The Narrow Way
“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life – to God! – is vigorous and requires total attention.” (Matthew 7:13-14 The Message)
The entire Sermon on the Mount is dealing with the concept of the Kingdom and our qualifying for it. Jesus said, “Enter in . . .” The Greek text is in the imperative mood. It is a command. In other words, Jesus means, “You must enter in.” In Luke 13:24, Luke uses a different word that is more intense. He says, “Strive to enter in.” The Greek meaning is “to contend, fight, labor, toil.” Literally, it is “to agonize, anguish, struggle” to enter in. Peterson, in The Message phrases it, “Don’t look for shortcuts.”
We like to follow the path of least resistance, the “broad” way. Few will press through to the fullness that is to be found in Salvation. Consider the rich young ruler of Matthew 19, who came to Jesus and asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Keep the Law.” The young ruler said that he had carefully observed the Law, and asked, “What do I yet lack?”
“Go sell . . .” Jesus responded. The requirements, the prerequisites for Kingdom living are greater than a profession of faith. We are saved by grace through faith. (“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”) After we are saved we are to work out our salvation. The work of Redemption in us is progressive. Jesus told the rich young ruler that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom. In Matthew 19, Peter asks, who can achieve God’s highest? Jesus replies, “With men this is impossible but with God all things are possible”.
“How strait is the gate and narrow is the way . . .” (Matthew 7:14).
The word “narrow” is from the root word meaning trouble, tribulation, pressure, straitened, i.e., hemmed in like a mountain gorge between two rocks. The believer’s way has become narrow by divine conditions. Paul surely faced this situation for he affirmed, “the love of God constrains me.” The constraining love of God will confine you. It will put you under restraint.
Joseph Nieves, writer of Kingdom Principles, describes this restraint by comparing it with a technical term used in engineering called “Venturi” as used in refrigeration and aeronautics. “It starts out as a wide opening in a tube, then it slowly narrows down. The further in, the narrower it gets. The space becomes more and more restricted (restrained) and the velocity or pressure increases more and more until, at the smallest opening, it is called the Venturi. The process then reverses itself from narrow to wide.”
Jesus is the Life-Changer, the One who brings fulfillment in life. Jesus said that few would find this strait gate because the path is narrow. The further we go into God, the more pressure, the more demanding, and the greater discipline. But consider the illustration again. The pressures of those narrowing, restricted circumstances are meant to bring the necessary changes in our lives. We are to become pliable in His hands. The clay will respond to the touch of His hand. His grace will teach us, train us, and keep us on the narrow way. Finally, we will find ourselves at that gate. Narrow though it seems, when we pass through, we suddenly find ourselves in a widened expanse of abundant life.
The Old Testament Tabernacle illustrates the same thought. The gate to the outer court was twice the width of the door into the Holy Place. It was known as the wide gate. The place of destruction was the Brazen Altar, a type of the Cross. This is where the animals were slain for the sin offerings. The gate to the holy place was narrower.
For us, Calvary was the place of destruction to Satan, sin and death. When by grace we pass through the gate of Salvation, we are led through various disciplines until we are ushered into a wider place of service and spiritual enrichment than we ever dreamed possible. It only requires our cooperation with His divine dealings in our lives. The Lord challenges us today, as He did the rich, young ruler, Go and sell out today. Follow Me, He urges. Enter through the narrow gate. Walk the narrow path and live in the fullness of His life.
(Previously published in Examiner.com/Harrisburg-Christianity-Penny-Smith)