Chapter 13: “The way is narrow that leads to life….”
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CHAPTER 13

 “The way is narrow that leads to life, and only a few ever find it.”
{Matthew 7:14 NASB, NLT}

 

In my mind, no chapter is more important than this one.

Millions upon millions profess Christianity, yet Jesus tells us, “only a few ever find the way that leads to life.” What am I to think? And what are you to think?

Before I go any further I think I should share our title passage in its entirety:

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and only a few ever find it.”  {Matthew 7:13, 14 NLT, NASB}

Certainly there should be no question: “the way is narrow that leads to life.” Where I suppose there could be some room for question is: What does Jesus mean by “the way?” And what does He mean by “narrow?” (When everything’s said and done I think the bigger questions are: Do I really believe Jesus? And do my actions show that I do?)

Before we start to look at those first two questions I want to share with you a similar statement Jesus made. In this instance His statement was made in response to a question He was asked; and because His answer is so out of sync with so much of today’s Christianity I hope you’ll really give it some thought:

“Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”  {Luke 13:23, 24 NIV}

Truly, this is a subject that involves who’s “going to be saved;” and as I implied at the beginning, it’s one that the vast share of the Christian world is falling terribly short on.

Now to our two questions: When Jesus says, “the way is narrow that leads to life,” what does He mean by “the way?” And what does He mean by “narrow?”

To me, the first of those two questions, what does Jesus mean He says, “the way is narrow that leads to life,” seems pretty simple and straight forward: It’s the path we walk. Notice in these next two passages how “the way” and “the path” are used pretty much interchangeably:

“Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.”  {Proverbs 4:14 NIV}

“My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them… walk not thou in the way with them; do not set foot on their paths.”  {Proverbs 1:10, 15 NIV, KJV}

As I said, I think this one’s pretty simple and straight forward: when Jesus says, “the way” is narrow that leads to life, He’s talking about the path we walk, or the way we live. And to lead into our second question, I’ll share another passage that speaks of “the way.” (I’ll re-quote a portion our title passage so that you can consider the two of them together.)

“The way is narrow that leads to life… the way is broad that leads to destruction.”  {Matthew 7:14, 13 NASB}
“The way of the godly leads to life. But there is another way that leads to death.”  {Proverbs 12:28 NLT}

So far, based on that Proverbs passage it would appear that the “narrow way” and the “way of the godly” are closely related, if not one and the same thing. And going along with that: the “broad way” seems to correspond to “another way;” and since “another way” is placed in contrast to “the way of the godly” it must be the way of the ungodly; making the broad way the way of the ungodly.

Now I want to look at a passage that will not only help us begin to understand what’s involved in the narrow way, but will also give us a better idea why Jesus said it was narrow. It’s something else He said and it couldn’t be more important or more fundamental:

“Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself.”  {Mark 8:34 NIV}

Before we start to look at what this passage teaches us about the narrow way, I think it’s important that I point out two other things it teaches. They’re contained in those two words, “anyone” and “must;” which means that no one’s excluded and compliance isn’t optional.

Now to begin considering those two key words that definitely take us into the narrow way: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself.”

Surely—and every commentary I’ve ever seen teaches this—“deny himself” is just another way of saying “self-denial.” And let it be understood and accepted that the Lord Jesus, in words that are unmistakably clear, says that if we want to be His followers we “must” walk in the path of self-denial. But let us at the same time ever remind ourselves: “the words that He speaks to us—and that includes the ones we’re looking at right now—they are life.”

I would think it would be fairly obvious that the path of self-denial is a narrow path. And I would also think it would be just as obvious that on the other hand the path of self-indulgence is basically the opposite: a broad path. And just as the broad way leads to destruction, let me show you how it was once common knowledge that that’s precisely where the path of self-indulgence leads. Notice also that it was well understood that there’s a definite spiritual element involved in self-indulgence:

INDULGENCE: Free permission to the appetites, desires, passions or will to act or operate; forbearance of restraint or control. How many children are ruined by indulgence.

