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Point of Reference

    by Fred Price

Choosing Between Life and Death, Heaven or Hell
Date Posted: February 25, 2022

Matthew 7:13,14comes at the conclusion of Christ’s sermon on the Mount, ending with an evangelistic challenge similar to others throughout scripture. Such as, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So chose life in order that you may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19 “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve… as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15 And, “How long will you waver between two opinions?” 1 Kings 18:21

With Jesus’ declaration in Matthew, he places himself at the center of all our destinies, demanding a deliberate choice between good and evil, life and death, heaven or hell. It’s difficult to find a plainer statement of gospel consequences, two gates, one small and one wide; two roads, one narrow and one broad; two destinations, life and destruction; two crowds, the many and the few. (And if that’s not clear enough, he proceeds to identify two kinds of trees and their fruit, good and bad; two kinds of builders, wise and foolish; and two kinds of foundations, rock and sand. Matthew 7:15-27)

Jesus urges us to, “Enter through the narrow gate.” Which may indeed be more difficult than merely getting in line with the crowd and advancing through the wide, easily accessed one. Jesus elsewhere explicitly saying, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. John 10:9 Further claiming to be the way, truth and life; and stressing that no one had access to the Father except through him. ( John 14:6) Scripture insisting that, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to man by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

To the disappointment of many, there is no third alternative. We must choose between God’s way, based on his will for our lives and man’s way, based on personal preference and achievement ie. self -righteousness. Both claim to be a way to heaven, only one actually gets you there.

Following the narrow road through the small gate will not be particularly easy. When specifically asked if only a few people were going to be saved, Jesus responded with, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many… will try to enter and not be able to.” Luke 13:24 (See Matthew 7:16-23) The Greek for “make every effort” – or strive – being agonizomai, from which we get our word agony; implying intense, personal effort. (See Matthew 11:12 & 1 Peter 4:18)

Is the one gate so small and its road so narrow that people can’t find it? Only if they’re not seriously looking. ( Jeremiah 29:13) It’s more likely because they can’t get through with all their “baggage” intact; such as self-righteousness, unrepented sin, grasping materialism, and pride in who they are and what they’ve accomplished. (See 1 John 2:16) That’s what makes the wide gate and broad road appear so accommodating and inviting. But alas, it’s only an illusion, for it leads ultimately to our destruction through self-gratification and separation from God.

Psalm I speaks to this issue, noting God’s watchfulness over those who do not “walk” amongst the wicked, prospering them as they go about their lives according to His will, while those treading the “way of the world will perish.” The “easy” way developing/requiring no character, embracing both the religious and the irreligious or those who claim Christ as their Savior but repudiate His claim to Lordship. It’s the, “…way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 16:25 (See Ephesians 2:1,2concerning the “ways of this world.”)

The smaller gate and narrow road serve to weed out those who are faint of heart, lack commitment and demand their own way. Jesus defined true discipleship as giving up preferences, personal aspirations – sometimes family and friends; characterizing following him as cross-bearing. Encouraging us to “count the cost” before declaring for him. Finishing with, “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:25-33 (Which may entail a mental willingness to relinquish all we have – literally losing it all – in our decision to follow where he leads. (Some losing not just their lifestyle but their very lives.) Oh! And then Jesus practically promises persecution. (See John 15:20 & 16:2) Later, Paul, speaking from experience warned Timothy that, “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2 Timothy 3:12 Not a particularly strong commercial pitch for Christianity but true none-the-less. The point to this dire warning being, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Jesus’ caution that, “…many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14; was never meant to convey the idea that he arbitrarily lets some enter heaven while capriciously excluding others, but that what starts out looking so inviting – from our perspective – often ends up badly; but what may appear restrictive and difficult – as it contradicts our human/sin nature – opens up into heaven. The “few” being able to accommodate Him, not the other way around.

Sadly, some churches today promote a prosperity gospel that expects nothing from its adherents in the way of discipline or being created anew in Christ, offering a salve to people’s conscience rather than genuine salvation from hell and a vibrant – active – life in Christ. This philosophy, “Though it presents Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, it says nothing of the small gate or narrow way. Its subject is the love of God, but there is no mention of God’s wrath. It sees people as deprived, not depraved. It is full of understanding, but there is no mention of a Holy God who hates sin. There is no summons to repentance, no warning of judgment, no call for brokenness, no expectation of a contrite heart, and no reason for deep sorrow over sin.” 1

On numerous occasions, Jesus referred to himself as the Good Shepherd ( John 10:11) and the gate by which his “sheep” could obtain safe- keeping ( John 10:7); anyone entering by any other way he characterized as thieves and robbers. ( John 10:1) Jesus reiterating that, “I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved.” As, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:9,10.

1John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus , Zondervan Press

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Biography Information:

Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.

Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker.  He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today.  Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.  

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