The Narrow Road

 

In Matt 7:13 the Lord Jesus is bringing his Sermon on the Mount to a close. Jesus is preaching to his disciples and to a great crowd that had gathered to hear him. The crowd seemed greatly interested in Christ. At this stage of Christ’s ministry it seemed as if a great many would follow him. But Jesus knew the hearts of men. He knew the reasons the people were there on that mountain.

Yes, a few came to him for eternal life. Those who came to him for eternal life turned from their sin; out of love they devoted themselves to following Christ. But many were showing interest in Jesus for the wrong reasons.

So the Lord speaks of two gates and two roads. He warns the people, as well as each of you, to choose the right road. In the illustration, the roads and gates refer to the same thing; the path to life or death. The Lord urges the people; “enter by the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many.”

There is a road that leads to eternal death; that road is an easy road to travel, so many enter it. The road to life, on the other hand, is a difficult road to travel, so few enter it.

One might object, “I thought the gift of eternal life was free. It sounds like salvation is only for the few who work hard to obtain it.” Well, you need to understand what salvation is. Salvation is not a free gift you receive that guarantees heaven while allowing you to live for yourself on earth.  

Salvation is being rescued from judgment so you can belong to the Lord. The Lord saves you to make you his own. Yes, he delivers you freely, but the reason he delivers you freely is to make you into a person that lives for him and obeys him.

Jesus knew why many were showing interest in him. He knew that some were only using him to meet a specific earthly and selfish need. Beyond that need they had no desire to give themselves to him. According to the Lord that thinking was unacceptable.

The wide road is easy because on that road God can be used to help you feel good, but then he can be discarded when he makes a demand upon your character, or on your finances, or on your treatment of others. As a result of that road being easy, many who hear the gospel end up taking that road. But the Lord warns you; that road leads to eternal death.

We read in Luke where Jesus said, “if anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Here we see that to be a Christian is to be a disciple; the words are synonymous. A disciple is one who comes to the Lord to be saved by him and to then follow him. Discipleship is another word for obedience.

The wide road that leads to judgment ignores the call to discipleship; it ignores what Jesus has commanded in his Sermon on the Mount. The wide road ignores his words on being humble, on loving others, on being honest and dependable, on fighting lust, on speaking evil of others; on the need to reconcile with those who you may have offended.

Yes, the Christian is weak in many areas and falls at times, but he will endeavor, however imperfectly, to obey what the Lord has commanded. He does so because God has given him a desire to serve the Lord through the Holy Spirit.

Those on the easy road ignore the Lord’s commands; they simply use Jesus to meet a certain need they may have. But be assured; God will not be used by anyone.

The narrow road to eternal life is difficult, first of all because to become a Christian means you must humble yourself and become as a little child. You must first admit your own unworthiness as a sinner.

The road to life is also difficult because the Christian life is difficult. It is difficult to follow the Lord. It is much more difficult to love others than to hate them or ignore them. Hate is easy; love is difficult. It is easier to use others than to serve others. It is easier to judge others than to encourage them.

But the Lord Jesus assures you that the difficult road has a great end. At the end of that road is life; wonderful, everlasting life in the presence of Christ and his people. Even now you taste of those rewards as you enjoy the fellowship of fellow travelers along the same difficult road.

Now, no one can use the excuse that they wanted to be a Christian, but the road was too difficult. God already promised to give you the strength to serve him through the difficulties. The history of the Bible as well as of the church is full of faithful witnesses who served the Lord under the most extreme circumstances. If you choose not to serve the Lord, there is only one reason for it; you simply do not want to serve the Lord.

It is amazing what people can do when they really want to. Cheryl and I recently watched a documentary on what Hollywood actresses do to prepare for an awards ceremony. They showed the spas these actresses go to a month in advance. For three weeks they practically starved themselves and worked out five hours a day or so. These are people we would normally consider spoiled and undisciplined. These ladies found the strength to deny themselves for something really important to them.

The point is; if you want to serve the Lord, you will serve the Lord. When you become a Christian the Lord gives you a wonderful gift. He gives you a new will, a will that desires to serve him. If you want to be a Christian then you will be a Christian, and you will be able to serve God.

When someone tells me it is  just too difficult to wake up for church, I ask him if he would wake up early if I gave him ten thousand dollars. When he is honest and answers “yes,” I say; “there’s your problem; you are placing your love in the wrong object. Love God more than money.”

Now, the most obvious application of this passage is to warn you here in this room. Do not be one of the many that Jesus is speaking of here; those who show interest in Jesus but are not concerned with obeying him, those taking the easy road. If you have no interest in serving God; no matter how much religion may help you at times, you are on the road to death.              

Come to Christ on his terms. Receive freely the gift of eternal life, but come knowing that God saves you to make you his own. You are called to a life of service; a road that will be difficult, yet one that will yield the fruit of eternal life. And you will not travel the road alone; your brothers and sisters in Christ are here to walk the journey with you.

Secondly, you should remember this general truth; a truth repeated in the parable of the sower. The truth is that many hear the Word, but few actually believe it unto eternal life.

 In one sense we can say that there are many who are saved. When we consider the number throughout history who are redeemed; when we consider that not one deserved to be saved, then we can say the number of the redeemed is great.

But if we consider how many throughout history have heard the gospel, how many that have actually attended church, and then compare that to how many actually are on the road to eternal life, then we can say the number is few.

Pollsters have gone into areas where a year before there had been a great evangelical crusade, a crusade where thousands came forward to make a decision for Christ. Do you know what those pollsters find? A year later the membership numbers in the churches is basically the same. The evangelist may have been sincere; he may have preached a correct message; he may even have told those who came forward that they must join a church. But only a few actually do follow Christ; only a few end up going through the narrow gate. That’s just the way it is.

The road to true life is narrow and often difficult. Few enter it. That road begins by hearing the simple message of Christ crucified and risen for sinners. It begins by humbly receiving God’s message of Christ’s complete work on the cross.

The road to eternal life is also the road of obedience. It is the road of living for the Lord because we belong to him. It is a difficult road. We walk that road together. At the end of that road is life; glorious, eternal life. Amen

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