************ Sermon on Matthew 7:13-14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 6, 2002
"A Choice of Two Gates and Two Roads"
According to National Geographic's World magazine, scientists estimate that each day 45 different kinds of plants and animals become extinct. The primary cause? Human disruption of the environment. Experts who have studied this trend tell us that the clock of impending disaster is ticking and something must be done to stop it.
We should be concerned about this serious problem. But how much more should we be concerned about the man! The Bible tells us that man is an endangered species and that all men run the risk of being lost forever -- not by becoming extinct but by being eternally separated from God.
Our Lord knows this so on this first Sunday of the new year He calls us to make a choice. He wants us to make a choice because we are an endangered species. He wants us to make a choice so we do not spend eternity in hell.
God often calls His people to make a choice. Israel was at the border of the Promised Land. A new life was about to begin.
(Deut 30:19) This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live ...
Some 40 years later the people were again challenged to choose. They were now in the Promised Land. Most of the heathen people had been conquered. Joshua called the people together and confronted them with these words:
(Josh 24:15) "... choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve ... But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
Jeremiah, some 620 years later, issues a similar challenge to the people of God:
(Jer 21:8) This is what the LORD says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. These words were spoken at a crucial time of Israel's history. The people were about to be conquered by Babylon, and taken into captivity.
And now today, on this first Sunday of the new year, Jesus calls us to choose too. Our choice: the wide gate and broad road or the small gate and narrow road. Let me ask you: which do you choose? which have you chosen?
According to a recent poll, 80% of our fellow citizens believe in heaven and hell. And, the majority of them believe they will end up in heaven. In other words, most Americans would say they have chosen the right gate and the correct road. Is that realistic?
Matthew does not mention it, but Jesus talks about the two gates and two roads in response to a question. Luke has recorded that question for us: "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" (Lk 13:23). "Yes," says Jesus. "Many are called, but few are chosen" (RSV; Mt 22:14). Jesus lets us know that there will be many surprised, shocked people before the judgment throne of God. They think they are saved but instead God says, "I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me ..." (Lk 13:27).
Are you going to be one of those surprised, shocked people before the throne of God? You will be if you think you will get into heaven without choosing the small gate and narrow road.
You have a choice congregation. You have a choice between the wide gate and broad road or the small gate and narrow road. So let me ask you again: which do you choose? which have you chosen?
I The Wide Gate and Broad Road
A Jesus first tells us about the wide gate and the broad road. We are to imagine a city wall. In the wall is a gate – a broad, wide gate. It is easy for men on horses or camels to enter this gate. It is easy for oxen pulling loaded wagons to enter this gate. It is easy for the caravans of the East to enter this gate. We are also to imagine a road – a spacious, paved, and straight road. It is easy to travel on this road. It has room for many horses, men, wagons, and camels.
Subtopic: Broad is the Road
When Ruth and I first traveled to British Columbia to serve a church there, we were quite disappointed in the Trans-Canada highway. In our minds, at least, the road would be like the one from Three Rivers to the Sequoias with switchback after switchback. We imagined ourselves slowly climbing the mountain peaks in our orange Ford Pinto. Imagine our surprise at finding a 4-lane expressway through the heart of the Rockies. The mountains had been bulldozed and dynamited out of the way.
Jesus said, "Broad is the road that leads to destruction."
B Jesus tells us two things about the wide gate and broad road. First, "many enter through it." The wide gate and broad road is highly popular. The majority of the people prefer it over the small gate and narrow road.
Second, Jesus tells us that the wide gate and broad road "leads to destruction." This reminds me of what happened in Florida a few years back.
Subtopic: Broad is the Road
On a foggy morning a ship hit the supports holding up a 6-lane bridge. A big section of the highway fell into the ocean. A number of cars and trucks were not able to stop in time and fell the 60 or so feet into the ocean below. When I heard about this I thought of Jesus' words: "For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction."
C Jesus' intention is not to warn us against traveling on I-99 or I-5. He is not speaking as the Secretary of Transportation. Rather, He is talking about the gate and the road that leads to hell's destruction. "The road to hell," says Jesus, "is broad and straight and smooth." It is easy, really easy, to get to hell. And many people – in fact, all people – quite naturally choose this road for themselves. Follow the crowds, take the easy way, and you will end up in hell.
Let's not make the mistake of thinking less of hell than we should. The language the Bible uses to describe it is not pleasant: a place of outer darkness where men will weep and gnash their teeth, a place where the smoke of torment goes up forever and ever and those who are there have no rest, a lake that burns with fire and brimstone. It's a real place, a scary place, a place that no sane person should ever want to enter.
Title: The Fire that Can't Go Out
For over 30 years a fire has been burning deep within the earth of Centralia, a small community of 1,200 residents in the heart of Pennsylvania's anthracite coal fields. Fifteen different federal, state, and local agencies have spent more than $3.5 million to extinguish the fire without success. Persons can touch the earth and feel the heat. Deep holes and crevices vent hot, smoky air and noxious gases. One citizen said: "Standing by a hole, you can hear the fires roaring. It's an eerie sound, like the beating of a thousand wings."
Government officials have indicated that they are no longer willing to attempt to put out the fire; it is a futile task. As flames continue to burn without restraint, townspeople plead for someone to save their community.
In the Bible Jesus warns us of an even greater fire that burns forever for those who choose the wrong gate and the wrong road -- "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire" (Mt 25:41).
