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The Narrow Gate and The Narrow Way

The Narrow Gate and The Narrow Way
 
Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV) “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."
 
There are no limits to the varieties of choices one can make leading to destruction. The devil offers many ways to destruction, and the world proposes many ways to heaven, but Jesus said there is only one entrance and only one path that leads to life and salvation. When we come to the Lord, it is as if we are coming to Him through the pattern of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle of Moses stood separate from the world around it. The walls around the Tabernacle were white linen curtains. For those outside, these walls represented a barrier between them and God. For those on the inside it represented holiness and separation from the world. There were three entrances in the Tabernacle. The first was called the "Gate". This gate provided entrance into the courtyard surrounding the Tabernacle. It was a curtain supported by four bronze pillars set in bronze sockets. Bronze represents judgment. These pillars may represent Confession, Repentance, Faith, and Obedience. It was here that the priest would sit to judge the people and insure that nothing or no one unclean entered except those who came with a sacrifice for their sins. This was also called "The Way" for it was the only way into the outer court of the Tabernacle from the outside. Jesus is The Way (John 14:6). The second entrance was the entrance into the Tabernacle itself. It was called the "Door of the Tabernacle". It was a curtain supported by five golden pillars set in bronze sockets. Gold represents divinity while setting in bronze representing judgment. The Door was also known as "The Truth". Jesus is The Truth (John 14:6). As we come to the Door, we must receive Jesus as our only Source of Truth as we judge all other so-called "truth" as inferior and defiled. The five pillars represent Jesus as our Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, and Teacher in the Truth. As we submit to Him as The Truth, we may enter beyond the curtain into the Holy Place. The third entrance is called the Veil. It was a thick curtain of flesh made from animal skins. It separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant and God's Presence dwelt. Only the High Priest could go beyond this veil once a year on the Day of Atonement. This veil is also called "The Life". Jesus is "The Life." The Veil represented the entrance into the very Presence and Glory of God who is our Life. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6) In other words, Jesus is the Gate, the Door, and the Veil. He is also our High Priest. The only way to the Father is through Jesus. And this all begins with the Gate. Jesus is the narrow Gate. The world is broad and full of other options. But they do not lead to the Father. Only Jesus can bring us to the Father. As we enter the narrow gate, we leave this world behind. We enter into a new and living way. The Christian life does not only involve a narrow gate but also a narrow way. The narrow way is the way of holiness which is represented by being within the walls of the outer court. (see Hebrews 12:14) It was possible for people on the outside to see and experience the blessings of God's Presence and Glory in the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night while never entering the narrow gate or walking in the narrow way. (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-5) Let's not be satisfied living on the outside. Enter through the narrow Gate of Jesus Christ and walk on the narrow path that leads to life in the presence of the Father.
 
Hebrews 10:19-25 (NKJV) "Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."

Boundaries vs. Barriers

There is a difference between boundaries and barriers. According to Webster's Dictionary, a boundary is "something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent" while a barrier is "something material that blocks or is intended to block passage". God establishes boundaries in the form of commandments that define the sphere of His will and blessing. For instance, in the Garden of Eden, God established a boundary around the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In His sovereignty, God establishes both land and time boundaries for the nations (Acts 17:26) and the boundaries of each tribe of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:8). Although God establishes boundaries in order to protect and bless us, this generation has often interpreted God's boundaries as barriers to the "good life". They feel that God is a divine party crasher who enjoys saying "no" to anything we want. Nothing could be further from the truth! God's commands are intended to help us discern the difference between blessing and cursing, good and evil, holy and profane, right and wrong, clean and unclean, or truth and error. God wants to bring us into good pasture. God defines the boundaries of His good pasture through His Word. In His pasture we find His loving protection, care, and provision. As His sheep, we are free to graze within the fences of His pasture. However, if we interpret the fences as barriers between us and something that we want, then we will resent, rebel, and trespass against them. Rather than trespass, we should realize that God's perfect will for our lives is discovered within His boundaries. Rather than despise the fences, we should rejoice in them. King David declared in Psalm 16:6 (NKJV) "The lines (survey lines or boundary lines) have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance."  Don't be foolish and trespass outside the will, protection, and presence of God. In the end, what you intended to gain through your trespass will be lost at a great cost to you. Unfortunately, many are already experiencing the fallout of their waywardness. Many are disoriented, confused, and lost in a cruel wilderness because they have strayed far outside God's boundaries. They have set aside the objective truth of God's Word and wandered into subjective, changing, and destructive realms of fads, fashion, music, philosophy, false religions, alcohol, drugs, sexuality, and experimentation with unscriptural spiritual experiences. The good news is that the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is seeking His sheep. He is calling. We must respond to His call for salvation by crying out to Him. If we desire to repent and return to Him, He will pick us up, bind up our wounds, and bring us back within the protection of His fold. Isn't is time to stop straying and return to the Lord?
 

