Sunday, January 4, 2015

2 Gates, 2 Destinies.

Life is a series of choices and their consequences. Some are simply fun such as the team you choose to support. Others can be deadly, as when a person chooses so called recreational drugs such as ‘speed’. It can lead to psychotic behaviour and death. In the religious realm to accept the Koran as your guide can make you a jihadist. Staying in the sun may give you more than a tan. Sex is promoted as fun without side effects. Yet there is shame, jealousy, infections to name a few.
In Matthew 7:13-14 regarding the Kingdom of God Jesus spoke about choices. He referred to two gates and their impact upon your destiny. These 2 gates do not meet us at birth. At a later time we are confronted by their claim and invitation. What then did He mean by The Wide Gate?
It offers an easy life. Self is the guiding principle. The attraction of being your own god is strong. At the beginning of the road there are many enjoyments and few restrictions. Jesus advises “Look further down the road”.

Now this road has many lanes: Moral, ‘I’m a nice person and I’m good enough for God, whoever or whatever he/she/it may be’. Spiritual, ‘All belief systems are okay by me’. Intellectual, ‘There isn’t any absolute truth’. Self-esteem/success, ‘When I’m rich, famous or successful I will be happy and life will be meaningful’. Unfortunately Jesus knows where such attitudes lead. He calls it ‘death’. Proverbs 16:25: ‘Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way to death’.

Death comes in many forms: Relationships break-up and die, health breaks down, morality is degraded and disappears, spirituality is a masquerade, intellectual pursuits lead no-where because life has no absolutes, and ultimately all that comes to a rejection by God (who has been used or ignored) for all eternity.

What did Jesus say about The Narrow gate?
Jesus doesn’t soften the facts surrounding the ‘narrow gate’ simply to get people to enter it. It is ‘strait/narrow’ (stenos). In other words it has boundaries. It is restrictive, unlike the wide gate. This implies you must be prepared to ‘make some self-sacrifices’ to walk through it. Why would you pay such a high price to your ego? Jesus calls you to see where the road leads. It is to life! This is one of the purposes for Christ and Christmas, John 10:10b: ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’.

Luke uses a word about the ‘narrow door’ in 13:24 in another setting showing that the choice isn’t easy. It is often accompanied by ‘effort’ as the Greek word highlights. The word can be translated as ‘agony’. For some the agony is to be rejected by family/caste. Others lose careers/inheritances. It is a death sentence for some. Most of us agonise because it means we have to say, and over the years repeat it “Not my will but yours be done” (this can be symbolised by the words of Jesus about ‘taking up your cross and following Him’.) Therefore, it is important to look not at the entrances but at the consequences and destinies offered. 

This narrow road also has a number of lanes: There is the lane of Worship. What a privilege we have to call God ‘Father’ and to worship Him by faith and gratitude for who He is and what He has done in our lives. The lane of service offers us the opportunity to express our abilities for the honour of the Lord and the welfare of others.  The lane of Witness is more than words yet includes them as we explain to others why we walk the narrow way. The lane of stewardship expresses the fact that what we have and are is not Ego centric but Christ centred and is used wisely and with purpose.  Each lane requires being in step with Christ Jesus’ word, being faithful to the task in hand and aware that we have personal accountability (1 Corinthians 3:13-15. 9:24-27). The end of the road is to meet up with Jesus in His realm and be with Him forever. That makes the agony of the Narrow way more than worthwhile.

For any who made the Wide gate their choice is there any chance for them to leave it. Of course, but it is difficult. It requires humility to admit you made a bad choice and want to change. It takes courage to call out to the Lord Jesus you have ignored and ask Him to rescue you. It takes faith in His word to accept His offer to remove you from the Broadway, forgive and cleanse you for placement on the Narrow way. Then it takes gratitude to let loose His grace in you so that you can enjoy the life promised.

Is Jesus being unfair to ask this of anyone?
No! It was a similar choice He had to make. Remember Matthew 4:1-11 where He was put under a severe three way trial by the Devil. He could have chosen the ‘Broadway’ to being a celebrity, to proving His Sonship and to ruling the world. He rejected them because they were the way to failure and death. In Gethsemane Jesus revealed the price for Him of the Narrow way – accepting the ‘cup’ that led to Calvary. But Hebrews 12:2 reveals that He also looked towards the end of the narrow way. Some of that joy He would enter into would involve you putting your trust in Him. He would rejoice in the privilege you give Him to take you off the way to destruction. It would include you one day meeting Him face to face and sharing His realm for ever. The writer of Hebrews then invited the readers to walk with the Lord on that same victory road to life, in daily living and into eternity.

©Ray Hawkins 5.1.2015

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