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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 11am Worship service, 2017-12-17

Text: Matthew 7:13-14

Life is full of choices to make. I think we don’t have to live long to realise that. But thankfully, most of the choices we make do not really have much of an impact on our life. For example, sometime this morning you decided what clothes you would wear to church today. Later today you will decide what you will be eating for lunch. These choices are largely inconsequential, and so we should not be anxious about them.

But some of the choices we make do have a great impact on our life – like choosing the right school for your studies, choosing the right career or job, and choosing the right spouse. Making the right choice in such decisions will bring much joy, but making the wrong choice will bring much regret. The question is: How do you make such choices? Some may say, “Whenever I have to make a choice, I simply choose the easiest way.” And others may say, “I just follow the prevailing trends and simply go with the flow.” If this is the way that you make your choices, you may end up going the wrong way. Taking the easiest path and going with the flow can actually be quite foolish and even disastrous at times.

Oftentimes the more difficult path is the one that we should choose, and going against the flow is the right thing to do. The best choices we make are those that are guided by sound biblical principles. God’s Word is designed to help us to choose wisely. And this is what we will see in this message from the Sermon on the Mount.

Over the last four months we have been learning from this long sermon that our Lord Jesus taught His disciples. And now as we come to the last 15 verses of this sermon we see Jesus issuing a call for us to make the right choice. In vv. 13 and 14 Jesus tells us to choose between two roads – the broad road and the narrow road. In vv.15-20 He warns us to choose between two trees – the good tree and the corrupt tree. In vv.21-23 He tells us to discern between two kinds of works – wonderful works and works of iniquity. And finally in vv.24-27 we are presented with a choice between two builders – the foolish man who builds on sand and the wise man who builds on a rock. This morning we will deal with the first choice we must make – the choice between two roads.

Let us turn to our text in Matthew 7 and read verse 13,14 – “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

If you look carefully at these verses you will be able to see four contrasting pairs: The wide gate versus the strait gate; the broad way versus the narrow way, the many versus the few; and destruction versus life. To put it more concisely, there are 2 gates, 2 roads, 2 crowds and 2 destinations. And our Lord Jesus leaves no doubt on which of the two He wants us to choose – not the more attractive and crowded road, but the road that is less travelled by people. Let us learn more about this road that Jesus recommends us to take.

  1. It Begins with the Strait Gate (v.13)

“Enter ye in at the strait gate…” Please note that the word here is ‘strait’ not ‘straight.’ In Greek, the word is stenos which means narrow, as in the Johor Strait that separates Singapore from Malaysia. The idea is that of restrictiveness. The strait gate seems to be less inviting to people because of the inconvenience of having to squeeze through such a small opening. It certainly does not permit anyone to carry a lot of baggage through it.

In contrast to this, the other gate is a lot more inviting –it is the wide gate that you can easily go through with whatever extra baggage you wish to carry along with you – including your ambitions, your passions and pride. It is very tempting to take this gate, because it requires the least amount of effort, the least sacrifice and the least inconvenience. But Jesus does not recommend it at all! He tells us not to be fooled by the welcoming expanse of this gate, as it is actually very dangerous to go through it. This gate is actually a mouth of destruction that opens wide only to catch as many victims as it can within its deadly jaws!

Jesus wants us to enter in the less attractive strait gate. He guarantees that this gate is very, very safe. You will never go wrong or have any regrets at all if you choose it. But there is a cost involved in taking it –you must be prepared to deny self and leave all your baggage behind – whatever sins you love, whatever selfish ambitions you have, and whatever passions and pride in your life. All these must all be surrendered and left outside the gate. This is the price to be paid for going in. Are you willing to pay the price and bear the costs?

Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 9:23,24 – “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it.” Now, we must understand that salvation is free, but discipleship is costly. Here, Jesus is talking primarily about discipleship, not about salvation.

Our Lord Jesus Himself had to walk on the road of self-denial. Because of this, anyone who follows Him must be willing to deny self. The question is: Have you counted the cost of following Jesus? Are there certain things in your life that you refuse to give up? Perhaps you have grown up with a sense of entitlement. You believe that you deserve certain privileges. You want to get your fair share of attention, respect, satisfaction and success. You impose unrealistic demands on others, and you get upset if things don’t work out the way you wanted.

