THE LESSONS ARE OVER. Now comes the homework. This is the “lab” part of the course. Here is where you learn by doing, having learned by reading.
Jesus tells us that, in spite of the glorious way of divine salvation, not many will find it. “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). “Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:23-24). “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen” (Matt. 20:16).
Our Lord is not telling us these things in order to develop a curiously morbid interest in arithmetic. We are not to attempt a calculation of the number of the saved and of the lost. Rather, because we have been given advance information that relatively few will be saved, we are to see to it that we are among these. “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able,” says Jesus. Because there will be few who enter life, you are not to despair of entering, but to strive to enter.
Let us, therefore, address ourselves to this top priority matter of finding the straight and narrow path to life.
I. Recognize the Two Ways
Why has Christ told us that few will be saved? He did this to stress the urgency of being on the right road. As long as persons suppose that just about everybody is going to arrive, they will take the matter quite casually. They will not be concerned about it. They will tend to assume that they are on the right road, of course, and let things rest there. But when they are told that most people are on the wrong road and that relatively few are on the right road, it brings every one of us up short. It makes us ask immediately: How is it with me? Where am I going? Am I with the majority, calmly walking to perdition? How do I get on the right road? If there be few that find it, I had better start looking now.
The very first thing one must do is to recognize the simple fact that there are two different roads and that they lead to two different ends. As long as a person entertains the sentimental, popular notion that there are innumerable roads all going to the same place, there is no hope of his getting on the right road. He must recognize the fact that there are not many roads but only two: a right road and a wrong one. So far from going to the same destination, one leads to Hell and one to Heaven. This is a simple matter of fact. The one person who knows about these matters, Jesus Christ, has spoken on the subject. He came from Heaven and He has gone to Heaven, and He knows the way that leads where He is, and He knows the way that leads elsewhere. His word is clear, and His word is final. It is foolish to dispute it; the thing to do is accept it and act on it.
A young Hindu student studying in this country heard a speaker at an international group saying that Jesus Christ was the only Saviour of the world. Afterward he said; “I do not like your idea that there is only one way to Heaven — your Christian way. I like to think that there are many ways — your way and mine, the way of the Christians, and the way of the Hindus, and the way of the Muslims and of all religions. Your way is too narrow. I like room on the road I travel. I want other people with me, not just my own group.” This all sounded very broad-minded. It was broad-minded. It was broad-road thinking. It leads to destruction. Not because the speaker said one thing and he said another; that is irrelevant. But Christ said one thing, and Hinduism says another. If Christ had said that men came to God through Hinduism, the young man could be right; but since Christ said, “No man cometh to the Father but by me” (John 14:6), the young man is dangerously wrong. He may want a broad road with room for all faiths. There is such a road indeed, but it does not lead where he wants to go. He must simply recognize the fact that there are but two roads, and they lead to different places. Until he learns it, until you learn it, you are on the broad road that leads to destruction. Jesus Christ ought to know.
II. Get On the Straight and Narrow Road
You will never get on the right road until you recognize that there are only two roads and that only one of these is the right road. But recognizing this fact is not getting on the right road. You have to find it and enter it. You need make no effort whatever to find the broad road. Men are born on that road. They are born in sin and on the way to destruction. Most of them stay on that road all their lives and forever. Many of them never even think of getting off while they still have an opportunity. They like the road until at last, when it is too late, they see where it leads. But to get on the right road real effort is required. An act of the will is required once the narrow road is found. No effort is required to remain on the broad road. To make no effort is the best way to stay on the broad road. It is the road of no resistance; it is the course of the evil world that walks according to the prince of the power of the air. But the narrow road must be found and entered with great difficulty.
Dante’s Inferno tells of Virgil leading Dante to the entrance to Inferno. There is a sign saying, “Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here.” There is a sign over the entrance to the Kingdom of God also and it reads: “Abandon all pride, all ye who enter here.” All who would enter this narrow road must abandon all pride. They must recognize that they do not deserve to be permitted to enter this way. They must know that they have forfeited all right to escape the just damnation of their former evil ways. God is under no obligation whatever to rescue them from their Hellhound way. He has every right to permit them to go on to their destruction. The narrow road is a road of free grace, of condescending mercy. No one ever deserves to find or enter this way. Only God’s grace can show and open it. They must enter it in abject penitence, with nothing in their hands, with only a plea of mercy on their lips and in their hearts. “If any man,” said Christ, “will come after me, let him deny himself.” Let him pull himself up by the roots. Let him turn away from himself and rely entirely on Christ. This road is for sinners only. If a man has any righteousness of his own, an iota of merit or goodness to which he can lay claim, the other road is for him. That is where the supposedly virtuous make their self-righteous way to perdition. The road of life is for sinners only — sinners whose hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
A woman said to the preacher after listening to a sermon on this subject, “You make me feel so big,” holding her thumb and index finger about a half inch apart. The minister replied, “Lady, that is too big.” John Bunyan wrote in his autobiography that he found this road so narrow that there was room only for body and soul; not for body and soul and sin.
III. Agonize Along This Road
Not only must all who enter here abandon all pride but once they are on it they must agonize all the way to the end of it. It is a narrow road, exacting and confining. It is a road of holiness, and no sin is permitted here. It is for sinners only, to be sure, for those who know that they have no righteousness of their own and who trust in Christ alone. But they must, on this road, prove that they really do trust in Christ. And they prove this only by the striving after holiness. “If ye love,” says the Lord of this road, “keep my commandments.” Those commandments call for perfect holiness in every area of human behavior. Nor is there any time when a person takes a rest from holiness on this road. All the way he must be striving after his Christ who leads the way.
It is a road which calls for daily self-denial and bearing of one’s cross. This is where the eye that offends is plucked out and the arm that offends is cut off. This is where the men of violence overcome every barrier to their progress. This is where men hunger and thirst after more and more progress along this road. This is where men beat their bodies and keep them in subjection. This is where the pilgrim presses ever on and never counts himself to have attained.
Does someone ask: If there is the necessity of “agonizing” and striving in the way, can it be a gracious way? Will we not be earning rather than receiving? Not at all! Suppose I were preaching in an auditorium and offered all hearers free watches on the condition that they would come down the center aisle to get them. If they came down the side aisles, or through the basement, or by a rear window, they would not get the watches. Suppose they came down the center aisle — the watches would be theirs as a gift. They would not earn them by coming down an aisle! They would only show that they would accept them as a gift! So our persevering works only show our entire trust in the free gift of God.
In spite of the rigor of this way so sharply in contrast to the ease on the broad road, this is a happy road. Christ is this road and Christ is the companion of this road. Those who bear His burden find that the burden is light, and those who are under His yoke find that His yoke is easy. Those who “lose” their lives discover that they really “find” them. Those who deny themselves, find themselves. Those who suffer are very happy. This, in spite of all its hardships and demands is the glory road.
Dr. John H. Gerstner was born in Tampa, Florida, and raised in Pennsylvania. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Dr. Gerstner pastored several churches before accepting a professorship at Pittsburgh-Xenia Theological Seminary, where he taught church history for over 30 years. He served as a visiting professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and adjunct professor at Knox Theological Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Dr. Gerstner was also professor-at-large for Ligonier Ministries for many years, and recorded numerous lectures on audio and video for that organization.
Dr. Gerstner was a stalwart champion of the cause of reformed theology and, in particular, the teachings of Jonathan Edwards. This article is taken from his book, Theology for Everyman.
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