This week’s lesson gives me pause; it gives me pause because in order to proclaim the truth of this text, I am going to have to say some rather hard things and those hard things are going to offend many. Please know that what I will say needs to be said and that it does not mean that I do not care about you. Quite the opposite actually, I am saying these things because I love you and I am concerned for your soul. Our text for this week is Matthew Chapter 7 and verses 13 & 14.
Jesus uses the metaphor of a gate and a road. The Narrow Way and the Strait Gate is the Gospel. The Broad Way and the Wide Gate are every other form of religion on the planet.
I have said before, the Mormons have a Jesus, the Catholics have a Jesus, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have one too and so does the crowd that embraces Positive Confession (also called word of faith). It is not enough that you have a Jesus. It is not even enough that you worship a Jesus. It has to be the Jesus in the Bible, otherwise your worship is an exercise in uselessness.
You will often hear it said that “all religions teach the same thing.” Let me tell you that with a single exception, Christianity, that is a true statement as they will all teach you how to die in your sins and spend eternity in Hell. I do not make that statement without fear and trembling but it is true. All religions apart from Christianity will teach you how to die in your sins and go to Hell.
I am sad to say that many in the American Church, most in fact, are on the broad way that leads to damnation; they are on that path and probably don’t even know it. The “Church” is so ignorant of the Bible that many Christians probably cannot even tell you what the Gospel is, which is scary because it it the Gospel that defines our Christianity. That really is the point of the text; at the end of your life, you need to be sure that you have believed the Gospel if you expect to go to Heaven. I am going to clarify what that Gospel is, when we talk about the narrow way, but I want to spend some time talking about the broad way and what the Gospel is not.
There is a way that seems right; it seems good, seems God pleasing, sounds like Christianity but it is not, its final end is destruction and death. Two different passages in Proverbs state, outright, that there is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is destruction and death. (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25). Beloved, it is indeed very possible to think you are a Christian and not be. You can go to church every Sunday and say all the right sounding words, sing all the songs, put plenty of money in the collection plate and still end up in Hell. Why? By believing a false gospel.
The Lord’s youngest brother, Judah (Jude for thse that wish to use the Gentile form of his name) teaches that certain men have crept in unaware. Let’s look at verse 4 of his powerful epistle. Jude 4 (NIV) “For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
I am not a big fan of lists i.e. 3 ways to have a better marriage, 7 steps to more fulfilling devotional time, 4 steps to keep your kids from _______ fill in the blank, but I do want to give you five things that the Gospel is not because it helps to know what a thing is not if you want to identify what it is.
License. The Gospel is not license to sin. The charge of turning the Gospel into license to live however we please is often used as an attack against the Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. All true believers will endure to the end their lives. We will still sin because the flesh wars with our new nature, however, no true Christian will ever teach that you can live however you please and still go to heaven when you die.
We hold to the Baptist Faith and Message; here is what it has to say: All real believers endure to the end. Their continuance in well-doing is the mark which distinguishes them from mere professors. A special Providence cares for them, and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
John 10:28-29; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 2:19; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Romans 8:30; 9:11,16; Romans 5:9-10; Matthew 26:70-75.
Will Christians still sin? Yes. Will they seek it out just because “they can?” Certainly not.
On “Christian TV” The Gospel, by and large, is not found on what passes for Christian TV. This point is in parallel with another I will make in a minute but what you see on most of Christian TV has more to do with pagan mysticism and witchcraft than it does with anything scriptural. You will hear “pastors” on “Christian TV” talk about speaking things into the way you want them to be, you will hear about how you can claim promises in the Bible that aren’t even remotely connected to you and that isn’t event the worst of it. The alleged pastors on TV will make promises like “God wants you to have great health, money, possessions, and influence.” I think Job, Peter, and Paul might disagree. There has even been documentation of one of the TV “pastors” saying that anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan, never mind the fact that Jesus Himself is the one who said to deny yourself (Matthew 16:24 and Luke 9:23). These things are not the gospel.
Activism: The Gospel is not social activism. We have begun to see a resurgence of the “social gospel” and, while its goals may be admirable, they are more concerned with politics rather than the Gospel. Social Gospel was a religious social-reform movement prominent in the United States from about 1870 to 1920 and as I said, we are seeing a resurgence of this idea today. Advocates of the movement interpret the Kingdom of God as requiring social as well as individual salvation and sought the betterment of industrialized society through application of the biblical principles of charity and justice. Labor reforms—including abolition of child labor, a shorter workweek, a living wage, and factory regulation—constituted the Social Gospel’s most prominent concerns. During the 1930s many of these ideals were realized through the rise of organized labor and the legislation of the New Deal by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The Biblical Gospel does address some of those issues, but resolving social problems is not the goal of the gospel. The goal of the Gospel is your redemption from sin and your being conformed to the image of Christ.
Walking and Aisle and Praying a Prayer is not part of the Gospel. There is a troublesome tendency to promote an idea called decisional regeneration, which is a patently unscriptural notion. More times than I can count, I have heard a pastor say, “the Bible says that if you pray this prayer and mean it in your heart, you will be saved from your sins.” Except that the Bible does not actually say that.
Yes, confession is part of the Gospel. The Greek word that we render confession is homolegao which literally means to say the same thing. Say the same thing as what? When you homolegao you essentially agree and say the same thing about sin and about Christ that God says and that is an integral part of the Gospel, but walking down an aisle at church and repeating a prayer the pastor told you to pray is neither repenting nor confessing. Now to be sure, there are some that do this that are actually converted but they are few and far between. Jesus’ call was always, “Follow me.” That is a call to discipleship and a lifetime of serving Him.
