Allen Raynor Weblog: “Two Paths to Follow” (Pt. 1)
(Feb. 28, 2019)
We live in a confusing world in a confusing time. Everyone, it seems, claims his/her own path to success, satisfaction, and fulfillment. One auto manufacturer claims to make the best cars, then another makes the same claim, then another, and on it goes. A multitude of restaurants claim they have the best steaks, the best chicken, the best pizzas, the best salad bar, etc. Several insurance companies make the claim they have the best rates and the best coverage. Cellular companies each advertise saying they have the best service, fewest dropped calls, and the best customer service. It is hard to maneuver through this world of advertising with its endless sea of claims, gimmicks, and promises. Who is telling the truth? If we can hardly figure out how to maneuver the treacherous waters of advertising, then how much more do we struggle when it comes to decisions which have “eternal” implications! Especially since we know that Satan is actively working to confuse and distort the truth and work against us at every turn.
In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus 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 is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Today, more than ever, people are claiming many paths/ways to God. They are saying it all leads to the same place – but does it really? Our culture has slowly become inclusivistic. It desperately wants, and even demands, to believe “I’m ok – you’re ok.” Anyone who does not embrace an “inclusivistic” outlook is seen as “narrow,” “closed-minded,” “ignorant,” “ill-informed” and perhaps “stupid.” While we may feel like we need to be concerned what others are saying and thinking; in the end it really only matters what Jesus said! People who are confronted with their sins these days will often say something like “God is my judge,” or “Judge not lest you be judged, (Mat. 7:1)” even quoting the Scripture they neither know nor trust in. While these statements are true, they are only true in their context and in the way God meant them. These are meant as warnings for all people to give careful heed to His Word and adjust their lives accordingly. God does not judge on some arbitrary, whimsical basis, but always in accordance with His Word. Many people these days are, in effect, proclaiming they want to be judged by a standard they do not really know rather than a standard of which they do know. They do not really like the standard God reveals in His Word so they cling to a false hope that there is somehow another unknown standard that exists whereby God will judge them in a way more favorable to their liking. To make the statement “Only God can judge me” is to say one of two things 1) Yes God will judge me according to the precepts and truths revealed in His Word, or 2) God will judge me according to a standard by which I really know nothing about, but I am confident that it will come out good for me in the end. There is absolutely no basis for the second statement, but the consistent, overwhelming message of Scripture fully supports the first statement.
In Matthew 7:13 and following Jesus gives a series of contrasts. In each case, one is right and one is wrong; one is good and one is bad; one is desirable and one is undesirable (Two Paths vs. 13-14; Two Trees vs. 15-20; Two Claims vs. 21-23; and Two Houses vs. 24-27). Beginning in verse 13 Jesus teaches that there is a superhighway to destruction. Throughout the course of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been laying out a case for the superiority of the Kingdom of God and why anyone hearing His Words should want to become a citizen of that Kingdom, inherit eternal life, and escape the wrath and judgment which is to come. But, for most people it seems easier to follow the crowd. We have all said to our parents at some point “Mom/Dad, everyone is doing it!” or “Mom/Dad, everyone’s got one!” Then parents say, something like “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?” In some situations we realize that following the crowd is not a good idea, but in other situations we seem to think it is a very good idea. Jesus is making it clear that if you follow that wide road, or enter through that wide gate you are headed for destruction along with “the crowd” of many others who are also going through it. John MacArthur writes “The way that is broad is the easy, attractive, inclusive, indulgent, permissive, and self-oriented way of the world. There are few rules, few restrictions, and few requirements. All you need do is profess Jesus, or at least be religious, and you are readily accepted in that large and diverse group. Sin is tolerated, truth is moderated, and humility is ignored. God’s Word is praised but not studied, and His standards are admired but not followed. This way requires no spiritual maturity, no moral character, no commitment, and no sacrifice. It is the easy way to floating downstream, in ‘the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience’ (Eph. 2:2). It is the tragic way ‘which seems right to a man,’ but whose ‘end is the way of death.’ (Prov. 14:12).” (John MacArthur; Matthew Vol. 1; 454-55)
From the time each of us understood “salvation” or what it meant to be “saved,” we have understood that mankind could not save himself no matter how hard he tried. We came to realize we had to rely on a Savior (Jesus). The world will often refer to God in a very generic sense but even the mention of Jesus’ name is highly upsetting to many folks. Why would Jesus upset so many? It is because they want to do what they want to do without having to answer to anyone. We live in a culture where “individualism” has run amok! Everyone is expected to celebrate and applaud the individualism of others no matter how crazy what they are doing seems, with just a couple of exceptions. 1) You cannot harm/hurt others against their will 2) The Christian worldview is simply not acceptable. All viewpoints are given a fair hearing, tolerance, and often applause, except for the Christian worldview. This is seen regularly, for instance on college campuses, where Christian speakers are barred from speaking.
The broad road, Jesus says, leads to destruction. It will always seem to lead to life and happiness. It seems right because so many are on this road. It seems right because it strives for political correctness. It seems right because, by its broadness alone, it conveys safety in numbers. It seems right because it protects the rights of the individual to say, do, or be anything he/she wants to be. But Jesus says, this is not the path to Him, nor the one that leads to life. No matter how attractive or alluring the broad road, it always leads to destruction.
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor