22 April 2022
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13-14 ESV).
These words by the Lord Jesus need to be pondered upon and applied by those who seek ‘life’ in Him; they apply to the ‘entrance’ to salvation and the outworking of our salvation and discipleship.
The Lord impresses upon the hearers that the entrance to life and the way to life involve the narrow gate and the hard way; it also emphasises that few would find it and seek to enter and walk the path that leads to life because it is hard and the majority seems missing on this path. On the other hand, many would prefer and enter the wide gate and the easy way (path) – however, the way that proceeds from the wide gate leads to destruction – it is an illusion and a false assurance when various ones follow the ‘crowd’ and the ‘prosperous and easy way” which apparently promises ‘life’ but in effect, it is destruction and ‘death’.
There may be times when genuine and sincere disciples wonder why their path in life is so hard and difficult; when they look at how few are walking the same path, they wonder whether they are on the right path and when they see so many apparent disciples ‘enjoying’ the easy life and so-called blessed way, they become more ‘shaken’ in their faith and discipleship. Such ones need to meditate on these truths enunciated by our Lord and not be led astray by the evil one.
It may be helpful to ponder more on the implications of these words of our Lord Jesus. The Lord willing, we shall do this in several sharings which follow and may the Lord God help us to consolidate these truths in our lives and apply them consistently in our discipleship.
1) True discipleship lies in making a commitment to enter the narrow gate and to walk the narrow and hard path (way). It is a path of committing our lives to God – to love Him with all our mind, heart, soul and strength. This path is hard and difficult because it requires winding through the confusion of life while holding on tightly to God and only God. Many are attracted to worldly and even religious beliefs and ideas that bring a certain sense of comfort but this is the well-trod path by people of the world; but the path to follow Jesus is a path that can lead to struggle, pain, and suffering and many would not welcome it. The narrow hard way is both an individual and a communal one. It is a path that is uniquely ours, but at the same time it must be shared with others. We need others to help us stay on this path – we need the wisdom and support of others who are also walking their narrow paths and this is where the church is given by the Lord to make this a communal ‘effort’.
2) The nature of this commitment requires us to walk by faith in God – it means we will follow God even though He leads us in directions we do not want or understand at times, but we know that we need to trust Him. Walking the narrow path requires a willingness to be transformed by God; most of us would be relatively happy to walk God’s pathe as long as it leaves us untouched – we are prepared to walk God’s path as long as it does not call on us to change who we are. But the path desired for us by God is to give up our cherished desires, ambitions, beliefs and securities so that we can be what God desires for us to be. Faith means surrendering ourselves to and trusting in God when He leads us and allows us to be in circumstances when we become ‘clay’ with whom He can work and mold us as the ‘potter’.
It is hard to walk the narrow path because the only way to do so is by surrendering ourselves to God as we grapple with the paradoxes and seeming contradictions that are part of forming a strong and vibrant faith. True faith means following Christ through difficulty, uncertainty and suffering while resisting the temptation to leave Christ’s path for another that seems so much easier and clearer at times.
We need to recall that the Lord Jesus said that the wide gate and the easy way leads to destruction whereas the narrow gate and the hard way leads to life (this in terms of the final destiny and destination with God).
The Lord was actually referring to the verdict on judgement day – either destruction and death or eternal life and reconciliation with God.
The day of judgement is a day for God’s verdict based on evidence, not a day for hearing faith claims. What will be the evidence of my faith? Not just that I say I had faith, but that my life has shown it and this would be reflected by the path we travelled on earth. Although regeneration is given solely by God’s grace (represented by entering the narrow gate), yet the outworking of our faith and sanctification is determined by our walk on the narrow path or the broad way (the faith that results in works). But even before the path, those who enter through the wide gate may think they have entered into ‘salvation’ but it may seem to be so but may in fact be the wrong entrance (seeking salvation by our own efforts).
It is our lives that prove the reality of our faith (or not, as the case may be) – it is seen in our walking the narrow and hard way (determined by our Lord) or reflected in our following the way of the world and evil, in the broad and easy way. In other words, we will be judged by God on the evidence (our works and walk), and they will show publicly and beyond doubt whether or not our lives have been built on trust in Christ (our faith).
It is not just what we say that counts, but also that it is not just what we have done – if it is not doing the will of the Father. Jesus anticipates that there will be many fakes and shams among those who appear to be doing all kinds of exciting ministries and great works in His name. Their false works will not fool God on that day – spectacular ministries in themselves are no evidence of true faith (Matt. 7:21-23).
The day of judgement will be the time for God to state and declare the decision that will already have been made and to make public the indisputable evidence on which it will have been based. And that evidence will be amply provided by our lives before death i.e. by our walk on the narrow path determined by God or our wandering on the broad way determined by the ways of the world and the enemy. For our lives here and now are either rejecting the revealed truth of God and the salvation He offers us – and proving it in the way we live and ‘walk’; or, accepting God’s verdict on our sin, trusting in Christ’s death for salvation, and thus standing in the righteousness of God through faith – and proving it in the way we live (Matt. 7:24-27). The day of judgement will be a final, public, indisputable, and irreversible confirmation of the choice we have made all our lives, and it will demonstrate and vindicate the perfect justice of God.
The verdict, then, will depend on that choice that is evident in our actions: either for life, to be lived with God through Christ in the new creation for eternity; or for rejecting God, ending up in condemnation, exclusion from God forever, and eternal destruction – and this is what the narrow gate and the hard way versus the wide gate and the easy way is all about.