Entering the Kingdom by the Straight Gate

January 25, 2004 / No. 3186

Dear radio friends,

     Our program today declares the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:13, 14:   “Enter ye in at the strait gate:  for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

     Well known words of the Lord Jesus Christ.  However, words that the world objects to strenuously.  For the world of unbelief would object to the Christian faith and life exactly because of these words of our Savior.  Your faith, they say, is too narrow.  You are exclusivistic.  You are so confining, restrictive, and bigoted.  The Lord Jesus Christ says there is one way?  We do not like that.  If He says He is a way, we will receive Him.

     The church today, listening to the world, is afraid of being called narrow, afraid that those who are educated and political will dismiss the church because of the narrow way that the Savior proclaimed.  So, to avoid being called narrow or exclusivistic, many try to open up the way a little bit that Jesus declared by denying the truth of the Scriptures, the doctrines of the Scriptures, making them more palatable for the pride of man, or denying the holy walk of life unto which the Lord called His disciples.

     However, note with me that, although our Lord knows all of these things, He is not afraid.  He says that the good way that leads to life is narrow.  He is not afraid, because the objection to the narrow way that is given by man is just an excuse to live in sin and darkness.  It is simply the objection of man’s pride.  And He is not afraid because He knows that this good way that He came to bring to us and to work in us is the way that shall bring us to perfect rest.

     Let us look, for a moment, at the setting of the words of the Lord Jesus, these memorable words.  And let us ask the question:  Who exactly spoke them and when did He speak them?

     When the words were given:  “Enter in at the strait gate, you must follow the narrow way,” was this spoken by a religious bigot?  Was it made by some prophet of self-made religion, a cult-leader?  No.  It was spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who said, “I am the way.”  He is the One who said in John 12, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him:  the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”

     Those words were spoken by the incarnate Truth:  God in the flesh, the One who knows, and thus the One who speaks truth by which all men shall be judged in the day of judgment.

     When did He speak these words?  He spoke them in a setting in which His words were given particular force and weight.  They come at the end of what we would call, in Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount, the great Magna Carta on the Kingdom of Heaven.  He began in that sermon a description of the marks of His children that is called “the Beatitudes,” the spiritual portrait of each one of His children:  poor in spirit, meek, and on and on.  Then He went on to describe the standard by which these citizens will seek to live their life, a standard that the Lord says is going to touch the heart and the thoughts and the motives.  He went on, in chapter 6, to describe how the subjects of His kingdom will carry out their religious duties:  they shall not do it as the religious leaders of their day — to be seen by the eye of men — but to be seen of their Father.  In the second part of chapter 6, the Lord called us to put our trust in our heavenly Father and to believe that our Father shall supply all of our needs.

     Then, in chapter 7, He spoke of some very searching issues of the final judgment, of prayer, and of the golden rule to do to others as we would have done to ourselves.  Now the Lord becomes even more pointed.  As everyone is hanging upon His words, and as He teaches in a way that has never been heard before, He calls men and women to enter into the kingdom that He has just described.  And He is not content simply to say, “Come into the kingdom.”  But He begins to draw a picture.  He speaks of a narrow way, of a strait gate that will lead to eternal life, compared to a wide gate and a broad way that shall surely bring a man to destruction.  The Lord makes men’s ears into eyes and He draws for them a picture in His words.

     Notice, the Lord joins three things.  He speaks of a strait gate, a narrow or compressed way, and eternal life — contrasted with a wide gate, a broad way, and destruction.  And He is saying to us, There is but one way that shall lead to life.  When He speaks of life, He does not mean mere continued existence, but eternal life.  For the opposite shall be destruction — the broad way leads to destruction, which is not extinction but, as the Bible makes very plain, when the soul and the body of the impenitent sinner suffers in hell — what is called “outer darkness” and the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” by Jesus Christ Himself or, in the words of Jesus, “torment in flames” ( Luke 16).

