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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
October 26, 2014
Which Way to Heaven?
Americans have always loved freedom and have fought wars to gain it and maintain it. However, we now live in a nation that has perverted the idea of freedom into justification for sinful practices, and even worse, added to it has been the idea that there are minimal or no consequences to those choices. For example, a couple of years ago Colorado legalized the personal use of marijuana. The consequence, as warned, has been an increase in traffic and industrial accidents due to be people being under the influence. Many of the national and state laws against pornography have been removed or they ignored. The consequence? Pornography inspired rapes, a continuing increase in the sexualization of women, and the advocation by the industry into ever greater perversity. In three decades we have gone from a society with many laws against homosexual practices to one that is forcing by law their acceptance as if the freedom to chose sexual perversions is a civil right even if that crushes the Constitutional freedoms of speech and religion of others. Of course the worst abuse of “freedom of choice” has been its use to justify the murder of well over 55 million unborn children in America alone since 1973. The idea of freedom without responsibility and choices without consequences is not only immature, but an irrational disconnect with reality. Tragically, such immaturity and irrationality has become common among our political leaders. Sadly, it also commonly shows up among people as they consider religious ideas, for freedom of choice is also talked about in theology.
Many people want to say that Jesus was a good man, a good teacher, and a good example to follow. They look at the Sermon on the Mount 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 pay attention to what He actually said and take heed to what He taught. This morning we begin our study of the last section of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus draws all He has said throughout the sermon to a conclusion and calls for a response to what He has taught. Jesus does not allow people to have unlimited freedom of choice. Jesus calls on people to make a choice between two and only two possibilities. There is not even a third option of sitting on the fence between the two choices. 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 made this same truth clear in other passages. He stated 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 what Jesus teaches but will not follow what He says will be judged as His enemies, and in fact will incur a stricter judgment because “to whom much has been given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). To hear the truth and fail to respond and follow 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 for a response from those who were gathered there on that day and to us who read His words today. There is a choice between two gates. Each opens to a different way of life which ultimately leads to two different final destinations. Jesus gives a command to enter the narrow gate that leads to life. You either obey His command or disobey and go through the wide gate. It does not matter if you go through the wide gate actively by choice or passively by default because you refuse to obey Jesus’ command. It is one gate or the other. There is no other choice.
The Gates and the Paths – Matthew 7:13-14
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 narrow. It is restrictive to the point 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 professorial robe of the highly educated standing under a sign that says, “The intelligent enter here.” Nearby is a man wearing a saffron robe under a sign saying, “This way to nirvana.” Next to him are people picking up things from tables that have all sorts of trinkets and stuff laid out on them. There are crystals, stones, all sorts of oils, lotions and potions, books and dvds. Above the table is a sign that says, “Find your Spirit guide here.” A little farther down there are some people wearing very expensive clothes and jewelry standing under a sign saying, “This way to God’s blessings.” You also see a man wearing overalls and a straw hat hollering out to people under a sign that says, “Bring Your Buddies and Bring Your Beer and Come Through Here.” At another sign there are beautiful women and handsome men without 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, ‘Enter Here!.’” You become a bit confused for there are a number of different signs that all 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 are unknown to you and some seemed to have been designed for Times Square. The large sign over this very wide 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 seem very determined to get somewhere as fast as they can.
The narrow gate goes out to a narrow, difficult 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 small trails here and there where some have done just that.
At this point you cannot 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?
The Destination – Matthew 7:13-14
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 winds upward into the clouds where you see angels singing to someone who seems to be shining so brightly that you cannot 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? If Jesus did not include the destination of each path the obvious choice would be the wide gate. Why go on a hard road when you can take and easy road? Knowing the destination changes the choice. One is the way of life leading to heaven. The other leads to destruction. The problem is that people usually do not look at the final destination. Their eyes get focused on what is close by, the here and now. They are not looking at where the path leads, but at 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 may be, and regardless of what they may promise for this life, the reality is that their final destination is the destruction of eternal 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 translated as destruction, ajpwvleia / apoleia, does not mean extinction or annihilation as some have tried to translate it. 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 this word speaks of destruction as in 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 Matthew 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 Thessalonians 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 25:34, 41 & 46, 34“then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’. . . 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 the eternal destruction of 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 only one true way. The many other paths claim to be the way, but their claims are false and they end in destruction.
