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Newtown Bible Church

The Narrowness of Abundant Grace (Matthew 7:13-14)

Every preacher, elder knows that there are some under his shepherding care who will spend eternity in everlasting punishment.

It is this danger that so gripped the heart of Jonathan Edwards, who with pastoral love, sought to awaken the dead consciences of the unbelieving and unregenerate church of his day warned of the terrors of hell.

 

“The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ.—That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.”

 

“Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.”

 

And so is the Lord’s intention here, to awaken His religious hearers from their blind stupor and false assurances to consider the end of their ways. Religion is the greatest enemy of genuine repentance.

 

 

Very familiar language; in some ways too familiar for the familiarity breeds a certain inoculation to its seriousness and grave realities. Jesus warns that there are two paths and two destinations that all are on, so that you would choose life and not be deceived.

 

A Merciful Call to Repentance II. A Merciful Warning to consider you path.

 

First, how does this connect with the rest of the Sermon? the way of righteousness set down by the Lord is hard, it is hard indeed and impossible for an unconverted person.

So, the unconverted will respond in one of two ways: 1) self-righteousness - attempt to live this way externally to make yourself acceptable to God; but this breeds only hypocrisy, pride, and self-delusion. 2) Just to give up altogether and simply say: “This is too hard, I can’t do that, nobody can live that way.”

In response to this, the Lord does not soften the call but makes it more difficult and narrow. Precisely the opposite of contemporary churches.

He makes the reality of the situation clear. Only those who have become desperate of their condition, who long for the kingdom of God, will still follow Him here. Only those in whom the Spirit of God is drawing, convicting, and enlightening will continue to travel down this road and not give up. The Lord sets the standard and stakes high, so only the sincere will follow.

The Lord, the Great and Good Shepherd calls out a warning to those who are yet outside His saving & transforming grace.

 

I. A Merciful Call to Repentance

(13) “Enter through the narrow gate” - A command, a passionate and forceful plea, and a warning (cf. Lk. 13:24-25).

Let’s begin by making some observations:

(1) He commands us to “Enter” - the command shows there is a need to enter; So, Jesus is calling His hearers to repentance. He is telling them you are outside of the gate and you need to enter through it. He is basically calling religious people to repentance.

Jesus has already made clear that the entrance into to the kingdom of heaven requires something more than the religion of the day: 5:20 Namely, entrance into the kingdom of heaven requires a greater righteousness than even the best, most diligent, and sacrificial religion can produce.

(2) You must enter “through the gate” - Ancient cities were often surrounded by walls designed for defense and protection so that it could only be entered through the gates that lead inside.

You cannot go over the wall, or around the gate; you must go through it.

(3) The gate is “narrow” - constricted, it will allow only one at a time. It is exclusive, there are not multiple gates from which you may chose, there are not other ways to enter the Kingdom of God.

Now the Lord is not concerned about gates & paths here, is He? No, He is addressing the matter of religion and the manner in which men approach a relationship with God.

The Lord is calling His hearers to a decision. Now, you are already making a decision about Christ and the gospel. There are no ‘fence sitters’ in terms of eternity. You are either for Him, or against Him. You are either heading toward judgement, or life.

Thus, the theme of two choices and two realities dominates the Sermon: 2 Gates, 2 Paths, 2 destinies (Destruction & Life); 2 types of teachers (True & False); 2 types of fruit (Good & Bad); 2 types of professors (Genuine & Deceived); 2 foundations (Permanent & Passing)

In the words of Jeremiah 21:8 “Thus saith the Lord: Behold I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.” So, here the Lord lays out two paths that all enter through, He calls us to chose with wisdom.

 

(A) Easy path of Religion leads to destruction.

(1) Description: Popular & Easy

“because the gate is wide and the path is broad” - 1) First description of this gate is that it is “wide” - a that term emphasizes the spacial quality - wide as opposed to narrow. Wide enough to accommodate all who desire to pass through; wide enough for the passage to be easy; wide enough to bring whatever baggage you want, to carry all you can.

