Friday, November 6, 2015

HOW TO GET THERE

Sermon on the Mount (pt. 19)

We now come to a passage that, for me, is quite difficult to interpret and apply.


If this verse were all I had to go on, of course, there would be little difficulty.

However, such is not the case, for I’ve read the Bible.

I’ve also listened to many teachers and preachers of various persuasions and ideologies, each of whom have their own view of what the scripture teaches.

As a result, I am now at the place that when someone says, “The Bible clearly says…”, my guard goes up. If the next words out of their mouth are not a direct quote of scripture, then I know they haven’t a clue, but are only giving an opinion.

I’ve been around long enough to know that “the Bible clearly says” a lot of difficult and contradictory things.

It’s not the Bible, mind you, but us. We have a lot of difficult and contradictory interpretations of the scriptures.

This is one of those.
Enter in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it. (Mat 7:13-14)
What is so difficult about this verse?

Nothing, in and of itself.

However, if we consider the current emphasis on radical grace in the Body of Christ, this verse becomes challenging.
This emphasis is such that it makes one believe that any and all will be saved without much effort, and that quite soon.

(This is not the place to discuss the differences among Arminianists, Calvinists and Universalists. If you are unfamiliar with the groups or their distinctions, don’t worry yourself with it. Understanding these is not necessary to your salvation.)

Regarding this verse and the “few that find the way,”
  • An Arminian would say, “Too bad. You had your chance and didn’t take it.”
  • A Calvinist would say, “You weren’t chosen.”
  • A Universalist would say, “’Few’ isn’t specific.”

(I realize that is only a rough caricature, and probably unfair, but the three camps do have a problem with this type of a verse fitting into their theology.)

We have been taught (maybe only me) that this verse is speaking about our future salvation and entrance into heaven.

This may be one of those places where our language betrays the reality.

How many times have you heard something like, “I know that when I die, I will have eternal life.”?
That is a betrayal of the reality.

The reality is that when you are born again, you have eternal life.
Immediately.
Right then.
It is not something you are waiting for.

Consider these verses and see that they each speak of a current condition:
  • That whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. [Jhn 3:15]
  • Whoso eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. [Jhn 6:54]
  • And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. [Jhn 10:28]
  • As you have given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him. [Jhn 17:2]
  • And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. [1 Jo 5:11]
  • These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God. [1Jo 5:13]

Yes, there are other verses that indicate eternal life as something in the future; but, let’s not focus solely on those without also considering the present reality, and thereby betray the truth.

The eternal life that is yet future, speaks of being with Jesus in heaven.

The eternal life that is a present condition, speaks of life on this plane, in the flesh, in the normal nasty now—not the sweet by and by.

In our passage under consideration (Matt. 7:13-14), the word translated “life” is the same word that is used for “life” in the phrase “eternal life.”

That particular Greek word is often used alone, without a modifier of any kind, and can refer to either physical life on this plane or life on the next.

Without going into the depth of teaching necessary to understand how the Bible presents “eternal life” on this plane, allow me to simply say that it refers to a quality of existence, rather than a quantity.

When viewed in that light, it should be quite easy to see from your own experience that Jesus was speaking here of eternal life on this plane.

Few find the way to this quality of existence, because 

IT IS NOT EASY!

The gate, the way in, is restrictive. It is small and tight. And the path to follow is even moreso.

In fact, the word that is translated “narrow” in verse 14 is a participle.
Participles in English often end in “-ing”, which would render this as “narrowing.”

The further you go down the path, the more narrow it becomes.

If you have walked with the Lord for any length of time, then you know this to be true.

Things you were permitted when you first came into the kingdom have been pointed out by the Holy Spirit as less-than-the-best as you move along the way of life. It is now more restrictive than at first.

Yes, there are many who take the path of destruction, otherwise known as the path of least resistance.

That is NOT the way into life, though it may seem so in the moment.

Yes, your ticket that guarantees your entrance into heaven may already have been purchased and you are on your way there.

But,
are you enjoying the ride?

That, my friend, is what this verse is speaking of.

_________________________________
Your comments, criticisms, or questions are welcome here.
Please consider leaving your response below—either through words, or simply checking the appropriate box below that equals your reaction.
Thank you.

2 comments:

  1. Good points. You are such a gifted writer, Dale, with an ability to draw together concise thoughts and perspectives. Thank you for your diligence in sharing, even though you might not see a lot of responses from those of us who read your articles.

    Yes, we DO have eternal life, now; it's sad that so many of us reject it and choose the darkness (and death) that we do. When we give in to our depressions and selfishness and pity parties and victim mentalities, we are choosing darkness rather than life. Incredible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the flowers, Charlotte.
      Appreciate your "getting it" and the insight added.

      Delete

Your comments are welcome here.
Feel free to critique, criticize, question, or otherwise make your voice heard in relation to this post.
I only ask that you keep it civil and appropriate to the post.
Thanks.