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Narrow. Difficult. Life.

Two Paths: Choose One

Jesus describes two paths, one is broad, spacious and easy. 
 The other is both difficult & confined.  

One has a wide gate, many can pass through at the same time. The other has a tight little narrow entrance, you almost have to squeeze to get through it.  

But the thing is, you must choose what path you will be on.

What is the most important factor in picking a path?

ILLUSTRATION -2005 Fountain Tire Commercial, Going to Winnipeg

What is the most important factor in picking a path? – The Destination

Matthew 7:13–14HCSB

13“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

Here’s a question to chew on this morning.  Is the only advantage to the difficult path that it leads to life?  What I’m asking is, “Is the only advantage to being a follower of Christ that you get to go to heaven when you die”?  

If the answer was that there was no other advantage beside heaven, I think that I’m still going to choose the path that leads to heaven, that’s a big deal.  But what I’ve found, is that the journey is full of advantage.  It is amazing to live in community with people who shine with God’s life in them.  

Back to the topic at hand, Two Paths.  Let’s take a quick look at them both.

Wide Gate + Broad Road —> Destruction 

If the most important factor in picking a path is the path, then maybe this is the choice for you.

•    its very easy to find and it promises to demand nothing of you. 

•    you can believe what you want, do what you want, be who you want, 

•    that sounds a lot like most of the marketing that I hear these days.

It’s the popular choice, as evidenced by Jesus saying that, “There are many who go through it”.

The caution flag comes up when we hear the destination. The Wide Gate leads to destruction.

 

“If I’m Good Enough = I Can Go to Heaven”

-Popular Opinion

What’s the problem with this approach?  It’s that we either have no confidence or false confidence.

No confidence is the result of believing that we aren’t good enough, and then its hopeless equation.

False Confidence is mistakenly thinking that we are good enough. For these people, the question they need to figure out an answer to is “Who is the judge of Good Enough?”

Still, the road to destruction is the one that the majority choose.   It has a wide gate and an easy path.

Jesus says…

Matthew 7:14HCSB

14How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

Narrow Gate + Difficult Road —>  Life 

First off, this is great news.  Life is available.  There is a way to be confident that we can live both now and forever.  God has not left us without hope.

Imagine that there are some soldiers who have been captured and are now Prisoners of War.  They are in an enemy camp.

What if one day someone came with great news, a plan of escape that would really work. The plan was not easy, no it was incredibly difficult, but it was guaranteed to work.

Would those prisoners of war be happy or sad to have a plan, even a difficult plan? They would be overjoyed, freedom is possible.

Jesus, the Son of God, is telling us that there is a way that we can be confident and have a legitimate hope for life.  Life both now and forever.  

You are not a hopeless prisoner, bound by the chains of sin. Life is possible.  There is a gate, there is a road.  

Jesus is the Narrow Gate; His Teachings are the Difficult Road.

Jesus said.

John 10:9HCSB

9I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.

There is a faulty way of being a Christian which is often described as cheap grace.  And it involves this deception,

You wrongly think that being a Christian is about praying a prayer, and not about walking a path.

But Jesus says, how narrow the gate and difficult the road to life, and few find it.

Following Jesus is difficult.  I know that he brings rest.  I know that it’s the best life.  But, I also know that it’s difficult.

Matthew 5:11–12HCSB

11“You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. 12Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Why is there persecution?  Why is it difficult.  Jesus says that it is, “Because of me”.  When we follow him, on his road, there are difficulties, but there is also life.  

Difficult doesn’t just mean trials and persecutions.  It’s difficult to follow Jesus period.  His way is one of perfect, holy, righteousness. Unfortunately, because of our predisposition to sin, that makes it difficult to follow him in his righteousness.

The good news is that we don’t have to earn the righteousness. That’s God’s gift when you go through the gate.  And living out the righteous teaching is difficult, but we have the help of God the Holy Spirit, the Church and the very word of God.  

Jesus was talking to a crowd of people who likely thought that they were on the path to life. But what if they were following the wrong leaders?

Matthew 7:15HCSB

15“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.

In the Old Testament, the way that you could tell if a prophet was false was if their prophesy didn’t come true.

But that wait and see approach is not very helpful when you need to know if you should do what they are saying.

For example, if there was a prophet today who said that in one year there will be a recession, you would have to know now whether it was a true or a false prophet if you want to make the right decision.

This is of ultimate importance when it comes to choosing what gate to enter, and what road to walk.  A false prophet could be fatal.

Prophet / Teacher  

Today we see anyone who is teaching God’s word as fulfilling this role.  It could be a pastor, a bible study leader, an author with a teaching.

