Q: This question may be considered silly, but what does it mean for the way to be narrow? I know it should be obvious, but it seems that nowadays everyone thinks they are on their way to heaven.
A: Your question is very appropriate. For many in our society, everything is relative; therefore, nothing is true, sure, or right, making them right in their own eyes, while broadening the way. We even see this in the religious world. Much of religion has substituted its moral compass with worldly philosophies and practices. The moral standard of the Bible has been readjusted to condone abominable lifestyles, compromised to promote a pseudo peace with the world, and done away with in the name of benevolence in order to compete with the world. The world is spinning out of control as many individuals are calling good evil and evil good as the world becomes more lawless, immoral, and insane.
Jesus clearly stated, “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 marrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). In Luke 13:24, this instruction was added to it, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able to.”
The first word, we must note is the word “enter.” “Enter” means to go through. It is not enough to come up to the entrance to eternal life, one must go through it. This requires one to believe God’s Word about sin, Jesus’ death, and His resurrection, repent of being on the broad path, and be born again with the Spirit (John 3:5; Luke 13:3; 1 Corinthians 10:9, 10; 15:1-4). There are many people who come just so far in their religious walk. They come up to the door of life and stand on the outside hoping their religious attempts of coming thus far will be good enough, but it is clear one must go through that which has been provided by God to secure eternal life.
We are instructed to strive to enter in at the strait gate. “Strive” means to struggle, compete for a prize, to contend with adversity. This brings us to why one must strive. It is because the gate is straight and narrow. “Strait” actually means narrow in this text, but “narrow” means a point or place of affliction where one suffers trouble and tribulation. Acts 14:22 confirms the description of the narrow way, “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.”
The reason the entrance is strait is because we must come by way of a person and not a religion. Jesus stated that He is the way to life. There is only one correct Jesus. The challenge for Christians is to remain within the narrow boundaries of Spirit and truth to ensure that the Jesus they believe and worship is the Jesus clearly presented in the Bible. Today, there are many who are enlarging the narrow way by erecting their own Jesus. They refuse to let the truths of the Bible align them within the narrow confines of who Jesus really is, and must be, in their lives. Since the narrow width of the gate is defined by the God-Man Jesus, many will seek to enter in, but will fail to do so because they will not believe the Word of God concerning Him, preventing them from finding the actual entrance. In fact, they will seek another way to enter in according to their own personal understanding, righteousness, and religion. They will deceive themselves to the harsh reality that they have rejected God’s provision. Jesus refers to such people as thieves and robbers (John 10:1) and reveals that being clothed in their self-righteousness will cause them to be cast into outer darkness (Matthew 22:11-13). The parable of the sower and the seed implies only one out of four possesses the right heart condition when it comes to the kingdom of God.
This brings us to the fact that the way to heaven is also wrought with trials and tribulation. The narrow entrance can cause one to balk at its rigid boundaries, but once an individual passes through the entrance, then he or she must walk down a narrow path that requires the disciplines of faith and obedience. This path is the way of the cross. It is about self-denial, death to the old ways, and following Jesus into a new living way. Since a cross is involved, it points to affliction, while contending with the self-life entails trials, and confronting Satan along the way points to tribulations. The cross is about putting the old life to death so that it ceases to be an entrance for Satan to tempt us, causing us to stumble by taking a detour to taste the deadly fruits of the world, or enlarging the borders of the narrow path to include the ways of error, heresy, and unbelief.
Although this simply touches on the subject of the narrow path, it explains why few find it. Christianity is not a feel-good religion; rather, it entails a hard way of self-denial and death, but the path leads to an eternal, glorious end.