Life in the Narrow Lane
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, October 5, 1997
Copyright © 1997, P. G. Mathew
"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. Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."
We are coming to the end of our study of the Sermon on the Mount as found in Matthew 5 through 7. As we examine the last portion of the sermon, Matthew 7, we see that the theme of this chapter is divine judgment. We must realize that we are all coming closer to that final judgment when Jesus Christ himself will judge. To some he will say, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" but to others he will declare, "Thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord." On the day of final judgment Christ will throw some outside of his kingdom into a place of darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, but he will grant others entrance into the kingdom of heaven, which means entrance into life eternal and the joy of the Lord.
Jesus Makes a Demand
Let us first look at what Jesus Christ is telling us as the Prophet and Great Seer. Jesus sees the vast majority of people choosing a wide gate which leads into a broad way. He sees them walking along this broad way, not knowing that this way leads to destruction, death, and eternal damnation. Jesus also sees a few choosing a narrow gate which leads to a very difficult road. In the Greek the word means a road full of troubles. But he also sees them in the end arriving at the destination called life.
Why was Jesus telling us these things? Because he was concluding his great sermon on living the Christian life, and he wanted his disciples to apply it to their lives. Jesus is interested in the practical application of his teaching. It is not enough just to listen, appreciate him as a teacher and praise his teaching. What matters is that we put the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ into practice.
We must realize that happiness is not found in the hearing of God's words, but in the doing of what we have heard. In John 13:17 Jesus said, "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." We may listen to philosophers and praise their philosophy without practicing it, we may listen to the gurus of the world and appreciate their teaching without practicing it, but we cannot do that with God's word. And many of those who will enter destruction are people who heard the teaching of Jesus regularly but failed to practice it.
Jesus, therefore, made a demand of those who heard him, especially the crowds. In Matthew 7:28 we read, "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority and not as their teachers of the law." But we are not told that the crowds believed, repented, or trusted. Therefore, Jesus made this demand of them: Enter through the narrow gate. Don't just praise the teacher, in other words, but put into practice the teaching of this Jesus Christ, the true Teacher, Prophet, Priest and King. Why? Time is short and the kingdom of God is at hand. "Repent!" Jesus told the crowd. So we must all listen to this demand that he made: "Enter through the narrow gate." Take the hard road, in other words, and you will arrive at life.
Why did Jesus say these things? Because he loves sinners. In his tender compassion he is warning us that there are two destinies, two roads to the destinies, and two gates to the two roads to the two destinies. There is the destiny of destruction and the destiny of life. Christ Jesus desires that all people be saved and that they enter the kingdom of God, which is the sphere of life and joy in the Lord. So we read in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whosoever believes on him should not perish but have everlasting life."
Neutrality Is Impossible
In this passage Jesus was admonishing us to realize the gravity of our situation. There are only two destinations, and, thus, neutrality and indecision are impossible. One must choose and commit himself to one or the other road. There is no third way.
The Scripture continually sets before us a choice between life and death. In Deuteronomy 11:26-28 we find God setting before his people blessing and curse, and in Deuteronomy 30:15 and 19 God offers his people life and prosperity versus death and destruction. We must choose! In Jeremiah 21:8 God also spoke through Jeremiah to set before the people the way of life and the way of death, and Psalm 1 tells us that the way of the righteous will prosper but the way of the wicked will perish. And in John 10:10 Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." But not everyone will choose life. In 2 Corinthians 2:15 Paul writes, "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing."
We must choose today. Why? Because soon we will die. The Bible says now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. Today is our day of opportunity but it will end all too soon. The other day we heard of a man from this city who went to see his son play college football. That man did not reach his intended destination. He died in a car accident while he was traveling. Like this man, we may die today or tomorrow. That is why we must make our choice today. When we die, our time of opportunity will be over forever and we will enter our eternal destiny, of life or death, blessing or cursing, the way of the righteous or the way of the wicked.
What Is the Broad Way?
