I have been praying about this study for some time. Taking into account the times we live in, and the multitudes of doctrines and teaching that are as far removed from the Word of truth as the earth is from the sky, I thought it appropriate to sit down and write it now rather than later. We are living in a season of spiritual upheaval, one that has amassed a troubling number of casualties along the way, leaving in its wake sincere men and women whose spirits were utterly crushed, and faith violently shaken.
Whether due to pride, ignorance or a combination of both, too few are willing to return to the simplicity of the gospel, and immerse themselves in the words of the Christ, following His teachings and His example rather than the teachings and examples of mere men.
As children of God we must have a stable, steadfast, unshakable foundation in His Word, know His will for our lives, learn to hear His voice with greater clarity than ever before, or we run the risk of being trampled underfoot and dragged away into the mire of half truths and outright deception.
I must forewarn you, some along the way, as we get deeper into this teaching will begin to cry out ‘legalism’ with the requisite pause between syllables for emphasis and effect, but keep in mind these are not my words, but rather the words of Christ.
I have been criticized in the past, often vociferously so for my stance on works and grace not being mutually exclusive, but rather being symbiotic and working together toward a common goal. This stance is not because I am stubborn, it is not because I have made up my mind on my own, but rather because it is plainly written the Word of God, and even if some may choose to disregard scripture, I will uphold it until my dying breath. I will not bend, twist or otherwise render the scripture void for the sake of men’s acceptance, approval, or in order to placate critics.
Our journey begins in the book of Luke, as Jesus encountered a man during His travels that posed a question for the ages.
Luke 13:22, “And He went through the cities and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem.”
At first glance this would seem like a simple and straightforward enough verse. Jesus went through the cities and villages! However what is not said, is more telling than what was said, for Jesus went through the cities and villages, not to become a citizen of these townships, not to establish Himself where he found the most acceptance and start a church hoping to get his own syndicated show, but to teach, and to do good. Jesus journeyed not for Himself, but rather for the hurting, the poor, the hungry, His one desire being to enlighten those who would hear with His teaching, and show those who had eyes to see the way into the Kingdom. He did this as he journeyed toward Jerusalem.
Throughout His ministry Christ’s goal and purpose were the same. To open the eyes of those walking in darkness, and cause them to see the truth of whom He was, and what He had come to earth to do.
Wherever he went, Jesus taught, healed the sick, and gave hope to the downtrodden, being a blessing for all who received. If we are to be as Christ was, then our desire should be to radiate His goodness and love wherever we go, journeying not for our own agenda, not for some vested interest, but merely to be a blessing, to teach the Word, and be used of God in the manner He sees fit.
Luke 13:23-24, “Then one said to Him, ‘Lord are there few who are saved?’ And He said to them, ‘strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
It is by far less important to know how few, or how many are saved, than to know that I personally am saved. There is an old saying in my country, that when you are too busy looking in your neighbor’s soup bowl, you have the tendency not to see the flies buzzing around in yours. We must be first and foremost concerned with where we as individuals are as pertains to the will of God, if we walk in righteousness and obedience to Him, rather than be concerned how few are saved.
I have seen good men get sidetracked from working out their own salvation with fear and trembling, focusing all of their time and energies on the faults and shortcomings of others, that they eventually strayed from truth not having been guarding their hearts, building themselves up in prayer, and making certain that their armor was on at all times.
Jesus Christ is the Savior of mankind, because He paid the price for our redemption, but if an individual refuses to make Him Lord of his or her heart, if an individual rejects repentance and faith in Him, they die in their sins.
It is one of the great snares of the enemy, in which many a soul have become entangled, namely the studying of the letter of the Bible only, being studious in mind alone, accumulating Biblical knowledge, without allowing this knowledge to penetrate down into their hearts, and having it be evident in their every day lives. Yes, knowing the letter of Scripture is necessary, but if we advance no further and remain only within the letter, it is certain to lead to death. We must traverse into the realm of the Spirit, that we may know the Christ, receive Him and thereby obtain salvation.
2 Corinthians 3:5-6, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being form ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Only by entering into the Spirit of God’s word will we discover the fullness of what He has for us, only then will we taste of the unveiled mysteries of truth. It is not enough to know truth in theory alone, but I must have the truth reside in me, it must be evident by all in my daily life, and birth in me a new heart, a new mind, and a new desire for Christ and Christ alone.
For fear of getting sidetracked, since this is an easy topic to wander on about, we return our focus to a man and his query, a man who wanted to know if there were few who were saved. Rather than answer his question outright, a question birthed out of human curiosity, Christ endeavors to open the eyes of those who were listening to the truth of His message, and show them the way into the Kingdom. Even Christ’s refusal to answer a question based solely in human thinking can be a lesson to those hungering for truth. We cannot allow ourselves to be overcome by the curiosity of the old self, the old nature, when it comes to the mysteries of God, but rather deny ourselves and receive His will as the final authority in our lives. Only then will we receive what is necessary for our spiritual growth from the hand of God, knowing that it is pure, and sovereign.