The Spirit of Elijah

Malachi 4:5–6 (NKJV) "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse."
 
Elijah was a prophet used by God to bring revival to a backsliden Israel. Every revival among God's people has come in one sense or another through the manifestation of the spirit of Elijah. The "spirit of Elijah" refers to the authority and power of Elijah which can be released by God to a generation that needs revival. God had instructed Elijah to anoint Elisha as prophet in his place (1 Kings 19:16). In that day the spirit of Elijah was transferred through Elijah's mantle (2 Kings 2:13). This mantle symbolized the "double portion" of Elijah's spirit (2 Kings 2:9)--not a double amount but the inheritance of the firstborn heir to stand in the father's position (Deuteronomy 21:17). Years later John the Baptist came in the "spirit and power of Elijah" (Luke 1:17) "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.", i.e. Jesus Christ (Luke 1:17). The spirit of Elijah calls a people back to God (1 Kings 18:21); restores true worship (1 Kings 18:30-39); challenges and overthrows false systems of worship (1 Kings 18:19-40); turns the hearts of the fathers back to the children (Malachi 4:5-6; Luke 1:17); turns the hearts of the children back to the fathers (Malachi 4:5-6; 1 Kings 19:37); turns the disobedient to the wisdom of the just (Luke 1:17); prepares the way of the LORD (Luke 1:17; Isaiah 40:3; 57:14; 62:10; Malachi 3:1; Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4), and makes ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:17). If there is ever a time that we need to ask God to release the spirit of Elijah, it is now. "Lord, send the spirit of Elijah in our day!" 

Prayer Wars

Remember the movie "Star Wars" which portrayed the galactic struggle between those under the influence of the dark side of "the Force" and those under the influence of the good side of "the Force"? Well, it seems the church could have its own sequel called "Prayer Wars". For instance, have you ever been in a prayer meeting where you expected to hear the "Star Wars" theme song strike up as intercessors clashed their prayer sabers against one another in "spiritual warfare"? You know--one person prays their agenda while another attacks that agenda as they thrust in another competing agenda. While biblical prayer is designed to bring petitions and supplications before God in a spirit of humility, this relatively new form of so-called "prayer" succumbs easily to pride and the lust for power that easily drives a wedge of division in the church between those under the influence of "evil" and those under the influence of "good". This kind of prayer or intercession--whether prayed in public or in private--is nothing more than a spiritual power struggle for control. Usually the goal is to impose our agenda (which we are convinced is God's agenda) upon the pastor, the leadership, the church, or upon one individual or group within the church. Those who oppose "our" agenda confirm that they are under the influence of the devil. Those who agree with our agenda confirm that they are "led by the Spirit". How childish! How self-deceived can we be? It is blatant pride at best and satanic at worst. Personally I have witnessed the spiritual upheaval in relationships and in the church caused by this kind of prayer. I have witnessed well-meaning intercessors become spiritual casualties filled with bitterness as they blame everyone else for their demise. Are we in a spiritual battle against the devil and his demons? Yes. But spiritual warfare is not directed at people but against God's enemy the devil and his agents (Ephesians 6:12). AND it is not fighting the devil in order to defeat him. God has already defeated the devil We fight from a position of victory, seated with Christ in heavenly places in order to hold the ground that Christ has already won for us (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). When we enter into a cosmic spiritual battle against one another, we treat one another--rather than the devil--as our enemy. We fight against one another rather than fighting for one another. One kind of "prayer" is motivated by pride, control, anger and vengeance while the other is motivated by humility, love, reconciliation, and forgiveness. A true intercessor is a humble servant of God who stands in the gap to hold back the enemy's onslaught against those who are broken, weak, and stumbling (see Ezekiel 22:30). When we figure out who the real enemy is, then we can become a unified army bonded and motivated by God's love. It is time to put down our prayer sabers, repent of our pride, ask forgiveness, and then join hands in unified prayer that God's kingdom would come and His will would be done. Who knows, when we start praying like that, we might find ourselves in the middle of a revival. In that case the devil loses and we all win. Now that's a nice thought! What do you think?
 
For further reading check out my article Intercession and Spiritual Warfare

The Importance of Repentance

 

Matthew 3:1–3 (NKJV) “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.”’”