The Narrow Gate, the Narrow Way
Some commentators claim Jesus is contrasting between religious people and non-religious people. Others say it is between high religions and low religions. Still others say it is between nice upright people and vile, degraded ones. But none of these ideas fit the context. Jesus is making a contrast between true righteousness and self righteousness as He has all the way through the Sermon on the Mount. That is what makes this passage so disturbing. Jesus is talking to Jews and perhaps some God fearing Gentiles. All of them are religious.
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. That is still true for multitudes of people today including many who claim to be Christians.
Just because someone does good things does not mean that they are righteous. Consider a hundred dollar bill that was passed around that accomplished a lot of good things. It was put in a church offering from which it was used to buy food for a poor family. It made its way to an elderly couple that bought some heating oil. Someone else used it to purchase medicine for their sick child. It eventually made its way to a bank where a bank employee discovered it was counterfeit. The bill was then destroyed because it was fake. It is not the amount of good a person does that is important, but whether they have genuine righteousness or not. Jesus has made it clear throughout the sermon that even religious self righteousness is not genuine. It is a fake.
Jesus declared in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except by Me.” There is only way to heaven, and it is through Jesus. All other paths lead to hell. Only true Biblical Christianity is a religion of divine accomplishment, that is, only in Biblical Christianity does salvation depend on the work of God to provide righteousness which is imputed to the believer based on simple faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a righteousness that proceeds out of God’s mercy, grace and love which then changes the person. Every other religion is dependent on human effort and that includes those religions that claim to be Christian but are in reality the same perverted religion of self-righteousness that Jesus condemns in the Scribes and Pharisees.
Entering the Gate
How then does one enter that narrow gate to get onto the narrow way that leads to life? 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 you obey His command to go through the narrow gate, you are already on the broad way leading to destruction. Scripture is clear that you are born in sin and headed toward hell from day one. “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). “There is none that does good, no not one” (Romans 3:12). “All have sinned and are falling short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The real question is how does a person get off the broad path leading to destruction that he is on and get onto the narrow path leading to life?
Note carefully what Jesus states here in Matthew 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 obey it 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. You have to get off the path you are on and obey Christ by entering in the narrow gate. That is repentance which is a change of mind about what is true resulting in a change in direction.
Repentance is the entrance through the narrow gate. It is a change of mind about yourself, sin and the Savior. It begins with an admission that: you are not good, you are not righteous, you are a sinner in rebellion against God, and you cannot save yourself. This takes the humility of being poor in spirit and provides the entrance into the kingdom of God. It is the mourning that God can comfort as the repentance continues with a change of mind about Jesus. You now agree that Jesus is the second person of the Triune Godhead. He is God in human flesh through the virgin birth through Mary. Jesus lived a sinless life, then voluntarily died on the cross as the substitute payment that atoned for man’s sin. He rose from the dead on the third day proving His claims and promises to be true. He then ascended to heaven where He lives forevermore interceding for His disciples with the Father and preparing a place for us, for one day He will return to take us to be with Him in heaven forever. Those are the things about which the mind is changed that make up true repentance.
At this point I must give a strong caution for there are many now that take the position that repentance is just a change of mind, but let’s face the facts. A true change of mind will result in a change in behavior. If there is no change in direction, then there is no true change of mind. It is an intellectual assent that is false.
This is a silly analogy which I have used before, but it illustrates the point well. You get in your car and head south on the Taconic Parkway toward 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 believe you and agree, so I will go to Albany instead.” If you continue to drive south passing exit after exit, I do not care how much you claim that you have changed your mind, or how much you say you believe and agree with your boss, you will end up in New York City. It is not until you turn that car around and head North to Albany that you will have in fact changed your mind. If you head East or West, you have changed your mind about your direction, but it is still contrary to the instructions of your boss and you will end up in the wrong place.
