Matthew 7:13-23, Psalm 16:7-11, Matthew 22:1-14, John 10:11-15, John 14:1-6, Romans 2:12-13
One of the most troubling verses in the Bible is this: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
It is troubling because it means it is possible to be entirely deceived regarding our standing with Christ. It seems to strike at the heart both of our status in Christ, and our assurance of that status. Even the king’s guest at the wedding feast in Matthew 22 turned out to be an intruder, an imposter guest. How do we avoid such hazards?
Enter by the narrow gate.
We like wide and easy paths, because they accommodate all of our baggage: our heads swollen with pride, our pet sins bundled about us with care, and the comforts of this world tangled about our feet. We’ve laden our camels with all these lawless and self-righteous accoutrements, and so we cannot pass through the needle-narrow way. Maybe we think God will be impressed by our accumulations, or by our fine self-made wedding garments. But really, we’re just carting around rotten fruit from a rotten root.
The way through is hard because it trims the fat, it pierces through joint and marrow, right down to the bone. Scripture is full of this image of cutting away, of pruning, even by fire. Why? Because the narrow gate leaves no room for our merits. In the kingdom of God, all the goodness is from Him. He is the giver of all good gifts. He distributes the wedding garments of His righteousness. He is the gardener, the true vine, and the first fruits all in one. And He is the gate, the door of the sheepfold.
“Out of ourselves, into Christ we must go,” said C.S. Lewis. Every question, every concern, every fear, and every doubt is answered in Christ. Look outward and upward, not inward and downward. Do not drag your petty merits before the throne. Appeal to no sacrifice but Christ.
Jesus reminded His hearers that only those who do the will of His Father will enter heaven. What is the will of the Father, that we may do it? Jesus tells us, “This is the will of my Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:40).
There is no shortcut, no nifty 10-step program, no secret code, no positive thinking method, or groveling penance that will suffice. There is only Christ.
Written by Caleb Faires