Many non-believers and too many people who claim Christianity believe this verse, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard” taken out of context. Who would want to walk that way? But Beloved, that is not the whole verse, it is not the entire thought. In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus said,
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
The road may be narrow, but the journey is rich and the destination is more than we could ever fathom. The wider road is crowded, the journey is about trying to obtain prosperity, sumptuousness of sensation, and fulfilled desires. It is a selfish and self-centered road that too many people take. Even those who think they are living a selfless life, if they took a real look at the “love” they show and the things they do in service to others would see that they are trying to fill a hole, be ‘good,’ feel good or bring glory to themselves. Even a believer can often start living a life of trying to be good instead of a life of following Christ. They find themselves on that wide road and the only thing keeping them from the destruction at the end is His Love and Mercy, Jesus let them find destruction before sending them onto the Salvation and eternal life they could have been living since the moment they called on His name to be saved.
The way is not hard as in difficult to live. The original Greek words are translated to strait (not straight) and narrow. Strait comes from the Greek word stenos which means narrow because of obstacles. Those obstacles include things such as seeking sensual experiences, wealth, and virtue. These are the lies that keep people from Jesus.
Narrow is translated from the Greek word qlibw (pronounced thleebow) which means pressed like grapes. It gives more of a picture of difficult to get through, sort of that picture of the camel going through the eye of a needle (Mark 10:25). It gives me the image of grapes being pressed into wine. A camel cannot go through the eye of a needle. It can only enter because Jesus makes it possible.
The only way through that strait and narrow gate that leads to life is Jesus Christ. Remember from yesterday’s reading in John 10, Jesus described Himself as the gate. And in John 14:6 Jesus proclaims, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus is not only the door, but He is the Way to the door, He is the truth that gives us freedom on the way to the destination of life, and He is the Life both the destination and the gift. He is All in All. And in His awesome Grace, He did all the work for us in this gift of life we have received from Him. Let’s look back at John 10 again now so we can find out more about living life abundantly. Verses 7-18 read,
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
In verses 14-15, Jesus says, “I Am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” These two verses are profoundly full of meaning. And this is where I want to spend some time today learning about that abundance of life we are given. How was that life given to us? Jesus gave it to us of His own will. It was the will of the Father and so it was His will as well. He chose it, He bought us with a precious price to call us His own (1 Corinthians 6:20). When Jesus gave us His name in verse 14, He gave it in the same way that God did throughout the Bible, He started it with His most Holy and encompassing name, I Am. He is. He is God, He is The LORD. He is The LORD our Good Shepherd. And while we will look at being God’s own and Jesus as the Good Shepherd another day, today we will look at the great benefit of God knowing us and our knowing Him.
What is it to be known by God? Just think about that? He knows us. Do you need me to tell you just how wonderful and beautiful that is? He knows you! He not just is aware of us, the way we are aware of a co-worker, neighbor, or acquaintance, He knows us. He completely and absolutely recognizes, identifies, discerns, appreciates, and understands us. To me, that is astounding. Out of all the 7.8 billion people, that is 7800000000 people on this earth, if you are His own, He knows you personally, and above that He really loves you!
Not only does He know us, but we can know Him too! And because of this mutual knowing, we hear His voice and know His voice! We have a relationship with the LORD! Talking with God is one of the greatest things I know, not just talking to Him, which is special enough, but listening to Him talk to me. I can remember years ago wondering how people could hear God speak. I swore I couldn’t hear Him. Just about every person I asked, replied the same way. They said His voice was quiet and small. I wondered how they could differentiate God’s voice from their own thoughts. How do I know if that thought is God speaking or me wishing? Well, this is one of the ways that God’s knowing you is particularly important. God knows how you hear Him best and how you understand Him best. He knows if you will be listening closer while you walk in nature, submerge yourself in water, close yourself into a prayer closet, immerse yourself in music, kneel, or drive your car. He knows if you will understand Him more through verbal language, picture language or symbols.
But looking back at the passage from John 10 helps us find the answer to this question about recognizing Jesus’ voice. Verse 16 says, “they will listen to my voice.” How could I possibly ever hope to recognize a voice I’m not listening to? The more I know Jesus the more I will understand the way He conveys messages to me. What wording does He use, what expression and point of view? Does the message merge with the Bible? The more I listen the more I will recognize that voice and differentiate it from my own, from influences around me, and from the accuser of the brethren. Just like a newborn baby recognizes her mother’s voice because she has spent 40 weeks listening to her, we recognize Jesus ’voice because we have been in Him and He and His Spirit in us. Nearly all newborns will turn their heads towards their mothers when they speak. When the main caretaker is not the birth mother, the infant will soon turn her head toward the main caretaker be it a father, adoptive parent, or other because she has bonded and developed a complete trust in that one person. Believer, we too will recognize Jesus’ voice because we have chosen to listen to Him, trust Him, and obey Him. We have a relationship with Him. Hosea 6:1-6 tells us,
Come, let us return to the Lord;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
3 Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”
4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes early away.
5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth as the light.
6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Verse 1 doesn’t refer to God punishing us, it refers to Him removing the obstacles that keep us from experiencing and having all He wants for us. We can see that in verse 2, when we read it with a New Covenant perspective. We have been resurrected with Jesus to new life (Colossians2:12). While He has done all the work of giving us this relationship, our part is to want it to press onto know the Lord and He will come to us just as the spring rains water the earth. We choose to know God and He comes to us and He even nourishes the relationship. He does all the work, because He is merciful, and His Grace knows no boundaries. Even though our love is fleeting, His love is not. Even though He is so powerful that His very words could judge us, that is not what God wants for us. He wants our fleeting love to grow into the steadfast love and intimate knowledge of relationship.
That relationship God makes with us is such a wonderful and joyful thing. And what about all the longings we have as humans? The excuse that people us to say they don’t want the “straight and narrow.” Psalm 37:4 reads,
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
When we delight or as this word awnug means to luxuriate ourselves in the Lord, then He gives us the desires of our hearts! Are those desires different than the ones that kept us from Jesus before? They probably are, or at least they have changed into a new yearning. If we are luxuriating or reveling in the Lord, our heart is, like David going to be a heart after God’s heart. God wants good things for us. He has good plans for us. Jeremiah 29:10b-14a reads,
I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations
God is so good, He gives us good gifts. He gives us the desires of our hearts and since He knows us so well, He knows what it is we want! But He also listens to us and gives what we ask for. Anything we ask for in Jesus’ name, He gives us (John 14:13).
The life He has given us is rich and full and it gets better and better. This is just one part the abundant life He has given us. Yet even if a relationship with God was the one and only part, it would be more than any of us could ever have known without Him.
Stay with us as we continue this series about living life abundantly. Be blessed, Beloved!