It was the Thursday before the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” was to be released, and I was having dinner with a group of women – some of them Christian and some of them not. The topic of the movie came up, and one of the women asked who at the table was planning on seeing it. Even among the Christian women at the table, the group was divided. I sided with the camp that would definitely NOT be seeing the sexually explicit film. In addition to not wanting to see it, the other more important reason for me to avoid this movie is because it glorifies and glamorizes that which offends the Lord.
When I was a new Christian, I still went along with much of what the world says is ok. But as God continues to prune me, I find the road getting narrower and narrower. Many of the thoughts and behaviors I never used to question now offend me as my sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s conviction and direction becomes more acute. As I grow closer to the Lord, the more He reveals His holiness to me. And the more I experience His holiness, the more the unholiness of what I expose myself to and what arises from my sinful nature stands out in stark contrast.
Jesus often taught lessons that were difficult for people to accept, and He warned us that following Him is difficult. Jesus never sugar-coated what being His disciple requires. He knew that many would reject Him and choose the easier way, even though it is the way that leads to death:
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (New International Version: Matthew 7:13-14)
When He taught about the narrow gate, Jesus was teaching about the way to heaven and that believing in Him is the only way to eternal life. I believe this teaching can also be applied to the Christian’s life on Earth: Followers of Christ walk the narrow road, and the road becomes increasingly narrow as we grow in our walk with Him. For example, it’s a good start for us as believers to not steal, not commit adultery, not murder, etc. But Jesus challenges us to abide by these commands not only with our actions but also with our hearts. It’s not sufficient for us to avoid committing murder; we must also be careful with anger or we “will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:22). It not enough for us to circumvent committing adultery: Jesus tells us that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). In other words, Jesus is concerned with not only our actions but also with the condition of our hearts.
I used to take various classes at my gym, and several of the instructors would play music that was very suggestive, that glorified drugs and violence, and that degraded women. I complained to the manager a couple of times and, though I was assured that the instructors in question had been advised to change their music, nothing changed. I realized that either I was the only person offended by the music or that no one else wanted to step up and complain. I chose to discontinue attending those classes, and now I enjoy most of my exercise in the great outdoors where I can listen to praise music or just be quiet with God. This is just one of many examples of how the road has narrowed for me.
The story of the rich young man in the Bible illustrates another example of the narrow road Jesus asks us to walk. The man approached Jesus with the question of how he might obtain eternal life. When the man proudly explained to Jesus that he had kept all of the commandments since he was a boy, Jesus presented him with this challenge:
Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. (Mark 10:21)
The young man went away sad because Jesus had exposed his love of money, the barrier that could prevent him from entering the kingdom. We all have potential barriers that could keep us from entering the narrow gate. For the rich young man it was money, but for others it may be something else – jealousy, lust, a desire for power and prestige, a love of pleasure, etc. Selfishness is definitely one aspect of my character that tends to tempt me to walk the broad road. Denial of self is hard for me, and the Lord consistently makes the road narrower for me in this area. Praise God that He is patient and merciful to me when I slip as it’s a daily occurrence! Some days the gate I’m asked to enter seems so narrow that I need to turn sideways and suck in my belly in order to squeeze through!
Valiant Warrior, when you don’t feel strong enough to continue walking the narrow road, I pray that Jesus’s words will encourage you. He has promised that we are His sheep, and He is the gate for the sheep (John 10:7). Furthermore, He is our good shepherd. He will not abandon us when the thief comes in to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10), and He will not run away when the wolf attacks. Instead, Jesus “lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11b).
After Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man, the disciples were worried about the seeming impossibility of being saved. Their concern was understandable, for Jesus had just said to them “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:24b-25). But we needn’t worry about whether or not we’ll make it through that narrow gate, for “with man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God”. (Mark 10:27; emphasis mine)
I am blessed to walk the narrow road with you, fellow Warrior!
Enjoy this awesome song by Passion. It says it all!