Charles Stanley - The Two Paths of Life

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The choices you and I make today determine our tomorrows. That's why we have to be careful what kind of choices we make in life. For some people, they make very, very important choices carelessly. They somehow don't look beyond today and they don't look beyond tomorrow. They don't look beyond the future, realizing there are always consequences to decisions we make. Would you not agree that probably all of us have made decisions we wish we could remake? That there are decisions made that we probably regret. If we knew what the consequences were, we would never have made that decision. If we knew where we're going to lead us, we would never make that decision.

So how do you make those choices anyway? Do you make those choices on the basis of your, the influence of others, for example? You make those choices on the basis of money or your health. Or what is it, maybe the opportunity, where does the will of God fit into how you make choices in life? And I say again it's so very important because we live with them. In fact, we've made choices of what road we're going to travel in life. And the truth is, the path you're living today is the path upon which you have chosen to walk out your life. You started back yonder a long time ago, and you've been on this path so long. Did you make a decision?

Well that's how I want my life to work out. That's the path I want to live in. That's what Jesus said. Or did you just sort of find yourself drifting into it? Well, Jesus is crystal clear about the kind of path we should walk on. And He is very clear when it comes to making contrasts, to make it so clear so we know exactly what we can expect. So I want you to turn to the Sermon on the Mount, five, six and seventh chapters of the book of Matthew. And once in a while you'll find some of your friend who will say, Now, I don't believe all the Bible, but I believe the Sermon on the Mount. Well what that tells you is that they haven't read it. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, in the seventh chapter, just a couple of verses I want us to read here. But look at if you will the thirteenth verse of the seventh chapter. He says, and the word He uses "enter" here is a command. He commands us, "Enter through the narrow gate".

Now watch this, "Through the narrow gate". Now skip down to the fourteenth verse where it says the gate, "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it". Go back now, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction". So we're talking about two different gates here. And you have to skip down to see which one He's talking about. So, "Enter the narrow gate". This gate, "The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it". And then, back again now, "Enter through the narrow gate". Then we're changing gates, "For the gate is wide and the way is broad and that leads to destruction, and there are many people who enter through it".

So what Jesus is simply saying is this. There are only two ways to live. That is, we walk the path of righteousness, walk the path that's godly or we walk the path that's full of destruction and ruin in a person's life. The important thing is this. You're walking on a path. You've chosen that path. It has consequences, good or bad, depends on which path it is. And I want you to listen carefully to this message. So let's look at this first path and He calls it the broad way. So when you look at that, He talks about the wide gate. Now what is He talking about? He's talking about that lifestyle and that pathway, if you choose that wide, then you can have all kind of diversities of beliefs. You can believe most anything in the world you want to believe, all kind of philosophies and opinions. And people have all kind of religions and everything seems to be fine. And you have your religion, I have mine, but on the path we walk, we don't criticize each other.

We choose what we believe in life. We don't talk about Jesus necessarily or the Bible; we just enjoy life and move on, on the broad path. And it's a place of freedom and we don't worry about consequences. That's the broad, wide path. This is a path, He says, that's crowded. And that is, He said, Many are in this path. And if you'll look around you, for example, today as a follower of Jesus, in some circles you find yourself in you have to look for the believer. You have to find the Christian. There was a time when most people in this country believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, believed the Word of God, that's no longer true. There are many people in this country who do not even know who Jesus is. You'd be surprised the people, when you talk about Jesus, they'd say.

And I was talking to someone the other day and I said, Do you have a Bible? If I'd a been a betting man, I'd a bet surely he had one or two or three Bibles. And at this point in his life he said, No. Listen. This is no longer the Christian nation it used to be. Jesus and the Word of God and the Christian does not have the place we used to have. And what mean, and what that means is that people have stopped listening to the Word of God. They have decided to walk a certain way. And that crowd's getting larger and larger all the time. They want to be able to do what they want to do, when they want to do it, as they want to do it. And they think in their crowd they're the strongest and on and on they go. That's the broad way. The broad way is ungodly. It's undisciplined. It allows all kind of things. You can drink all you want to drink, gamble all you want to gamble. You can have all kind of sexual immorality. You can have it your way.

