The Road Less Traveled in the Christian Life: Matthew 7:13-14
Choosing the Narrow Gate Over the Broad
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it." Matthew 7:13
Did you ever find yourself on a hike that led you to two paths? One seemed overgrown and unnattractive and the other clear and spacious? Yet, the one that seemed unused and unattractive led you to a beautiful vista overlooking waterfalls and beautiful valleys. The other led you down an easy path which offered some views, but nothing like the one less traveled on. This is the scenario that Jesus poses to his potential followers.
You could say these two verses brutally summarize the true path for the Christian laid out so powerfully in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). It bursts our worldly view that true Christianity is popular to the general population. The path of following Jesus will be challenging, unflattering, hidden, and uncomfortable. Let me repeat: the path of following Jesus will be challenging, unflattering, hidden, and uncomfortable. However, the path of following Jesus will also be an internal road of love, joy, and peace which will equate to an outward life of the same. This is the definition of the abundance found in John 10:10. It comes through a forgiven and beloved life found in a close relationship with Jesus, nothing else.
However, only a few will brave this road. In this journey, it will be narrow and confining rather than broad and comfortable. It's a life of pleasing God over man, loving over judging, purity over impurity, forgiving over hating, and trusting over worrying. It's a whole new life preached by God at a new mountain overlooking Galilee rather than at Sinai where Moses laid out the Ten Commandments. It's actually the Ten Commandments brought down to the heart level. For the sin of adultery equates now to one who lusts rather than just the physical act of adultery, and the sin of murder equates now to one who hates rather than physically killing someone. It's living from the heart, a good heart. With this teaching, Jesus raised the bar on the Ten Commandments and cut through the fog of superficial living.
Matthew 7:13 starts off with the word "enter". In the original Greek (eiselthate), it is in the command form. Therefore, Jesus is not making a suggestion, but commanding those who are listening to energetically enter this new dimension of life. They are to strive to enter a life of pleasing God, loving people, prayer, and faith. It is the road less traveled because in comparison to the broad thoroughfares of life, it's harder, less attractive, and lonely at times. Not many walk this path. Not many will want to walk this path.
The word narrow in Greek (Stene) means narrow, constricting, hard, and difficult. The flesh would rather take the easy and broad path of taking that second glance at a woman, worrying and trusting in our own strength, judging someone, and giving into persecution and compromise. The willing spirit loves the narrows, but the weak flesh abhors it.
But the way of the flesh, the broad path, and the wide road is the highway to destruction. The word wide in the Greek is plateia and it means level, spacious, wide, and flat. The word broad in the Greek is eurychoros and it also means spacious and wide with the added meaning of being agreeble and pleasant. Many so-called Christians are traveling on this road. They think it is comfortable, agreeable, and pleasing to God, but they are choosing destruction.
It's the road that says its okay to love some people and hate others, forgive some and withhold from others, pray only in public to show off and not in private before the one who really matters, and regularly look at pornography in violation of Matthew 5:28 (But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart). These broad path people teach Sunday school, pray for people on Sunday morning, work in youth group, and even preach on Sunday morning, but their private lives and unrepentant hearts continue to sin without any remorse, thinking their busyness in church means they are living the righteus life.
They will be the ones who say, "Jesus, didn't we cast out demons, heal the sick, and lead Bible study?" Jesus will say, "I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice unrighteousness" (Matthew 7:21-23). Why? They practiced their ministry gifts, but they failed to practice righteous living and intimacy with God. The broad path is filled with these kind of people. Sadly, many will be on this path
The word for destruction in the Greek is apoleia and it means destruction, ruin, waste, and annihilation. The longer definition is one bound to be lost or one bound to go to hell. It's the same root found in the word Apollyon, or destroyer.
I know these are sobering words and even scary words, but they are true. Do not be fooled by cheap grace Christianity that condones sinful living at the expense of truly obeying God. In a nutshell, if you believe in Jesus and your life reflects your faith, then one has nothing to worry about. Real fruit reveals real faith. It's a natural outgrowth of a good heart and a good life.
Only a Few Find the Way to Life
“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."
It's interesting that the word narrow in verse fourteen is different from the word narrow in verse thirteen. The word narrow in verse fourteen is tethlimenne rather than stene. It has the added meaning of persecution, hardship, oppression, being pressed together, being crushed, and affliction. Sounds really attractive doesn't it? It's the way to zoe or eternal life.
The path or gate to life journeys through seasons of great hardship, persecution, oppression and affliction. That is why only a few travel on it because it requires perseverance. Jesus stated that if they hated Him, they will hate all who follow Him. Another interesting word is the word find. In the Greek (euriskontes) it means one who searches and finds; therefore, it's not sufficient that one takes time to search out this path, but to search and find. Many give up and settle for a superficial understanding of Scripture or the path to life without finding the real answer.
Based on Matthew 7:13-14, within the context of The Sermon on the Mount, the narrow path is the path of persevering faith in Jesus, backed up by a righteous life in the face of hardship and persecution. This is the path towards entering into eternal life and the Kingdom of God.
The sobering message is that only a few find this path. It's not that God has limited who can enter or that he set up a quota for who can inhabit heaven. It's more a prophetic warning of the reality of human nature to choose the broader, easier path of compromising with sin that leads to destruction. By the way, he is speaking to so-called believers. I believe this is what Jesus meant when he said, many are called, but only a few are chosen.
The invitation is given to all, but only a few send in their RSVP and really journey on the real path towards real life. Take some time to meditate on these verses and give me your insight. I believe these verses are pretty straight forward and to the point. For those who are experiencing hardship because you are staying true to Jesus and His commands, be encouraged, your reward is great. If you are a Christian who is living in compromising sin, then it is time to repent (turn in the other direction) and recommit your life to following Jesus wholeheartedly.
The season is now. Things will get way more challenging in the USA and even in the world. Persecution will increase and our faith will be tested by fire. It's time to put these verses into practice and to let the fire of God's Word align us to truth and real living. God desires none to perish, but for all to receive eternal life. God bless you all