Some people believe that it is easier to be saved than to be lost. Others believe that it is easier to be lost than to be saved. What is the truth about this? Is it hard or is it easy to find salvation? Will a majority find salvation and be saved, and a minority be lost? Or will it be the other way around and only a minority find salvation and be saved while the majority be lost?
The Golden Rule found in Matthew 7:12 says, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Immediately after speaking these words, Jesus gave the people a surprising fact, which is equally surprising to many people today. Describing the way to eternal life He said, “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 (or restricted) is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (verses 13, 14).
Jesus said the gate that you must go through in order to have eternal life is narrow, and it is difficult of entrance. Why is it so difficult? Remember Jesus’ instruction when he said that you need to treat others in the same manner that you want to be treated. This Golden Rule, as we know it today, excludes all pride and self-seeking. Those characteristics are acceptable and belong to those who travel on the wider road, but the end of that road is destruction. All who want to enter into life must climb up a narrow way of self sacrifice with the few others who choose that path.
The broad road appears attractive with all of its enticements of fun and games. The gate at the end is wide to accommodate the masses who choose that way. Most of the people choose the way of ease and comfort where every desire can be gratified on their life journey. It is littered with worldliness, where selfishness, pride and self-seeking are rampant with dishonesty and moral abasement. The broad road is wide enough to accommodate all to have any opinion they choose and to hold any doctrine or teaching they desire. There is enough space for all to follow whatever their inclination would dictate, and to do whatever their self-love would indicate.
Feet naturally turn toward the wide path; so there is never a need to search for it. But that path leads to death. The way that leads to eternal life is steep. The entrance is narrow and the road is restricted all along the way. Those clinging to any besetting sin will find that the gate is too narrow to go through. Self will, personal inclinations and evil habits or practices must be given up by those who wish to travel the narrow way to eternal life.
To follow the Lord means that you cannot serve yourself, follow the world’s opinions or meet the world’s standard because heaven’s path is not for the proud, the selfish, the sinful to walk. It is too narrow for the person whose life is centered in his or her own ambition. It is too steep for the lazy or the lovers of pleasure to climb. The Bible says that in the last days there will be people that love pleasure more than they love God. Those people will find the narrow way too arduous and will not be in the kingdom of heaven. Toil, patience, self-denial, reproach, and poverty were the lot of Jesus Christ when He was here in this world and a servant is no greater than his master.
Jesus endured what the Bible describes as His portion in Hebrews 12:3, “the contradiction of sinners against Himself” (literal translation). That also must be our portion if we are to follow our Leader up the narrow way and enter into the paradise of God. However, having looked at that, we would not want to make a false conclusion that the upward path is the difficult path and the downward path is the easy path, because the downward path is deceptive. All along the road that leads to death, there are pain and penalties, sorrow, grief, and disappointments.
Along the broad road are warnings at each turn not to continue on the path to destruction. There are warnings to turn around because God’s love for His wayward children is so great that He wants it to be difficult for the heedless and the headstrong to destroy themselves. At the beginning of their journey, the path that Satan bids you to follow looks attractive, but that is a deception. In the way of evil, all along the way, there is bitter remorse, cankering care. At first it seems to be wonderful to follow your own ambition and your own prideful desires, but the end is pain and sorrow. Selfish plans may present flattering prospects with the possibility to live a life of enjoyment, but later on you find that your happiness is poisoned. The poison of sin wrecks everything that otherwise would taste good.
That which started out joyful becomes despairing. Solomon, known as the wise man, talks about the person who follows the way of wickedness. He said, “… the way of the unfaithful is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). Isaiah said, “There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:21, literal translation).
However, concerning those who choose to climb the narrow way, it says in Proverbs 3:17, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” You see, so often our perception of something is not always accurate. The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25, literal translation).
Don’t be deceived by the glitter of the broad road that seems more attractive at the beginning. It leads to eternal destruction. The way to life often seems restricted. There are sins that must to be given up so that the journey is not jeopardized. But, wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and her paths are peace. Every time we choose to obey Christ, every time we practice self-denial for His sake, every time we endure trial without murmuring and complaining, every victory that we gain over temptation is simply one more step in the march that will lead to final victory and eternal life.
