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Take the Narrow Way

Take the Narrow Way

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matt 7:13-14)

My Fellow Pilgrims,

Like all journeys into the unfamiliar, our spiritual pilgrimage into the Kingdom of God brings us to many crossroads where we are forced to make decisions and choices that determine the direction our lives will take. What we sometimes fail to consider is that if we make those decisions based on our human rationality, sentiments, and abilities alone we will most likely make a serious mistake.

Decisions that will determine the path our lives will take involve moral and spiritual parameters that will define whether we live our lives according to God’s will or our own worldly will. These are decisions we, as humans, are not fully competent to make and as a result we need to call on God’s Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the discernment and wisdom we need to ensure that our path remains in the Father’s perfect and specific will for us at these specific junctures in our lives.

The main reason finding the right path evades us is because our choices are usually driven by our own self-will rather than the Father’s will for our lives. The denial of our self-will to give place to the Father’s will in our lives is the strait way, the hard path, and the gate or entrance is narrow because we have to leave our own self-will behind in order to enter. And when Jesus tells us that “… few there are who find it”, He was not speaking to unbelievers but believers, those wishing enter into discipleship with Him.

Yes, all too often, even as believers, our decisions are based only on our supposed rational assessment of what is best for us from a purely human standpoint based on our own self-interest or our need to conform ourselves to the world. If we are still immature in the faith, we don’t realize that we are not on this earth to satisfy our own purposes but rather to fulfill the Father’s purpose for our lives. Because of this lack of awareness we more often than not choose a path that exalts and empowers our own self-will – a choice where our human ambitions and desires are satiated to the exclusion of The Father’s specific will for us – we thus always tend to make a choice where we can say “I did it my way”.

Of course, as Christians, in order to assuage our consciences, we usually also try to choose a path commensurate with our moral and religious constraints and tradition, unconsciously justifying and falsely presuming that the choice we are making will somehow be pleasing to the Father, even though we neglected to consult Him regarding our decision or obey His leading for us. We act in this manner in order to preserve our own self-will and self-control over our personal lives by appearing to have made a “good” moral decision.

How many of us, myself included, have been caught up in the initial zeal of our conversion, and without realizing it, merely transferred our self-directed energy and ambitions from the worldly realm to the religious and spiritual realm? Again, this behavior is just where our pride and human survival instincts lead us, but this is not the Father’s will for us.

No! Rather, in our surrender to The Father’s Love, we must realize that when we come willingly into His embrace we are NOT dedicating our self-will to do great works for Him; instead, what we are doing is, out of our Love for Him, surrendering and denying our own self-will and even our own desires so as to please Him and Him alone, so that He is free do His work in us and through us as He and He alone desires.

Notice that Jesus accepted just such an emptying out of Himself in accepting His saving role and surrendering completely to the will of the Father. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul writes the following:

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.” (Phil, 2-6-8)

We, of course cannot compare ourselves to Jesus in giving up His divine prerogatives. But we, in our own diminished way, are also called to submit our own human will to the calling and will of the Father in our lives. Now, because of our fallen human nature, our self- emptying process may take a lifetime but what is important to the Father is the intent of our heart and our willingness to give of ourselves to Him in Love. As fledgling disciples, this, then, is the Narrow Gate that we are called to enter and our walk of discipleship is to remain on the strait path that the Narrow Gate opens to us. We do this not out of human love but out of “agape” Love with which The Father has endowed us through His Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).

Even, the apostle Paul needed to go through such a self-emptying transition. After his conversion, when he first began to preach in Damascus, his fleshly zeal had merely been transferred from persecuting Christians to evangelizing unbelievers in such a self-directed and self-empowered way that he caused several unnecessary disturbances. This was because he was relying on his own human energies and NOT on the grace of God to fully empower him. Things got so bad, in fact, that he had to be helped in escaping from Damascus in order to avoid causing more collateral damage to the small nascent community in Damascus. (see Acts 9:18-30).

It was only after a Holy-Spirit-directed spiritual retreat in Arabia (Gal 1:17) that the Holy Spirit provided Paul the grace of a second conversion (or continuation of his conversion) such that he was later able to pass on to the congregation in Rome what he learned about trying to please God by the works of the flesh, writing to them, “… those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:5-8)

Jesus himself warns believers about the dangers of those who attempt to enter into discipleship without fully surrendering themselves to the will of the Father. He tells us in the Gospels that, “… not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but only those who [actually] do the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21)

Thus as we enter into the New Year that is before us let us carefully assess our inner motives for the purity of heart that is needed to truly serve the Father in this world so that whatever we do, we do solely for the Glory of God the Father and not to satisfy our own willful desires or ambitions.  The Holy Spirit will purify our desires if we truly surrender, out of Love, to the Father’s will and purpose for our lives.

As we all proceed through the Narrow Gate in our desire to serve the Lord with purity of heart and faithfulness to His will, let us take to heart Paul’s advice to the believers in Rome:

“… brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom. 8:12-13)

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God —do this as your spiritual act of worship. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom. 12:1-2)

May the Holy Spirit strengthen us in our resolution to serve Him and may He accomplish His will and His purpose in us and through us!

To Him and Him alone be Glory and Honor forever! Amen and Amen!

Bartimeaus

Related Link:  Surrendering to Divine Love

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2009]

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