The Sermon on the Mount concludes with a set of examples regarding the activities of persons who are followers of Jesus–a trip, a productive tree, and a house builder. These capture three of the dimensions of the Christian life. The first two are repeated in other settings.
Jesus declares that the requirements for being a Christian are very specific. A few lines later (Matt. 7:21-23) Jesus continues that a good many people will think that they are fine with God, but are not. This error continues to be common, I fear. Often, we hear folks declare that they are pretty good and that they do not think God would send them to Hell. From the perspective of an evangelical Christian reading of the Bible, this is a tragic error.
If one looks back over the Sermon on the Mount, it is obvious that indeed the demands for the Christian life are rigorous. It is pictured as a hard way, a way that most will not want to travel. The Christian classic, PILGRIM\’S PROGRESS, builds off of and illustrates this statement.
Unfortunately, the term “narrow” has been misused and has come to be associated with narrow mindedness. This is a perversion of the Christian stance. We are to love sinners. We are to desire that they come to Jesus and accept him as their savior. We are to seek their salvation.
The story of the first sin focuses upon the rebellious desire of our first parents to define right and wrong for themselves. We continue to repeat this sin. We want a wide way and a wide gate for our trip to heaven. Something that we construct, or define, according to our liking. We want to be in charge. But if this be the case, then we are gods, not God.
Jesus’s way is different. Note how he raises the bar by internalizing the commandments of God. Right conduct is not enough if it is not accompanied by right motives. We need to come to see this narrowness as in our best interests both in this world and in the world to come, eternity.
Ultimately, reflecting upon this teaching will drive us to our knees. We realize that we cannot made the trip on the narrow way by ourselves. We are driven to the cross. We realize that we cannot secure our own salvation, but rather we much trust what Jesus did on the cross to atone for our sins. Salvation is in Jesus, not in us.