The Narrow Way
By Beth, Jun 18 2015 06:04PM
Matthew 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
People sometimes comment to me how well I seem to know my Bible, that I must just love studying it all the time. And they’re right – I truly do love studying my Bible. What they don’t realize is that I don’t just love studying my Bible – I have to study my Bible.
It’s difficult and painful to admit, but “the narrow way” doesn’t come easily to me. Unfortunately, when you have been exposed to and have participated in a past full of destructive thinking patterns and behaviors, you develop negative self-talk and negative habits that are difficult to reign in and master.
Some people think staying on “the narrow way” means you can’t have a drop of alcohol or play poker with friends or accidentally let a swear word slip if you stub your toe.
I don’t interpret it that way, though. . . (unless you are an alcoholic, a chronic gambler, or have a nasty swearing habit.)
Actually, Jesus very precisely identifies the way (or “the gate”) in Matthew 7:12-14 when He says:
Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
Matthew 7:13 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:
Matthew 7:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
The key to the strait gate can be found in Matthew 7:12. The Golden Rule. That is the Strait Gate, the Narrow Way that leads to life. Jesus says that the Golden Rule is equivalent to all the law and the prophets. If the law and the prophets were the big orange cones marking each side of the Narrow Way, the Golden Rule is the internal GPS.
But if the Narrow Way is so very basic, then why are there so few that find it?
Because, put simply, if you do not see that you have value, you will not be able to find the value in others.
This is not well understood in general, but it’s pretty simple if you think about it: people who really understand their own personal value do not participate in destructive thinking and behaviors.
Restoring to humanity the fundamental understanding that they are valuable (which was lost through the Fall of Man...more on that in a later post...) is truly the essence of the Gospel.
The GOOD NEWS:
You have value to God.
(Silence. . .) Nuh-uh!!
Yes! That is the Good News! I promise! (Re-read John 3:16 if you’re not sure of this.)
We tend to make it a lot more complicated, because we very nearly cannot fathom it, really.
Everyone inherently understands that destructive thoughts and deeds are wrong, and every grown human has participated in sin at some level. So, at some point, we begin to judge ourselves as shameful and condemned, as unworthy creatures who cannot be useful or have gone too far to ever be valuable again.
Since we have acted as judge and jury and condemned ourselves, we then give ourselves license to continue in our sins (as we determine it doesn’t matter much anymore, anyway.)
For God to contend that He sees value in us even as we are living in and with our destructive behaviors ( Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us) sounds outrageous to us!
For the Creator of the Universe to be willing to lower Himself to suffer as a flesh-and-blood human being and to be willing to personally DIE, taking responsibility for unrighteous things WE have done, seems preposterous and utterly astonishing!
And all because He sees value…potential…in us??
Then how come we cannot see potential in ourselves?
Because that’s what it takes to walk the Narrow Way. To have faith in God to help you do what you were designed to do, and to have faith in yourself that you are, in fact, capable of doing it. That you ARE still made in the image of GOD. That you are still made in the image of GOOD. That, if God can find that little light still shining deep inside your heart and clear away the cobwebs and strengthen it, you are able to help cultivate and tend to the light, that it might shine brighter with each passing day.
That if God can have compassion on you despite your shortcomings (Psalms 103:14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust,) you can have compassion for yourself, and then extend that compassion to others.
The only way that I, personally, can do this is by remaining consistently in the Word of God.
When I go too long without His encouragement and admonishment found in His Word, my light begins to dim… my sword begins to dull… my seedling begins to wilt. I begin to regress into old (yucky) thinking habits; I begin to sink into hyper-criticism of myself and others. My outlook on life becomes more negative; my enthusiasm for life begins to slow down to a grinding halt. I lapse into a cycle of negative thoughts and behaviors that leads to depression, anxiety, and anger.
When I am not actively seeking God’s Word and allowing His Spirit to gently guide me, I find myself falling into being judgmental – spending too much time judging both myself, and, consequently, others.
To clarify, being judgmental and being discerning are two very different things. If, for example, I see that a person does not adequately protect or care for their own children, I can discern that I should not trust them with the care of my children. If I observe someone being cold, cruel, or dismissive to those that they believe to be “inferior” to them (to those from whom they perceive they cannot gain something,) I can discern that they are hypocritical and potentially opportunistic. (You can discern this, too! But people are so afraid of believing what they see in a man’s actions, rather than what they hear in a man’s appeasing words… Proverbs 6:12-14 teaches us to look at what a person is doing with their hands and feet, rather than believing their winking eyes or swelling words.)
