10 July 2007

The Two Gates

It's never a coincidence when I read a passage of scripture, hear it talked about on the radio, read about the same concept in a book, then (amazingly enough) hear it preached at a non-denominational military service.

The fact that the chaplain did not use one watered down homile (which I am used to hearing in the usual chaplain services) and talked about entering into His Heaven through the narrow gate was a great relief to hear.

The passage I read was concerning Naaman, the Syrian, being healed by God through His prophet Elisha. It's in 2 Kings 5. The bottom line is this-

When God calls us, He calls us for His purpose (to Glorify Him), through His methods (To Glorify Him), at His timing, at His location, and who He wants.

Naaman was a Syrian/Aram. NOT A JEW. He and His people were unclean. Of course, Elisha was a Jew, and one of God's prophets. In order for Naaman to be healed of his leprosy (Naaman was not only not Jewish, he was a leper, strike two!). Save the point that the Aram/Syrians were the enemies of the Jewish Nation (Israel, the Northern Kingdom).

This dude had three strikes. But what did God do? He demanded that if Naaman wanted to be healed he had to do it His way. Naaman is a picture of all of us Christians. We want to be 'cleansed' the easy way. He wanted to do it with money and gifts. He brought the equivalent of over 75 million dollars to Elisha to be healed. But when Elisha demanded he go through the healing process His (God's) way, Naaman refused. We have all done this. When we finally realize that we must do something uncomfortable and unnatural (Which is God's way), we refuse.

This is our sinful nature. We initially repel all things that are of God. We are depraved. However, if Naaman wanted to be healed, he had to do it through the narrow gate. He had to do it God's way.

Matthew 7:13, Jesus talks about the narrow gate. Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is an excellent picture of a Christian's (and Christian's) spiritual walk. Both gates are together, next to each other. Interestingly enough both paths parallel each other, as a picture of our life here on earth. We sit next to people (in church!) who are on the wicked path and don't even know it. They refuse to cleanse themselves in the Jordan River, as God demanded of Naaman. They are going back home to cleanse themselves in their own 'filthy' water. The water of the world.

So many of us refuse to be cleansed by God's Spirit and His power. It is not a coincidence that in this passage of Matthew Jesus sums it up by saying "Not everyone who cries Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven". Not everyone who raises their hand during an invitation.

Naaman 'walked the aisle'. Naaman 'tithed'. However, the picture paints a man who knew the physical state he was in. He was cursed, as we are cursed with our sin-state. He recognized he could not save him self. He needed others to tell him this after his first denial.

Naaman finally realized he could not do it himself. This is a problem we all have. Naaman was a powerful man, the King of Syria's right hand man, General of all the armies. However, he finally realized his fate. He humbled himself to be washed clean by order of someone else.

Many of us, especially today, wander back to this point. We will consistently refuse to abide by God's instruction. Naaman, as we read it, may have had a full conversion. As he requested soil from Israel to put down in his home/temple so he would offer sacrifices to The God, and not to the gods of Syria/Aram. And he asked for forgiveness for helping his king bow to those gods.

It seem he had a true change of heart. He entered through the Narrow Gate. I am not a theologian, but the next chapter talks about the sons of Elisha, so it seems that Naaman may(hopefully) died, because Syria/Aram are back at their war again...

Anyway. We must enter through the Narrow Gate. We cannot bypass it and say, I'll enter the Narrow Way later. That is not an option. We cannot 'cut in' at the last moment. Jesus said, 'Enter through the Narrow Gate', not join us on the Narrow Path somewhere down the way.

No. That is a very dangerous way to play with one's eternity. It is very serious. It is something we must be ever mindful in our lives as we help others see the two gates. There are two gates. The easy wide open gate leads to eternal destruction. The other gate is the Narrow gate that is difficult to get into, but it leads to Almighty God and His Eternal Glory.

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