“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"
Many people today say they "know God" but the verses above imply God will say He never knew them. This is rather a scary verse for a new Christian. For any Christian, really, who might be struggling with their faith. So over my next three posts, I'd like to look at them in context.
These verses were part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 7 also includes the verses on judging others, asking, seeking and knocking, and the wise man who built his house upon the rock. They all tie in very nicely with the ones above, for the entire chapter is about how we should live our lives before others (not judging them), how to approach God with our concerns (ask, seek and knock), how we should walk with God, who we should not listen to, and how to build our faith on a firm foundation. But we are going to concentrate on the verses above. We will start with the narrow gate.
What does it mean to "enter by the narrow gate"?
Being a disciple of Christ is not easy. We are called to live our lives in a way that would honour God and bring glory to His name. Our values are not based on the world's values. They can't be, because this world is ruled by the prince of darkness (Ephesians 2:2; John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4). That is not to say God is not in charge. He is sovereign over all. But Satan was created to influence the world, until God ends him (Revelation 20:10). In fact, the Jewish people don't believe in the devil as Christians do. They believe Satan (they call him haSatan or the Adversary) works for God. His job is to make choosing good over evil enough of a challenge so that it can be a meaningful choice. In other words, Satan is an angel whose mission is to add difficulty, challenges, and growth experiences to life. He was created for this purpose (according to the Jews) and so they see him more as a tormenting angel, whose sole purpose is to test God's people to see if they will stray from Him. This is why Satan cannot harm anyone without God's permission. It is why he must appear before God (see Job 1:6-12) to give an accounting of what he has been doing on earth. So when Jesus speaks of the path that leads to destruction, the path that is full of temptations and sin, he knows that the Adversary is on that path. It is the path that says right is wrong and wrong is right. It is the path that leads to destruction. The destruction of your relationship with God and where you will spend eternity.
But to take the narrow path Jesus is speaking of, means shunning the world and its beliefs/ideologies that are opposed to Biblical values. It means when the Adversary does step in our path, we are able to stand firm and not be pushed off that narrow path to get sidetracked or tempted by what the world has to offer.
As Christians, our beliefs should be centered in God's Word and it is by His Word that we should live. Often this means we stand out like a sore thumb. We are everything that is contrary to the world. We will face ridicule, we will be shamed, we will be called intolerant and bigots, all because we will not be swayed from our love of God and His Word. Understand this - God's Word is God's voice. His personality, His values, His joys, His sorrows, His promises, His plans for us are all contained in The Bible - His Holy Word. And as many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have experienced, we will all ultimately face persecution for our love God and His Word.
Sticking to our convictions, to our belief that Jesus is the only way to heaven and that God's Word is to be honoured above all that the world offers or says - this is entering by the narrow gate. It is difficult, but it leads to life.