The road less traveled

Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” NLT

According to the Bible, we are all going through life as “travelers” instead of “dwellers.” The question is, “Which way are we traveling?” “Which road are we on?” “Which path are we taking?”

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. For the gate is small (narrow) and the way is narrow (difficult) that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” NASB

In these verses, we find four contrasts:

Two Ways: There are two ways or paths we can take in life. One is the “broad way.” The word translated “broad” means “spacious, roomy.” There is room on this road for a wide variety of people and opinions, all of whom are spiritually dead! It has many lanes:

There is a lane for unbelievers, skeptics, agnostics, and atheists – and all who live immoral ungodly lives!

There is a lane for hard-working worldly people preoccupied with success and making money and are obsessed with pleasure!

There is a lane for morally good people who are depending on their own goodness for salvation!

There is a lane for conscientious religious people who think they will be saved by their man-made rituals!

There is a lane for Christians who started off right but are now lukewarm hypocrites!

There is a lane for all who believe that there are other things more important in life than Jesus Christ and His church: 1 John 5:21 – “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” NLT

There is a lane for all who believe that there are many roads that lead to heaven besides following Jesus: John 14:6 – “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” NKJV

There are no curbs, no boundaries or any guardrails on this road. You can go where you want to go, be what you want to be, and do what you want to do. “The way is easy that leads to destruction.”

Then there is the “narrow way.” The word translated “narrow” means “to press, to be pressed together, to be compressed.”

Unlike the previous road, it is not spacious or roomy – Jesus said it is not an easy pathway. “The way that leads to life is hard.”

The Christian life is not for cowards or quitters: Revelation 21:8 – “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” NKJV

The way to life may be narrow, but it is wide enough to include “people of all generations and ages, tongues and dialects, races and nationalities,” all who are willing to follow Jesus!

Two Gates: Next, Jesus said that there are “two gates.” There is the “wide gate.” It is not difficult to enter this gate, and there is no limit to the amount of “baggage” you can take with you as you enter it. You do not have to leave anything behind.

You can come in with your sin and selfishness, your pride and prejudices, your fear and anxieties, your anger and hatred and bitterness and unforgiveness, etc!

Then there is the small, “narrow gate.” The KJV calls it “the strait gate.” “Strait” is from a Latin word that means “narrow.”

The Greek word in verse 13 means “narrow.” The word is translated “small” in verse 14. Since this gate is small, you cannot just stroll through this one by accident. It is easy to miss; you have to look for it. It is entered by “choice,” not “chance.”

Also, since it is narrow, you have to get rid of your personal “baggage” in order to enter.

Luke 9:23 – “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” NKJV

Following Jesus means that we are living the Christian life with a holy hatred of sin and a resolve to get rid of our baggage and become more like Jesus daily.

The narrow way is the way of Christ: John 10:9 – “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved…” NASB

The gate to life may be small and narrow, but it is big enough and wide enough for any who are willing to come to the Lord. The best decision you will ever make is to follow Jesus, because those who walk with the Lord always reach their destination!

Two Crowds: Jesus also talks about two crowds, two groups of people. One is the group called the “many.”

“There are many who enter through” the wide gate, “many” who are on the broad way.

The broad way is the way of the multitude, the way of the masses. The motto of this road is “Everybody’s doing it.”

When Moses was instructing Israel, he said: Exodus 23:2 – “You shall not follow the masses in doing evil…” NASB

Why? Because as the old Cherokee saying goes – “He who follows the crowd will soon get lost in it!”

In contrast to the group called the “many,” there is the group called the “few” who find everlasting life by following Jesus all the way!

We should not think that “few” means “almost nobody.” In Revelation 7:9, the saved are described as “…a vast crowd, too great to count…” Nevertheless, this special group is still relatively few compared to the many on the broad way.

Jesus concluded one parable with these words: Matthew 22:14 – “For many are called, but few are chosen.” NLT

The message of Matthew 7 is that “not everyone will please God.” The world does not want to believe this. A popular belief today is that anytime someone dies – anyone, good or bad – he “goes into the light,” where loving people wait to greet him. Jesus said that is not the case.

According to Jesus, more are headed to the realm of “outer darkness” than are headed to the “realm of light!”

The narrow way is a restricted way, and it is often a difficult way! It can even be a lonely way. If you follow Jesus on the narrow way, you will definitely be persecuted:

2 Timothy 3:12 – “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” NLT

“I would rather walk alone than with a crowd going in the wrong direction!”

Two Destinations: The broad way leads to “destruction.” The word translated “destroy” or “destruction” means “to utterly destroy, to ruin.” This word does not mean “extinction,” but “a loss of all that gives value and worth to human existence – not of being, but of well-being – eternal misery!

Solomon wrote: Proverbs 14:12 – “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” NLT

If you follow the broad path you will be eternally separated from God: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9: “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day…”  NKJV

What does “everlasting destruction” mean? Picture this in your mind? Coming from every direction are the sounds of a massive, roaring, blazing fire, but you can’t see anything because it’s completely dark. All around you are the sounds of anguish, sounds of untold billions of people screaming and crying out in pain!

These people seem to be in the process of being cut up into thousands of pieces. Where are they?  The place the Bible calls “hell” – the burning lake of fire, where people will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The Bible describes hell as the most horrifying place imaginable, so horrific it is beyond our ability to comprehend, so dreadful it brings tears to my eyes to even preach about it!

