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The Call to Enter the Kingdom, Part 1: The Narrow Way

Series: Matthew

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Sep 28, 1997

Matthew 7:13-14

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Would you please turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 7 as we continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount.  Today we come to the final section, the final division of this sermon, beginning here in verse 13 of Matthew chapter 7.  The Lord Jesus starts to apply and conclude the message that He has been sharing with His disciples.  We have seen the Lord Jesus contrast already in this great sermon, two kinds of righteousness, two kinds of religion: The righteousness of the Pharisees as opposed to the righteousness of God’s law, and the righteousness which the Lord Jesus expected of His disciples.  The religion of the Pharisees contrasted with the religion which the Lord Jesus expected His disciples to follow.  Then, we have seen in Matthew 6, verses 19-34, the Lord Jesus set forth two different kinds of treasures which men have, a heavenly treasure as opposed to an earthly treasure.  And two different kinds of masters that men have: mammon, material things, money, as opposed to two sources of ambition.  An ambition for earthly advancements, and an ambition for glorious heavenly blessing.  And beginning in this passage, He continues to give us a series of contrasts.

In verses 13 and 14, which we are going to look at, He contrasts two ways: a broad way, and a narrow way.  Those ways represent two patterns of life.  And the rest of this book will give us the contrasts in the religious influences which we pay heed to and the foundations for life.  Those are the absolute character of the choices that the Lord Jesus sets before us in verses 13 and 14.  It is striking, isn’t it, for the Lord Jesus to say, there are two ways, and two ways only.  That is not very fashionable teaching today.  But that is the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is one way of life.  And all other ways are a way of death.  Those are the only two options on the market.  The message is a simple message, but it is profound and it is eternally consequential.  So let’s hear God’s holy word, beginning in Matthew 7, verse 13.   

"Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. "For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.” 

Thus ends this reading of God’s holy and inspired word.  May He add His blessing to it.  Let’s look to Him in prayer. 

Our Lord, and our God, we do ask that You would open our eyes that we might behold wonderful things from Your word.  We pray that our hearts would not be hardened because of the familiarity of these words.  Nor of the concepts which they represent.  But we pray that our hearts would be laid bare before Your truth.  For this word is a word for all of us, whether we are believers in Christ, whether we profess to be believers in Christ, but really have not closed with Him in our hearts.  Whether we do not claim to profess Christ at all.  This Word is a word for us.  And we pray that You would apply it to us, by the Holy Spirit in our own situations and circumstances.  That You would strengthen us, where we need to be strengthened.  Comfort us where we need to be comforted.  But wake us up O Lord, where we are slumbering spiritually before You.  For we ask it in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

The Lord Jesus has one great point in this passage, and that is the first thing we need to hear.  The Lord Jesus is extending an urgent call for you to join His kingdom in the one and only possible way of joining it.  The Lord Jesus is calling on people to respond to the message He has been preaching.  He has been setting forth the righteousness of the kingdom.  He has been setting forth the religion of the kingdom.  He has been describing to you the character of people who are part of His kingdom.  He has been describing to You the relationships of the kingdom.  And now, after teaching you these glorious truths of the kingdom, He says, I don’t want you to stand there and admire the kingdom, I want you to enter the kingdom.  I want you to embrace the life for the kingdom.  I want you to find the life which is held in reserve for only those who are part of the kingdom.  It is an urgent exhortation, an urgent call for us to enter. Notice it is not a universal command that the Lord is giving here.  When He says enter through the narrow gate, He is not saying, “I command that the entire world to enter through the narrow gate.”  Imperatives are sometimes used like that in the Bible.  But this is not an imperative of command.  The Lord Jesus knows that the whole world is not going to pay heed to this.  This is the exhortation of a preacher, but more than of a preacher, this is the call of the very Son of God.  This is the Son of God who knows, saying, “Dear people, whom I created, I plead with you, I beg of you, enter the narrow way, for if you do not, there is destruction awaiting you.  And if you do, there is life everlasting.”  This is the plea of the very son of God, for you to come into His Father’s kingdom. 

Jesus, in this passage, is telling us how we come to partake the blessings of the kingdom that He has been describing.  He is describing for us a glorious kingdom, speaking of kingdom life in a fallen world.  Well, how do you get the blessings of that kingdom?  The Lord Jesus is telling us here that we are to enter into the kingdom, and He is going to tell us how we partake of the blessings of that kingdom.  The kingdom, by the way, is not a city, it is not a place, it is not a kingdom that is surrounded by walls.  The kingdom is God’s saving rule in our lives.  The kingdom is God’s saving power and our recognition of His lordship in our lives.  It begins now.  It will be consummated one day.  But that kingdom begins now.  Jesus is telling us about that kingdom and calling us to that kingdom. 

Notice in the verses before us, that first of all, He tells you what He wants you to do.  He wants you to enter, in other words, He is calling you to become a disciple.  He says, you trust in Me for your salvation.  You believe on the things that I say.  You accept My word for the authority of you life and you obey My commands.  He is calling us to become disciples.  Those who rest on Him for salvation, those who trust in Him, those who acknowledge the authority of His Word, and those who walk in the way of His commandments.  That is what He is calling us to do.  To be disciples.

Notice He also implies what He wants us to enter into.  He says, enter through the gate, but He doesn’t explicitly tell you what you are entering into.  But you learn what He means from looking at other passages where He talks about entering.  Jesus is calling us here to enter the kingdom.  To come under the rule of His saving lordship.  And you can see this by looking at a couple of other passages. If you would turn forward to Matthew chapter 19, particularly in verses 13 and 14, where some little children are being brought to the Lord Jesus and the disciples reject them.  The disciples say, these little children don’t understand what You are teaching, they shouldn’t be brought to You.  And the Lord Jesus says, allow the children to come, for the kingdom belongs to such as these.  So He uses the language of coming in connection with the language of kingdom

Now look down just a few verses in that chapter to Matthew 19:23-24.  There He talks about an adult, the rich young ruler, who comes asking how to become part of the kingdom, but who goes away sorrowing, because he doesn’t want to do what Jesus has told Him to do.  The Lord Jesus gives him a hard answer and the rich young ruler goes away sorrowing, and the Lord Jesus turns to His disciples and He says, “It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom.”  He uses again the language of entrance with His kingdom.  So it is not just entering into anything.  It is entering into the kingdom. 

And we see again, if you will turn just a couple of pages ahead to Matthew chapter 23:13, that one of the things that Jesus is upset with the Pharisees about is that, not only do they not respond to His preaching, not only do they not respond to His call to salvation, but they actually prevent others from responding to that call of salvation.  They not only reject the kingdom themselves, but they shut others out and keep them from entering the kingdom. 

And so in each of those passages, you see the language of entering, connected with the language of the kingdom.  Jesus is calling us here to enter into the kingdom.  Come under the arena, or come into the arena of His lordship.  And notice again, He tells us, how you are to enter into that kingdom.  You are to enter into the kingdom through the narrow gate.  What is the narrow gate?  The narrow gate is the Lord Jesus Himself.  He makes that clear, doesn’t He in the Gospel of John.  Please turn with me to John chapter 10, as you see Him stress this point.  In John chapter 10:9, the Lord Jesus, speaking on a similar matter, says to His disciples, "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved.”  The Lord Jesus makes it clear that He is the gateway into fellowship with God.  He is the gateway of salvation.

And if you would turn ahead a few chapters to John 14:6, He will stress the same thing.  Thomas has just asked Him in verse 5, Lord, we don’t know where You are going.  And how are we to know the way?”  And the Lord Jesus responds to that question. “I am the way.  I am the truth, I am the life.  No one comes to the Father, but through Me.”  The Lord Jesus makes it clear that He is the narrow gate.  He is the door.  He is the way into fellowship with the heavenly father.  Now the Lord Jesus after telling us this, after urging us to join His kingdom, to become His disciples, to become a part of the blessing of God, gives us arguments why we ought to do that.  Because the Lord Jesus knows that there are many things in this life that keep us from wanting to do that.  There are some of us who are apathetic about spiritual things.  There are others of us, who are actually resistant to spiritual things.  There are others of us, who feel that the pleasures of this life are frankly more valuable and more tangible than the pleasures which are offered by the Lord Jesus in His scriptures.  Jesus knows that.  And so He says to us, these things, He gives us four arguments in this passage as to why we ought to enter the narrow gate.  

I.The two gates
Notice the first one. He tells us that the wide gate, the broad gate, the wide way, the broad way is a way that leads to destruction.  Jesus is telling us there that the way of death sometimes looks good.  It is productive.  It is easy.  It is enticing.  It offers certain pleasures and so it tricks many people into going that way, because of its ease and because of its attractiveness. 

