On our recent trip to spend some time with the family in Oregon, we had the privilege of attending church with them. Pastor Jon Strutz (who happened to grow up in Montana!) was in a series on “Growing in Christ” based on Col. 2:6,7 which speaks of being “rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught.” This particular message was on “Accountability” and he began with a very interesting paraphrase of the familiar passage in Matthew 7 where Jesus spoke of the narrow gate that “leads to life” and the wide gate that “leads to destruction” (Mt. 7:13,14). Eugene Peterson’s The Message, reads: “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with sure-fire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.”
In a world of “instant everything,” where we are always looking for shortcuts and quick fixes, we, unfortunately carry that thinking over to the spiritual as well and look for “shortcuts to God” and “easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time.” This results in making “wide-gate” choices as we go along with the crowd, doing what is easiest and most comfortable and will not “rock the boat”—acting with “tolerance” and doing what is “politically correct” in our anti-Christian society. We make choices that feel good at the moment, living our lives thinking we know what is best for us. Solomon challenges that lifestyle in His “Book of Wisdom,” writing: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil” (Pr. 3:5-7). The Psalmist, David dealt with the same issue, writing: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD…Do not fret because of evil doers, be not envious toward wrongdoers…Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it” (Psa. 1:1,2 ; 37:1-5).
The primary application of Mt. 7:13,14 is regarding what we do with Jesus Christ who is the only way to God (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12) and determines our eternal destiny, eternal life in heaven (if we trust Christ as Savior and Lord) or destruction, i.e., eternal judgment in hell (if we reject or ignore Christ’s offer of salvation through His finished work on the Cross). But, we can also apply this passage to our every-day choices as to whether they are “narrow-gate” or “broad-gate” choices; i.e., whether we are looking for the easygoing formulas that only require a little of our spare time, or whether we are willing to accept the challenge to make godly choices, going against the crowd and culture— “The way of life that is vigorous and requires total attention.” Such choices may not be popular, may not be politically correct, and may result in some form of persecution, but will be for our good and God’s glory. Such choices will also keep us in a place of blessing and joy in spite of our circumstances and enable us to be true “Ambassadors for Christ” (II Cor. 5:20) and be the salt and light to a decaying, dark world as God intends for us to be (Mt. 5:13-16).
Every day brings opportunities to make “narrow-gate” or “broad-gate” choices. If we are going to be true followers of Christ and not just fans, we can’t just do what is easy and give only our spare time, we must do what is vigorous and demands our full attention. The Bible emphasizes that we are involved in a fierce spiritual conflict (Eph. 6:10-18) and that we are to “suffer hardship …as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 2:3) and “No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (v. 4). This doesn’t mean that we quit our jobs or don’t carry out our household duties but it does mean that whatever we do, we do for the glory of God, in service to Him and make our choices accordingly (Col. 3:17,23,24). So, as you go about you activities today, think about the choices you are making and whether they are “narrow-gate” or “broad-gate” choices. Where do they lead? How will they affect your faith and joy in Jesus? How will they affect His reputation and your testimony.