Some people believe that it is easier to be saved than to be lost. And others believe that it is easier to be lost than to be saved. Which is it?
We find the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12. Jesus said, “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.” Immediately after giving this Golden Rule, He said in verses 13 and 14, “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 [restricted] is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” This was surprising to the people when Jesus told it to them, but continues to be just as surprising to people throughout history.
The Golden Rule excludes all pride and self-seeking, attributes that are allowed on the broad road that leads to destruction. If you want to enter into eternal life, you must climb the narrow road. There will be few on the narrow road, because the multitude will choose the broad, downward path.
The broad road is characterized by worldliness, selfishness, pride and self-seeking, dishonesty, and moral abasement. Almost the entire human race can take this road. It has plenty of room for anyone to have an opinion, doctrine, or teaching that they choose, and enough space to follow any inclination, and whatever their self-love would require. Because of our sinful human nature, there is no need to have to search for the broad road. It seems that we know right where to find it, and the broad road gives us plenty of latitude to do as we please and as our nature leads us to do.
On the other hand, the road that leads to eternal life is narrow and not as easily found. The entrance is narrow and the entire road is restricted and difficult. Clinging to any besetting sin, we will find that the gate is too narrow to go through. Our own ways, our own will, our own inclinations, evil habits and practices must be given up, or we will be unable to follow the narrow road.
If we want to follow the Lord, we cannot serve ourselves. The road to heaven—the narrow road—is too narrow and steep for a person whose life is centered in his or her own ambitions, who seeks the world’s opinion and seeks to follow the world’s standard. It is too steep for the sinful, 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, but those people 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 on this world. He endured what the Bible calls “such hostility from sinners against Himself.” (Hebrews 12:3), and it is this same walk that we must walk on the narrow road if we are to enter into the paradise of God.
However, while it appears that the narrow road is the difficult path and the broad road is the easier path, we must remember that the broad road is deceptive. It is a road that leads to death, with much pain and grief, and many penalties, sorrows, and disappointments. Because we feel “free” when we walk the broad road, free to do what we want, say what we want, be what we want, we heedlessly march down the broad road with a purpose. But because of God’s love for us, He has made it hard for the headstrong to obliviously destroy themselves. Satan makes the broad road seem attractive, exciting, but remember that he is a liar and deceit is his specialty. The longer one walks the broad road he or she will soon find bitter remorse, cankering care, pain, and sorrow. It may seem that our selfish plans will achieve flattering prospects and that life is one enjoyment after another, but it will soon become clear that happiness is poisoned and because of the sin in our lives, everything will be wrecked. Thus, that which started out as joyful becomes despairing. Notice what the Bible says in Proverbs 13:15, last part: “But the way of the unfaithful is hard.” Isaiah said, “ ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’ ” Isaiah 57:21. How often do we think one way, but discover it is not what we thought it would be? The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 16:25. The broad road seems more attractive at the beginning. There is nothing to give up to travel that road, but eventually it leads to a terrible destination.
But concerning those who choose to go up the narrow way, Proverbs 3:17 says, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” The Christian life seems restricted at the start. “[This] life is a life of constant conflict. … Every act of obedience, every deed of self-denial, every trial bravely endured, every temptation resisted, every victory gained, is a step forward in the march to eternal triumph.” Ye Shall Receive Power, 357. The Lord has made the road that leads to eternal life plain so that even a terrible sinner need not miss it. The person who is willing to practice righteous and holy living can walk up the narrow road because they are willing “to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets” him or her (Hebrews 12:1). Access is secured for all who want to go through and no soul need ever say, “God does not care about me.” If we take Christ as our guide, laying aside our sins and walking through the narrow gate, He will lead us safely.
The person not yet on the road to eternal life may see it as a rough and steep climb. There may be pitfalls. He or she will have to toil and fight when there is no fight left in them. They may become discouraged, but if they are following Jesus and obeying His word, they will not fail of reaching the desired haven at last. You see, Jesus Himself walked up that way and has smoothed the path for all who follow in His steps. All the way there are wellsprings of joy to refresh the weary and one can find peace, even in difficulty and tribulation. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:4, last part, “I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful … .” Why? Because, the One whom the soul loves, the One that we follow, walks unseen beside us, and at each upward step, we can discern more distinctly the touch of His hand. “The path of the just is like the shining sun [star], that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.” Proverbs 4:18
The Jews thought that the Messiah would come and give them victory over the Roman Empire and set them up as a great nation, but Jesus disappointed their hopes in the Sermon on the Mount. He had not come to overthrow the world’s great kingdoms or to make Israel a great, worldly kingdom. He told them that He had come to reveal to them the character that is the true glory of His kingdom, offering them not the promise of earthly dominion, but to place before them the opportunity to be one with Him in character and love. He assured them that it would be their supreme desire and worth their sincere effort. He was not calling them to battle against the Roman Empire, but rather to fight the battle against self and to win. He said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many … will seek to enter and will not be able.” Luke 13:24
Yes friends, there will be many people who will seek salvation, but will not find it. Many will be lost, while hoping and desiring to be saved. Paul encourages us in 1 Timothy 6:12 to “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” And Philippians 1:30 says, “Having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.”