In this passage, therefore, Jesus spoke of the broad and the narrow way. What is the broad way? Jesus described it by saying, "Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it."
One thing we notice about the broad way is that it can be easily seen. We don't have to work too hard or do a lot of research to find it. There is no need for an earnest search. It is the most prominent way out there, big and beautiful, and no one can miss it. In fact, every human being is born on the broad way. Every human mother is on the broad way and when she gives birth to a child, that child is also on the broad way. Therefore David said in Psalm 51, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." In Romans 3 St. Paul tells us, "There is none righteous, there is none who does good, there is none who seeks God. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
The broad way is easy to spot and no one, I said, can miss it. And in this section Jesus was telling us, "Look, the vast majority of the people of this earth are choosing this broad way. You can also follow the crowd and choose the broad way, if that is what you want." But let us never conclude that the majority is always right. The majority is very wrong on this issue, as Jesus Christ himself said. He said that many would enter the broad way, which leads to destruction, but only a few would find the narrow way which leads to life. Let us, therefore, be certain this morning that that which is popular in the world is abomination in the sight of God.
But we are surrounded by the broad way. We find it advertised all around us. Universities teach it. Literature, television, radio and movies are filled with it. Even many churches nowadays are proclaiming the broad way when they speak of a discounted Christianity that says we don't have to lose anything when we follow Jesus Christ. This broad-way Christianity declares that one can have God and sin at the same time. "Come on!" such churches say, and people enter them in droves.
Look again at the broad way, Jesus says. What do we see there? The people on the broad way always seem to be having a lot of fun. They are enjoying their lives. To them life consists in the activity of travel on this broad way; amazingly, though, they do not seem to worry where this road is taking them. Why do you think that is true? The Bible tells us the reason: their eyes have been blinded by the god of this world, Satan.
So those on the broad way are eating, drinking, smoking and dancing. They seem to have no restraint. The broad way is characterized by great freedom and unlimited pleasures. Fun, self-indulgence, and antinomianism abound. People on the broad way do not worry about the Ten Commandments. "Why worry?" they say. "Be happy." On the broad way one can be totally hedonistic and self-centered. You don't have to love your neighbor, wife, husband, or children. Just love yourself and have a good time. Have fun--fun in the morning, fun at noon, and fun at night.Fun, fun, fun!
The Leader of the Broad Way
Jesus also tells us to look for the one who leads people on this broad way. Broad way people do not see this leader, but they all obediently follow him. This leader is the same one who led the first couple, Adam and Eve, into death and misery. Who is he? Satan. And Satan also uses secondary agents, false prophets, to lead many in the broad way. We read about such false prophets in Ezekiel 13.
What is the gospel of Satan's false prophets? They say exactly what people want to hear. They speak smooth things, emphasizing love and unity. They hate the biblical doctrines of sin and judgment. They hate them! They speak of freedom and pleasure now, but will not say one word about what is going to happen in the end. They never speak of sin or the wrath of God. They do not speak of death, the final judgment, or of God's holy love. They will not speak of God's holiness and justice. Such false prophets will only practice deceit, trying to deceive even the very elect, if that were possible. Thank God, it is not possible!
In 2 Corinthians 11:13 we read about such false prophets: "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve."
The Lie of the Broad Way
The broad way prophets emphasize enjoyment, pleasure, freedom, good times, and fun. This is the spirit of the world. I was recently told about a Christian who slept with an unbeliever. When he told the unbeliever, "I am a Christian," the unbeliever said, "Then what are you doing here?" I would like to ask that also: What are you doing in that situation, man? You call yourself a Christian; why are you sleeping with an unbeliever? You are in the church, but you are really in the broad way.
There are many people who are in the church but they actually belong in the broad way. Why? What they want is fun--unrestrained freedom, pleasure, and indulgence. And there are churches which preach that people can have such fun as well as salvation. That man should go to that church and become a member of it. But this church is not like that. Here we preach life in the narrow lane.
