âEnter you in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in there at: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find itâ (Matt. 7:13-14).
The paths to two very different destinationsâeternal life and eternal destructionâare both described as a way, which can more specifically be translated to mean a âroad.â Each course has a point of entry, described in this verse as a gate.
God has painted a vivid picture of our potential destination. We know that those who obey Him now have the wonderful opportunity of entering into the joy of the Lord and having perfect health, possessing godly wisdom and understanding, receiving protection from devastating events foretold by Christ, living in beautiful accommodations in a city from heaven, and helping others across the world to learn how they can experience the same.
Yet picturing ourselves in this position is of no use if we never actually have the opportunity to experience it. What good is it to know all there is about the Kingdom, but fail to be in it?
God has certain requirementsâthings we must doâto enter it. While no one can earn the wonderful things He has in store for His people, we can and must qualify.
This has two elements. Think of them as eligibility and advancement.
To be considered a candidate for His reward, we must first be eligible. We recently heard this step compared to an admission fee for a college or university. Fees are required just to get into such institutions of higher learning. Without paying these costs, would-be students are not even admitted into the classroom to be exposed to the knowledge.
These fees in and of themselves do not guarantee a diploma, however. Scores of college dropouts can attest to this. Students must pay them upfront to merely have a chance at graduation.
This illustration is reinforced by Christâs description in Matthew of a âgateâ blocking access to the âway, which leads unto life.â The traveler, in this case a potential Christian, must do what it takes to first pass through this entry point. By doing so, he becomes eligible to proceed on the path to the Kingdom.
Passing through the gate and stepping onto the road to the Kingdom is significantâbut it is not enough. Once on the path to eternal life, we must do what it takes to remain on it and, more important, advance toward our destination.
As shown in the Bible, this way is narrow and difficult. This should be expected given that attaining anything worthwhile is usually hard.
Of course, eternal life is no exception. There are many obstacles along the road to the Kingdom of God. They can be summarized as Satan, society and self. All three in their own unique way vie to knock us off our course.
Living Godâs Way is not easy. By working through these obstacles, however, a Christian can move forward and reach his goal.
This Bible study will cover seven requirements one must meet to be deemed eligible for the Kingdom. See these as âfeesâ we must pay or the âgateâ we must enter to qualify to walk the path. From there, the study covers the âsermon on the mount,â which details how to overcome obstacles and advance toward Godâs Kingdom.
Before reading, get your Bible, pen and notebook, or use your computer. Be sure to read all Bible references and take notes on what you learn. You can use index cards or a computer to record important points and scriptures for future reference.
(1) You must repent: Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 8:7; Job 42:6.
Repentance is among the first commands Jesus Christ uttered at the start of His three-and-a-half-year ministry. Repentance is a requirement for a Christian to receive Godâs Holy Spirit.
The natural mindâhuman natureâis inherently wicked and against God. To repent means to turn from this mindset or, as can be translated from the Greek, think differently. This is what occurred in the life of Job.
Godly repentance goes beyond human guilt and sorrow (II Cor. 7:10). It is a gift that must be given by God that allows us to see our sinful selves as He does.
(2) You must believe the gospel: Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 4:17; II Corinthians 4:4; Matthew 13:11.
Along with repentance, Christ instructed people early in His ministry to believe the gospel. The gospel is the good news of the coming Kingdom of God. The âkingdom of heavenâ and the âgospel of Christâ listed in the scriptures are synonymous as well.
Christ was the Messenger of the gospel, not the message itself as some proclaim. Satan has blinded the minds of the world from the true gospel. Thus, knowledge of it separates Godâs Church from the religions of this world. We must be careful not to take this awesome knowledge for granted. It unlocks tremendous understanding about the mysteries of the Kingdom spoken of in parables and becomes vital knowledge for navigating the road to the Kingdom.
(3) You must be baptized: Romans 6:23; Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:4; I Peter 3:21; II Corinthians 5:17; Matthew 3:16.
Man, through his actions, has earned the death penalty. A loving Savior paid this required price with His physical life, after which He was resurrected by the Father. Thus, we can be redeemed to God by Christâs blood and death and saved from eternal death by His resurrected life.
As followers of Christ, we must reenact His sacrifice through the symbolic act of baptism. The old man is buried in the waters of baptism, after which a ânew creatureâ emerges. Following baptism, we must discontinue the actions that put us under the death penalty in the first place.
Christ came âstraightway out of the water,â which shows that His baptism was by full immersion. This set a pattern for us to follow.
(4) You must obey all that God says to do: I John 3:4; Isaiah 59:2; John 8:11; Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 7:2; Deuteronomy 5:10; John 14:15; I John 2:4; Romans 13:9.
