Christ the Teacher

Christ the Teacher

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Christian Spirituality XXX: The Narrow Way


Christ is risen!  Yes, He truly is Risen!

“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few,” Matthew 7:13-14.

Ultimately, there are two ways we can go: an easy path and a difficult one, one leads to death, another to life.  Commercials and ads promise “quick and easy.”  There is a lot of religion out there that promises the same.  They promise that salvation comes by just believing in Jesus, or saying this prayer and you are in.  No matter what you do, Jesus will love you and when you die, you get to enter into Heaven. 

But Jesus says that the way that leads to life is difficult.

What can be difficult about this way?  What IS this way?  We have to remind ourselves that in this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is not giving us a quick way to Heaven.  If that were so, He could have just said, “Believe in me and you’ll go to Heaven!”

Jesus gives us a way to combat evil and to grow spiritually.

First He describes His followers in the Beatitudes in 5:3-12.

He tells us we are salt and light (5:13-16), but not just in name only.  There is an action strongly implied.

In 5:17-19 He tells us that He is not nullifying one iota of the law.  It is still in force.  We have to follow it and take it into ourselves.  It should be noted that the law Jesus is talking about is the Ten Commandments, not the rules of washing cups and deciding who is clean or unclean.  It is the moral law which He then develops in the remainder of Chapter 5. 

Our obedience to the law must be internal, and not just external works as the Pharisees were so famous of doing.  We must be righteous which just mean that our living must be “right ordered.”  We must situate ourselves in the world in a manner that we just plain do what is right even though it may cause us to suffer, or not get promoted, or maybe cost us some money.  What is right is right. 

We might think that because we haven’t killed anyone that we are righteous.  Jesus extends this commandment to say that name calling is the same as murder and looking at a woman with lust is the same as the physical act of adultery.

So many Christians today clamor for “an eye for an eye.”  Just mention the death penalty and you will hear a lot of that.  It is good to note that Jesus ABOLISHES this notion of justice.  He tells us we must be perfect.  And how do we do that?  He is not talking about a perfect way of living in which we never make a mistake or never sin.  The perfection of God that we are able to imitate is His mercy and mercy is a sign of the presence of His Kingdom.  So, be merciful!  Don’t go for the eyes. 

In chapter six and seven, Jesus breaks down a little more neatly what this right living looks like and how to grow into it.

There are seven steps, or spiritual disciplines, to becoming “perfect:”

1.      Humility, Matthew 6:1
2.      Be charitable, 6:2-4
3.      Pray, 6:5-15
4.      Fast, 6:16-18
5.      Trust in God, 6:19-33
6.      Release Judgment, 7:1
7.      Self-accusation, 7:2-5

These are not given to us to do once and forget them, nor is perfection demanded immediately upon becoming a disciple.  These are given to us to work on, struggle with, and grow towards our whole lives.  The beginning of the spiritual life begins with humility.  Each step become increasingly more difficult and takes more surrender as we continue to grow.  This is the struggle with ourselves, the demons, temptations, and the sins that attract us.  We never arrive, but we can grow.  We can become better.  Really, the process is about healing and receiving God’s mercy.  As we grow, we become more able to fast, or more able to not judge others and to see that we need not complain or blame others.  We can see that it is my fault. 

I put forward to you that this is the narrow way.  We live in a fast food culture.  Religion resembles this too.  There are many who tell us that everyone goes to heaven, just believe in Jesus and you will be ok.  Well, if that were true, why did Jesus spend so many words saying otherwise?  Why did He give us this marvelous sermon and command us to DO so many things? 

Yes, ponder these things, ponder the narrow way and the implications this has for your life.  Are there some things that need to be changed?  If so, begin small, but begin to change.  We do not need to afraid.  God in His mercy is here to help us change, little by little.  As we pray and fast and give to others, as we see our need, as we repent, as we see that we do not need to blame anyone for our lives, we will see Jesus more and more in our lives and in all those around us. 

Yes, this path is difficult, but it is also the path of encountering the Lord.  It leads to life, and joy, and peace, and love and about everything positive that you could imagine.  Enjoy your journey.

Peace always.


Dennis the Little

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