But being judgmental is a very different kind of “animal” (and one of the unclean variety.) For me, judging others unfairly begins at home in my own heart with judging myself too harshly. If, at the end of a day where I’ve said or done things I’ve regretted, I stand back and review my thoughts, I can often see where the problem began. Most of the time (or maybe even all of the time,) my bad day (or bad moments) have been a product of my bad thoughts toward myself. When I wallow in shame, I tend to shame or condemn others. When I have little patience with my mistakes and follies, I have very little patience for others’ mistakes. I am snippy and snappy. I am harsh and unforgiving. When I am judging others unfairly, I am also riddled with insecurities, hurt and angry and suspicious that others are judging me.
The most painful thing for me is when this harshness is directed toward those I love most. When my kids do something I see as unacceptable, I am quick to get on their case (and I oftentimes overreact.) When I think about Jesus saying “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,” it really puts things in perspective. I, myself, act foolishly or unacceptably at times; how would I want to be corrected? I know I would want someone to lovingly (yet earnestly) correct me – but not to overreact, as if my whole character was questionable because of my folly in this one situation.
That’s how I want to respond to my children, and to others in whom I am invested. I want to always keep in mind how I would want to be treated in any given situation. Unfortunately, I often react before I review this truth in my mind!! Like the Apostle Paul, I find myself doing the very things that I intended NOT to do!
Romans 7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
Romans 7:17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Paul knew that it was not him (the new creature in Christ) doing it, but the sin that dwelt in him from the past.
He was not saying that he was not culpable for his behavior, but rather that sometimes his behavior did not reflect the new person he was in the Lord. Sometimes, he would be led by old troublesome modes of thinking, destructive patterns that did not reveal his true heart after his salvation. Undoubtedly, he repented regularly for these things, dying to his own flesh and being renewed in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.)
And I do the same. And I have to remind myself constantly to leave alone the things which I have laid at the foot of the cross – to not try to take them back again and examine them some more. To trust God at a fundamental level that believes that He can handle even my most shameful habits and behaviors. To comfort myself in the Lord, as did David (1 Samuel 30:6 . . .but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.) To remember to “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee,” (Psalm 55:22.)
The more time we spend on the road that leads to destruction, the more “Herculean” effort it takes on God’s part to help us back to the Narrow Way. I thank the Almighty God that He was willing to put in the effort for me. For the rest of my life, I will seek to honor His love and commitment by holding myself accountable to remain on that path. And where I fail despite my earnest and diligent seeking, I know the Holy Spirit will bear me up and set me on the right path again.
After “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee,” Psalm 55:22 closes with these words:
“He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
If we seek to walk in righteousness, He will keep us on The Narrow Way.
Oh, my LORD and Savior. . .you are too good and faithful.
I like that you define the value that we have in Christ as also the "potential" we have in Christ. This is a good reminder of how important it is to stay in the Word as to remember the value we have in God so that we can share this important message from God with our neighbors/loved ones.
" For me, judging others unfairly begins at home in my own heart with judging myself too harshly."
I have to ponder this statement of yours. I mean when I think of my harsh judgement on others, I think of a lot of it is simply because I do not have the capacity to love people the way God does, specifically, unconditionally. I think I have judged harshly at times without realizing the sin in my own life as well and also when I have been hurt personally by someone. I struggle with unforgiveness and find it is easy to judge them harshly because they have hurt me.
Thanks for your comments, Aleenie!
I understand your point, but I believe if you look deep enough...even if you judge others harshly for sins you do not think you commit...you will likely find some thoughts that are self-destructive, or even self-hating. See, judging others as inferior to ourselves generally comes from some insecurity within ourselves, because judging them makes us feel better about ourselves. For instance, the Pharisees knew intrinsically that they were perverting the Word of God, behaving hypocritically, which is why they judged other so unforgivingly. It helped "puff them up," as bread that has leaven, which is why we're told to beware the leaven of the Pharisees.
As far as not forgiving others, if you allow Him to, the Holy Spirit will gently remind you of times when you reacted just the same way the person you are angry with did, which will quickly humble you and help you to forgive them -- UNLESS they have truly done willful unrighteousness (essentially, abused their power) toward you or someone who could not defend themselves... In that case, forgiveness may not be in order, but rather confrontation, and either resolution or cutting them out of your life/communications. God does not expect you or obligate you to subject yourself or others to continuing abuse based on the concept of forgiveness. That is a misuse of that idea (and sadly, frequently Christians misuse the concept of forgiveness to bond someone to a physically or emotionally harmful situation.)
Sometimes you just need to "shake the dust off your feet" and move on with your life.
Praise God that HE sees value in us when we struggle with it ourselves. You know, something interesting has happened in recent months. I value myself more now than I ever have before. It coincides with my seeking to walk worthy of the Lord on a daily basis. When I seek to walk worthy of HIM, how can I *not* value myself? If HE values me enough to die for me, then I need to take that to heart and show Him that His sacrifice was for someone who wants to serve Him with a whole heart forever. It has been quite a process and will continue to be, but I'm so grateful to Him for helping me to overcome self-condemnation, and in turn, condemnation of others.
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