Make Every Effort (Part 2)

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Over the last few months, I have been grappling with a certain aspect of God’s truth and His word.  It is the passage from Matthew 11:12, “From the day of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”  I have been reading the first couple of chapter’s of J.C. Ryle’s Practical Religion, where he expounds on the importance of the narrow way.  I read Pilgrim’s Progress a few months ago, and just a little bit of Thomas Watson’s Christian Soldier.  And I have listened to several Paul Washer sermons, as well as John MacArthur’s The Narrow and the Broad Gate.  Each of these have helped me to better understand this passage.

A mental image has been formulating in my mind as I dwell on this, and this is basically what I see in my mind’s eye.  A massive coliseum, larger than any sports arena, or other structure ever built.  There is only one exit, and a mass exodus of people are leaving the inside of the arena and pouring out into a funnel that gets larger the further they get from the structure.  Here’s a really low-budget diagram of this:

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The white area is where the mass of people are leaving from, and the gray area is the area they are entering into and funneling out.  Thousands upon thousands of people are leaving this structure by the second, rushing out into the funnel, pushing and shoving, and running.  It is like someone inside the white space yelled “FIRE!” at the top of their lungs and so everyone is hurrying in to get out and get as far away as they can.  But then, some people in the crowd, as they’re running and caught up in all the confusion realize that the fire is not in the white area at all.  They’re not running away from this danger, but toward it.  The way to safety is to go back in the direction they’ve been running from.  There is a little door marked “SAFETY” in the middle of the two large exits everyone is bursting through.  It is clearly labeled, but is only visible from the outside.  The door is maybe two feet across, and the room is no bigger than a closet.  Inside, a ladder leads up several hundred feet to a narrow catwalk that crosses the large arena to the backside.  That is really of little matter, though.  The most difficult task of getting to safety is fighting your way back through the crowd of people once you discover you’re running the wrong way, getting back up after getting trampled, getting shoved this way and that, fighting against the flow of thousands upon thousands of scared and angry people.  To get all the way back to that little door requires a great effort, dogged determination, and earnest desire.  It IS the narrow way.

Now, there is the rush of people exiting the massive stadium, proceeding into the widening area leading away from it; both sides of the way are lined with storefronts and other establishments.  Every type of store you could possibly imagine—department stores, clothing stores, electronics stores, liquor and tobacco stores, gun stores, book stores, adult “novelty” stores, sports stores, video stores, furniture stores, gambling casinos, bingo halls, movie theaters, bowling alleys, restaurants, bars and taverns, coffee shops, you name it—every kind of store you could ever imagine stretching for miles and miles past the horizon.  Many, many people flood into the stores.  As the crowd pushes along (and you along with it at first), you see friends from high school, an old girl-friend, a group of folks you used to enjoy indulging your flesh with (or perhaps still do).  All of these people are urging you to go along with them—even if just for a “little while”—as they are swept further and further along.  Scantily clad men and women mill about, drawing attention to themselves.  Models pose and display the latest fashions.  Musicians play the latest songs.  Young people give themselves over to dance or other passions, and much flesh is on full display.  (Sounds somewhat like Vanity Fair, if you’ve read Pilgrim’s Progress, doesn’t it?).

It is easy to forget that the narrow door is there.  It can be harder and harder to see the further one gets away from it, especially with all the sinful delicacies the eyes can feast on as they dart about seeking their pleasure.  The heart must be counter to all this to lead the body through the crowd—focused not on the wares and pleasures of this world, but on the single, narrow passage-way… that rather plain and simple door marked “SAFETY” and then in smaller letters underneath, “Whosoever will may come.”

The goods and services of the world that line the passage ways on the broad way call, and the people of your past (and even your present) demand your attention and urge you to follow them for their own sake and deride your foolishness for seeking to push against the crowd, you must remain steadfast and focused, pushing every hindrance aside, fighting your way against the crowd, resisting temptation, keeping your eyes fixed on the prize set before you.  You may get blocked; you may get knocked to the ground.  You may get laughed at; you may get attacked.  You may suffer, you may fall, and you may even lose sight of the hope once set before you.  But do not lose heart, faithful Christian.  Press on, call out, and let grace be your guide.  Faith, hope, and love must be your strength.  And as the scripture says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Faith, Hope, and Love~
Simple Mann

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