Precious Jesus

"Afresh, precious, precious Jesus, I resign this body to You, for doing or suffering, for living or dying. Will You accept it? Will You use me for Your glory more than heretofore, that You may have some little return for all the benefits You have done to me? Oh, do grant this request; my heart longs for it, my spirit pleads for it; and "if You will, You can." You know the hot temptation of which I am the subject. Bring Your glory out of it, and keep me from the evil, and it shall be well." - Ruth Bryan

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A whole Christ must be received -- with the whole heart

"Yet to all who received Him . . . He gave the right to become children of God" John 1:12
A whole Christ must be received—with the whole heart.


Some in their understanding, assent to the way of salvation--yet do not consent to it with their will. In judgment they are for Christ--but in affection they are for other things. There is only a part of their soul that is for Christ. Others would have the benefits that are from Christ--but have no love for the person of Christ.

Some would have Christ only as a Savior--but not as a Lord. They desire Him only as a Priest to offer a sacrifice for their sins--but not as a Prophet to instruct them, nor as a King to rule over them. So that it is but part of Christ, that they would receive.

But both of these courses are equally dangerous; for, if we would be saved, we must cleave to Christ with all the faculties of the soul--with will, judgment, affection, etc. And so, again, we must cleave to the whole of Christ--Christ in His natures, person, offices, etc. If, therefore, you would rightly receive Christ, see that your whole soul receives a whole Christ!


Thomas Sherman

If this is happiness, then give me misery

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen, and lived in luxury every day." Luke 16:19

How apt are many at the sight of a rich worldling—to envy him for what he has. But, for my part, I rather pity him for what he lacks!
He has a talent—but it lacks improvement;
he has a lamp—but it lacks oil;
he has a soul—but it lacks grace;
he has the creature—but he lacks the Creator;
he has a mansion—but he lacks heaven.

In his life, he floats upon a torrent of vanity—which rolls along into an
ocean of vexation!
And after death, it will be said of him, "Take this unprofitable servant, bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness! Consign his soul to the eternal lake of fire and brimstone!"
Where now is the object of your envy?
It is not his gold that can then rescue him,
nor his mansion that can then satisfy him,
nor his friends that can then comfort him.

Therefore, if he is worth the envying—then who can be worth the pitying?

 
 If this is happiness—then give me misery!

Lord, rather make me poor with a holy heart—than rich with an evil heart of unbelief!

"Have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue—because I am in agony in this fire!" Luke 16:24

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment—but the righteous to eternal life!" Matthew 25:46


