Being on the Winning TeamMarch 16th, 2012 by Sergio Gonzalez
For those of you who follow American sports, you know that yesterday marked the beginning of “March Madness.” For those of you who don’t know, “March Madness” is a huge college basketball tournament in which 64 schools compete for the right to be called “National Champions.” These 64 teams are split into four divisions and organized into a single-elimination bracket. The winner of each game plays the winner of another game in their own division. This process continues until there is only one team left. Predicting who will win each game is one of the biggest pastimes in American sports culture. That’s why when Oleg showed me his unique breakdown of the end of Matthew 7, which visualizes Jesus’ description of the broad and narrow way into a bracket, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity.
But do the similarities end there? Surely we’re not competing against anyone else or trying to “eliminate” anyone from walking the narrow way right? Of course not. Yet one of the things I appreciate most about this illustration is that it helps us see that going through the narrow gate, a concept many of us have heard about before, is not just a one step process. It is a journey (or a tourney) that involves constant battles and temptations.
Firstly, choosing between the broad and narrow gate is not always easy. The broad way offers so many temptations, it’s so easy to wander into it. But ultimately, as you can see in the “bracket” above, it leads nowhere.
But once we’ve chosen the narrow gate, our “tournament” isn’t over. Matthew 7:15 – 20 states that we then are faced with the misleadings of “false prophets.” This can be anyone who tries to lead us astray from the narrow path. Thankfully, Jesus gives us the strategy of knowing who is trustworthy and who isn’t based upon their fruits.
The tournament doesn’t end there either. Matthew 7:21 – 23 then stresses how important it is that we have a close relationship with God. There will be those who walk through the narrow gate, who even bear good fruits sometimes (prophesying in His name, casting out demons in His name, and doing many wonders in His name); but ultimately, Jesus never knew them.
But even being close to God isn’t the end. We can know Jesus and hear His teachings, but ultimately we need to act upon them. If we do, we will be like the man who built his house upon the rock. So, in a way, the journey through the narrow gate ends in a lasting home built upon the rock of Jesus Christ.
Do we pass through the “tournament” of our journey through the narrow gate so that we can be saved? Absolutely not! Our salvation is a gift from Jesus Christ, it cannot be earned. Jesus says the narrow gate leads to “life” (Matt. 7:14). Walking the narrow path is not a way to salvation, it is the daily walk that we must take to experience a life filled with the joy and love of knowing Jesus Christ. It is that same love that compels us to bear good fruits for Him, to know Him closely, and to do what He asks of us. Our prize is not a trophy or physical treasure, which “moth and rust destroy” (Matt. 6:19). It is the peace and joy of a life lived close to God.
The gate may be narrow and the way may be fraught with difficult decisions, but we can walk it with the assurance that everyone “who seeks finds” (Matt. 7:8).