The Narrow Way to the Kingdom of God

Jack was doing his morning jumping jacks and remembered he needed to go to the store. So he jumped into his car and headed to town. Jack only traveled a short distance and felt a thumping noise and pulled over to find he had a flat tire. Irritated, Jack opened the trunk and pulled out the jack and jacked up his car and replaced the flat. Just as he was finishing, a car pulled over behind Jack and two men got out.

Jack thought, “these are nice guys stopping to help” until Jack realized they stopped to carjack his vehicle. One rush toward him with a Union Jack patch on his hat and attacked Jack and jacked him in the jaw and knocked Jack to the ground. They were both jacked up on drugs and carjacked his car, leaving Jack lying on the side of the road.

Dazed, Jack rolled over with his back to the road and saw two little girls eating cracker jacks and playing jacks on the sidewalk. Jack mumbled “too many jacks today” and passed out.

Jack did not get out of his car to take himself out of the trunk! Jack did not get under the car and push up the car with his body. Jack did not hit himself in the jaw, steal his own car, or was the object of the game on the sidewalk. We must know the context, usage, slang, and meanings of a simple word like “jack” to understand a silly story.

Our language uses “Jack” for multiple unrelated uses. This happens in many cultures and languages including the Bible. In the Greek and Hebrew original languages of the Bible, we find a variety of word usages which forces us to not be simple minded when we study the Word of God or we will miss the heart and soul of what God is saying to us.

This is also true for the “big reveal” of the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus gives to his followers in Matthew 5-7. The words Jesus used have different slants, slang, or definitions that do not translate directly to English. If we are not careful we misunderstand the force of the words He uses.

Those men knew the old Jewish religion from birth but this new way of life is so completely different that they had no idea what Christ Jesus was talking about. The Lord had to reveal pieces of truth step by step over the three years of his ministry so they could digest this radical new way of living.

So let’s look at the context, words, and see if we can catch the powerful statement He is really making as He introduces the Kingdom of Heaven…

Matthew 4:16 (NLT) “…the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.”

According to Matthew 4: 15-16 their lives consisted of learning the Law of God, breaking the Law of God, confessing their sin, bringing animal sacrifices to the temple to be killed and burned for their sin, and repeating the cycle over and over all their days. They lived in “darkness” as sin and death cast a shadow over their miserable lives. Sin ruled their hearts and they were slaves of sin.

Let me use my marriage cult illustration to explain this great issue of “darkness” that Jesus reveals here for the first time so we can see the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let’s say all of us gather every week in a regular group meeting on the topic of marriage. BUT, no one in the group is married or ever was married. We have special speakers who come and talk about marriage. We have weekly studies on marriage. We have special small groups to study marriage. We learn a lot about marriage. We argue about our opinions on marriage. We even sing a lot of songs about marriage. We are passionate about marriage.

But really none of that matters because no one KNOWS marriage unless they are married. No one has the TRUTH of marriage unless they are in the relationship of marriage. Unless you EXPERIENCE marriage you are in the dark about marriage because your knowledge is only theoretical!

And this is the consequence of spiritual darkness. The Jews learned about God stuff. They studied stuff. They knew stuff. They sang about stuff. They argued about stuff. They were passionate about stuff. They had strong opinions about stuff. But they were completely missing the light! They did not know or experience God personally like they would in around three years from that day. They did not know or have abundant life! They were not experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven.

And today many, many in churches across America learn stuff, study stuff, believe some stuff, sing about stuff, argue about stuff, BUT are not STUFFED by God within their souls.

So we must look at the heart and soul of the Messiah’s message. The two parts of his message are revealed to us in Matthew 4.

Jesus preached repentance. Matthew 4:17 (NLT) “From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

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Jesus also preached the Good News about the Kingdom. Matthew 4:23 (NLT) “Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee (see map), teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom.”

What did he tell them about repentance and Good News? We find out in the Sermon on the Mount.

Remember context and word definitions are everything! Looking back 2000 years later our Good News is centered in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. But, this text is three years before Messiah was crucified. They needed more information before they could even understand our Good News.

So Jesus first speaks to them focusing on the real inward experience of the Kingdom of God. He later makes this clear by saying, “…behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you].” Luke 17:21 (AMP)  But he did not explain all this yet, instead he just taught them the path to heaven and inward experience of the kingdom of God.

Matthew 5:3 (NKJV) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus sounds like a passive eastern guru the way this translation reads. Especially when people think or read this as “Happy are the poor in spirit, they all are of the kingdom of heaven.” But, just like jack is not always Jack or jacks, here is where we must be careful to see the truth. Because the word can be used as “happy”, and it can be used as “God blesses”. There is a big difference between God blessing you and simple happiness.

Instead of the simple, we must see that the Lord of heaven and earth is explaining the experience of REPENTANCE in his first three statements. God blesses people by drawing them to the Lord Jesus. This is not a happy road, but a narrow and difficult path to salvation and eternal life.

