Which Way to Heaven

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

March 21, 1999

Which Way to Heaven

Matthew 7:13,14

This morning we begin our study of the last section of the Sermon on the Mount. In this section Jesus draws all He has said throughout the sermon to a conclusion and calls on each and every one of us to respond. How will we respond to what He has said?

We live in a nation that now promotes the idea of choice as being of the highest value. It is an idea that has grave consequences. It is the foundation by which many people try to justify their various sinful practices. As Americans it is our tendency is to think that we are free to make any choice that pleases us. The fact that an individual may destroy themselves or others by the practice and that the rest of society would then pick up the cost often has little to no bearing on it. Hence the advocation for legalization of drugs, the defense of pornography and the justification of gambling. Each of these causes both personal damage and a high cost to the rest of society. Even worse than these though is the so called “right of choice” to justify the slaughter of unborn children. The estimates are now running upwards to 35 million babies have been murdered by abortion in America alone since 1973.

Even in theology people talk about man having freedom of choice. Many people want to say that Jesus was a good man, a good teacher, a good example for us to follow. People look at the Sermon on the Mount that we have been studying the last several months and say that it is full of wonderful things and great points of ethics. They praise the sermon and they praise Jesus the teacher, but they fail to respond to what He taught. People like to hear, but they do not like to respond. (to Paul on Mars Hill they said, “We will hear more of this later” – Acts 17). But be warned, Jesus does not allow such fence sitting. There are only two choices when it comes to this sermon, and sitting on the fence is not one of them. Man is not free to make whatever choice he wants for the choices are limited and to fail to choose the one is to choose the other. Jesus put it plainly in Matthew 12:30“He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” Those who hear the sermon but do not do what Jesus says will be judged as His enemies, and in fact will incur a stricter judgement because “to who much has been given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). They have heard the truth, but their failure to respond in following the truth is a rejection of the truth.

Throughout this sermon Jesus has brought out the nature of true righteousness in contrast to self-righteousness as seen in the Scribes and Pharisees. As Jesus now brings this sermon to its conclusion, He uses an illustration to call us to respond. We have a choice between two gates. Each opens to a different way of life which ultimately leads to two different final destinations. Jesus commands us to enter the narrow gate that leads to life. We either obey the command or by default we go through the other one. There is no other choice.

Follow along as I read Matthew 7:13,14. “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. 14 “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”

Picture the illustration with me if you will. You are standing before two gates. One gate is very narrow, so narrow that only one person at a time can get through. The other gate is very wide, so wide you’re not even sure where it ends. The narrow gate has a few people around it while the wide gate is filled with people.

At the narrow gate there stands a man who looks very battered by life. He has scars on his head, hands, feet and on his side. He stands in front of the gate and stops each person and talks with them individually. Some turn and walk away while others bow to Him, embrace Him and then enter. The sign above the gate says, “This is the way, the truth and the life. No man can go to the Father except through me.”

The other gate is very, very wide. There is a big sign at the top of the gate, but at different points along the gate there are different smaller signs. Under each smaller sign there is a person or persons standing on a podium who are calling out to the masses of people to enter the gate at their location. They are saying different things, but the goal of each is the same. They want the people to enter the gate under their particular sign. There is a man wearing a professosorial robe of the highly educated standing under a sign that says, “The intelligent enter here.” There is a man wearing a saffron robe under a sign saying, “This way to nirvana.” There are some people wearing very expensive clothes standing under a sign saying, “This way to God’s blessings.” At another sign there are beautiful women and handsome men who have no scars or blemishes. Their sign reads, “This way to self-fulfillment.” Under another sign is a man wearing a turban. His sign reads, “Allah says, ‘This way.'” You are bit confused for there are a number of different signs that say, “This is the way Jesus went,” yet the group under each of those signs is saying something different about how Jesus went that way. One of those groups added to their sign the words, “This is none other than the gate to heaven.” There are various other signs. Some have the names of various religious groups you had heard about, some were unknown to you and some seemed to have been designed for Times Square. The large sign over the gate reads, “This is the way of life, enter however you please.”

You can see beyond each of the gates and down the paths that go from each gate. The wide gate leads out to a wide path that is filled with throngs of people. They are traveling in various groups that formed where they had entered the gate. Some are laughing and joking. Some are singing and strolling along while others seemed very determined to get somewhere.

