“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (Like 13:24). Many will try, but few will make it. The price of being saved is more than many will want to bear. We tend to think that all it takes is to believe in Jesus, and that’s it. However, there is a harsh reality that most do not want to acknowledge. YHWH wanted the same devotion from the Israelites that He wants from us today. Salvation is much more than just believing in Jesus. It is a devotion and submission to YHWH unlike any other. The question is: What are you willing to give up to enter through the narrow door? Many will try, but only some will make it.
This life is but a breath, once here and the next gone. “Why, you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). We get consumed with wanting to have everything in this world, forgetting that our time here is a sliver of eternity. Jesus talked about this as he preached to the crowds of people who followed him. “Indeed, 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” (Luke 18:25). The more we cling to the things of this world, the less likely we are to give them up to follow Jesus. This is why Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-20a, 21).
In the book of Ezra, we are shown what happens when we neglect the teachings and precepts of God. The nation of Israel was taken into captivity by the Persian Empire. However, the Lord moved the heart of King Cyrus, and the king gave the Israelites permission to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of YHWH. After some setbacks and other kings who disagreed with King Cyrus, the Israelites finally finished the work and were back in Jerusalem as a nation. However, there was a significant problem. Many of the men throughout the tribes of Israel had disobeyed the commands of the Lord and intermarried with other surrounding nations. Israel was called to be set apart. They were to abstain from being involved with other pagan nations. This was the command of the Lord. When Ezra brought the nation of Israel back to Jerusalem and heard that many men throughout the tribes had intermarried with outside nations, he ripped his clothes, threw himself to the ground, and cried out to God in shame and disgrace.
The nation of Israel once again chose to ignore God’s commands and followed after their desires. The consequence of their choices was to send away the women and children who were from different nations. In other words, the men who intermarried had to send their wives and children away, never to be seen or heard from again. The men who chose to stay with their wives and children had to sell all their property, which meant they lost all their inheritance and rights as Israelites. The consequence was harsh, but the lesson was real. When we neglect the commandments and precepts of God, we set ourselves up for failure and hardship. If we hold on too tightly to the things of this world, we lose our inheritance in God’s kingdom.
Jesus made it very clear what it looks like to be His disciple. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 13:26-27). Another version puts it this way, “You cannot be my disciple, unless you love Me more than you love your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters. You cannot follow me unless you love Me more than you love your own life” (Contemporary English Version). This doesn’t mean we don’t love our family and those closest to us. What it does mean, however, is that we love and follow Christ more than we do those closest to us.
The commands and precepts of YHWH take precedence over everything and everyone else in our life. They take precedence over political affiliations and ideologies. They take precedence over parents’ wants and desires. They take precedence over our spouses’ wants and desires. There should be nothing in our lives that comes before the commands and precepts of God. To follow Christ and be His disciple is to deny ourselves and those around us, take up our cross, and follow Him.
The price of following Christ is hatred from the world. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). We should genuinely consider our allegiance to Christ if we find ourselves without opposition from the world. We must ask ourselves: “What am I hanging onto too tightly that I should let go of?” As Jesus said, “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).
Whenever I read Jesus’ words about the narrow gate, I can’t help but think of firefighter training. When I was a firefighter, we had to do training that forced us into very small spaces. The narrowness of some openings forced us to push and wiggle our way through. If we had anything extra on our person, we had to either take it off and leave it behind or push it in front of us. Some of these areas were so small that we would have to take off our air packs and push them in front of us to get through certain openings. The way to Christ is much the same thing. There is no room for extra items. Jesus is our airway and the only thing that will fit through the entrance to eternity with Him. We must “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” us.
Francis Chan showed a great example of what our lives look like compared to eternity (link to the video below). He had a long white rope, and at one of the ends of the rope, he had about an inch of red tape wrapped around it. He explained that the rope represented eternity, and the red tape was our life. We spend so much time thinking only within the confines of our life that we neglect to see the eternal time that lies beyond. Our wealth, toys, relationships, and things are nothing compared to the amount of time we will spend in eternity. But we must be willing to let go of everything we hold on to so tightly to become Christ’s disciples.
To be called a child of God is to put Him first in everything. We must put aside family, friends, loved ones, and even ourselves to obey and follow Him. We listen to His words only. We do not make accommodations for sin in our life or make excuses for sin in our life. We must do what is right, no matter the cost. The cost of being Christ’s disciple is hatred from the world, but the amount of time we have in life is nothing compared to the time we will have in eternity. Let us run, therefore, with our eyes focused on the finish line. Let us not be tempted to hold on to the things of this world. May we love the Lord our God more than we love the things of this world.