[It’s been a while since I’ve shared any of my Sunday School lesson material, so I thought I’d offer something I shared with my class. I hope it encourages you today.]
“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.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
This section is the beginning of the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus closes out the Sermon by giving a series of choices or warnings. He talks about the dangers of the wrong path, the wrong teachers, the wrong type of religious faith, and the wrong type of foundation.
In verses 13-14, Jesus describes two paths with two gates. There is one way, Jesus says, that is easy. The gate is wide, the road is comfortable, and lots of people travel that way. However, their final destination is destruction. But there’s another way to go. The gate is narrow, and the path is hard, but for those who travel that path, their final destination is life, eternal life.
What is Jesus talking about here? Stated simply, Jesus is teaching that the “path” of our lives can only go in one of two ways: towards the glory and joy of eternal life or towards the destruction of eternal judgment. Jesus warns that we must beware of being on the wrong path.
So how do we know if we’re on the wrong path?
- The Path to Life is NOT the popular path. Jesus says that there are many on the path to destruction, but few find the path to life. What this means is that the right way to walk will often contradict what most of the world is pursuing. We’ve already seen this in the Sermon—the “ordinary” Christian life looks downright radical in a world that is pursuing self and power and riches and romance as its ultimate goals. So here’s what it comes down to for us: If your values, your desires, your goals, your ambitions look just the same as what you see depicted in the culture around you, you could be on the wrong path.
- The Path to Life is NOT the easy path. The path of following Jesus is a hard, difficult road. Jesus himself says that we will have trouble in this world (John 16:33) and that we will be opposed and persecuted by the world, because the world hated Jesus first (John 15:18-25). Paul writes that anyone who seeks to live a godly life will be persecuted (II Timothy 3:12-13). If you’re on the Path to Life, your life will sometimes be really hard, really painful. But in those moments of pain, the grace of God will sustain us and remind us of our destination.
How do we find the Path to Life? It starts by going through the right gate.
Here’s an imperfect analogy: There are lots of ways to get to different places in my apartment complex, but if you’re trying to get to my apartment and enjoy a delicious dinner prepared by my amazing wife, you have to enter through my door. Going into my neighbor’s door isn’t going to help you. Standing outside and looking through the windows won’t get you food. (It will, however, get the cops called on you.) To enter into the feast, you have to walk up my sidewalk and front steps, and come through my door. (And if you’re going to argue that you could bust through my window, I will remind you that doing so won’t get you a meal, but it may get you a Louisville slugger to the face–fair warning.)
The Path to Life is the same way.
Lots of people are trying to find Life on their own, through different teachers and philosophies, but all these paths are pretty much the same thing: if you do enough good works, or do the right kind of works in the right way, you’ll earn your reward, in this life or the next.
Jesus has said already that this is not the Path of Life. Remember back in chapter 5? Unless your righteousness is greater than the “religious elite,” unless you are perfect as God is perfect, you will never see the kingdom of heaven. You must be “perfect” to enter the Path of Life.
That leaves us out, right? On our own, yes. None of us are perfect or good enough to enter the Path of Life. But a way has been made for us, and that way is through Jesus Himself. In John 10:7-9, Jesus calls Himself the “gate” for the sheep (His flock of followers). We enter the sheepfold through Jesus and find safe pasture. In John 14:1-7, as Jesus is talking about leaving for a while before coming back to gather His followers to Himself, He says that HE is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and that no one comes to the Father except through HIM.
If you’re looking for the Path of Life, you have to come to the correct Door. That door is Jesus Himself, who lived a perfect life of holiness in our place, and then deposits that righteous standing before God into our bankrupt account when we turn from our sins (repent) and believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died and was raised again in order to accomplish this for us.
One last thing: Jesus is the gate/door we walk through to find the Path of Life, but that Path is still a difficult one. We aren’t saved by our good works, but after we are saved, we are then called to follow Jesus daily on the Path. That road is hard. We must die daily to our own desires in order to follow Him (Luke 9:23-24). But in the end, that path leads to Life Everlasting.
So which path are you on, friend? The easy and popular path that the world lays before you? Doing what everyone else is doing in order to try to grab onto any happiness you can? Trying to do good works to earn the approval and acceptance of others, or even of God?
Or have you gone back to the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount and recognized that you are “poor in spirit”—you have nothing to offer God that is free from the stain of sin, and you know you need to repent of your sin and rebellion and ask Him for mercy? Have you gone through the narrow, cross-shaped gate, turning your back on your sin and clinging to Jesus as your Savior?
If you don’t go through the proper gate, you will never see the Path of Life. Never. There is no on-ramp, half-way through. You can’t jump over the wall or bust through the windows to get on this path. You must start at the Cross of Jesus and come face-to-face with your need.
If you want to talk to someone about any of this, comment below. God bless you.