The Strait Gate
Now many believe that all they have to do is go down to the altar of some church and pray and ask Christ to come into their heart; and that saves them. That is simply not a true statement, and it matters how much the Judeo-Christian ministers cry out to the contrary. Yahshua has to call you first, and then you must accept His call, be baptized for the remission of sins, and then you are save.
It is not enough to simply to know and believe in Christ, for even the devils know and believe in Him. Belief in the Divinity of Christ and acceptance of His salvation is not, however, the end of Christian experience but only the beginning. This fact has certainly not been sufficiently emphasized in the Judeo-Christian religious teaching. The preaching of salivation, while a vital work, is only the ABC’s of the subject. A child who merely learned the alphabet would be amused for a while by reciting the letters, but he would soon tire of his accomplishment and seek a more exciting pastime. So with those who NEVER look beyond salvation. Their faith soon languishes, their ardor cools, and they remain in a state of religious adolescence, unwilling or unable to advance into Christian maturity.
This is why Paul states in 1 Corinthians 3:1‑2:
“Yet, brothers, I am not able to speak to you as to spiritual men; but as to animal — as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink: not solid food, for you were not able, nor are you yet able, to eat it; for you are animal still. For when there is rage and strife and dissensions among you, are you not rather like animals, than conducting yourselves like men? While one declares, ‘I am for Paul,’ and another, ‘I am for Apollos,’ are you not merely man-followers? What, then, is Apollos? And what is Paul? — ministers by whom you believed, and each endowed as the Lord decided.” (1 Corinthians 3:1-5, Ferrar Fenton Trans.)
What is the present sectarianism among Christians except one group saying, “We are for John Wesley,” another group saying, “We are for Martin Luther,” while another group saying, “We are for Mary Baker Eddy,” and yet another group saying, “We are for Billy Graham,” and on and on it goes. We sill have divisions and dissensions today, so it is clear that two thousand years have made little change in the situation Paul confronted. And of course this is caused, in no little part, by the treachery of the children of the devil inserting into Christianity false teachings and Jewish fables.
This state of religious immaturity is a perilous thing, since it provides a fertile breeding ground for the deadly blight of formalism and ritualism; the commandments of men. When men hear the message of salvation without comprehending the vistas, which open beyond it, they are all too prone to lapse into a state of ritualistic automatism.
How many thousands, hundreds of thousands, are today living in a Judeo-Christian fool’s paradise, convinced they are fulfilling the obligations of Christianity by attending certain services, watching the religious hucksters on television, reciting certain prayers, and taking part in various church activities? How many are Sunday-morning Christians, donning the mantle of faith only during church hours, and following their own devices the rest of the week? That are pop up Christians, they pop up on Sunday or Saturday and then put their faith on the shelf or back into the box until the next religious day.
This blight of formalism is deadly because it leads to complacency, complacency to stagnation, and stagnation to spiritual death. It leads men to reject Christ’s invitation, reject innovation, fight change and scoff at those who are desperately trying to warn them of the actions and designs of the enemy, and scoff at such further unfolding of divine revelation as may from time to time take place. In short, while professing devotion to Christ, they actually become His opponents through resisting the onward march of the Kingdom. Yet they will not admit it, but will vehemently deny that they are doing just that. And will call anyone pointing it out to them a heretic, Hitler, Nazi, or anti-Semite.
A fearful thing is this hard encrustation with which men surround themselves, completely barring any glimmer of truth from penetrating their consciousness. Even the clearest proofs leave no impression. “For they considered not the miracle of the loaves,” Mark wrote of the generation to which Christ ministered, “for their heart was hardened.” (Mark 6:52)
Even the apostles were not entirely blameless for Christ said:
“Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.” (Mark 16:14)
Once this heart hardening afflicts men, it become almost impossible to teach them anything. It is even difficult in the preliminary state — that state of religious immaturity from which this state arises.
On another occasion Paul wrote:
“Of whom (Christ) we have to express much thought and difficult to explain, since you have become sluggish to the sounds. For at the time when you ought to be teachers, you have need again for some one to teach you the rudiments of the first principles of God’s purposes; and you have come to have need of mil, and not of solid food. For every one who uses milk is ignorant of a reason for righteousness; for he is an infant. But solid food is for the matured, for those who through their disciplined facilities are exercised to decide between good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14, Ferrar Fenton Trans.)
“Much thought and difficult to explain.” What are these matters which are so difficult to get across to those who have attained only the rudiments of Christian doctrine? What are these subjects which provide a “reason for righteousness” — a basis for the full, rich life of Christian maturity?
