Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The One and Only Way (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 and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13–14, NASB95)

There are many philosophies in the world and many ways that people pursue toward their expected end or reward. Some pursue a path of works and hoping to please or satisfy their Maker, while others might pursue a path of pleasure now because they don’t believe in anything after. Some believe in a good grandfather God who will look the other way, while others believe in a harsh and judgmental God whom they strive to please while avoiding His harsh wrath. Some believe that while there might be a God, He lost interest in us a long time ago and we are pretty much on our own. Some pursue a path of balancing their good and their bad according to their own scale with the expectation that their good will outweigh the bad and they will wind up okay in the end. Some pursue a path of do it now and fix it later. Some believe in a single God as do Jews, Christians, and even Muslims, while others believe that there is a plurality of gods or even no god at all. And for all of these there are probably an abundance of books and systems of belief that serve to explain and propagate them even further.

And when it comes to the Bible itself, some believe it as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and others think of it as a good book which maybe God endorses but does not solidly stand behind all that it contains, and that maybe it has even been supplemented or altered by a later source. As we look around us we clearly can see that there is an abundance of ways from which to choose, even to the point of picking from here and there in order to make your own smorgasbord path.

Entering into a discussion of faith with others can truly be an enlightening experience as their hearts are revealed in what they choose to believe. Jesus said that there is plenty of room for deception which ultimately leads to destruction, but that there is only one small narrow path that leads to life. And He adds the most sobering words that there are only a few, as compared to the multitudes on mankind who have lived, are living, or will live, who will find this way.

The crazy thing is that it is not that God has hidden it from man, but that man because of the hardness of his own heart has suppressed that which God has readily revealed in His creation. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:18–21, NASB95)

God has made Himself known in His creation and He makes Himself known through the lives of His people as they world observes the work that He accomplishes in those who seek after Him by faith and follow His ordinances. “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11–12, NASB95) God changes lives and this change is a testimony of Him which brings Him glory.

God also, and most importantly, has revealed Himself through His Word. “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:19–21, NASB95) The life of the Christian is not one of blindness and guessing, but one of hiding the living and active Word of God in our hearts as we grow in our knowledge of Him and walk in trust submitting ourselves to His will and His ways.

Today those who trust in God through Christ are known as Christians. But it was not this way in the beginning. “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1–2, NASB95) As we see here in Acts 9:2 and also later several times in Paul’s testimony these early believers were referred to as “the Way.” It was “the Way” that Paul was opposed to and which He sought to destroy. And it was only a few verses later that we read of Saul being confronted by Jesus and being converted from a persecutor of “the Way” to becoming one who came to know the true and narrow way.

Shortly after Saul was saved on the road to Damascus, Ananias came to him after receiving a vision from God (Acts 9:10-19) and told Saul of God’s plan for him to reach the Gentiles (non-Jews). So, after having his sight restored Saul went out to proclaim this change of heart that God had made in him. People were amazed at the message of this one who had been persecuting followers of Christ and was now proclaiming Him true. It wasn’t long before they sought to kill him. So Saul left, and went to Jerusalem, but even there the disciples were afraid of him because they knew of his previous work of seeking their death. It was then that Barnabas stepped in and interceded for Saul. Saul and Barnabas then went our again with the message of salvation to all. Acts 9:31 records, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.” (Acts 9:31, NASB95)

A lot happens in the verses that follow, both in God revealing more clearly His plan of salvation for all men and in others persecuting those who had come to faith in Christ. As the message was being spread the persecution was getting more intense. In Acts 11:19 we read that this persecution and the martyrdom of Stephen was causing believers to disperse. And it is in Acts 11 that we first read of these followers of Christ being referred to as Christians. It was not a matter of them adopting this term and self-identifying themselves in this way, but it was a term given them by the people who observed them and pointed them out even in this derogatory way. “And he [Barnabas] left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:25–26, NASB95)

Jesus spoke of a narrow way, and we find this way clearly declared in the truths of God’s inerrant and infallible Word. It is a way that is not subject to the whims of man, nor the pressures of any outside source. It is a way that has withstood the most intense of persecution and ridicule, and it is the only way that leads from destruction to life. And that way is by believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for our sins and who rose from the dead on the third day just as the Scriptures had declared in advance would happen and testify for us actually did happen.

Before Jesus was arrested and crucified He was speaking to His disciples about His soon leaving, and Thomas said to Him, “Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”” (John 14:5, NASB95) Scripture records for us Jesus’ response. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”” (John 14:6–7, NASB95)

Jesus Himself declared that He is the only way to the Father, there is no other path which leads to salvation. In Acts we read, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, NASB95)

Eternity is not a buffet line where man is allowed to pick and choose his favorite aspects. The Bible says that there is only one Way and that way is Jesus Christ. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life.” As a Christian I am proud to boast in my God and in having being given salvation by His Son—Jesus Christ, and as a person who was wandering lost I am thankful that God has indeed shown me and called me to His correct and only Way.

No comments: