Narrow-Road Christianity

Joshua West

People tend to seek the path of least resistance, the “easy way.” As Christians, we shouldn’t look for the easy way or the hard way. We should focus on walking down the path of truth no matter where it leads. We should be far more concerned about the character of our life than the condition of our life. 

But because we have a fallen sin nature, doing what’s right is often a struggle, and when it comes to following Christ it is completely unnatural to us. This is why the Scripture says regarding following Jesus that we must deny ourselves. 

In the Scriptures, Jesus speaks about this frequently. He makes it clear that living by the status quo, and going with the flow, isn’t what true Christianity looks like. This is not a popular message today, and I’m sure it has never been a popular message in any age. 

The Broad Road of Destruction
Due to the rejection of absolute truth, the rise of secular atheism, and a culture that thinks it has outgrown God, we have an environment in which any personal discomfort for the sake of right is minimized or considered unnecessary altogether. 

“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.” Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV) 

Popular modern Christianity is broad, minimizing sin, repentance, and sacrifice. Matthew 7:13-14 truly is a hard saying because our flesh is weak and wants it easy. You will be persecuted for preaching the full counsel of God. 

Everyone is born on the broad road because we are born into sin. Anyone who tells you that true relationship with Christ is found on the broad road is misleading you, either because they are deceived or because they are a liar. 

The path of the disciple of Jesus hinges on the teachings of Jesus, this is why Jesus says, “Those who love me will obey my commands.” You are not really a disciple of someone if you knowingly don’t live by their teachings. 

The True Disciple
To be a disciple means to discipline yourself to a certain way of life, prescribed by the teacher. To be a disciple of someone’s teachings implies that you carefully incorporate their philosophy and teachings into your life. 

Being a disciple of Jesus goes far beyond merely living by his teachings though. It is inviting him to take up residence in your life through his Spirit which transforms you. This is what it means to be born again. You are literally born anew in the Spirit to a brand-new life. 

Many preach that living as a disciple doesn’t matter as much. I believe that the Scripture indicates that if you are transformed you will live according to his Word, perhaps not all at once, but definitely more and more every day. He not only commands us to live by his commands, but he empowers us to as well. 

The apostle Paul calls himself a son by adoption, but more often he refers to himself as a servant of Christ or an apostle of Christ. If we are in Christ, we are sons of God, but we should be careful not to let an American view of what sonship means distort our view and reverence of the God who chose us. We should consider ourselves sons who choose to be servants and disciples. If Jesus came to serve and Paul called himself a servant, and Peter called himself a servant, then we are not above the example they set. 

Many people say they have a relationship with Jesus or call themselves Christians and I’m not saying they are wrong. It’s not my place to do so. But since the weight of eternity rests on our relationship with Jesus, shouldn’t we carefully define what this means in the light of God’s revealed truth—the Scripture? If we rely on our feelings, or what someone tells us, isn’t that being foolish? 

Christ’s Warnings of False Prophets
When I read Matthew 7 it shakes me up a bit. No, honestly, it shakes me up a lot. In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus says that only a few will find what he calls the narrow road that leads to life, but many walk down the broad road that leads to destruction. 

Jesus, the author of salvation, the way, the truth and the life, God in the flesh, is giving us what appears to be direct warning which says that just because many people are walking down a particular path doesn’t mean it is the right way. In fact, it seems he is saying that the broad way of the crowd is probably the wrong way. 

In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus says not only are most people going away from life and toward destruction, but that there are false teachers and prophets perpetrating this deception and leading people astray, and we should beware of them. 

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:15-20 (NIV) 

What is strange to me is that people within much of the American church seem to care little about scriptures like this, and care little about ensuring they are preaching sound doctrine. People get turned off when you talk about sound doctrine and staying true to the Scriptures. Many modern preachers don’t necessarily speak against the Scripture but seem to think that they have something more important to say beyond the Scripture. 

The false belief is if someone is famous, if they write books, or they’re on television, then surely everything they say is right. Even when what they say is in direct opposition of basic and fundamental truths of the faith, anyone who draws attention to this will quickly be silenced by being called judgmental or legalistic. Sadly, we gauge what is sound by what is successful. This is a poor way to gauge spiritual truths. “By their fruit you will know them.” 

We as a culture have an unhealthy view of money and unfortunately so do many within the church. Many preachers focus on money and being what they call “blessed.” Really, they are just building a theology to accommodate their own greed and preaching “I’m okay, you’re okay” sermons. Sadly, they are turning the house of the Lord into a place of worldly systems, business, and entertainment. 

“I Never Knew You”
Then in Matthew 7:21-23 it lays it all out, not only are the masses who go with the flow on the broad road headed for destruction, but also the false prophets who deceive us as they preach us toward destruction. Not everyone who thinks they have avoided this fate really has. There will be many who think that although they lived a life of compromise on the broad road, and avoided the narrow path of sacrifice and self-denial, they will still spend eternity with a Savior that they didn’t care to know in this life.

It is by grace that we are saved and our deeds cannot save us, but we are saved by faith and faith does have something to do with deeds. Actions don’t save us but just like a tree where the fruit shows what kind of tree it is, our actions bear witness to our faith. Apparently, the kind of relationship Jesus expects is an intimate one, built on complete faith and trust in him. 

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and, in your name, perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV) 

If these words spoken by Jesus have never made you deeply examine yourself, I worry for you and your soul. The relationship that Jesus wants is an intimate one and a trusting one, like that of a bride to her husband and of a child to their parent. The words “Lord, Lord” are so frightening here because the people saying it fully expect to be received by the Lord, but the casual relationship they had with him wasn’t enough.

