By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
The Way is Narrow!
General Idea: We live in an age where all ways and religions are accepted as equally valid and good. We are told that we are narrow minded and bigoted if we suggest anything else. However, political correctness aside, there is only One Way, and it is both the hardest way, and the easiest. Hard, because it cost our Lord so much; hard, because it requires us to surrender our Will; hard, because it is so easy, we think we do not need it. Jesus is the One and only Way, the gate that is narrow, the Way that is difficult, and to say otherwise neutralizes the Majesty and holiness of Jesus, His teaching, and it cheapens His Gospel.
Even though the Way is simple in concept, people, since the early Apostles and Judaizers (Jews who kept the Law, especially circumcision, while believing in Jesus), tried to add extra burdens on the Gospel of Grace. From circumcision to the scores of false teachers, Paul and Barnabas were plagued with this until Peter, through the Holy Spirit, set them straight (Acts 10-15).
Today, it is no different. We still need to be "set straight" because of so much false teaching in the church. Churches often add in what is not there, and lead people far away from the simple, yet profound teachings of our Lord. Leaders tell us to carry what we do not need, or cut essential aspects from the gospel, as if it were a buffet.
Added to this, we have so many false religions, cults, lifestyles, and ways of living, we can be overwhelmed and confused. The price for choosing the wrong, or big gate is the ultimate cost of eternal consequences and despair. Do not cheat yourself, and exchange what seems easy and fun for ultimate loneliness and desolation.
The illustration of trees and fruit is the quintessential proof text of whom you are, where you came from, and what you have, or can become. You have the choice to live out Galatians 5:19-21 or Galatians 5: 22-23. The choice is yours; the fruit is to be made by you through the Holy Spirit. The key is to receive and work it out (Phil. 2:12-13). You can be a good tree or a bad one. You can produce fruit to nourish and impact others, or give out your rotten fruit to discourage and repulse all those who are brought to you by God. Faith that is professed may be good, but until it moves your will and feet it is no good to God or those around you!
1. Narrow gate: The illustration of two gates is from Ezra, and would be familiar to all first century Jews, as that passage is about coming back from captivity to rebuild the temple and wall (Ezra 4). One leads to Life (water, food); the other, death (waste and dung).
a. The wide gate represents the beginning of the life of destruction as what is seemingly free and open, as it allows us to believe whatever we want. It does not require our Will, because our Will becomes the controlling factor. Materialism, hatred, refusing to forgive, prejudice and the rest of the rotten fruits will take hold and glue us to that destructive lifestyle, then rationalize it as good. It seems the easy path, but will soon be more difficult and destructive that we could have thought (2 Thess. 1:7-9; Rev. 20:15; 21:8).
b. The narrow gate represents the beginning to the "Way" that leads to life (Matt. 14:6; 16:24; 25:46; John 10:1-18).
i. The narrowness is not determined by God's anger or callousness, rather by our free Will and sin that rebels (Mt 6:14-20), so He has to chase after us. Many still refuse His Grace (Matt. 22:14).
ii. The Christian life requires surrender of our Will, as in self-denial and obedience to Him (Rom. 6:3-7; 17-22). Few people desire to be convicted or challenged in their thinking or comfort zone, which they see as confining or bigoted. It will change our behavior, which is the main theme of chapters 5, 6, and 7 (Matt. 28:19-20).
2. Difficult is the Christian way. To teach that it is easy is true on the surface; however, it minimizes who and what Christ did and the price He paid (Acts 14:21-22). It also minimizes the realization of how much you have been forgiven, and how much sin corrupts and destroys.
a. We will go though difficulties and sufferings, but these cannot distract us; rather, we need to see the hope and glory we have to come.
i. Do not focus on your situation, but on Christ.
b. Find it or found, suggests effort must be extended. Luke adds the word, Strive (Luke 13:24). It indicates not just any kind of effort, but the right driving force (Eph. 4).
3. False prophets: Most Jews did not accept any new prophets after the Maccabees (time after Daniel, 175-135 BC) period (Jer. 2:8; 5:30) and considered all who claimed to be a prophet as false. Josephus (first century Roman historian) lists many, during Jesus' times, who attracted the crowds but were soon flushed out as vicious wolves.
a. False prophets will switch the gates on you and claim lies as truth. They are denying who and what Christ has done for you and replacing the truth with lies! They seem attractive at first, until you realize you have been shamed, hopefully before it is to late. Because even though you may have been misled, you are still responsible for your choices!
i. We can know them by their character, by how they live (Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 6:43-45), and if their words come to pass (Duet. 13; 18:21-22).
ii. They will lead you astray and must be corrected. If they refuse to listen (Matt. 18), they must be silenced.
b. Sheep's clothing: Here is where we get our phrase, "a wolf in sheep's clothing!" And, the phrase is quite true! It is saying and representing what is not really what you intend or mean to deliberately misreport truth, even though you may believe it as true.
c. False teachers will rarely come across as the evil type, with shifty eyes and whispers in the dark. They come with Brooks Brothers suits and eloquent, emotional, and attractive speeches to captivate you. They will have large ministries because what is false is what is attractive. They will have the spotlight, because humility prevents those who are godly from promoting themselves.
