The Narrow way
The Narrow Way.
We have just held a national referendum – to choose the flag for New Zealand. It was in the news for months, long drawn out process that it was. I don’t know what your opinion is, or even if you have one; but I do know that the opinion of the nation was to retain the original flag. Personally, I was glad about that. But 56% voted for retaining the flag and 42% voted for the one with the fern on it. That is the way we do things. The majority decides. What most people want goes. We call it: “democracy”. And it is the way many nations are run. We vote for who runs the country and we regard nations that do not have a democratic system as less enlightened and wrong. But do you see what is the principle behind that pervading system? – The majority is right. And it is not just choosing a government or a flag – it runs through all we do, the way we live. What is right is determined not by what is true but what most people do. In fact it is enshrined in law – the legal system looks to the principle of precedent – norms of behaviour determine what is the law is. What is the accepted behaviour by the mass of the populace becomes enshrined in law as legal, as right. What society deems to be reprehensible is outlawed; but society’s opinion changes. When I was a lad, a sexual relationship outside of a marriage relationship was deemed to be wrong – so the law said you could divorce your wife if she was unfaithful. But now it is not illegal to have a sexual relationship outside of marriage – it has become common practise and the law has accommodated to that. So is it right or wrong? And who determines? The majority? I learned French at school – well, that is not strictly accurate – I did French at school, I didn’t learn that much; but one expression I do remember: “Que es que ce le plupart dit?” It means “What does the majority say?” It was just a little story, something trivial and the kids in the story were deciding whether to go to the cinema or to go swimming. So how did they decide? What does the majority say? And that is the principle by which many of us live! The saying stuck with me – because that is the principle most people live by. I’ll give you a trivial example. When I started work 36 years ago I was told that we had a morning and afternoon tea break, and that break was 10 minutes long. Now that provision has not changed – but how long do most people take? 20-25 minutes. Everyone else does it, so that’s how long I’ll take. What we do is determined by what the majority do. But what if the way of the majority is wrong?! What if we have all got it wrong?! There is one verse I want to focus on tonight: [P] [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.] I used to teach Sunday School. Did any of you ever go to Sunday School? Did you have to learn memory verses there? We used to get the kids to say the verse over and over again so that it would get imprinted in their memory – we would get those who had wheatbix for breakfast to say it, then those who had toast; we would rub out a few words and get them to say it again. Well I’m not going to do that with you – but let’s say it together a couple of times. [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.] These are the words of Jesus Himself! The Son of God who claimed to speak only the words that His Father gave Him to say. He claimed that His words were true. And here He speaks of two ways: a broad way and a narrow way. There is a narrow gate that is hard to enter, a narrow path that is hard to find. Jesus says that there only a few who find it. And there is a wide gate that is easy to enter; a broad way that is easy to find. It is the way that most go – a nice smooth highway. [P] A motorway – you can make some speed and have a comfortable trip. The only thing is that the two ways lead to two different destinations! It is a broad easy road to travel, an easy comfortable life, the way that the majority goes. But THE MAJORITY IS WRONG! They have chosen the wrong path! It is leading to the wrong destination. The end of that highway is destruction! Jesus said that the broad way leads to destruction and many enter through that wide gate. Most people are headed for destruction! It says twice in the book of Proverbs: [Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death!] What if your had spent your whole life pursuing a way that seemed pretty good to you only to find out that it was ending up in totally the wrong place, the last place you wanted to be? It is said of the male of the species that we don’t like asking directions – we will carry-on on the road we have chosen even when it becomes obvious that it is not the right way, we won’t admit that we are lost. The ladies are wiser; they will stop and ask directions. Perhaps that might be a wise thing for you to do tonight – make sure that the road you are on is headed to the right destination. Don’t just join the convoy and go where everyone else is going. Make sure that you are on the right road. Because what is the destination of that narrow road that few people discover? Jesus said that it leads to LIFE! Tell me which do you prefer: destruction or life? It seems a fairly obvious choice, doesn’t it? But few find it! You won’t find it by doing what everyone else is doing. You are going to have to go against the