by Jim Parker
Have you ever traveled down a twelve-lane highway, with six lanes in both directions? Have you done this during moderate to heavy traffic? Even though there is a great amount of traffic heading on the road, it is quite easy to make great progress toward your destination. But invariably, when I need get off that highway and on to another one, the traffic is stacked up and my progress comes to a crawl. I then go through various alternatives to circumvent my difficult path. Sometimes I even act on my brilliant solution to my delay. I usually see a lane that is moving faster, determine to widen my path and take the alternative route. I often take the alternate even though it leads me away from my destination. Most times my brilliance is rewarded with … even further traffic related delays. I usually end up wishing I had remained on the seemingly more difficult path. I just love explaining to my wife how I turned a 15-minute delay into a 45-minute delay. But I often yield to the temptation of the easier path.
This reminds me of how I am sometimes tempted to live the Christian life. I look for the easy way around difficulties. I negotiate with myself and try to justify thoughts, attitudes or actions that seem acceptable culturally but do not follow the path of Jesus ways. Sometimes I even lie to myself believing that if someone I know says it’s ok, then I am justified before God for my choices. It seems there is this part of me that is determined to widen Jesus path into a twelve-lane highway and If I face any backups along my path, I instinctually look intently for a self-pleasing alternate route. I am confident I am not alone in this.
Sometimes we begin our journey with Christ ever so grateful for the wonderful sacrifice He has made to purchase our forgiveness from the penalty of our sin. We buy in to the great promise of God that His salvation is a free gift because Jesus has fully paid the cost on the cross. It seems amazing to us that we have such a wonderful undeserved insurance policy against the coming judgment of God. And better yet we don’t have to make payments to have the insurance take full effect because it is free.
So now that we have professed our faith we seemingly discover there is nothing more to do but continue down the path that seems right to us. Sadly, we miss out on the joy of following Christ simply because we don’t understand that following Christ is the place we will find joy. We settle for an affinity with Christ. We wear trinkets. We attend the big show. When pressed in our safe space we may even admit we have believed the promises of God about Christ. And yet, we miss the fullness of the life Christ offers simply because we choose to follow the broad path of the wide gate. We deceptively comfort ourselves though our relationship with Christ looks much like functional atheism. We miss the promised abundant life of John 10:10 simply because we do not follow Him.
But Jesus called his disciples to something different. He commanded us to follow him on a difficult path. Over and over he simply invited people to follow him and be his disciple (e.g. a disciplined learner after his teachings and ways). But being Jesus’ disciple was a difficult path. In Matthew 7:13-14 he said,
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Jesus calls us to follow God’s narrow way, to follow His narrow way. The narrow way is to trust Christ as the only way to the father, the only way to eternal life. In Luke 9:23 Jesus describes just how great a trust is required to follow Him on His narrow path,
And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.
Jesus calls us to put him first. He calls each one to deny himself by taking our agenda, our wants, our desires, our ways, our character, our past failures and even our past successes and put them to death on the cross. He tells us to pick up that cross every day and follow Him. If I want to follow Him, Jesus is telling me to take all my baggage and put it where it belongs … on the cross. Then I am free of entanglements which would hinder me from following him … for today. To follow I must choose to do this daily. It is a narrow path to daily yield my plans and ways to the path of Jesus, to yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit moment by moment and follow. However, the abundant, joyful Christian life is out of reach if we are unwilling to follow him. This brings us to a paradox. Salvation was unimaginably expensive but was purchased by Jesus and offered to each as a free gift. Having received the free gift of salvation by faith in Christ, I now must choose to follow Christ if I am to walk in the abundant life Jesus promises. Paradoxically, this choice will cost me everything, but the benefits in this life and the next are worth the sacrifice (Mark 10-29-30). But it is the narrow path.
Has your relationship Christ stalled since you first believed? Could it be that you followed the path through the wide gate rather than the path of Christ? If so, let me encourage you to seek a greater more intimate knowledge of Jesus and his ways. Find a friend who will walk with you as you learn to saturate your life with the word of God, and prayer and love for God and others. As you seek and follow Him you will find Him, you will find the abundant life. “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13