The Narrow Way



In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His audience that there are only two ways by which they would pass through life.  In Mt. 7:13, 14 He described them as the broad way and the narrow way.  The broad way, He said, leads to destruction, but the narrow way leads to life.  He also said that more people will travel down the broad way than those who find and follow the narrow way.  He did not allow for any other option.

We sometimes speak of staying on the “straight and narrow”, a phrase that is derived from the old King James Version, which speaks of the “strait gate” and the “narrow way”.  The point, of course, is that there is only one way that leads to heaven, and it is the path less traveled.  This way is a more difficult path, as the old English word “strait” suggests, rather than being an unwavering line, as the modern term “straight” suggests.  It is a way of life that submits to the commands of the Lord and eschews the ways of the world.

The most significant aspect of the Lord’s description of the path that leads to life, however, is the term “narrow.”  This suggests that there is no room to waver, or to stray to one side or the other.  This is not a popular idea in many religious circles today, but the concept of a narrow way is well documented in the scriptures.  It is stated in a very powerful manner in the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua, and was endorsed by the Lord Himself during His earthly ministry.

When Moses was preparing Israel to enter the Promised Land after his death, he reminded them of God’s Law, and was the first to cite the principle of a narrow way.  In Deut. 5:32 he said, “So you shall observe to do just as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left.”  He repeated this command in Deut. 7:19, 20 with regard to the future kings of Israel, and again as he revealed the covenant of blessings and curses to Israel in Deut. 28:14.  Later, God bound Joshua with the same charge in Josh. 1:7.  Just before he died, Joshua repeated this charge to Israel (Josh. 23:6).

This is a powerful statement of what God requires of His people.  He expects us to stay on the pathway of obedience to His commands.  He does not want us to veer from the path to either side of it.  His way is a narrow way, and it is the only way that leads to eternal life.  Our Savior made this clear in Jn. 14:6, where He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (emphasis added).  There is simply no alternative to God’s narrow way.

In our time, we often use the terms “right” and “left” to describe a conservative point of view versus a liberal point of view.  Even in the church we often use these terms, and depending upon one’s perspective, we extoll the one while vilifying the other.  Unfortunately, we greatly err when we do so, because we have ignored or forgotten God’s point of view on matters of faith.  God does not call us to be conservative or liberal.  He calls us to walk straight down the narrow path.  He commands us to not turn aside either to the right or to the left.

A reason for this command is that those of a conservative mindset often tend to add to God’s commands, while those of a liberal mindset tend to take away from God’s commands.  Doing either of these things violates God’s will.  In Deut. 4:2 Moses commanded Israel that they must not add to or take away from God’s commands.  John the apostle restated this principle with regard to the book of Revelation (Rev. 22:18, 19), and we correctly apply this principle to the entire New Testament.

Jesus said that we have two choices: the broad way that leads to destruction, or the narrow way that leads to eternal life.  Therefore, let us choose the narrow way, and as we walk this path, let us not turn aside either to the right or to the left.

Build On The Rock



As the Lord brought the Sermon on the Mount to a close, He exhorted His audience to take His teachings to heart.  In Mt.7:24-27 Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (English Standard Version)

Most of us enthusiastically embrace this exhortation and particularly enjoy singing the song with our children about the wise man who built his house upon the rock.  The simplicity of the Lord’s point should insure that we all understand exactly what He meant by it.  However, it is not entirely clear that we actually grasp what the Lord intended for us to understand.  We glibly speak about building our spiritual houses on the rock, but what do we mean when we say so?  Is it possible we may be overlooking the full implications of what the Lord said?

The Lord’s closing remarks in the Sermon on the Mount are focused on obeying God’s will.  In Mt. 7:21-23 the Lord said, “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.” (NASB)

The Lord plainly taught that only those who do the Father’s will are going to enter heaven.  He then underscored this truth by the exhortation to build on the rock.  However, He did not leave us to our own devices to define what building on the rock means.  He explicitly said that one who hears His word and does it is the one who is building on the rock (Mt. 7:24).  This reinforces His statements in Mt. 7:21-23, especially with regard to those who thought they were doing the Lord’s will, but were not.

It is possible for one to be busy building a spiritual house, but to be doing so on the sand because it is not based upon obedience to God’s word.  The people of Mt. 7:21-23 were honest, sincere, religious people who were doing good works in service to the Lord.  In their minds they were building on the rock, but the Lord said they actually were practicing lawlessness.  In the context, this can only mean that they were not doing God’s will, even though they were sincerely religious.

The obvious lesson from the Lord’s statement at the end of the Sermon on the Mount is that the only way we can build on the rock is to obey God’s will in everything we do.  This means that we must do whatever He has commanded in His word.  At the end of the Great Commission, Jesus made this very point, saying, “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Mt. 28:20a).  In Psa. 127:1 Solomon said it this way, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”  Therefore, let us take the Lord’s teachings to heart and be wise builders by not only hearing what the Lord commanded, but by doing all that He commanded.  If we do so, our house will stand all the trials of life, because we have built on the rock.

Love Covers A Multitude of Sins



Way back in the 1960s the Beatles sang, “All you need is love.”  This sentiment became the anthem of that generation, although few truly understood the full implications of this statement.  Most who adopted this philosophy applied it in a purely humanistic manner.  Over time this philosophy has become part of the perverse nature of our culture in which every kind of wickedness must be tolerated, because, we are told, this is how we show love.  Even professed believers have fallen into this mistaken point of view, as evidenced by the churches who are now adjusting their belief systems to allow for behaviors that the scriptures clearly condemn.

While we may balk at the current application of “love thy neighbor” as practiced by many, we may feel at a loss to offer a truly biblical response.  The scriptures do, in fact, teach that all we need is love.  However, love, as defined in the scriptures, is far different from the world’s definition.  Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt. 22:37).  He added in v. 39, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  But He did not leave us to our own devices to define what love is.

In Jn. 14:15 the Lord said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”  In v. 23 He added these words: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”  This divine definition of love helps us to understand why loving God with all one’s heart, soul, and mind is the greatest commandment.  If we truly love God, we will do everything that He commands us in His word, and we will be acceptable to Him.

Jesus said that if we love Him and keep His word, then God the Father will love us and make His abode with us.  Here is the divine aspect of what love is.  Paul spoke of it in Rom. 5:8, where he said, “But God commends His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  God showed His love for us by sending His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.  The blood of Christ covers our sins when we are baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).

When Peter wrote his first letter, he spoke of the importance of love in our walk as Christians.  In 1 Pet. 4:8 he said, “Above all keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”  On the surface this may seem very much like the modern definition of love, but it is far from it.  We know this because the Lord’s definition of love contradicts the modern practice.  We know this also, because the Lord’s half-brother, James, also helped define it for us.  In Jas. 5: 19, 20 James said, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Peter said love covers a multitude of sins, and James says turning a sinner from his error covers a multitude of sins.  When we understand Peter and James in the light of what the Lord said about love, we recognize that love covers our sins by turning us away from our sins and leading us to obey God’s will.  This, after all, is why God sent His Son, so that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).  Love covers a multitude of sins, not by ignoring sin, but by turning us from sin to obey the gospel.  Love continues to cover a multitude of sins as Christians help each other stay on the narrow path that leads to eternal life.  Therefore, let us “keep fervent in our love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

The Ultimate Supreme Court



The ripping sound that recently echoed across our land was the moral fabric of our society being torn apart to placate a vocal and politically well-connected minority bent on forcing the rest of us to accept their lifestyle as legitimate.  When the United States Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that the Constitution guarantees the right of same-sex couples to marry, the reaction was immediate and passionate.  Gay rights advocates celebrated and the President spoke praising the decision, essentially calling on Christians to get over their negative beliefs on homosexuality.  Professed believers, on the other hand, are outraged and fearful of what this will mean for them in the future.  There is a very real likelihood that our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion will be the next target of the pro-homosexual lobby.

Whenever the U.S. Supreme Court renders an opinion, the winners celebrate and the losers complain.  In the last half century the court has increasingly rendered its decisions to satisfy political purposes, none more evident than the ruling on same-sex marriage.  The founders of our nation certainly never envisioned what we now recognize as an activist court.  Judges are supposed to interpret law, not make law, but that point has long ago been lost.  Those who believe in the Constitution are genuinely concerned at the way it is being shredded by judges at all levels purely for political favor.

As we reflect on this current ruling, there is one argument that many people, even some on the losing side of this particular case, have ignored.  The U.S. Supreme Court is the final authority in our country, but there is another court which is the Ultimate Supreme Court.  This is a court before which everyone who has ever lived, including the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, must appear.  It is a court from which there is no appeal, but whose every judgment is both just and fair.  This court is the court of God.

In 2 Cor. 5:10 Paul said we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive recompense (reward) for everything done in the body, whether good or bad.  In Rom. 14:12 he said that each one of us will give an account of himself to God.  In Rev. 20:11-15 John was given a vision of final judgment for all mankind.  In his description of it, he notes that everyone, both great and small, will stand before God on that day.  He points out that books will be opened and everyone will be judged from what is written in the books.  These books are the word of God, the scriptures.  The conclusion of his description of this event is that those whose names are not written in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death (Rev. 20:15).

Many who want believers to stop speaking against the homosexual lifestyle have made the statement, “Just let God judge,” as though those who oppose homosexuality have no right to speak on this subject.  If we did not care about the souls of practicing homosexuals, we would indeed remain silent.  However, because we know the content of God’s word and the consequences of sinful behavior, we must warn against this abomination.  We would not stand by silently while someone drove toward a cliff.  To do so would be criminal.  It is the same in this case as well.  We must warn of impending judgment so that those who are willing may repent and be saved.

God will indeed judge, but when He renders His decision there will be no appeal.  The scriptures are crystal clear that those who practice homosexuality are condemned by God (Lev. 18:22; Lev. 20:13; Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10).  This is not the judgment of any man.  It is the judgment of the Ultimate Supreme Court.