A great deal lies concealed beneath the oft-repeated warning of the Master that “Many are called, but few are chosen.” It is so easy to become a formal Christian, seeking salvation through ritual without circumcising one’s heart and letting the message take root inside. It is easy to become a hearer of the word, but difficult to become a doer, putting the precepts into practice so that one may attain the Kingdom. Difficult — but the only way. For the Master made it very clear that lip service to Him is not enough. That is what the Jews have done all along, give lip service to Almighty God, but as Isaiah said:
“This people (the Jews; and all too many Judeo-Christians) draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9)
Tragically, many more fall short than those that follow through to the victory. In the parable of the sower, many hear the words, but in only a few does it take root, flourish, and produce fruit. So the Christian must be constantly alert against lapsing into the easy way — the way chosen by the multitude, the masses of people who are Christian in name only. The Judeo-Christians:
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that ledeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
Can you not see; can you not hear; here is Christ saying that those who are Christian in name only, which is the great majority of Judeo-Christians in America today, cannot find the way into the Kingdom!
The gospel of salivation brings one to this gate, but the believer must cross the threshold himself. No one can help him here. He must make the decision and take the step himself. On his decision depends whether he will enter into the Kingdom or be left outside of it. In short, salivation is not an end but an opportunity.
Just as Christ said:
“Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. BUT THERE ARE SOME OF YOU THAT BELIEVE NOT. FOR JESUS KNEW FROM THE BEGINNING WHO WHEY WERE THAT BELIEVED NOT, AND WHO SHOULD BETRAY HIM. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that NO MAN CAN COME UNTO ME, EXCEPT IT WERE GIVEN UNTO HIM OF MY FATHER. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” (John 6:60‑66)
Here is Christ testifying that no one can come to Him except the Father first call Him.
Just what is this gateway which means so much to those who pass through it? The master pointed it out in these words:
“Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
In other words, a certain attitude of mind is necessary for entrance into the Kingdom. Call it humility, meekness, teachableness, or circumcision of the heart, it simply means that one is willing to surrender any or all preconceived opinions he may have and be led of the spirit. Only when one has done this; only when he has passed through this narrow gateway, is he able to deal with the solid “meat” of Christian doctrine, the Doctrine of Christ. Only then is he prepared to comprehend the “first principles of God’s purposes.”
And even then it demands study and application. For so wise is the scope of this subject, so majestic the sweep of the Divine plan as it unfolds through the centuries and millennia, that the unregenerate mind simply cannot comprehend it.
Those who lack understanding are constantly endeavoring to whittle the omnipotence and foresight of Yahweh down to the point where their limited vision can enfold it, instead of seeking to grow until they are capable of fathoming the orders of His revealed plans for the earth.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
In their blindness they often go so far as to deny that God has any plan. Or perhaps to state that He had a plan in the first place, but found it unworkable and had to abandon it. There is no more graphic answer to all such nonsense than the following verses from 2 Esdras 6:1-6:
“In the beginning, when the earth was made, before the borders of the world stood, or ever the winds blew, ‘Before it thundered and lightened, or ever the foundations of paradise were laid, Before the fair flowers were seen, or ever the movable powers were established, before the innumerable multitude, of angels were gathered together, Or ever the heights of the air were lifted up, before the measures of the firmament were named, or ever the chimneys in Sion were hot, And ere the present years were sought out, and or ever the inventions of them that now sin were turned, before they were sealed that have gathered faith for a treasure: Then did I consider these things, and they all were made through me alone, and through none other: by me they shall be ended, and by none other.”
Others of feeble understanding are willing to admit that God has a plan, but they deny that He has revealed it to men so that they cay conform to His wishes. Of the latter group, the following is typical: “The fulfillment of the ancient prophecies is not to be found in specific happenings which the prophets miraculously foresaw, but in the proving of the spiritual principles which they enunciated.”
To this the question is asked:
“How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? And the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:22)
Not only has the Divine plan been revealed to men through the prophecies, but Yahweh has even made prophecy fulfillment a test of true faith:
“I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I shewed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.” (Isaiah 48:5)
So the plan revealed to the prophets has been unfolding through the centuries. Adamic civilization perished in the flood, but Noah and his family remained as the basis of a new one. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel appeared and then THE ISRAEL NATION WHICH YAHWEH HAD SELECTED AS THE MEANS WHEREBY THE WORLD WOULD BE BLESSED AS HE SAID.
The nation received its constitution at Sinai, moved into Palestine, and flourished for a while before it lapsed into idolatry, went into captivity and disappeared from the world. “God’s plans failed,” explain the scoffers, when they compare the fact with the promises of national greatness made to Israel.
