Thursday, May 21, 2015

Take The Narrow Road

Early on in His ministry, Jesus gave this crucial piece of advice, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV)

I've always loved the imagery in this passage - a narrow gate, a wide gate, a broad road, a narrow road. Jesus is the master of lessons by illustrations. There is no teacher greater, no professor smarter, and no lecturer with more skill or authority than the Lord. He can deliver a simple, brief lesson using everyday, common terms understood by all, but yet have a double meaning. Such is the nature of His many parables - short, simple stories describing a physical scenario but having a spiritual message. 

When we read the above passage, we visualize two contrasting gates, each the entryway to a path or road. Each gate is the same width as the road that follows, however, the two gates are very different. One is wide, and one is narrow. It's interesting how the one that is wide and spacious, and perhaps more inviting, is the one that leads to destruction. Yet, it is the road that more will choose. 

But isn't that the nature of Satan and his ploy? After all, sin is enticing at first. But then it leads to all kinds of consequences. It destroys. It ruins. So it is with those who choose sin and unrighteousness. 

On the other hand, the road that is narrow is the correct road to take. It may be more difficult to walk, it may be more challenging, it may be a more disciplined walk, and certainly it is less popular, but it's the destination in the end that counts. You've probably heard the term, "walk the straight and narrow." Most likely this is where it came from. It means to do what's right and honorable, and avoid what is evil and wrong. We must stay on course and not waver. "Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path." (Proverbs 4:26)

In both the wide road and the narrow road, the reward is not the journey, but what's at the end of the line. However, it is a journey, it is a road, and it is a path to an end. For those who choose the more attractive wide road, it may be short-sightedness that influences their decision. After all, the wide road appears easier and smoother. As for those who choose the narrow road, wisdom and Godly conviction prompts their decision. It's another story of instant gratification verses eternal reward. 

What's interesting about this particular teaching of Jesus is that it basically consists of one simple piece of advice, just five words that guide us, "Enter through the narrow gate." That's really it. Enter through the narrow gate! We may not know what's on the road ahead, and we may not know how long the journey takes or what it entails, but we know one thing for sure, we know it is the gate we are supposed to choose. And we know why. It leads to life. And you know what the opposite of life is. 

Unfortunately, the ratio of good to bad in His illustration is not good. Most people do not choose the road that leads to life. The majority head toward destruction. Less find life than those who find destruction. Since the words and truths that Jesus teaches will never change, this ratio will never change either. Sad.

The bottom line is this - we have a choice. We must choose which gate to enter - which course to take through life. The journey is up to each one of us. The good news is this - we are able to choose wisely because Jesus tells us which way to go. And He will guide us all the way. "The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you." (Psalm 32:8) And for those who don't know the way, who are lost, guess what? We need to guide them into the correct path.

The teaching that Jesus gives regarding the wide and narrow gates is surely an important and essential life lesson. And it's one we should take to heart. I'm always reminded of it every time I hear the words of the famous poet, Robert Frost, from his poem, "The Road Not Taken". He talks about two roads as well, and his concluding thought is one I fully share. 

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." (Robert Frost)     -  Amen!

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