It is not my duty to chase after signs or wonders, it is not my duty to pursue men, and sit at their feet, my duty is to be a ready and willing vessel for the Master, one who has been purged and cleansed, and is ready to be of service. If God would have me see miracles, so be it! If God would have me hear prophecy, so be it! If God would have me preach a sermon, so be it! He will tell me in His time what He requires of me. Yes, desire spiritual gifts, but do not demand them of God, as though we know better than He what office we are best suited for. Again, off topic, I know, but necessary given the current spiritual upheaval going on in this country.
Rather than give percentages of how few are saved, Jesus spoke directly to the crowd that was assembled and said, “strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
There is a segment within the Christian community that believes nothing more than a wave of a hand in an overly crowed stadium during the altar call of a superstar preacher is required for us as individuals to enter the kingdom of heaven.
‘Every head bowed, and every eye closed, just raise your hand wherever you are, Jesus sees you! That’s it, Hallelujah, thank you all for coming, and please fill out a commitment card and mail it to our ministry, so we can have a record of you.’
In most cases, there is no brokenness, no repentance, no inward searching, just the wave of a hand amongst a sea of people, an experience almost forgotten two or three weeks down the line, as the individual returns to his former life, former lusts, former vices, and former sins.
The Son of God however, said the way into the Kingdom was not as easy as raising one’s hand in a public venue, but rather that we must strive to enter through the narrow gate.
Before we get deeper into this verse, I would like to answer the question of what it means to strive. The dictionary defines striving, as exerting much effort or energy, attempting by employing effort, endeavoring, struggling, taking pains, agonizing, overexerting oneself, straining, toiling, making every effort, or doing your utmost. I can go on, but I think you get the picture.
God has already prepared everything having to do with salvation, and a sanctified life in Christ for us. He prepared the material; He built the house, yet there is one thing left for us to do, and that is to walk through the gate, to enter into this glorious and eternal home. The door by which we enter in however is so narrow, that nothing other than the individual can pass through. No baggage, no apparel, no trinkets, no keepsakes, nothing can pass through this narrow gate but you. This is what God requires of us, to strip off all that is of the flesh, to lay down every burden, to lay aside every weight, and enter in.
The hard part is not the act of entering through the narrow gate, but the striving, the agonizing, the endeavoring required to unburden ourselves to the point that we can fit through the gate. God will allow nothing of the world to enter into His Kingdom, one cannot pass through the narrow gate, lest he deny everything including him or herself.
The old nature does not die quietly, and it opposes one’s passage through the narrow gate with every fiber of its being and with all the resistance it can muster. Even Jesus said that many will seek to enter but will not be able to, because they attempted to drag their old natures, their old lusts, vices and desires along with them through the gate, realizing perhaps belatedly so that one can only pass through when they have abandoned all these things. No matter how much one reads the Bible, no matter how often they go to church, if they do not daily crucify their flesh with all that it entails, they cannot enter into the Kingdom of eternity by the narrow gate.
Yes, God has done His part and abundantly so, as pertains to our salvation and sanctification. May we also do our part, and then we will prove to all that the grace of God is not in vain.
It is said that some fishermen were caught in a storm far from shore. The waves kept hammering their small boat, the winds were roaring, and terrified as they were, they laid down their oars, and began to pray for God to save them. The second they stopped rowing the winds began to drag the small boat further and further away from the shore. Only then did the oldest and wisest among them speak up and say, “Why did you stop rowing? Yes, pray, by all means pray, but row as well.”
God is always there, He always hears our prayers, but we must open the hand of faith, that we may receive His blessing and His help. Opening our hand is up to us; entering through the narrow gate is up to us; rowing upon the sea that is this world is up to us. If we do not do our part, we will surely perish, just as a man standing before a spring but who is unwilling to lean forward and drink the water will surely die of thirst.
Narrow is the gate of truth, yet those who strive will surely enter through it. Oh, what glorious light is to be found in this eternal Kingdom. Narrow is the gate of godliness, yet those who endeavor to live godly will rest under the shadow of His wing. God is not a miser, He gives abundantly to His children, for it is His good pleasure, but we must daily open the treasuries of our hearts, that the may be filled and replenished with His grace, light and love.
Yes, we have a duty to perform, we have part to play, yet when you mention one’s accountability and duty in the light of the Gospel, too readily, and unjustly so one is labeled a legalist. It is not legalism it is the Gospel!
It is no merit of ours, nor are we deserving of anything for seeking the Lord, but without seeking Him we have no hope of finding Him. Our prayers are not entitled to answers, yet we must pray without ceasing, for we cannot hope to receive if we never ask. A vessel must be held beneath the running spring in order to be filled otherwise it will remain empty, yet it is not the vessel that makes the water. No matter how much effort a man might exert fighting the fight of faith, it will never be enough to purchase eternal life, or make him entitled, but it would not be just for a man to simply sit by the shade of a palm tree and wait hoping that he will have eternal life.
We must strive to enter through the narrow gate, and we must learn to see the symbiosis between receiving salvation by faith, and the need to walk the path soberly, reverently and obediently.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.
Post Script: Thank you all for your prayers for my brother Daniel. Please keep the people of Wisconsin in your prayers as the Lord leads, we have lived through some interesting few days, watching for tornadoes, seeing day turn into night as the storms moved in, and seeing the aftermath of the flooding.