Thomas Sherman

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Following wherever

Following "Wherever"
Charles Naylor, 1920
 
One day as Jesus was passing along the highway, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go!" (Luke 9:57). This man no doubt was greatly impressed by the wonderful works and noble character of Christ. He thought that companionship with such a man would be full of blessing and richness. Just to see and hear Jesus, would be worth any man's time and effort — to hear the gracious words that came from His lips would enrich mind and heart — to see the mighty works done would inspire. To him it seemed to be one of the most desirable of all things.
Christ's answer to him, however, showed that following Him might well mean something more than this man had ever considered. Jesus way did not always lead through pleasant places. His path was not always to be rose-strewn — not always would the multitude look on Him with favor. Whether this man followed Jesus we are not told, but following evidently meant more to him now than it had meant before.
There are many today who, like that man of old, say, "Lord, I will follow you," with no clear idea of what it means. It was not hard to follow him when the multitude shouted, "Hosanna!" and threw palm-branches before him.
In the same way, it is easy for us to follow him today when his cause is popular, when people are proclaiming the truth of what we teach and approving of our service. It is no task to follow Jesus when it brings praise and admiration. It is no task to follow in the calm after his "Peace, be still," on Gennesaret. Who would not follow gladly to the mount of transfiguration to behold his glory? But to follow him "wherever" means more than this.
It is our privilege to share in his glory, his triumph, and his exaltation; but if we have a part in these, as true followers we must also follow him in his humiliation. Are we willing to follow him . . .
when the multitude laughs and mocks at him,
when his cause is unpopular,
when instead of praise, we have reproaches,
when instead of smiles, we have sneers?
Then comes the test whether we will follow him all the way.
On one occasion, after he had preached — the multitude forsook him and only the Twelve were steadfast. In these days many are offended at the Word. Are we willing to accept it all? Are we willing to listen to it all? Are we willing to obey it all? God wants "wherever" men and women, who will . . .
hear 
the whole Word, 
believe 
the whole Word,
and obey the whole Word.
If we shrink from obedience to any part — we lack just that much of being "wherever" disciples. Christ lived a dedicated life — he was dedicated to his Father's will and accomplished his work — he gave himself solely to this. He allowed nothing to come between him and the fulfillment of God's purpose. With him, nothing counted except that he should finish his work.
There is a purpose, a moving purpose, in every life. There is one thing above all other things that is the chief purpose of our life. In many cases that purpose is to please self — to follow out a course of our own choosing.
The dominant purpose in the heart of every true follower is the same as it was in the life of Christ — to do the will and work of the Father. He who shrinks from either, may hesitate to call himself a true follower.
Christ sacrificed all — even his life. A "wherever" follower has the same spirit of sacrifice — he will not withhold himself nor that which is his. The early church rejoiced "that they were counted worthy to suffer" for Christ.
Let us today look into our own hearts and see if we are animated by the same spirit. That spirit is a very different spirit from that which is seen in those who are offended by a word or a look, and who are ready to resent the slightest act that encroaches upon their rights.
How empty are the claims of many who profess to be real followers of Jesus! They follow where it pleases them — but as soon as something happens not to their liking, they are ready to draw back!
Christ had nowhere to lay his head. We have no record that he ever owned anything but the clothes he wore. A "wherever" follower is not ashamed of the poor. And if he himself is poor — then he is not ashamed of his poverty. But Christ was not always poor. We read that "he became poor." He sacrificed — that others might be enriched. The same spirit of sacrifice will make us willing to sacrifice what we have, for the enrichment of others.
If there were more "wherevers" among us, we would not hear of a lack of funds to carry on the Lord's work. Think of a stingy "wherever"! Can you imagine such a combination? Yet many professed followers fail in their duty to give to the cause of Christ.
Let us bring the question home to ourselves. Let us examine our own hearts and lives. Are we willing to follow Christ all the way — even when we are rejected by our friends and relatives, through sneers and revilings? We might drink of the wine of Cana — but will we wear the thorns? We might be willing to walk on the waters with Jesus — but how about Gethsemane? We may be willing to eat of the loaves and fishes — but are we willing to go with him to Golgotha? We would gladly sit with him on his throne — but will we bear the cross with him to Calvary? We can easily follow him where the way is easy and when our emotions are exalted and our hearts full of praise — but will we follow him . . .
when the skies grow dark,
when we are troubled,
when bitter trials come,
when it takes courage to face what is before us?

Let us decide to be true when the way is strewn with stones or hedged with thorns, when the clouds hang low — as well as when all is bright and encouraging. Let us cast away all shrinking, and say from our hearts and by our lives, "I will follow wherever you go!"

Baptized with fire

Baptized with Fire!
Charles Naylor, 1920
 

John the Baptist said, when speaking of the work of the coming Messiah, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." The symbolic tongues of fire which sat on the believers on the day of Pentecost represented a very real something which from henceforth would be manifested in their lives.
It is not my purpose here to enter into an explanation of the Baptist's words. I wish to speak only of the fervency which fire represents as it should characterize our lives. The life that has in it no fervency, has little or nothing of God. The soul that is vigorous in God, is a soul full of power. We need to be "on fire" for God, and there are three ways in which this fervency should manifest itself.

A Burning Love.
We need a fervent love. It is the foundation, as it were, of all Christian fervency. If our love lacks fervency, it lacks the vital element that makes it effective. If our love for God is kindled into a burning passion, it will put him before all else. His will and desire will be the delight of our hearts. His service will be no task, to sacrifice for him will be easy, and to obey him will be our pleasure. It will make our consciences tender toward him. What he loves — we shall love; and whom he loves — we shall love.
If our love is fervent, we shall love Scriptural truth, and we shall love it as it is worthy to be loved — above our own opinions or ideas and more than the teachings of men. We will not sacrifice it or deny it for ease or comfort or to please others. We shall strive to make our lives conform to it. We shall labor with all our strength to spread it over the world. If we love the truth, we shall be missionaries whether we are at home or abroad. Love begets labor.
A fervent love of the brethren glows in the heart that is full of God. It will burn up criticism and backbiting. It will burn up division and strife. It will destroy jealousy and envy. It will make peace in the home, in the church, and in the individual heart. A thousand troubles come when love grows cold — the eyes see no more as they once saw, the ears hear no more as before, the tongue talks differently, and the heart feels differently — the glow dies out of the eyes, the tenderness leaves the touch, sympathy wanes in the heart, and there is ashes for beauty, and heaviness instead of praise. When the first love is left, when the divine fire is quenched — out of the life has gone its richness, its transfiguring beauty; and what is left?
O brother, sister — keep the red glow of fervency in your love. If you have lost it, rest not until it is rekindled. Love makes us strong to do and to bear. John Knox said to God, "Give me Scotland or I die!" That was love that shook a kingdom. Paul counted not his life dear to him. That was love that overthrew the idols of the heathen. God "so loved the world," and a new era dawned, bringing light and salvation. If we have such love, it will work out in effectual action. A church fervent in love, is a church reaching out and winning others. It is a church with an all-absorbing passion for the lost. Let us ask ourselves today, "Have I a fervent love? Or am I cold, and has my love lost its strength?"

