The pathway that we must travel begins with a narrow gate (Christ) and continues as a narrow road that leads to eternal live. In Matthew 7:13, 14 we read... Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. The implication of these verses is that the wide road is traveled more frequently because the narrow road is a difficult one. The Greek word for difficult is thlibo (thleebo) and it is translated as affliction, trouble, and tribulation. This is first and foremost the reality of the path that we choose to take as Christians. The New Testament believers knew full well what lay ahead of them once the accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. To be a Christian is to be a martus which is translated as 'witness' (usually) and carries a full gamut of meaning ranging from simply giving verifiable testimony through our life or by our death from martyrdom (Acts 1:8, etc.). This is a great contrast to the humanistic slant that began being placed on the Gospel 150 or so years ago that deletes the possibility that any suffering can come about from accepting Christ and inserts a 'God is my servant' concept. This was the FIRST fatal change that has been made to the Gospel of Jesus Christ since the Reformation. The fact is, the gate is strait, the road is one of holiness (narrow), and it is a difficult road. ALL who live Godly in Christ Jesus WILL suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12). Marvel not if the world hates you (I John 3:13). In the world you WILL have tribulation (John 16:33). Jesus said, 'I send you as lambs among wolves' (Matthew 10:16; Luke 10:3) and again, we are killed all the day long and made as sheep to the slaughter (Romans 8:36). All the apostles save John the Revelator was martyred. Steven the deacon preached one message and was gnashed upon with the people's teeth and stoned to death (Acts 7:59), Peter was imprisoned for preaching. James the half brother of our Lord was beaten to death with a fullers club and that is just the beginning. Paul was beaten, stoned, left for dead, ship wrecked and a host of other inhumane things (II Corinthians 11). The time would fail us to tell of the prophets that were stoned, sawn asunder, afflicted, etc. (Hebrews 11:37).
There is a SHARP contrast between Christ's message and our modern American televangelistic ‘gospel' of prosperity: 'Come to God and He will bless you financially, etc.' This is an American gospel that ignores the fact that 2/3rds of the worlds Christians live in poverty and many of them are persecuted, beaten, or killed for their faith. The fact is, if America's gospel can't be preached in Sudan where Christians die daily; it shouldn't be preached in America! If there was ever a generation that needed the Gospel to be presented EXACTLY as Christ presented it- it is this one. The Gospel itself filters a lot of chaff early on; but if the laborers of the harvest are working the fields as necessary, a new batch will be coming in continually and Christ will glean His wheat from the harvest. The modern 'Church Growth' philosophy says... 'don't offend' and take down the cross if necessary, sin is not on the menu. If God had wanted numbers He would have changed the message Himself. Moreover, the true wheat rejects such a message because their conscience warns them of its fraudulence. The impenitent heart embraces it and will even agree with it; but those are not the terms of the agreement we are supposed to be preaching.
Counting the Cost
When Christ called Paul the Apostle one of the first things He did was to show him all the things that he would suffer for the Lord before he died (Acts 9:16). Jesus told us we should count the cost before serving Him. In the next verse He says... So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33) The disciples left their fishing nets, tax collecting, and Zealotry to follow Christ. You are literally exchanging the bonds of sin for the bonds of Christ when you genuinely get saved. Jesus intentionally tried to point out something in a person that would disqualify them from following Him (as with the rich young ruler) and often would offend the people to see if they continued following Him (See John 6:54-68). Unless you sell out lock, stock, and barrel you cannot be Christ's disciple (Matthew 10:37-39, etc.). Later in Matthew 19:27-29 we read... Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name\\'s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. This is not a 'least common denominator' message; it is a message designed specifically to separate chaff from wheat. Christ was not interested in followers... He wanted disciples.
