Imagine wandering off a hiking path to explore other parts of the woods. Unaware of how much time has passed, you suddenly realize nightfall is nearing. You’re stumbling around at dusk frantically looking for the trail markers, but fail to find them. You know that there are cliffs, ledges, and holes around that could easily claim your life with one wrong step. As the darkness closes in, you begin to wonder if you should have just gone elsewhere for a walk where there is an abundance of pavement and streetlights. As night sets in, so does fear. If only you would have listened to the park ranger’s warnings…
Though I don’t claim to be much of a storyteller, I think you’ll still be able to see the point I’m trying to make toward our lives as believers. It is so easy to let the firm cautions, warnings, and exhortations of Jesus become diluted in their potency and degrade into just ordinary words in red on the Bible page. I’m realizing that there are so many of His words that I quickly gloss over and just imagine that they will not bring me to account. The number of times Jesus says to “take heed”, “watch”, “beware” or “pay attention to” something is simply astonishing.
The passages striking my heart lately along these lines of caution are in Matthew 7:13-14 and Luke 13:24:
““Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
(Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV)
““Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
(Luke 13:24 NKJV)
Jesus compares the ones who inherit the great promises of eternal life to one walking on a very narrow path searching for an inconspicuous gate. The way of entrance to abundant life in the resurrection is not found without careful searching, difficulty, and pain. We can walk confidently on the trail, however. We have Jesus who has shown us the way. His word is the lamp unto our feet, and His Spirit is ever leading us to a life like His so that we may live eternally. We are called to walk the narrow way because a cross-embracing lifestyle of dependence, humility, and meekness is what He is after.
We must not try to doctor the abrasion and wound that His words bring to our flesh. As the saying goes, “He’s not out to hurt our flesh, He’s out to kill it.” Cooperating with His grace, crying out for the fear of the Lord, and maintaining a repentant heart is our only way forward to inherit the “exceedingly great and precious promises” that have been given to us. (2 Peter 1:4, Hebrews 6:12, Hebrews 10:36). I don’t want to stand before Him and have Him say “I warned you…” Every word He has spoken to us will bring us to account:
“He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”
(John 12:48 NKJV)
And carefully following His word, heeding His warnings, and keeping His commandments will bring us the eternal life promised us in that day:
“For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
(Hebrews 10:36-39 NKJV)
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”
(John 6:63 NKJV)
I don’t want to live a good Christian life expecting that God’s job is to put me on a luxury cruise or in the first-class cabin where I fly away to some heavenly cloud with comfort and ease. Jesus’ words must bear down upon us with weight and conviction to create a sobriety in us about the difficulty of the narrow way. In light of His words, we cannot be allured by the pipe dream of some great revival that Christianizes society or gives us a romanticized time of trouble where we sip our latte in a “city of refuge”. This is not “the difficult way” that Jesus spoke of and embodied but is instead a cleverly disguised “broad way” that leads to destruction. I believe the Lord is going to be merciful as He always has been, however I am convinced I have underestimated the difficulty of the days ahead.
Wickedness and unrighteousness is undoubtedly increasing on the earth. The Bible tells us that we will not see a dramatic decrease of global unrighteousness or an ending of injustice in the days leading up to Christ’s return, but rather these things will only increase as the greatest trial for mankind history has ever known comes on the earth. The Day of the Lord will topple everything high and lofty so that He alone may be exalted (Isaiah 2:11, 17).
Are we feeling the weight of His words and crying out daily for grace to stay on the narrow path? Or are we still leaning on our own strength, money, relationships, or what ministry we are connected to as our life preserver for the days ahead? May we be ones who take His words of warning to heart, faithfully witness to Him, and give ourselves wholeheartedly to Him even if it means the loss of all of our possessions or our lives. Our hope is certain and our resurrection is sure, if we endure until the end.