What is the problem with life in the broad way? It is based on a lie. Satan and his false prophets deny that those they are leading on the broad way will die. This is not a new lie. What did Satan tell Eve in the third chapter of Genesis? "You will not surely die." In other words, go ahead! Travel on the broad way. Life in the broad way, Satan says, is real living. You will not die. There is no judgment by God. And not only that, Satan also says that those who are on the broad way will be highly enlightened. "Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." This is what the false prophets say to deceive people: You can be like God.
False or True Prophets?
Now, I am a minister of the true gospel, not a false prophet. Someone once said about me, "You know, this man doesn't know anything. He doesn't read as many books as I do." Well, go ahead, read all your books. But I will read a book, which is God's revelation, the Bible, and based on my study of that book I will declare God's truth. I will boldly proclaim that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and I will tell about the narrow way that leads to life eternal. I will set before all people life and death, blessing and cursing, and plead with them to choose life and blessing and choose it now.
Satan and his false preachers will never speak about guilt, curse, or death. What is their message? "God is love. He will never punish anyone. Hell and judgment are myths. Sin is just sickness." Do you see how carefully truth is hidden in those statements? Satan and his false prophets know the truth but they conceal it. They will speak of positive thinking and declare, "Love is all and all is love." They will speak of psychology and sociology, but they will not preach repentance. Not only that, many of these people have charismatic personalities. I am sure I do not seem very charismatic next to them. These people appear to be very pious. And they do research to discover what people like and preach accordingly so that their hearers will love them and their message. False prophets make people feel so good. Of them people will say, "He is such a good preacher. I just love him."
But broad way people will speak differently of a true minister of the gospel. Of him they will say, "Oh, we know of another preacher who preaches from the Bible. This man talks about the Bible all the time. He is just not positive. He speaks about sin, hell, judgment and the wrath of God. He is always speaking about Jesus and his death on the cross. (PGM) He tells us that Christ died for the sins of his people and that unless we believe in Jesus Christ who died on the cross and rose from the dead, we cannot be saved. He makes us feel so guilty. He requires us to repent and trust in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation. He preaches that we must forsake our sinful lives and practice holiness."
A true minister of the gospel will be treated like the prophet Micaiah in the Bible. Do you remember him? King Ahab said this about him in 1 Kings 22:8, "There is one man through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad." But Ahab didn't really have to worry about Micaiah. He had four hundred false prophets in his service who only spoke good things about him. They knew what Ahab liked and would prophesy in unison whatever he wanted to hear. These prophets would never tell Ahab that he was a sinner, that he was guilty before God, and that God would judge him unless he repented and believed in God.
Blinded to Reality
Notice, then, there is a broad way. Satan leads people in the broad way, and the vast majority of people in the world are on this broad way, enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season. But they do not know that the broad way life leads to destruction and eternal death.
Those who travel on the broad way do not think about their final destiny. Do you remember the parable of the rich man and Lazarus which Jesus tells in Luke 16? There was a rich man who lived in the broad way. He dressed in purple and fine linen, and lived luxuriously every day, indulging in fun and pleasure. His was the ultimate, unrestrained hedonistic lifestyle. He never troubled himself with thoughts of repentance, judgment, or the wrath of God. But when this man died and entered into his destiny, he found he was in hell. There he experienced torment and agony without any comfort or relief. But it was too late.
How can the vast majority of people live their entire lives on the broad way? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that "the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God." The vast majority of people will not put their faith in Christ who died on the cross and rose from the dead, who died for our sins and was raised for our justification. Why? They are blind. Satan has blinded them and hidden their destiny from them. Broad way people do not know that the wages of sin is death.
What Is the Narrow Way?
What is the narrow way that Jesus speaks about? It is a way so narrow that we cannot easily see it. We have to seek for it with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. In fact, Jesus said, very few people find it. It is like a turnstile, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, which is so confining that only one can go through at a time. That means we have to leave behind all our baggage. We have to part with the world, the crowd, and our sin. We may have to part with our own loved ones. We have to part with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boasting of things. We have to part with our self-centeredness and blameshifting. We have to get off the broad way and trust, not in ourselves, but in Jesus Christ alone to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Why? The way is as narrow as the gospel.