The warning that Jesus gives is for us today as well.  We need to watch out for false prophets, or you could say, deceptive teachers.

Deceptive Teachers (The look trustworthy, but you can’t trust them)

Jesus compares these deceivers to wolves. They are dressed in sheep’s clothing and they are ravenously hungry to devour the sheep. Obviously, you don’t want to be deceived by this person.

How can you discern if a Prophet (Teacher) is trustworthy?

Matthew 7:16HCSB

16You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?

Take a look at this picture.  It looks to me like grapes.  But it is actually a picture of a Blackthorn bush.  

When Jesus says, “Are grapes gathered from thornbushes,” people know that although these look-like grapes, they don’t taste like grapes. There is deception.

It’s the same with the illustration of the figs from the thistles. Looks good but isn’t good.

Matthew 7:17–20HCSB

17In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.

The false teacher is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Deceptive and ravenous.  

The false teacher is also like a thornbush.  The teaching looks good, but the fruit is bad.

How can you discern if a Teacher is deceptive?

Examine the fruit (product) of the teaching.

A basic test for discernment of Teacher is do they obey Jesus teaching?  Does their life demonstrate that they are a follower of Jesus?  Clearly, we want to learn from people who are living out the gospel story.

So, if you are getting excited about a new teacher or author, before you invest too much time and resource into their teaching, check out their lives.  What fruit is being produced?  Is it the fruit of the spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control”?

The other place where you should be able to see good fruit or a good product happening is in the lives of the people who listen to that teacher.

Don’t just look for good deeds, look for the fruit of the spirit. People who are learning to habitually love God with their mind, body, strength and soul. 

The final check is one that you do if you have decided to buy the book or listen to the podcast or engage with the teaching somehow.

You ask questions like these:

Does this satisfy my soul?

Does the message bring me closer to God?

Does this teaching equip me so that I live for Jesus throughout the week?

Does it line up with the truth of the Bible?

Our discernment filter is looking for good fruit, because good fruit comes from good trees.  And we will be able to differentiate between truthful teachers and false teachers by the fruit of their teaching.

It is the goal of the False Prophet to deceive.  Are you deceived?

There is nothing worse than thinking that you are on a road that leads to life, when actually you are on a road that leads to destruction.

On the last day, many will find out that they are not on the right road.  Many will have been deceived.

•    They will be shocked to find out that even though they considered themselves to be good enough, God still considers them to be lawbreakers.

Matthew 7:21–23HCSB

21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ 23Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!

You can do the right things for God’s purposes (in Jesus name), and still be considered a lawbreaker.

Pharisees do many right things but are considered lawbreakers. WHY?  They reject Jesus.

Our Righteousness must surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees.

-a superficial righteousness, that performed rather than transformed.  

Jesus is the narrow Gate.  He has taught and modelled the difficult road.  

The question isn’t what road is easier, it is, what is the destination.
Enter through the Narrow Gate of Jesus Christ. Accept his rule in your life, by following his ways and his teachings.  Experience his life now, and forevermore

Martin Luther.

500 years ago, Martin Luther changed his entire life to enter a German Monastery. He was ordained to the priesthood, he progressed quickly as a monk.  He was a student of the Bible and even taught courses in the Psalms, Romans, Galatians, Hebrews and Titus.  

But all of that did not put him on the road to life.  Luther believed the right doctrines, but he didn’t know the truth of the Gospel, because he had never put his faith in Jesus.

But God had mercy on Martin Luther, and God showed him how he could be justified by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.  

Martin Luther went to Church regularly, he taught the scriptures, he was ordained, but none of those things put him onto the road to life.

What put him on the road was trusting Jesus with his life. Trusting that God could make him righteous, trusting that God would give him the grace to walk the difficult road.

Christian friends.  I want to remind you today that you have the greatest news.  It is ours to share.  We know that the narrow Gate is Jesus.  We know that the road leads us towards life.  Others need this news.  And Jesus has commissioned his church to be his ambassadors.  We are all called to bring this gospel news.  

The fruit of Christ in your life should look like obedience to Christ, and it should be full of a freedom that comes from living out the truth that Jesus has taught.

I also want to speak to those of you who are worried about what road you are on.  

There is only one way to gain confidence that you are on the road to life.

John 14:6HCSB

6Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Put your confidence in Jesus Christ.  Where you fallen short of God’s perfect standard Jesus has lived out a perfect righteousness.  On your own, God must call you what you are, and that is a lawbreaker, a sinner.  But if you will renounce your sinful ways and trust Jesus of your life you will be saved.  He is the Narrow Gate.  Won’t you decide to go on his road today.