Quote for Today
“How can you give up the world?
Just do what you ought to do,
and it will give you up”
– J. Hyles
“How can you give up the world?
Just do what you ought to do,
and it will give you up”
– J. Hyles
“Carrying the cross does mean following in Jesus’ footsteps. And in His footsteps are rejection, brokenheartedness, persecution and death. There are not two Christs – an easy going one for easy going Christians, and a suffering one for exceptional believers. There is only one Christ. Are we willing to follow His lead?”
– Hudson Taylor
“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way,
which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Without context, the focus of most Christians becomes the gate. The message presented in many places today is one of being “born again” with little thought of entering the Kingdom of God. Religion likes things simple and easy and the English language plays into this concept very well. However, in the Greek language, there is a whole different thought to what Jesus is saying to us.
“Because strait is the gate, and narrowing (compressing) is the way,
which is leading unto the life, and few there be that are finding it.”
Literal Greek Translation
The Greek tense used here is the Participle mood, best translated here with an “ing” suffixed to the basic verb form. This communicates to us a progressive walk and an on-going sense of growth and development. The narrowing or compressing of the way is the daily experience of all who would find the resurrection Life of Jesus. The leading speaks of following Him with the discovery that death to the outward man is the path to experiencing His life within. Discipleship is the life of the narrowing way, and few there are who choose this path.
We hear much of the scripture:
“Except a man be born again,
he cannot SEE the kingdom of God”
However, Jesus goes on in his discourse to Nicodemus:
“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit,
he cannot ENTER INTO the kingdom of God”
While many of God’s children are content with seeing the Kingdom, there is a cry within the heart of God that some enter into the Kingdom. There is a pursuit and a cost involved with this entrance. The narrowing and confinement of the path must be walked in the reality of our hearts. We discover that this way is neither popular nor easy. It is the way of the Cross. It is found in the following of Him, not in the structured ways of men. It leads us into the wilderness where we discover that He came not only to forgive us but to save us from our sins and self-will. Of necessity we must be born not only of water (the cleansing aspect of His life) but also of the Spirit (the empowering aspect of His life) where we find enablement to overcome the issues that bind us. This birthing of the Spirit is also accompanied by the fire of His life to purge the dross and the impurities from our hearts. It is a purifying that no amount of washing will ever accomplish.
The strait gate is the introduction to the Narrow Way. The Gate is not an end in itself as many suppose. It is merely the beginning ever leading us farther on the Narrowing Way wherein we discover the “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of our God.
“We want to reach the kingdom of God,
but we don’t want to travel by way of death.
And yet there stands Necessity saying: ‘This way, please.’
Do not hesitate, man, to go this way,
when this is the way that God came to you.”
It is the broad and easy road which leads to destruction. A crossless walk is the way of the broad and easy way, its end is judgment and misery.
“…for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction,
and many are the ones entering in through it”
“If you here stop and ask yourselves why you are not as pious as the early Christians were, your own heart will tell you that it is neither through ignorance nor through inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it.”
“And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables” (Mark 4:11)
“Salvation is free
But Discipleship will cost you
“It costs something to be a real Christian, according to the standard of the Bible. There are enemies to be overcome, battles to be fought, sacrifices to be made, an Egypt to be forsaken, a wilderness to be passed through, a cross to be carried, a race to be run. Conversion is not putting a person in an arm-chair and taking them easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win the victory.”
– J.C. Ryle
“Herein is my Father glorified,
that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”
“Trees have their seasons at certain times of the year when they bring forth fruit; but a Christian is for all seasons”
“…in everything commending ourselves as servants of God”
2 Corinthians 6:4
“Ah! If our likeness to God does not show itself in trifles, what is there left for it to show itself in? For our lives are all made up of trifles. The great things come three or four of them in the seventy years; the little ones every time the clock ticks”
“And a mixed multitude went up also with them”
The great multitude that left Egypt (well over one and half million people) was comprised not only of Israelites but also of foreign slaves and Egyptians; a great diversity of races, cultures and motives. There were no doubt sincere followers of God in every one of these nationalities* for the promise of the Passover was to all: “when I see the blood I will pass over”. The blood was the reason for the pardon; not the nationality of the people inside the house. Even here we see glimpses of the New Covenant promise which is based upon faith and not natural birth. This mixed multitude were called the children of Israel. The wilderness was the crucible where many offending elements of the throng would be judged and purified (1 Corinthians 10:1-6).
Historically within the purposes of God mixture is a common malady. Within the hearts of all exists various motives for following after God. There are those who join themselves to the multitude for the blessings rather than out of a pure love for God. After the Sermon on the Mount a great multitude followed Him enthralled by the pure words of grace and wisdom which He spoke.
