Go Through the Narrow Gate
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2004 5 May
Jesus warned that many people will claim to be His followers, but never establish a true relationship with Him. Unfortunately, people who water down the gospel to make it seem more appealing deceive themselves and others. Their faith is superficial, and they haven't obtained the salvation for which they're hoping. Don't let that describe you. Avoid the wide gate that leads to destruction and choose instead the narrow gate that leads to eternal life.
Here's how you can follow Jesus through the narrow gate:
Focus on self-denial rather than self-fulfillment. Understand that a decision to follow Jesus is very costly. Know that it's not about what you can get from God, but about what you need to give Him as He transforms you. Be prepared to give up whatever it takes - your relationships with unbelieving friends and family, your job, even your life - if you need to sacrifice that to follow where Jesus leads you.
Strive to honor God. Don't try to use faith to bolster your own self-esteem, or to prove yourself worthy to God. Instead, think about what Jesus did on the cross to make your salvation possible, and strive to thank Him by living a life devoted to Him.
Expect to be uncomfortable. Realize that the gospel is "hard to believe" because it goes against all that makes human beings think and feel that they're comfortable. Don't expect a relationship with Jesus to be user-friendly; expect it to shake up your entire life. Know that He isn't interested in just making you happy; He wants to make you holy.
Don't expect to be popular. Understand that the gospel message can be very unpopular, precisely because it makes people uncomfortable. Know that God is more interested in making His brilliance shine through weak people (so others recognize Him) than He is in using strong people to carry His message. Realize that He does this so no human being can take credit for His divine work. Expect God to use you in spite of your flaws, if your heart is right with Him. Live to please God rather than other people. Trust Him with the results of whatever you undertake for Him. Know that, even if you don't visibly see earthly success, your efforts are making a difference in the eternal realm.
Embrace the gospel message's exclusivity. Don't be afraid to affirm the truth that Jesus is the only way to God the Father. No other religion leads to heaven; the only way to get there is through a saving relationship with Jesus. Realize that people who engage in any other faith are being deceived by the evil side of the spiritual realm. Share the gospel with them, remembering that God wants all people to be saved.
Communicate the full gospel, not just part of it. Don't be afraid to let people know that they're headed for hell without a relationship with Jesus. Don't strip the gospel of its power by presenting only it's appealing parts. Realize that doing so will misguide people and could send them down the road to destruction with a false sense of peace.
Replace pride with humility. Understand that you can't know Jesus as the Messiah until you surrender to Him. Come to grips with your sins, and admit to Him that you need His help. Realize that you are part of a fallen world, and that no amount of effort on your part will ever make you good enough to earn salvation on your own merit. Be willing to give Him control of every part of your life.
Be willing to obey. Realize that, if you truly love God, you will try to obey what He says in every situation. Know that people who have genuine relationships with Jesus don't simply pray the salvation prayer and then deliberately live in sin afterward (such as those who say they're Christians, and yet choose to live together before marriage). Study the Bible regularly and make every effort to follow it's principles so you can live a life that pleases God. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help you make faithful decisions in all areas of your life.
Look beyond external behaviors to your heart. Know that your salvation doesn't come from simply saying certain words or doing certain things (like attending church). Examine your heart to see if you truly want to do God's will, and if your love for Him compels you to praise and worship Him. Know that these are marks of a true disciple.
Adapted from "Hard to Believe," copyright 2003 by John MacArthur. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn., www.ThomasNelson.com.
John MacArthur, one of today's foremost Bible teachers, is the author of numerous best-selling books that have touched millions of lives. He is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and president of The Master's College and Seminary. He is also president of Grace to You, the ministry that produces the internationally syndicated radio program Grace to You and a host of print, audio, and Internet resources - all featuring John's verse-by-verse teaching. He also authored the notes in The MacArthur Study Bible, which has been awarded the Gold Medallion and has sold more than 500,000 copies. John and his wife, Patricia, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren.