Charles Stanley - The Choices We Make
Can you recall a decision or a choice you made years ago, somewhere back yonder in your life, that you really and truly regret? I heard somebody say, "Yeah". Well, why do you think you made that choice? What motivated you? That is, what were you thinking when you made that choice? What motivates you today when you make choices in life? You understand that the choices you and I make today are the choices we live with tomorrow, the next week, the next month, the next year, so that so often we make choices without thinking, without considering not only what the facts are today, but what are the consequences of those decisions, those choices we make in life?
Well, that's what I wanna talk about in this message. And I want you to turn, if you will, to Matthew, and the seventh chapter and two verses in this seventh chapter. Jesus has been talking to His hearers about choices, all kinds of choices that they are to make in their life and in specific areas of their life. Then He comes down to this thirteenth and fourteenth verses in the seventh chapter as to say to them it all ends up being two lifestyles in life. You either have one lifestyle or the other. And so, He pictures that in this way when He says in verse thirteen, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it".
Now, He's just not talking about simply two roads, but He's talking about a choice of lifestyle. You have a style of life that you've chosen the way to live your life. And everybody doesn't have the same lifestyle. And we hear people talking about their lifestyle. For the lifestyle of some people who are very wealthy, it's one thing. For people who are very poor, it' s something else. For people who are educated, it's one thing; those who are not so educated, something else. We all have our own personal lifestyle. But ultimately, spiritually, there are two primary lifestyles. Now, I know what you may be thinking, so I wanna answer it up front.
You say, "Well now, if there are two ways, what about those people who seem to sometime look like they're straddling the median? They're over here and over there". I'm gonna come to that. But what I want us to do, first of all, is I want us to look at the characteristics. Look at what He says when He says that there is a narrow gate and there is a wide one. He says there is a way that leads to destruction and a way that leads to life. On the one-hand, there are few who find it. On the other hand, He says there are many. Now, what is He talking about when He talks about these two ways and these two gates? He's talking about a lifestyle. So let's take what He calls the broad way when He says there's a broad way and there's a narrow way. What does the broad way look like? So, I want us to think about this, and I want ya to listen carefully.
You may say, "Well, I'm a Christian, this doesn't appeal to me". But I'm coming to something that'll show you that, yes, it does apply to every single one of us. So, the broad way, as He says here, certainly one of the characteristics is that it's very wide. Now, spiritually speaking, here's what that means. People who walk the broad way, enter the wide gate, first of all, it's very easy. There are no commitments, no requirements. You just walk through the gate, you just head down that way. The broad way encompasses everything. For example, all kind of philosophies are welcome there, all kind of belief systems, all the passions that men and women have, all of the license, all of the freedom, all of those desires, all those actions, all the habits.
In other words, it's on the broad way you find the alcoholism and the drugs and the homosexuality and the abortion and all the rest, all kinds of sexual sins. On the broad way, the reason they're there is because, you see, everything goes. Everything's acceptable. In other words, we don't want anybody to feel like they're left out, so everything and every belief system is all available on the broad way. So many people, that appeals to them. The second thing I want you to notice is He says it's crowded. Many there be that walk upon that way. The reason it's crowded, there are lots of reasons. But crowded simply means what it says. That's where the majority of people are, why? Because they like what it has to offer. They like the non-restraint and all the freedom.
And so, you have people who are very educated and those not so educated, very poor, very rich. You have every nationality, you have every culture, every language, every color, they're all there. It's the wide, broad way. He says not only that, but there's something else about it. And that is it's the way of the ungodly. That is, evil, the principle of evil is a principle that it rules on the broad way. Now, it may be, to some people's ideas, that maybe say, "Well, that's not so bad, and this is extremely evil".
The truth is evil and wickedness rule on the broad way. That's what it is. It is the way without God. There's no place for God, obedience, Bible, church, all those things. While they may be tolerated in their minds and hearts, there's no real place in their heart for that because, you see, they've made a choice, and they've chosen to live their lives apart from God, away from God. And the truth is, they don't want any interference from Christians. They don't want any interference about church and the Bible and so forth. It's the people who walk on this broad way that want to take the Bible out of the school. Whatever their rationale may be, whatever their interpretation may be, they wanna take the Bible out of the school. They wanna take the prayer out of the school.
You see, that's why it's so crowded. Everybody's invited, and somewhere along the way, there are more people who want sin, disobedience, and the absence of God than there are who want God. So, it is a very ungodly way. It's the way of pleasure and prosperity. Isn't this the strongest appeal to the ungodly? Whatever brings us pleasure, whatever will prosper us. And so prosperity and pleasure and sometimes power and prestige and prominence and all the rest, these are the things that something inside of us desire. That is, that principle of sin, those desires. And so what happens is on the broad way, the broad way, there are enough creative people to make it possible for you to find something in the area of pleasure that will satisfy that longing inside of you.