Here is the truth that you must accept: If you choose to enter in by the strait gate, you have to give up this sense of entitlement, and take up self-denial instead. Are you willing to do that? I hope we all are. Let us find out more about the road that Jesus wants us to take. We now go on to see that...

  1. It Is the Less Attractive Road (v. 14a)

In v.14 Jesus says “…narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life.” The word ‘narrow’ here does not mean the same thing as the word ‘strait’ that is used for the gate. The Greek word used here (thlibo) implies intense pressure and distress. The one who attempts to walk on this road will find himself constrained to walk in only one straight direction, and also hemmed in on all sides by trials, hardship and difficulty. These are the things that we have to face when we decide to follow Christ and obey God’s Word, rather than to follow the world.

In contrast to that, the other road is described as the broad way. The idea given here is that of wide spaciousness. Those who walk in the broad way have lots and lots of leeway to move to the right and to the left. Once again, the Broad way is obviously not the way recommended by Jesus for us to take. Why? Because it allows us to have far more latitude than is good for us to have, and this will only breed overindulgence. Whenever all restraints are removed from man’s sinful nature, there is no limit to the awful manifestations of human depravity. It would be just like a community without any law and order where there is much looting and killing. This is why the broad way is so dangerous.

Jesus therefore tells us to walk the Narrow path. Even though it may be a hard and inconvenient road to travel, it is actually the safest road for our souls to take. And even though it is a challenge to live within the limits of God’s Word, and to be tried to the very limits of our endurance, the results it produces are wonderful and sweet. While the Narrow way may be hard for us to walk, it will bring out the best in us. The hardship and trials of the Narrow way will produce spiritual growth by refining us. And that makes us more and more like our Lord Jesus Christ!

But despite these wonderful benefits of walking on the Narrow way, many still prefer to walk on the Broad Way. Why is this so? One reason is that there is a great multitude of people there! As Jesus said in v.13, Many there be which go in thereat.” Some people tend to go along with the trends of the world without carefully considering whether they are right or not, because they think, “There’s safety in numbers. Surely so many people can’t be wrong at the same time.” On social media they would look for the choice that has the most number of ‘likes’. How wrong it is to use this as a criterion to make important choices in life. But that’s what most people do – they simply follow the crowd. They have a ‘herd mentality’ which conforms blindly to what everyone else is doing.

Well, the majority can sometimes be very wrong. Take for example the twelve spies that were sent by Israel to survey the land of Canaan (Numbers 14). While two of them came back to the camp with an encouraging word, they were outnumbered by the ten spies who delivered a very discouraging report. They claimed that the Canaanites were far too big and powerful to fight against, and it would be absolutely suicidal to even attempt it. Whose report did the people of Israel believe? The majority. What was the result? They rebelled against God and were sentenced to wander in the wilderness for forty years.

This year we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. During the Reformation it was only a small minority who stood firm against the colossal Roman Church. And they were often deprived of their rights and privileges and had to suffer for their God-given convictions from the Word of God. But though they were only few in number, they were clearly the ones who were on the Lord’s side. This brings us now to the third point of this sermon: The road that Jesus recommends for us to take is the one that…

  1. It Is Trodden by the Smaller Crowd (v.14c)

As Jesus said at the end of v.14, “…few there be that find it.” Let us understand this well –the Narrow way is the right way for us, even though it may be the lonely road, the one that is unpopular and less travelled. But it should not matter to us that there are fewer people walking on the Narrow way, as compared to the crowds that throng the Broad way. There is something really special and comforting about the Narrow way. Do you know what it is? It is the fact that we do not walk on it alone, since Jesus Himself accompanies us there throughout the entire journey.

And traveling in the company of Jesus is definitely better than traveling with vast multitudes who have no clear direction. At this time of year many people like to travel overseas for a holiday, or go for a cruise or a tour. Whenever you go on such trips, it makes a big difference to know who your travel companions are. If they are all unreliable, complaining and fussy you will feel miserable throughout your trip, even though it may be an easy one to travel. But if you travel together with companions who are always pleasant, helpful, trustworthy and well-prepared for the trip, then no matter how difficult it may be, you will enjoy it.