Sin is the transgression of Godâs Law. It separates us from a perfect God and blocks our prayers from being heard. Christâs sacrifice establishes a connection between us and God the Father.
To remain in contact with Him, however, we must not continue in habitual sin. As with a loving parent, our Creator requires obedience from children who cannot otherwise discern right from wrong.
While the vast majority of professing Christians believe that Jesus Christ did away with the requirement to obey Godâs Law, including the Ten Commandments, this is a gross misunderstanding of what are otherwise plain verses.
It is no coincidence that human nature would like the Law to be done away. Satan, the most disobedient being of all, knows that the Law and sin are inextricably tied together. Without the Law, there is no sin (Rom. 3:20; 5:13).
In Satanâs world (II Cor. 4:4), he strives to get rid of the Law and with it any accountability for disobeying God. His deception goes so far as to have people think that âdoing away with the Lawâ is why Christ came and sacrificed Himself.
This is not the case. Obeying the Law and Ten Commandments is directly connected to showing love for God. One cannot claim to love or even know God if he does not obey Him. Clearly, the Ten Commandments are still in effect today and keeping them is a prerequisite to the path to life.
(5) You must love God more than others and yourself: Luke 14:26; Deuteronomy 6:5; Luke 10:27; Exodus 20:1-17.
For eligibility on the path to the Kingdom, God must be preeminent in our lives. Of course, family and others close to us should be important. Yet their significance cannot be above God. Even caring about our own lives is lower in priority. By loving God with âall our heartâ and âall our might,â we are better able to love others. This is supported by the arrangement of the Ten Commandments, in which the first four commands can be seen as reflecting love toward God and the remaining six love toward fellow man.
(6) You must take up your cross and follow Christ: John 19:17; Luke 14:27; Mark 8:34-37; Matthew 10:38; II Timothy 3:12; Acts 14:22.
After experiencing excruciating agony at the hands of Roman soldiers, Christ was forced to carry a cross (or stake) to the place of His death. Graphic descriptions of this event demonstrate how Christians must be willing to suffer as they obey God.
While we do not have to endure scourging and crucifixion, we must be willing to deny ourselvesâeven to the point of death. Otherwise, we are not deemed worthy to take on the name of Jesus Christâthat is, being a âChristian.â The path to the Kingdom of God is through âmuch tribulation.â
(7) You must be willing to forsake all that you have: Luke 14:33; 12:15; Mark 10:17-21; Colossians 3:2; Matthew 13:44.
Putting God first includes a willingness to forsake our wealth and possessions. It can be difficult to give up what we may have spent a lifetime accumulating. This willingness, however, becomes the ultimate demonstration of our priorities. Even if we keep all Godâs other laws faithfully, yet we remain covetous, we cannot enter Godâs Kingdom. Therefore, we must set our mind on things that are above instead of those that are earthly or material.
For example, the knowledge of the Kingdom and of the actions required to enter it are truly more valuable than anything physical and temporary. We must be willing to give up everything for this extraordinary opportunity.
These seven eligibility requirements can seem formidable, and without Godâs help they would be. Yet remember that these stipulations merely qualify a Christian for a chance at eternal lifeâthey represent the bare minimum. Adherence to these conditions alone makes you a servant, but still an unprofitable one in the eyes of God (Luke 17:9). Those bound for His Kingdom must be willing to go above and beyond to advance.
How to Move Forward
Christâs âsermon on the mountâ lays a foundation for all that a Christian must do to be deemed âprofitable.â This Bible study splits the sermon into four sections that describe what a person following the way or path to the Kingdom must do to advance.
(8) Matthew 5:3-12: The Beatitudes.
The sermon begins with a summary of eight ways Christâs followers could be âblessed,â which means to be supremely happy or well off. Notice that each has an element of love or outgoing concern for others.
The requirements include: (1) humility; (2) empathy for brethren who are suffering and for those in the world enduring terrible events; (3) meekness; (4) a genuine and reoccurring desire for the things of God; (5) a compassionate and merciful attitude; (6) a pure or genuine heart based on the hope of becoming a son of God (I John 3:2-3); (7) the ability to bring peace to a situation where it is not present; and (8) a willingness to suffer for Christâs sake.
The road to the Kingdom is filled with opportunities to display these characteristics. Resolve to become adept at all of them by educating yourself. A thorough examination of each of these elements could result in many, many hours of edifying study. Commit to reviewing these eight elements every so often as part of your Bible study. Then go out and put what you have learned into action.
(9) Matthew 5:17-48: Adhering to the spirit of the Law that Christ validated and magnified.
