Four Narrow Gates All Must Pass Through to Get to Heaven:
1. The Narrow Gate of Humiliation:
God saves none but first, he humbles them. Now, it is hard to pass through the gates and flames of hell; for a heart as stiff as a stake to bow; as hard as a stone to bleed for the least prick; not to mourn for one sin, but all sins; and not for a fit, but all a man’s lifetime. O, it is hard for a man to suffer himself to be laden with sin, and pressed to death for sin, so as never to love sin more, but to spit in the face of that which he once loved as dearly as his life. It is easy to drop a tear or two, and be sermon sick; but to have a heart rent for sin and from sin, this is true humiliation; and this is hard.
2. The Narrow Gate of Faith:
(Ephesians 1:19) It is an easy matter to presume, but hard to believe in Christ. It is easy for a man who was never humbled to believe and say, it is but believing; but it is a hard matter for a man humbled, when he sees all his sins in order before him, the devil and conscience roaring upon him, now to call God Father, is a hard work. Judas had rather be hanged than believe. It is hard to see a Christ as a rock to stand upon when we are overwhelmed with sorrow of heart for sin. It is hard to prize Christ above ten thousand worlds of pearl; it is hard to desire Christ, and nothing but Christ; hard to follow Christ all the day long, and never to be quiet till he is got in thine arms, and then with Simeon to say, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace”.
3. The Narrow Gate of Repentance:
It is an easy matter for a man to confess himself to be a sinner, and to cry to God for forgiveness until the next time; but to have a bitter sorrow, and so to turn from all sin, and to return to God, and all the ways of God, which is true repentance indeed, this is hard.
4. The Narrow Gate of Opposition:
Of devils, the world, and a man’s own self, who knock a man down when he begins to look toward Christ and heaven.
So learn, that every easy way to heaven is a false way, although ministers should preach it out of their pulpits, and angels should publish it out of heaven.
From, ‘The Sincere Convert and Sound Believer, by Thomas Sheppard)
Lance was an exuberant participant amidst the days festivities in a Gay Pride Parade in Houston, Texas, raucous revelry, perverse promiscuity, orgiastic opulence, he cavorted in the ethos of liberated excess. A member of an evangelistic team, inviting people to a Bible study conducted for people interested in deliverance from such excesses, found Lance cocky, idealistic, and tragically self-assured. He, Lance that is, wasn’t long out of the closet. The two men were as different as chalk and cheese. The Christian was only recently married. Lance was appalled at his mission and the Christian evangelist no less appalled at Lance’s. They quickly became friends. The tensions of likes and dislikes, similarities and differences, comparisons and contrasts had to be delicately balanced for plain comradeship to become genuine, sincere openness. The relationship grew in fits and starts.
Lance periodically attended Bible study, but always left infuriated. Bringing to bear second-hand arguments from wishful thinking like-minded folk. He railed against the plain teaching of Scripture on sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular. He tried first of all to destroy, by argument, the authority of the Bible. That not working, he tried some twisting of the meaning of the Bible, with some creative interpretation. This all failing he turned then to some onerous periods in Church history, to some of the gross inconsistencies in Church practice. His tortuous contortions became convincing evidence that all too often a man’s theology is shaped by his morality, not the other way round. He simply would not give up a fancy under the shock of fact.
Even so, Lance seriously sought for a substantive justification for his sexual orientation and practice. He had first yielded to his homosexual urges while serving a hitch in the army. In the beginning he thought he had come to the end of a lifelong search for meaning and significance. It turned out to be just another false start. Because of the then strictly enforced ban on homosexual activity in the armed forces, he and his lovers felt more than a little inhibited. So, he opted out of the military at the first opportunity and joined Houston’s ribald homosexual community. But even that failed to satisfy him. His unhappiness continued to gnaw at him, mind, body, and spirit. He yearned for something more than what the gay bars offered. He yearned for something more than what the gay parades offered. Working night and day like a factory, he poured through every scrap of literature he could find on the subject, both what his Christian friend had given him and what he could dredge up on his own.
I had become desperate he later said. I knew that I was so lost I didn’t know which way was up. I was so lonely, and the anonymous sex I had at the bars and bath houses only intensified that loneliness. The only place that I found any kind of authenticity was at the Bible study. But that grated on me terribly. I can remember sitting outside my friend’s apartment in my car debating whether or not I should go in. I felt damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. Now I know that I was simply under conviction, but at the time I just knew I was miserable.
