This is kind of . . . subtle, cosmic stuff . . . in a way, but I think so very important in the process of growing and deepening in the Spirit . . . . Also, how it pertains to the dangerous, devious corruptions of the churches going on full bore these days . . . . .
The strait way and narrow gate . . . is difficult to find. Few can and do.
We know that "strait" does not mean that the way is "straight", like a line straight, but is a passageway that is tight, difficult, close fitting . . . .
Today, the "church" . . . is infested with false teachers. Compromise and watering down of the Gospel is rampant as congregations become seeker-sensitive, changing the emphasis from church being a place where believers (sheep) go to get fed and worship together . . . to a place designed to attract and feed unbelievers (goats).
I do not mind spending a good deal of time discussing the dangers of works-based legalism. For this is what has always crept into the churches and corrupted them and led many astray--to follow into that way which is broad and easy to find . . . the wide gate which leads to destruction.
The "many" . . . who travel the broad way . . . to destruction . . . are not simply those who choose the way of the world. In fact, it includes the many who believe they are going to heaven. The sign over the wide gate does not say "to Hell" . . . . It says "to Heaven" . . . but it is a lie, a trick.
It would include . . . those who superficially "accept Christ" . . . say a few lines, for instance of the "sinner's prayer" . . . but then continue to live unchanged, unregenerate lives, still living in and by the flesh, ignoring God's commands, flaunting dis-obedience. They will say, "I am free of the law!" . . . never repent . . . and just live on as they did before, falsely believing they are saved, continuing on . . . chasing their idols, never truly accepting Jesus and never truly dying to self, refusing to "lose their life" . . . .
Then there are those who who say they believe . . . but continue on in their works. They don't really relinquish all to the Lord, but persist in self righteousness, secretly living in and with pride in their own worthiness . . . imagining that they are impressing God, showing others . . . how holy they are. They base their spiritual progress on the quantity and quality of the commandments they follow, while inside, again there is no real change, other than a growing pride and judgmentalism toward others who do not follow as they do.
The way is narrow . . . . It is a difficult and subtle "strait" . . . which the many do not find.
Immediately after Jesus gives this descriptive warning . . . about the two "gates" . . . he goes on to warn about false prophets--those teachers who come in sheeps' clothing but are inwardly as ravenous wolves set out to devour the sheep.
Today, in these "post-modern", apparently "end times" . . . the wolves are multiplying and especially targeting the churches for infiltration and subversion. "Church Transitions Inc.", the battering ram of the Purpose Driven movement is a good example of these wolves organized, where they have developed a business model intended to transform a traditional Bible/Gospel teaching church . . . into one of these new, numbers and size obsessed monstrosities . . . conformed to the world, but with a veneer of Christian characteristics.
But as far as the narrow way goes . . . I believe--from experience, supported by scripture--that one of the key qualities discovered . . . which typifies "the way in" . . . is the recognition and acceptance of the dual nature of the experience . . . that mystery . . . where . . . we are both saved by grace alone . . . AND we have some role to play in it. I have called it before "sameness and difference."
This is not as "far out" or novel as it sounds. I have been a proponent of this for quite a few years, as it was shown to me (I believe) by the Spirit . . . but I am glad to see some highly respected, orthodox teachers also addressing it and strongly supporting it through plain exegesis of the Word.
Dr. Steven Lawson--hardly a fringe character--who is Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, has, I have heard, written a new book on the subject, pointing out that Charles Spurgeon was a stout and longtime proponent of this concept.
"Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher of nineteenth-century London, is remembered today as “the prince of preachers.” However, the strength of Spurgeon’s ministry went far beyond simple rhetorical skill. In The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, Steven J. Lawson shows that Spurgeon fearlessly taught the doctrines of grace and simultaneously held forth the free offer of salvation in Jesus Christ.
In thirty-eight years as pastor of the congregation meeting at the New Park Street Chapel and later the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Spurgeon propounded Calvinistic theology with precision and clarity. Yet he always accompanied it with a passionate plea for sinners to come to Christ and be saved. Lawson traces these twin points of emphasis throughout Spurgeon’s long, fruitful ministry.
The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon is a passionate call for all Christians to follow Spurgeon in maintaining the proper balance between divine sovereignty in salvation and fiery passion in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I can't emphasize enough how important I find this understanding in traversing . . . the strait gate. The wide gate . . . carries both those who remain caught in Spirit-less legalism and works-based doctrine . . . and . . . those who live unchanged, thinking they can do whatever they want, free of law, disobedient, a law unto themselves . . . .
It carries those who . . . seek to "make the world a better place" through activist politics and philanthropy as well as those who have thrown up their hands and do not bother evangelizing or doing good . . . because they think that everything is pre-destined anyhow and so why bother . . . .
The corruption of the churches, running rampant . . . and the rise of the false prophets . . . coddles either or both of these mistaken approaches, and leads to the broad, easy way of destruction.
We are saved by grace, through faith . . . not of ourselves, lest we should boast . . . AND . . . we want to follow God's laws, do good . . . and seek to save others.
From God's perspective, there is no contradiction in this, and the more we have God within us, where we are surrendered to Him, the more we, like Him, find no contradiction or difficulty in this sacred quality of "sameness and difference."
There is a duality, which we observe, this side of the "veil" . . . . For instance, while we yet have a sin nature . . . we also have a God nature. Increasingly, as the Spirit begins His sanctifying process in and upon us, that duality lessons, and our own will becomes more and more the same as God's will . . . and a divine unity, transcendent . . . takes over . . . to reach finality in perfection, glorification, where we will one day be able to say, like Jesus, "I and the Father . . . are one."
"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17:21)