INDULGE: To yield to the enjoyment or practice of, without restraint or control; as, to indulge in sin, or in sensual pleasure. Most men are more willing to indulge in easy vices, than to practice laborious virtues.  {Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary}

I think it’s worth noting that Noah Webster’s declaration that, “most” men are more willing to indulge in easy vices, than to practice laborious virtues, harmonizes perfectly with Christ’s teaching that “many” travel the broad way, while “only a few” walk the narrow way.

As I sat here re-reading that definition something else really hit me: Noah Webster says, “How many children are ruined by indulgence.” No one knows that better than God Himself. And we being His children, and He being too wise and too loving to allow us to ruin ourselves by indulgence, calls us to the opposite course: self-denial.

There’s still more in those Noah Webster definitions that deserve consideration. Both definitions contain what is basically the same expression: “without restraint or control.” I think it goes without saying that the lack of “restraint” or “control” being talked about is the lack of self-restraint or self-control. I would hope that you can also see that there’s a very real connection between those words self-control and self-denial. And just as we’ve seen the importance that Jesus attaches to self-denial, let me now try to show you the importance that He attaches to self-control. (In the King James the word “temperance” is used instead of self-control, but in most of the modern translations the word self-control is used, which for most of us is a much easier word to grasp and understand.)

First off, in the book of Galatians we’re told that self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit:

“When the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  {Galatians 5:22, 23 NLT}

That’s quite a list to be in company with.

Next we come to a story that I believe really shows us just how important this subject of self-control actually is. It’s the story of the Apostle Paul’s opportunity to witness to an extremely important and powerful man—the Roman governor, Felix. Paul was a prisoner on his way to Rome when this took place. And to add a little more weight to the wisdom of Paul’s choice of subjects, I’m going to preface the story with something Jesus said that ties in with it:

“You must stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. This will be your opportunity to tell them about me—yes, to witness to the world. But when they arrest you, don’t worry about what to say in your defense. At that time you will be given what to say, for it won’t be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” {Matthew 10:18-20 NLT, NIV}

“A few days later Felix came with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus. As he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the judgment to come, Felix trembled. “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient, I’ll call you again.”  {Acts 24:24, 25 NLT, KJV}

Think about it: How many Christians today, if given the opportunity “to witness before governors and kings,” and to “tell them about faith in Christ Jesus,” would choose self-control as one of the three things they’d talk to them about? Paul did! And what’s more, according to those words of Christ, it wasn’t Paul who did the choosing, but God.

I’ll share one more passage about self-control. And since I’m fairly certain that for a good many of you it’s going to teach something that once again is contrary to what you’ve been taught, I think I should remind you: these aren’t my words, but the words of God’s inspired apostle.

“All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.”  {1 Corinthians 9:25 NLT}

Because I know it’s important that I stay balanced, let me stop and share with you another passage:

“I do not mean that we are able to say that we can do this work ourselves. It is God who makes us able to do all that we do.”  {2 Corinthians 3:5 NCV}

(In reading back over chapter twelve I was reminded of another passage on self-control that deserves to be included here. This time I’ll only quote the portion of it that applies here.)

“The grace of God teaches us… to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.”  {Titus 2:11, 12 NIV}

I want to return one more time to those Noah Webster definitions. Two of the specifics mentioned in them where people are said to fail to exercise self-control are “appetites” and “passions.” Because the importance of exercising self-control over our passions is understood and acknowledged by almost all Christians, I’m only going to spend a brief minute on it; and because the importance of exercising self-control over our appetites is neither understood nor acknowledged by the great majority of those same Christians, I’m going to spend a much greater amount of time on it. (The two are actually more closely related than most people realize.)

I’m only going to touch on two things in regard to controlling our passions: one for you men, and one for you women. For you men: Do you need to control your passions even within the marriage relation? (I think it would be interesting to compare the answers of a thousand husbands with the answers of a thousand wives. Something else that I think should be kept in mind with that: it’s universally acknowledged that for the most part it’s the women who are spiritual and who are filling up most churches.)

For you women: in the light of this next passage, consider well the way you dress.