i. The only way you can tell is to know the truth from the Bible, watch them closely, and test them (Gal. 1:8-9; 1 John 4:1). In addition, know this: their lifestyle and character will soon give them away (2 Cor. 8:20-21; 2 Tim. 2:14-16; 3:13; 2 Pet. 2:1-3).
ii. They will also cause divisions, strife, and lead people away from the True faith (1 Tim. 1:3; 6:3-4; 2 Tim. 2:18; 2 Pet. 2:1).
iii. They usually will not teach, but just give off emotional rhetoric and grandstanding, pointing to themselves rather than glorifying God. Or, they will mix in truth and falsehoods to confuse you, as most Christians have not been disciples, and therefore cannot discern the difference!
d. Heresy is not about interruptions and opinions. It is about adding to the Bible what is not there, or taking away from what is there. This is very destructive, both personally and collectively, to a body of Believers (Rev. 22:18-19).
4. Fruits, is an illustration of good and valuable food such as barley, figs, and pomegranates, versus what is worthless and harmful to the harvesters, such as thorns or thistles (Isa. 5:2-6; 27:6; Hos.10: 1-13; 14:7-8; Prov. 11:30-31). This, in the O.T., refers to being obedient to God in order to receive His blessings. Now, it is more of a mirror to our character, to who we are, or can be in Christ (Gal. 5:18-23).
The Christian life can be a difficult journey! We live in a fallen world corrupted by sin. Consequently, all we do is imperfect, and a struggle. We will make choices that affect the direction in which we proceed in life and in relationships. In so doing, we affect others around us in both positive and negative ways. Yet, when our efforts and motivations are centered upon being righteous, we will be doing as we are called to do, and even be blessed for it.
As Christ's disciples, we must be willing to be led by the truth of His Word and by our faith and trust in Him. Everything that is worthy and excellent requires more work, from painting a house to preaching the Word. This journey of difficulty should not discourage us because it will build us up to be much better, stronger and of better use to God as we put into practice what He puts in us (Phil. 2:12-13).
So, enjoy it! See it as an adventure from which to learn and grow. Our character will improve and enable us to overcome all obstacles and help others though them. Thus, we should make it a point to give Him our best for His glory because He first loved us, and we respond to His Grace with our gratitude. At the same time, we can take comfort in the fact that He will not give us anything we cannot handle (Phil 2:10-13; Heb. 2:10)! So, let us live with excellence, to our best for His glory!
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hos. 4:6)
1. Have you ever locked yourself out of your house or car? How did it feel? How would it feel to be locked out of Heaven because you made a lot of wrong choices? Thank Christ He gives us Grace, when we trust in Him!
2. In what ways is the Christian life hard?
3. Why is it appealing to be open-minded to the point that everything is acceptable and permissible as long as no one is hurt? How does this philosophy destroy?
4. What is the price for choosing the wrong, or big gate? How can you help motivate others not to make that big mistake?
5. What do you think is the point of the two gates?
6. When we take away essential truths of the faith, and believe what we want, how does this neutralize the Majesty and holiness of Jesus, His teachings, how much we have been forgiven, and cheapen His Gospel?
7. Do you believe that a lot of pastors, especially the ones on TV, need to be "set straight" as we have so much false teaching in the church, adding in what is not there and leading people far away?
8. How is the Way (Christian life) simple in concept? Why do some people feel the need to add to it?
9. The Christian life requires surrender of our Will, as in self-denial and obedience to Him (Rom. 6:3-7; 17-22). Few people desire to be convicted or challenged from their thinking and comfort zones. They see this as confining, or bigoted. What needs to take place, besides the work of the Spirit, to make this happen? In so doing, will it change our behavior, which is the main theme of chapters 5, 6, and 7 (Matt. 28:19-20)?
10. Are you concerned about false prophets today? In what ways have you seen false prophets switch "gates" on you, claiming lies as truth? How do they make them seem attractive?
11. Do you believe that even though you may have been misled, you are still responsible for your choices? Why or why not?
12. Do you believe that humility (see our character study on Humility) prevents those who are godly from promoting themselves, as we are called to promote Christ crucified?
13. What would be the driving force for the godly leader whose heart is after Christ?
14. How is it that the illustration of trees and fruit (Fruits of the Spirit, Gal. 5:18-23) can be the quintessential proof text of who you are?
15. The only way you can expose a false prophet is to know the truth from the Bible, watch them closely, and test them. What do you think would be some good tests?
16. What happens to your church, neighborhood, and relationships when you produce fruit to nourish and impact others? What happens when you give out your rotten fruit to discourage and repulse all the people whom God brings to you? Can you see this from the perspective of others, or perhaps how God might see it?
17. Compare how and why the Christian life costs so much to what you receive in return.
18. Where are you in your spiritual sojourn? How can you show others that Jesus is directing you along the narrow way?
19. Are you equipped to identify a wolf in sheep's clothing if you saw one? How can you be so equipped?
20. Making a public profession or testimony of faith may be good, but do you believe that until it moves your Will and feet, it is of no good to God or those around you? Now, think through what you can do to make sure your testimony stays on God's track and the fruits you produce are from Gal 5:22-23, not from verses 18-21?