This narrow way that leads to life is hemmed in on both sides by the lordship of Jesus Christ. If we want to walk on it, we must confess with our mouth "Jesus is Lord," meaning he is Lord and we are his subjects and servants. We must believe in his gospel and surrender completely to him our intellect, will, and emotion. We must experience a radical change before we can find the narrow gate and walk on this hard road. We must be born again and given divine nature. We must escape the corruption of this world. In fact, if anyone enters through the narrow gate and walks on the hard, trouble-filled road which leads to life, it is proof that he is saved.
How can you enter the narrow way? You must be saved. But you must realize that you cannot save yourself. You must be saved by Jesus to come through this narrow gate. And if you do come through this narrow gate and walk on this hard road, it is because you have been chosen by God and belong to his little flock that we read about in Luke 12:32. Jesus told us that many are called but few are chosen. So you can rejoice if you are part of the remnant chosen by God's grace. And that is why you will do what Moses said in Exodus 23:2, "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong."
The Narrow Way of Life
The blind crowd walks on the broad road that seems right to them, but the end thereof is death. But if you are a Christian, you will walk on the narrow road that has been chosen for you and revealed to you by God's Holy Spirit.
How can we walk on the narrow road? God must open our eyes. We must be born of the Holy Spirit and given a new nature. Only then will we realize our sin and guilt, and see the just wrath of God against us. Then we will realize that Christ Jesus died on the cross, not for himself but in our behalf. Then the heavenly Father will reveal to us who the Lord Jesus Christ is, just as he revealed it to Peter, who confessed, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Like Peter, we will be given faith to trust in Christ alone for our salvation.
If these things have happened to us, we will see the narrow gate clearly and go through it. And we will realize that the narrow road is filled with daily difficulties. We will understand what Paul said in Acts 14:22, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God." Yet we can walk daily and steadily on this road. Why? Because we realize this is the only way to life everlasting. It is the only way to the kingdom of heaven and to the joy of the Lord. There is no alternative. God gives us a revelation that the broad way leads to destruction, so we praise God for enabling us to be on the hard, narrow road. Life is in the narrow lane.
In the Company of the Saints
Now, we must realize that the narrow way is not a lonely way. In Luke we read that Christians belong to God's little flock, and yet his little flock is not very little. In Revelation 7:9 we catch a glimpse of how many have traveled and will travel the narrow way: "After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'"
That is an encouraging picture, isn't it? Not only is the narrow road the only road to life, but there are many other people, a great multitude of people, who are also chosen by God, enlightened by the Father, and given understanding of the cross by the Spirit of the living God.
In Hebrews 12:1 we read, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles," and so on. A great cloud of witnesses! The little flock is not very little.
The Leader of the Narrow Way
Not only do we have company on the narrow way, but, like the broad way people, we also have a leader. Who is he? Jesus Christ, the one who died on the cross, was raised from the dead, ascended into the heavens and is seated on the right hand of God. Our leader is the Sovereign Lord of the universe.
Our leader is also our Shepherd. In John 10 Jesus said he is the Good Shepherd and the gate for the sheep. He brings out all his own from the broad way. He goes on ahead of his sheep, telling them to follow him, and his sheep do follow because they know his voice.
In Psalm 23 we read of God's shepherding care: "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever."
Therefore, as God's sheep, we follow Jesus, our Good Shepherd, the Sovereign Lord of the universe. He is our Prophet, Priest, and King. We listen to him and he intercedes for us. Because he is our King, we delight in his law and rule. We even pray, "Thy kingdom come" and "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
As God's sheep, we listen to our leader, Jesus Christ, not to the false prophets. We will not obey the charming, charismatic voice of the stranger that tells us to just have fun. We will not heed false preachers who want to massage our egos and tell us smooth things. Rather, we will recognize them as false and shun them. And we will abide in God's word and regularly commune with Christ so that we will become skilled in avoiding false prophets. We will be able to recognize them by their words and by their deeds.