For a few months Lance tried to assuage his anguish by going to the services of a local pro-homosexual congregation. I thought that might relieve the pressure I was feeling, he explained. But it only made things worse. The inconsistency of that kind of pick-and-choose Christianity was obvious to me right away. I determined that I had only two choices: accept Christianity as a whole or reject it as a whole. The option of winnowing out the parts I liked and trashing the rest, cafeteria style, just seemed like the height of hypocrisy.
Indeed, hypocrisy is the tribute error pays to truth, and inconsistency is the tribute iniquity renders to integrity. For several years Lance struggled with the enigmas of grace and truth. He watched as several of his former friends and lovers were alternately rescued by the gospel or consumed by AIDS.
Meanwhile, the downward spiral of his promiscuity accelerated alarmingly. There were times when he would cut off all contact with his Christian friend, for months on end. Then he would show up at his front door for desperation counselling. Finally, late one Friday night, he yielded and trusted Christ for the very first time. There was no instant flash of revelation, he said. No fireworks. No bells and whistles. I had just come to the end of myself.
For the longest time, he had resisted the inexorable tug of grace in his life. But all the while he knew that he did not have an opposing theory so much as a desperate thirst. Ultimately that thirst drove him to drink at the sure and eternal Fountain. Lance has been a different person ever since. I had become convinced that I was born a homosexual. Now I know that I was just born a sinner. I never could find a cure for the former. Thankfully, the cure for the latter found me.
As a result, his life has become and emblem of hope to anyone trapped in the vicious downward spiral of licentiousness. He is happily married and the proud father of four beautiful children. People can change. Sexual orientation is not cruelly predestined by some freak genetic code. There is hope. I’m living proof.
“For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7).
From, ‘Legalising Immorality’, by George Grant and Mark A. Horne, 1993 Mariposa Ltd, Moody Press used with permission.
Are we visiting in a home, sitting at the fireside, ministering at a hospital bed? Wherever we are, we are there as Ministers of the Word of God with the aim of bowing under the truth the Word declares. Like a doctor who pays a house-call with his “bag of tricks” in his hand, so we go into people’s houses Bible in hand. This is what we have come to bring; that is what we are for. How well I remember my early days in ministry, before I learned the importance of ‘the Bible in the hand’, desperately trying to ‘bring the conversation round’ to the point where it would be natural to fetch my pocket Bible out of my pocket! Bible in hand, the situation is reversed: those we visit are waiting for the moment when the book will be opened! But the material point is, that is what we are for: to ‘open the Book’. A lady said to me, speaking of the Minister at her church who had just moved on: “I don’t know what we will do without Mr. X. He used to explain the Bible to us.” An epitaph to be coveted!
“A sermon without Christ, it is an awful, a horrible thing. It is an empty well; it is a cloud without rain; it is a tree twice dead, plucked up by the roots. It is a an abominable thing to give men stones for bread and scorpions for eggs, yet they do so who preach not Jesus. A sermon without Christ! As well talk of a loaf of bread without any flour in it. How can it feed the soul? Men die and perish because Christ is not there.”
Beware of excuses, when it comes to things spiritual they are inexcusable. Think for a moment, there is a steep icy slope which culminates in a great precipice. You place a foot on the slope and what happens? You begin to slide, even if you want to you cannot stop yourself now, you must go on. Why? The law of gravity you say. No, the unchangeable operations of God in everything, that is what pulls you down. God doesn’t stop because you place your foot on the slope, he doesn’t change. So for you to stop or reverse the slide would take a miracle. The slope we are speaking of here is of course sin. It could be any aspect of sin or sin in general, but it’s sin. You put your foot on the slope by making an excuse. You begin to excuse yourself from going to Church on the Sabbath day, just the evening service to begin with. You make the excuse others do, and you can’t see that it affects them too much. But your foot is on the slope. Or it could be lust, gluttony, alcohol, you name it, the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21).
You have begun to slide and no way can you stop, you are being pulled down. By the operations of God’s wrath that effectively works in and upon the world (Romans 1:18). It surrounds us, on every side. You begin to suppress the truth when you excuse yourself you place your foot on the icy slope. And immediately the operations of God’s wrath begin to carry you downward. He does not change. God, it is said, cannot be wrathful towards his own children, he loves them folk cry! Yes, he does. That is exactly why he is wrathful. Has the father who is angry with his children because they have done wrong stopped loving them? Of course not. It is because he loves them that he is angry. The father who is never angry with his children is the one who does not love them (Hebrews 12:6). Are there not times when a father has to say to his child, “if that’s the way you want to go, then go.” “You must learn the hard way”, and he pushes them out the door. He has loved them, gently chastened them, tried to reason with them, he has done everything to correct them, but to no avail. This is what Paul means when he says “God also gave them up” (Romans 1:24).