“One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but how terrible it will be for the person who does the tempting. It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around the neck than to face the punishment in store for harming one of these little ones.”  {Luke 17:1, 2 NLT}

Now to the question of what place, if any, controlling our appetites has to do with our Christian walk. And yes, I’m well aware of the handful of passages that are so often used to prove that how or what we eat has nothing to do with our Christianity. Without getting into anything too specific—I believe the real need is to see and accept some basic principles—let me see if I can convince you that how we eat most definitely does have something to do with our Christianity. (Again, I hope it’s not me, but God’s word and God’s Spirit that convinces you.)

I’ll start with the passage that I believe is the great foundation pillar not only on this subject of appetite, but on the broader one of health in general:

“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”  {3 John 2 KJV}

While none of the other translations translate that verse quite as strongly as the King James, they all make it clear that God wants us to be healthy. (Surely no one can doubt that can they?) Knowing that, does it seem right to you that Christians should suffer all the same sicknesses and diseases non-Christians do? You may say to me: But they don’t. They don’t get aids like the non-Christian world does. And you’re right, they don’t. But why is it that they don’t get aids like the non-Christian world does? Is it because God simply keeps them from getting it because they’re His children? Or is it because God, through the teachings of His word and the working of His Holy Spirit in their hearts, leads them to a lifestyle that keeps them from getting it? Pretty obvious isn’t it? And so it works in most cases. If a Christian smokes three packs of cigarettes a day he’s going to do the same damage to his lungs as the non-Christian who smokes. And if a Christian drinks a fifth of liquor every day he’s going to do the same damage to his liver as the non-Christian who drinks. And it’s just as true: if a Christian eats nothing but food that clogs his arteries, his arteries are going to get just as clogged as the non-Christian’s.

Let me continue with a passage that I’m sure many of you are familiar with:

“Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit? …If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”  {1 Corinthians 6:19; 3:17 NLT, NIV}

Maybe this is a foreign thought to you, but would you say from that passage that God is unhappy with us if we don’t take care of our bodies? I mentioned smoking up above. Surely everyone knows that smoking destroys our bodies. How do you think God feels when His children smoke? Do you think it bothers Him? (Does it bother you when your children smoke?) What about drinking? What about eating food that we know clogs our arteries? Or that raises our cholesterol? Do you realize that heart disease is consistently the #1 cause of death in America (not counting abortion)? Did you know that over fifty years ago the American Medical Association stated that making certain dietary changes could eliminate 90-97% of heart disease? (Aren’t those incredible numbers?) Tell me, in the light of just those two passages we’ve looked at so far: If those numbers from the AMA are even close to being right, do you really think it doesn’t matter to God, and shouldn’t matter to Christians, how we eat? Let me ask that question a different way: Do you really believe it doesn’t matter to God whether or not you have a heart attack?

I’ll continue on with another very basic passage about our bodies, and again, it’s one that I’m certain many of you are familiar with:

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  {Psalms 139:14 KJV}

I doubt we’ll ever realize how true those words really are—but it sure doesn’t hurt to try.

One of the most brilliant and amazing men that ever lived, a man who had a tremendous knowledge of the human body, especially when you consider that he lived almost five hundred years ago, Leonardo da Vinci, once said: “In the absence of all other evidence, my thumb alone would convince me that there is a God.” (If he said that about our thumb, what do you think he’d say about our brain?) Surely, for a host of reasons, don’t you think we would do well to occasionally ponder those words: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made?” Don’t you think doing so would cause us to have a greater appreciation of what a wonderful habitation God has given us in which to live? Of course it would! And don’t you think that it might just possibly cause us to think that we should probably take better care of this wonderful habitation God has given us? It sure seems like it should.

Let me share another passage about our bodies, one that begins to bring in the aspect that there’s a part that God expects us to play:

“Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world.”  {Romans 12:1, 2 NLT}

Let me first say that I think that passage covers a much broader area of our lives than just our health, but I certainly believe that our health is included in it. Let me also say that how we eat is certainly not the only factor in taking care of our bodies. Having said that, let me put in a quick plug for another extremely important link in the chain of health: exercise.

