“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14)
As a Christian believer, what does this Scripture reference mean to you? Most of us with a basic understanding know it to be a reference to the gospel message of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. But I challenge you to read the entire seventh chapter of Matthew for a little context. Why? Because what Jesus said in verses 13 and 14 is about more than just the salvation of the soul. It’s also about bearing the fruit of Christianity after the initial salvation experience.
I want to challenge you to really examine who you are as a believer; who you are and how you go about living out your Christianity. I will undoubtedly make some angry with the words I’m about to write, but that is inevitable if changed lives are the goal. The truth hurts – especially among those who are furthest from it.
Tell Me a Story, Please
This morning in our church service a video was played; a video that explained God’s Word is not a collection of individual stories, but a narrative that points to the Savior from cover to cover. I couldn’t agree more. So in light of that I want to ask two questions that will form the basis for the rest of this post:
- How do you view the authority of Scripture?
- How do you study Scripture?
The first question, about the authority of Scripture, is one of the most important questions the modern church must settle. Why? Because everything about the Christian faith is supposed to be based in, and on, the Scriptures. If there is a question in your mind as to their veracity and authority, then there are definite cracks in your faith. So the first and most important thing is this:
Do you believe, beyond all doubt, that the Scriptures are inspired, God-breathed, and without error? If not, then you must believe humanity has corrupted the Scriptures, in which case, there’s no way to know what parts are accurate and what parts are not. And if one verse could be inaccurate, the entire gospel message could be a complete hoax. How do you know what you believe is true?
Assuming you do believe Scriptures to be what God says they are – perfect and pure – what version do you use? Read the following four versions of Ps. 12:6+7 and, if you believe all versions of the Bible to be equally true and correct, explain how all can be simultaneously true:
- “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation forever.” (KJV)
- “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold[a] refined seven times. You, Lord, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked…” (NIV)
- “God’s words are pure words, pure silver words refined seven times in the fires of his word-kiln, pure on earth as well as in heaven. God, keep us safe from their lies, from the wicked who stalk us with lies, from the wicked who collect honors for their wonderful lies.” (The Message)
- “The Lord’s promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over. Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed, preserving them forever from this lying generation…” (NLT)
- the KJV says God will preserve his own words forever
- the NIV says the Lord will keep the needy safe and protect us
- The Message asks God to keep us safe from the wicked
- the NLT says God will protect the oppressed
Now clearly, they all say different things. Note that the most important aspect here is the question of what, exactly, God will protect. Is it his own words, is it us (whomever that is), is it the needy, or is it the oppressed? I won’t say which version here is right or wrong, but I will challenge you to explain how they can all be right if God’s Word is perfect?
As far as I can tell from my knowledge of truth, either there is one perfect version of the Scriptures I can rely on, or they are all flawed. But they cannot all be different and still be perfectly correct. And if they are all flawed, it’s time for me to look for a new faith system.
Connecting the Dots
The second question, if you forgot, is one of how you study the Scriptures. If you’re not studying at all then you need to start doing so right away. Continuing to reject God’s Word because you’re too busy or lazy will result in you always living the same tired, worn-out, wasted life you’re living now.
Is that OK with you? If so, I suggest you heed Scripture’s warning and leave Christianity behind:
- “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Deut. 5:11)
- “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15-16)
Assuming you do study, my next question is this: how? Remember that video I talked about earlier? It is absolutely correct in its assertion that the Scriptures are not a series of individual stories. The Scriptures are a complete revelation of everything God wants man to know in this life. And like any kind of writing, you must go verse-by-verse, book-by-book in order to connect it all.
If you were reading Moby Dick, would you do so by randomly choosing a different paragraph at each sitting? Of course not; you would never understand the story that way. Rather, you would read it from cover to cover.
Likewise, would you trust a brain surgeon who, during his educational career, ignored entire textbooks, or chapters of books, because he found them boring or too difficult? Again, you wouldn’t. So why do we treat God’s Word, which is far more important than anything else we could read, so lightly? No friends, the proper way to study Scripture is book-by-book, verse-by-verse, cover-to cover.
Few Choose the Narrow Way
I opened this blog by quoting what Jesus said about the narrow way that leads to life. That narrow way includes a narrow mind about the authority, veracity, and study of Scripture. The wide way of the 21st century sees the majority of Christians take God’s Word very lightly. It includes most Christians who don’t see any real value in studying and knowing what the Bible says. Most of us don’t even bother to bring a Bible to church services anymore.
What’s more, the wide way offers a lot of different things in order to avoid the truth of God’s Word including:
- lifestyle videos
- light devotionals
- skits and puppets
- motivational speeches
- small groups
The narrow way is clearly the opposite. It requires diligent study, hard work, a willingness to deal with the reality of sin, a willingness to tackle controversial subjects, and the fortitude to withstand the inevitable criticisms that will come from those on the wide path. It requires a willingness to truly be like Jesus instead of just saying you are.
Let me close by quoting a portion of Psalms I take very seriously. I suggest you do the same if you call yourself a Christian.
“I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” (Ps. 138:2)
UPDATE – The discussion of this post has already begun and , so far, it has all been about the different versions of the Bible and whether or not they are all equally valid. That is a good discussion to have. BUT…don’t forget the other half of the equation: how you study the Word. It still does no good to be settled on the version question if you don’t study diligently; verse-by-verse and from cover-to-cover. If you truly believe it, study it.by