There are all kinds of promises of prosperity. This is the broad way, this is the world's way, this is a way that ignores God. But it's also a way of darkness. Here's what Jesus said, for example, in the third chapter of John. He said, "This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than light; for their deeds are evil". You know why people like darkness? Because their deeds are evil. Listen to what He said, "For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, for fear of his deeds will be exposed".
Now, what he's talking about is not just incandescent light, but He's talking about the light of truth. And people who live apart from God, they don't wanna hear the truth, they're not interested in the truth. But there's another part of that message, and that's disappointment. Because you see, once you choose to walk the broad way, that is to live your life without God, that's your choice of a lifestyle, leave God out of your life. No matter what the world promises, you're gonna be disappointed. You're gonna suffer disappointment for the simple reason the broad way is an illusion. It is not for real. They offer you promises they cannot satisfy. They cannot give you anything that satisfies the human heart. Maybe the flesh for only a season, but not the human heart, because God created us with a place for Himself. And nothing the world can create, nothing the world can manufacture, nothing the world can think up, nothing the world can reason can satisfy that place in the human heart that God made only for Himself.
So, there's gonna be one disappointment after the other. And ultimately at the end, an awesome, great disappointment. All those plans, all those dreams for happiness and peace and joy and contentment and all the rest, you know what? They never come to fruition because you cannot live your life without God and have peace and contentment and joy and happiness and security. And when you compile all the other things in life that you have, all, listen, all of the finances and all the prestige and prominence and fame and all the rest, and you pile it all up together, it cannot give you one single good night's rest without God. There is no peace, no joy, no happiness, no contentment, momentary excitement and pleasure, but no genuine joy on the inside because you've gotta keep working at it. And there's fear and jealousy and all the rest that goes on.
How do you stay on the top when you get to the top? How do you continually remain as fruitful and as prosperous as you are? And here's what you discover. People who have little are worried about getting more. People who have it all are worried about losing it. And people who are famous are worrying about what's gonna happen to their fame when they reach a little age or whatever it might be. And so, there's always that trap of wondering what the world's gonna think and what people are gonna think. Now, He says, there's another way. And this is a way, the scripture calls or Jesus said, it's the narrow gate, the narrow gate and the narrow way. He says, "For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and," He says, "there are few people who find it".
Now, let's think about it for a moment. He says it's narrow. Isn't it interesting that oftentimes the critics of the Christians will say to us, "You folks are just too narrow". And sometimes we're quick to defend ourselves and say, "We're not narrow-minded". Well, let me ask you a question. How narrow can you be and still be happy, joyful, peaceful, contented, full of life, full of energy, excited about life every day? You say, "Well, you Christians can't be that way because look what you're missing in life". Well, let's look at it this way. The Christian life is a narrow life. In fact, it's far more narrow than some Christians realize.
Somebody says, "Are you folks narrow-minded"? Yes. Yes, I'm narrow-minded, because I believe there's only one God, because there is only one. There is only one Savior. There is only one way to heaven. There is only one way to be saved. There is only one faith that'll get you there. There's only one way to walk with joy and peace and happiness and contentment. There's only one way to walk to have genuine security. There's only one way to die. Fearlessly, confidently, assuredly, you'll wake up in the presence of the Living God. Are we narrow-minded? Yes, we're narrow-minded, absolutely narrow-minded! Do we have peace and happiness and joy and contentment, security? Yes! Do the folks on the broad way have it? No.
So there must be something about this narrow way that's not quite so bad. But you see, sometimes we don't like to be called narrow. Because you see, the narrow way is the way God works in the life of His children. And you know what happens? Because He works in our life, not only are we narrow-minded about those things, but we have this awesome, we can have this awesome perspective about things. And that is because the Holy Spirit is living on the inside of us, we have understanding. We have perception. We have discernment because the light of truth is on the inside of us. We can look at situations and circumstances and understand what's the truth about it? Not what is the lie of the devil? Not what is the lie of the world? Not what is an illusion? Not what is a fake, not what is a counterfeit, not what's camouflaged? What's true, what's real?
And while we may appear to be narrow-minded, the truth is we have a better perspective on things than those without God because you know what? Listen to this. We have the capacity to view things the way God sees them. And while it may appear to be narrow, it's all-encompassing. Are we narrow-minded? Yes. Because we don't want any alcohol in our body. We don't want any tobacco in our body. We don't want any immorality in our life and body. Lot of things we don't want. That is, we don't wanna waste our time, we don't wanna set our goals on things that have absolutely no eternal values whatsoever. We don't wanna be selfish. We don't wanna be greedy. We don't wanna be unkind. We don't want, listen, we don't wanna trample on other people. There are a lot of things about us we don't want. There are a lotta things about the broad way, listen, they don't fit who we are.
So, if you wanna call us narrow, call us narrow. Absolutely. We're so narrow, we love the Lord God above everybody else in the whole world. We're so narrow that we can love everybody no matter what they do to us. There are many things about us that may be called narrow, but you know what? We love it, because it satisfies the human heart. And there is a security that those on the other side cannot have until they choose to walk through the narrow gate and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. He says, "Few there be that will find it". What does He mean by that? Simply this. Compared to the world's population, compared to the people who live in our country, there are few Christians comparatively of the millions of people who live in America. Compared to whole population of the world, there are few of us. It's not how many there are, it's the power of the Holy Spirit within our lives.
So, when you think about what He says, it's the way of the few, it's the narrow way, but it's the way of wisdom. It's the wisest way because, you see, God has the best for us. And the best for us is to follow Jesus. You see, the narrow way is the way of the Lord Jesus Christ. The narrow way is the way of the Word of God. This book right here is a book, listen, it is given to us not only to understand the two different ways and to describe the two different ways, and to characterize them and to distinguish them, but also and primarily this book is for those of us who are of the narrow way, to teach us how to walk it, how to mature in the process.
And so there are only a few comparatively who walk the narrow way. And I would simply ask you the question: Which way are you walking? Are you walking the broad way or the narrow way? Do you like all the freedom just to do as you please and indulge yourself and have the popularity and the freedom and the agreement and all the acceptance that you get? Or is there something inside of you that desires to follow the Son of God? Deep down inside of you, you want to be obedient. You choose to follow Him. Something inside of you who is the Holy Spirit, bearing witness to you, it's the way of wisdom. It is the wisest way to walk because of the consequences now and because of the consequences later.
And think about it. Where does this way end up? When you come to the end of the way, the narrow way, the next step is heaven in the presence of God. When you come to the end of the way on the broad way, the next step is judgment and eternal separation from God for all eternity. Somebody says, "Well, I don't believe that". You know what? Whether you believe it or not does not change anything. Almighty God is the one who's given us the warning. The reason you don't wanna believe it is because you don't like the light.
You say, "Well, how do you know I don't like the light"? Because here's what He said. He said men don't like the light because their deeds are evil and they hate the light. And I would simply say to you: if you're listening to this message and something inside of you is getting angry and you don't like the fact that you're being categorized in one way or the other, ask yourself the question: What is it that's disturbing you? Is it the light of truth is shining on your conscience and making you uncomfortable? And you either have the courage to keep listening to discover the truth, or your fear of discovering the truth, your fear of being exposed because of the life that you're living is making you so uncomfortable, you wanna walk away, cut it off, shut it down, don't wanna hear any more of it. Your response to this message will tell you where you are. There's a broad way and there's a narrow way.
Now, let's think about this for a moment because ask yourself the question: Why, when the narrow way promises so much, it's not the easiest way. It demands faith, commitment, discipline, listen, discipline, determination. There are requirements to walk the narrow way. And one of the tragedies today is that there are too many Christians who do not understand you can't straddle the median. There is a broad way and a narrow way, and I'm coming to that in a moment.
Now listen, watch this. How is it that a person can know that there's a sovereign God who rules everything and overall, that He's a God motivated by love to send His only begotten Son to save us from our sins. He's a God of compassion and love and goodness and mercy. He's a God who's promised to meet all of our needs. He's a God who answers prayer. He comforts us in times of heartache and trouble. He's a God who will be with us in every circumstance of life. He is a God who will take us home to heaven and spend all of eternity with Him. And yet, in spite of that, the majority of people will, listen, will choose to live their lives separated from God. And there are many people who grow up in a home where the Bible was read maybe for some, at least sometime. They maybe grew up in a home where people went to church, and so it's not something that is absolutely foreign to them.
Why is it? You say, "Well, I don't think people just sit down and make a decision: I'm gonna choose this way or that way". That's correct. What happens is we come along in life, and we drift into one. One thing you do not do, you never drift into the narrow gate. You make a choice to go through the narrow gate. You drift into the wide gate, it's wide open, it's the popular way. It's everybody's invited, no requirements, no commitment, just come on. Now, here's what I want you to see. A follower of Jesus lives a narrow life, so encompassing, so fantastic, so energized you wouldn't swap it for anything in the world. But there are some things you don't allow in your life.
Listen, God made it narrow because He loves you. God knows every single thing that'll cripple you, hinder you, handicap you, and destroy you. He knows every one of 'em. So, you know what? He's made our pathway so narrow, He doesn't have those things in there. Why? Because He loves us. And for those of us who walk that way, it's not narrow at all because once you fall in love with the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, you don't think you're being deprived of anything. You don't feel like that you can't have fun in life and enjoy life. You don't think God's keeping anything from you.
