by Mike Ratliff
12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:12-14 (NASB)
Our Lord Jesus Christ set before us the way of Righteousness. Yes, He lived a perfect life and died on a cruel cross to pay the penalty and price for the sins of those whom He came to save. However, He also taught us both in word and deed how the truly Righteous should live. Those whom God has saved are regenerated so that they can believe and repent and receive salvation by grace through faith. However, this regeneration does not kill or do away with our sin nature. God uses our sin nature, which battles us in every step in our spiritual growth, for His own purposes. These purposes include keeping us humble as we see how unrighteous we really are because of our battles against our own flesh. Yes, we still sin. In fact we will never be free of these battles against our flesh until we are taken home to be with our Lord.
The great tragedy of the church in our age is that the vast majority of professing Christians are slaves to their own flesh. Their sin nature dominates them. Their minds and hearts are bound to ways of the world and men. The “Compromised Church” is full of people who are there because the churches they are in are designed to nurture their flesh rather than disciple them so they can learn to deny it. They never hear of sin, repentance, hell, and the real purpose of Christ’s coming.
Look at the passage I placed at the top of this article. Verse 12 is often called the Golden Rule. However, most people never read vv13-14 in context with v12. If we read these words of our Saviour in context don’t they tell us something much different than what we have come to accept by reading scripture that has been surgically incised from the whole? In context, we see that those who enter the narrow gate whose way is hard that leads to life, are those whose way of living this life is patterned after treating others as they would prefer to be treated. Jesus also says that few find it and enter thereby. He also tell us that those who go by the broad way, which leads to destruction, are the many. Their lives are not patterned after treating others as they wish to be treated. The Golden Rule in this passage is a marker that is an expression of innate humility in the character of those who are genuine Christians.
Those whose interactions and relationships with others is governed by a humble heart will also not judge others hypocritically. Those who hold others to a higher standard of behaviour than they hold themselves are hypocrites and are not living as one who has entered the narrow gate. These two extremes are not what saves those who are humble and condemns those who aren’t. Instead, they are markers or fruit that flow from either a regenerate, humble heart or an unregenerate, prideful heart. What is so confusing for many of us though is that we do struggle with our sin nature, our flesh, in huge battles over living godly lives or pursuing the ways of the world. Many of us lived for many years as professing Christians who seemed to have few, if any, victories over our fleshly hearts.
Spiritual growth is not instantaneous. We can’t take a pill and wake up the next day fully spiritually mature. It takes time. It takes cooperation between us and God as we surrender to the Lordship of our Saviour as the idols in our hearts come under full attack. All in Christ have the Holy Spirit. We must cooperate with Him in this battle. If we don’t then we serve our idols, which causes spiritual blindness to increase. Many Christians are devastated most of the time because they can’t seem to lives lives of victory over besetting sins that seem to cling so close to them that they can never even run one lap in the race that God has set before them before they stumble and fall out. If their spiritual blindness is severe, they can live as friends of the world in defeat for years as they seek fulfillment from their flesh because their walk before their Lord is in shambles.
How do we break this cycle of defeat? Is it something we can do ourselves? I believe that it starts with God. He puts in our hearts a deep desire to be free of our wicked sin nature. When we respond by seeking Him with a repentant heart doesn’t He draw near to us?
1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:1-10 (NASB)
This passage was instrumental in my own restoration. God used this and many other scripture passages to reveal to this old heart what my problem really was. What was it? I was a friend of the world. My idolatrous heart was energized by pride. I had little if any godliness because I never asked for it even though I did deeply desire it. When I prayed for it, it was always for God to change me, but I put no effort in doing anything to bring it about. In 2004 God got hold of me. He drew me into a period of 9 months or so of a closer walk with Him. I spent more and more time praying, worshipping and studying the Bible. What was I doing during that time? Wasn’t I drawing near unto God? What did He do in return? He drew near unto me. What was the result? I repented and God granted me that repentance. He changed me. He demolished my idols and cut the callous from my heart. My spiritual blindness was taken away by my dear Heavenly Father. I am still so grateful that my heart breaks when I think of the good work He has done there.
Since that time, I have not become perfect at all. I still struggle with sin, but now I recognize that each test or trial is an opportunity to express humility, delight in God, and treat others as I would like them to treat me. I no longer have to win. In fact, I rejoice as I submit to other people’s will even when I could easily force my will on them and be seen as in the right by most people. What is more important, to do the will of God in humility or to get my way in all things? The world says I should look out for number one. Jesus says that those who enter the narrow gate treat others as they would prefer to be treated. How can we do this? Only the Spirit-led can do this. They are Christians who are not in bondage to their flesh. They deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Jesus. They follow His example of Righteousness by treating others as they want to be treated. However, they may not be treated in kind. In fact, they may be treated horribly by those with depraved hearts and minds. That doesn’t change anything. In fact, the call to be meek and humble in face of persecution is the pinnacle of Christlikeness.
Soli Deo Gloria!