     Now, the Lord says there is a way to life, a way to that place that is described in Revelation 21 as the place of no more sorrow or tears, sighing or death.  And that way is strait and narrow.  It is the way of conversion, of turning by the grace of God from our sins and embracing the living God.  The Lord says, “All then shall have their end in one of two:  either in eternal life through His name, or in everlasting destruction.  There are only two possibilities.”  And, He says, He is the One who alone can lead to life, to the place of indescribable peace and to the fellowship of the living God, through a strait gate and through a narrow way, through the work of His Spirit in conversion and repentance of sin.  Apart from this, a person shall follow a wide gate and a broad way and shall go to destruction.  And the Lord comes with an imperative:  By His grace enter into the strait gate, the narrow way; for few there be that find it.

     The Lord is speaking there of true conversion.  And He is, as I said, drawing a very simple and piercing picture.  The narrow way and the strait gate are not like you have, perhaps, pictured of a fence and then a gate.  It would be better, really, as we look at these words, to think of a turn-stile (if you have ever been on a subway, with all the little bars that you go through to get onto the subway).  The point of such a gate is, first of all, one at a time.  Conversion is personal.  You do not go through on the coattails of another.  The idea of such a gate is that you cannot take along your baggage.  If you come before such a gate at the subway, and you have all of your baggage with you (your luggage, your garment bag, your suitcase, your cosmetic bag, your briefcase), you have your hands full.  You cannot get through.  You have to leave that behind you if you desire to go through the gate.

     So the Lord says, There is a strait gate, a narrow way.  That way is a way of God-worked conversion and repentance of sin.

     You say to me, “What is conversion?”  It is a grace of God, something that God, through His Word and Spirit, works in the heart.  What is that work?  It is this, first of all, that we forsake, from our heart, all self-sufficiency and righteousness as the ground of obtaining eternal life.  Now sin has twisted our minds with regard to the question, How can I be right with God?  By nature, we begin to look up to God and say, “I can be right with God by the things that I’ve done.”  That is the words of the Pharisee in Luke 18.

     But now our Lord has been teaching that the grace of God brings us to live under the eye of God, not the eye of man, and under the searchlight of God.  He peers into our hearts.  Therefore, the grace of conversion is a brokenness before God.  It is the confession that I do not have any righteousness of myself, I cannot earn my salvation by my own works, I cannot be saved by an exercise of my alleged free will.  For I do not have a free will.  My will is bound in sin.  If I am to be saved, it must be by the wondrous grace of God that teaches me to renounce reliance upon all human work and to trust in His work alone.

     Would you enter the strait gate?  Then put down the bags: the suitcases of your brownie points, the garment bags, the cosmetic case of all of your fine points.  And place the weight of your soul solely on the righteousness of God in Christ.  But pride, that awful pride, clings to us.  One goes through this gate in the knowledge that he is a naked sinner.  It is a narrow gate.

     Not only must we renounce our own pride and self-sufficiency; but the grace of conversion is also that we see that our sinful will must no longer be the principle by which we live our life, but the will of our Father revealed in Scripture.  When man came from the hand of the Creator, he was one whose whole life centered in the will of God.  God put a throne on Adam’s heart and placed Himself upon the throne and Adam said, “That is good.”  But what happened?  Adam was tempted of the devil.  Adam disobeyed and became a usurper.  And that sin led to anarchy in his soul.  Now the Lord says, “I say to you, enter in by the strait gate.”  When He says, “I say to you,” He is saying, “In My kingdom, My will alone matters.”

     Do you live for your own flesh?  Do you follow Jesus Christ as long as He agrees with you, so long as you can see what will be, so long as you are in agreement?  That gate is wide.  That is not following Christ, for the gate that leads to life eternal is this grace:  you renounce your own will and you follow His as it is revealed in Scripture.

     Still more.  To go through this gate is that grace of God when, from the heart, all sin as a willful practice in our life is renounced, and there is a fundamental break in our disposition toward sin.  Conversion is when our attitude toward sin is fundamentally changed, and now we see it as something that is awful in the light of the love of God to me.