It began with an excuse. You knew that it was. But you are on the slope, you can’t get off. Now you believe the excuse to be the truth. You’re being pulled down toward the precipice. Who knows where it will end, religious folly, moral corruption? The further down the slope you slide the more sin, the more darkness, the more wrath. It is from the heart the issues of life spring (Proverbs 4:23). This is where the excuses begin “through the lusts of their own hearts” (Romans 1:24). You begin to desire something, then it becomes an ingrained lust, then our relish for God and the things of God diminishes, then God is abandoned altogether. Down, down, deeper and down towards the precipice of hell. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 1:21). “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” (1John 5:21).
Beware of making excuses in things spiritual (Luke 14:18-19). But let your heart burn with desire for God the fountain of living water. Let the hunger you feel within become a hunger for Jesus Christ. Let the thirst you feel be transferred to an insatiable thirst and panting for streams of living water that flow from out of the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1). He is able to satisfy your deepest longing, to fill your heart with the choicest, the best of heaven (Matthew 5:6). Do not draw back with excuses but draw near to him whom to know is eternal life (John 17:3). These are days of terrible darkness, when many are being drawn away from God, when men seek for excuses to fulfil their own desires. These are dangerous days for even the child of God when hearts have grown cold within the church. The holiness and the house of God are no longer paramount. The world has flooded the Church, I mean the hearts of many of God’s people. It begins in the heart with excuses.
Let it be understood that we are dealing with the unfathomable here, miraculous even. However if you can’t cope with this initial and fundamental part of the gospel you are going to have issues with the rest of it. Because it is all miraculous, from a literal six day creation to God’s providential intervention through all history and all its events. The work and ministry of Christ and his apostles, the dead raised to life, the sick healed, demons cast out, rocks rent, and the Son of God raised from the dead to the highest heights of heaven. Man’s salvation, redemption is a miracle from start to finish, get over it. The Saviour that was needed to deliver us from the mire of sin, darkness and death had to be a man, he had to be a perfect man, and he had to be God. But you say that is a sheer impossibility! With man yes, but with God “nothing shall be impossible.” It needed a miracle. That is what the birth of Jesus Christ was, according to the Apostle’s Creed, “Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary.” He had to be a real man and he had to be very God.
That there have been and still are denials of this fundamental truth of the gospel we are well aware. The apostle John in his first epistle had to deal with this in early church times “every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist” (1John 4:3). Such opposition is not new. However, when I say this is fundamental, I mean to be a Christian it is an aspect of truth that must be believed. There is an inseparable link between salvation and true doctrine, you deny true doctrine and you end up denying God’s salvation. Man’s redemption stands and falls upon the real and perfect humanity and deity of Christ. This is a Divine, sacred necessity, a ‘must.’ Our rebellious nature’s within rear up against that saying, “why must!” The simple answer is God says so.
The longer answer is, it is necessary to meet the unshakeable demands of Divine justice. He must be truly man. He must have been with us in the loins of Adam, the first Adam that is. The one who brought sin into the world and death by sin (Romans 5:12). He must needs be organically related to us. He could not satisfy God’s justice otherwise, the nature that sinned must do that. The punishment is equivalent to the sin. The sin of Adam, original sin, was committed through human nature. So the one who would redeem us needed to be a man with a human mind, will, heart and body. Jesus Christ was such, born a helpless child in a manger, growing and developing as any other child through youth to adulthood. He hungered and thirsted was tried and tempted, “yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He was perfect, sinless. Anyone who is himself a sinner cannot make satisfaction for his own sins never mind anyone else’s, let alone the world’s. Thus the Bible’s emphasis on the reality and the sinless perfection of the One who is to be our Redeemer. He must not be under the imputation of Adam’s sin as we ourselves are, all of us. In God’s sight we are all as if we were there in the garden of Eden and actually plucked that forbidden fruit ourselves. All guilty of Adam’s sin.
Of course you may wish to kick against that. But if you do, think a moment, or take the time to read Paul’s exposition of this in Romans chapter five. If you reject God’s charge in regards to the imputation of original sin, then you must also reject the reverse, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to all who believe in him. So he needed to be like us in every respect, except for sin, a perfect man. But with no human father, yet born of a woman. Because the sin nature is passed on through the head of the family, the loins of the male. No intermediaries, other creatures will do “for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). So a man, and a man who is truly perfect, with no sin of his own, and very God, born of a woman, but no earthly father, this we need and this we look for. Where do we find such a Redeemer? In a manger in the town of Bethlehem. We are left with one possibility, a miracle.
