Religion: a wide gate to death; Jesus: the narrow gate to Life
As the loving Master He is, Jesus spoke these words of comfort to His disciples – “’Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.’” (John 14: 1-4) The disciple Thomas then said to Jesus – “’Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’” Jesus’ reply reveals how very narrow and exclusive Christianity is – “’I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” (John 14: 6) Jesus had said in His Sermon on the Mount – “’Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.’” (Matthew 7: 13-14)
How do we “find” eternal life? It is written about Jesus – “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1: 4) Jesus said about Himself – “’And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 14-15) Jesus also said – “’Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.’” (John 5: 24) and “’For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.’” (John 5: 26) Jesus told the religious leaders – “’You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.’” (John 5: 39-40)
Jesus also said – “’For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’” (John 6: 33) Jesus identified Himself as the ‘door,’ – “’I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.’” (John 10: 9-10) Jesus, as Good Shepherd said – “’My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.’” (John 10: 27-28) Jesus told Martha, before He raised her brother from the dead – “’I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11: 25-26)
Consider some other ‘doors’ to salvation: a Jehovah’s Witness needs to be baptized and earn eternal life through ‘door to door’ work; a Mormon is saved (exalted to godhood) through necessary works and ordinances, including baptism, faithfulness to church leaders, tithing, ordination, and temple rituals; a Scientologist must work with an auditor on ‘engrams’ (negative experience units) in order to reach a state of ‘clear’ where he or she will have complete control over (MEST) matter, energy, space, and time; a New Age believer must offset bad karma with good karma, using meditation, self-awareness, and spirit guides; a follower of Muhammad must store up more good deeds than bad deeds – hoping that Allah will have mercy on them in the end; a Hindu must seek to be released from endless cycles of reincarnation, using Yoga and meditation; and a Buddhist must reach nirvana in order to eliminate all desires and cravings by following an Eightfold Path system to eventually achieve nonexistence (Carden 8-23).
The unique distinction of Christianity is in its completeness. Jesus’ final words as He hung dying on the cross were – “’It is finished.’” (John 19: 30). What did He mean? God’s work of salvation was finished. The payment required to satisfy God’s wrath had been made, the debt was paid in full. And who paid it? God did. Nothing was left for man to do except believe what had been done. That is what is so incredible about Christianity – it reveals the true righteousness of God. The first man and woman that He created disobeyed Him (Adam and Eve). Adam and Eve’s disobedience created a dilemma. It was a dilemma that only God could solve. God was a righteous and holy God, completely set apart from evil. In order for man to be brought back into fellowship with Him, an eternal sacrifice had to be made. God became that sacrifice in Jesus Christ. We all remain subject to eternal separation from God unless we accept the only payment sufficient to bring us into God’s presence.
That is the miracle of Jesus. He is the true and full revelation of God. God loved the world He created so much, that He came veiled in flesh, in order to rescue you and me. He did it all. That is why the thief on the cross who died beside Jesus could be with Jesus in paradise, because only faith in Jesus was required, nothing else and nothing more.
Christianity is not a religion. Religion requires man and his efforts. Jesus came to bring life. He came to give freedom from religion. Religion is futile. If you are attempting in any way to earn your way into eternity, you will be disappointed. Jesus came to give us life. There is no greater message that this. It is simple, but profound. He calls us all to come to Him, trust in Him and what He has done. He wants us to know Him and the peace and joy that only He can give us. He is a loving and merciful God.
If you are living a religious life, I would ask you…are you tired? Are you tired of working and striving, but never knowing if you have done enough? Are you weary of repeated rituals? Come to Jesus. Put your trust in Him. Surrender your will to Him. Allow Him to be Master over your life. He knows all things. He sees all things. He is sovereign over all things. He will never leave you or forsake you, and He will never expect you to do something that He will not give you the strength and power to do.
Jesus said – “’Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few that find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.’”(Matthew 7: 13-16a) If you a following someone who has claimed to be a prophet of God, it would be wise to carefully look at his or her fruits. What is the true history of their lives? Is the organization that you are a part of telling you the truth? What is the evidence of who they were and what they did? The truth about many religious leaders and prophets is available. Do you have the courage to consider it? Your eternal life may depend on it.
Carden, Paul, ed. Christianity, Cults & Religions. Torrance: Rose Publishing, 2008.