     I am not saying that the child of God who is converted will no longer sin, or will break every sin that tempts him.  I am not saying that the child of God is perfect and sinless.  This is contrary to the Scriptures.  But I am saying that there will be a fundamental change in the attitude.  It is when we say, “Lord, take what I cherish by nature and break it, remove it, tear it out of my heart.  The evil eye of lust, the evil ear of gossip, the evil heart of envy and suspicion.”  Do not say concerning these things, “I cannot help it.”  For the Lord said, “Pluck it out, cut it off.  It is better to go into the kingdom blind and halt.”  What was He saying?  He was saying that in His kingdom, none of His people sign peace treaties with their sin.  What sin do you do willingly, knowingly?  Do you declare a truce?  Do you say, “I’m going to let it go”?  Conversion, the only way into the kingdom — the grace of God bringing you to the kingdom — is that way of forsaking sin.

     You see, conversion and the forsaking of sin must not be like how we go about the cleaning out of our basements.  Husband and wife decide that it is high time that that basement gets cleaned up.  The kids are grown.  They are almost all out of the house.  So we had better go down there and straighten it up.  As they begin to straighten things up and throw things away, the husband notices something in his wife’s arm, and he says, “Don’t thrown that away!”  “Why, what good is it?”  “Oh, we can’t throw that away.”  Then, a moment later, he is lugging a box up the stairs and his wife sees him and says, “Where are you going with that?”  “It’s just a bunch of junk!”  “Oh, no, we can’t throw that away.”  Is that the way you deal with your sin?  “I can’t throw that away.”

     What is it that is dear to your heart, so that you do not want to leave it, you want to keep it down in the basement to play with someday?  Oh, you are against sin!  You want to throw out sin, especially in the lives of other people.  But your own basement you want to keep well stocked.  What is it?  Is it that envious spirit that you developed as a little girl and that has been your companion for life?  Is it that deep-seated unforgiveness, which nurses grudges?  Is it that evil eye that puts the worst construction on the deeds of others?  Is it that evil vanity that, when you look into the mirror, you want to worship your face?  You say, “Oh, no, not that!  You mean I have to give up that?”  Yes!  Strait is the gate and narrow is the way!

     That is why we need the grace of God to be preached to us.  For by grace alone is there repentance and conversion.  Forsake!

     Forsake, then, also all willful attachment to the world, to the system of the world, to the principles whereby men live, their values, their goals, their judgments, their way of thinking.  Do you hanker after the world?  Do you live for its acceptance?

     God brings us through this gate by working in us the grace of conversion, which is the forsaking of our pride and self-reliance, our own works as being the basis of our salvation, our own will whereby we shall live our own life, all sin made known to us, and the world and its system.

     There are few that find it.  Does He mean that there are few that are saved?  No.  Revelation 7 tells us that a multitude shall be saved that no man can number.  But the Lord says that in any generation, even when apparently Christianity is flourishing, there are few who find this way.  Where was the Lord speaking in that day?  Was He speaking in Egypt or in Asia?  No, He was in Jerusalem, which was the center of the light of God’s Word.  There would be few that would find it.  Few, because none can.  It is by grace alone.  Few there are that are chosen, says the Lord.  You and I cannot enter in.  Christianity is not something that you decided to go into.  It was by the wonderful grace of God.

     They shall find it.  All those who belong to the Lord Jesus and who through His Word are brought to faith and repentance in Him shall find it.  They shall find that way to be pleasant and good.  They shall find that way to be the way to life eternal.  For it is a good way.  It will lead us home.  I hear Him.  I hear Him

irresistibly calling:  “Enter the strait gate.”

     By the grace of God we respond, “Lord, open to me, draw me, strengthen me, and lead me at last to the place prepared for me.”

     Let us pray.

     Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word.  Now, apply and bless it to our heart.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.