Secondly, notice He says that we ought to enter the narrow gate, because many go the wrong way.  The Lord Jesus is saying, there are many out there who are confused.  There are many who follow after the way of destruction.  They don’t even realize it, that they are following after the way of destruction.  If you have your hymnals, I would invite you to open them to hymn no. 469.  We sang this beautiful hymn during the Missions Conference this past year.  And in that song, “How Sweet and Awesome is the Place,” number 469,  Isaac Watts is musing on the fact that the Lord has called him to the feast.  The Lord has saved him.  Look at verse 2.  “While all our hearts and all our songs join to admire the feast, each of us cries, with thankful tongue, Lord why was I a guest?”  Watts muses on what we so often wonder about as believers.  “Why, Lord, were you so good to me?”  There are so many others out there who have rejected You, and You saved me, You saved me from myself.  Why was I a guest?  I don’t deserve this.

But look at his third verse.  He says, “why was I made to hear Your voice, and enter while there is room?  When thousands make a wretched choice, and rather starve than come.”  That is what the Lord Jesus is talking about in this passage, when He says, “Many go the way of destruction.” There are thousands who make a wretched choice and they would rather starve than come into the kingdom, and the Lord Jesus is saying, I know that.  And so my disciples, you study to enter into the narrow gate, because there are many who do not chose that way, and they find themselves in destruction. 

Notice also that He says, “the narrow gate leads to life.”  He knows that the narrow gate looks hard.  It is hard.  The narrow gate requires repentance.  It requires faith.  It requires self-denial.  It requires an admission of what we are.  That we deserve the condemnation of God.  That is hard.  In fact, it is impossible apart from the grace of the Holy Spirit.  But Christ says, you look at that narrow gate, and even though it is hard, I want you to remember, it is more desirable than the pleasures of destruction.  Because in the end, it will bring you the blessings of God in salvation for eternity.  And so, He says again, enter that narrow gate, because it is a desirable way. It is more desirable than the pleasures of wickedness. 

And finally, He says in verse 13, that we are to remember that there are very few who find the narrow gate.  He is speaking here of the remnant.  In the Old Testament, when so many of God’s children had followed after idols, other gods, the prophets began to speak of a remnant in Israel, and they began to speak of the fact that God’s covenant promises would be poured out on them, because many of God’s people had rejected Him.  And so the promises of God would not come upon all of those who are simply descendants of Abraham.  It would not come upon all of those who are citizens of Israel.  I would specifically come upon that remnant.  That remnant that still loved God.  That remnant that still worshiped God.  And here the Lord Jesus reminds us there are many, many who hear the Gospel.  But there are few that respond to it.  There are many that hear the call of the Gospel, but few embrace it.  Only those who have embraced the Gospel, find the way of life.  For all these reasons, the Lord Jesus calls us to embrace the kingdom, to join the kingdom.  That is His call to you today. 

Now, I want to look with you just for a few moments at the gate that He talks about, the way that He talks about, the destination that He talks about and the crowd that He talks about in this passage.  Because in each of those things, we learn some very important truths. 

The first thing that I would like to direct your attention to are the gates.  There are two gates in this passage.  Two entrances into eternity.  But Jesus speaks of these two gates to remind us that there is only one way of salvation.  Jesus says, enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide that leads to destruction, for the gate is small that leads to life.  See the broad gate, the wide gate, looks inviting, but in fact, it is deadly.  It looks easy, but in fact it is hard.  Nothing has to be left behind in that broad gate.  There is not repentance required.  You don’t have to change at all.  There is no life change involved in going through that broad gate.  You don’t have to leave the baggage of your sins and of you own selfish ambitions behind, when you enter into the broad gate, but that broad gate leads to destruction.  Self-righteousness doesn’t have to be relinquished at the broad gate.  You can continue to trust in yourself at the broad gate, it is only at the narrow gate that you have to relinquish self-righteousness and trust in the righteousness of Christ alone.  And so there is no repentance required in the broad gate.  And there is no faith in Christ required at the broad gate.  We don’t have to transfer our trust to Christ at the broad gate.  Sounds like a better situation than the narrow gate.  And the problem is it leads to destruction.  It looks good, it looks easy, it looks inviting, it looks promising, but in the end, it is the way that leads to destruction. 

The narrow gate, on the other hand, is hard.  It looks hard.  It requires self-denial.  It requires confession of sin.  Christ is the narrow gate.  He is the entry way into the kingdom.  The gate itself is costly.  It cost Him in order to construct.  And it costs us. We, too, must go the way of confession of sin, and self denial.  We must leave behind our self righteousness and our selfish ambition at that gate.  But the Lord Jesus says, don’t be fooled.  The gates may look, one easy, and one hard, but don’t be fooled by the superficial appearance, because the hard gate in the end is the gate that leads to salvation. 