If we take Christ as our guide, if we are willing to lay aside our sins and walk through the narrow gate, He will lead us safely. A terrible sinner still need not miss the way because the Lord has made the way plain that leads to eternal life. There is no room on that path to take along your sins. Only a person who is willing to practice righteous and holy living can walk up the narrow way where sin is not tolerated. Remember, the access is secured for all who want to go through and no soul need ever say, “God doesn’t care about me.” The Lord has made a way that you can enter the narrow gate and walk the narrow way and end up having eternal life.
The narrow way seems to be rough to those walking the broad road. It seems to be a steep ascent and there may be pitfalls on the right hand and on the left. The travelers may have to toil when they are tired. They may have to continue to hope when they feel discouraged. They may have to fight when they feel like not going on anymore and they are faint. But, as they follow Jesus as their guide, obeying His word, doing what He says to do, they will not fail of reaching their desired haven at last. Jesus Himself has walked up that same way and He has smoothed the path for the feet of His followers.
All the way up the steep ascent are well springs of joy to refresh the weary. The Bible says that if you walk in wisdom’s ways, those ways are peace, even in tribulation. The apostle Paul says, I am exceedingly joyful (2 Corinthians 7:4, last part). Why? The One whom your soul loves, the One whom you are following, walks invisible beside you, and at each upward step, you can discern more distinctly the touch of His hand. The path of the righteous is as a shining light, or a shining star that shines more, and more, “… unto the perfect day,” as you can read in Proverbs 4:18.
Jesus told the people that He did not come to tell them how to overcome the world’s great empires. The popular belief then was that when the Messiah came, He was going to come and give them the victory over the Roman Empire. Jesus disappointed their hopes when He spoke on the mountain. He opened before the people the glory of character which is the true glory of His kingdom. This offer is no promise of earthly dominion, yet it is worth a sincere, supreme desire and effort. He did not call them to battle against the Roman Empire, but do not make the mistake and conclude that there are no battles to be fought and no victories to be won.
He said that His followers would have to strive and agonize to enter into His spiritual kingdom—agonize or struggle to go through the narrow gate. What was Jesus talking about when He said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24)? Many people will seek to find salvation and never find it. They will be lost while hoping and desiring to be saved, because the Christian life is a battle and a march and most people are not prepared to fight for what they want. “In this warfare there is no release; the effort must be continuous and persevering. It is by unceasing endeavor that we maintain the victory over the temptations of Satan. Christian integrity must be sought with resistless energy and maintained with a resolute fixedness of purpose.” The Ministry of Healing, 453.
The apostle Paul told a young minister by the name of Timothy to “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (I Timothy 6:12). Paul describes this fight of faith in Philippians 1:30 where he said, “Having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.”
What is this conflict that the apostle Paul says was in him? The battle is not just external but an internal fight against evil, against sinful thoughts and desires, against sinful actions and words. Victory must be gained over these things if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. Salvation, as promised in the New Testament, is only to those who overcome.
Victory over sin is not what provides the merit that gives salvation. The merit to save you is provided totally by grace alone. But, salvation can be enjoyed not only by those whose sins have been forgiven and who have received the grace of Christ, not only by having a title to heaven, which the sacrifice on the cross of Calvary provides, but to receive the free gift of salvation, one must also be fit to go to heaven. That is why the Bible says that without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
All of the apostles say the same thing in different words. Peter says the same thing in I Peter 1 and 2 Peter 3. The victory, then, must be gained, but it is not won by human power. The field of conflict in the Christian life is the field of the human heart. The battle that we have to fight, the greatest battle that has ever been fought by any man, is the surrender of self to the will of God, the yielding of the heart to the sovereignty of love.
The old nature, born of the flesh, born of blood, the will of the flesh, cannot inherit the kingdom of God (John 1:13). Hereditary tendencies and former habits must be given up. If we determine that we are going to enter this spiritual kingdom, then right away we find that the powers and passions of the unregenerate nature, aided by the forces of the kingdom of darkness, are arrayed against us. Selfishness and pride rise up in the heart and make us stand against anything that would show them to be sinful.
