by Rayola Kelley
We are coming to the end of the discipleship series. For the last fifteen months, I have been dealing with the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith. Clearly, the Christian foundation is simple, yet profound as to the depth it can reach into the soul of man. Sadly, through the years these simple truths have been complicated by man’s need to understand a matter according to his personal take on religion and life. This need usually has nothing to do with becoming better Christians, but with controlling one’s reality when it comes to God.
It is not unusual for people to put God in a nice controllable box. I thoroughly understand this box. I used to operate within one, and what I discovered is that this box allows people to believe that all is well with their spiritual lives. After all, they have weighed their spiritual life on their own balances, causing them to come out on top. Such an evaluation allows them to continue on their merry way, down the so-called path of personal happiness and bliss.
However, the various tragedies of life have a way of occasionally throwing a wrench into such unrealistic perceptions. Each challenge changes the tint of people’s rose-colored glasses, disheveling self-righteous cloaks, ripping away religious masks, and pulling theological rugs from underneath their feet. After all, in ignorance we each can hold on to foolishness, in religious elitism we can hold on to delusion, and in our theology we can remain armchair Christians who maintain a lot of doctrines and theories about Christianity, while lacking any real experience, spirit and life in our walk.
When I tried to come to terms with the Christian life, I often had to rethink my former conclusions by divorcing Christianity from all attempts of fitting it into a doctrinal, theological or religious box, to recognizing it as a life that must be lived or walked out according to a law upheld by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:2). This law has to do with bringing forth the life of Christ Jesus, which allows each of us as His followers the means to discover the excellent way of our high calling.
It is hard for people to realize that they are walking in some type of way. Their head, master and the husband they are bound to will determine the way in which they will walk.Romans 5-7 identifies the type of leadership, service, and point of identification a person is actually giving way to. We know that there are two heads, Adam or Jesus. Head points to what determines our predominate focus, emphasis and agenda. In fact, our heart will naturally follow the direction of our head.
If Adam is our head, the world will serve as our focal point, we will emphasize our rights to partake of it, and our agendas will be to feed or appease the selfishness of the self-life. If Jesus is our head, He will serve as our focal point, we will emphasize the will of God, and the message of Christ and Him crucified will become our sole agenda.
There are two masters, God and sin. Masters determine what we will ultimately serve. If we serve sin, we will end up bowing down to Satan, the god of this world, serving the lusts of our flesh, and walking in the ways of death. If we serve God, we will be worshipping Him in Spirit and truth, obeying His will and ways in humility, and walking in the ways of righteousness.
There are two husbands that we can be bound to, which points to identification. They are the Law or the risen Christ. If we are bound to the Law, we are walking under a death sentence without any recourse. We will be identified by the ways of our corruptible flesh and we will be walking the broad path of condemnation that leads to damnation.
If we are bound to the risen Christ, we will be walking according to His eternal life in us, identified by His Spirit, and walking in the narrow path of the cross. This narrow path identifies us to the death (cross), burial (putting off the old life), and resurrection power (putting on the new life) of Christ. The narrow path also points to the ways of death. Its hard ways will go deep into our soul in order to bring us higher in our spiritual perspective. Its challenging ways will plant our feet firmly on the path of righteousness.
Jesus talked about these two distinct ways in His Sermon on the Mount. You can clearly see the contrast between the broad way and the narrow path as you follow Jesus’ presentation in this sermon. Let us first consider the broad way.
The Lord said of the broad way in Matthew 7:13 that the gate that leads to this way is wide. In other words, it is capable of embracing anything. It does not require any change of heart, mind and way of doing. Since a person does not have to change, he or she can establish his or her own religious or moral code. Such individuals can walk according to their own deluded reality. The false light of their own darkness will blind them.
These individuals wear a cloak of self-righteousness, convincing themselves that they are right before God, but they walk in unbelief and disobedience. Such people who walk this way can harbor, as well as justify, sin in the name of rights and happiness, hate God and His righteousness for opposing their way, lust after the world, and walk in unforgiveness without feeling any real twinge of conviction. They can give the impression of good intentions that are devoid of godliness. They may have a show of good works, but since their motives are treacherous and self-serving, such deeds will be considered iniquity on judgment day. These people can prove to be anxious about the things of the world because they lack faith towards God, thereby failing to seek first His kingdom in all matters. They are building their religious lives according to the ways of their corruptible flesh, which is establishing them on the sifting sands of judgment. Even though the broad way seems endless in its possibilities, its sifting foundation will eventually give way to the abyss of eternal damnation.
In Luke 6:24-26, Jesus pronounced four woes against those walking the broad way. These woes reveal these people’s pursuit, attitude, state, and point of worth. Such individuals pursue the riches of the world, perceive they have no real need since they lack both the reality and sobriety to discern their way as being destructive, and they desire and seek after men’s approval and recognition, rather than God. In fact, Jesus warned that many go in the broad way.
This brings us to the narrow path. The popular way is the broad way, but the way that leads to life is a path that proves to be the hard way for unregenerate man. Jesus stated of this narrow way in Luke 13:24 that many would strive to enter the gate that marks the entryway to this path but fail to do so. According to Matthew 7:14, such people will fail to find their way to this path. We must ask ourselves why people fail to enter into the narrow gate that leads to everlasting life. Jesus actually gives us insight into the reason people fail to enter in “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber, John 10:1.”