Now we are also reminded by that very word about the Lord Jesus’ gate, the narrow gate that leads to life, the fact that there is only one way of salvation.  That goes against current trends.  Everywhere we go today, there are people telling us, speaking in our ear saying there are many ways to salvation, many ways up the mountain, many roads lead to God.  And here is the Lord Jesus saying, there is one gate, there is one way.  There is one way into eternal life.  And I want to remind you friends, that that is not the Session of First Presbyterian Church saying that to you.  And that is not the historic Reformers, Calvin, and Luther, and Zwingli, and Knox.  And that is not the great saints of the church, Augustin, and others.  That is the Lord Jesus saying that.  If you want to reject that, you have rejected Him.  Jesus is the one who says “There is only one way into fellowship with God and no one comes by Me.”  We can’t change that friends.  We can’t change that.  That is what the Lord Jesus says.  This is not the doctrine of men.  This is the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Himself.  And we, ourselves, must be certain that we are trusting in the only one who can save us from our sins.  Have you trusted in Him, are you resting in Him?  Or, are you holding back?  Is there something else that you are holding on to?  Do you think that the Lord will acquit you because you have tried?  Do you think your own deeds will get you into glory?  The Lord Jesus says, I am the only way.  Enter by the narrow gate.  

II. The two ways      
Notice also, He speaks about the way.  Two ways He contrasts.  “The way is broad that leads to destruction.  The way is narrow that leads to life.”  He contrasts for us here, two ways, two patterns of life.  If we were using modern nomenclature, we would say two lifestyles.  The lifestyle of righteousness, and the lifestyle of wickedness.  The lifestyle of godliness, and the lifestyle of godlessness.  And the Lord Jesus again here teaches us that there is only one blessed life.  There are many people who are saying to you today, you can chose any alternative lifestyle that you want, and it can be a blessed way.  The Lord Jesus says, there is one lifestyle that is blessed, and it is a lifestyle that lives by the grace of God under the reign of God according to the righteousness of God, as set forth in His word.  He sets forth before us, two patterns.  The broad way, that is that pattern of living according to our own standards, wickedness.  It is  living to our own standards, our own desires.  It is an easy way, because you make it up as you go.  It is easy because it allows you to indulge yourself.  It is easy because it gives you a kind of freedom from responsibility.  There are no boundaries, there are no rules.  But is hard in the end.  Doesn’t the book of Proverbs tell us in chapter 16 verse 25, that “There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to destruction.”  And that is so true my friends.  It may seem right, it may feel right, but in the end, if it is not the way of the Lord Jesus Christ, and if it is not the way of God’s word, it ends in destruction. 

Then, there is the way to life.  It is a narrow way.  Jesus is talking about that pattern of life according to righteousness; living according to God’s standards, living according to God’s desires, living to desire to glorify Him, living in accordance with God’s word.  It is the way of self-denial.  It is the way of righteousness.  It is the way of blessing though.  The Lord Jesus wants you to know that when Satan whispers in your ear, if you repent, if you go the way of righteousness, you are going to be miserable.  The Lord Jesus wants you to know that the opposite is true.  Is it a hard way?  Yes.  Is it hard to repent of sins?  Yes.  Is it difficult to be confronted with what you are?  Yes.   Is it good?  Absolutely.  Couples having marital troubles, many of those troubles are caused by sinful ways in which the two are relating to one another.  Is it hard when the two of them have to look at their own hearts and see the blackness that is there and the hurt that they are inflicting upon one another?  Yes.  Does it hurt to have to examine yourself week after week sitting down with the counselor to wrestle through those problems?  Does it hurt?  Yes.  Is it good?  Absolutely.  It is the only way forward.  Does it hurt?  Yes.  Is it good?  Absolutely.  It is just like the narrow gate.  It hurts to see your self as you are.  It hurts to know that you are rebellious in you heart.  It hurts to know that you are rebellious against God and His law.  It hurts to know that you are the dehumanizing yourself by following the way of sin, but it is good to know that before you  have gone the way of destruction.  And it is even better to do that when you have renovated, when you have been regenerated, when you have embraced Christ in repentance. 

The hard way of the narrow gate in the end is easy in comparison with the broad way of the wide gate.  The Lord Jesus has told us in Matthew 11, verse 30, that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.   And we know what He means.  If you have ever wrestled  with sin, and been unrepentant of it, and laid your head on the pillow at night and your conscience wouldn’t let you sleep, you know what Jesus means when He says, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”  If you have laid your head down on the pillow knowing that your sins had been confessed, that you have done what you could to restore relationship, you have confessed yourself before almighty God and you are resting in the forgiveness that comes in Christ, you know the sweet sleep of  a clean conscious before the Lord.  The hardest thing in the world is to live looking in that mirror knowing that that conscience is not clean. It is an easy way but it is a hard way.  And it eats away over the years.  We must learn to embrace the gospel paradox.  The hard way is the easy way.  The cross is the way to glory.  The narrow gate is the gate that frees you.  It is the gate that gives you liberty.  Christianity promises this new way of life, which brings blessing and causes us to experience the righteousness of God, in our lives.  It may not look easy, and it isn’t, but it is far more blessed than the way of destruction.   

