Matthew 7:13-23 The Message
“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.
“Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.
“Knowing the correct password—saying “Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, “Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.” ‘And do you know what I am going to say? You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’”
“Wide is the gate, broad the way to destruction—but small and narrow the way to life. Corrupt trees bring forth evil fruit—and are cut down, fed to the fire. Depart from me, workers of iniquity.” Words that divide, that force us to take stock. We like to think we’re ok—but Jesus is speaking to people who think they’re ok. Jesus didn’t say these words to “Gentile sinners,” but to good Jews. Matthew didn’t record them for “seekers,” but for the church. These words are not for “them,” but for us.
This statement [of the broad and narrow ways], if understood, would surely revolutionize the ideas of a great many so-called broad-minded people, who have always believed that living a moral life or being a church member would be a sufficient passport into Heaven. Being a church member is no longer a despised way, but quite the opposite; it is now considered quite the fashionable and proper thing to do. Many think this is all the Lord requires of us; but upon this erroneous belief falls the Word of God with a startling blow that overthrows all such false security.
Narrow is the way that leads to life and few there be that find it. O, that Christians, as well as sinners, and cold professors, would awaken to the reality of this fact and get one glimpse of the countless millions pouring into eternity every day without God and without hope! They would spring from their beds of ease and rush into the highways and hedges to compel men to come into the narrow way, and get right with God before it is too late.
—Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944)