Life’s Most Important Choice (A Study on the Sermon on the Mount)

Matthew 7:13, 14

Our lives are filled with decisions. Choices come on a regular basis. But the decision to follow or not to follow Jesus is the most important one.

There are many instances in the Bible where God pleads with people to follow him. While in the wilderness, God said through Moses to the nation of Israel, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying his voice, and by holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19).

After entering the Promised Land, Joshua confronted the Israelites about turning from the Egyptian and Canaanite gods to the Lord: “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

On Mount Carmel, Elijah told the people to choose between God and Baal. “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him, but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).

And in John’s gospel, Jesus once called on people to choose. We read of the result: “As a result of this, many of his disciples withdrew, and were not walking with him anymore” (John 6:66).

Jesus now reaches the appeal toward which he has been moving. We must decide between his way and other ways. He has already shared God’s standards. He has shown them what the kingdom of God is like. His listeners are at the crossroads everyone eventually comes to where we must choose between divine and human righteousness. These are the same choices that have always been available.

Involves Two Gates

Two gates exist: the narrow and wide. We don’t have the option to enter at least one of the gates, because not entering one forces us to enter the other. Neither are we are to ponder or adore the gate, but enter it. Jesus wants us to enter the narrow gate which leads to eternal life.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasts God’s standards of righteousness with that of the religious leaders. The Jewish traditions were not the right gate or way. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me” (John 14:6). He also said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through me, he shall be saved” (John 10:9).

We must urge people to enter just as Jesus did.  Our Gospel is narrow, which will often offend. It is not salvation at any cost. The Bible says, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The other gate is wide. It represents any and all other ways people try to get to God. Entering it is an attempt to depend on self or others. This way leads to a terrible end. Many go this way, but there is no security in numbers.

Several requirements present themselves if we are to enter the narrow gate. We must enter alone. No one can come on our coattails. We can only lead others.

We must enter devoid of any self-effort. Only God’s grace can save us. We can’t take our goodness, achievements, or anything else. We must deny ourselves. We must yield everything to Jesus. We must become like little children and be dependent on him. We must exchange what we are for what he is.

We must enter the gate through repentance. Some Jews thought just being that was enough. We must go in a different direction. Church affiliation or living in a Christian nation is not enough.

Charles Spurgeon said, “You and your sins must separate or you and your God will never come together. No one sin may you keep, they must all be given up, they must be brought out like Canaanite kings from the cave and be hanged up in the sun.”

Involves Two Ways

The two ways are the broad way and the narrow way. The broad gate and the broad way or the narrow gate and the narrow way. Only godly people walk on the narrow way.

The psalmist said, “But their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither” (Psalm 1:2).

The way is a hard and demanding way of self-denial. It takes conscious and intense effort. We must come mourning over our sin and hungering for the righteousness of Christ to be applied to our lives.

The broad way is the way of everyone not traveling the narrow road. It is easier and more attractive way—the way of least resistance where self can be in the center. It is like floating downstream where there is little resistance.

Many go this way, but there is no security in numbers. In Proverbs we read, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (14:12).

William Hendrickson said, “The kingdom then is not for weaklings, waverers, and compromisers … It is not won by means of deferred prayers, unfulfilled promises, broken resolutions and hesitant testimonies. It is for strong and sturdy men.”

A Sunday school teacher once told her class Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus. She explained how the wealthy man had wonderful clothes, lived in luxury, had all the food he could eat, but had no compassion for the beggar. He ended up in Hell, but the sick man found God’s comfort in Paradise. She then asked the class which man they would rather be. One student said, “I’d want to be the rich man while I was living and Lazarus when I died.”

Has Two Destinations

Both point to the good life, but only one actually leads there. Following the narrow way, and thus Christ, leads to abundant life. The broad way is the way most people take. We can do what we want on the broad path. It’s the picture of the good life.

Only the narrow way leads to fellowship with Christ and a qualitative life. The broad way leads to destruction.

Involves Two Groups

Many enter the wide gate and go to ruin and loss. It includes church members, pagans, atheists, agnostics, moral and ethical people, humanists, and all who refuse faith in Christ.

Few enter the narrow gate. They come from different races, cultures, backgrounds, and places. They have in common their faith in Christ.

Thou art the Way: to Thee alone

From sin and death we flee;

And he who would the Father seek

Must seek Him, Lord, by Thee.

Thou art the Truth: Thy Word alone

True wisdom can impart;

Thou only canst inform the mind,

And purify the heart.

Photo by Reiseuhu on Unsplash