III. Two final destinations

Notice also the Lord Jesus speaks about our two final destinations.  He speaks of the two final places that men and women come.  He teaches us that there is only of blessing in eternity.  There is a way that leads to destruction, and there is a way that leads to life.  If you go the broad way, the wide way, you are literally on the road to hell and destruction, and to head down that road is literally suicide.  When we go that way, we become progressively less what God intended us to be as human. 

So often sin is presented to us, as if it makes life more exciting.  And more often it is presented to us as something that makes us more human.  Ever heard someone say?  O, I am sin, well I have sinned.  I am just human.  To err is human we hear.  But to sin, is not human.  To sin is fallen. To sin makes us less human, not more.  And in eternity, all the goodness of God’s common grace will be withdrawn from those who have rejected Him, and hell will be a place where there is not loveliness, and there is no love and there is no joy, and there is no hope, and there is no peace. 

And I want to say that the Lord Jesus is deadly serious when He speaks about this hell.  I know again that is not a popular doctrine today.  But the Lord Jesus speaks about it, more than He speaks about heaven.  The Lord Jesus created it.  He knows what it is.  And the Lord Jesus warns us in deadly earnest that we be ready to make the wise choice and to go the narrow way that we might avoid the destruction which awaits all those who reject Him.  Hell is no joke.  We must think of it in symbol.  What are we aiming for?  What are you aiming for?  There are lots of way to determine what you are really after in life.  You can look at your desires, your deepest desires.  What do you really want in life?  You can look at your choices?  What are the things that you are choosing in life?  You can look at your priorities and ask, what do theses priorities tell me about my ultimate destination?  What about the fruits of your life?  Does grace reign in your life in righteousness, or does you life reflect that you have chosen the broad way?  The Lord Jesus reminds us that there is only one place of blessing in eternity and it can only be had in eternal fellowship with God by entering into the narrow gate.  

IV. Two different groups
And finally, the Lord Jesus reminds us that there are two different groups.  One that accepts His call to become disciples.  And another that rejects it.  There are the many and the few.  The gate is wide and many enter into the way that leads to destruction. The gate is small and few who find it, the gate that leads to life.  Jesus describes the many, those who are indifferent, those who will ultimately be condemned.  And the few, those who have been embraced by Him, those who have embraced Him by faith.  They are the blessed.  They are the justified.  They are the ones who have entered into the kingdom.  And there could be no neutrality.  You are either God's people, or you are not.  You have either embraced Him by faith or you haven’t.  You either are in the kingdom, or you are out.  The Lord Jesus doesn’t give any other alternatives. 

Christ’s words to us are a warning here that we be careful that our hearts not pull us along in following the wrong crowd.  For there are many who are comfortably walking down that broad path, leading to destruction.  Are we in that happy band of pilgrims on the celestial highway to the celestial city?  Or, have we gone astray into bypass meadow, and followed the way of the world? 

The Lord Jesus’ words are a warning to us.  Consider the way into my kingdom, through Me, through My saving work.  Through the grace of My Father.  Through grace in repentance.  Consider the way that that gate leads to.  It is a way of righteousness, so you don’t just claim to be a believer, but your life is transformed.  Consider the eternal destiny that hangs in the balance.  Heaven and hell.  And consider the fact that there are many who hear this message and they turn a deaf ear to it. 

The Lord Jesus is issuing an earnest call to you today to join His kingdom. This is a call for believer and unbeliever alike.  If you are a believer today, the Lord Jesus is asking you to examine your walk.  Are you walking on the way, or have you strayed, and if you have not embraced the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, He is issuing an urgent plea that you embrace Him before it is too late.  For who knows, the number of our days.  May God enable us to chose life.  Let’s look to Him in prayer. 

Our Lord and our God, this passage is nothing but solemn.  But lying under it and behind it, is eternal joy if we will but embrace the Lord Jesus Christ.  We know that we cannot do this in our own power.  For by our nature, we are children of wrath.  But we ask O God, that You would call effectually.  And we ask that by Your Spirit, You would draw men and women, even this day, to Yourself.  And that they would be given cause to praise You for saving them and bringing them along the narrow way.  We ask all these prayers in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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