A Burning Zeal.
A man or a church without zeal, is of necessity ineffective. What is the temperature of your zeal? Does it let you go for months without speaking to a man about his soul's salvation? Does it permit you to rest easy while others are toiling, praying, and sacrificing? About how much time on an average do you spend each day praying for souls, or for the progress of the kingdom of God in the earth? About how often do you pray definitely for some of your neighbors, your friends, or business associates? About how long has it been since you shared the gospel of Christ? When did you pray with someone for his spiritual needs? When did you speak encouraging words? When did you give someone a gospel tract? When did you write a letter filled with spiritual advice or help? How much sacrifice are you making for the cause? How much time, labor, or money have you expended for the kingdom in the past year? Is your zeal dead — or is it in fervent activity? How much does the salvation of others mean to you?
Behold the zeal of the advocates of some of the false movements of these days! See how they pour out their money like water. See how they never can be satisfied unless they are laboring for their movement. Are we as zealous as they? If not, why not? If we have the truth and know that we have it — then should not that be enough to fire our zeal until it would not let us rest while there are others in spiritual darkness? Almost in sight of you, or perhaps within a stone's throw — are people who do not know the truth. If you do no more than you have done the past year — may they not live and die there and never know it?
Zeal does not ask for excuses. Zeal is never satisfied until it has gone full length in labor. When one man was asked what was the secret of the marvelous success of the early church in its fight against heathenism, he replied with just one word, "Zeal!" The same sort of zeal will produce results today. Zeal must, of course, be enlightened. It can succeed only when guided by wisdom. Blind zeal is like a blind horse — it is likely to run in any direction regardless of results. So be wise when you are zealous. If you are truly wise with that wisdom "which comes down from above," you will also be zealous.

A Fervent Hatred.
A good Christian is a good hater. "You who love the Lord — hate evil." This is an age of toleration. Almost any false doctrine may be preached — while many of the religious teachers of so-called orthodoxy, plod on their way indifferently. Error thrives, a multitude of souls are deceived, but many seem but little concerned. Evil raises its head everywhere and sneers at the Christian people. Dens of vice, gambling-houses, lewd picture-shows, and a hundred other forms of evil are tolerated and even looked upon as "necessary evils" by religious professors. But he who really loves God — just as truly hates all evil. He so hates it in himself, that he will give it no place in his heart or life. He hates it in others. He sees no pleasant thing in it. To him it is foul, vile, and revolting! Sin is his enemy — and he is its bitter foe. The measure of his love for good, is the measure of his hatred for evil. We cannot love the good, more than we hate the evil. The two exactly balance in our lives.
A burning love, a burning zeal, and a burning hatred — will make your life as a beacon-light to the world. If you would be a true example of what God means men to be — you must have this fervency in your life. It alone can keep you from coldness. It alone can make you a prosperous, victorious Christian!

