Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Narrow Gate

"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it." 
Matthew 7:13-14

The picture here, as translated in the Greek, is of a narrow gate, a narrow passageway that is hemmed in on both sides by obstacles standing close to the gate. 
And the Greek word for broad is spacious, implying lots of room to enter in.


Jesus is telling us that the gate that leads to life is narrow and hemmed about with obstacles and few find it because of the obstacles.

But on the other hand, the gate that leads to destruction is broad and spacious,
having no obstacles at all. 
Many people enter into this gate.
The narrow way - not too appealing is it? 
I picture it as an arbor, maybe, with lots of greenery growing wild, up it and through it and alongside it; so much so, that the opening is filled with it, and you have to fight through it all to enter. 
Can you see that?
Knowing that we have to fight through all the obstacles just to get through the narrow gate when we could so easily walk through the broad gate that is wide open and easily accessed, has many of us seeking the broader gate, don't you think?

What does this mean to you and me in our lives lived as Christians, sometimes just trying to make it through a day, never mind worrying about what gate we should walk through??
While probably the theological meaning of this Scripture refers to the experience of salvation, I also see it as pertinent to our experience of sanctification after salvation.
Jesus told us that the kindgom is now; the kingdom is within us (Luke 17:21) and that we can live the abundant life NOW (John 10:10); it's not just for eternity.
But so many of us do not experience that abundance. Why?
What are the obstacles we have to overcome to make it through?
As I gave thought to this, a few of those obstacles came to mind -
- the opinions of others
Sometimes it's easier "following the crowd."  We don't want our friends to think that we're "stick in the muds," or that we can't have a good time anymore.  Or we hunger for acceptance and can't risk the rejection that might come from being "different."
- an unsaved spouse
This is a really hard one.  I know a woman whose husband is verbally abusive in regards to her Christian faith and mocks her constantly.  How do you continue to stand up in your own home to that kind of abuse?  What kind of activities does your spouse ask you to engage in that, if you decline, cause problems between the two of you?
- our own life's experience
Many of us come from very painful childhoods; our experiences in some cases have been horrific.  It's often hard to believe that a loving God didn't act to prevent these.  And it's often hard to believe, too, that God is love and cares about our future and that He desires to heal us.  Sometimes it's the memories that we just can't seem to overcome that keep us from entering in.
- modern culture - technology
We are assaulted and bombarded on every side in the world we live in today.  Potential sin is beckoning us from every side.  Sometimes it just seems easier to give in to the temptations of the flesh and not worry about the consequences.  Every venue of media is encouraging us to indulge our every whim.  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, emails, iphones, ipads, ipods - all promise instant communication and information whenever and wherever we happen to be.
- a sinful, selfish habit or lifestyle
It's hard to give up what we've grown so accostumed to; it's hard to believe that Jesus could offer us something better when what we have seems pretty good.
- the deceitfulness of our own hearts
Jeremiah tells us, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (17:9)  Our own hearts deceive us into believing that what we are doing or how we are living is okay.  Remember the song lyrics - "How can it be so wrong, when it feels so right?"  Our only true judge is the Word of God; not our experience, nor our feelings.

These are just a few of the many, many obstacles we can face in our lifetime.
Our salvation is not based on how good or bad we are or have been.  The price for our salvation was paid on the cross by a loving Savior, who died for us "while we were yet sinners" (Romans 5:8).
But living the abundant life that Jesus tells us is available to us, does require us overcoming the obstacles that stand in the way.
Seeking God, pressing in, being willing to forego instant, but temporary gratification now to receive the lasting freedom that only God can give, comes at a price - the price of denying ourselves, denying the desires of the flesh, the pleasures of the world.  John calls them - "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life" and says they are not of the Father, but of the world.  1 John 1:16
But it's that very denial that propels us through the "narrow gate" and brings us to the abundant life.
Being willing to examine our own hearts, owning up to our sin, denying ourselves, asking God to search us to reveal any wickedness He finds, are all "cutting tools" we can use to work our way through the obstacles and enter in through the narrow gate. 
Recognizing and believing that God can change our hearts, our thoughts, our emotions, and ultimately our actions is the first step through the gate. 
Trusting that He will do the work is the next step.
Are you willing to overcome the obstacles to enter in at the narrow gate?
What are some of the obstacles you personally face?
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

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