About you. The Gospel is not about you. The Gospel is entirely about God’s glory in redeeming sinners. As Jonathan Edwards pointed out, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” I have heard people say that Jesus loved you so much that He would rather die than spend eternity without you. I could vomit. Heaven is entirely, totally, 100%, utterly about Jesus and His glory. Heaven was created for Him, He is its centerpiece, and His Gospel is about the glory He receives from saving sinners.
Voddie Baucham once mentioned that the concept and images (which by the way are sinful-2nd commandment) of Jesus that we have in the American Church today is of this sissified needy Jesus who looks more like a shampoo model than a rugged Galilean carpenter. Both of us are disgusted by that idea. Jesus doesn’t need you- He is the absolute Sovereign of the universe and also the God who created everything- He is in no need of you and you need to realize that a day is coming when He is going to break you. If you do not break yourself and submit to His lordship while you walk this earth, you will be broken at the Great White Throne.
So then what is the Gospel?
Exclusive/The Narrow Way. In John 14:6 Jesus declares that He is the way, the truth, and the life and he further declares that no one comes to the Father except through Him. There is no other option. So many times, I hear someone say, “why should there be only one way to Heaven?” and like Dr. Sproul, my answer is, “why should there be any way at all?” Sin is so offensive to the holiness of God, such an affront to His nature that if He killed every sinner in their sleep, no one could say a thing about it because it would be perfectly just. Since God is the King of Heaven, He alone gets to decide who gets an audience with Him and under what terms that audience is granted. Here is what you need to understand…Anyone can answer the Gospel Invitation as God commands all men to repent (Acts 17:30) but not everyone will. God knew who would respond when He set the terms of salvation and He called them “Mine elect”. Physically, it is not hard to respond to the Gospel- your knee was designed to bend in just the right spot to kneel before the Throne but it is pride, the oldest and, perhaps, strongest of sins that will not permit the knee to bow.
The Gospel is The Message of Redemption from Sin. There is a common aid to understanding the Gospel called the “Romans Road to Salvation” that I find most useful and many of you will be familiar with these verses.
- Because of our sin, we are separated from God. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
- The Penalty for our sin is death. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
- The penalty for our sin was paid by Jesus Christ! But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
- If we repent of our sin, then confess and trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved from our sins! For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13) …if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9,10)
The Gospel is All About God’s Glory. In the Greek Text, Ephesians 1:3-14 is one gigantic sentence and it points out that God has predestined a people to adoption as sons and has appointed them unto adoption to the praise of His glory.
Let’s also read Romans 9:22–24
“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”
God’s treatment of the “vessels of wrath” shows us divine glory because this treatment manifests His justice. The elect will see the Lord justly condemn the impenitent, and so they will more clearly see His attributes of justice and righteousness, thereby receiving a fuller revelation of His character and thus His glory.
Now turn to Isaiah 42. Verses 1-7 speak of God’s work of redemption, His freeing of captives and giving sight to the spiritually blind. God alone will receive the glory in our salvation, for salvation is a manifestation of His glory. His omnipotence, His mercy, His love, and His holiness are in a sense all summed up in His glory, and all of these attributes are on display in His work of salvation.
Offered to All; Sufficient Only for Those Who Respond
Acts 17:30 “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” All men are called to repent but not all respond. Those who do not respond to the Gospel call to turn from sin have no atonement. On one hand it is sad that the impenitent will be punished for eternity for their sins and on the other, God is glorified in the vindication of His holiness.
Those who have responded to the Gospel call, will glorify God, in Heaven, for all eternity in response to His mercy in saving them.
How can I respond? What if I’m not elect? I run into the 2nd question so frequently that I cannot believe it. If you want to know if you are elect, here is how you tell…Do you want to respond to the call to turn from sin and be saved? Do you desire to be saved from your sin? Do you desire Christ? Would you leave behind your sin and live for His glory? Will you, empowered by the Holy Spirit, take up your cross and follow Christ? If yes, be comforted that these are marks of election.
If you would respond to the Gospel, here is how…Confess that you are a sinner and need Christ’s righteousness. Confess He is Lord. Believe that Christ was raised from the dead.
Once you have done that, find a Bible teaching church and begin the process of discipleship. Your new pastor will help you to grow into the image of Christ.
As our time together draws to a close, I want to restate the Gospel for you and I will give you 4 words to ponder in your heart today, with a brief explanation of each. Maybe you have been part of a church for a long time and have never heard the real Gospel before. Maybe you never responded to the Gospel call, well today is the day of Salvation. Let me give you the Gospel one more time. You can respond today.
- God. God is the creator of all things (Gen. 1:1). He is perfectly holy, worthy of all worship, and will punish sin (1 John 1:5, Rev. 4:11, Rom. 2:5-8).
- Man. All people, though created good, have become sinful by nature (Gen. 1:26-28, Ps. 51:5, Rom. 3:23). From birth, all people are alienated from God, hostile to God, and subject to the wrath of God (Eph. 2:1-3).
- Christ. Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to bear God’s wrath in the place of all who would believe in him, and rose from the grave in order to give his people eternal life (John 1:1, 1 Tim. 2:5, Heb. 7:26, Rom. 3:21-26, 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Cor. 15:20-22).
- Response. God calls everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in Christ in order to be saved (Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21, Rom. 10:9-10).