Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 7:13f “. . .to destruction,. . .”
Jesus viewed the whole of humanity as divided into two caravans headed in opposite directions. He saw a right road and a wrong road, but no neutral road in between. This reality makes our spiritual choices very solemn and momentous.
In Moses’ day, God told Israel, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing” (DT 30:19). In Jeremiah’s (21:8) day, the Lord again solemnly spoke, “I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.” The choice is still as stark.
The broad way is deadly and dangerous, but deceptive. No one would imagine constructing a wide, spacious boulevard to a swamp or cesspool, yet this accurately describes the disappointing destination of the broad way. Everything everyone is enjoying on this road will abruptly halt someday. The time inevitably comes when folks on the broad way can no longer do what they enjoy doing.
Study the biographies of famous non-Christians. Read all the way to the end of their lives. A theme recurs often. Life loses its thrill and fades into nothingness.
Thomas Paine died, saying, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Clarence Darrow, near death said he may have been wrong, and summoned a pastor, a priest, and a rabbi. Voltaire’s last weeks of life were so bitter and sad that his nurse said for all the wealth of Europe she would never watch another infidel die.
Mark Twain, our own fellow Missourian, after having decimated his wife’s faith through years of ridicule, said to her as she was dying, “If it will help you, lean on your Jesus.” She replied, “There’s nothing left to lean on.” This, in a nutshell, describes the destination of the broad way. It ends in “nothing left to lean on.”
On the broad way, when all the dust of life settles, what will its sojourners have? Nothing but “destruction,” our Master said, in a matter of fact way. He did not reason, argue, or debate. Jesus simply stated it as One who knew for sure.
“Destruction” is not extinction or annihilation, but total waste, loss, and misery. The broad way ends not in a loss of being, but in a loss of well-being, in “destruction” of health, strength, meaning, and gladness. The final destination of the broad way is desire without gratification, dying without death, night without day.
No rational person would choose to go to jail because the road leading to it was broad and beautiful, or refuse to go to a throne because the path to it was narrow. Yet people are this absurd when it comes to their everlasting destiny. They decide based on the appearance of the path rather than on the outcome of the trip.
The correct course in life to choose seems obvious, but most people continue to select the wrong path, to their own detriment. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (PR 14:12).
I appeal to you who are on the broad way. Enter the strait gate. By doing this, you will leave behind nothing of substance or worth. On the narrow way, the bottom line is, you lose nothing of value, and gain everything that matters.
Matt. 7:13g “. . .and many there be which go in thereat:. . .”
This explodes the myth that Hell is reserved only for the Hitlers, Pilates, Judas Iscariots, Stalins, and other arch-villains of history. People crowd into the wide gate. The broad way, thronged with multitudes, has rush hour traffic all the time, and our co-travellers are inclusive, broad-minded, and encouraging. “It is so well filled that we never lack neighbors to bolster our fictitious self-respect” (Buttrick).
Human beings are social creatures, tending to follow a crowd as tides follow the moon. It is amazing how numbers can delude us. People do things collectively in a mob or gang they would never consider doing alone.
I was once the pastor of a kind, elderly man who sadly told me he participated in a lynching as a teenager. He said all in the mob were required to fire shots into the body. This way no one could claim innocence and seek to place blame on the others. This man would have never done anything like this by himself.
Folks follow a mob, for if “they are ruined in the midst of a vast crowd, they do not believe that they are ruined” (Calvin). People are gregarious, and crowds usually grow bigger crowds, but “it is too great a compliment, to be willing to be damned for company, and to go to hell with them, because they will not go to heaven with us” (Henry).
Never let numbers decide our spirituality or code of conduct. In determining moral standards and ethical behavior, numbers do not count.
Opinion polls do not matter to God. He never subjects His opinion to popular vote. God is not an elected official seeking re-election. He is the ruling sovereign of the Universe–the King over kings, the Lord over lords. God never reads a Gallup poll. Since Adam and Eve voted two to nothing against God, the majority has always been wrong, and God’s opinion has never been altered by man’s error.
The reason we have to be valiant for truth is because truth is usually in the minority. For a while in the fourth century, Athanasius stood virtually alone in his defending the deity of Christ. When people said he should relent since the whole world was against him, he replied, “Then Athanasius is against the whole world.”
Entering the strait gate requires leaving the crowd behind. We have to make a break with the world. Agonizing labor pains often accompany being born again.
Our Master straightforwardly declared, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (MT 10:34-38).
Becoming a Christian often requires a painful separation from family and friends. Even if a new convert tries to keep his old friends, as they begin to see his holiness and what he has become, they begin to feel uncomfortable, and leave him.
This tearing apart does not end at the strait gate, but continues on the narrow way. The call to be different from the world is ongoing. In fact, the worse they are, the better we have to be, to stand out more obviously as bright lights. Sadly, we have yet to prove that our Western brand of Christianity will suffice in an antagonistic culture. Jesus is letting His church be pruned. Only the true will pull through.