The Road Less Traveled
Salvation, Matthew, Sermon on the Mount
We are nearing the end of our study of the Sermon on the Mount. In fact, starting with this text Jesus is beginning to wrap things up and focus on applications. We see this very clearly in our text this morning.
13 “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. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
What Jesus says here is something that our culture would consider politically incorrect. They might call Him a hate monger or judgmental and certainly narrow-minded. This is because today it is considered wrong to say there is only one way to Heaven. It is seen as “intolerant” of other religions and beliefs.
I am pretty sure that Jesus wouldn’t care what anyone had to say. He spoke the truth and truth does not change because of public opinion. We should take this fact to heart. It is tempting to try to “widen the door” of the gospel. In other words we are tempted to make the message more “acceptable” to contemporary man. However, the Lord does not tell us to make the good news acceptable, He tells us to announce the good news just as He has given it to us. Why? Because only THAT gospel can save anyone.
The Wide Gate
Jesus said the way to hell is broad, its gate is wide, and many people choose this way. Mind you, there are not many people who actually say, “I choose to go to Hell. I want eternal punishment.” They make the choice when they embrace one of the teachings that deny the way of salvation. Let me give you some examples of some of the groups on the wide road.
Atheists. The group of people who would consider themselves atheists is growing at an alarming rate. Most of this is coming from the secular education system that teaches that the world has existed for millions of years and we have evolved from very small organisms over the course of those millions of years. In other words, God had nothing to do with creation.
Though there is absolutely NO (that’s right NO) evidence for the idea of evolution, it is taught as fact. Much of what is called “evidence” for evolution is better explained by the worldwide flood n the time of Noah as the Bible records.
This teaching has gotten so bad that everyone (including many Christians) accept these things as fact. Because this teaching is in essence saying the first few chapters of Genesis are not true, it has led many to question whether any of the Bible is true.
The result of the Atheist belief is devastating. We are left to believe that people are accidents of nature. Life ultimately is meaningless. Therefore, the only thing to live for is the moment. So, people feel free to kill each other, to kill babies who are an inconvenience, and to shamefully use each other for their own pleasure.
Those on this wide road fail to see the incredible design of our Creator. They do not see the evidence of God that is everywhere to be seen. They do not think man is created in God’s image. They are blinded by their indoctrination! They are headed to Hell and don’t care because they don’t believe in God or Hell!
Those Who Believe There are Many ways to Heaven. In this age of religious “tolerance” (it really should be called religious confusion) people approach faith much like a buffet table: they take a little of this (nature worship) and a little of this (occult practices) and combine it with a little Eastern Religion and the teaching of Buddha and then they mix in a few elements of Christianity and announce that they are “spiritual”.
The fact that these belief systems all contradict each other doesn’t matter. The familiar adage is this, “We are all climbing the same spiritual mountain. There are just many different paths up the mountain. This is not the gospel! This is idolatry. Any God that is different from the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible is an idol!
Such people call themselves spiritual but the spirit they are following is not the true God, but a God of their own imagination!
Those Who Believe They have Earned Heaven By Their Good Life. One of the most popular lanes in this wide road is made up of the people who believe they are “good people”. They argue that God is good and would not send good people to Hell. And, in fact, this is true.
However, the Bible also teaches that there are NO good people! In Romans 3 the Bible says, “There is none that is righteous, not even one!” People feel like they are good enough to earn Heaven because they define goodness by their own standard rather than by God’s standard.
If you ask the average person, “Do you believe you will go to Heaven after you die?” Most will say, “Yes”. If you ask why, they will say, “I have been a good person. I am not perfect, but I have tried to live by the Ten Commandments and be kind to others.”
Let’s say you ARE a pretty good person. You only sin let’s say, 3 times in a day. (This would be an extraordinary good day for most of us if we define sin the way the Bible does: a falling short of God’s standards.) Now let’s imagine that you were able to maintain that kind of goodness for a lifetime of 70 years which would be even more astounding! At the end of those 70 years you would have had roughly 76,650 offenses against our Holy God! And . . . mind you, this is a person of exceptional goodness.
Suppose you had that many traffic tickets in your life! Would you be considered a “good driver”? Of course not! You would have had your license taken from you a long time ago. You might even be in jail. So, why is it that you think God would consider you to be a good person??
The Unchanged Christian. There are those who understand that that they need a Savior. They know we are sinful. They may even have had a religious experience or sad a nice prayer. However, nothing changes in their life. They don’t see any need to change. They believe they are forgiven and they can life any way they want. They lower God’s standards and feel they are fine.
Sadly, I don’t even need to give you and illustration of this. I suspect you already know people like this. Most of them don’t have time for worship (there are too many other things going on). They don’t have time to serve; their priorities are dictated by the world; and they are more like their friends than they are like Jesus. Some are faithful church attenders but they spend the rest of the week running with the Devil!
Someone has said that people like this have been inoculated with the Christian faith. They have just enough faith to keep them away from the real thing.
All of these lanes on the broad way lead to Hell. Some of the people on that road will be singing Christian songs! Some will know their Bible. Some may even be leaders in the church. However, they are ALL headed to Hell.
The Narrow Gate
So, what is the narrow road? What is it that we should be looking for?
First, we must recognize that we are sinful people and that there is only one mediator between God and man and that mediator is Jesus. We need someone to pay the price for our sin. We need someone who can make us righteous in God’s eyes. And that someone is Jesus.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
When we get to Heaven’s door, the only way we will gain access is through the sacrifice of Jesus. If we have not embraced Him as our substitute; if we have not entrusted our lives to Him; then we will not gain entrance into Heaven. This is the ONLY way.