The narrow way to eternal life in heaven (verses 3-5)

1/ God must break our pride in order for us to see our true state of “darkness”

Matthew 5:3 (NLT) “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

First, God only blesses the person who sees they are poverty stricken and offers them heaven. Some versions make it sound like all soft spoken humble people have heaven. Jesus is not teaching universalism, but a narrow way of salvation many today will resist.

Pride says “I am a good person” and not as bad as my neighbor cheating on his wife. And that guy says I am a good person just trying to be happy and I am better than that murderer I saw on the news. The murderer says I am basically a good person and not as bad as that child molester. But the child molester says I am a good person and not like those terrorists I see on the news. The terrorist says I am a good person fighting for my god and not like those evil Americans full of lust and riches.

Next, you must come to see that the word “poor” is “destitute” according to Adam Clarke’s Commentary. Poor is a weak translation because the word “poor” in English is used in many ways. We say we are poor when we still have a lot of goods, but short on cash. We call people poor with an income of $24,000 and live in a house, plus drive a car. The truth is if you have a car you are in the upper 2% of the richest people on the entire planet.

When it comes to spiritual poverty God tells the truth and His opinion is the only opinion that matters. This means our creator has the only perspective that matters. It does not matter what my opinion is of myself because, in the end, we face Jesus Christ, not anyone in America, or the rest of the world. Comparing ourselves with others and using this world’s standards or opinions are meaningless and part of the darkness!

God says…

Romans 3:10-18 (AMP)

10  As it is written, None is righteous, just and truthful and upright and conscientious, no, not one.

11  No one understands [no one intelligently discerns or comprehends]; no one seeks out God.

12  All have turned aside; together they have gone wrong and have become unprofitable and worthless; no one does right, not even one!

13  Their throat is a yawning grave; they use their tongues to deceive (to mislead and to deal treacherously). The venom of asps is beneath their lips.

14  Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.

15  Their feet are swift to shed blood.

16  Destruction [as it dashes them to pieces] and misery mark their ways.

17  And they have no experience of the way of peace [they know nothing about peace, for a peaceful way they do not even recognize].

18  There is no [reverential] fear of God before their eyes.

So “destitute in spirit” is the strong real meaning. And clearly meaning we all have ZERO RIGHTEOUSNESS, ZERO GOODNESS, no matter how good or nice we believe ourselves to be compared to other people. This fact must crush all pride out of every person who wants to go to heaven.

All are destitute because “None is righteous”, all people seek their own happiness and pleasure instead of seeking the full will of God. No one seeks out God because they are overcome by darkness. “No one does right” but instead mislead others to gain an advantage in many ways. Full of bitterness and unforgiveness people hate and seek revenge. Relationships are full of pain and hurting others in return.

Misery and hurt are the truth that describes that dark way of living. Drama, conflict, and pain are the experience instead of even knowing what a peaceful heart and life are really like. And the narrow way of God is not even desired by those locked in sin and the darkness of death. No one knows God to fear him.

The poverty stricken state of spiritual darkness rules every human being on the planet.

But the “Light of the World”, our Lord Jesus, establishes a very narrow gate to heaven. Here Jesus reveals the truth that only those who SEE they are “destitute” in spirit will experience the Kingdom of heaven. It is a miracle of God to see our true state. He must crush and break the self-righteous pride that screams, “No, no, no, I AM A GOOD PERSON”!

God only blesses those who are fully humbled and see their sin because Jesus said: no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up.” John 6:44 (NLT) And Jesus only explains this later, not on this day. But that does not detract from the the truth that God initiates His blessing of heaven only for people that he holds the light of truth on their hearts until they really see themselves.

This is called CONVICTION and later he reveals clearly how this will be accomplished. “But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin…” John 16:7-8 (NLT) But again Jesus saves the explanation for later.

So only the humble man, crushed and broken of self-righteous pride, can see how evil he really is, and be able to receive God’s offer of eternal life. Deep wounds of conviction leave sinners quivering and broken at the feet of God. You must see yourself as a guilty monster for your spiritual crimes against God.

Adam and Eve made excuses and blamed others for breaking God’s law. They did not fall to their knees and admit their guilt before the holy God. The problem was not the fruit, it was their disobedience to the will of God. They chose their will over God’s will.

So have you!

Romans 3:19-20 (NLT) “Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God… The law simply shows us how sinful we are.”

When God shows you His law, His commands, and His will you must admit your guilt. No excuses or blame or you do not get to the next step of repentance. Let’s look at the next truth.

 

2/ God must break our hearts to make us willing to repent

Matthew 5:4 (NLT) “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Again you must see this statement in context, not as an unrelated thought. The one who is so shocked by their sin and spiritual hopelessness must have an emotional awakening. God will only bless the one who steps into this narrow entrance to God Almighty. God must break you further and crack open your hard heart.

The Greek word translated as mourn is a deep grief. It is the heartbreaking effect when you learn your beloved child has just been killed. It is the wrecking ball that devastates you when your spouse suddenly dies. It is the horror of your worst fears that come true and death and destruction throw you to your knees in agony.