Monday, March 20, 2017

contentment

Contentment
Charles Naylor, 1930

Contentment is one of life's greatest blessings. But contentment is not something that can be sent down, nicely wrapped up like a Christmas gift from Heaven. It is a state of mind and heart. It is not dependent upon our situation or our circumstances. Many people are contented and happy in circumstances — where others would be thoroughly discontented. Some people are discontented under the most favorable circumstances. Contentment is a structure we build ourselves. It is a state of mind we develop. It is an attitude toward things which comes to us through careful cultivation. It is something which lives inside us — not something that circumstances and conditions create.
If happiness has not its seat and center in the heart — we may be wise, or rich or great — but never can be blessed.
Contentment is sometimes spoken of as a lazy virtue. Perhaps that is because some people are content with things with which they ought not to be content. We should never be satisfied to permit things to exist, which ought not to exist. We should never be satisfied to be less than our best. There are wrongs which need righting. There are conditions which need improving. There is progress which needs to be made. A sort of contentment that can view these things with indifference, ignore responsibility, evade duty — should be called by an entirely different name. When we have done our duty, met our responsibility, corrected those things that need correction so far as is possible for us — then we may have real contentment. Contentment does not mean surrender to conditions. It does mean being satisfied in the circumstances and conditions which exist, for which we are not responsible.
Contentment is a lesson to be learned. Paul said, "I have learned in whatever state I am therewith to be content." (Philippians 4:11). He goes on to tell some of the things he has learned. "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (verses 12, 13).
Paul had learned a great secret. It was the secret of adapting himself to conditions, and being at rest in those conditions. He could enjoy to the full, the things that afforded him enjoyment. He could suffer patiently, the things that came upon him to suffer. But whether rejoicing or suffering — he had that inner contentment of spirit — the calmness and peace of which enriched his soul and made quite tolerable a life that otherwise would have been intolerable.
We, too, need to learn the lesson of contentment. The command to Christians is, "Be content with such things as you have" (Hebrews 13:5). Speaking further upon this subject Paul says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out. Having food and clothing, let us be therewith content."
A godly life is productive of contentment — but there are many Christians who at least in some respects are discontented. This discontent produces a constant urge to rebel against things.
It is a singular fact that many of the most contented people are those who live in poverty. In fact, the working people are the most contented of all people. Those who live on the common levels of life, are the truly happy — provided they have the attitude of contentment.
There are many things people desire which can never give them contentment. One man says, "If I had a million dollars — I would be contented." Another thinks if he had political preferment — that would satisfy his ambition and he would be content. Another has another thing to attain to make him content. These things when attained — do not bring contentment.
As already pointed out contentment is a lesson learned, a state of the heart, an attitude toward things.
Riches do not bring contentment. Andrew Carnegie, known to all for his wealth and a man who should have known what he was talking about, said, "Beyond a competence for old age, and that may be very small — wealth lessens rather than increases human happiness. Millionaires who laugh are rare!" Many of us would do well to pause here and carefully study this saying of a wise and prudent Scotchman.
Jesus told his disciples not to be anxious about food and clothing and such things and added, "After all these things, the Gentiles seek" (Matthew 6:32). Possession of worldly things, is a goal set before them by the unsaved. The question asked about a man often is, "How much money does he have?" His supposed happiness is usually rated by the size of his bank account. No greater error in the choice of a standard for measurement of happiness, could be made. The command of the Scriptures is, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." We should put first things first. If we do this — then our needs will be few, and our desires not much greater.
The basis of contentment is simplicity of desire. One of the things that is ruining more happiness than anything else, is the desire to excel others. "We must keep up with the Jones," is an attitude of mind fatal to contentment. It has caused more heartaches, destroyed more happiness, ruined more homes, produced more divorces, perhaps than any other one thing! This strife to excel, often leads people into sin.
The wife would outstrip her neighbors, so she makes large demands upon her husband for money. Thus pressed, he sometimes adopts business methods that are highly improper. In many cases it has led to shame and disgrace. In any event, it leads to unhappiness for both husband and wife and for the whole family. Through envy, jealousy of others, and coveting what they don't have — many people have been brought to bitterness of soul and utterly to hate life. Better contentment in a cottage — than discontent in a mansion!
Very often prosperity in temporal things destroys the happiness which has already existed in a less prosperous condition.
Years ago in one of our northern States, a man engaged in the lumbering business in a small way, built a cozy cottage on the shore of a bay into which he brought his bride. They both worked, he in his sawmill, and she in her cottage — and were both happy. The years passed. He prospered in business and became rich. Then he built a fine mansion in the city and moved into it. After living there for some time and mingling with the society into which his riches gave them entrance — in speaking to a friend one day he said, "We are not as happy as we were in our little cottage on the bay."
A few months ago I heard Charles M. Schwab make an address over the radio. In that address he told of his big house in New York City and of another great house which he owned in the country. He said, "I don't own them. They own me. The only satisfaction I have in them, is that I have enough money in the bank to pay the taxes on them." He has to look to other sources rather than to his possessions, for contentment and happiness.
Contentment is not built of gold or of precious gems. It is not constructed of honors or fame or the applause of the multitude. It does not come from out shining others. These may bring a sort of satisfaction — but not contentment. Contentment belongs to the meek and lowly in spirit. Pride is destructive to it. Arrogance annihilates it. Covetousness curses it. Hatred poisons it. Malice thrusts a sword through it. Contentment can thrive only with the Christian virtues. Faith, hope, and charity abide with it. Peace broods over its domicile. Blessed forevermore is he who has a contented spirit.
So many nourish discontent. They are all the time looking at the things they do not possess — and coveting them. They are always reaching out, stretching themselves to gain something which they cannot attain. They find fault with the things they possess — instead of enjoying them. They minimize the simple good in things. They see all the faults and failures. They often feel that their rights are being trespassed upon. There is a frown in their hearts — and a frown upon their faces.
Who is to blame for all this? The individual himself! He has adopted a wrong attitude of mind and heart. He is facing the wrong way. He has the wrong standard. He cannot be happy. He needs to turn about, face the other way, adopt a different attitude, look at things from a different angle, and set different standards for himself. He needs to learn the secret of the simple life — simple desires, temperate aspirations, bridled ambitions.
In the valley of contentment — is calmness, sweetness of spirit, and rest of soul. Through it flow the peaceable waters of quietness. In this valley, the song-birds joyfully sing. The heart mounts up to God in praise. In it lies the spring of joy which bubbles up in gladsome song.
The valley of contentment is not a place of inactivity. When we have learned to be content with such things as we have, and in our situation in life and in our circumstances — that does not mean that we lose all aspirations or that all effort ceases. By no means. To be content with today, does not mean to be content with the same thing tomorrow. The right sort of contentment demands continual progress in the lines in which progress is possible. In fact, we cannot be contented not to make proper progress. In the valley of contentment, we are not to sit down idly dreaming away our days. On the contrary — there is a path which runs through this valley, and we are to walk in this path, ever forward, ever upward.

