During His ministry on Earth, Jesus made some pretty shocking statements:
- Love your enemy.
- If someone slaps you on the face, turn the other cheek.
- If your hand offends you, cut it off.
- If you sin with your eye, gouge it out. And so on.
There are so many things within scripture that can be “shocking,” but none so much as His statement in Matthew 7. Here Jesus declared that salvation hinges on something very specific, that we must “enter by the narrow gate.”
We live in a time when the politically correct thing to say is that all religious roads are valid as long as a person is sincere in holding that belief. That is, it doesn’t matter how a person seeks to worship God, or how one seeks to become spiritually mature or enlightened, or whether it is even necessary to hold any belief at all – because God/Source/the Universe loves every one of us!
But Jesus, shockingly, says just the opposite. He states there are only two roads we can travel in this life: the broad or the narrow road. The broad road is every other religious or spiritual belief outside of true Christianity; it is well-traveled but leads to destruction. The narrow road is a genuine, personal relationship and trusts in Jesus; it’s the only road that leads to life! John 14:6 states, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” One path is faith in Christ as Savior and Lord, and the other is faith in anyone or anything else. One is the narrow road that leads to eternal life: the other is the broad road that leads to destruction.
Shocking, isn’t it?
In Matthew 7: 21-23 Jesus declares, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
According to this verse, there are three traits that both “broad-path people” and “narrow-path people” often have in common.
1. They Believe that Jesus Is Lord
Notice He says, “not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” Clearly, they do believe Jesus is Lord, but He declares He never knew them. They can’t enter Heaven by simply recognizing the obvious.
2. They Are Passionate about that Belief
We could also say they are emotionally engaged in Christianity. We understand this because of the way the verse is written. They would repeat the name whenever a speaker wanted to add a sense of intensity to the Semitic language. We often see this with God:
“Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied (Genesis 22:11).
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4).
In this case, the emotion is coming from people who claim to be on the narrow path, asserting themselves to be authentic in their faith. They are passionate about their belief that Jesus is Lord.
3. They Are Active Volunteers
They work Sundays in the kid’s ministry, usher, sing on the worship team, and host a small group in their home. The text of Matthew 7 says these people even cast out demons and did miracles in His name. It’s obvious they were active in serving God. But Jesus still said, He never knew them. So, I think at this point, most of us are probably wondering, where does that leave me? Am I on the narrow path or the broad path?
I think by now we can see why Jesus’ statement is so shocking. Most of us would believe these three things are good indications of salvation! The truth is, while the absence of these things might indicate that you are not a Christian, the presence of them doesn’t automatically demonstrate that you are! The sign of true faith is not just recognizing that Jesus is Lord—even the demons do that (Luke 4:34)! And it’s not being passionate in worship or prayer. It’s not even serving at the church! While all Christians should demonstrate these things, there are two key indicators that we are on the right path.
1. We need to understand God’s Grace.
The ones that Jesus never knew stood before Him and pointed to their own actions as the reason they should be let into heaven. They argued, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, done wonders in Your name?
Now modernize it – Lord, have we not served every week at church, given financially, and joined in local outreaches? Surely, based on our works, we deserve entrance into Heaven! Because of what we have done. Because of “our ministry.”
The fact is, we don’t merit Heaven because of what we have done. We are given access to Heaven because of what Christ has done for us. Even with our best efforts, our righteousness is as filthy rags. However, His righteousness - what He has done in our place (by living a sinless life, dying on the Cross, and defeating death in the Resurrection) - that righteousness is why we are granted Heaven! You see, we have to realize that it’s not by works of righteousness that we are saved. It’s by grace through faith alone that we are granted eternal life.
2. We must surrender to His will.
Matt 7:21 states, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
It is possible to intellectually grasp that Jesus is Lord and actively participate in service to God but view Him as a kind of genie in a bottle who exists to do our will.
Hey God, I’d like some power and a sense of meaning, sprinkle some Happiness in there, and oh, throw in some prosperity while you’re at it!
Yes, God wants to bless us, but that’s not what Christianity is truly all about. Christianity is all about being transformed into the image of Christ. And that begins by dying to ourselves and submitting our will to God’s will.
And listen, that’s not easy, which is why Jesus says in Matthew 7:14, “…difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
It’s not easy submitting your will to God’s will. It’s not easy to surrender something you want for something God wants for you. It’s a struggle to crucify your flesh and fight against your desires. Submission to His will happens when we realize God is God and we are not. We are His creation, and our will must bow to His plan. Our deepest desire as followers of Christ should be to do His will. Our prayers should be, God, how do You want to use me today? Lord, let my agenda be Your agenda. Help me to see the opportunities to share Your love every day! If we live by these questions and know that it is only by grace that we are saved, we surely will stay safely on that narrow path, living the life God designed for us and entering the Kingdom of Heaven!