The narrow gate goes out to a narrow path, and by contrast there few people are on it. The path looks rocky and difficult in places. Those on the broad path point to those on the narrow path. Some are laughing at them, some are mocking and some are calling out for those on the narrow path to cross over to the wide path. You see a small trails here and there where some have done just that.

At this point you can not see the end destination of each path. But the wide gate seems very attractive to you. It sure looks a lot easier and there are a lot more folks on it. Both paths claim to be the way of life. You have always heard that what is important is that you are sincere, so why take the difficult way?

Then someone hands you a telescope and directs you to look at the destination of each path. You look and see that the narrow path turns upward into the clouds where you see angels singing to someone who seems to be shining so brightly that you can not continue to look. Now you look to the end of the wide path. You notice that it slopes downward and then suddenly drops off into what looks like a very dark pit from which smoke is rising.

Which gate do you want to go through now? The choice seems easier to make when we look at the end destination. One is heaven. The other is hell. The problem is that we do not look at the final destination, but our eyes get focused on what is close by, the here and now. We are not looking at where the path leads, but to those at the gate and comparing the call of the man with the scars with those fun loving, beautiful, intelligent, religious people at the broad gate. But regardless of how attractive the people at the wide gate are, and regardless of what they may promise for this life, the reality is that their final destination is hell.

People do not like the doctrine of hell. It makes us nervous. We do not like to think about anyone suffering at all much less suffering for all of eternity. But the doctrine of hell is Biblical. It is the truth, and it must be proclaimed because it is part of the message Jesus gave us. The word Jesus uses here, apwleian apoleian (destruction) does not mean extinction or annihilation as some have tried to make it mean. That is a vain effort to get rid of the fact that God will judge and the unrighteous will suffer eternal punishment. If unrighteous man were annihilated and cease to exist, then the suffering would end and hell would not be so bad. But the word here translated destruction speaks of total ruin and loss, not annihilation.

The wide gate leads to the broad path that leads to destruction. Other Scriptures demonstrate positively that this destruction is eternal and it involves suffering. John the Baptist declared it in Matt. 3:11,12 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 “And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Paul declared it in 2 Thess 1:9 And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.

And Jesus contrasted hell – Gehenna – the ever burning trash dump of Jerusalem with heaven in Matthew 25:41 & 46 – 41“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 46“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” If heaven is real and eternal, then so is hell. If hell is not real, then neither is heaven.

The Wide gate leads to the broad way which leads all that are on it to hell. Who is on it? Everyone that is not on the narrow path. The choice between the gates is really between the one and the many. There is only one right gate and way and there are many wrong ways extending from the wide gate. There is one true way. The many other paths claim to be the way, but their claims are false. Some claim Jesus is contrasting between religious people and non-religious people, others say it is between high religions and low religions, or and others say it is between nice upright people and vile, degraded ones. But none of those are the case here. Jesus is making a contrast between true righteousness and self righteousness. Remember that is the theme all the way through the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven for He Himself declared in John 14:6, I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except by Me. Only true Biblical Christianity leads to heaven. All other paths lead to hell. Only true Biblical Christianity is a religion of divine accomplishment, i.e., our salvation depends on the work of God, not on our work. True Biblical Christianity relies on righteousness being imparted to the believer by God’s grace and mercy. This is a righteousness that comes out of the heart as God changes the person. Every other religion is dependent on human effort and that includes those religions that claim to be Christianity but are in reality the same perverted religion of self-righteousness that Jesus condemns in the Scribes and Pharisees.

Jesus is making a contrast between God’s grace and men’s works; between the religion of faith and the religion of flesh; between righteousness from the heart that is internal and hypocritical self righteousness which is external. The Scribes and Pharisees did many good things, but their hearts were far from God. They trusted in their own works, not God’s.

Just because someone does good things does not mean that they are righteous. Consider a twenty-dollar bill that was passed around that accomplished a lot of good things. It bought food for a young family, it purchased some heating oil for an elderly couple, and eventually it was even put the church offering. Finally it made it to a bank where a bank employee discovered it was counterfeit. The bill was destroyed because it was fake. It is not the amount of good a person does that is important, but whether they are the genuine article or not.