2) It is a “Broad path” - “path” - a common metaphor in Scripture referring to the direction one takes in life; the influences, choices, desires that governs what one does, what they pursue (Ps. 1:1; Prov. 4:26-27).

The term “broad” emphasizes not the spatial quality, but the pleasantness, comfortableness, the freedom and ease that space provides.

This path is easy to enter and comfortable to be on:

This is man’s religion, better Satan’s religion. No holiness; character of God is diminished, worthiness of man exalted; minimizing sin and righteousness so that it can accommodate the most people without making them feel uncomfortable.

No “poverty of spirit” “mourning” over sin; no self condemnation; no self-examination; no self-denial; no longing, hungering, and thirsting after righteousness; no repentance; no change of life; no submission. Come as you are and stay that if you need to; no need to be disciplined in prayer and the word; to progress in spiritual maturity.

 

Destination: Eternal Destruction

“which is leading into destruction” - every path is going somewhere and this one is not exception. The path is not wandering aimlessly, but has a destination, but it is certainly not going where they expect.

“into destruction” - The verb is used approximately 18x in the NT and almost every time is directly associated with coming future judgment;

It is specifically the judgement associated with:

False teachers (2 Pet. 2:1f), the ungodly (2 Pet. 3:7), hypocrites (John 17:12), greed (Acts 8:20; 1 Tim. 6:9 “those who want to get rich”); those marked by unrighteousness (Rom. 9:22 [cf. 1:18f]); those who oppose the gospel (Phil. 1:28); those controlled by lusts (Phil. 3:19 “whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite”); apostates (Heb. 10:39 “shrink back to destruction”); the antichrist (2 Thess 2:3 “man of lawlessness, the son of destruction”)

The assumption is that the people on this path cannot see the end, but are going on faith. If they could see destruction they would likely get off the path, but they remain because they are convinced it is leading somewhere, or to something else. People don’t travel this road because they think it will end in judgment; so they have utmost confidence they are correct.

Imagining a conversation with one who was religious and confident in self, but in now in the torments of hell Edwards notes:

 

“If we could speak with them, and inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected, when alive, and when they used to hear about hell, ever to be the subjects of misery: we doubtless, should hear one and another reply, “No, I never intended to come here: I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself: I thought my scheme good. I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief: Death outwitted me: God’s wrath was too quick for me. Oh, my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter; and when I was saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction came upon me.” (Sinners).

 

- These are those who heard of God’s warnings, but filtered them through their own wisdom, are wise in their own eyes, and are under the wrath of God

 

Degree: Well Traveled

“many are those who are entering through it” - the path is broad and it has many travelers, and why not? It is easy to enter and comfortable to travel on. The very concept of ecumenism is directly opposed to the Lord’s statement.

The basic reality of the Lord’s statement is that most people in who are religious are on this path. And there are no doubt some here this morning. The Lord is giving His hearers a warning, and so must I.

Horrible picture. Masses of people traveling happily, contentedly on broad path - made more comfortable by the sheer number of people who are their fellow travelers. We often take comfort in numbers; the more the merrier.

How many? A Pew study based on 2007 information noted that 78.4% of Americans identified themselves as Christian - almost 200 million people. Another estimate says there are almost 6.8 billion people on the planet. Most are on the broad path.

Certainly so many people could be wrong! How often it is said that the exclusivity of Christ is arrogant because it excludes so many others and says they are wrong. We should leave room for the different beliefs and not be so narrow. A conversation that takes place while walking on the broad path.

“entering through it” - notice, He uses the same verb as the command at the first part of the verse. This shows that there are many who will not heed the Lord’s words. He says enter the narrow gate, they will dismiss Him and enter through the broad one. They will chose a path, either at the direction of the Lord, or something else. Its that simple. Chose this day whom you will serve; whom you will listen to.

 

“Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the greater part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done. He does not intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take … effectual care, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.” (Sinners).

 

Many are in judgment who did not expect to be there. We must each consider the Lord’s words and not make hasty assumptions: “narrow is the gate and broad - and easy, comfortable, self-satisfied - is the path that leads to destruction, and many are being lead through it.”

