The Narrow Way to Life

A sermon by Pastor Michael Pahl on May 20, 2018, called “The Narrow Way to Life.” The sermon is the final one in a nine-month series on the Sermon on the Mount. It is based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:12-29.

Here is a written excerpt:

This, then, is what Jesus means when he talks about the “narrow gate that leads to life” and the “broad way that leads to destruction.” He’s evoking the story of the newly formed nation of ancient Israel, with Moses proclaiming the Law and confirming the covenant, and calling them to choose between “life” and “death.”

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has given a new law for God’s new people formed around Jesus the Messiah, a new law in fulfillment of Moses’ law, a new law that is an old law, the law of love—and now we must make a choice.

Will we choose to follow Jesus’ teachings, and so experience flourishing life on earth, living in justice and peace, in harmony with all?

Or will we choose to ignore Jesus’ teachings, and so continue to experience degradation, devastation, destruction, and death, the harmful consequences of our harmful actions?

Some Christians think the “narrow way” of Jesus is believing certain truths that only the faithful few believe, like “the Bible is the Word of God,” or “Jesus is the only way to heaven.” Some think the “narrow way” is living a “clean-living” lifestyle that most other people don’t live: not swearing, not drinking, going to church every Sunday, and the like.

But the “narrow way” Jesus talks about is not about having correct doctrine or a strict morality. In fact, those common ways of thinking about the “narrow way” are more akin to Jesus’ opponents than they are to Jesus.

No, the “narrow gate” is following the teachings of Jesus that he has just given, summed up in the teaching he’s just declared: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”

And the “life” Jesus promises isn’t “life after death” or “heaven.” It is true that believers have the assurance of being “with the Lord” after death, but the full motion of salvation in the Bible is that of bringing heaven down to earth.

That’s the way the story ends in Revelation, you might recall, with the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth and God dwelling among us on that renewed earth in a new creation. And, you might remember, that’s the hope Jesus has taught us to pray for, to seek after: God’s kingdom come, God’s will being done, on earth as it already is in heaven.

So again, the choice before us—before you and me individually, before us as a church, before us as a human race—the choice before us is this:

Will we choose to follow Jesus’ teachings, and so experience flourishing life on earth, living in justice and peace, in harmony with all?

Or will we choose to ignore Jesus’ teachings, and so continue to experience degradation, devastation, destruction, and death, the harmful consequences of our harmful actions?

For more on this, see Pastor Michael’s blog post on “What is the ‘Narrow Way’ of Jesus?”

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