Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Narrow Gate

Have you ever found yourself having to squeeze through a tight opening. One where you had to get uncomfortable. Maybe you have had to crawl under the house to check on a pipe or an AC vent. Maybe you have a very small opening to the attic. Our house has two openings to the attic, one opening has a nice large closet-sized door, the other has a small door that is about 18 inches wide by about 36 inches tall. One door leads to a large storage area where most of our junk ends up and the other ends up in a very small part of the attic where only a few boxes can be stacked. Guess which door goes where! Yes, the small door leads to where I usually need to get. I have to bend over, hunch down and hope I can avoid hitting my head or ripping my shirt on a splinter or nail. If I gain much more weight I will not be able to get through that door!

As I thought about this I thought about one of my favorite movies of all time, The Shawshank Redemption. In this movie Tim Robins plays the part of Andy Dufresne, a convict who plans an elaborate escape from prison. Over the course of many months Andy chips and picks his way through his cell wall. The opening he creates is very small, not much wider than his shoulders. He has to keep it small so he can hide it with a poster of Raquel Welch. One morning as the prisoners are lining up to be accounted for Andy is missing. The warden and the guards have no idea where he went. It appears as though he simply disappears until, in a fit of rage, the warden throws some trinkets Andy had on his shelf at the wall and they disappear through a hole in the poster. The movie flashes back and shows Andy crawling and struggling to get through the opening in his cell wall and later crawling and inching his way through a sewer pipe until he falls into a ditch and into freedom.

So where am I going with all of this? I have been asked by a good friend of mine to step in and speak at his church this Sunday. He is taking his son to college and will be out of town. As I write this I am planning to speak on a familiar passage from Matthew.

Matthew 7: 13- "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

I am not sure what you think about when you think about a gate, but as I have studied this passage my understanding of this gate has drastically changed. I do not think it will be wide enough for more than one person at a time. We each one have to enter by ourself. We cannot be pulled or pushed through by a relative or even a pastor. We cannot be carried through by a congregation that really wants us to go through. Each one of us must make the decision to follow the Holy Spirit's leading and enter the gate alone. I think it is a difficult gate to get through, similar to my attic door or the hole that Andy Dufresne escaped through. The decision each person has to come to is whether or not they are ready to bow the knee to Christ. To admit that you and I are wretched sinners who do not seek after God, who deserve to be separated from Him and are totally dependent on His mercy and grace to change that. Once we come to a place where we understand this we can begin the process of salvation. Jesus tells us what this process is:

Mark 1: 14, 15 - 14After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

Repent... Repent means to turn around and go in a different direction. We have to understand where we were headed in order to really understand what it means to turn around and head in the opposite direction. Understand who we are without Christ, lost sinners in need of a savior. Understand that God, in His holiness, is perfectly just in sending sinners like you and me to hell. Understand that if you ask Him to forgive you for your sin He will. Understand that when you ask Him to help you leave this old self behind He will.

Believe...In who Christ is and what He did for you and me on the cross some 2000 years ago. Believe that He was the payment for our sins. Believe that if you truly understand this and have confessed this you can invite the Holy Spirit to come into your life and He will. God will send the Holy Spirit to live in you and to make you a new creation.

The only alternative to this, according to Matthew 7:13 is to travel down the broad road and enter through the wide gate into destruction. Whether you and I realize it or not, we start our life traveling down the broad road getting closer to the wide gate every day. We are born into sin, born on the wide road leading to the wide gate. We must come to a realization of this and move to the narrow road so we can enter through the narrow gate. Jesus starts verse 13 with a command "Enter through the narrow gate." This is not a suggestion, this is a warning to be heeded. He is like the Bridge Out sign on a highway. He is warning us to change our path to change our destination. He knows what lies ahead for those who don't. Consider what path you are on and whether or not you need to move before you run out of road.

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