Jesus cautions us first to find the narrow gate that leads to life because he knows the current of this culture will sweep us right by it. After passing through that first, narrow gate to salvation, Jesus continues to invite us to look for even more gates as we progress in our spiritual journeys.
These gates are the passageways deeper into the Kingdom. But they get narrower the deeper we advance. You will have to drop… let go of… the things in your life that won’t fit into the Kingdom and therefore won’t fit through the narrowing gates. And the incredibly wonderful surprise is these narrowing gates lead to an ever-expanding life.
Narrower = expansive? Yes!
Okay, let’s get specific.
If you want to keep advancing with Jesus toward the top, you will find it necessary to bump your trajectory from time to time because you will always plateau at some point. Let’s say you’re not sure you’re really growing spiritually, or maybe you’ve just flattened out. You’re frustrated (I hope) and want more. But how to get off this plateau and bump your spiritual trajectory upward?
You have two choices: new activities or a new surrender.
Just a word on activities. Taking on a more intense Bible study, digging into a challenging Christian book, attending an overnight conference, or taking on any of the spiritual disciplines such as Scripture memorization, solitude and silence, extended prayer, or fasting… can help to bump your trajectory.
But not if you are taking on an activity just to take on an activity… just to feel better about being spiritually busy.
However, surrender will always bring us to a narrow gate, and the challenge is, “Are we willing to ‘slim down’, by letting go of… surrendering… whatever it is God has laid on our hearts?”
My friend Patrick and I decided to bump our workout trajectories by teaming up with Bobo for personal training. We both workout steadily but were sensing we had plateaued. We wanted things to be different, so we had to do things differently.
Bobo first designed a five-small-meals-a-day program and then started us on some rather challenging workout routines. After a couple of weeks, I had gained four pounds and expressed my frustration to Bobo.
So he asked about my personal habits, and I mentioned I might have a glass of red wine or two… two or maybe three nights a weekend. No big deal and certainly no sin.
But Bobo said, “I thought you wanted to grow. I thought you were taking this seriously. Sam, if you want things to be different, you have to do things differently.”
So I went home and contemplated this simple but penetrating truth. My solution? Cut out red wine for this seven-week program.
“Yes!” I thought. “This will cut out a ton of calories along with the snacks I tend to eat with it.”
I was pumped! But then, I started to think about the cost of giving up red wine for seven weeks. And I got anxious. I’m not kidding. Could I do it? Oh, sure… I guess. Did I want to do it? Uh, no.
And then the Holy Spirit showed up and pointed out that my hesitation—let’s call it what it was: my fear—was because I apparently had a little emotional dependency on the wine. Maybe it had a little mastery over me?
And that’s when I knew I was standing in front of a narrow gate. It was crystal clear. I knew I couldn’t advance deeper into the Kingdom while carrying this mastery. I knew I had to shed this off before I could get through this very narrow gate.
I did, and the results have been amazing: more spiritual energy, clarity, and creativity!
It is always this way when we face a narrow gate and surrender and shed to get through it. God always responds with “well done, my good and faithful servant. Come on… Enjoy this greener, expansive pasture.”
So what about you? Could you do it? I don’t mean wine necessarily although I bet there are many of you thinking, “I could, but I don’t want to.” Ha!
For you, it may be a habit… It could be a bad habit, a not-so-bad habit, or even a “good” habit. One friend realized it was golf. For another, it was girls’ night out. For another, it was a grudge, a refusal to forgive. It may be a relationship. It may be your stinginess with money… or a heart attitude of resentment, judgment, or superiority.
Or… gossip. Oops.
Only you know what it is for you. But you do know. And it is blocking your advance.
Whatever it is, when you hear the Holy Spirit’s conviction that it needs to go, will you listen and respond? Will you face that narrow gate and surrender? Or will you hear the serpent’s voice instead who is saying, “Did God really say that? Oh, come on… That wasn’t God. That was just that 721 guy. He’s a fanatic. No need to bother about it. You’re just fine.”
But you’re not. And God loves you so much that he doesn’t want to leave you the way you are even though he loves you perfectly either way. But it is his perfect love that invites you to go deeper.
Each gate is a matter of you giving up your claim to your right to yourself. It really is that simple.
God will not ask you to surrender what you cannot but what you will not. And it is always for your good.
No one looking back on the difficult challenge of surrendering something and advancing through the next narrowing gate will ever regret it. I thank God over and over both for pulling me through a few gates I refused to enter on my own as well as encouraging me through several more.
I hope and trust he will never stop because they always lead to greener pasture and an ever-expanding life.
Always. Every time.
Jesus is inviting you to go deeper. Will you?