Updated: Sep 15, 2018
By Dave Miller
Obedience to Jesus defines the direction of the Christian. The trajectory of your life will either become more like Jesus or decidedly unlike Jesus. He said, “For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). The narrow gate and the difficult road is our call. So what makes the road difficult?
I have often thought of the difficult road as the hardships that lay in wait as you try to walk in obedience to Jesus. You and I would have no trouble coming up with a laundry list of obstacles this world puts in our way as believers. But in the context of this verse Jesus’ very next teaching warns us of false teachers. “Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:15-16). The path is difficult not only because of the blatant things of this world, but because of the subtle things that seem to be the kingdom of God. Small little traps that can take us off the kingdom road, while we think we are still walking on it.
Jesus warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name? ’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers! (Matthew 7:21-23). I’ll be honest, this verse has always struck fear in my heart. How can someone do such wonderful and mighty acts in the name of Jesus and be sent away from the King as a lawbreaker?
The answer lies in a subtle difference on how you are pursuing obedience to Jesus. The narrow gate you entered to walk down the difficult path to life is paved by Jesus not you.
Obedience is a matter of the heart AND a matter of the plan.
Here is what happens. God asks for obedience. We decide to obey because our yes is already on the table for whatever he asks. Then we decide what the path of obedience looks like or doesn’t look like and start to walk in it. Before long we forget that our obedience was about our heart and make it about the path. Then we find ourselves saying, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we ___________ in your name?” and his response will be “lawbreaker!”
The Pharisees walked through the wide gate precisely because they made obedience a matter of the plan exclusively. Jesus proclaimed, ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, but gulp down a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24). The gnat was the path that became the criteria of obedience and all were judged based upon their adherence to that prescribed path. All the while the point of obedience — justice, mercy, and faithfulness — were lost completely. They gulped down the camel! But notice Jesus didn’t throw out the practice of giving. He said these things should have been done for the purpose of justice, mercy and faithfulness, the heart of the command.
God’s call for obedience will include a path to walk, actions to be taken, and changes to be made. But if you find yourself on the path with waining joy, you might stop and ask yourself this question. If Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:9-11) and you don’t have joy, then maybe it is no longer the Father’s commands you are keeping.
Are you obeying the path you chose in response to obedience to Jesus or are you walking daily with Jesus to find his heart in the Word and responding to the difficult path the way he would? Remain in the Father’s love and there you will find joy. Make your path the point and you will find the end of the road is destruction.
If you find yourself making your path the standard of obedience for yourself and you are judging others by that same criteria take heart and repent, God knows the plan.
Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I live at the eastern horizon or settle at the western limits, even there your hand will lead me; your right hand will hold on to me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night” — even the darkness is not dark to you.
The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to you.
For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well.
My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began.
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