The Narrow Way Life
Narrow road people use their renewed minds to think through the issue of commitment to Jesus Christ. In Luke 14 Jesus Christ tells us we have to consider carefully what it means to be a disciple. He says to take our time, count the cost, and see whether we have what it takes to follow him. And then he says that we must love Christ and his kingdom more than anything else. He says we must deny ourselves, take up the cross daily and follow him. Finally, he says we must be faithful until death.
The narrow way is a hard way, but it is the way to life. And we can be encouraged knowing that Jesus himself took this way. He was tempted in the wilderness but he told Satan, "It is written. . ." as he chose the biblical way again and again. God the Father commended him by saying, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
Abraham also chose this way. When the God of glory told him to leave his country, his kindred and his father's house, he left. Sometimes the journey was lonely and hard, but Hebrews 11:10 tells us Abraham looked forward "to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."
The apostle Paul also chose the narrow road. In 2 Corinthians 4:7 we read what he said about his journey on this narrow lane: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." The entire book of 2 Corinthians gives us understanding about life on this narrow road. It has troubles.
Yet, despite the troubles and tribulations, life in the narrow road is also a life of joy. In Romans 5:3 Paul says "We also rejoice in our sufferings." Not only that, narrow road life is a life of peace, a life of hope, and a life of victory--so much so that in 2 Corinthians 2:14 Paul declares, "But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ!"
Therefore, let us be encouraged to persevere in the narrow way! Soon we shall arrive at our destination. It may be today, it may be tomorrow, or it may be many years from now. But God will help us to persevere, and so we shall arrive. And our Captain, Jesus Christ, who is with us and leads us now, will be there to welcome us. He will tell us, "Come in! I know you. You are my beloved one. Enter into eternal, abundant life. Enter into the joy of the Lord and the kingdom that is prepared for you." What a glorious day that will be!
Which Way Will You Choose?
What should we conclude? Let me give you the conclusion from Luke 13:22-24. A theological student posed a speculative question to Jesus, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" Jesus refused to answer his question, but he exhorted him, saying, "Strive, agonize, make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to."
In other words, brothers and sisters, young people and old people, women and men, boys and girls, the most important thing for any human being to do in this life is to ask this question: What must I do to be saved? And what is the answer? Strive to enter through the narrow door. That means we must exercise maximum effort just as an athlete exercises maximum effort to win a gold medal in the Olympic games. Strive and make every effort while we have opportunity, meaning while we are alive. Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. If we do that, God promises we shall be saved.
There is no other way to life. Jesus said, "I am the door," and in another place he said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." The narrow way is defined by Jesus Christ. Only by trusting in him are we able to produce good fruit. And we must produce good fruit, for God's rule is this: Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and is thrown into the fire.
I recently asked someone the question, "Who do you think spoke about hell more times than anyone else?" This person did not know, so I told him it was Jesus Christ. In Matthew 13:42 Jesus describes what will happen to those who do not believe in him: "They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." That is destruction and eternal damnation as described by Jesus Christ, who is truth incarnate. But he also said in verse 43, "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." And then he added, "He who has ears, let him hear."
We must realize in all sobriety that there will be a final judgment, and the Judge is Jesus Christ himself. But even now he speaks to us in love, compassion, mercy, and patience, telling us to enter through the narrow gate into life eternal. Life in the narrow lane which leads to fullness of life.
My question to you is: Will you not listen? Will you not pay attention to Jesus Christ? Jesus desires that you be saved. It is my responsibility to set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. And it is my privilege to exhort you to choose life and blessing, to choose the narrow gate and the hard road that leads to life, to the kingdom of God and to the joy of the Lord. Amen.
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Copyright © 1997, P. G. Mathew
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