Many claim that they have changed their mind about Jesus Christ and believe Him, but until they actually start following Christ, then they have not really changed anything. The destination of their path is still the same as it was before. It is a wide gate and a wide path, and it leads to eternal destruction.
Jesus commands you to enter through the narrow gate. The idea here is an entrance that is so restricted that only one person can enter at a time such as turnstile. You cannot enter in a group. There is no ethnically based salvation. Your heritage cannot save you. You cannot enter based on your relationship to someone else whether it be spouse, parents, children, other kin, or friends. They may believe and be godly, but second hand faith is not saving faith. Each person must enter individually based on their own beliefs about Jesus Christ and their own personal relationship 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 can only enter if you are stripped of your spiritual baggage. That is why the Beatitudes lead off with being poor in spirit. There is a recognition of complete spiritual bankruptcy. The self-righteous cannot enter. 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. You must come as the penitent tax gatherer in Luke 18:13 who cried out, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.”
Let me also be clear here lest it sound 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 (Ephesians 2:8). We were dead in our trespasses and sins, sons of disobedience and children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-4). 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 for Romans 3:10-11 states that “There is none that seeks after God.” You can be justified only as a gift of His grace through faith in the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ on your behalf. You do save yourself by entering the gate. That only demonstrates a desire to follow Jesus Christ, but whether you will walk the path that leads to life remains to be seen which brings up the next point.
Not only is the gate narrow, but the path is difficult. Though some translations use the word “narrow,” this is actually a different word (qli;bw / thlibo) that is better translated as “difficult” (NKJV) or “hard” (ESV). The word speaks of suffering trouble and hardship. It is used figuratively to represent a restriction or compression that is hard to squeeze through. The Christian life is simple, but it is not easy. Jesus calls us to be something completely different from the world, and warns us that in following Him we will be persecuted (Matthew 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).
Also note that in verse 14 that not only is the gate small and the path difficult, but “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 ajgwnizomai / agonizomai from which we get our word, agony. Becoming a Christian is not easy because it is so contrary to man’s natural bent to sin and pride.
We know from many other passages including Jesus’ parables of the kingdom that there will be many that will claim to be Christians, yet they will not walk the difficult path of following Christ. The cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches and persecution will cause many to fall away. They will depart for only the meek and those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are willing to submit to the Lord and endure the suffering that comes with walking the difficult path of following Jesus Christ. There are many whose professions to be Christians are false. It is a tragic fact that most people who claim to be Christians have not read their Bible enough to even know what a Christian actually is much less walk with Jesus. It should not surprise us that they live sinful lifestyles. In relative terms, few find the gate and fewer still will continue to walk the difficult path so that they find the life that is at the end of it.
What then is the warning of this passage to us? First, some here today 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 states 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.
Second, some here think that they are saved, but they are not. 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 Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” Have you repented and entered the gate? Have you changed your mind about yourself, sin and the savior as I explained earlier? Is your faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ so that you are justified and made righteous in Him and therefore assured that your destination is heaven, or are you self-righteous trusting yourself and your works to save you? I have met too many professing Christians whose faith was in something they have done such as praying a prayer, responding to an altar call, raising their hand at an evangelistic meeting, getting baptized. Those are all be fine things to do, but they do not save. Jesus Christ alone saves, not any works of righteousness which you have done (Titus 3:5). Examine yourself. You do not want to find out too late that you are self-deceived by your self -righteousness, and the true Christian will be strengthened by such an exercise.
Third, you must be clear when telling others the gospel of Jesus Christ. You must make sure you give the whole story. You are not selling fire insurance of how to get “saved” from hell. You are not marketing Jesus. You are declaring the truth about man’s sin and God’s love that overcomes that sin so that they can become followers of Jesus Christ. Our commission according to Matthew 28 is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Trying to get people saved without calling them to follow Jesus is a false gospel. The gate is narrow and the path is difficult. Only those who are humble enough to enter by the narrow gate and walk the difficult path of following Jesus even though that means they will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12) can be saved.