That is, in other words, they call this the free way. It is not the free way. Jesus called it the way of destruction. But people today want freedom. They say, I want freedom to do what I want to do, go where I want to go. I don't want anybody telling me what I can do and what I can't do. Fine. That's the path, that's the crowded path; that's the broad way. That's the way of the ungodly. And so, if that's what you want, you can have it. The path of freedom, the path of liberty, now you can do what you want to do, when you want to do it. It's nobody else's business but yours. Yes, there is. You cannot live apart from the knowledge of Almighty God. He knows where you're headed, why you're headed there. And He will do His best to keep you off that path, change paths; but if you insist on living that kind of life, you will end up with the consequences that that pathway provides.

Then I think it's the way of darkness. You see, if you'll think about it for a moment, go back to Proverbs chapter four for a moment and let's look, if you will, in the nineteenth verse. Because you see, if you'll think about this. Isn't it interesting that bars and places like that, and I guess nightclubs, haven't been to any but the way the world operates, isn't it interesting that they cut the lights down real low. That it's real dark. You know what? That's scriptural. Listen to this, "The way of the wicked is like darkness". They're walking in darkness, because they have shut Christ out of their life. And when you shut Christ out of your life, you've got a major problem.

So, look if you will on to John, that say, John three sixteen. This is the same chapter of John three sixteen. And people say, Well I believe in John three sixteen, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would should not perish but have everlasting life". We're coming back to belief for a moment. But listen what, in the same chapter, people say, Well, I believe Jesus said that. Well, let me tell you something else Jesus said, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world". Speaking of Himself, "And men loved the darkness rather than the Light, because their deeds are evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that their deeds will be exposed".

And this is just the clear teaching of the Word of God. Jesus says, I'm the Light of the world. Now watch this. And He says, Now when He leaves, you and I are the light of the world. So that our life is to be a light in a darkened world, a darkened community, wherever you live, a darkened household. You can be a child of God in a household and everybody else is there is lost. He says when He left, we're the light. And He says the unbelieving world hates the light. And I was listening to this atheist on television the other day and he was being interviewed. And I thought to myself, I felt sorry for him, because he couldn't answer any question. What do you believe? Well, You know what? If you're an atheist, what do you believe? Well, I believe I ought to have my rights.

Well you can have all the rights you want. But what's going to happen when you die? You don't believe in God? Wait till you get there; and wait till you start breathing your last breaths. You're going to want somebody to tell you the truth, and tell it to you fast. All the stuff that you and I hear, We don't believe in Jesus. We don't believe in the Bible. And now, for example, I hear there, atheist churches. So I want to say, What do y'all sing? What do you talk about? Who's the leader? What hope do you have? What assurance do you have? What's your purpose? In other words, just getting together to do what? And so, Jesus said it's very clear. That path, He says it's the path that leads to, listen, not only disappointment, it's the pathway that leads to destruction.

And He asks a question in Mark the eighth chapter, look at that for just a moment. The eighth chapter of Mark, beginning in verse thirty-four. "And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them," look at this, "If anyone wishes to come after Me," that's to follow Him, "he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me". Listen, to become a believer is more than just saying, I believe in Jesus. You can believe in a lot of things. We have to be clear about what He means about belief. Then He says, "And whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it". And then He asks this question, I want to challenge you to answer, "What does it profit a man, or a woman, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul"?

What's the answer to that? Listen to me carefully. Jesus never spoke anything but the truth. And what He's doing in this passage is warning us there are only two paths, not three, but two paths. And He says in this passage that it is a way of destruction, disappointment, darkness. It's the broad way. It's the wide way. It's the way of the ungodly. Then He says there is another path. And listen to what He says in this passage now. He says, "Enter through the narrow gate". And how does He say about that? "For this gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it".

That is, comparatively there'll be few Christians, compared to the world's population, few Christians. It is our job to get the truth of the knowledge of Christ to everybody on the face of this globe, and that's what we're attempting to do; and succeeding at it, by the grace of God and the power of the God and the work of the Holy Spirit; and many, many missionaries and many, many people who are preaching the gospel in every language possible all over the world. But we'll always be outnumbered. And what He's simply saying here is this. This narrow way is just that, it is the narrow way. And that is in the narrow way, you don't have a mixture. Well a little bit of this religion, little bit of that religion. Or a little bit of this is okay and a little bit of that's okay. You don't have a mixture of lifestyles. You don't have a mixture of attitudes about God and I believe in this god or that god or the other. This is the way that Jesus calls all of us to follow.