The thought of this is chilling to me. So many people who truly expect to be welcomed in with open arms by the Lord, to be part of his joy and his glory will be turned away. Churches across our country are filled with people who fit this description. But where are the preachers of repentance who preach the true gospel? Where are the prophets of warning watching the walls of the city? They have been put to death or at least silenced by the spirit of Jezebel.

Now we have life coaches and celebrity pastors teaching worldly strategies and the methods of man to calm the conscience of the congregation as they build buildings, sell books, and chase financial gain. 

Most relationships with Jesus are casual at best and according to Matthew 7, that may not be enough. We must start preaching the true gospel once again. We must preach the message of repentance once again. If people must go to hell let them go with bruises and scratches on their legs and arms from where we tried with everything we had to pull them toward the truth. Or at the least with the words of truth we preached ringing in their ears. 

Build Your House on the Rock
Finally, in Matthew 7:24-29 Jesus gives an analogy about two houses. It would seem both were built in the same area and were subject to the same environment because both houses experienced the same storm, intense rain, flooding, and powerful wind. Jesus gives no indication that the houses themselves were different in any way.

In context of the entire chapter of Matthew 7, Jesus gives this comparison of a house built on the rock and one built on the sand. They look the same and by all outward appearances are the same, at least until the storm comes. 

This story should make us examine the foundation of what our life is truly built on. There is nothing more important than this. Is the surety of our salvation built on what the Bible says about following Jesus? Or is it built on what culture says, what our feelings tell us, or what we hope is true? I have had many disturbing conversations with people who overlook, minimize, and altogether ignore biblical warning and direction based solely on their feelings. 

There is nothing more foolish than this. Putting our feelings above all else is truly what it means to build your house on the sand. Overlooking the words of the unchanging Savior as written in Scripture because they don’t line up with what you feel is nothing less than rejecting Christ himself. 

We can talk about our relationship with Christ all we want, we can say we did many things for the church, we can give money and time to great causes, but in the end all that will matter is whether or not everything in your life was built on a real and intimate relationship with the solid foundation himself, Jesus Christ. 

No matter what makes up the materials of the “Christian style” house you build your life with, it’s all meaningless if the foundation isn't sure and true. Without Christ your life will fall with a great crash and wash away. 

Christ is the rock in the story and it is clear that a life truly built on Christ will stay standing, not just in this life but in the life to come. 

People take so much of what Jesus said and try to apply it to whatever suits them. They like to say they are using the principles of Jesus and maybe sometimes they are, but this story isn’t about anything other than what it plainly says. Those who hear what Jesus teaches and live it are the ones who have a firm foundation that will endure everything, including death. 

Narrow-Path Christianity
The one who lives life on the broad road and doesn’t bear fruit and has a casual acquaintance with Jesus, is building their house on the sand. Although it looks good in this life, one day when the storm comes and when trial comes, it will be shown for what is lacking—a true foundation. It will permanently crash down and wash away. 

“Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed. Matthew 21:44” (NIV) 

Jesus is the Rock, the Firm Foundation and the Chief Cornerstone. Whoever falls on him will be broken and whoever he falls on will be crushed. Why? Because he is the truth. The truth can’t change or be changed. It changes whatever it encounters; it crushes untruth. Jesus is not only the Rock, but his gospel is also the stumbling block by which men will either become broken through repentance or get broken by his justice. 

“…but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…” 1 Corinthians 1:23 (NIV) 

Narrow-path Christianity begins and ends with the gospel and with Christ; everything else is secondary. As we begin to follow Jesus and have true fellowship with him, we first must accept Christ as Lord and as our only way of salvation. 

We must repent of our sins and start to live a life of discipleship as the Holy Spirit begins to conform us to the image of Christ through the Scriptures. Jesus is the only way to God and it’s only through him that we truly find salvation from our sins. 

Where is our Salvation?
As disciples of Jesus, we should be students of Scripture, not for the sake of amassing and obtaining knowledge, but to discover the character of God and to learn how to live lives that please him. 

A mere knowledge of God isn’t enough. If it were, Satan wouldn’t have been cast out. And how about Judas? He probably knew the words of Jesus inside and out. He was in Jesus’ inner circle for three and a half years but became disillusioned and betrayed him. 

Why? Judas was following what he thought Jesus was, and who he hoped Jesus was, rather who he truly was. Once he saw that the actual purpose of Jesus didn’t line up with what he wanted, he betrayed him. We have to come to Christ broken, and to the Scriptures humbly, and always be willing to let the Bible shape our lives, not our selfish desires. 

If we say we accept Christ but reject his words what are we actually doing? We are inventing a different version of Christ and in essence rejecting the true Savior. We are also misrepresenting Jesus, and this is a dangerous place to be. It’s not hard as long as we are completely surrendered to knowing Christ and who he is, and remembering that anything else we experience with God will always line up with the Scripture. If we are dedicated students of God’s Word and are people of prayer, we will thrive and grow in Christ. 

We are all born on the broad road of life, in sin and headed for destruction. Jesus is the straight gate with the small entrance that leads to life. He made a way and also sent his Spirit. 

Throughout the ages people have told themselves that they can stay on the broad road and still somehow avoid destruction, but it simply isn’t true. It’s only through Christ as revealed in his Word that we will be saved and have life and have it more abundantly. 

In Christ,
Pastor Joshua

Joshua West is a pastor, evangelist, and author. He is also director of the World Challenge Pastors Network.


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