THE EASIEST HARD THING
Today’s Scripture: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14, ESV
Theme: If you want to know God, you must come to Him through Jesus, the only Way.
A non-believing neighbor once responded to the Gospel message I shared saying, “That's too easy.” The Gospel is a simple message. We have sinned against God, thereby deserving judgment, but Jesus paid our debt. In exchange, we receive peace and life. “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved…for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:9-10, 13b, NIV)
If it is so simple, then why does it feel so hard? Pride. We want to feel deserving, so we try to bring some good deeds or reasons that make us feel deserving. In Luke 18, Jesus told a parable to “those who were confident in their own righteousness.” In that story, the religious Pharisee prayed at the temple, expressing his gratitude that he was not as bad as others. Then he listed some good religious laws he was obeying. Beside him was a Jewish tax collector for the Romans oppressors - a hated traitor. He held his head down and simply said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13b, NIV). Jesus said that of the two, only the tax collector was justified (saved).
We want to justify ourselves. We do this in two ways. The first way is by saying we are “not that bad,” which includes blame shifting, denial, excuses, or minimizing our sinfulness. Second, we reduce God’s requirements to a level we feel we can accomplish on our own, so that we can feel good about ourselves. Pride is the default setting of our hearts. We don’t want grace. This is what makes “the Way” through the “narrow gate”’ so hard. It’s only through grace. Jerry Bridges wrote in his book, entitled Pursuit of Holiness, that “Our worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace.”
Many people believe that there are multiple ways to God. To say that there is only one way to heaven—though Christ—sounds offensive. Yet, Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV). Our culture strongly insists on inclusion, meaning all ways to live and all other religions are acceptable to God; to say they are not acceptable is judged to be bigoted and exclusive. The truth is that the Gospel is available to anyone, no matter their history, heritage, or present situation.
All religions, including Christianity, have moral rules to live by. They all say, “Don’t steal,” “Be kind,” “Be generous,” and “Forgive others.” All religions, except Christianity, require you to meet those rules to gain favor with God so you can go to heaven or reach a higher plane of happiness. That is very exclusive. You must measure up to meet that mark. But what about when we fail to measure up?
Christianity is different. Instead of doing well in order to reach God, God reached down to us first. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NIV). We can come to God through His narrow gate. This narrow gate has a name: Jesus. Everyone—no matter what you have done wrong; no matter where you come from; no matter the color of your skin; no matter how rich or poor—is welcome. Christianity is completely inclusive, inviting every person on the planet to come. The gate is narrow, but wide open to all who will put their pride aside, admitting their need of a Savior. “He [God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV).
The path away from salvation is wide, leading to eternal punishment. The Bible tells us that “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way” (Isaiah 53:6a, NIV). You, me, and every person on the planet try to live life how we see fit. We ignore God’s instructions. This way is wide because it offers as many choices of how to live as there are people. Yet despite its wide way, it leads to enslavement (see 2 Peter 2:19, Galatians 4:3). Although the gate to Salvation is narrow, it admits us to wide open spaces of freedom (see Galatians 5:1, 2 Corinthians 3:17, John 8:32). We are free from meeting a standard to know God and His salvation; we have freedom from condemnation.
Make It Personal: The narrow gate beckons you to come as you are and enter. You have to lay down whatever it is that you cling to in order to justify yourself. Instead cling to Jesus.
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ , and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV.)
I invite you to “Put your deadly doing down, down at Jesus feet. Stand in Him alone, gloriously complete” (Hymn: "It is Finished," by James Proctor).
Pray: Father, I thank You for Your grace that is free to us but cost You everything. Jesus, You became the Gate – the only Way. You make a way into Your presence now, within our hearts, and later, face to face though all eternity. Amen.
• Easy: only confess;
• Hard: surrender control;
• Narrow: only through Jesus;
• Wide: anyone can come.
Read: John 6:28-29, 5:39-40, 10:7, 14-15, 28-30; Matthew 11:28; Revelations 3:20
Weekly Memory Verse: “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Hebrews 9:11-12, ESV