Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able
It was truly a blessing to be with my brothers and sisters of the Baptist General Convention of Virginia for this year’s Ministry Forecast Forum yesterday. I pray that we will continue to do our best to deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Jesus Christ.
The Need To Be Narrow
Luke 13:24 (Luke 13:22-30)
Pluralism, accepting a variety of things, has its place. I believe that everyone should try a different cuisine from time to time and enjoy the wide variety of food. The music of different cultures is also a good thing to sample to further appreciate the diversity of people in the world. If possible, one should go abroad and experience life in another nation. There are also ethnic festivals of the Africans, Greeks, Native Americans, and others that cost far less than an airline ticket that we should make the time to attend so we can taste and see how man-made in God’s image can express himself in so many ways. Pluralism helps us destroy prejudice, hate, and intolerance. It helps us to build bridges of knowledge, understanding, and love.
But, there is a point where pluralism becomes a danger. When it keeps us from an acceptable walk with Jesus and entering in the Kingdom of heaven, pluralism becomes a problem as true faith does not accept any and everything. Surely there were large crowds of sincere and well-meaning people around Jesus as He was teaching on his journey toward Jerusalem. They came to Jesus to hear his words and receive blessings. Even some of the Pharisees that were around warned Him of an assassination plot. Somewhere along the way, the Lord must have mentioned something to the tune of “Many are called, but few are chosen,” or perhaps, “Broad is the path that leads to destruction.” With so many people following him, it is no wonder that some unknown person would ask, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”
Jesus does not answer with doctrinal details nor theological testaments. But He gives a word of challenge to the inquirer and to us. “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many will seek to enter and will not be able.” If our goal is an abundant life on earth and eternal life in heaven, we cannot accept just any and everything, even stuff that has a “Christian” label on it. We must make every effort to lose the baggage of materialism and worldly attitudes to be acceptable to the kingdom of God.
If we try to enter the kingdom with a crowd mentality we will fall into crowd instability. Crowds on Sunday cried out, “Hosanna,” changed up and shouted, “Crucify Him,” on Friday. Crowds were cut to the heart on Pentecost. Crowds were stirred up to persecute Paul. At their best, masses of people may sincerely desire the best. But they can also be stirred up to protect their own self-interest. Such a mentality is unable to enter a narrow gate not only to the size of its acceptable opinions; the crowd mentality has no certain direction that can go through the narrow gate Jesus calls us to enter by.
Unfortunately, this is the mentality of modern Christianity. We are too often caught up in crowds. Where ever the mass appeal is, that’s where too many people, often sincere people, go to. The puppet masters of these masses are then in a position to lead or mislead in any way they see fit. We see this in the “Word of Faith” false doctrine that dominates the airwaves, the judgmental nature of conservatism, and the live-and-let-live attitude of liberalism. Those who are in these crowds want what is best for them, their families, and nation. But, they rely on their numerical strength, appeal to different beliefs, and are being robbed by the people they follow. Those who feel safety and righteousness in crowds will end up with neither.
We should note the example of the disciples. Andrew, Peter, James, and John left their nets and boats to become fishers of men. Nathaniel left the fig tree he was sitting under to come and see for himself. Matthew left his tax collecting business. Yes, they were among the multitudes who heard the Master’s lessons and saw his miracles. But, they were the ones who left stuff, even their best stuff, devoting their lives to following Jesus. They were not promised any earthly gain when they heard the call, “Follow Me.” They dropped what they had and did it trusting in His word.
This is another trick of the crowd mentality in modern Christianity. Too many of us follow Jesus not with giving up stuff, but so that we can be blessed with stuff. “Lord, enlarge my territory. Give me an increase. Make me the head and not the tail.” Not that there is anything wrong with having some of the fine things in this world. But, when the promise of material blessings becomes the main reason for seeking the presence of Jesus, we become too burdened with what we have in this world to strive for the world to come. Peter could not have the courage to speak before the Sanhedrin if he was still casting his nets for more miraculous catches. John wouldn’t have received a revelation if he was still sitting in his boat getting ready to receive someone else’s overflow. Too many Christians are being fooled that their possessions are evidence of God’s blessings. Yet Jesus is telling us that to enter the kingdom, Jesus challenges us to strive to enter the narrow gate.
Strive to put aside a materialistic mind frame. A fine car is not a salvation calling card. It is a means of going from point A to point B. A job promotion is not a reason to hold one’s head up among believers. It is a call for greater humility as Christ humbled himself to die on the cross. Narrowing our hearts and minds from worldly attachments allows us to conform to holiness and see the way of God’s will in our lives. For some Christians, maybe we can keep some possessions as we serve like Joseph of Arimathea, the wealthy man who begged the body of our Lord and laid Him in his tomb. For some, it may mean we can continue to enjoy a high standard of living such as Lydia who was selling fine purple fabric when she found the Lord through Paul. For others of us, we may have to walk away from our boats, tax tables, even our little fig trees. Either way, giving up a materialistic mind is not easy.
Jesus tells us to strive. Anything worth having takes an effort. Simply attending worship services and listening to gospel music is not enough. In fact, that is the very opposite of striving because it takes a little effort to do these things. Going to church is a regular weekly habit that does not take up nor demand anything major. Wake up, get dressed, put money in the plate, sit and stay awake until it’s over. As far as music is concerned, there isn’t much difference between the sacred and the secular in rhythm and style. However, the scripture tells us that if we sow sparingly, we reap sparingly. If our striving to enter the narrow gate is without any real and sincere effort, we are better off trying to put a size 11 foot in a size eight shoe. But, when we devote ourselves to prayer, learning the scriptures, and serving others; we can see the things that keep us from doing His will and experiencing His glory and love. We will be able to walk away from the crowds that are driven by their own opinions and fall prey to false teachers.
And at the other end of that narrow gate is the broad expanse of the wisdom, and wonder of the kingdom not made with hands. There is a wealth that goes beyond the gold and silver amassed by our human kings and princes. There is a light that shines eternally and enlightens all that take hold of it. Only a few will find this great glory. Therefore, strive to enter the narrow gate.