current, a way that is different to everyone else – and that is not easy, but it is best. Tell me, say you do eat humble pie, the ultimate shame and ask for directions; and you find out that you are on the wrong road. You are headed in totally the wrong direction! What do you do? If you are going the wrong way, what you need to do is do a “Uey”. You have to TURN AROUND. You have to go in the opposite direction, not the way the majority are going. The Bible has a word for this “turning around”: “repentance”. [REPENT] Repentance (shuv in Hebrew) means to turn around. It is a whole change in the way you are thinking. What is the way the majority thinks? What is in it for me? How can I get ahead? Make a buck? Get promotion? Have a comfortable life? Succeed? Different goals but at heart they are all the same: it I SELFISHNESS! [SELFISHNESS] What is the broad way? It is the way of selfishness! We seek our own life. Jesus says if you seek it you will lose it: [Luke 17:33 “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.] There is a totally different way that few are going! Instead of living for yourself, it is to lay your life down. It makes no sense, it is totally back to front to our way of thinking. But Jesus says if you lose your life you will preserve it. It is living for self that ends in destruction. Look at Jesus: He did not live for Himself, He of His own free will laid down His life, died on a cross taking the punishment of others. And what happened? He gained life – He rose again! Not only gained His own life back but He obtained life for all those who would die with Him; lay down their own lives to follow Him. Jesus said in [Luke 13:24 Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.] There is coming a day of judgement when we will each have to give an account of what we have done. Many, when facing God on that day, will want to enter life; but Jesus says that they will not be able. Why? They have followed the broad way that everyone else was going – Jesus says we must strive, make every effort to go the narrow way. Go against the flow, deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him: [Luke 9:23-24 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.] We all have things that we like to do, pleasures; and we seek to gratify them – we pursue pleasure, the things we enjoy. To deny self is to say “No!” “No” to what I want to do and “yes” to what Jesus wants me to do. The world says the way to the life you want is to seek it, look out for number one. Jesus says that it is the opposite! If you want life, you have to lose it. Not many figure that that is the right way. It is the narrow way. The narrow way is the way of self-denial. [SELF DENIAL] Look even people in the church have fallen for going the selfish path – look who pushes forward when the food is served but is nowhere to be seen when work is to be done – it is selfishness. This is not the way Jesus walked. It is the WRONG WAY! Let’s face it; at heart we are all selfish. Jesus is the only truly selfless person. You cannot live this selfless way yourself – you have to have the life of another, Jesus. First we turn from our own way (REPENT) and then rely on Jesus’ life (BELIEVE) [BELIEVE]. It is only through His life that we can live this selfless narrow way. He is the way [John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.] He is the only way – it is extremely narrow – exclusively limited to through Jesus alone. [Acts 4:12 “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.”] Any other way is the wrong way! The way of self is the way to destruction; it is the WRONG WAY! All I can do is to warn you about continuing on this path – the destination is destruction! I once had this scene that came to my mind and it has stuck with me – it was of people picnicking by a lovely river on a pleasant day. There were signs telling people not to go into the water because it was dangerous. But the day was hot and the water cool and inviting. A few people went in and encouraged the others, it was so refreshing. It was obvious that they were having a good time so many joined them swimming. Some were reticent, they said, “What about the sign?” The others laughed, “Look the current is gentle and the water is not that deep. It is not dangerous. Everybody else is enjoying it and no one has found any danger.” So they ignored the sign and joined the other in the river. They drifted gently with the current downstream and then they began to notice that the current was getting a bit faster and stronger; but that made it even more fun, riding the rapids. The current got faster still; and some were starting to get concerned. They tried to head for the shore but the current was now too strong to fight. It was too late – they had to go wherever the current took them. Faster and faster the current ran until the water roared. Then they rounded a bend and there before them was a mighty waterfall and they were headed for the precipice and could do nothing to save themselves. If only they had heeded the warning sign and not just followed what everyone else was doing: [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.] May you not be found among the majority – enter through the narrow way. As Moses said long ago: [Deuteronomy 30:19-20 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days.]