Enter Through the Narrow Gate, Matthew 7:13-20

The narrow gate is one man wide. This is about my relationship with God. If I focus intently on Jesus, I will find the narrow gate. If I look at anything else, I will miss it. I cannot find guidance from popular culture, my social group, family, or even my church. I must decide to reach out to God on my own and seek him through his Word and prayer. If I coast along following and trusting the expectations and stories of those around me, I will miss the gate.

John Cheever said, ‘ I am a prisoner of my expectations.’ Too often I am a prisoner of expectations, expectations of family, expectations of culture, or expectations of church. These expectations come from the stories I tell myself and are reinforced by those around me and how I live. I seldom examine them unless I face a crisis. Sometimes the reason death is so hard to face is that I have avoided and ignored it for most of my life. I assume that I will live to a certain age or that I will always be healthy, and I surround myself with people who say and think the same things. If I don’t examine my expectations about life, God, and heaven, I am likely to miss the narrow gate.

To Enter Through the Narrow Gate an Expectation Must Be Cast Aside

One of the first expectations I must cast aside when I meet Jesus is the popular expectation of society, heresy of many popular churches, and most other religions that ‘ good people go to heaven.’ When I meet Jesus, I understand that only he is good, and that I need him as my Savior to get into heaven. My own goodness cannot save me. Holding onto this belief is a sure sign I have not found the narrow gate. This belief also lies at the root of the fear of death because how can I be certain I am good enough?

Next in Matthew 7 I am warned about false prophets and am told that I can recognize them by their fruit. In addition to lacking consistent expressions of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, these people will be steering me toward the wide path and away from the narrow gate. Even if they are able to exhibit counterfeit versions of the fruits of the Spirit for a period, difficulties in life will reveal their true nature.

Never will they point out the narrow gate as I drift past. Frequently they will exhibit all the trappings of success, and I may pay handsomely for their advice which usually completely aligns with my desire for an easy solution. How they address death is the ultimate test: false prophets are always about avoiding and ignoring death. If they do discuss it, they will always say ‘ good people go to heaven.’

Matthew 7:13-20

Matthew 7:13-20 ESV – 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What value is my own goodness and how do I trust in it for my pass into heaven?
  2. The rebellion that separated man from God involved disobedience and rebellion over eating a fruit. How does my least sin compare to eating a fruit?
  3. If I have committed one sin, what makes me think that any amount of good can cancel it out or make it ‘ not so?’ If I will let go of trusting in my own goodness, Jesus can make that one sin ‘ not so’ and all the others if I will place my trust in him.
  4. What is the difference between thinking between heaven being for me and thinking about it being a place where I am in relationship with God? Why did God make heaven and who is it for? Read Rev 4:11.
  5. How long do I expect to live and what will it be like? Where did this expectation come from? How can accepting life as a gift and finding the narrow gate better prepare me for death?
  6. How is a desire for a relationship with Christ likely to help me find the narrow gate?
  7. Who is my favorite false prophet? How do I recognize them as false? How do they speak of death? Do they focus on avoidance or just ignore it?
  8. When can a false prophet admit that they are wrong?
  9. How are the claims to have all the answers and claims to always being right a probable indicator of a false prophet especially if they appeal to my expectations?

Passage for Meditation But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:14

Prayer to Enter Through the Narrow Gate

Father help me to pay attention and not drift through life casually accepting the popular expectations of my family, culture, and church. Help me to reach out to you in confidence that you will help me find the narrow gate. Help me to be alert to false prophets, and help me to find life and you and freedom from the fear of death. To remember that you made me for your pleasure and glory (Rev 4:11). That you grant me your righteousness in Jesus (2 Cor 5:21) and have made me into a saint and continue to forge me into the perfection you intend here and in heaven.  That you you delight in the death of your saints (Ps 116:15) because you intend for me to be with you for eternity and delight in bringing me to my true home.  Amen.

Originally published 8/14/2013

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