We live in a world with a dizzying number of choices. An article in The Economist described this overload of choices: Lattes come in tall, short, skinny, decaf, flavored, iced, spiced, and frappe. Jeans come flared, bootlegged, skinny, cropped, straight, low-rise, bleach-rinsed, dark-washed or distressed. Moisturizer nourishes, lifts, smooths, revitalizes, conditions, firms, refreshes, and rejuvenates …. Faces, noses, wrinkles, breasts and bellies can be remodeled, plumped, or tucked …. Teenagers can choose to surf, chat, tweet, zap or poke in ways that their parents can barely fathom. Movies and music can be viewed, recorded, downloaded or streamed. We seem to love having so many choices. But research shows that too many choices can cause anxiety, stress, and overload. A 2010 study by researchers at the University of Bristol found that 47 percent of respondents thought life was more confusing than it was ten years ago, and 42 percent reported lying awake at night trying to resolve problems.
Some people seem to have a hard time making choices in their lives. The great American theologian, Yogi Berra, said, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Nothing in life is more important than the choices you make. Every choice you make moves you in the direction of heaven. Or the direction of hell. If you don’t believe me on that, then listen to Jesus. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14) Your life is about choices. Jesus’ words here practically leap off the page. He says there are two gates: a wide gate and a narrow gate.
The two gates lead to two roads: a broad road and a narrow road.
And the two roads lead to two destinations: destruction and life.
We don’t like what Jesus says, because it means we have to make a choice between 2 options.
Again, we live in a culture of choices. I read that Starbucks can make coffee 19,000 different ways. So when Jesus says, you only have 2 options, we balk. Talk about narrow minded. We say, you can’t really be serious, can you Jesus? 2 options? We think there are at least three ways, not two. The wide way is for sinners headed for hell. The narrow way is for preachers and missionaries. The third way is a nice medium path. Not too wide, not too narrow. It’s a nice middle ground for everybody else. But Jesus won’t give us a third option. He says there are only two: either the wide way, or the narrow way. And you can’t have it both ways! Jesus is numbingly narrow. He says, there are only two options: you either follow me, or you don’t. Maybe Jesus needs a better marketing department. Because Jesus sounds like he’s trying to repel people, instead of attract them. Jesus says, If you choose my way, it’s a tough road to go down. He says, narrow is the road that leads to life. Following Jesus is anything but easy street. It’s a hard road.
There’s a massive difference between an admirer and a follower. An admirer is impressed. A follower is devoted. An admirer applauds. A follower surrenders his life. A lot of people admired Martin Luther King. Some marched with him. Not many went to jail with him. Not many got their houses bombed like he did. Many people admired Jesus, but a few devoted themselves to him. The crowds admired Jesus, but for some, it went way beyond that. Their hearts pounded and their minds raced. Something deep inside them said, "This is it. This is what I have been longing for my whole life. I have to have this.”
There are two gates, there are two roads, and there are two destinations. One road leads to destruction, the other road leads to life. Jesus says, broad is the road that leads to destruction. Many enter through it! Do you know how awful destruction is? Everything that’s good will be destroyed in hell: love and joy and peace will be destroyed, truth will be destroyed, beauty will be destroyed, compassion will be destroyed. Meaningful relationships will be destroyed. The chance to see the light and love of God will be destroyed. That’s why Jesus is so aggressive in this text! That’s why he uses an imperative verb, a command, when he says, Enter through the narrow gate! It’s critical that we choose the right road. Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
The choice to turn to God is life. The choice to turn from God is death. Jesus says, the narrow road leads to life. Sometimes people ask me, is it hard or easy to be a Christian? The answer is, it’s hard to be a Christian, but much harder not to be one. Mt. 11:28-30, “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
A life of sin is much tougher than a life without it. I could tell you hundreds of stories of people who have chosen not to follow God. People whose lives have ended up like broken shells. And I could write a book…I could also tell you stories of people who chose to follow God. People whose lives were filled with joy and peace. And people who will someday hear the King say, “Well, done, good and faithful servant.” People who will consider every sacrifice they’ve made for Christ immensely worth it. You are writing your own story right now. What kind of story are you writing? What kind of story will your choices tell? Because your choices are your story.