If we would be truly happy, if we would sing the songs of the joyous life — then we must learn the lesson of contentment. We must learn what desires to gratify — and what desires to repress. We must learn what things can bring contentment — and what things destroy it. We must avoid the latter, while we seek the former. We must cultivate our hearts. We must trust in God. Then and only then, shall we have that source of contentment and happiness within, which inspires us to sing the song of glad rejoicing!

The vile human heart

(William S. Plumer, "Sinners Saved by Unmerited Kindness")

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is DECEITFUL. Man is the only creature on earth that seems to practice self-deception. That we should sometimes deceive others, is proof of our depravity; but that we should spend our lives in self-deception, is truly astonishing! Men of the fewest virtues, commonly have the highest thoughts of themselves. How strange and yet how common, that he whose heart has deceived him a thousand times--should yet confide in it as if it had always been honest!

The human heart deceives every being but one. It would deceive Him--if He were not omniscient. None but God knows all the depths of iniquity and duplicity within us.

Though the language of the Bible is strong, it is just. God declares, and every Christian knows by sad experience--that his heart is deceitful above all things. A perfect knowledge of the treachery of our hearts, is possessed by none but God.

The heart is also VILE. It is "desperately wicked."
It loves vanity, and folly and sin.
It hates holiness, and truth and divine restraints.
It is . . .
  a sink of iniquity,
  a pool of pestilential waters,
  a cage of unclean birds, and
  a sepulcher full of dead men's bones!
It is torn by wild, fierce, unhallowed passions.
It rejects good--and chooses evil.
It is wholly corrupt.
It is full of evil.
There is no soundness in it.

"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." Matthew 15:19

"He who trusts in his own heart is a fool!" Proverbs 28:26

Deuteronomy 32:15 - Ken Wimer

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sobering sermon

This sermon was preached by Ken Wimer, at a young man's funeral; he died battling a drug addiction. This is a sobering message and I pray God will use this message for His own glory.
Click below to listen.....


A funeral message

The Narrow Way

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction—and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life—and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14

The second half of Matthew 7 forms the applicatory part of that most important discourse of our Lord's, known as "the Sermon on the Mount." One leading design of the Sermon was to show the spiritual nature and wide extent of that obedience which characterizes the true subjects of Christ's kingdom, and which obedience is absolutely necessary for the enjoyment of that ultimate state of blessedness which Divine grace has provided for them. As the Prophet of God, Christ made known that the righteousness which obtains in His kingdom greatly exceeds the "righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees."
Now the Jews imagined that all of them were the subjects of the Messiah's kingdom; that by virtue of their descent from Abraham, they were the rightful heirs of it; that the "righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees" (that system of religious and moral duty taught by them) met all the requirements of God's law. But this was a delusion, and the Lord Jesus here exposed that fleshly descent from Abraham could not give title unto a spiritual kingdom. That which was merely natural—was no qualification for the supernatural realm. Only they were accounted the true children of Abraham—who had his faith (Romans 4:16), who did his works (John 8:39), and who were united to Christ (Galatians 3:29).
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord delineated the inward state of those who belonged to His spiritual kingdom (Matthew 5:4-11); described the outward conduct by which they might be identified (Matthew 5:13-16); expounded the personal righteousness which God's justice demanded (Matthew 5:17-28); and defined that utter repudiation of sin which he required from His people (Matthew 5:29-30). So high are the demands of the thrice holy One, so uncompromising are the requirements of His ineffable character, that none can dwell with Him eternally—who do not in this world—loathe, resist, and turn from all that is repulsive to His pure eye. Nothing short of the complete denying of self, the abandoning of the dearest idol, the forsaking of the most cherished sinful course— figuratively represented under the cutting off of a right hand and the plucking out of a right eye—is what He claims from every one who would have communion with Himself.
Such plain and pointed declarations of Christ must have seemed "hard sayings" to the multitudes who listened to Him; such piercing and flesh-withering demands would probably cause many of his Jewish hearers to think within themselves, "Who then can be saved? This is indeed a strait gate and a narrow way."
Anticipating their secret objections, the Lord plainly declared that the GATE unto salvation is "strait" and the WAY which leads unto life is "narrow." Yet, He went on to point out, that it is your wisdom, your interest, your duty to enter that "Gate" and walk that "Way." He acknowledged and faithfully warned them that there was a "Wide gate" soliciting their entrance, and a "Broad road" inviting them to walk therein; but that gate leads to perdition, that road ends in Hell. The "Strait Gate" is the only gate to "life," the "Narrow Way" is the only one which conducts to Heaven.
Few indeed find it, few have the least inclination for it; but that very fact ought only to provide an additional incentive to my giving all diligence to enter therein.
In the verses which are now to be before us, Christ defined and described the Way of salvation, though we sorrowfully admit that 'modern evangelists' rarely expound it. What we shall now endeavor to set forth is very different from what most have been taught—but you reject it at your eternal peril. We repeat, that in that passage we are about to consider, He who was Truth incarnate made known the only way of escaping Perdition and securing Heaven, namely, by entering the "Strait Gate" and treading the "Narrow Way."
 