Thanks to modern technology and science, combined with the easily available and almost unlimited access to information, pretty much everyone today knows the positive benefits of regular exercise. But… very much like incorporating a healthier diet takes a certain degree of self-control and self-denial, exercise requires a certain amount of self-discipline and determination. And for far too many people, Christians as well as non-Christians, that’s “too much to ask.” But I, along with a million other people, would beg to differ.

I know there are many reasons why people don’t exercise, but I think ultimately one of the biggest underlying factors is that people don’t really realize that when it’s all said and done the benefits and blessings of regular exercise  far outweigh the time and effort that’s required to do it. So, let me try to do what many others have tried to do: convince you that it’s worth your time and effort. To me this is so simple and powerful: It’s pretty much an accepted fact that thirty minutes a day of continuous, vigorous exercise is enough to keep us in optimal health. Obviously, thirty minutes is half an hour; and since there are twenty-four hours in a day, that calculates to one forty eighth of our day. One forty eighth is approximately 2%. Try to give it some thought: if you’ll give up just 2% of your day, and if you’ll push yourself for just 2% of your day, you’ll get the benefits of it for all the other 98% of the day. I think that’s  a tremendous exchange for our time and effort. And it’s time that doesn’t at all have to be “wasted.” My wife does her exercising on a treadmill and watches educational videos while doing it, and I use the time to pray and think on different Bible verses, something we could probably all use more of. And let me tell you something else. There’s an extremely important additional blessing that comes with the effort and discipline that’s required to exercise regularly: it builds character, and that’s no small thing in our Christian walk.

Let me give you another bit of incentive. The #1 selling health book of all time, “Back to Eden,” has this to say about exercise:

“Proper exercise in the open air and sunshine are among God’s greatest gifts to man… and all other habits being equal, is the surest safeguard against disease and premature death.”

 Now back to our Romans passage: After “pleading” with them to give their bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice, adding the words, “the kind he will accept,” which seems to imply that there’s a kind He won’t accept, Paul then asks what to him was no doubt a question with an obvious answer: “When you think of what God has done for you, is this too much to ask?” Unfortunately, when it comes to this question of giving our bodies to God, most Christians don’t quite view things in the same light Paul did.

Let me give you an example of that by relating to you an incident that once happened at our store: I came home from work one day and there was an older man in the store. I got talking to him and he turned out to be a preacher. We had an excellent talk; and during it he told me, repeatedly and with great earnestness, “I tell my congregation you got to give all to God.” After he left I told my wife what a good discussion we had and how he really stressed that we have to give all to God. She kind of laughed, and said he’d been talking to her about his health before I got home and that he had some pretty serious problems. She told him he needed to make certain dietary changes, to which he responded, “Whoa, that’s where I draw the line.” For him, that was “too much to ask.” That’s sad, because the fact of the matter was, that man’s lifestyle—in particular, his eating habits—were slowly but surely killing him; yet when it came to giving up those certain dearly beloved foods, he didn’t want to hear anything about it. (Hopefully he had a change of heart later.) Now tell me, in the light of everything we’ve looked at so far, do you really believe it doesn’t matter to God what course this professed minister of the gospel pursued in regard to his body and his health?

Undeniably, God wants us to be healthy. And surely it’s a given: if we want to be healthy, there’s a part we have to play. And does God tell us what that part is? He does:

“If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will… keep you free from all sickness.”  {Deuteronomy 7:12, 15 NIV, NLT}

“My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.”  {Proverbs 4:20-22 NIV}

I imagine pretty much all Christians would agree with this next statement: the New Testament is clear that certain Old Testament teachings and practices have been done away with. Having said that, and with those New Testament words fresh in your mind, “Beloved I wish above all things that thou mayest be in health,” I hope you’ll give this next question some serious consideration: Does it really make sense to you that the teachings and practices that bring us “freedom from all sickness,” and “health to a man’s whole body,” should be a part of those things that have been done away with?