But, there is no need to be deceived if you believe the Lord’s words; there is another path; the right path

 

Difficult path of Repentance leads to life.

Description: Unpopular & Difficult

“How narrow is the gate and difficult the way” - The second path very different than the first; not nearly as well traveled.

Many translations have “for” here however, the Lord uses a term that is best taken as “how.” Thus, the emotional sense seems to be: “Oh, how narrow is the gate …”

(1) “narrow” - How narrow? So narrow only one at a time can enter, men do not enter in by groups or by association, or hand in hand with another; there is room for only one at a time. So narrow that one must squeeze through and strip themselves of all baggage and clothing and anything that would be a hindrance.

Each must be stripped naked of the filthy rags of self-righteousness, religion, self-will and squeeze through naked, so that on the other side they may be clothed with the perfect garments of Christ’s righteousness! And only His righteousness.

This comes only when a person is stripped bare by the Law of God. The reason people are unconcerned with repentance, is because they see no great need for it. There is not that great, God is not that holy. But the law of God strips us bare and exposes our nakedness: Rom. 3:19 “so that every mouth may be closed and call the world may become accountable to God”

(2) “difficult” - it is an interesting term the Lord chose here, and provides a strong contrast to the broadness/pleasantness of the broad path. It is variously translated as “hard” “difficult” “restricted” “compressed” “narrow.”

This term is used 10x and usually translated “afflicted.”

Heb. 11:37 “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, 1they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about din sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated”

He uses a tense of the verb that speaks of ongoing affliction

Almost every use of the term are in relation to the suffering associated with the kingdom of heaven; with being in Christ.

Matt. 5:10-12 - persecution that some experience because of the gospel

Matt. 11:12 “suffers violence and violent men take it by force”

Acts 14:22 “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God”

Why does He make it so difficult? Because otherwise we would be too prone to miss the demand for devotion that true faith involves. We would be prone to despise His glory and grace and come with too much of ourselves, our own self-interest, our own agenda, our own self-will, and be deceived. He demands nothing less than full devotion, full repentance, He will have no competitors, especially not ourselves. He wants to strip away our pride; and show that we do not come to Him on our own terms, but on His.

Matt. 19:16f. He thought he could come to Christ on his own merits, that he simply needed a little extra push, a little extra grace, a presumption on God on his own terms. Christ felt compassion for Him, but He would have none of it.

“You want to enter life, keep the commandments” - this is a merciful plea to help him see his sin and failure, but he would have none of it.

“Sell all you have and give to the poor.” Christ goes the heart of the matter, his affections, his most valuable love, Christ says, “You need to forsake it, I must be more glorious and worthy and valuable than all those things, your money, comfort, reputation you must be so despairing of yourself that you would gladly give them up to gain Me.”

You can’t go through the narrow gate while holding on to self.

Because of what it condemns

Self-righteousness (Rom. 10:3 “seeking to establish their own righteousness they have rejected the righteousness of God”); self-will. It condemns human pride, human achievement, human goodness, human religion, human intellect, human wisdom: “Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor. 1:20).

Because of what it cost

Everything (Lk. 9:23); relationships (Matt. 10); reputation (Matt. 10:22 “you will be hated by all on account of My Name”; 2 Cor. “we are fools for Christ’s sake”; relaxation (1 Cor. 9 “I buffet my body”; 1 Cor. 13 “does not seek its own”); resources (Matt. 6:19-24).

Because of what it confesses

Jesus Christ as Lord; as Master, we are His slaves. You renounce your own rights, your own will, your own goals and joyfully bring them under the Lordship of Christ.

But for those who truly understand their sin and the glory of the cross, this really isn’t much of a sacrifice; in fact, it may not even feel like a sacrifice at all. Because Christ is so precious, forgiveness of sin, reconciliation with God is so precious you gladly turn from those things to gain the treasure of Christ (Phil. 3:7-9 [TURN TO]).