The NARROW GATE
The Greek word for "strait" signifies restrained or "narrow" and is so rendered in the revised version. Now a "gate" serves two purposes: it lets in and it shuts out. All who enter this Narrow Gate gain admittance to that "Way" which "leads unto life;" but all who enter not by this Narrow Gate, are eternally barred from God's presence. The second use of this Gate, is solemnly illustrated at the close of the parable of the ten virgins. There, our Lord pictures the foolish ones as being without the necessary "oil" (the work of the Spirit in the heart), and while they went to buy it, the Bridegroom came, and "the door was shut" (Matthew 25:10); and though they then besought Him to open it to them, He answered "I know you not."
1. What is denoted by this figure of the "narrow gate?" We believe the reference is to the searching and solemn teaching of Him who is Truth incarnate. It is only as the heart bows to the righteousness of God's claims and demands upon us, as set forth by His Son—that any soul can enter that path which alone leads to Him. While the heart is rebellious against Him—there can be no approach to Him, for, "Can two walk together except they be agreed?"
It is true, blessedly and gloriously true, that Christ Himself is "the Door" (John 10:9), and He is so in a threefold way, according to the three principal functions of His mediatorial office. He is "the Door" into God's presence as the Prophet, the Priest, and the King. Now it is only as Christ is truly received as God's authoritative Prophet, only as His holy teachings are really accepted by a contrite heart, that any one is prepared to savingly welcome Him as Priest. Christ is the "Way" and "the Truth" before he is the "Life" (John 14:6), as he is "first King of righteousness, and after that, also King of peace" (Hebrews 7:2). In other words, His cleansing blood is only available for those who are willing to throw down the weapons of their warfare against God, and surrender themselves to His holy rule. The wicked must forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, if he is to be pardoned by God (Isaiah 55:7); and this is only another way of saying that Christ must be received as Prophet, before he is embraced as Priest.
2. Why is this gate a "narrow" one? For at least three reasons:
First, because of sin. "The wicked shall be turned into Hell, all the nations that forget God" Psalm 9:17. The gate of heaven is far too narrow to admit such characters. The New Testament plainly affirms the same fact: "For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them!" (Ephesians 5:5-7).
Second, because of the Law. There are two principal errors about the Law, and I know not which is the more dangerous and disastrous: that one can earn heaven by obeying it; that one may enter heaven without that personal and practical godliness which the Law requires. "Follow peace with all, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). Where there is not this personal conformity to the will of God—the strong hand of the Law will close the door of heaven.
Third, because none can take the world along with him: this Gate is far too "narrow" to admit those who love the world.
3. What is meant by "entering" this narrow gate?
FIRST, the acceptance of those teachings of truth, of duty, of happiness, which were unfolded by Christ—the honest and actual receiving into the heart of His holy, searching, flesh-withering instructions. This is like a person, with great difficulty, forcing his way through a very narrow entrance way. I say "with great difficulty," for Christ's precepts and commandments are, to the last degree, unpalatable to an unrenewed heart, and cannot be willingly and gladly received without a rigid denial of self and relinquishment of sinful pleasures, pursuits, and interests. Christ has plainly warned us that it is impossible for a man to serve two mastersSelf must be repudiated, and Christ must be received as "the Lord" (Colossians 2:6), or He will not save us.
SECOND, a deliberate abandoning of the Broad Road, or the flesh-pleasing mode of life. Until this has been done, there is no salvation possible for any sinner. Christ Himself taught this plainly in Luke 15—the "prodigal" must leave the "far country" before he could journey to the Father's House! The same pointed truth is taught again in James 4:8-10, "Draw near to God—and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord—and He will lift you up."
Ah, my friend, to really and actually enter this "Narrow Gate" is no easy matter! For that reason the Lord bade the people "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life!" (John 6:27).
Those words do not picture salvation as a thing of simple and easy attainment. Ponder also Christ's emphatic exhortation in Luke 13:24 "Make every effort to enter through the narrow gate, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to." That He should utter such a statement, clearly implies that there are formidable difficulties and obstacles to be overcome, and that slothful nominal professors will surely not enter in. Let it be carefully noted that the Greek word for "strive" (namely, "agonizomai") in Luke 13:24 is the same one that is used in 1 Corinthians 9:25, "And everyone that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things;" and is also rendered "laboring fervently" in Colossians 4:12, and "fight" in 1 Timothy 6:12!
And how are we to "strive" so as to "enter" the Narrow Gate? The general answer is, "lawfully" (2 Timothy 2:5). But to particularize: We are to strive by prayer and supplication, diligently seeking deliverance from those things which would bar our entrance. We are to earnestly cry to Christ for help from those foes which are seeking to overcome us. We are to come constantly to the Throne of Grace, that we may there find grace to help us to repudiate and turn away with loathing from everything which is abhorred by God, even though it involves our cutting off of a right hand and plucking out of a right eye; and grace to help us do those things which He has commanded. We must be "temperate in all things," especially those things which the flesh craves and the world loves.
Why is such striving necessary to "enter" the narrow gate?
First, because SATAN is striving to destroy your soul. "Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour!" (1 Peter 5:8). Therefore must he be resisted "steadfast in the faith."
Second, because natural appetites of the FLESH are striving to destroy you: "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11).
Third, because the whole WORLD is arrayed against you, and if it cannot burn, it will seek to turn you by its alluring promises, Delilah-like deceits, and fatal enticements. Unless you overcome the world, the world will overcome you to the eternal destruction of your soul.
From what has been before us, we may plainly discover why it is that the vast majority of our fellow-men and women, yes, and of professing Christians also, will fail to reach Heaven: it is because they prefer sin to holiness, indulging the lusts of the flesh to walking according to the scriptures, self to Christ, the world to God. It is as the Lord Jesus declared, "Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). Men refuse to deny self, abandon their idols, and submit to Christ as Lord—and without this, none can take the first step toward Heaven and enter through the 'narrow gate'!