The true shock of God’s righteous law flung supernaturally into your heart by the force of the Holy Spirit pierces your hard heart and wounds your conscience. When Peter denied Christ, the very sound of the rooster struck his conscience with the guilt of his traitorous deed and he wept. Later when Peter preached to those at Pentecost as recorded in Acts chapter two, they were struck to the heart of their great sin of rejecting and killing Jesus and cried out in agony and fear.

This too is the place where God must break your heart and bring you to repentance and salvation.

Again Jesus saved all the explanations for later. As we look back in time we can read what the first followers could not grasp that day. Years later Paul explains, “For godly grief and the pain God is permitted to direct, produce a repentance that leads and contributes to salvation and deliverance from evil, and it never brings regret…”  2 Corinthians 7:10 (AMP)

No one is happy through this process. The deep and raw grief of your sin and rebellion against God forces you to true repentance and salvation. Judas Iscariot believed, followed Jesus, performed miracles, and cast out demons. But he never grieved over his sin, repented and followed Christ in obedience like the rest of the Twelve. There are no excuses or room to wiggle through into heaven without full and total repentance.

Again later, not this day, the disciples and all of us know the truth about Judas. John reveals in John 12:4-6 (NLT) “But Judas Iscariot, the disciple who would soon betray him… Not that he cared for the poor—he was a thief, and since he was in charge of the disciples’ money, he often stole some for himself.”

Only the deep grief filled reality check, through broken pride and a broken heart throws you to the ground in a humble encounter with the Savior.

Again years after the Sermon on the Mount, James, the Lord’s half-brother still calls all people to, humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8  Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9  Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”

This is not symbolic language, but the real gut wrenching humility that throws you at the feet of Jesus begging for mercy and forgiveness. Have you ever come to Jesus in his way?

This leads us to the third experience God must lead us through and the final action God uses to convert a sinner.

 

3/ God must break our will to gives us abundant life

Matthew 5:5 (NKJV) “Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.”

Now the final action man must take to repent is surrender. Repentance means to take an 180-degree turn from selfish living that makes up your own decisions, that chooses your own path and does whatever makes yourself happy. The path to repentance is a walk through admitting and seeing your rebellion and disregard for your Creator and grieving over your true self with all your sin. This is the only way that leads to absolute surrender to your Savior.

Meekness is not weakness. The simple way to see this change is through many of the movies of great stallions who ran wild and free doing whatever they wanted. They chased mares, beat up contenders to their harem, and screamed and ruled all night long.

But in every story, this one wild stallion bends his will to a new master. He is just as strong, energized and full of life, but he accepts the bridle and gives up control of his life to his new master. He serves willingly his new master. He gives his back to the master to ride him and do his bidding. He is meek and gentle to his master.  Now fully obedient and committed, the tame stallion lives a new life.

An easy example is the same change the scripture shows in Moses. Originally he was self-willed and arrogantly, so he decided to deliver Israel by killing an Egyptian who was physically hurting a Jew. He was forced to flee from the authorities and hide far away in the wilderness. But many years later, after he met God he became the very opposite in nature. We read, Now the man Moses was very meek (gentle, kind, and humble) or above all the men on the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3 (AMP)

Meekness has everything to do with your relationship to Almighty God.

Humbleness is “…an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting; it is closely linked with the word tapeinophrosynē [humility], and follows directly upon it, Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; cp. the adjectives in the Sept. of Zeph. 3:12, “meek and lowly;” … it is only the humble heart which is also the meek, and which, as such, does not fight against God and more or less struggle and contend with Him. This meekness, however, being first of all a meekness before God, is also such in the face of men, even of evil men, out of a sense that these, with the insults and injuries which they may inflict, are permitted and employed by Him for the chastening and purifying of His elect” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words.

Absolute surrender is the evidence that the sinner gives up his resistance to God and instead turns and follows him. The meek leave all and give up the control of their life to Jesus. Again Jesus explains this in depth later. For example later he says, “… If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].” Luke 9:23 (AMP)

Jesus makes it clear later again and explains what he meant in the Sermon on the Mount. He meant the absolute surrender of every aspect of your lives, and yes mine, to be accepted by God into His Kingdom. Nothing less is enough! Do not fool yourselves, the narrow way is literal, specific, and costs you everything.

When you generalize these commands of Jesus everyone thinks they have the STUFF. But the specifics of your life verify you are born again or proves your false claim. Jesus plainly spoke to people then and it means the same for us today.

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT)

And the specifics are taught by Jesus over the three years of ministry before he died on the cross.

So here is the teaching of repentance by Jesus.

1/ The narrow road follower of Jesus experiences an eye-opening realization of his true sinful state.

2/ Then rocked to his core, he grieves and mulls over his terrible state of zero righteousness.

3/ Finally, he bows before the God of Heaven, broken in pride, heart, and will, then fully surrenders to God. The born again Christian receives forgiveness, salvation, the promise of heaven, peaceful comfort instead of guilt and grief, and amazing blessings from God during this life as he experiences the Kingdom of heaven within.

 

Read The Narrow Way of the Kingdom (verses 6-11) Part 2 …