During this introductory sermon, Christ told listeners that He did not âcome to destroy the law, or the prophetsâ but instead that He had come âto fulfill.â Destroy means to loosen or demolish and fulfill means to make replete or to abundantly supply. He continued by saying that âuntil heaven and Earth passâ no part of the Law would perish.
Clearly, Christ explained that He did not come to throw out the Law, but instead came to first validate it and then to abound in keeping it. His life exemplified the power of the Holy Spirit in the flesh to overcome sin, setting an example for all of us.
Jesus also magnified Godâs Law beyond just adhering to the letter, as the Pharisees were wont to do. He added a spiritual element to the physical requirements.
Christ explained, for instance, that the penalty for murder is not just the result of taking someoneâs life. To be angry with your brother without cause is considered a murderous attitude in Godâs eyes, and can result in the same consequences as committing the act. Christ also expounded on the importance of amiable relationships with others, saying that being reconciled with a spiritual brother is more important than bringing sacrifices to God.
Similarly, Christ expanded adultery beyond the physical act to the thoughts and intents of the heart and to improperly divorcing oneâs wife. He also added instructions on honest dealings, not seeking improper retribution for wrongs committed to you, and maintaining love for allâincluding enemies.
Christ concluded the section by encouraging Christians to âbe you therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.â The word âbeâ can mean will be, which means that by doing the things Christ listed, you will become perfect or complete. This is a process that takes time.
(10) Matthew 6:1-34: Being charitable; communication with the Father; proper fasting; a proper perspective on money and material goods; seeking first the Kingdom.
Christ continued the sermon with what was unfamiliar spiritual instruction to His audience. Many of them had naively taken cues from the religious leaders of the time for such matters, and were therefore unaware of what God was looking for in His followers.
We can all relate to this as we came out of worldly religious customs into Godâs truth and His Church, which means âcalled out ones.â
The religious leaders of Christâs time tended to focus on outward appearances. They wanted to prove to others how âclose to Godâ they were with exaggerated words and actions. It was common for them to grandstand and make a scene while giving to the poor, praying or fasting.
Even today, there are people who similarly strive to impress others. They may boast about how much they sacrifice and give to others, how long they pray and study, or how long and often they fast. The extent of their reward is the accolades they receive of men.
To draw close to God and advance toward the reward of the Kingdom, these deeds must be done discreetly. There is no need to announce your own acts of kindness. Let the silent joy that comes with helping others be your aim.
Prayer and fasting are similar. Let these be private matters between you and Almighty God who is well aware of both actions.
The accumulation of earthly goods is natural for the world. However, this too counters what God expects of Christians. Jesus taught it is impossible to serve both God and wealth. One always takes precedence over the otherâdespite what some would have you believe. We need to fill a vocation to earn a living, yet we should prioritize pleasing God before pursuing money.
When we rely on God for our every need by âseeking first the kingdom,â He will ensure that we are taken care of physically. It will also allow us to âlay up treasures in heavenâ that cannot be corrupted or stolen.
(11) Matthew 7:1-29: Judging others; handling the truths of God; trusting God for spiritual needs; avoiding false prophets; building your life on Christâs sayings.
Christ concluded His sermon with a command against hypocrisy. He warned not to condemn others, otherwise we would receive condemnation from God. In other words, we must address our own shortcomings before we can help others with their shortcomings.
On our journey toward the Kingdom, we must also be careful with how we handle the truths of the Bible. Though we may be excited about all we are learning, it is not our place to preach it to others. Our family and friends are in no position to receive what had to be revealed to us by a loving God (John 6:44, 65).
Only God can fulfill a personâs spiritual needs. As with any loving parent, our heavenly Father will provide us with answers we may have about such matters at the right time and through appropriate means.
Sometimes the answers come through His ministry. Therefore, we must know how to identify who is and who is not a true servant of God. False prophets and ministers are known by their fruits.
As we learned, there will be a group of âministersâ who, despite doing miracles, will be deemed as never having been known by the true Christ. Our individual lives depend on our ability to tell the difference between these and true servants of God.
Jesus ended His address with a powerful illustration similar to that of the difficult road to our eternal reward. He compared a person who hears His sayings and does them to a wise man who built his house on a rock. This personâs dwelling, built on a firm foundation, withstands the winds, rains and floods of life. It offers much needed protection during storms that will inevitably come.
The road to the Kingdom is a lifelong journey. It begins by entering the gate of conversion with all its requirements. From there, your passage toward everlasting life begins. Along the way are valuable opportunities to learn and grow in Godâs character. It is not an overnight process, but one that takes significant time and patience.
Most reading this have already done what is required to begin. Make sure this effort was not in vain. Know that you are not alone on this course. Godâalong with other Christiansâis with you along the way. Stay close and continually check in with Him for more directions and updates on your progress. Determine to remain on the road to salvation.