The Road less Traveled
Key in on a word Jesus used in Matthew 7:14 'BECAUSE' (because narrow is the gate and difficult is the road). There is a reason why impenitent sinners ignore the light that God gives them to see the gate and enter on to the right road. That reason is that they love their sin and that way is the easiest way (in the beginning). John 3:19-21 reads... And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. Here is that word 'BECAUSE' again. The broad road is downhill all the way to hell; but the narrow road is an uphill climb all the way to Heaven. It is a narrow and difficult road to travel and because of that it is the road far less traveled. Man does not miss the opportunity to get on the right road because he or she is unaware of it; they miss it intentionally because they don't want it. We see it in America where there is more 'light of truth' than anywere in the world, but is America responding to that light? Is America seeing the road less traveled with great clarity and luminance and jumping right on? The fact is, there are more sources of light (churches, Christians, radio messages, TV, etc.) in America than anywhere in the world; but do they head for that difficult road? The road for many is seen CLEARLY and rejected PLAINLY. They know full well what road they are on and have no intention of doing a 'U' turn. The biblical concept for this is called 'supressing the truth in unrighteousness' (Romans 1:18). It is a condition when a person knows right and does wrong. If a person wants to serve God we must do everything we can to help them along and shepherd them. Changing the message will not draw one person one inch closer to God. As a matter of fact it brings anathema (a curse) upon our heads (Galatians 1:8). To continue to try to force feed a person the Gospel when they openly reject it is to cast your pearls before swine- to which we were given instruction not to do (Matthew 7:6). Jesus said to wipe the dust from your feet and head out to the next wheat field (Matthew 10:14, 15). We have wasted so much time, energy, and resources trying to convert impenitent chaff to wheat that we have utterly neglected the whited harvest! Some people have heard the gospel so many different times and ways it is nonsensical and a reproach against Christ. It would be like struggling to bring a person who refused to leave from a burning building while others who would readily leave are left to burn to death. As unpopular as it will be- this generation MUST learn to MOVE ON! Far too many people are going to Hell to play games with people. Most of these people know better and know the way out of the building to safety. That is not giving up on people- it is doing what we were told. We need to obey Christ and stop this massive sin.
The Wrath of God Revealed
Romans 2:1 tells that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against ALL that hold the truth in unrighteousness. We are all accountable for ALL of the LIGHT we have. Luke 12:47-49 reads... And that servant, which knew his lord\\'s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I if it be already kindled? When a person openly rejects Christ they are toying with damnation and it is left to the stewards of the manifold grace of God that must tell them- lest their blood be on our hands and heads (See I Peter 4:10 & Ezekiel 33). As it is written... They who despised Moses law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:27-31). Initial Evidence of a Born Again Experience
Much emphasis and rightly so is placed upon the initial evidence of baptism in the Holy Ghost (tongues). But how much MORE should there have been these many years... an INITIAL EVIDENCE teaching on the Born-Again experience? Hosea 10:12 gives us a starting point saying... Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. There must be a brokeness that comes by the law of God breaking the heart that it might convert the soul (Psalm 19:7). We 'plow' 90% law to break up the heart and we sow 10% grace (seed). If we neglect this stirring of the fallow ground, carelessly sow, or the heart is rock hardned by impenitence, the seed will not survive or be productive. Maximum repentance digs a trench in the heart at the optimal depth for planting the seed of God's word. We then change analogies to that of giving birth. Labor is time consuming and painful- so to when a person is born again. Few if any babies are ever born without tears being shed on part of mother and baby. If a baby is born and does not cry panic soon sets in. So to being born again of the Spirit is a transformation and newness that brings with it HUNGER and THIRST, with a heart that CRIES out to God. The mouth of a born again believer IMMEDIATELY begins confessing their new life- UNCOERCED- but rather, from the abundance of their NEW heart of flesh their mouth speaketh (Romans 10:10). There is an immediate hunger for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). Jesus said His 'meat' was to do the will of God and so to it is the 'meat' of a born again believer to do likewise (John 4:34). The milk of God's word provides the initial instructions to satisfy that newborn hunger and it begins with the commandment to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). Jesus said baptism was an act to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15) and it is the first real act a born again person can do. The Ethiopian Eunuch heard the gospel and IMMEDIATELY wanted to be baptised out of that newfound desire and NATURE to do the WILL of Him that birthed us by the Spirit. If the 'baby' won't take that bottle when offered it-it is no different than a lack of evidence of tongues for the baptism in the Holy Ghost (only more important). How could they be born as this? There is no such thing as a newborn baby that does not have an appetite. The milk of the word becomes 'meat' not when we HEAR it, but when we DO it (James 1:22). The end of this process in keeping with the baby analogy of Christ is uncontrolled bowels (lit. Gk. spleen or intestine) of compassion and mercies, kindness, etc. (Compare Mark 7:19; Acts 1:18 ; Colossians 3:12; I John 3:17). It begins with a crying out of the heart a hunger and thirst for righteousness- followed by God filling them with a means (the milk and later meat of the word) to DO that righteousness (II Corinthians 9:9). When we hear the word and do the work THAT is the 'MEAT' of the born again believer- just as it was for Jesus.