According to the Bible, hell is a miserable place of great suffering, intense agony and torment.  It is a brutal place of horror, pain, grief, punishment and tears.

Hell is an awful place of choking, stinking sulfuric fumes; a burning, churning sea of fire where all you can hear are people screaming and crying, because their bodies are rolling in flames of liquid fire.

Hell is a terrible place of darkness, disorientation, dread, torment and unbelievable pain; a lake which burns with fire and brimstone; a place of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth; a place where the soul will be violently tormented, continually, ceaselessly, eternally! Hell is ugly, ugly, ugly!

Hell is a place of eternal anguish and misery; a place of eternal burning; a place of eternal darkness; a place without rest, comfort, peace or hope!

Hell will be a Godless, Christ-less place filled with lost souls condemned to an eternity of fiery darkness, pain, misery and regret – filled with people who will say for all of eternity – “I don’t want to be here, I wish I would have listened, I wish I could have just one more chance.”

“People in hell will be tormented by the thoughts of neglected opportunities: ‘If I had obeyed the gospel; if I had listened to the pleading of my wife; if I had gone forward that night! You will not be dead five seconds until you would give ten million worlds like this one for an opportunity to become a Christian.” Jimmy Allen

The thought that God will punish forever those who have not obeyed Him in a place like this is horrifying, but that is exactly what the Bible teaches: Revelations 20:15 – “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”  NKJV

The broad way leads to “destruction,” but the narrow way leads to “life.” Revelation 21:3-4: “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”  NKJV

Many think of the narrow way as being difficult because of the price that has to be paid at the beginning, but that is nothing compared to the price that will be paid at the end by those on the broad way.

We have four contrasts, but only two options – the narrow way that leads to life or the broad way that leads to destruction.

John R. W. Stott wrote: “…there are according to Jesus only two ways, hard and easy (there is no middle way), entered by two gates, broad and narrow (there is no other gate), trodden by two crowds, large and small (there is no neutral group), ending in two destinations, destruction and life (there is no third alternative).”

Luke 13:22-30:Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” NASB

Jesus teaches that if you need to change the direction of your life – do it at once, because when He comes back, it will be too late to alter course.

The narrow way is the difficult pathway, and only a few are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to travel on it. The broad way is the easy way, the popular way, chosen by many. Most do not like to face this unpleasant truth, but if Jesus’ words mean anything, they teach that more will be lost than will be saved.

“Are you on the narrow road? If you say you do not know, then you are not, for no one enters the narrow way by accident. If you are not on the narrow road, then you are on the broad road and are headed for eternal destruction! You are only one heartbeat away from eternity – are you ready!”

How can we get on the narrow way? Jesus answered that question in the verses that follow – by obeying what He tells us:

Matthew 7:21–27:Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell – and great was its fall.” NASB

Jesus specifically teaches us how to enter the narrow gate to life:

We must believe in Jesus: John 8:24 – “…unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” NLT

The gate is too narrow for those who want to believe in some other savior.

We must repent of our sins: Luke 13:3 – “…unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” NKJV

The gate is too narrow for those who don’t want to let go of their old lifestyles – to stop their willful deliberate sinning!

“Repentance doesn’t mean anything if you keep doing what you are sorry for!”

We are to confess His name before men: Matthew 10:32-33: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” NKJV

The gate is too narrow for those reluctant to take a public stand for Jesus. When you confess Jesus to be the Son of God, you are not just acknowledging His identity – you are taking a stand against the opinions of the world and aligning yourself with Him, or pledging your loyalty to Him.

If you have not confessed Him, you are “undeclared.” There is no such thing as a secret disciple!

We must be baptized in order to be saved: Mark 16:15-16: “…Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” NKJV

The gate is too narrow for those who are too stubborn and unwilling to obey Him. Jesus said: John 14:15 – “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” NASB

We must live faithful and Godly lives: 1 John 1:7 – “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” NKJV

Revelation 2:10 – “…Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” NKJV

Each of us, at one time or another has experienced some kind of failure in our spiritual lives. When we fail Jesus and do a poor job of following, He always wants us to try again.

Jesus never abandons those who are willing to try again. Our salvation does not depend on our perfect performance, but instead is anchored in our constant willingness to follow!

No matter how far wrong you’ve gone, you can always turn around! It doesn’t matter how far you have fallen or how big a mess you’ve made of your life, you are never too lost to be saved!

Isaiah 1:18 – “Come, let’s talk this over, says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool!” TLB

How can we stay on the narrow way? By continuing to obey Christ’s commands! The New Testament does not teach that it is impossible for one who is on the narrow way to leave:

James 5:19-20: “My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.” NLT

Sadly, more than one traveler on the narrow way has grown tired of its restrictions and has abandoned it for the broad, easy way!

Conclusion: In Matthew 7, Jesus says “many” who assume they are on the path to heaven will find out that hell is their final destination – no doubt some of them are in this room!

Is it possible that you think you are on the narrow road but you are actually on the broad road?

Donald Whitney once said, “If a person is wrong about being right with God, then ultimately it really doesn’t matter what he or she is right about.”

Is it possible that you are “wrong about being right with God?”

One road leads to everlasting destruction, away from the presence of the Lord – the other road leads to everlasting life with the Lord! In simple terms, one is “the highway to heaven while the other is the low road to hell!”

“Life has many choices – eternity has two – which choice do you make, which road are you on?”

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