Will you choose the narrow gate, or the broad way?
Have you counted the cost?
“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.” Matthew 7:13-14.
These verses make it clear that the majority don’t usually think beyond a life lived on earth. In the verses above, there are two possible outcomes, being polar opposites – life, and destruction – and yet because one of the journeys appears easier than the other at face value, the majority of people choose the path of least resistance! This would be somewhat understandable if discussing effort versus reward in terms of something more trivial, like education versus career goals. But Jesus was talking about something of utmost importance – the way choices are made now, and how they impact eternity.
In Romans 9:18 the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.” God’s mercy and goodness is what awakens an individual and leads them to repentance. The only reason this is possible is because Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for every sinner when He died on the cross.
God manifested this by an almighty display of power when Jesus breathed His last, with the sun-darkening phenomenon combined with a violent, rock-splitting earthquake. At this exact moment, the veil in the temple also tore suddenly from top to bottom. The significance of this was monumental – not only could mankind now be reconciled to God through Jesus’ death on the cross, but the tearing of the veil symbolized that the new and living way had been opened for people to be saved through His life! (Romans 5:10; Hebrews 10:20.) This is the “difficult way to life” that Jesus invited His disciples to follow Him on in Matthew 7, and the only way to do so, is to enter through the narrow gate.
The cost of entering through the narrow gate
So, what are the prerequisites to enter through the narrow gate? Jesus Himself outlined the conditions for following the footsteps He left on the narrow way: “So likewise, whoever of you who does not forsake all that he has, cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:33. Simply put, it costs a person literally everything. And the epicenter of this “everything” is that giant ego, which has to be left at the door, or gate in this case, permanently. Jesus calls this to “hate your own life.” (Luke 14:26.)
Obeying these “non-negotiables” of discipleship is the only way to keeping that relationship with Jesus intact. This means every grudge – no matter how justifiable – has to be surrendered. Worldly ambitions, or expectations on “how my life should pan out,” need to be sacrificed as well. Similarly, demands about how to be treated by others. Basically, whatever it takes to keep a pure heart and preserve that burning love for Christ – even if it means being misunderstood by friends or family.
This is where the wide gate starts looking like a pretty nice alternative compared to the eye-watering criteria required to enter through the narrow gate. However, the ramifications of taking the broad way are many.
The cost of not entering through the narrow gate
With a post-repentance Christian appearance intact, one can slip through the wide gate without realizing that this shiny façade is inevitably on a collision course with the powerful forces of sin and its consequences. Why? Because no amount of self-control can prevent the “old man with its lusts” growing more corrupt as time goes by. (Ephesians 4:22.) Without being crucified with Christ, the very root of sin cannot be dealt with and this lawlessness leads to more lawlessness. (Romans 6:19.)
Following the broad way can only end in destruction – the destruction of a life which, by giving up everything to follow Jesus when He passed by, at the outset actually had the incredible potential for an investment in eternity.
Enter through the narrow gate – you won’t regret it
On the other hand, for those that have a genuine hunger and thirst for righteousness, who are sick and tired of falling short, the invitation to enter through the narrow gate is the chance of a lifetime – a chance to once and for all break free from the shackles of sin and all the misery associated with it. Of course, this means that grudges as mentioned can’t be harbored any longer. But the suffering associated with crucifying the old life will always be temporary, whilst the virtues of Christ that fill this void are eternal. What has clinging to bitterness and resentment ever brought anyone of lasting happiness anyway?
This crucified life with Christ is full-time. Every day involves a relentless, inner battle in denying every form of sin. The Bible calls this the good fight of faith. One aspect that is difficult for a disciple with a clear conscience to get their head around is that self-acknowledgement = progress. Acknowledging deep down that lust for honor was behind the most noble deed of the day can be painful, but calling out sin for what it is, and putting to death these deeds of the body by the Spirit, is the key to pressing forward on the narrow way.
There is something extraordinarily attractive about people that have cast every burden on the Lord, who have no reputation to defend and who have become valiant warriors for God in the fight against their own indwelling sin. They love Jesus with all their heart and it isn’t hard to see that the narrow way has made them genuinely happy. If you have read this far, why not give up everything, enter through the narrow gate and join them on the way that leads to life?
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.