I know people are upset with this kind of talk. They say it isn’t fair for God to only let believers in Jesus into Heaven. However, Jesus is the only One who can pay for our sin. No other religious leaders, discipline, or belief system can provide a bridge between sinful people and a Holy God. The amazing thing about the gospel is that God makes a way for us to be saved at all! This door is not closed to anyone! Anyone who is willing to put their faith and trust in Christ for salvation and new life can enter. It is not unfair! People choose not to enter.
Second, the narrow door involves repentance. Repentance means a break with the world. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that if anyone is in Christ, they become a new creature. In other words, they change. We are not saved because we do good things. We do good things, because we have been made new in Christ!
The idea of an unchanged believer is a contradiction. That does not mean that Christians are ever perfect. We are, and continue to be sin-stained people but . . . our heart is changing. The true believers begin to see life differently as the Holy Spirit changes our hearts. And because of this we make different choices than the people around us. We see that there is more to life than the present. We understand that God’s way is the best way and we want to live in the way He says. We don’t always do this but we are moving in that direction.
The third thing about this road is that it is not an easy road. Jesus said we should count the cost before we become one of His followers. The narrow road is the best road, but it is not the easiest road.
- We will face opposition from some of our friends who do not understand why we have turned from the wide road we were on.
- We will face pressure from a secular society. In this world of political correctness calling Jesus Lord and Savior is frowned upon. Encouraging others to be saved will be seen as something narrow-minded. Believing that God created the world will be seen as empty-headed.
- We will struggle with our old nature. Like an addict, even though you have been through treatment the temptation is still ever-present. Sin was our drug of choice. The Christian life is an unending process to, if you will, get sober (or holy).
- We will face opposition from Satan and his forces. He will accuse us of all kinds of things. He will put doubts in our head. He will ridicule us. He will tell us that God cannot possibly love us.
John reminds us that “greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world.” It will not be easy, but we do not face the opposition alone. And what is more, the battle is well worth fighting.
There are a few lessons we can take away from this text.
There is Only One Way to God”. Everyone says this with a scorn as if it was a bad thing. We are not trying to “sell” Christianity . . . we are announcing this. This is GOOD NEWS! There IS a way of salvation. By pointing to Jesus we are pointing the way to that salvation.
If you were lost in minefield and someone came who knew the way out of that minefield and they told you to follow them, would you say they were narrow-minded for telling you that you had to go the particular way they said? Of course not! You would be grateful that there was someone who knew the way and you would do exactly what they told you to do.
We are caught in the minefield of sin and condemnation. There is only one way out and Jesus will lead the way; but we must follow Him
Second, Not everyone will be saved. It may sound heartless to say this but it is true. Even though God has extended His offer of forgiveness and grace, there are still going to be a lot . . . the majority in fact . . . who will reject His offer. They believe they don’t need God’s help. They think they are doing just fine.
How many will be saved? That is not ours to know. The questions we must address are: Am I on the narrow road? Are my friends and family on this narrow road? The one thing we know for sure is this: If we do not tell people the message of the gospel they will not be saved.
And that leads to the third conclusion: There is a Decision to be Made. Each one of us must decide whether we will follow Jesus or turn away from Him. There is no half way; there is no middle ground. If you are not following you, are on the other road.
The late Martyn Lloyd-Jones observed,
Some of us suffer so much from the tendency just to contemplate the Christian life without doing anything about it, that it would be a good thing for us deliberately and definitely to make an act of committal such as this, and thus enter in at the strait gate. It demands a decision. (LJ-II 230)
My ultimate test of myself, and of my profession of the Christian faith, can be put like this: Have I committed myself to this way of life? Is it the thing which controls my life? We have seen what it tells us to do; have we then put ourselves under its teaching? Is it dominating our lives? Is it governing and controlling us in our actual decisions and practice? This, of course, involves a very definite act of the will. It calls upon me to say: ‘Recognizing this as God’s truth and as the call of Christ, I am going to give myself to it, come what may. I am not going to consider the consequences. I believe it. I will act upon it. This henceforth is going to be my life. ( LJ 230)
The good news is that you don’t have to remain on the wide road. At any time (sooner is better) you can choose to change direction. However, the farther you go on the wide road the harder that choice becomes but . . . you can still choose.
How do you get off the wide road? Here is the process:
- Acknowledge that you are on the wrong road. (This of course is harder for men than for women!)
- Turn to the Lord and ask Him to forgive you and make you new. Ask Him to give you a new heart and new direction.
- Read the Bible and do what it says.
- If/When you fall, confess your sin and get back on the road.
That leads me to our last lesson: Our Strength is in the Lord, not us. The problem we face is we feel we can work really hard and get on the right road. We come away from this text with this simple message: I must work harder.
That’s not the message to take from the text! What we need to understand is that we naturally gravitate to the wide road. We want to be liked. We want to do our own thing. We need God’s transforming power to turn us in a new direction; the direction of Heaven. We will stay on the narrow road only by the power of God’s Spirit.
We gain the power of God’s Spirit by remaining open and close to the Lord. We must be open to His leading and we need to stay as close to the Lord as possible. This is one of the reasons weekly worship is important. It is one of the reasons we should have a daily time of reading and reflection. We need to stay close and recharge often.
The world around us doesn’t want to hear that there are only two roads but that doesn’t mean it isn’t so. There is a right way and a wrong way. There is a broad way and a narrow way. There is a way that leads to life and a way that leads to destruction.
The road on which you travel will determine your destination. And here’s the warning: if you take the direction of the majority you will end up just as lost as they are.