“When he was come down from the mountain,
great multitudes followed him”
Later we read that multitudes followed Him because He fed them.
“Ye seek me…because ye did eat of the loaves,
and were filled”
Jesus began to speak of deeper things; truths which were no longer pleasant and soft but offensive to the natural mind and the religious culture.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you,
Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,
and drink his blood, ye have no life in you”
The multitudes began to shrink and many fell away. The way was becoming narrow and the gate unpopular. Many of His “disciples” began to murmur.
“Many therefore of his disciples,
when they had heard this, said,
This is an hard saying; who can hear it?”
So too in our day the multitudes enjoy the broad way focusing only on the elementary things of God. Discipleship, dying to self, the pursuit of true righteousness and holiness are forsaken for the golden calf of the masses. In our day the masses are the proof of a successful church or ministry and often the truth is crucified at the hands of those who want the approval and esteem of men. Nevertheless, there are those whose hearts are set upon following Him. It is to the disciple that His sayings become costly and His way becomes narrow. The self-life must be left behind to move forward in the mystery of His Way. It is the hard sayings of Jesus that cause many to stumble.
“From that time many of his disciples went back,
and walked no more with him”
In our day we have many places where people can congregate to ease their conscience and pacify their convicted soul. They can hear His words without having to follow Him and call Him Lord without obeying. It is a new “gospel” that claims one simply has to believe and heaven is assured and God is pleased. A relieved conscience and a no-cost gospel are nothing more than a religious sedative for a lukewarm environment.
“Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people;
Ephraim is a cake not turned.
Strangers have devoured his strength,
and he knoweth it not…”
Even so God calls out to us to draw near in truth and in purity of heart; to leave the crowds and the broad paths. There is a refuge and consolation to be found there. Even the weak, the downtrodden and the lonely are made strong in the way of our God. The Great Shepherd Himself will lead us through the labyrinth of compromise and mixture into truth, righteousness and holiness.
“A faith which works not for purification will work for putrefaction.
Unless our faith makes us pine after holiness,
it is no better than the faith of devils,
and perhaps it is not even so good as that.
A holy man is the workmanship of the Holy Spirit”
* Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite; one example of several non-Israelites. For his faithfulness to God, Caleb was given an inheritance of the Tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:13).
“If you will not believe,
surely you will not be established”
Believing in God is not a one-time event. In a true and vital reality, it is to be more equated to breathing than some momentary experience. The Hebrew words used for “believe” and “established” are expressed here in the imperfect tenses. The imperfect tense would suggest (for the sake of clarity) these words culminating in an “ing”, indicating an ongoing and uncompleted work. It is in our believing that our lives will be in the ongoing work of being established. The work of the Holy Spirit is ever embellishing, ever rooting and establishing us in Christ. It is in the ongoing reliance upon Him where His work takes on the power and substance of true in-wrought character and stability in our lives.
“If ye continue in my word,
then are ye my disciples indeed”
Discipleship is not a fleeting momentary experience. It is a life-long necessary experience. As breathing is to our natural life so is believing, trusting and faithing in our relationship with Him. The life of the branch consists in its live and continuous connection to the vine. Jesus in this parable uses the word “abide”. It is here within the context of this one living principle that we discover the wonders and glory of the increasing of His Kingdom within our own hearts.
“If ye abide in me,
and my words abide in you,
ye shall ask what ye will,
and it shall be done unto you”
This life of abiding, believing, and trusting in Him is an active principle of life. Any true expression of faith is revealed in obedience and response to His Word. To abide in His word means to respond to its influence and lordship. It is not uncommon to see a dead branch connected to a living plant. The connection is there but the dead branch no longer has a live relationship with its source. The identity of the branch is known by the fruit it bears. We see a branch bearing grapes we know that it is a grape vine. The fruit is the signature of the life of the vine. They who do not abide in Him lose their identity and confidence in Him. When people lose their identity they have no ability to impact the lives around them. Faith becomes a thing rather than a life. It becomes an ideal or a teaching rather than a heartbeat. This is what death is in our spiritual lives. Faith without works, branches without fruit and cold dead hearts without His life being the continuous inspiration of our very breath are the symptoms of a decaying branch.
“Every branch not bearing fruit in Me,
He takes it away”
John 15:2 (BLB)
“But become doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, this one is like a man studying his natural face in a mirror; for he studied himself, and has gone away, and immediately he forgot of what kind he was. But the one looking into the perfect law of liberty, and continuing in it, this one not having become a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in his doing”