THE NARROW WAY
Just as entering the "Narrow Gate" signifies the heart's acceptance of Christ's holy teaching, so to walk along the "Narrow Way" means for the heart and life to be constantly regulated thereby. Walking along the Narrow Way denotes a steady perseverance in faith and obedience to the Lord Jesus; overcoming all opposition, rejecting every temptation to forsake the path of fidelity to Him. It is called the "Narrow Way" because all self-pleasing and self-seeking is shut out!
In Genesis 18:19 it is called "the Way of the Lord;" in Exodus 13:21, 32:8 "the Way;" in 1 Samuel 12:23 "the good and right Way;" in Psalm 25:9 "His Way;" in Proverbs 4:11 "the Way of wisdom;" in Proverbs 8:20 "the Way of righteousness;" in Proverbs 10:17 "the Way of life;" in Isaiah 35:8 "the Way of holiness;" in Jeremiah 6:16 "the good Way;" in 2 Peter 2:2 "the Way of truth;" in 2 Peter 2:15 "the right Way."
The Narrow Way must be followed—no matter how much it may militate against my worldly interests. It is right here that the testing point is reached. Unto the natural man, it is much easier and far more pleasant—to indulge the flesh and follow our worldly propensities. The Broad Road, where the flesh is allowed "liberty" —under the pretense of the Christian's not "being under the law" —is easy, smooth, and attractive; but it ends in "destruction!" Though the "Narrow Way" leads to life, only FEW tread it.
Multitudes make a profession and claim to be saved—but their lives give no evidence that they are "strangers and pilgrims" here on earth, or that their "treasure" is in heaven. They are afraid of being thought narrow and peculiar, strict and puritanical. Satan has deceived them—they imagine that they can get to heaven by an easier route than by denying self, taking up their cross daily, and following Christ!
There are multitudes of religionists who are attempting to combine the two "ways," making the best of both worlds and serving two masters. They wish to gratify self in time—and enjoy the happiness of Heaven in eternity. Crowds of nominal Christians are deluding themselves into believing that they can do so—but they are terribly deceived! A profession which is not verified by mortifying the deeds of the body in the power of the Spirit (Romans 8:13), is vain. A faith which is not evidenced by complete submission to Christ, is only the faith of demons. A love which does not keep Christ's commandments, is an imposition (John 14:23). A claim to being a Christian, where there is no real yieldedness to the will of God, is daring presumption. The reason why so few will enter Eternal Life—is because the multitudes are not seeking it in the way of God's appointing! None seek it aright—but those who pass through the Narrow Gate, and who, despite many discouragements and falls, continue to press forward along the Narrow Way.
Now notice, carefully, the very next thing which immediately followed our Lord's reference to the two ways in Matthew 7: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing—but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matthew 7:15). Why does this come in next? Who are the "false prophets" against which a serious soul needs to be on his guard?
They are those who teach that Heaven may be reached without treading the Narrow Way! They are those who loudly insist that eternal life may be obtained on much easier terms. They come in "sheep's clothing"—they appear (to undiscerning souls) to exalt Christ, to emphasize His precious blood, to magnify God's grace. BUT they do not insist upon repentance; they fail to tell their hearers that nothing but a broken heart which hates sin, can truly believe in Christ. They do not teach that a saving faith is a living one which purifies the heart (Acts 15:9) and overcomes the world (1 John 5:4).
These "false prophets" are known by their "fruits," the primary reference being to their "converts"—the fruits of their fleshly labors. Their "converts" are on the Broad Road, which is not the path of open wickedness and vice—but of a religion which pleases the flesh! It is that "way which seems right unto a man—but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12). Those who are on this Broad Road (this way which "seems right" to so many), have a head-knowledge of the Truth—but they walk not in it. The "Narrow Way" is bounded by the commandments and precepts of Scripture; the Broad Road is that path which has broken out beyond the bounds of Scripture. Titus 2:11-12 supplies the test as to which "way" we are in: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world."
Before closing, let us anticipate and seek to remove an objection. Probably many of you are saying, "I thought Christ was the Way to the Father" (John 14:6). So He is! But how?
First, in that He has removed every legal obstacle, and thereby opened a way to heaven for His people.
Second, in that He has "left us an example that we should follow HIS steps." The mere opening of a door does not give me entrance into a house—I must tread the path leading to it, and mount the steps. Christ has, by His life of unreserved obedience to God, shown us the Way which leads to Heaven: "When He puts forth His own sheep, HE goes before them—and the sheep follow Him" ( John 10:4).

