Matthew 7:13-14... The Narrow Road
You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.
The foundation of the Kingdom of God is an unshakable JOY that GROWS from the bottom up.
Overall Commentary: 🌎
As we are coming to the end of the Sermon on the Mount, it is important we take a moment to look at these two verses. This shifts the narrative to Jesus warning us about the challenge we all face. He presents in four ways: Two roads, two teachers, two disciples, and two builders. It could easily be argued the first challenge is echoed in the last three. The other three will be presented along the way when we choose a path. We have to decide whom we will follow. The main issue is we don't have to choose the wide road. It will naturally happen if we do not choose to follow Jesus. We are born already on the wide road. We have to focus and purposefully choose to follow Jesus.
In this text, Jesus destroys two common arguments against Historic Christianity:
- "All roads lead to Heaven."
There is a common argument against Christianity called Pluralism. It states that it doesn't matter what religion you adhere to. They all end up worshiping the same God, taking you to Heaven. If someone ever says this to you, don't laugh too hard. Their religion is likely based on a popular tweet rather than anything close to serious research. The major religions of the world are wildly different.
Isalm- Worship Allah. Deny Jesus as the Son of God. No assurance of salvation.
Buddism- Doesn't believe in a god. Deny any diety. Only enlightenment.
Hindu- Many gods. Reincarnation.
Judaism- Believes in God of the Bible but only Old Testament. Doesn't believe in Jesus as the Son of God.
Christianity- Believes in God. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the only way to Heaven. Christianity boldly says all the rest are wrong.
So the bottom line with this one is that anyone who says all roads lead to the same place has not researched their opinions.
- "Love Wins."
"Love wins" is a fancy saying that God will not send anyone to hell. Eventually, He lets everyone go to Heaven. This sounds beautiful, and I wish it were true. The only problem is that it completely disagrees with the Bible. In these two verses, Jesus says that there is a hell and that many people are going there.
This has caused a problem for Christians. The main reason it has for me is because I grew up hearing preachers say this with a smile. It was almost as if they were excited about it. Now, I realize there were not enthusiastic about there being a hell. They were excited that we didn't have to go there. This is why Jesus came. He came so we could be saved from it.
Jesus says unshakable joy grows when we CHOOSE the road LESS TRAVELED.
Cross Reference- Luke 13:24-25, Proverbs 16:25, John 14:6, John 10:9, Isaiah 55:7, Galatians 5:24, Proverbs 9:6, Ezekiel 18:27-32, Ephesians 2:2-3, Revelation 20:15
Jesus is giving what we would today call an "altar call." This is the moment of decision. He has shared with us what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like. It is very different from the world around us and causes us to live differently and to be headed in an altogether different direction. It has come time to make a decision. Will we continue to drift down the highway to hell (as AC/DC sings about), or will we strike a path toward Heaven? We can look through the past two chapters to get an idea of what these two roads look like, but Galatians 5 gives us a succinct definition:
(Galatians 5:19-21) When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
(Galatians 5:24, 22-23) Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there… But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Jesus tells us that the wide path is the default road leading to hell. He has come so we can see it for what it is and go a different way. That is why Jesus came. He came to open our eyes so we can see the destruction and head in the right way. However, there is a catch. We have to choose to follow Jesus. We don't automatically know the way when we give our lives to Him. We have to follow.
Choosing to follow Jesus gives us DIRECTION. It requires FOCUS.
The wide road that leads to hell is full of choices. The modern term for this would be called the Paradox of Choice. That is part of what is so dangerous about this road. It has no boundaries or barriers. Because of this, we do great harm to ourselves and others without stopping. When we follow Jesus, He brings order from chaos. In the Old Testament, there was a guy named Ezra who was chosen by God to help lead the nation of Israel back to Him. His main goal in doing this was to rally the people under God's ways by understanding God's Word. Most scholars believe he wrote Psalm 119 and said:
(Psalm 119:97,102,104-105) Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long. I haven’t turned away from your regulations, for you have taught me well. Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life. Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.
God's Word is the chief way we know where to God. God's Word was written for our benefit. It shows us the way to life and leads us to Him. However, it takes consistent focus. Without it, we are easily distracted by our broken appetites. It is God's Word that renews our minds. Just before going into the Promised Land, God told Joshua to meditate on the Law of God continually so He would be successful in all things. We stay on the road by continually reading and obeying God's Word.
Joy grows as we choose to FOLLOW.
Choosing to follow Jesus gives us SAFETY. It requires FAITHFULNESS.
When I was a new driver, I had no idea how to drive in the ice and snow. One day, I was riding with a friend on an icy day. I noticed we were behind a bunch of slow cars when there was a lot of room to pass. When I asked about this, he looked at me as though he never realized how dumb I was. ha. Needless to say, I was a little offended. He said, "You realize there is a reason we are all riding behind each other. We can keep traction if we stay in the 'ruts.'" I had no idea, but I learned an important less that day. When there is a storm out, stay in the ruts. Jesus has blazed a trail for us all to follow and tells us to follow His lead. When we do, we can make it through any storm we face. However, we have to stay faithful to that path. It can be easy to get impatient and want to pass. The cost is usually a disaster. God is often "almost late." He does things in His own time and has His own reasons. He will make the path and will always lead us. We have to trust His timing and stay faithful to the path. God promises:
(Isaiah 43:1-2) Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
When we do our part to stay on the path, He always leads us in the right direction.
Joy grows as we experience GOD'S GOODNESS.
Choosing to follow Jesus gives us LIFE. It requires us to go ALL IN.
The goal of the passage is to help us understand that Jesus' purpose is so much more than simply helping us get through this life. Truly, Jesus wants to be blessed in this life. He said:
(John 10:10) The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
However, there is so much more. He reminds us that our path has lasting, eternal consequences. Heaven is real. Hell is real. We will end up in one of those two places. So, we need to take this "path choosing" seriously. The great news is Jesus is standing on the side of the road waving a massive flag. He calls all of us to follow Him.
He says to us:
(Deut. 30:19) “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses… Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live…
We have a choice. We can choose life. Also, don't forget that this whole section is not just about choice. It is also about choosing a life together. The only way we make it through this life is to do it with one another. We were made for community and made to thrive in a relationship with Him and each other.
Joy grows as we CHOOSE LIFE together.
This text reminds me of a poem I once heard about two roads in a wood by Robert Frost. As you read it below, think about the text above. There are two roads in life... only two. By not choosing to follow Jesus, you are choosing the other. One looks good but leads to bad places. Choosing Jesus may look difficult and sometimes lonely because it can be. However, it leads to life beyond our wildest imagination.
The Road Not Taken
By: Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Questions/Journal Prompts for reflection:
- Have you ever thought about why life is so hard apart from God?
- Do you sometimes struggle with the idea that Jesus is the only Way?
- How has your decision to follow Jesus cost you?
- Do you ever think about Heaven and Hell?