Before I continue on, I couldn’t help but notice the close similarity between that last passage and another passage:

“Listen closely to my words…they are life.”  {Proverbs 4:20, 22 NIV}
“The words that I speak unto you…they are life.”  {John 6:63 KJV}

Back to where I was: Obviously I’ve opened up another can of worms— those “dreaded” and “obsolete” Old Testament dietary laws. I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but let me just ask you a few questions. Why do you think it is that God gave His people those laws? Do you think it was just to show His authority, or do you think that just maybe, God gave those laws to His people because He loved them and wanted them to be healthy? Kind of like He does today. Do you think that just maybe, He denied them certain foods because He knew they’d be better off without them? Kind of like some parents do with their children. One last question for now, and I hope you’ll really give this one some thought: Do you think that just maybe, there could be a connection between the fact that Christians today suffer all the same health problems that non-Christians do and the fact that they’ve pretty much completely turned their backs on all those Old Testament dietary laws? (Actually, this whole subject goes much deeper than those Old Testament dietary laws.)

I realize there are a number of arguments put forth as to why Christians today are no longer under those Old Testament dietary laws, but let me show you what I believe are the real reasons people believe as they do on this subject:

Reason number 1
“My people, your guides lead you in the wrong way. They turn you away from what is right… And worse yet, my people like it that way!”  {Isaiah 3:12; Jeremiah 5:31 NCV, NLT}

 Reason number 2
“He opened the doors of heaven—and rained down manna for them to eat… They ate the food of angels.”  {Psalms 78:24, 25 NLT}
“We hate this wretched manna!”  {Numbers 21:5 NLT}

Pretty amazing (and pretty sad)!

Do you think human nature has really changed much since then? If it has, I doubt it’s been for the better:

“A time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear.”  {2 Timothy 4:3 NLT}

Do you think I’m stretching it when I say that there’s a very real connection between those words, “they will follow their own desires,” and those words, “we hate this wretched manna?”

Let me give you another passage to think about. And I’ll preface it with a portion of our title passage:

“The way is broad that leads to destruction.”  {Matthew 7:13 NASB}
“The way they live is leading them to destruction. Instead of serving God, they do whatever their bodies want.”  {Philippians 3:19 NCV}

“Their god is their stomach.”  {Philippians 3:19 NIV}
“Their god is their appetite.”  {Philippians 3:19 NLT}

Whatever it entailed, surely it wasn’t a good thing that “their stomach” and “their appetite” were “their god.” And just as surely: it won’t be a good thing if we allow our stomach and our appetite to be our God. And do you know what I think all this brings us back to? It brings us back to those words of Christ:

“The way is narrow that leads to life.”  {Matthew 7:14 NASB}

“If anyone would come after me (which obviously is the way that leads to life), he must deny himself.”  {Mark 8:34 NIV}

I think I’ve spent enough time on that aspect of the narrow way. Now I want to look briefly at a different aspect of the narrow way; one that has probably been the biggest stumbling block for God’s people through all time—and still is today. It’s something that’s taught consistently throughout both the Old and the New Testament and calls all of us to some very serious heart searching. And because these next two passages are so important—and so challenging—I think I should remind you of something I said in an earlier chapter: a very real part of God leading us into the path of life is His leading out of all the paths that don’t lead to life, which is ultimately what makes the path of life so narrow:

“Do not love the world or anything in the world, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you.”  {1 John 2:15 NIV, NLT}

“Don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes the enemy of God.”  {James 4:4 NIV}

Because I believe both of those passages are subject to misinterpretation and fanaticism I want to stop for a second and try to make sure I don’t contribute to either of those. When God tells us not to love the world or anything in it He means anything in it that will cause us to head in a direction that will take us away from Him and from the path of life. And when He tells us that friendship with the world is hatred toward Him and makes us His enemy He means friendship in the sense of becoming a partaker with the world in its ungodly practices. But He certainly doesn’t mean that we’re not to become friends with the world in our efforts to be a blessing to them and to help them to know God and the truth.

