“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Imagine with me the future, for just a moment, as we go to the 22nd century. I would like to suggest that in the years to come, when the history of the church of the 21st century is written, there shall be much that will be positive to say.
It will be recorded the gospel was preached on every continent, and in every nation on earth. Modern techniques were utilized for presenting the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, by way of radio, literature, television, movies, emails, websites, and a variety of social medias.
It will be recorded that one day, an anointed man of God, named Billy Graham, was heard in more than 185 of the world’s 195 countries. Mr. Graham spoke about Jesus Christ to more than 215 million people, in live audiences.
Church historians will record that statistically, more than a billion people professed to be a Christian, because the gospel circled the globe.
And yet, despite all the wealth, the Church possessed, despite all the good work that was done in social programs, it will be recorded, there was a growing awareness by many in Christendom, that the organized, visible Church of Jesus Christ, at the end of the 21st century, needed another, Great Awakening.
The First Great Awakening in America took place in the 1700s, as a reaction against the European philosophical movement known as the Enlightenment, or, the Age of Reason. The leading proponents of the Enlightenment emphasized a scientific and logical view of the world, and dismissed faith in divine revelation. The Age of Reason went too far by dismissing God, and denying the divinity of Christ. Man was left alone in the universe to wander about in darkness, trying to give meaning to life. The stage was set for a renewal of heart felt religion. Then, the Spirit of the Lord moved.
In 1741, a 38-year-old Congregationalist pastor, Jonathan Edwards, preached a sermon that shook the colonies, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Many Christians woke up to righteousness, and returned to an authentic faith in the Bible, in Christ, and in the gospel of redeeming grace. When the Great Awakening came to an end during the 1740s, the Church began to slide back into the old ways of carelessness, and unbelief.
In His mercy, in the 1790s, another religious revival was sent to America. This was the Second Great Awakening. It was less emotional than the first, but it led to the founding of several colleges, seminaries, and mission societies.
A Third Great Awakening is credited as occurring in the late 1850s.
Since then, there have been important moments of religious renewal, and evangelism, but nothing on the scale as the three Great Awakenings. One day it will be recorded that the Church of the 21st century needed a Fourth Great Awakening, whereby major gospel truths were emphasized.
First, all people are born sinners.
Second, sin without salvation will send a person to hell.
Third, all people can be saved if they confess their sins to God, seek forgiveness, and accept God’s grace. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Fourth, all people can have a direct and emotional connection with God.True religion is characterized by a tender heart, that quivers with love, and responds to kindness.
Fifth, religion should not be formal and institutionalized, but rather casual and personal.
But again, in the century to come, it will have to be noted that despite much good that was done, despite much sacrifice made, a spiritual cancer was found to be growing within the institutionalized body of the Christian religion. The symptoms of the disease were manifested in a variety of ways.
The spiritual disease could have been diagnosed by the swirling chaos of local assemblies being out of control, because biblical principles of accountability, and spiritual leadership, were rejected.
The spiritual caner could have been detected by the distortion of the true gospel. On major TV networks, on the radio airwaves, by word of mouth, and by printed material, a Synthetic Gospel was openly proclaimed.
When the saints of the next century ask for a definition of the Synthetic Gospel, it will be explained by Church historians, that the Synthetic Gospel was a mixture of human psychology, with the traditional Christian vocabulary. The meaning of biblical words was changed.
Sin was no longer a violation of the known will of God; sin was the loss of self-esteem.
The wrath of God was not Divine outrage at the immorality of individuals, but merely a frown on the heavenly Father’s face.
Salvation was no longer a Pearl of Great Price to be sought, acquired, and protected, but a cheap product, purchased by repeating a liturgical prayer, and acknowledging four general facts.
Salvation, it will be recorded, was proclaimed to be easily accessible. because gospel barkers, used carnival techniques to attract people to worship. Worldly excitement and techniques were incorporated by Church leaders to entertain. A cry went out, but not for repentance. No, no. The modern cry to the world was,
“Come one! Come all!
The kingdom of God can be entered without passing through much tribulation! Study Acts 19:22
You can be a disciple of Christ without denying yourself, or taking up a cross to follow Jesus! Study Matthew 16:24
The offending right eye need not be plucked out!
The offending right hand must not be cut off!
Do yourself no harm! Study Matthew 5:29-30)
Those who do not put to death the ungodly works of the flesh may still live! Study Romans 8:13
So come, and join the greatest religious show on earth!
No tears will be shed here!
No sorrow over sin will be encouraged!
God only wants you to be happy, wealthy, and prosperous!”
It will one day be recorded Church leaders began to teach that heaven could be obtained on much easier terms then those set forth by Jesus Christ.
And, it will be recorded that the people came, by the hundreds, by the thousands, and eventually, by the millions. People gathered under the religious umbrella, and protection of the Christian Church, but many never fully understood the Christ they were to follow. Many were never taught the true gospel, and the demands it makes on an individual.
