The Narrow Road
(Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” – Matthew 7:13)
I recently watched the nail-biting high wire act of the Flying Wallendas as they perilously walked a narrow 1300-foot long tightrope 25 stories above New York’s iconic Times Square. As I observed the intense level of focus given to each step taken by them along the narrow tightrope, I was reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:13 when he said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Seeing all the people below on Times Square gave perspective to just how narrow the tightrope was in comparison. Looking at the world around us from the elevated view of God’s word, gives us a good perspective of the narrow road God calls us to walk as well. Like the Wallendas, we too are called to walk a narrow path that requires us to be careful of the steps we take – also much like the Wallendas, Jesus tells us “only a few” will attempt to walk it.
We have but to look at the world we live in today to see just how broad the road that leads to destruction is becoming, and that there are many who are entering through its gates. Sadly, there are many who profess to be of the Christian faith that can be found walking that broad, open road today as well. Many have traded the truth of God’s word to walk with the changing culture of the world, but just like Lajana Wallenda’s tragic misstep two years prior that resulted in a serious fall, it will prove to be a costly misstep. The wisdom of Proverbs 17:15 serves to remind, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” As Oswald Chambers (My Utmost For His Highest) so wisely observes, “There is no heaven that has a little corner of hell in it,” and there is no room on the narrow road for the things of the flesh and the world.
Many assume that the finished work of Jesus immediately and automatically perfects them in the sight of God, regardless of whether or not Jesus’s life is being formed in them, and regardless of the fact that just about all of New Testament scripture teaches to the contrary. The Apostle Paul exhorted believers to “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” If we are automatically perfected in the sight of God, without bearing any evidence of His life being formed in us, what purpose would Paul have in exhorting us to work out our salvation, and why should we do so with fear and trembling? Hebrews 4:11 reminds, “Since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have (fallen) short of it.” Just like the Wallendas after taking the first step onto the wire, the walk across the tightrope remains to be completed and each step thereafter must be carefully taken if we want to safely reach the other side.
In Revelation chapters 2-3, Jesus reprimands His seven churches, telling them, “I have not found your works perfect before God.” He warns them individually saying, “hold fast and repent” …. “I could wish you were cold or hot, so then because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth” …. “You say ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing, and do you not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.” That doesn’t sound like perfected people to me! Although Jesus was addressing the seven churches, he was reprimanding people, not denominations. The people of each church were cautioned by Jesus to “overcome” in some area where they had “fallen short.” Ephesus was told, “You have forsaken your first love.” It had lost its zeal for God and had become complacent. Smyrna feared suffering persecution for the sake of Christ. Pergamum had fallen victim to false teaching through its open-mindedness and compromise with the ways of the world – some in the church were tolerating those who taught or practiced what Christ opposed. Thyatira, “by her teaching,” was “misleading others into sexual immorality” and many were “unwilling to repent.” Sardis was infested with sin – its deeds were evil and its clothes soiled – there were no words of commendation for this church – it looked good on the outside but was corrupt on the inside – had a “reputation for being alive but was dead”- was warned to “Wake up!” Philadelphia was praised for having kept God’s word and not denying his name,” but they needed to “hold on” and “persevere” – to overcome the temptation to turn back. Laodicea was lukewarm and indifferent – was “neither cold nor hot” – didn’t take a stand for anything – was material minded – focused more on material possessions than possessing Christ – chose the temporary over the eternal – thought themselves to be rich and “had need of nothing.” Jesus warned that all the believers in these individual churches were in danger of “falling away” due to the missteps they were taking.
In Matthew 7:21, Jesus warns, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘Depart from me, I never knew you.'” Jason Henderson (Not I, But Christ) writes, “Those who think to dismiss themselves from His yoke and burden, His cross and example, and secure themselves by praising Christ for His having done all for them (while He has wrought little or nothing in them, nor have they parted with anything for the love of Him) will finally awake in a dreadful surprise, at the sound of the last trumpet, and this sad and irrevocable sentence, “Depart from Me you workers of iniquity, I do not know you.” As Christ makes unmistakably clear in the Book of Revelation, it is not he who is overcome, but he who overcomes that shall not be hurt by the second death.
Due to Lajana Wallenda’s serious fall in a previous act two years ago, the Wallendas chose to use a safety harness this time around – a smart choice, although the lesson was learned the hard way. Thankfully, we too have a safety harness to protect us as we endeavor to walk the narrow path of life. Jude 24 assures us that Jesus is “able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.” Just as the Wallendas executed their walk without fault and ended it with great joy, Jesus wants us to as well, but it took careful discipline and intense focus on their part for them to do so. If we stumble along the way, our safety harness will be there to catch us if we fall and enable us to get back up and keep on walking, but if we deliberately choose to step off walking the narrow road in order to join those who are walking on the broad one, the destination of that broad road will become ours as well.
(Proverbs 4:14-15 – Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on.).