Before I say anything further, I want to share another passage:

“You are not the same as those who do not believe. So do not join yourselves to them… Come out from among them and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things. Then I will receive you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”  {2 Corinthians 6:14, 17, 18 NCV, NLT, NIrV}

Just like the first two passages, this is another one that I want to be careful not to apply in a wrong way. When God tells us, “come out from among them and separate yourselves from them,” He’s not telling us to have absolutely no contact with the unbelieving world. That would go directly against what the Bible teaches in many places and what Jesus Himself taught in the Sermon on the Mount:

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel… In the same way, let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  {Matthew 5:14-16 NLT, KJV}

“You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of corrupt and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before  them.”  {Philippians 2:15 NLT, KJV}

It’s pretty hard to “let our light shine before men” if we don’t have anything to do with them. But what God is telling us in that 2 Corinthians passage is that if we truly want to be His children we need to be different than the world, which in many ways will cause us to have to “separate ourselves from them,” because as that last passage tells us, this is a “dark world full of corrupt and perverse people.” And yes I realize that paints a pretty negative picture, and yes I realize that there are still many good people in the world, but I also realize, and it’s something all of us need to realize: that it’s God who paints that picture, and as always He’s right. And I hate to say this, but not only is this “a dark world,” but it’s only going to get darker:

“Mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful, proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, and unholy. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will be slanderous and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, and love pleasure more than God. They will have a form of godliness, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that.”  {2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV, NLT}

That’s quite a passage; and one that I can’t help but say a few things about. First, not only is it mind boggling, but it needs to be a real warning to us, that after that long list of horrible things, a few of which were, “scoffing at God,” “unholy,” and “having no interest in what is good,” we then read, “they will have a form of godliness.” That’s quite an amazing contradiction isn’t it? But make no mistake about it: this is God’s portrayal of some portion of the professed Christian world “in the last days.” Second, we need to give some serious consideration to every one of those things mentioned in that list and realize that if God says, “you must stay away from people like that,” He certainly expects His people not to be doing any of the things that are listed there. Third, one of the things mentioned in that list was: they “have no self-control.” Hopefully that will add a little more weight to what I shared earlier concerning the importance of self-control. Fourth, if there’s one item in that list that really causes me to believe that we’re in “the last days,” it’s “disobedient to their parents.” In my mind, and I’m sure in the minds of many others my age, the disobedience of children to their parents today is a thousand times worse than it was when I was a child. And last, but certainly not least, I hope you’ll really think on those words, “they will reject the power that could make them godly.” There’s nothing God wants more than to make us godly; and He has an abundant supply of “power” to accomplish it. And I’ll remind you:

“The way is narrow that leads to life.”  {Matthew 7:14 NASB}
“The way of the godly leads to life.”  {Proverbs 12:28 NLT}

 There’s another passage that I want to include here:

“That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”  {Luke 16:15 KJV}

That’s quite a contrast! And I hope I can help you to understand that we’ll never in heart comply with those commands to love not the world, to not be friends with the world, and to separate from the world, if we see through the eyes of “men,” because we’ll never in heart turn away from that which we “highly esteem.” On the other hand, if we learn to see through God’s eyes, which means learning to accept His estimate of things and not our own—and that involves a definite growing process—putting away those things of the world will become pretty much second nature, because nobody wants to do things that to them are an “abomination.”

Because it’s such a huge subject, I didn’t really want to get into the specifics of what it is in this world that we’re not to love and that we’re supposed to separate ourselves from, but because they’re so powerful, and so heavily influence not only the non-Christian world but the Christian world also, there are two things I feel I have to touch on.

First: while there may be some rare exceptions, if there’s anything in this world that’s highly esteemed among men while being abomination in the sight of God, and if there’s anything in this world that God wants His people to separate themselves from, it’s Hollywood and all the filth and propaganda that come out of it. (I would place documentaries and educational programs in a different category, but even they’re dangerous because they contain much of the same immoral commercials and advertisements.) For the most part, Hollywood and T.V. are at best a waste of time, and at their worst are the greatest agent for polluting the souls and brainwashing the minds of human beings that the devil has ever devised. There’s even evidence that just the act of sitting in front of those constantly flashing images is a form of hypnotism and has a negative effect on the action of the brain.

