Friday, October 29, 2010

Destination: Heaven

I was sitting in church this past Sunday when my pastor referenced a verse in part of his sermon, and there went my mind down another rabbit hole. All it took was him mentioning Matthew 7: 13-14:

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.

Have you ever worried about this verse? I used to hear it and immediately think I was going to miss the turn-off. Or, I was going to think I was on the trail, but be miles from it. Then again, maybe I would, by chance, find the gate but never be able to stay on such a narrow path. Do you see how my mind works? And that verse? It makes it sound virtually impossible to get into heaven.

So there I sat on Sunday, focused on that verse, wondering why Jesus said so few would find the small gate. And I realized, it's not because He doesn't have it marked, it's because so many just don't see it; whether because we refuse to or because we've been fooled into believing something else. The gate isn’t hidden though, nor is the path just arbitrarily narrow, as if He made it that way to have it impossible to find and frustrate us once we do. No, the small gate leading to the narrow road is clearly marked. Jesus dying on the cross is the sign that points us to it, keeping His Word is what keeps us on it. The way we miss it is when we ignore the signs and keep moving on our own path.

John 4:6 tells us about the small gate when it says: “Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” See, there is only one way to get on this road – making it a narrow entrance. But, there is only one thing you need to do to walk through that gate. It is something everyone can do and anyone who does it is immediately ushered through. Here it is, Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” No other qualifications are needed, it is that simple. But here is where so many of us mess up.

We live in this world where everything is about show. It’s about how much you do and how well you do it. Well, I’m telling you, to make it through that narrow gate you can live what those around you would call a perfect life, but if you don’t follow Romans 10:9, you’ll miss the gate. You may know the Bible, you may keep His commandments, treat others nicely, and give to the poor. You may even attend church five times a week. These are all great and wonderful things, but none of them will pull you off the wide path, walk you through the narrow gate, and place you on the narrow path. This is why the verse says many enter the wide gate and only few find the narrow path. So many of us fool ourselves into thinking that if we just live a good life, we’re getting into heaven. Let me be blunt. This will never happen. So please, do not be fooled! Our salvation does not come through works of any kind. “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

All right, the gate is small, but thank the Lord that He takes anyone who asks right on through. Now what about that narrow path? I guess I see that road like any other you drive on. It’s narrow because of boundaries put in place that keep us safe. What are our boundaries? Just look at the Bible. Things like the Ten Commandment (Exodus 20:2-17) and the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) put up lines on our road to follow. Proverbs is a wonderful read of simple wisdom, some of it so simple you literally wonder, “Now why didn’t I think of that?” Or what about the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and all of Paul’s letters to the churches? (Romans – Philemon, and possibly Hebrews, but no one’s 100% that he wrote that one)

I could go on, but do you get what I’m saying here? It’s God’s Word, in its’ entirety, that shows us how to live our Christian lives. See, when David said in Psalms (another great read, by the way, especially for just about any mood you’re in) “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path”(Psalm 119:105), he wasn’t kidding. God’s word is what guides us, it’s what puts the boundaries up on that narrow road. You would never try to drive on the highway at night without your lights on, would you? Not with the expectation that you could see where you were going and stay safe. No, you'd use your headlights to light the way. So, use the Bible, learn it and know it, and it will light God's path for you. And if you're new to the faith, find a good church where people can help you learn and grow. Accountability will help you stay on that path, too.

Okay, there's one last thing about this road. Sometimes it’s easy to see when we cross the yellow line. We’ve done something and it’s obvious we crossed a line and we need to correct it. Other times we don’t know we’ve done something wrong until we hit the rumble strip. Someone close to us speaks with us (here's where accountability comes in), or the Holy Spirit begins to conflict us. We have a rumbling in our spirit that shakes us awake and tells us to move – quickly – from what we are doing. What happens if we refuse to listen to that? We eventually hit the guard rail doing 70 mph, the results of which are not always pretty.

Yes, the way is narrow. But that’s what keeps us safe. It also keeps us heading in the right direction. There may be road blocks and detours along the way, but keep on keeping on. The destination couldn’t be better. Heaven. No more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow. Only laughter, joy, happiness. Only love. Now that's a destination worth traveling for.

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