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old...” (2 Peter 3:3-5)
Or else they teach that the promises are to be fulfilled only in a “spiritual” Israel. But neither explanation is correct. Israel, lost from view, underwent a continuing process of winnowing and correction in preparation for its destined task. In time it reappeared on the world-stage, doing Israel’s work, and bearing the marks of Israel for all to read; all who have disciplined themselves to the comprehension of mature Christian doctrine.
Moreover, the plan operates on a marvelously accurate time schedule. As Esdras was told:
“For like as all that is made in the world hath a beginning and an end, and the end is manifest: Even so the times also of the Highest have plain beginnings in wonders and powerful works, and endings in effects and signs.”
The study of these times, through the subject of
Biblical chronology, awakes ever-increasing we and fascination in the student as he contemplates the precision of the Divine timetable and the wonders of Yahweh’s power.
Truly awe-inspiring is the panorama of past history; civilizations obliterated, nations uprooted, violence, cruelty, hardship. “How can such things be?” cry the undisciplined Judeo-Christian and the unbeliever. But the answer is on record:
“And now when I prepared the world, which was not yet made, even for them to dwell in that now live, no man spake against me. For then every one obeyed: but now the manners of them which are created into his world that is made are corrupted by a perpetual seed, and by a law which is unsearchable rid themselves. So I considered the world, and behold, there was peril because of the devices that were come into it. and I saw, and spared it greatly, and have kept me a grape of the cluster, and a plant of a great people. LET THE MULTITUDE PEREISH THEN, WHICH WAS BORN IN VAIN; and let my grape be kept, and my plant; for with great labour have I made it perfect.” (2 Esdras 9:18-22)
All the tremendous sweep of world history to date must be seen as steps preliminary to the consummation of the Divine plan. And what a glorious consummation it must be! Small wonder the great prophets have burst into paeans of rapture when they foresaw it! Tragically, countless multitudes will never see it.
But this one phase we are told not to ponder over:
“And therefore be thou not curious how the ungodly shall be punished, and when: but inquire how the righteous shall be saved, whose the world is, and for whom the world is created.” (2 Esdras 9:13)
Truly, this is strong doctrine, and will be rejected by the masses, for it is difficult to comprehend. The measure of its difficulty is the reaction of undisciplined minds when confronted with it. Show them the part present-day Israel is playing in the unfolding plan, and they say, “I can’t see it.” Point out to them the precise time-patterns which mark the stages of history, and they complain, “It’s beyond me.” But the mature Christian accepts these with joy, since they provide additional evidence of the immutability of Yahweh’s purpose and of the certain glories yet to be revealed.
Is the “game worth the candle?” Is the stern effort it takes to cross the threshold into Christian maturity worth while? Nothing is more certain than that it is. But each believer must discover this for himself, for he must make the crossing unaided.
A beautiful description of the relationship holding between Christ and the true believer is contained in the fifteenth chapter of St. John. Christ said:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)
In the full Christian life there is no time for complacency, no time for resting on one’s oars. One must be ever alert and watchful, to help the watchman in his duties, lest he fall to the enemy and falls shorts of what the Master expects of him.
“If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6)
What an overpowering feeling of humility comes over one when he realizes the meaning of Christ’s statement:
“IT WAS NOT YOU WHO CHOSE ME, BUT I HAVE CHOSEN YOU. And I plated you in order that you might take root, and become fruitful, and your fruit continue.” (John 15:16, Ferrar Fenton Trans.)
No man may know the purpose of his life; but once he understands that Yahweh does, and that Yahweh planned beforehand the part he was to take in the design, then he must needs feel overwhelming joy and thankfulness at the privilege of having even the tiniest part in so stupendous an undertaking as the Divine scheme of things is revealed to be. And he must humble and prayerfully seek to carry out his part faithfully, that he may not lose out at the last moment.
The clock of ages is even now pointing to the midnight hour marking the close of the times past and the beginning of the new age to come. In the critical period of change, much that has passed for religion will wither and fade away as the fires of tribulation sweep against it. But those who have outgrown their religious childhood and learned to exercise their faculties on the solid food of Christian doctrine will not aver. Knowing the reason for those things coming to pass, and cognizant of what lies beyond the turmoil and confusion, they will look forward to the new day with eager anticipation, confident that the Lord is amply able to bring to pass that which He has proclaimed through His prophets:
“The fierce anger of the Lord shall not return, until he hath done it, and until he have performed the intents of his heart; in the latter days ye shall consider it.” (Jeremiah 30:24)