I’m sure some will say this is going too far, but for the most part, if you’re really serious about being a Christian, which includes walking in the narrow way and being separate from the world, you would do well to get rid of your T.V.

Activity #2, though probably not quite as pervasive as T.V., but every bit as powerful: All music that doesn’t direct our thoughts and feelings toward heaven. And for those of you who believe that “Christian Rock” (or anything close to it) is okay, let me just say one thing to try to convince you otherwise. Years ago one of the major news magazines had on the cover of one of its issues: “New Lyrics for the Devil’s Music.” And yes, it was referring to Christian Rock. Even the secular world, which shouldn’t be anywhere near as wise and discerning as God’s children, realizes that attaching Christian words to bad beat and bad rhythm—and yes, there is such a thing as bad beat and bad rhythm—doesn’t transform that bad beat and bad rhythm into something good. And for those of you wanting to become enlightened on the subject of music and what it does to the mind and body there’s plenty of material out there.

(While the only music my wife and I listen to is old-fashioned hymns, from what I’ve learned classical music is supposed to be good for us also.)

In leaving this aspect of the narrow way let me remind you how important it is to God that we walk a different path than does the world:

“You are not the same as those who do not believe. So do not join yourselves to them… Come out from among them and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord… Then I will receive you. And I will be  your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”  {2 Corinthians 6:14, 17, 18 NCV, NLT, NIrV}

Now I’d like to bring this chapter to a close by sharing our title passage with you one more time, only this time I’m going to preface it with a few other wonderful truths Jesus spoke. You’ll notice that all four passages end with the same important word. And to me, each of the other three passages points progressively more toward our title passage:

“I am come that they might have life.”  {John 10:10 KJV}

“The words that I speak unto you… they are life.”  {John 6:63 KJV} 

“The Father who sent me gave me his own instructions as to what I should say. And I know his instructions lead to eternal life.”  {John 12:49, 50 NLT}

“The way is narrow that leads to life.”  {Matthew 7:14 NASB}

 *******************

 Since writing this chapter I came across an article on the internet that I couldn’t help but want to share with you. I just hope you’ll find it as interesting as I did. (I’ll abbreviate it just a bit.)

                                                       The Obesity Epidemic in America’s Churches
“Good morning, I am Pastor Doug and I am obese.” Pastor Doug Anderson shocked his Sunday morning congregation at Rose Heights Church with these uncommon and uncomfortable opening remarks. Just prior to this sermon Pastor Doug Anderson of Tyler, Texas had a personal wake up call during his annual visit to his primary care physician.

He learned that his body mass index had effortlessly slipped into the obese range and he was no longer just an “overweight” pastor. Stunned by the word “obese” now attached to his name he realized that it was time for a personal lifestyle makeover.

Today in America Pastor Doug is not alone. Nearly one-half of the American population will be obese by 2030 according to a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The researchers estimate that this will result in an additional $66 billion dollars in health care expenditures, 7.8 million new cases of diabetes, 6.8 million new cases of stroke and heart disease, and 539,000 new cancer diagnoses. This epidemic of obesity and commonly associated diseases creates a gash in the fabric of our country that threatens the future of individuals, families, and our nation.

But a potentially larger crisis is looming in the pews of churches across America. In fact, statistics suggest that the church today may indeed be in worse condition than the general population. A 2006 Purdue study found that fundamental Christians are by far the heaviest of all religious groups led by the Baptists with a 30% obesity rate compared with Jews at 1%, Buddhists and Hindus at 0.7%.

This study prompted the lead researcher, Ken Ferraro to say, “America is becoming a nation of gluttony and obesity and churches are a feeding ground for this problem.”

Similarly, a 2011 Northwestern University study tracking 3,433 men and women for 18 years found that young adults who attend church or a bible study once a week are 50% more likely to be obese.

The Pawtucket Heart Health Program found that people who attended church were more likely than non-church members to be 20 percent overweight and have higher cholesterol and blood pressure numbers.