Those who are trying to enter through the narrow gate but fail to do so are imposters. They are thieves who are trying to obtain something that they have no right to claim. They are robbers because they want to rob, cheat or steal a heavenly inheritance without having any legal right or identification to it. These people are trying to enter in on their own merits, bypassing the narrow way of redemption. After all, their way is religious, marked by good deeds, outward piousness, and devotion. However, any way that does not line up to the narrow path constitutes the broad way. Granted, the broad way may have been adjusted to embrace religious piousness, or personally narrowed down by legalistic or moral codes, but it is still the broad way that represents the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12 states that there is a way that seems right to a person, but it still constitutes the ways of death.
What does the narrow way entail? After all, few seem to find the real entrance to this hard path that leads to life. Jesus gives us the insight into why people miss the entrance. First of all the gate is marked by an altar that requires sacrifice and death. It calls for repentance that will not only cause the person to cease walking according to the normalcy of the world and old ways of death, but it also requires him or her to walk opposite or contrary to the ways of death.
Past the entrance of the narrow gate is a single door. This door is not identified by religious affiliation, good deeds or piousness; rather, it is actually a Person who serves as the only door in which one can discover life. Jesus identifies this door in John 10:7, as being Himself.
Jesus summarized His ministry in John 14:6 by stating He was the way in which all believers must walk, He is the door of truth that each follower must constantly line up to and enter in by way of faith and obedience, and He is the essence of life that must be walked out to ensure reconciliation, restoration and communion with the Father. It is by walking the narrow way that the life of Christ, His lowly disposition, His meek attitude, and His image is worked into us. Clearly, the broad way is comprised of man’s way. No matter how religious, noble and restraining it might be, it represents walking in the way of Adam, serving the god of this present world, and being bound to a Law that can only condemn a person. Therefore, either man is walking in his own way according to his desires or he is walking in the way of Christ according to the Word of God.
Although there are those who believe that they have one foot in the broad way and one foot on the narrow path, the harsh reality is that they have both feet on the broad road. They are simply balancing two lifestyles: that of religion with its outward façade, and that of the world with its philosophies or attractions. As they walk according to the different pattern of these lifestyles, they fail to realize that the stepping stones will eventually shift when the sandy foundation begins to move with the winds of judgment. The reason I say this is that the narrow path is on the same road of life as the broad way. The difference is the way. It is based either on the terrain of the self-life or on self-denial. Its direction is either towards the false glory of the world or towards the light of the world, Jesus. The destination is either leading downward into the quagmire of bondage and spiritual ruin or heavenward to an eternal inheritance. The unattractive narrow path leads in the opposite direction of the popular and well-traveled broad way. When man repents, he does not jump from the broad way to the narrow path, rather he changes the direction he is walking. He ceases to be a child of the devil, twofold a convert of hell, and walking in the ways of condemnation and death. In true repentance, he turns from the old to embrace the new. He becomes a child of God by being born again from above, a consecrated disciple of Jesus through faith and obedience to God’s Word, and begins to walk in the ways of everlasting life.
When asked why he would walk away from Christ, a young man stated that Christianity is the hard way. It is important to point out that Christianity is only hard on the self-life, the fleshly appetites, and the bondage of sin. Granted, it cuts across insipid, small-minded comfort zones, challenges people to cease from allowing their lusts simply to carry them like an escalator to their final destination of eternal separation and damnation. On the other hand, it can also serve as a slide that will allow lost individuals the luxury of enjoying the deadly fruits of this world while they delude themselves about the consequences that await them. It is true the narrow path is clearly marked by death and its sole door allows no room for any type of compromise or hypocrisy, but the path was designed to save man from the consequences of traveling his own way of destruction. It becomes a hard way because it must forge something in man’s vain thinking and useless character that is contrary to the dark preferences of his heart, the empty pursuits of the world, and the endless, perverted excuses as to why he prefers death to the choice of life.
The Bible tells us the way of the transgressor is hard (Proverbs 13:15). Granted, the path to life is hard on the ways of death, but this is different than the hard way of the transgressor. The way of life is designed to set a person free to live life, while the way of the transgressor ends in greater bondage, sorrow and bitterness of the soul, and spiritual ruin. The way to life leads to heaven, while the way of the transgressor leads to death, hell, judgment, and the lake of fire. Although the broad way offers pleasure as one heaps the world upon his or her self-life, it is temporary. In fact, the temporary pleasure of this world hides the devastating hardness that will lead to the judgment of spiritual death and ruin. However, the ways of life offer spiritual pleasures for evermore.
The truth is either way will prove hard; therefore, we must choose which way of hardness we will walk. Will we choose the hard, strait way that ends in our salvation, or will we fight any conviction of salvation as we insist on the hard ways of our personal transgression that will lead to death and eternal judgment?
Clearly, a person’s destination is the only say he or she has in regard to the quality of life. It is your choice, and it is my choice. What way have you chose? What way am I now choosing based on my present walk in this dark, dying world?