His deity was also a necessity. If we abandon this truth we again abandon God’s redemption. For no human shoulders could bear the weight that the Redeemer must bear. Jesus staggered and collapsed under the weight of a wooden cross, how could he possibly bear the infinite wrath of God if he be but human? The infinite burden the Saviour must bear could not be lifted by a finite man. He must needs be very God, he must be enabled by the power of his deity to carry away the world’s sin burden and not perish himself. He suffered in his humanity (for God cannot suffer), but in his deity took our wrath in order to give us righteousness. To reconcile us to God himself to take away our sin and eternal death he himself voluntarily, willingly, lovingly chose death for himself. Thus through his death to impart life to all those who would believe in his name. It’s an astonishing thing that we desire God to take away our trials and afflictions, sicknesses and poverty, to give wealth, health and success and when it doesn’t happen we shrug and give up praying. We give thanks for our meals and Christmas shopping, we’re like kids playing with the wrapping paper while the gift lies in the corner. He redeems us from eternal death! Glory! He saves us from never-ending torment and gnashing of teeth to everlasting happiness and love! Glory! Our wealth surpasses anything we may have to bear in this life. Paul says “for I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). He restores us to God! That covenant fellowship with the family of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit that we lost in the fall is regained. He takes our punishment, that’s good, that’s wonderful even. But as with the child who knows that the threat of punishment has been lifted, he is still not totally happy until he knows he is forgiven and his father gives him a hug. Friendship, relationship is restored. So the death sentence is commuted, we have the Governor’s pardon, glorious, what relief!
But beyond anything we could ever have imagined, he declares us not just ‘not guilty’ but righteous. And God warns, threatens any who would dare to question his judgment, “who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:33-34). His name is Jesus , God, Jehovah saves and he saves his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). We cannot say for all men for we understand from experience that not all men are saved. We understand also from God’s word that not all men are or will be saved, but “all that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Sadly many, most even do not want him, they want food, clothing, their immediate problems solved. I don’t minimise those, I am just prioritising, putting things in a right perspective. But we are assured that he will save his people, there are no if’s or but’s to this. If you say he is the Saviour of all men then he is a failure. He does not try to save all or else he is a failure. But he does and will save all that the Father has given him. All that is who believe in his name, his name encompassing all he is and has accomplished. His virgin birth and his resurrection. The former was a necessity but so too was the latter. By the power of his resurrection he was Divinely declared to be the Son of God (Romans 1:3-4). If you had looked into that manger the child would have looked just like any other baby, how would you know he was the Son of God? Following his death, three days after to be precise, the tomb is empty, he is gone back to heaven. Death is defeated, sin’s power is broken, our darkness has been turned to light, “declared to be the Son of God with power…by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4).
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6)
In spite of the downgrade and social problems we see in our society today, there is little appetite for personal change. In reality we are still pretty well-off. But satisfied? No. I read two articles recently, both people said virtually the same thing. Richard Branson of ‘Virgin Atlantic’ fame and the boss of ‘Formula One’ racing Bernie Ecclestone. They both spoke of how rich they were, the latter has just spent ten million pounds on his daughter’s wedding, yes, ten million. Yet both said their riches had never brought them any joy or happiness. Mick Jagger, the lead singer of ‘Rolling Stones’ fame used to sing ‘Can’t get no Satisfaction.’ So where does on get fulfilment, satisfaction? Jesus says those that hunger and thirst after God’s righteousness are the ones who will be satisfied. His, not our righteousness, ours is shot through God says. God’s righteousness is credited to us by faith. It’s implanted into us, so that our heart’s begin to desire what we do not naturally desire, God, his love, forgiveness, eternal life. Instead of the riches of this world that can never satisfy. This hunger is a sense of need even though you may be well off. A sense of impotence, emptiness, hopelessness, even self-despair. You look to other people, the state, the church but they all disappoint. It’s having a right evaluation of yourself. The mirror on the wall has been telling you lies for years, you’re not the fairest of them all, but a sinner before, and in the hands a holy God. Whatever you get no matter how expensive, beautiful, the moment you get it, it falls flat, it doesn’t and cannot satisfy you. No created thing ever can. Only Jesus, the Bread of Life can. God has promised the needed provision, come to his table and eat and drink (Isaiah 55:1-2). Satisfaction is guaranteed. Don’t die a spiritual anorexic, by faith surrender your heart and life to Jesus Christ and you will be saved and satisfied forever.