Thoughts to Ponder

How Narrow is the Gate?

The Lord has really laid something on my heart lately and I want to address it in this article. The subject is what does it take to be saved? Now salvation is really a very simple thing, or so most people think, but Jesus made a statement that I want to look at:

Matthew 7:13-14 "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. [14] For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." [NASB-U]

What does He mean 'there are few who find it'? This statement sure makes it sound as if there is more to salvation (the narrow gate which leads to life) then we often think. I want to look at a couple other statements Jesus made:

Luke 14:27-30 "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. [28] For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? [29] Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, [30] saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'" [NASB-U]

As I have said before, many people teach that you can be saved and not be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I believe that is a lie from the father of lies. Being a disciple means to follow the teachings of a person. So, what they are saying is that you can be saved and not follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. In this passage Jesus is telling people who are trying to decide whether to follow Him or not, that they need to weigh the personal cost and make sure they can follow through. As I have stated before, it really doesn't matter what I think, it matters what God says, so let's see what He says about this:

2 Thes. 1:6-10 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, [7] and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, [8] dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. [9] These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, [10] when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed-for our testimony to you was believed. [NASB-U]

Look closely at verse 8; those who do not know God and those (who do know God, but) do not obey the gospel. Then look at what he says will happen to them in verse 9; they will pay the penalty of eternal destruction. This is no minor issue of doctrine, this is a plain warning in God's word and we all need to sober up and take stock of our lives.

Those who do not obey the gospel will not enter the narrow gate.  We should never make a doctrinal stand on one passage of Scripture. To do so can lead a person into error, so we need to see if other Scripture agrees with what we see here.

John 15:6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned." [NASB-U]

So what does it mean to have salvation? Does it mean to just believe that Jesus is God's Son and that He came to die for your sins? That is a great start but is it enough? No, according to these passages it is not enough. Salvation is simple and when a person truly comes to the knowledge that they are a sinner in need of a savior and that Jesus is the only Savior available, they will also naturally understand that they must follow Him and abide in Him. This will include turning from their sins. How do I know this? Simple, the knowledge does not come from man but rather from God.

John 6:44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day." [NASB-U]

No one comes to God on their own power, they must be drawn by the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit draws someone, He does not just give them part of the information. A person, truly convicted by the Holy Spirit and drawn to Christ, will understand that they cannot continue in sin, but must leave the darkness to live in the light. I believe that the Holy Spirit draws all men to Jesus, but only a few, as Jesus told us, actually go through the narrow gate to eternal life.

So when a person is saved but goes back into sin, one of two things has happened, or not happened. Either they were never truly saved, or they are listening to false teachers and forfeiting their inheritance in God's Kingdom.

2 Tim. 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, [4] and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.  [NASB-U]

People want to hear that they can live any way they choose and still be saved, so they flock to preachers who will tell them that all they have to lose is their rewards. This doctrine speaks out of both sides of its mouth. On the one hand it says that all a person's sins are forgiven, past, present and future the moment they believe in Jesus Christ. It also says that Jesus paid the full price for our salvation and we will not have to answer for our sins, but then it also says that our rewards can and will be taken away as punishment for those sins that Jesus has already paid the full price for. Yet people see no contradiction because they don't want to really hear the truth.

I received a letter from a man who claimed to have been a Christian for 30 years. He started his letter out by asking me why I cared if people killed themselves or not. Then he went on to tell me that he has decided that God is a fraud and cannot be trusted. My response to him was that I wondered how he considers himself a Christian.

If he believes that God is a fraud and cannot be trusted, then there is no way he can be saved. He certainly is not abiding in Christ, nor is he following the gospel. He claims to be living a good life, but that won't get you through the narrow gate.

I also get letters from people who claim to have been saved for many years, but they are homosexuals, or alcoholics, or are addicted to pornography, etc… They tell me that God just won't help them overcome their problems. The problem is a problem of discipleship, not a lack of God's help.

1 John 5:3-5 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. [4] For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith. [5] Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? [NASB-U]

Again be careful how you interpret the statement- believes that Jesus is the Son of God. It does not just mean an intellectual belief, but rather a belief that is put into action. I won't quote the whole book of James here but read it if you don't believe me.

We are sending people to hell by the simple, no strings attached gospel we are giving people.

2 Tim. 3:1-5 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. [2] For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, [3] unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, [4] treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, [5] holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. [NASB-U]

The last days are upon us. People are all the things which Paul listed above. You need to understand that Paul was speaking of people who claim to be believers. He was not speaking about the world at large. Look what he says in another of his letters:

1 Cor. 5:9-13 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; [10] I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. [11] But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-not even to eat with such a one. [12] For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? [13] But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. [NASB-U]

The gate is narrow and few find it. Not because God hides it from them, but because few are willing to pay the price to truly follow Jesus. Now I am often told that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and cannot walk away from Christ, but I don't believe that stands up to Scripture.

Ephes. 4:30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. [NASB-U]

What happens when we grieve the Holy Spirit? I have often said that we must take the Bible as a whole to understand God and His word, so let's look:

Isaiah 63:8-10 For He said, "Surely, they are My people, Sons who will not deal falsely." So He became their Savior. [9] In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. [10] But they rebelled And grieved His Holy Spirit; Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them. [NASB-U]

These were God's people, and He called them His Sons, yet what happened when they grieved His Spirit? He became their enemy. Can we find confirmation of this idea in the rest of Scripture? Yes…

James 4:4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. [NASB-U]

You can't become something if you were it to start with. These people, to whom James is speaking, can't be non-believers. They can't be non-believers, because we are all born into this world as enemies of God and must be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ, so a non-believer can't "become" an enemy of God, only someone who has been reconciled to God can "become" an enemy of God, as the children of Israel did.

Galatians 6:7-9 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. [8] For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. [9] Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. [NASB-U]

We cannot live our lives for ourselves and still enter the narrow gate. If we live life to please our sinful nature (flesh) we will not enter that narrow gate, but if we live our lives to please the Spirit we will receive eternal life. Again God can't be mocked.

Salvation is a simple matter, when drawn by the Holy Spirit we need to come to faith in Jesus Christ and part of that faith is that we understand that we must follow Him and turn from our sins. Those who continue in the light as He is in the light will enter the narrow gate which leads to eternal life, but those who decide to follow the world and satisfy their sinful nature will be cast out into the darkness, away from God's presence.

No one can take us out of God's protective hand, we need not fear losing our salvation, but we should be sober and alert that we do not choose to leave that protection and reject the Savior who bought us.

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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June 2004