Admit it. You said "love."
That's what we think of. God is love. And all our pictures of Jesus are this long-haired, peaceful, glowing, hippie-style, peace-loving, tolerant, forgiving, non-judging "Jew" who doesn't look all that Jewish at all.
But what if our idea of God wrong?
Ever listened to "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"? It's a more accurate, though less palatable, image of who God is. Click on the link above, and you'll be able to read the manuscript.
"Nothing keeps wicked people out of hell for a single moment, except the mere pleasure of God."
We act as though we deserve something. We act as though we're somehow doing God a favor by being Christian or, worse, Apostolic. We're good at it - we're professional Christians. We have Christianity down.
Who do we think we are?
I've been considering a passage of scripture, Matthew 7:13-14:
"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."
Why do we seem to think that God won't exclude people from heaven? Why is it that we teach that anyone who "professes Christ" is okay, because "anyone who is not against us is for our cause."? Didn't Jesus say, "Many there will be that will come to me and say 'Lord, didn't we cast out devils in your name? And didn't we heal the sick in Your name?' And I will say to them, 'I don't know you. Depart from me, you evildoers.' " It's not enough just to say, "I'm a Christian because I believe Jesus is God." James says the devils do, too, and it terrifies them. Simple and mere recognition of the indisputable is by no means a testimony of faith or salvation.
People try to build salvation doctrine off texts that were by no means intended to be salvific writings. The epistles were written to those who were already saved, indication how they should live, not how they should be saved.
There's a broad gate, a broad way, that is easy to find. It is obvious, and simple, and easy to walk. The way, it is important to point out, is how Jews referred to their life and their religion. They were "People of The Way." When Jesus declared, "I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life," he was declaring something huge and powerful and profound – the way that the Jews had walked in as People of the Way was manifested and completed in His own self. Jesus was fulfilling prophecy by coming and becoming The Way. The Abrahamic covenant was fulfilled in the person and the purpose of Jesus. Salvation can only come by Him. Jesus was, and is, the only Way to Heaven.
It becomes clear, then, by looking at the text, that there are two “ways” to follow. One way is a broad way. It’s easy to find. It’s easy to see. Everyone follows this way. Your friends are choosing that way. Your parents may have chosen that way. Maybe you were raised in that way. It’s the broad gate. It’s the broad way. The entrance is easy to find, and easy to fit in. All roads lead to Rome, right? You can choose any way you like, so long as you choose a way and follow it sincerely. Right?
That’s the politically correct position. I’m a Christian because it suits me, but if you’re Muslim, or if you’re Jewish, we’re still People of the Book. I’ve got my way, and you’ve got your way, and they both are ways that lead us to heaven, right? Buddha, or Ghandi, or Nanak, or Mahavira … all of their philosophies basically are the same as Jesus’, right? So does it matter which path, which way, which gate I choose? If I live a good, moral, honest life, won’t I get to the same place?
Then there’s the other way. The narrow way. The narrow gate. John MacArthur says that the word for “gate” in this context is almost like a turnstile. It’s only big enough for one person to get through, and you can’t even carry anything with you. There are only 2 religions: One is true Christianity – salvation by the work of God – and all other religions – salvation by the works of men.
Both gates claim to be “The Way.” Both gates claim to lead to heaven. Both gates claim to offer the same thing … but how? The narrow gate, the narrow way, is hard to find. It’s not obvious. You have to search for it, and treasure it, and be willing to sell all that you have to find it. You have to be willing to despise your parents and friends and family and everyone for the sake of the Gospel. This isn’t an easy path. And to walk it by yourself would be impossible.
But if you choose this path, this narrow way, this narrow gate, the only true way that leads to Heaven, then you have a promise. The yoke is easy for you, the burden is light to you, because Christ carries it for you. You’re walking in His promise, in His covenant, and He will keep you from stumbling. He will guide your steps and show you The Way. He will keep you and guide you and protect you from harm, because He loves you. But you have to choose the right gate.
If you choose the broad gate, you are one who prays so everyone can see you – that is your reward. You’re one who announces when you fast and plays a fanfare when you give alms – that is your reward. You believe that you are saved by your words and deeds and actions. You’re very religious, but you’re not very Christian.
You have to have a beatitude attitude, as MacArthur says. Take the narrow gate, and walk in it, justified by God, saved by grace, in humility and meekness. It’s an exclusive gate, and not many will find this way. But it is the only true way. It leads to eternal life.