What then about the narrow way? How does one enter that gate? Let me point out to start with that every illustration breaks down if pushed too far, and that is true even of Jesus’ analogy here. We have been talking like we are standing before two gates which lead to two different paths. That makes it sound like we have not entered either one yet. The illustration makes Jesus point that we must respond to His message, but the reality is that unless we obey His command to go through the narrow gate, we are already on the broad way leading to destruction. Scripture is clear that we are born in sin and headed toward hell from day one. “All have sinned and are falling short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way” (Isa. 53:6) “There is none that doeth good, no not one” (Rom. 3:12). The real question is how do we get off the broad path leading to destruction that we are on and enter into the narrow gate.

Note carefully what Jesus says here in makes here in Matt. 7:13. “Enter by the narrow gate.” This is not an appeal or a suggestion. It is a command. Those that love Christ will obey it (John 14:21), and those that do not will stay on broad way leading to destruction. The first step then to entering the narrow gate is being obedient to Christ and doing what He says. We will see that point again in a couple of weeks when we look at the end of the chapter. We have to get off the path we are on and obey Christ by entering in the narrow gate. That is repentance. A change of mind about what is true resulting in a change in direction. There are many that now advocate repentance being just a change of mind, but let’s face the facts, if you don’t change your direction, you have not changed your mind.

This is a silly analogy, but it illustrates the point well. You get in your car and start heading south to New York City, as your driving along, your cell phone rings and your boss tells you that you need to go to Albany instead. You say, “Okay boss, I agree, I will go to Albany instead.” If you now continue to drive south passing exit after exit, I do not care how much you claim to have changed your mind, or how much you say you agree with your boss, you have not change your mind and you will end up in New York City. It is not until you turn that car around and head North that you will have in fact changed your mind about your destination. Many claim that they have changed their mind about Jesus Christ and say they believe His claims to be God in human flesh who came to die for our sins, but until they start actually following Christ, then they have not really changed anything. The destination of their path is still the same as it was before – eternal destruction.

Next, take notice that it is a narrow gate. The idea here would be similar to a turnstile. The entrance portal is so narrow that only one person can enter at a time. You can not enter in a group. There is no ethnically based salvation. You can not enter based on your relationship to someone else. Your heritage can not save you. It really does not matter how godly your parents may have been, or your spouse, or your children, or your friends or what they believe. Second hand faith is not saving faith. Each person must enter individually based on their own beliefs about Jesus Christ and their own personal commitment to Him.

The gate is narrow. You bring no baggage with you. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-25, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. You are spiritually stripped. That why the beatitudes lead off with being poor in spirit. There is a recognition of complete spiritual bankruptcy. You come to God on his terms or you do not come at all, and His terms are that you trust Jesus Christ alone and not your own efforts. Remember, that self-righteousness was the problem of the Scribes and Pharisees. They trusted in their own efforts to earn God’s favor. We must come as the penitent tax gatherer in Luke 18:13 who cried out, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” Jesus said that man went down to his house justified.

To enter the narrow gate you must obey the commands of Christ. That requires that you stop going your current direction, turn around, make your way against the other people on that broad path leading to destruction and then step through that small gate individually and without any baggage. Let me be clear here lest it sounds like you are saved by your own work of repentance and entering the gate.

You do not save yourself by entering the gate. Scripture is clear that salvation is by God’s grace and not man’s works (Eph 2:8). We were dead in our trespasses and sins, sons of disobedience and children of wrath (Eph 1). It was Jesus that came to “seek and save that which was lost.” Not only were we in our sins, but we were not even seeking after God (Rom. 3:10,11 “There is none that seeks after God”). We are justified by grace through faith in the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf. We do not save ourselves when we enter the gate. We only demonstrate what God has already done in our hearts. Entering the gate announces to all that we are saved, for only the saved man can enter through the narrow gate. No unregenerate man will or can obey the command of Christ and enter.

Next, take note that not only is the gate narrow, so is the path. The word narrow comes from a word that means “to groan” as from being under pressure. It is used figuratively to represent a restriction or compression. The Christian life is simple, but it is not easy. We are called to be something completely different from the world, and so we will be persecuted (Matt 5:11,12) and have tribulation (John 16:33). The world will hate us, but we can rejoice and take courage because Christ has overcome the world (John 15:19-20).

Finally, take note in verse 14 that not only is the gate small and the path narrow, “and few are those who find it” Jesus said something very similar in Luke 13:23-24. And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there [just] a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. The word “strive” is “agonizomai” (agwnizomai). There are many that claim to be Christians, but there are few that actually are true followers of Jesus Christ. So it should not surprise us when someone who says that they are a Christian lives in a manner contrary to Jesus’ commandments. It is a tragic fact that most people who claim to Christians have not read their Bible enough to even know what a Christian actually is much less do what Jesus has commanded.