If you have not done so already, you can enter that gate and begin your journey with Jesus today. Talk with any of our church leaders after the service.
Sermon Notes: Which Way to Heaven?
Freedom demands responsibility and choices bring _________________
Many people praise Jesus as a good man, teacher and example, but they will not believe or __________Him
Jesus demands a _________between two and only two alternatives both of which have eternal consequences
There is no ________________ground – Matthew 12:30; Luke 12:48
Jesus gives a _______________and the choice is to either obey it or disobey it – there is no other choice
The Gates and the Paths – Matthew 7:13-14
At the ________gate: This is the way, the truth and the life. No man can go to the Father except through me.
Under the wide gate are many entrances with various signs
*The _____________Enter Here
*This Way to Nirvana
*Find Your Spirit Guide Here
*This Way to God’s __________________
*Bring Your Buddies & Bring Your Beer & Come Through Here
*This Way to __________________
*Allah says, “Enter Here!”
*This Is the Way Jesus Went *This is None Other than the Gate to _______________
*This Is the Way of Life, Enter However You ______________
The wide gate leads to a wide, gently sloping path which is filled with people doing what they ___________
The narrow gate leads to a narrow, difficult path with few people on it – and some people are ___________it
The Destination – Matthew 7:13-14
The narrow path winds ______________into the clouds where angels are singing and shining being is sitting
The wide path slopes downward and then abruptly drops off into a ___________ from which smoke is rising
__________________the destination changes the choice
The Biblical doctrine of Hell makes us uncomfortable, but it is ____________and must be taught
Destruction, ajpwvleia / apoleia, is ___________and loss – it does not mean extinction or annihilation
Hell is characterized by ruin and ____________- Matthew 3:11-12; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Matthew 25:31- 46
If Hell is not real, then neither is _______________- and everyone not on the narrow path is heading to Hell
The Narrow Gate, the Narrow Way
The context sets the contrast between the righteous and the self-righteous – both are ___________________
It is a contrast between God’s _____________to those who believe and man’s self-righteous works of flesh
Doing good things does not equal genuine ___________________
John 14:6 – Jesus is the ____________way to God the Father
Only in Biblical Christianity is salvation dependent on the work of ___________instead of the human effort
Entering the Gate
Reality: Unless you have entered the narrow gate, you are _________________the broad way to destruction
Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:12, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23
It is a _______________to enter, not an appeal or suggestion – those who love Christ will obey (John 14:21)
Entrance is by ___________, a change of mind about yourself, sin & the Savior resulting in a change in you
If there is no change in _________________, there is no change of mind – no true repentance
Without a change of direction to follow Christ, the path still goes to the original destination of ___________
The gate is narrow – it ______________it to one person at a time – second hand faith does not save
The narrow gate does not allow _______________- Matt. 16:24-25 – you must enter poor in spirit
Salvation comes only by God’s _____, not man’s works – Eph. 2:8-9; Eph. 2:1-4; Luke 19:10; Rom 3:10-11
The path is ________(qli;bw / thlibo) – trouble and hardship – Matthew 5:11-12; John 16:33; John 15:19-20
____________are those who find it – Luke 13:23-24 (Strive is ajgwnizomai / agonizomai – “agony”)
Only the _______& those who hunger & thirst after righteousness will walk the hard path of following Jesus
Those on the broad path to destruction need to ____________- believe and seek after God – Hebrews 11:6
2 Corinthians 13:5 – Test / _____________yourself and be sure you are in the faith and not self-deceived
Don’t sell fire insurance – Proclaim the ____________ gospel!
Trying to get people saved without calling them to follow Jesus is a ___________ gospel
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon. You can look them up later. 2) Count how many times “narrow” is used in the sermon. Talk with your parents about the difference between the narrow gate and the wide gate. Which path of life are you on?
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 path? 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?
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