of praise when everyone else is cynical.

  4. To be generous when everyone else is being selfish and stingy.

  5. To be kind when everyone else is competitive.

  6. To be humble when everyone else is being assertive and arrogant and ambitious

  7. To be gracious when everyone else is being rude.

  8. To be at Church when everyone else is out shopping or at the beach.

  9. To build unity when everyone else is forming cliques.

  10. To reach out in love when everyone else is being angry and hurtful.

This is called 'walking in the opposite spirit" and it is the simple assertion that you don't get to the Narrow Gate by following the world's standards of behavior. As the Geneva Commentary says on this verse: The example of life must not be taken from the multitude. The famous hymn writer Isaac Watts put in in verse:

Broad is the road that leads to death,
And thousands walk together there;
But wisdom shows a narrower path
With here and there a traveler.

The Narrow Gate has to be discovered, for it is not at all obvious. In fact the natural man is unable to see it at all. The natural man thinks it is folly to be Christ-like and madness to give away money and pleasure and the approval of men for something as intangible as spiritual growth. The Narrow Gate appears before us the moment we make our own spiritual growth a priority and when we decide that the pursuit of truth must come before the pursuit of pleasure. When the angels observe us getting real, about getting hold of God, then wonderful things happen.

The Narrow Gate Leads to Blessing

A small gate can lead to a vast treasure - like that of Tutankhamen's' tomb. And the Narrow Gate leads to eternal life and enormous blessings that far outweigh anything that the world can give us. Jesus tells us that it is a gate that leads to life: Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

It is a difficult path, but it leads to many good things, and to hundred-fold rewards. The word for quote "difficult" is from the same Greek word as trouble and tribulation. It is a troubled and constricted path. It hurts. We find ourselves pressed on every side by the world, the flesh and the Devil, but it is a good path that leads to good things.

Acts 14:21-22 MKJV And preaching the gospel to that city, and having made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and Iconium and Antioch, (22) confirming the souls of the disciples, calling on them to continue in the faith and that through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God.

There are many troubles and much tribulation for the person that truly chooses to go through the Narrow Gate, but that path leads to the Kingdom of God. Pilgrim's Progress is a great book that tells the story of a pilgrim called Christian who leaves the City of Destruction behind in search of the Celestial City. His path is hard and full of trials and temptations such as the Slough of despond and Giant Despair but the end is well worth it. The sad fact is that Jesus tells us "few are they that find it". Only a few people can be bothered with all it takes to be a true Christian.

Therefore let us be determined that we will find the Narrow Gate and persist in the way that leads to life!

 

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.