Tight places

“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 is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV).

I wonder if they have widened the road to Silinge since I was there last. It was newly built with places where even a small car could barely pass. In fact, on our way back down the mountain we got our compact SUV hung up between two boulders and worked for over an hour to get through. Now as I prepare to return, it would surely be nice if the road is better. However, whether it is or not, I plan to go back.

Why would otherwise sensible people knowingly travel difficult and dangerous roads? One answer is simple and obvious – because they want to go where the road takes them. A friend of mine was with me on the previous trip and he stated that he had never been as scared in his life as he was while we were skidding around hairpin curves past sheer thousand feet plus drop-offs. Upon safely returning he stated, “If I ever visit Silinge again it will be by some other route.”

Sometimes however there are no other routes. And sometimes the destination is sufficiently compelling that we willingly endure the hardships. It may be to view unusual scenery, visit with friends, or to preach the Gospel to an eager audience. Some places are just worth the trip.

No destination fits this description as well as that of which Jesus was speaking in Matthew 7:13-14. The place called “life” is also known as “salvation,” “eternal life,” and most familiarly, “Heaven.” Notice these necessary implications of Jesus’ statement.

First, eternal life is a destination to which one must journey. A believer is not immediately “beamed up” as soon as faith is expressed. Rather, he or she must “work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Even the Apostle Paul realized that his quest was not yet accomplished. “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). Another writer puts it, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The Christian life is variously described as “a way” (Hebrews 10:20), “a walk” (Romans 8:1), “a race” (Hebrews 12:1), and “a fight” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Secondly, there is only one possible route to this destination. Jesus said, “Enter in by the narrow gate. . . . Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life.” There are no alternative, easier paths to follow. Later he specified, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). If we desire salvation we must walk the difficult and narrow way. There are no other choices.

Finally, Jesus acknowledges that many will fail. Pop religion today emphasizes a loving, kindly God who could not possibly see one of his beloved children perish. As appealing as such a doctrine is, the fact is that the Bible does not teach it. Salvation is available to all – this is wonderfully true. But it is conditional and God is unrelenting in regard to those conditions. “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained” (Acts 17:30-31).

Yes, God is “not willing that any should perish” but the alternative is “that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Nowhere are we taught that impenitent or disobedient people will be saved anyway because of the love of God. Rather, when Jesus returns, he will do so “taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I want to go back to Silinge. If that means I must face sheer cliffs, hair pin curves, and narrow passages, so be it. I also want to go to Heaven. That means I must deny self, harness the desires of the flesh, and be obedient to every command of God. So be it.

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