[small is the gate and narrow is the road]
I was wrong. I made assumptions, and had preconceived notions about things that I knew nothing about, as well as the people who believed them.
If we’re honest, we all do. We even prejudge God. This can happen quite easily when we don’t know the full story, even more so–as a friend reminded me–when we don’t have understanding. “Knowledge isn’t understanding” he wrote. This is the truth!
Before I became a Christian, I had quite a low opinion of religion. I still do. Try explaining this. It’s not easy! I’m not a talker, but I am a writer.
If you define religion as devotion to God then by that definition I am religious. I absolutely am devoted to God, as were the many truly religious men and women written about in Scripture. However, that’s not how I understood things before I embarked on this journey of faith. There’s a broad view and a narrow view.
What’s the Difference?
When I hear the word “religion,” I’m thinking of the broadest view. I’m thinking about the things that appear to be religious or pious. (More on this later) However, a truly religious person (in the narrowest sense) is fixed on God–Jesus Christ to be more exact, as He was given all authority over heaven and earth. (Matthew 28:16-20 ) He is God, and was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-5 ) Confusing? Yes, absolutely. Without some understanding this is very confusing, but read on…
What I Believe
I believe that the way to God is narrow. It’s through Christ alone, who died on a cross (but rose to life again) to redeem those who would believe in Him. (John 14:6, John 3:16) People will call this belief narrow minded, but it takes faith like a child to enter the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 18:2-4) This makes faith the complete opposite of narrow minded.
Childlike faith means accepting things that others believe are utterly foolish. This isn’t even possible without God’s help through the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:6-16) It also means humbling ourselves before God. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
The Truth is Rejected
Following Jesus comes with persecutions, rejection and trouble. Why? People don’t want to hear the truth. Humanity as a whole never has. We preferred our own darkness (John 3:19) because the heart, above all else, is deceitful. (Jeremiah 17:9 ) We wanted God in our image and on our terms. However, that’s not how it works. God created us in His image, for His purpose. (Genesis 1:27, Matthew 22:37-38)
So people rejected God and the truth about Him. They preferred to worship idols, which are man made objects made to look like humans, birds, animals or reptiles. If you look at all the religions of the world, you will still find these man made idols. However, idols are more than mere objects, they are anything that we consider more important than Jesus. People exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and they preferred their own way. (Romans 1:21-25) So God chose to use a message that sounds foolish to save those who would believe. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)
“For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] [a]only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. –John 3:16 (AMP)
The Spirit of Truth Helps us To Understand
Because we could never be faithful to God on our own, He sent His only begotten Son to become the sacrifice to set the sinner free from sin and death. It’s only through accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior that we begin to learn the truth. Why? It’s only through giving our lives to Jesus that we receive the Holy Spirit. (The Spirit of God, or the Spirit of Truth. Ephesians 1:13 , John 16:13)
Without God’s Spirit in us we simply can’t understand the things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:14) We are blind. This is why Christians sing, I once was blind, but now I see. This is also why Scripture says that those who have the Spirit of God have the mind of Christ, or rather, we are able to understand what Jesus is thinking (or showing us.) (1 Corinthians 2:10-6)
Before we accept Jesus we are held captive by Satan who whispers lies to keep the sinner separated from God. He is an angel that was cast down from heaven because he became wicked. He was full of pride and wanted to be God! He and the angels that followed him (demons, as we call them) work to keep people from receiving forgiveness and salvation. (2 Corinthians 4:4 , Isaiah 14:12-15) Jesus was tempted by Satan as well, but He never sinned, making Him the perfect, unblemished sacrifice to save mankind. (Matthew 4:1-11, 1 Peter 2:21-25, John 3:1-10)
The broadest understanding of religion (which misses the small gate by a long shot) preaches that all ways lead to God. This isn’t what Jesus preached. He preached that there is only one way to the Father: through Him. (John 14:6) He also preached that whoever should believe in Him will receive eternal life. Why? Who the Son sets free is free indeed–meaning, that by the grace of God we are no longer indebted for the wrongs we have committed against God. Through accepting Jesus as our Lord, we are set free from the wages of sin, which is death. (John 8:31-47, Romans 6:23)
False teachers will tell you that you can lose this salvation. What did Jesus say? He said, if you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32) He also taught that those who belong to Him will not perish, and that nobody would be able to snatch them out of His hand. (John 10:28)
Scripture goes on to say that He is able to keep us blameless until the end, but Jesus also said remain in me and I will remain in you. (Jude 24-25, John 15:5-6) Therefore, anyone who can be completely separated from God never truly belonged to Jesus to begin with, Their heart was far from God. They never reached (or came to) repentance. Matthew 22:36-40, 2 Peter 3 , Matthew 7:15-23)
These false religions don’t preach salvation through Christ, they preach coming to God by another way. They can also be Pharisaical–meaning they practice strict observances and rituals. Jesus said that anyone who doesn’t come in by the gate, but climbs in by some other way is a thief and a robber. He was once again saying that He is the only way. “Those who came before Him” (in the following link) is referring to anyone who falsely taught another way than through Him. (John 10:1-10)
Even those who use Jesus name may not truly preach Christ as the way. Be leary of anyone who can’t resist controversial topics. They are divisive and focused on quarreling over words rather preaching Jesus and salvation. (Romans 16:17, Titus 3:10-11, Timothy 2:14-19) They are false teachers (or wolves in sheeps clothing. (2 Peter 2)
Because religion is so broad, more often than not, it misses the mark entirely. What I believe in is loving the Lord, my God, with all my mind, heart, soul and strength, and loving my neighbor as I love myself. (Mark 12:30-31) This means communing with and abiding in the Lord, which is a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ, who is able to keep us blameless until the end when He returns. (1 Corinthians 1:8 ; John 10:28 ; Jude 24-25)
“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” –James 1:27
“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” –Matthew 7:14
“Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” —John 10:7-10
- John 3:16 Jesus, God’s only Son, the One who is truly unique, the only one of His kind.
Next—> Becoming Children
If you’re interested in following this series, all posts can be found here.
And the first post in this series can be found right here: