Morning. David Sorn. Pastor of Renovation Church.
Thanks to Eric Berg for filling in last week while I was on vacation.
We are continuing our sermon on the mount series this morning
I want you to imagine with me that you are out on vacation out west in the mountains.
Maybe you are on vacation with your family or with friends…pick whoever you want…it’s your imagination
And you decide to go hiking together as a group
Get sick of them, decide to go on ahead…walk for a few hours…notice you’re lost.
Walk further…come to fence. Two gates (describe them)…notice paths behind them. (describe paths)
But just as you’re literally heading towards the nicer gate and path, you notice an old sign:
It says, “Take caution. Looks can be deceiving.” Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
What would you do? Would you go by what you can see? Or would you trust the old sign? After all, it has been there a while, and no one’s taken it down despite what it says.
Because after all, looks can indeed be deceiving. What if I told you that from a bird’s eye perspective or God’s eye perspective, that the old narrow road that led up the mountain actually was the right road.
It’s a difficult road, but it eventually leads back down to a wonderful resort and safety.
And that the WIDE road once it gets out of your natural sight, actually gets even more treacherous and has predators, and sudden cliffs, and eventually just ends at a cliff with slippery rocks on the edge
That would change your perspective if you could know all that at the beginning, right?
Right. But you couldn’t fully know all of that info. You’d only be able to decide if you wanted to trust the old words on the sign.
That quote I read on the sign are not just the words in some story I made up, but the words of Jesus Christ from the Sermon on the Mount
(Matthew 7:13-14) – NIV
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.
So today, Jesus lays out in front of his listeners a choice.
A choice to follow him on the narrow road that leads to life
Or a choice to follow this world on the broad road that may look appealing at first…but ultimately leads to destruction
And that is the choice that lies in front of each one of us.
Who will we follow? What path will we choose?
And it’s not an easy decision to choose to follow God. This world looks quite appealing.
And that’s why Jesus’ descriptions of wide and broad make so much sense.
So often the “natural” thing is to not follow God.
That’s why the Bible talks in passages such as Romans 8 about our sinful nature.
It’s almost the default for humans to do the wrong thing
If someone at work or a close friend really hurts your feelings…it takes a lot more effort to go and try and work the situation out than it does to get just really angry or gossip or stop talking to that person.
The path to doing the wrong thing is often MUCH, much wider
It’s not only wider. It’s easier.
And unfortunately, it’s what most people do.
Let’s use another moral issue as an example. Sexual purity. Let’s examine that even from what we let our eyes see
Well, the VAST, vast majority of people in our culture (thus, the broad gate or the broad road) choose not to filter very much of what they allow their eyes to see
And to do so, not only is harder and more difficult (it’s always easier to keep watching something than to change the channel), it’s ALSO uncommon.
“Thus, making the choice to follow God is often the narrow, less traveled path”
These road examples would have made perfect sense to Jesus’ listeners…
The broad road leading into a city was one that led to the palace. Or the broad road leading out was the one that led to the next town.
BUT the NARROW road could lead to a place where robbers might lurk or worse. And no one in their right mind takes those roads
We get this too.
You ever been lost in a big city?
All you really want to do is find the interstate. The broad road. You don’t want to hear someone say, “I think this little road that no one else is currently on is probably a shortcut.”
No one is on that road for a reason. It’s kind of crazy.
And yeah, following Jesus is a little crazy.
But it’s right.
Because that broad road eventually leads to destruction.
It might be easier, it might be more common, but it leads to destruction.
And not just destruction meaning your life might be pretty rocky (which, that too), but it means actual destruction. Eternal punishment.
For how nice and politically correct people often paint Jesus, he sure talks about hell a lot.
And that’s unfortunately what the word destruction means. We see this when the same word is used in other passages in the Bible
(2 Peter 3:7) – NIV
7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
This is not a reference to just casual destruction, but a reference to eternity.
So, Jesus has raised the stakes on our choices.
THE NARROW AND SOMETIMES UNAPPEALING ROAD
And yet, making the choice to follow Jesus can sometimes be unappealing at first.
And I know some expect me to stand up here and say “Following Jesus is GREAT, WONDERFUL, and OH SO EASY!” “Here are FOUR easy steps that all start with “E” about just how E-ASY it is!”
Unfortunately, Christians and Churches sometimes make the interesting mistake of making it look too easy.
As if it was supposed to look like the broad appealing road
But, following God is a narrow road. And sometimes narrow roads aren’t all that appealing.
I hate driving on narrow roads.
For instance, when you’re driving and you see a sign that says, “Lanes Narrow,” it’s not as if you’re saying, “Oh yippee!”
I’ve hated narrow curvy roads since I was little.
Every vacation we ever went on, we drove.
I didn’t fly in an airplane until I was 21. Which, for some of you, you’re like, “Big deal.” But for someone of my age (I’m 28), that’s actually kind of odd nowadays.
We drove. And we drove everywhere. And when I was in middle school, we had a beautiful red minivan.
And I can remember us driving on some narrow curvy roads in Pennsylvania through the mountains…and my brilliant idea was always to take the middle spot in the middle seat of the minivan.
I guess I thought if we fell of the narrow road on the side of the mountain I had less of a chance of dying in the middle seat?
And as much as we sometimes try and sell it, making the choice to follow Jesus everyday isn’t always something that screams immediate rewards.
And that’s why it is indeed a narrow road.
When people try and convince you to pick a certain path or decision, they usually don’t say: (positive voice) “If you choose this way, you get to surrender your will, pick up your cross daily, and probably get persecuted!”