What does this say to us? Some here are on the broad path to destruction and they know it. They need to start striving to understand the gospel and enter the narrow gate. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that he who comes to God must believe that He is, and [that] He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. If you truly seek after God, He will reward that, but be warned that the path you are currently on does lead to eternal hell. That is not a pleasant thought, but neither is death, but both are true realities. Strive to make sure you are prepared for both death and eternity.

Some here are not saved but think that they are. You need to examine your life. Is there enough evidence in your life that you could be convicted in a court of law of being a Christian? Paul said in 2 Cor. 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” Is your faith really in Jesus Christ for salvation from your sins? Do you really believe that the righteousness of Jesus Christ given to you by faith in Him is enough allow you entrance into Heaven? I have met too many professing Christians whose actual faith was in themselves. They believe they are saved because of something they have done. They prayed a prayer, they responded to an altar call, they raised their hand when the evangelist said too. Those can be fine and good things to do, but they do not save. Jesus Christ alone saves. I have also met too many professing Christians who were no different than the Scribes and Pharisees. Their righteousness was based on their own list of do’s and don’ts they kept. Be warned. Self-righteousness will not get you to heaven. Even those of you that are true Christians should examine yourselves lest you find out too late that you were self-deceived. The true Christian will be strengthened by such self examination and they remind themselves of the reality of being saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Those of you who are true Christians must be clear when telling others of Jesus Christ. We must make sure we give the whole story. The gospel, the good news, is not selling fire insurance of how to get “saved” from hell. The good news is the declaration of God’s love to sinners and how we are follow Him. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Trying to get people saved without calling them to follow Jesus is a false gospel. When you tell someone about Jesus and they seem responsive, you must also remember that there are few that enter in at the narrow gate. Do not give false assurance to someone who is not willing to enter in. You must remember to tell them about the cost of following Jesus Christ. They need to know that those who strive to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Find out if they are ready to enter in at the narrow gate and walk on the narrow way, for that is the only path to eternity with Jesus Christ in heaven.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing this sermon with others.

What are some of the consequences of the American emphasis on “freedom of choice”? What choices does Jesus allow as He concludes the Sermon on the Mount? How would you describe the narrow gate and wide gate? Each gate leads to different paths, what is the final destination of each? What is the “destruction” of Matt. 7: 13? What does the Bible teach about Hell? What is the contrast that Jesus is making between the narrow gate and the wide gate? What is the difference between true Biblical Christianity and all other religions and cults? What kind of people are on the narrow path? On the broad path? Does doing “good” things prove that someone is righteous? How does a person enter the narrow gate? What is repentance? Can someone really change their mind without also changing their direction? What can you take with you through the narrow gate? Which path are you on? How do you know you are not self-deceived?

Sermon Study Sheets

 

Sermon Notes – 3/21/1999 a.m.

 

“Which Way to Heaven?” Matthew 7:13,14

 

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. 14 “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.

Introduction

Two Choices: Matt. 12:30 “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

The Illustration

The Wide Gate

*Matt 3:11 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 “And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

*2 Thess 1:9 And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,

*Matt. 25:41 & 46 – 41“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 46“And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The Narrow Gate

Only One Way

The Contrast

Entering the Narrow Gate

Matthew 16:24-25, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.

The Narrow Path

Few Find It

Luke 13:23-24. And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there [just] a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able

The Challenge: Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

1. What are some of the consequences of the American emphasis on “freedom of choice”?

2. What choices does Jesus allow as He concludes the Sermon on the Mount?

3. How would you describe the narrow gate and wide gate?

4. Each gate leads to different paths, what is the final destination of each?

5. What is the “destruction” of Matt. 7:13:

6. What does the Bible teach about Hell?

7. What is the contrast that Jesus is making between the narrow gate and the wide gate?

8. What is the difference between true Biblical Christianity and all other religions and cults?

9. What kind of people are on the narrow path? On the broad path?

10. Does doing “good” things prove that someone is righteous?

11. How does a person enter the narrow gate?

12. What is repentance?

13. Can someone really change their mind without also changing their direction?

14. What can you take with you through the narrow gate?

15. Which path are you on?

16. How do you know you are not self-deceived?


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