Finally, a 2001 Pulpit and Pew study of 2,500 clergy found that 76% were overweight or obese compared to 61% of the general population at the time of the study…

The contemporary church culture has unwittingly contributed to the rise in overweight and obese parishioners. Today it is rare to hear a sermon preached on the stewardship of the physical body and even more rare on the vice of gluttony; it has become a secret and acceptable vice in the modern church.

Tables at potlucks strain under the weight of pound cakes, pizza, fried chicken and cheesecake and fellowship is not considered complete without these rich, decadent –and yes addictive foods.

The sacred Sunday ritual between services is donuts, bagels and cream cheese, and coffee with cream and sugar.

And finally, Platonic dualism, the belief that the spirit is sacred and the physical body is corrupt and inconsequential, perpetuates this problem and assists many in justifying unhealthy nutritional habits.

Churches across America stand at a critical crossroad urgently in need of a decision to be a cause or a cure to the growing epidemic of disease and obesity. But in the midst of every crisis is an opportunity.

In January of 2012 Pastor Doug made a decision to change his lifestyle and be a living example for his congregation. Three months later he was 50 pounds lighter, healthier, and filled with new energy and vitality. More importantly he says that he is a healthier pastor for his church, a healthier husband for his wife, a healthier father for his children.

How did he do it?

He did not join a high tech gym, count calories, purchase expensive meals or join one of the latest fad diets. Instead, he simply shifted his diet away from processed foods, reduced his meat consumption, drank more water, ate as many vegetables and fruits as he wanted and was never hungry, and walked every day: A simple and sustainable lifestyle change.

What is the solution to the obesity crisis in the church? The Church. The intrinsic community and power of small groups are catalytic sources for change that can fuel grass roots movements. Couple this with solid faith based teachings on health, stewardship, and a return to foods provided by their Creator and the church could quickly reverse the obesity trend and serve as a positive influence and resource to surrounding communities.”

(Scott Stoll, M.D. is the author of “Alive!” a member of the Whole Foods Scientific and Medical Advisory board, Team Physician US Bobsled Team, Olympian and Chairman of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Coordinated Health.) (Published June 3, 2012) http:// www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/06/03/obesity-epidemic-in-amer- ica-churches

Since deciding to include that article I looked up Dr. Stoll on the internet.  The following is taken from his website:

                                        A Physician’s Biblical & Scientific Guide to Nutrition
The Center for Disease Control states that more than 75 percent of diseases are preventable or reversible with… no doctors, no medicine, and no surgery!

Sounds impossible, right? And yet, it’s truly so simple and logical that, in our so-called “enlightened” society, it seems ridiculous to us. The solution? Return to God’s diet plan as described on Day 6 of creation in Genesis 1:29. That’s it!

…Departing from God’s divine diet has brought us to the brink of physical disaster!”  {http://drscottstoll.com/books}

I agree completely with Dr. Stoll’s “solution”: “Return to God’s diet plan as described on day 6 of creation in Genesis 1:29.” And that’s why earlier I made the statement: “Actually, this whole subject goes much deeper than those Old Testament dietary laws.” I also agree completely with Dr. Stoll that, “departing from God’s divine diet has brought us to the brink of physical disaster!”

Since I’ve gone this far: Do you remember earlier in the chapter I said that over 50 years ago the A.M.A. said that making certain dietary changes could prevent 90-97% of heart disease? Here’s where I got that:

“As long ago as 1961, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that eating a vegetarian diet could prevent an estimated 90-97% of heart disease cases.”  {Prescription for Dietary Wellness, pg. 222, 2003 edition}

Two excellent (and very convincing) DVDs on the subject are “Forks Over Knives,” an award winning documentary starring two renown doctors—one a leading heart surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic for years, and the other a leading nutritionist from Cornell University and the director of the largest study on diet ever conducted. The other DVD is “Diet for All Reasons,” by Dr. Michael Clapper. (You can get “Forks Over Knives” on eBay for less than $15.)