Uh…”I think I’ll take the broad road?!?”
And even when we do choose the narrow road, it sometimes gets even more uncomfortable because when people see you go a different way, it often makes them feel uncomfortable.
For example: Amazing Race. When someone goes a different way…people get nervous, but end up saying, “um..oh, well they must be dumb for going that way!”
Their discomfort causes them to say hurtful things
And the same thing often happens when you make the crazy and seemingly unobvious choice of walking down the narrow and rocky path of following Jesus Christ
It’s often quite puzzling to other people and sometimes they let you know about it
These same principles about narrow and small VS wide and broad are true about the gates, not just the road.
One might ask the question: What comes first? The gate or the road?
It’s a metaphor, so we can’t get too carried away with how it works out.
But Biblically, we would say that the gate comes first.
Jesus even calls himself “The GATE”
(John 10:9) – NIV
9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.
So WE make the decision (consciously or not) whether we are going to accept the grace of Jesus Christ on the cross and enter through his gate OR choose to not accept and go on our own.
The road that we are on in life is a result of that decision
The metaphor can get a little tricky though.
Because someone might have picked to not follow Jesus (or maybe they didn’t even know that gate was there), and then when it was made available to them, they could decide to get off their path and re-enter the journey through the Jesus gate…and start walking that road.
But the same things that were true about the roads are also true about the gates.
Jesus, to many people at first, doesn’t look all that interesting.
Before I was a Christian, I would have agreed with that
If you would have said, “Come follow Jesus and live the full life…” Would have said, “Ha. Good one.”
I imagine Jesus’ gate wouldn’t be all that glamorous
(the end reward is) But the gate…what we first see…is quite simple
It all sort of reminds me of a traumatizing childhood experience I had…which was first watching “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”
Villain chooses wrongly because he picks this beautifully adorned and golden cup…when the actual cup was quite simple. On the outside, there was nothing by this world’s standards that was so special about it
And then, if you’ve seen it, the guy ages scarily fast, turns into a decrepit skeleton and then dies. And then also haunted my dreams throughout the early 1990’s.
And Jesus’ gate is kind of similar to what they hypothesized about the Holy Grail in that movie.
He’s not trying to lure you in by extravagance, money, and pleasure… His way is about something else. It’s about him. So he doesn’t need to trick you with a fancy gate.
He’s more interested in luring you in with love, forgiveness, and mercy than he is with immediate claims of fixing your life in 5 easy steps, or promising untold immediate pleasures, or get-rich quick schemes.
A lot of things of this world are fancy promises on the outside with a hollow inside
Jesus is a simple but true outside, and an amazing life on the inside
And you know, this passage is right. Being a follower of Christ for your whole life is hard. It’s tough. It’s counter-intuitive. It’s going against the grain.
But it’s also good. Man, it’s hard sometimes, but as someone that has lived on both sides and walked both roads…
Let me tell you. The love and forgiveness on God’s road far surpasses any cheap thrills of other path.
And even though God’s path is narrow, sometimes the view is quite nice. Sometimes it still takes you to some amazing places.
And ultimately…where it leads…is paradise. It’s eternity in heaven.
And that’s an investment worth making.
We teach “investment principles” to our children in our schools and in our families. We teach them to work hard now so you can have the greater thing later, right?
Study now…so you have the satisfaction of getting an A later.
Practice hard now…so it will pay off in a game someday
Work hard in school now…so someday you can have a job to provide for your family
Listen, the same principle applies in our eternal lives.
Walk through Jesus’ gate now. Sure, it might end up being harder, but in the end, you will spend eternity in heaven!
That IS the best investment you can make.
And after 100,000 years have passed in heaven, you’ll look back and say, “You know, I’m glad I followed that tough road for 75 years.”
That’s smart investing.
But on the other hand, Jesus cautiously questions us in Mark chapter 8, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet lose his soul.”
And so the choice is before you. The gates are before you.
Maybe you’ve already made a choice, and maybe you haven’t.
But know that it does start with a gate.
This world isn’t about making sure you do enough good works and then you are put through a certain gate based on your results.
It’s about the response we will have, the gate we will walk through, based on our response to what Jesus did on the cross.
Because 2,000 years ago, Jesus came to this earth, led a perfect life, and offered his life for us on the cross.
We were the ones that fell short of God’s standard. We were the ones that deserved punishment. And God because he is just, demanded justice.
Yet, in his unbelievable mercy, he sent his own son to die in our place.
And the Bible says, if we would believe in that, if we would confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, that we would have eternal life.
That we could be in a relationship with him.
So I ask you this morning. Do you believe it? Do you believe he died for you? To forgive you and wipe you clean and offer you a relationship and eternal life?
And if so, will you walk through that gate? Knowing that Jesus, like that old sign post, has told you that his way leads to life? Will you choose him? Trust his words? Will you surrender your life to his way and his path?
I want to give some of you the opportunity to do that this morning. We are going to pray together, and I’m going to pray a prayer…and if you want to step through that gate this morning…(maybe your life has been leading up to this decision) (or you feel God calling you to) I want you to pray this prayer with me in your heart.
God, I know that I have sinned against you
and that I deserve
the punishment for my sin.
But I am truly sorry
and want to turn away from that life
and turn towards you.
I believe that your son Jesus Christ
died for my sins
was resurrected from the dead
and wants to come live in me.
Jesus I now invite you
to be my Savior
to become the Lord of my life
and to reign in my heart
from this day forward.
Thank you God
for saving me
and for forgiving me.
In Jesus’ name,
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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JULY 25, 2010