II The Small Gate and Narrow Road
A Jesus tells us about the small gate and narrow road too. Once again we are to imagine a city wall. In this wall we are to see a small, narrow, low gate. This sort of gate lets in only one person at a time. It is used especially in war-time to let in spies who were sent out to scout the enemy camp. We are also to imagine a road – a narrow, bumpy, rough, steep, and dangerous road. This sort of road can handle only one person or mule at a time. Actually, it is more of a trail than a road.
B Jesus tells us two things about the small gate and narrow road. First, "only a few find it." The small gate and narrow road are not that well-traveled. The majority of the people never find it and therefore do not use it. Again, this reminds me of an experience Ruth and I had when we lived in British Columbia:
Title: Back Roads of the Okanagan
An elderly couple who attended Bible Study with us in Grand Rapids came to visit us. We were showing them around the countryside. We had purchased a book entitled, "Back Roads of the Okanagan." We decided to take one of those roads. What a road -- huge boulders, ruts, puddles, deserted lakes, abandoned quarries, cliffs which dropped hundreds of feet. It was a logging trail. All the trees had been cut down and in their place were hundred of acres of wild purple flowers. It looked like Mars. The road kept branching off and there were no road signs. We were lost and getting low on gas. We went 50 miles on that road and met only one car. I thought of the words of Jesus, "narrow is the road ... and only a few find it."
Second, Jesus tells us that the small gate and narrow road "leads to life." Everlasting life, that is. Eternal life. Life forever with God. Life that does end even with death. Life that goes beyond this earth and this body.
C What Jesus is really talking about is not the highways and byways of Tulare County. Rather, He is talking about the road that leads to eternal life. "The road to heaven," says Jesus, "is small and narrow and you cannot stray to the left or the right or you will fall to your doom." And, very few people ever find or take this road.
Jesus reminds us that the road to heaven is not the easy or the natural way for a lost-in-sin mankind. It requires sacrifice, commitment, a life of service, a constant struggle against sin, a continual reevaluation of one's priorities, and so on. However, it is only by walking this road that one is eternally safe.
Topic: Eternal LifeThe afterlife is longer and more important than this life. So you need to make sure you are walking the right road.
Title: Preparing for the Afterlife
If you ever get the opportunity to visit Egypt and the tombs and pyramids, study what was required to construct some of those monuments. Some studies revealed that it required the efforts of one hundred thousand workers for forty years to build one of the great pyramids. As you tour the area there, you can't help but ask why. Why so much effort? Why would somebody put that amount of emphasis on a tomb, on the afterlife?
The answer is that the Egyptians understood full well they would spend a lot more time in the afterlife than they would spend in this life. Granted, their conceptions of what would happen in the afterlife were a little skewed. But the point is, they understood to the core of their being that the afterlife was a whole lot more important than this life, and so they prepared for the afterlife during this life. God had placed eternity in their hearts.
III God's Grace and Christ
A "Enter through the narrow gate," says Jesus. On the first Sunday of this new year Jesus wants us to choose, He calls us to choose, the way that leads to life. It is not easy to enter through the narrow gate. It is not easy to walk the narrow road. But that is the only way to be saved. That is the only way to get life everlasting.
You have a choice congregation. You have a choice between the wide gate and broad road or the small gate and narrow road. You have a choice between hell's destruction and life everlasting. So let me ask you again: which do you choose? which have you chosen?
B "Enter through the narrow gate," says Jesus. This is a plea, a prayer, a command, that Jesus gives to each one of us. However, He can't leave us on our own to find and walk that road. For the Lord knows that sinful human nature cannot help but choose the wide gate and broad road that leads to destruction. Left on our own none of us would choose the small gate and narrow road that leads to life.
At the end of verse 14 Jesus tells us only a "few find it." Only a few find the narrow gate. So only a few can walk the narrow road. Usually when you seek something, you find it only after a strenuous search. When our David was 2 years old he took the toilet paper holder. We searched high and low for it. Where would a 2 year old put such an item? It took us a couple of weeks but I finally found it when I tried to put on my rubber boots.
Jesus talks about "finding" the narrow gate. However, this finding is not the result of our searching. Rather, it is the result of God's searching. You know the words of the song:
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knewThose who find the small gate and narrow road are those in whom God works with His Spirit so that they seek to be a follower of Christ.
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
it was not I that found, O Savior true;
no, I was found, was found of thee.
C Finally, what is the small gate and narrow road that leads to life? You know the words of Christ:
(Jn 10:7) I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. The way to heaven, the way to life, the way of eternal joy, is through Christ and through Christ alone. "Enter through the narrow gate." In other words, those who walk this road and enter through this gate are those who come to Jesus, believe in Jesus, give Jesus their heart, and dedicate to Jesus their life.
(Jn 14:6) I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
This also helps us define the wide gate and broad road that leads to destruction. The wide gate and broad road is anything that does not include Christ and Christ alone. People today want to believe that all roads and all paths lead to heaven. It makes no difference what you believe, just so long as you believe – even if you choose to believe in nothing. In other words, those who walk this road and enter through this gate are those who lead a "good life" – what we know as the heresy of work's righteousness. But it also includes secular humanists – those who say religion is a private affair and has no place in public life. It includes far eastern religions, the new age movement, Muslims and Jews, and cults and sects like the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses and the Moonies. It includes those who don't decide either for or against God; they are practical atheists who live and die like there is no God, like God makes no difference and has no impact on day-to-day life. Most people travel down this road and through this gate because it is so easy – it requires no commitment, no changes, no repentance, no confession, no conversion, no worship, no obedience. You simply go with the flow and live your life.
(Mt 7:13-14) "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. (14) But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."On this first Sunday of the new year you have a choice, congregation. You have a choice between the wide gate and broad road or the small gate and narrow road. Let me ask you again: which do you choose? which have you chosen?
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