It is impossible to conquer these evil desires and habits that strive for the mastery inside by ourselves. We cannot overcome the mighty enemy who holds us captive in his thrall. Only God can give us the victory. The Lord desires us to have the mastery over ourselves, to be master in control over our own wills and our own ways, but He cannot work in our heart and change us without our consent and cooperation.
Victory, then, will not be won without much earnest prayer, without the humbling of self at every step, because God will never force your will into cooperation with the divine agencies. We have to voluntarily surrender and submit to God. Is your will placed on the side of God’s will today? You cannot bring your purposes and your desires into submission to the will of God, but you can choose to serve Him. If you are willing to be made willing, God will accomplish the work in you.
“Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Is your every thought brought into captivity to obedience to Christ? If so, then you will be in a position to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. That is what the apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:12 and 13: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” The reason there are so many people that want to go through the narrow gate and do not ever make it is because they shrink, they withdraw from the conditions by which alone they could enter through the gate.
There are many people today who are traveling down the broad road of sin. They are not fully satisfied with the path they are walking on and wish they could break away from the slavery of sin by which they are held in bondage. Sometimes they try in their own strength to break some of their evil habits or sinful practices. They look toward the narrow gate, the straight, the narrow way but selfish pleasure and love of the world, pride and unsanctified ambition place a barrier between them so that they cannot go through that gate. They would have to renounce their own will, their chosen objects of affection, and pursuits. They would have to be willing to sacrifice some things that they are doing right now.
So they hesitate, and falter, and turn back. Jesus said that many will try, but they won’t be able to go through the gate. They desire the good. They even make some effort to obtain it, but they do not choose it. They have not a settled purpose to secure eternal life, even if it costs them everything. The only hope, friend, for you and for me, if we would overcome, is to surrender our will to God’s will. We must be willing to be made willing.
We must choose to cooperate with Him. Hour by hour and day by day we must choose to surrender our will to the will of God because we cannot retain our natural, sinful self, and yet enter into the kingdom of God. If we ever attain unto holiness, it will be through the renunciation of self and the reception, the receiving of the mind of Christ. Pride and self-sufficiency have to be crucified. So the question is simply this: Are you willing to pay the price necessary to go through the narrow gate, and up the narrow road so that you can have salvation? Are you willing to have your will brought into perfect conformity with the will of God? The Bible says, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed” (Amos 3:3 KJV)?
Dear friend, if you or if I am not agreed with God on some point, it is we who need to change. There is the story in the Bible of Jacob, who came to the great crisis in his life and turned aside to pray. He was filled with one overmastering purpose—he wanted to be transformed in character. He knew that he had lived a very sinful, checkered life. The Bible records many of the sins that he committed. While he was pleading with God, it seemed to him that an enemy came, placed his hand upon him, and all night he wrestled and fought with what he thought was somebody who was trying to take his life.
When his strength was nearly spent, just before the dawn of the day, the Angel that he was fighting with put forth His divine power, and at one touch, Jacob was disabled. He was wounded and helpless, but he fell upon the breast of the Angel, pleading for a blessing. He said, “I cannot let You go, unless You bless me” (Genesis 32:26, literal translation).
He received the answer to his prayer because he was persistent and determined to have that one thing he wanted. He was willing to give up everything else if he could have his prayer answered. In Isaiah 27:5 the Lord is speaking to Isaiah, “Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me.”
Friend, are you determined that you are going to be saved in the kingdom of heaven? Are you persistent? Is your whole heart in it? Have you said to the Lord, “Lord, this is what I choose, to surrender myself to You, and to follow Jesus all the way”? If you do that, your prayer will be answered just the same as was Jacob’s. The Lord said to him, “You are like a prince. You have power both with God and with men. And if you have power with God, you won’t need to worry about what’s going to happen to you with men, because the Lord will take care of you” (Genesis 32:28, literal translation).
Have you made that decision in your life and said, “Lord, whatever happens, I’m choosing to follow Jesus all the way? I’m choosing to follow Him, and do His will, and surrender my will to Him?”
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.