Third, in that He is willing and ready to bestow grace and strength to walk therein. Christ did not come here and die—in order to make it unnecessary for me to please and obey God. No indeed! "He died for all, that those who live should not henceforth live unto themselves—but unto Him who died for them!" (2 Corinthians 5:15). "He gave Himself for our sins—that He might deliver us from this present evil world" (Galatians 1:4). "He gave Himself for us—that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14). Christ came here to "save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21); and if you are not now delivered from the power of sin, from the deceptions of Satan, from the love of the world, and from the pleasing of self—then you are NOT saved. May it please the God of all grace to add His blessing.    ~ A.W. Pink


Added commentary from Matthew Poole and Albert Barnes.....

Ver. 23,24. Our Saviour hath told us, Matthew 7:14, that strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth to eternal life, and few there be that find it. Upon this this exhortation is founded. ’ Agwnizesye, Contend, or strive, to enter in at this strait gate, a word which signifies a labouring against opposition, and the utmost endeavour of the mind and body: not that our own labouring will bring us thither, the eternal life is the gift of God, and without the influence of his grace we can do nothing effectually; but to let us know, that the Lord will give heaven to none but such as labour and strive for it, yea, and also strive lawfully: he tells us that many 
will seek to enter, and shall not be able; either seeking in a wrong way, or in an undue time. By this speech of our Saviour’s he diverts them from that curious question, about the number of those that shall be saved. That was not so much their concern to know, as that they should be some of that number.  - Matthew Poole




Strive - Literally, "agonize." The word is taken from the Grecian games. In their races, and wrestlings, and various athletic exercises, they "strove or agonized," or put forth all their powers to gain the victory. Thousands witnessed them. They were long trained for the conflict, and the honor of victory was one of the highest honors among the people. So Jesus says that we should strive to enter in; and he means by it that we should be diligent, be active, be earnest; that we should make it our first and chief business to overcome our sinful propensities, and to endeavor to enter into heaven. This same figure or allusion to the Grecian games is often used in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 9:24-26Philippians 2:16Hebrews 12:1.  - A. Barnes