“The Christian life is a battle and a march. 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.
“No one will be borne upward without stern, persevering effort in his own behalf.” Reflecting Christ, 312
The field of battle is the human heart. We must struggle against evil within—sinful thoughts and desires, actions and words. 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 victory over self must be gained if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. The Bible promises salvation only to those who overcome, but while we must overcome the wickedness that is our natural nature, it is by grace alone that we receive salvation. Salvation can be enjoyed only by those who have been forgiven of their sins and have received the grace of Christ. You must have not only a title to heaven, which the sacrifice on the cross of Calvary provided for you, but you must be fit for heaven and being made fit is the result of this great battle with self. That is why the Bible says that without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14, last part). Victory, then, is gained by our choice, but not by human power.
The old nature, the will of the flesh, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The hereditary tendencies, the former habits, must be given up. If we determine that we are going to enter this spiritual kingdom, then 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 attempt to make us stand against anything that would show them to be sinful. We cannot of ourselves conquer these evil desires and habits that strive for the mastery inside. We cannot overcome the mighty enemy who holds us captive. Only God can give us the victory. The Lord desires us to have the mastery over ourselves, to be in control over our own wills and our own ways, but He cannot work in our hearts and change us without our consent and cooperation.
“The victory is not won without much earnest prayer, without the humbling of self at every step. Our will is not to be forced into cooperation with divine agencies, but it must be voluntarily submitted. … The will must be placed on the side of God’s will. You are not able, of yourself, to bring your purposes and desires and inclinations into submission to the will of God; but if you are ‘willing to be made willing,’ God will accomplish the work for you … . For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 142, 143
Second Corinthians 10:5 says, “[C]asting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Is our every thought brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ? “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.” Philippians 2:12, 13. This is the reason that so many people who want to take the narrow road do not make it; they turn away from the conditions by which alone they would be able to go through the narrow gate.
There are many today who are traveling down the broad road, but they are not fully satisfied with the path they are walking on, wishing they could break away from the slavery of sin. They look toward the narrow gate and try in their own strength to break some of their evil habits or sinful practices, but because of their weak but sinful nature, selfishness, love of the world, pride, and unsanctified ambition, they hesitate, falter, and turn back. They would have to renounce their own will, their chosen objects of affection, but this they cannot do. They desire to do good, they even make some effort to do it, but they do not have a settled purpose to secure eternal life, because it would cost them everything.
The only hope for us is to choose to surrender our will to God’s will, hour by hour and day by day. We must be willing to be made willing. We must choose to cooperate with Him. We cannot retain our natural, sinful self and expect to enter into the kingdom of God. If we ever wish to attain holiness, it will be through the renunciation of self and 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 be brought into perfect conformity with the will of God and make the necessary sacrifice to go through the narrow gate and up the narrow road to salvation? The Bible says, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” Amos 3:3. If there is a point on which we and God do not agree, whose mind should be changed?
The Bible tells us 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 life, and we can read about many of these sins in the Bible. We are told that 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 an enemy who he believed intended to take his life. When his strength was nearly spent, just before the dawn of the day, it was revealed that he had been fighting “the Angel of the covenant.” The Angel 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 will not let You go unless You bless me!” Genesis 32:26, last part. He received the answer to his prayer because he was persistent and determined. He was willing to give up everything so that his prayer could be answered. The Bible says, “Let him take hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace with Me.” Isaiah 27:5
We must be determined and commit our whole heart if we are going to be saved in the kingdom of heaven. We must pray, “Lord, I choose to surrender myself to You, and to follow You all the way.” God will answer your prayer just as He did Jacob’s. God will provide you with the power needed to enter at the narrow gate and walk the narrow road all the way to eternity. Decide now.
“Lord, whatever happens, I surrender my will to You. I choose to follow You all the way, and seek always to do Your will.” [Emphasis supplied.]
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.