Destination: Eternal Life

“which is leading into life” - not destruction, but eternal life. Life of God, life with God, life abundant: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Speaks of the dynamic of life, in all its relationships, all that it means to not just be alive, but to be human and made in the image of God.

It is entrance in to a new life in Christ, new joys, new friends, new freedom from enslavement to sin, new nearness and experience of God in Christ, new hope, new love; “old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.”

The cost of repentance: everything. The gain of repentance: God Himself and everything that goes with it! the very life of God, forgiveness of sin, indwelling Holy Spirit, hope of heaven, reconciled relationship with God as Father rather than patient Judge.

When this is grasped the narrow gate and difficult way are not so ominous; it is a matter of perspective. When the glory of God is glimpsed, our condition is considered, and the cross is tasted then the cost is most gladly paid and no price is to high to gain life, because no pleasure is so great, nor prize so precious as entrance into the kingdom of God.

Yes, the path is difficult, but sin & judgement more so; and I would suggest there are not more precious words that one can here, when standing before the risen Lord, as He looks you in your eyes, than: Matt. 25:23 “Well done My good and faithful slave. Enter into the joy of your Master.” The Lord Himself endured His suffering, humiliation, and wrath bearing pain: “For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1).

 

Degree: Seldom Traveled

“few are those who find it” - few are willing to pay the price. Few count the cost. Few are broken by the utter depth of their sin and guilt. Few are willing to say that I would rather have Christ than anything this world affords today.

But a few are willing, and few do find it. A few do cry out “Be merciful to me the sinner” and a few do know what its like for His gates to open and pour out the floods of His grace and mercy. A few do say I will give up everything in order that I may gain Christ. And a few do enter into life.

Don’t miss, however, that in this context the Lord’s emphases is not on the fact that a few find it, but on the reality that only a few find it. It is a warning and a plea. His main address is to those who have not yet entered, He is calling them and you who are in the same condition.

Why only a few? Why not all? Or most? Because the lie of Satan is so convincing to our fallen minds and enslavement to our flesh. It really is that simple: “Men love the darkness rather than the light” (John 3:19).

Our depravity is so great that we are cannot even want to see our sin like this and repent like this; we are utter helpless on our own to do anything about it. Our eyes are blinded, our wills are enslaved, our minds are darkened, our hearts are dead. We must cry for grace: “Oh, God, Open my blind eyes!” *Before I was saved, I cried out: “God help me! I cannot do it on my own!}

You must ask Him for these things if you do truly want to enter through the narrow gate. You just ask Him to die to yourself, die to your sin, grace to see and confess your self righteousness.

Then you will find His grace is greater than all your sin and His mercy is sweeter than ever those things you now love. For those who have “tasted the kindness of the Lord” His word is sweeter than honey; His grace is better than life.

If you do not know you are on the narrow path I lay before you three texts of Scripture, three pleas from God Himself through His Word to call you to consider your eternity: Ezek. 18:31-32; Hebrews 12:25

 

“And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God” (Sinners).

 

The risen Lord & Savior now calls to you in mercy. At some point the mercy will end and judgment will begin.

If you are not sure, don’t fool yourself; don’t say you will deal with it later, later may never come. Don’t play games with eternity. Come to Christ now; speak to Him now; and lay out your heart and need for His grace.

For those who do know they have entered through the narrow gate of repentant faith in Christ I lay before you one text 1 John 3:1 “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God, and such we are.” [If on the narrow path, it is by grace].

The Lord’s supper (taking this morning) is in itself a mercy to unbeliever’s in proclaiming the Lord’s death and resurrection and work on behalf of unworthy sinners - though a warning to. It is a merciful and gracious reminder to those who are in Christ, that their salvation came at great cost to the sinless Son of God; it came at the cost of the suffering of the Son of God; His drinking the cup of the wrath of God for those who are believing. your salvation is costly not cheap - But it is also abundant and freely given in unfathomable love and grace. We who know Him come to then to remember His death with broken and yet adoring hearts of worship, gratitude, and commitment to serve.

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