You need such a companion for your journey through life. And the best companion that you can ever have is the Lord Jesus. If He walks with you, you will have all the help, guidance, provision and security that you need. The way may become extremely narrow and even difficult at times. But as long as you have Jesus with you, there is nothing to fear. King David testified about this in the 23rd psalm – “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” (v.4)

One day if the Lord tarries, we will all reach the end of our life’s journey. Then we will have to go through the darkest and deepest of all valleys, which is death. But even the experience of departing from this world will be emptied of all fear, as long as our Lord Jesus is with us. Perhaps there may be someone here who is afraid of death. What is it like to experience death? What pain or discomfort will you feel at that very last moment of your life? What is it like to breathe your last breath and close your eyes for the last time in this world?

When I was young I used to be terrified whenever I thought about death. I used to avoid attending funeral wakes. But I have learned that when the time comes, I will be able go through it without any fear at all. And this is because of the tremendous assurance I have received from God’s Word that says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.” And I know where I will be when I come out on the other side of this dark valley. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I trust that every one of you here knows for sure where you are going. There is only one way to dwell in the Lord’s House forever, and that is through Jesus Christ, who is the way the truth and the life. So please be sure that you are on that one way that leads you there, because all other ways can never lead you there. This brings us now to the last point of this sermon: The road that Jesus recommends us to take will surely…

  1. It Ends at Our Desired Destination (v.14b)

This destination is mentioned in v.14: “…which leadeth unto life….” Whenever we choose a road to travel, the overriding consideration which is more important than its surface, its width, the comfort of the inns alongside it, the scenic beauty of its surroundings –is where it will ultimately lead us to. What is the point of traveling on a nice expressway that is well-constructed and well-maintained, if it cannot take you to your desired destination? It is not the road conditions but the destination which must determine which road which you choose to travel. A rough road that leads to life is infinitely better than a smooth and easy road that leads to destruction.

Do you know why most people fail to live by this principle, and choose the road which leads to destruction instead of life? One reason is that they live only for short-term gains. They keep looking for instant gratification. To them what matters most is what is immediate, whatever is here and now, instead of what is yet to come. Their vision is too short-sighted, for they only see all the short-term gains they can have by entering the wide gate, walking on the broad way, and having a large crowd of fellow travellers to keep them company.

How then can we resist these enticing temptations of short term-gains? Faith is the key. We need to have faith to look far beyond our present circumstances. The 11th chapter of Hebrews provides a list of people who did just that. It begins with Abel, Enoch and Noah, and it includes patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.

God promised Abraham and his descendants that they would become a great multitude of people who will possess the land of Canaan. But though they were given these promises, they could see their fulfillment only afar off. And yet they lived and died with the fullest faith that God would fulfill all these promises. As Hebrews 11:13 says – “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

In verse 8 of the same chapter we are told that: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” It was Abraham’s faith that made him accept an inheritance on trust without even knowing where it would be. This faith was further extended into the many unpleasant experiences that he endured as he sojourned in the land of promise. He lived there, not as the rightful possessor of the land, but as an alien among its inhabitants. This is the kind of faith that we all need now, as we sojourn as strangers and pilgrims in this world.

Moses also had this kind of faith. Hebrews 11:24,25 tells us: “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” This must have been one of the most difficult choices ever made by faith: The choice between enjoying all the luxurious pleasures and treasures that would have been his as the next king of Egypt, and suffering affliction with the people of God who were the most despised slaves of Egypt!

The greatest example of faith is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. He is mentioned at the end to bring the whole account of Hebrews 11 to a grand climax. Listen to Hebrews 12:1,2 – “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Jesus never wavered at any time in the narrow way of faith. It took Him to the cross of Calvary, but thereafter it took Him back to the glory that He had left in Heaven. Jesus looked far beyond the shame and agony of the cross, to the glory of His reign as the King of kings and Lord of lords! This is the kind of vision that faith gives to us.

So please ensure that you do not use short-term gains to determine the choices you make in life. You need to look far beyond them to see the long-term impact and consequences of your choice. It is of greatest importance for you not to have short-sighted vision, but long-sighted vision! We really have no excuse if we do not do this, because God has already given us His Word to show us the bright distant future that lies ahead. Look far into the distance for the right destination. And when you have found it, set the course of your life resolutely to reach that destination.

And though you may soon find that the road to that destination is very difficult to travel, and that discouragements abound along the way, you must keep your eyes focused at all times on that final destination. This will enable you to persevere on and on in your journey, until you reach the very end. Listen to what the apostle Paul wrote: “…this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

May the Lord help all of us here to keep pressing toward the mark in our present journey on the road less travelled.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

January 7 & 14 - The Power of Faith

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. Matthew 21:22