You see, world's so deceived, they think, "Well, if I couldn't do these things over here and, in other words, then God doesn't want me to have any fun and He's just, He's got me buckled down". No. You just don't belong there. And if you know that you've been saved, but that's where your heart is, that's where your plans are made, that's the crowd you run with, then you are playing the hypocrite. They don't respect ya, and neither does the believer. Somebody says, "Well, how do I walk that way"? How do you walk that way? Well, listen carefully. He says it's a narrow gate, few there be that find it. A narrow gate, few there be that find it.
So, it means you, listen, you make a deliberate, willful choice to enter that gate, which means this: to walk the narrow way, you've got to enter the narrow gate, and what is that? Listen to what Jesus Christ, the Son of God, said. Listen carefully, except, or unless a man or a woman is born again, they cannot, they will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Very narrow. How do you get onto the narrow way? By confessing your sin, by repenting of your sin, that is turning away from it, by accepting Jesus Christ's death at Calvary as payment for your sin, accepting Him as your personal Savior and surrendering your life to Jesus Christ. That's how you get on the narrow way.
How do you walk on that way? You learn to walk on that way by what? By listening to the Word of God and learning how to apply it to your heart, by endeavoring to build a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ who saved you and who's forgiven you of your sins and who continues to forgive you of your sins. Listen, it is a decision to enter the gate. Watch this, a decision to enter the gate. It is a continuous decision to walk on the narrow path because we have these natural tendencies, and we've all got them. And what we have to do is to learn how to walk that narrow way, not afraid we gonna sin, afraid we gonna disobey God, or all hung up and all tight and all under stress. No. We just live in the presence of our Lord Jesus daily. And when something comes along and somehow we got knocked, we stumble for some reason, we ask Him to forgive us, show us why we did it, show us how to correct it, and move on. And what happens is we grow. We grow as we walk that narrow way. The Word of God is what we feast upon, not what the world has to offer.
You see, the world has all this junky, poisonous stuff to feast on that absolutely destroys and wrecks their life. What do we have? We have to feast on the Word of the Living God. And we can feast on the Word of God, and what happens? We become enriched, we become strong. Our faith is strengthened. Our commitment is strengthened. Our love and devotion to Jesus becomes stronger. And you know what happens as we walk the way, people who are looking for the truth, people who are looking for the light, people who are looking for hope, people who need help, people who are desperately wondering if there's a better way in life, you know what happens? You become the light for them. They see in you what deep down inside they really want.
And you know what happens? You become, you become the vessel God uses to bring them from the broad way to the narrow way. Now, here's a question I wanna ask you. You listening? Say amen. Can anybody look at your life and discover the narrow way? When you go to work on Monday morning, the people who have watched you, watched you work, watched you relate, listen to you talk, listen to what you listen to, watched how you responded to relationships you have. When they look at you, can they say, "Now there is a true follower of Jesus Christ". Or do they say, "Just like the rest of 'em. Christians are all alike, like that. They claim one thing, do something else".
Think about it. Do you wanna be considered? Now listen, here's the deception. You say, "Well now, they would never call me a hypocrite". They don't have to call you that. Do you not have enough sense of self-esteem for yourself to so live that people will see you, that you are who you say you are, that you have the courage of your convictions, that you have a belief system that cannot be altered and changed, that you've made a commitment to Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life, you're not gonna lay that down, that you're willing to suffer if necessary? You're willing to accept rejection, whatever comes your way, but the one thing you will not do is deny Jesus Christ as your Savior and your Lord.
Do you want to live a life where you are viewed by some as being a rebellious renegade and by others a hypocrite? You see, what you don't understand is this. A believer living in the flesh has the approval of none. Not the world, not the believer, nor God. That's why it's so important that every single one of us who is saved become a follower of Jesus, obedient to Him, trusting Him, relying upon Him, and walking in a way that is not perfect, but that is so right and so consistent that the unbelieving world will have to look at us and say, "Now there's one you can trust". Isn't that what all of us should want? Then ask yourself the question: When my family, my friends, my coworkers, or people who observe me from a distance see me, watch me, hear me, where would they place me? In the broad way or on the narrow way?
Father, how grateful we are that the Holy Spirit lives within us to warn us, to caution us, to convict us, and to lead us in such a fashion that we can walk holy and godly before You, knowing that there are millions of people out there looking for hope and so many who walk on the broad way. Deep down inside, they hope we're right. They hope we're right just in case somewhere out there, they desperately need a change of heart, a change of life. I pray the Holy Spirit will convict every single one of us. Let us examine our hearts to see and ask the Holy Spirit to point out those expressions within us in our daily lifestyle that would cause the world to call us a hypocrite and fellow believers to see us as rebellious. May Your righteousness shine in our lives is our prayer in Jesus's name, amen.