 

Repentance is the first word of the Gospel (Mark 1:14-15). Repentance is also the beginning of true revival. Repentance is often stereo-typed as self-punishment including wearing sackcloth while sitting in ashes. However, repentance is not self-punishment. Neither is it regret (2 Corinthians 7:10-11) which is a feeling of remorse due to the consequences of our wrong actions. The Greek word for repentance is metanoia (Strong's #3341). Meta means "change" and noia means "mind". Therefore repentance means a change in mind. Changing our mind means giving up our own thoughts about life, future, career, ethics, purity, physical pleasure, worth, money, riches, marriage, family, and a host of other things that are inconsistent with the will and nature of God. Repentance is not only turning away from sinful behavior but also from the thoughts and attitudes that generate sinful behavior. Repentance begins with humility--letting go of our pride that sets us up in our own mind as lawgiver, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner so that we might realize that in reality we ourselves are lawbreakers, charged, judged, sentenced, and condemned as sinners. Repentance pleads the mercy of God in absolute submission to Christ’s Lordship as evidenced by a transformation in attitude and behavior in keeping His law. Repentance brings about a radical transformation in our life through the renewing of our mind to the Word of God on every matter and issue of life (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 10:5). Repentance is living life from God's eternal perspective rather than from our own self-centered and temporal perspective. Repentance lives in the humility of continual self-evaluation, self-discipline, and self-judgment to turn back from any tendency to drift from God's standard (1 Corinthians 11:31). But even in this, the truly repentant believer does not accept or trust self-evaluation alone (Jeremiah 17:9). Repentant believers also submit their lives to the loving and caring evaluation of other godly believers in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21) and, most importantly, to the evaluation of God Himself (Psalm 139:22-24; 1 Corinthians 4:4). Therefore repentance requires a complete surrender of self to God. True repentance is not only essential to the new birth (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21), but its reality is evidenced by a daily lifestyle consistent with repentance (Luke 3:7-14; Acts 26:20). When repentance comes to the lost, they are saved. When repentance comes to backslidden believers, they are revived. Without repentance, the new birth and Christian growth is impossible. Without repentance, revival is only a dream.

He will come to us like the rain

 

Hosea 6:1-3 (NKJV) "Come, and let us return to the LORD; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth."

 

America needs revival. And yet, revival is not the responsibility of America but of the church in America. Charles Finney once said that Christians are more responsible for being revived than the lost are for being saved. After all, we should know better, right? The economy is bad, the government is corrupt, the races are rising up in anger, families are falling apart, and society is pulling apart at the seams. We are experiencing the judgments of the LORD upon our nation. He has torn us. He has stricken us. He has moved away from us until we acknowledge our sin. It is clear that unless there is a sweeping revival, our society will sink like the Titanic. While it seems that we are already sinking, there are many who are crying out for revival. I believe we are a people ripe for revival. If we cry out to Him in repentance, God will answer us. Yes, He has torn us, but He will heal us. He has stricken us, but He will bind us up. He will revive us and raise us up that we may live in His sight. If we will determine to return to Him and pursue again the knowledge of the Lord, He has promised to come to us like the rain. Rain brings refreshing, but more importantly it brings life to the seeds that have been planted during the dry times. Nothing done for God in the dry times is in vain. The Word of God will not return void. That is why it is important to faithfully sow the Word of God even when it seems nothing is happening. There is a due season when the harvest will come. Currently in our own fellowship it is evident that God is moving. I will not presume to define what God is doing but it does seem that God is hearing and answering prayers for revival in some measure. In a spiritual sense many are beginning to sense, feel, and hear the rain. It is a refreshing anticipation for people who have been dry and crying out for rain. Our youth just returned from an Activate Conference in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and the entire morning service yesterday ended up being a time of testimonies and praise and worship. They were excited and it was contagious. We are thankful for what God is doing in our young people and for those who sacrifice to lead them. People went away convinced that this is more evidence that God is coming like the rain. As the rain begins to fall, don't be like those up put on their raincoats and sport their umbrellas. God wants to rain on our hearts and bring forth the refreshing and fruit that both we and He desires. Remember the words of Zechariah 10:1 (NKJV): "Ask the LORD for rain in the time of the latter rain. The LORD will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, grass in the field for everyone." We have scheduled a special prayer meeting to pray for revival this Saturday evening (August 7th) from 6:00-8:00 p.m. When the people of God begin to humble themselves and pray and seek God's face and turn from their wicked ways, God has promised to hear, forgive, and heal (2 Chronicles 7:14). With a promise like that, what are we waiting for? "Even so Lord, come to us like the rain!"

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