I suspect that many professing Christians of the 22nd century will read the church history books, and some will say to themselves, “I am so glad that the Synthetic Gospel has passed. I am happy the Social Gospel is a message of the past. I am delighted the precious biblical truths have been rediscovered.”
Perhaps history will one day record, there was a Fourth Great Awakening, and it began the day the Church took seriously the words of Jesus when He said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it’” (Matt. 7:13-14).
We pass now from an imaginary future, to the present, to observe the first gospel principle from this passage. It is plainly stated: true conversion, is rare, and difficult. Jesus himself made this announcement, and there is no alternative understanding to the language He used. Those who would be born of God must strive to enter at the Strait Gate, according to Luke 13:24.
The Bible says, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” The Greek word used for strive (agonizomai) means, to “agonize.” It is the word used in 1 Cor. 9:25 of the athlete. The word is translated as, “laboring fervently,” in Col. 4:12, and “fight,” in 1 Tim. 6:12. Becoming a Christian is not done by simply raising a hand, or even by signing a decision card. Not at all. “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force” (Matt. 11:12, NASV). Spiritual violence is needed to obtain and protect the true gospel, because false religion has given mankind a heavenly way to go to hell. It is the way of Easy Believism, apart from biblical repentance, and obedience to gospel duties.
Matthew Henry reminds the Church that the kingdom of heaven was never intended to entertain and indulge curious seekers. The kingdom of God is the place of rest for those that labour over sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come.
Jesus said that the road to righteousness is straight and narrow. A slight deviation to the right, or to the left, means certain danger, and everlasting destruction.
Then Jesus said that a person must enter the straight and narrow road by way of a gate. A gate serves two functions. It lets in, and it shuts out. Those who are let in through the Gate, are those who have bowed their knee to Jesus as Lord, and Savior.
Those who are left outside the Gate, are left there because of their own will. Freely, deliberately, they choose not to knock on the Gate of Heaven, and ask for entrance. Like Cain of old, those outside the Gate defiantly choose not to seek the Savior, His love, mercy, and grace according to the prescribed way of entrance.
Those outside the Gate will discover the door of salvation is not opened indiscriminately. It is opened to all who come by way of the Cross, and humbly knock.
Have you ever considered what heaven would be like if anyone, and everyone was allowed, apart from heartfelt repentance, faith, and the new birth? It is not hard to imagine. Just look closely at the modern Church.
The world has taken over many congregations.
The world has come into the Church by an open invitation, not to learn about Christ, or Christian theology, but to be made to feel better.
In contrast, to enter the Gate of which Jesus spoke, to walk on the Road of Righteousness, which is straight and narrow, requires three actions.
First, to walk on the Road of Righteousness, is to follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
“Jesus, where are you going?
“I am going to Calvary. Pick up your cross, and follow me.”
Second, to walk on the Road of Righteousness means to walk by faith, and not by sight.
“Lord, I do not see the future clearly. Lord, I am afraid of the dark.”
“I am the Alpha and the Omega. I know the beginning and the end. I am the Light. Walk with me in faith.”
Third, to walk on the Road of Righteousness means to walk in holiness as the Father in heaven is holy.
“Jesus, I have sinned, and am no longer worthy to be called a Christian.”
Turning to the holy angels, and all the saints in heaven, God the Father says to them,
“Rejoice with Me, a sinner has come home.”
Turning to the erring one, Jesus says,
“I will come and fellowship with you, and you with me. Walk in the Spirit and you will no longer fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”
C.H. Spurgeon said,
“You and your sins must separate, or you and your God will never come together. Not one sin may you keep. They must all be given up: they must be brought out like the ancient kings of Canaan from the cave, and hanged up before the sun. You must forsake them, abhor them, and ask the Lord to overcome them.”
Have we entered the Narrow Gate” which is Christ?
Have we accepted our Lord’s teachings?
Have we repented of all known sin?
Have we surrendered our will to His?
In matchless grace God does allow a few to find the Straight Gate, such as me, and you. While our salvation is rare and difficult, it will be worth it all.
“Sometimes the day seems long,
Our trials hard to bear.
We´re tempted to complain,
to murmur and despair.
But Christ will soon appear
to catch his bride away!
All tears forever over
in God’s eternal day!
It will be worth it all
when we see Jesus!
Life’s trials will seem so small
when we see Christ.
One glimpse of his dear face,
all sorrow will erase.
So, bravely run the race
till we see Christ.
At times the sky seems dark,
with not a ray of light;
We’re tossed and driven on,
no human help in sight.
But there is One in heaven,
Who knows our deepest care;
Let Jesus solve your problems,
just go to him in prayer.
Life’s day will soon be o’re,
all storms forever past;
We’ll cross the great divide
to Glory, safe at last!
We’ll share the joys of heaven:
a harp, a home, a crown;
The tempter will be banished,
We’ll lay our burdens down.”