Enter By the Narrow Gate
Standard;You're in a grocery store, and you're getting ready to check out. Which line do you usually head to? The one that's moving the fastest. You're driving on the freeway, it's rush hour, which lane do you try to get into, the one that's moving the most cars. The Packer game is over. Which gate do you seek to leave by? Again the one that seems to be moving the most people the fastest.
If you look at the picture on your bulletin, you see the graphic depiction of our gospel lesson today.
Mt 7:13 "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 (tribulation, the way through the cross, dying to self) which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
Oh how easy it is to get caught up in the broad way, and how difficult to turn back once you fall in step with the crowd. Have you ever tried to turn back in such a crush of humanity? Nearly impossible! Let say, you are leaving the stadium and you forgot something in your seat, so you decide to go back and get it.
Imagine the jostling you'd experience trying to reverse your path! Imagine what people would be saying to you and about you. Better to go with the flow, exit the stadium and come back in through another gate. That works for the packer game, but it doesn't work for eternal life. Once you exit, you are gone. It is appointed for man to die once and then the judgment. (Heb 9:27)
Thankfully, anywhere along the journey.....your journey, the Lord is able to pluck you out of the crowd and set our feet on the right path, as the psalmist said in Ps 40:2 He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps.
How close to the edge do you reckon the thief on the cross was, before he cried out in faith, “Lord remember me when you come into Your kingdom?” and he was plucked out by the Savior who heard his heartfelt cry?
This text makes it clear. There are only two ways, and there are only two ends. The narrow way leads to life, the broad way leads to destruction.
So what is the “narrow way?” Obviously it is the way of faith, and the way of faith involves a lot more than merely saying, “I believe in God.” Jesus Himself says in just a few verses later in this chapter, “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (v 21)
What is the will of the Father? It is found in the Law and the Prophets and the New testament writings of the Apostles, and it can be summed up as Jesus summed it up in v12,
“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Now let me tell you the mistake that we make in this regard. The mistake that can set us on the wrong path if we are not careful. We read this passage and decide, well. I want this, this and this done to me, this is how I want to be treated, and therefore this is how I will treat others......sounds pretty good doesn't it?
What's wrong with that? Isn't that what Jesus is saying? No! Because He points the doing back to the Law and the Prophets, back to the Word of God. Because in doing the Law and the Prophets, in “keeping” God's Word, (Remember what we've been saying about keeping? Treasuring God's Word, living according to it.) we are treated to the good things God intended for us, and we will treat others the way God intended them to be treated.
If we forget the Law and the Prophets, our idea of right living will be based on our emotions, our feelings, our heart, and I mean to tell you that if we could see under the feet of those on this broad path, we would see that it is paved with heart-felt good intentions .
Do you really want to follow your heart. Is that really wise? Look how easily it is swayed through the media and popular opinion? Do you not know that your heart is “deceitful and wicked? It will lie to you! Jer 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Why not seek the heart of God and follow it. Honestly ask God to show you His heart and He will be more than glad to answer that prayer. It's His promise that we found just a few verses back, “How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things (the Holy Spirit) to those who ask Him? (v11)
The heart of God is found in the Word of God and He is more than willing to open it up to you.
Babies are being aborted by the millions because people are “following their hearts instead of the law and the Prophets.” Men and women are shacking up, fornicating, because they are following their hearts rather than the law and the Prophets. “If Loving You is Wrong I Don't Want To Be Right.” Divorce and remarriage is flourishing because people are following their hearts instead of the Law and the Prophets. Homosexuality abounds and is being accepted in the mainstream churches because men and women are following their hearts instead of the law and the Prophets.
Carnal Christians and unbelievers may follow their hearts and seek these solutions, there's not much you can do about that, but never let it be said of you. As much as is possible, with all the spiritual strength you can muster, let it be said of you as it was said of David.....that you are a man, a person after God's own heart. Because God's heart is not deceitful...you can trust it. God is not a man that He should lie. (num 23:9)
And again God's heart is opened up for you in His Word. How many times have you heard that this Book is God's love letter to you? Well what is a love letter if not the opening of one heart to another. Make daily appointments for coffee and conversation with the One who loves you so much he gave His only Son to die for you. Open up this Book, it is the heart of God.
In our OT lesson, God is dealing with Jeremiah who quite frankly is weary of the rebukes and ill treatment of others as he prophesies God's Word to them. Try to put Jeremiah into the picture on the front of your bulletin. He is standing at the fork of the road. The wide road and the narrow. The only difference is. At least in the picture, some people are on the narrow road. He's not having any luck at all.
And he's preaching and asking the people to get off the road that everyone else is on and take the road that he is standing on. What would you do? I know what I would do. You are crazy Jeremiah, No one is on your stupid road. That's too risky for me. I will go with the wisdom of the masses here. All these people can't be wrong!
In my flesh, that's what I would do, but by the grace of God, I don't have to operate in the flesh anymore! I can go to the Law and the Testimony to see what path is right! And you know what? Odds are the path with fewer people on it is the right path.
Isa 8:20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
“And God says to Jeremiah, “Let them return to you, but you must not return to them.”
Friends, beware of false prophets, they invite you to take the broad road. They ask nothing of you, only be nice to those who are taking the broad road with you. Jesus asks the same thing, except He asks that you check your niceness with the Law and the Prophets. If it doesn't match up....it's really not not nice at all, it's only a feeling that will lead to your ultimate destruction.
Which road are you on? Thus saith the Lord? Or Thus saith my heart? The Law and the prophets will never lead you down the road of destruction, but your heart alone will.. They will always be found on the straight and narrow. But surely my heart matters for something? Surely God gave it to me for a purpose. Yes He did, but those feelings and emotions and desires are best expressed when you find and live in the heart of God. And the Heart of God is found in the law and the Prophets,,,,,aka His Word.
Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.