And when you see that He says it's narrow, it requires discipline. If you live a godly life, there are some things you won't allow in your life. And I see parents, for example, who are allowing everything imaginable in their life and in their household; and then they get all upset because their kids get on drugs and they get on, drinking and sex and everything else. And you want to ask the parents, Well, what kind of pattern did you set in your home? What kind of language did you talk about? Was every third or fourth word in your, in your family a curse word because you just wanted to be smart? And I hear people use words that I would not repeat. You're misusing the name of Jesus. But He is not a word of profanity, He's the Son of God. The holiest name that there is.

So the narrow way, He says it's the way of the few. Jesus said, one time to His disciples. Will you too walk away? His crowd got so small, He had just a handful of people following Him because they didn't like the idea of disciplining and your life, your crucified life on the cross and being obedient to God. And so, you think about this. If you want to get a crowd, you appeal to the crowd. What appeals to the crowd? Freedom, liberty, have your way, do it as you please, everybody enjoy life. Enjoy life for the moment, but that's it. It's so deceptive, and yet, the narrow way, He says it's the way of the few, few there be that find it. It's the way of wisdom, for example. Go back to Proverbs again, the fourth chapter, and look what he says , The narrow way is the way of wisdom.

How do you want to live your life? How do you want to walk it out? You want to walk wisely. The whole book of Proverbs is all about how to live out our life wisely. Listen to this fourth chapter of Proverbs and the tenth verse. He says, "Hear, my son, and accept my sayings". Watch this, "And the years of your life will be many; I have directed you in the way of wisdom". Look at that. This is what God is saying. He says, I've directed you in the way of wisdom whether you heard it or not; whether you chose it or not it's a path you choose, "I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths".

When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; Or hindered, "And if you run, he says you will not stumble. Take hold of instructions; do not let go". Listen, "Guard her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not proceed in the way of evil men". It can't be any clearer. There's a path of wisdom, righteousness, holiness, godliness. I didn't say anything about being easy. There's nothing easy about living a godly life. But I'll tell you one thing. When it comes to what our heart desires, our soul cries out for of peace and joy and happiness and confidence and assurance and eternal life and true genuine friendships and all the rest, that's the path. Few there be that find it.

On the other path: crowds. You don't see all the lights and all the glamour on the narrow path, but it's the right path, the path of wisdom. And it's the path of following Jesus. Listen to what Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me". Ah! They say, that's being narrow-minded. It is. It's very narrow-minded. Listen. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me". Somebody says, Well I don't believe He's the only way. Well, let me ask you a couple of questions. Number one, if He's not the only way, who's going to deal with your sin?

You say, Well, my sin's not so bad. That's your opinion. A holy God says your sins are evil and wicked and vile in His eyes. What are you going to do with your sin? Well, I'm just going to confess it. Did you know that confessing sin is not what removes the penalty of sin from your life? You say, Well, I go to church and confess my sin every week. I'll bet you confess the same thing every week also. Confessing your sin does not remove it. Watch this carefully. When Jesus came to this earth as the virgin-born Son of God, He came sent by the Father. He came sent by the Father for the primary purpose of laying down His life on the cross, shedding His blood as the ultimate final sacrifice God prophesied all the way back to the beginning of time. He laid down His life on the cross in order for God to be able to forgive you of your sin. He paid your price.

The Bible says that God said, The soul that sinneth, it shall die. If there's no crucifixion, no shedding of blood, there's no payment for your sin. This is why the cross is so precious to all of us who are believers. We understand what it is. It is the symbol of God's awesome love and payment for the sin of mankind. In order for God to be just, in order for God to be truthful, He had to pay our sin debt Himself. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, laid down His life on the cross. That satisfied the requirements of God for the penalty of sin. Therefore, when you trust Him as your personal Savior, it's more than just confessing, Yeah, I believe in Jesus. When you trust Him as your personal Savior, you're surrendering your life to Him. And you are accepting His forgiveness, not on the basis that you've confessed it. You have accepted His forgiveness on the basis Jesus died and paid the penalty. This is why confess, confess, confess, confess and you can confess till the day you die, and it's not going to do you a bit of good, until you're confessing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, your only hope, and He came as a sacrifice in order for you to be forgiven by Almighty God.

And, on the basis of that, Jesus Christ being the Son of God; Jesus Christ being God in the flesh for those thirty-three years He was on the earth. When you trust Him as your Savior; that means you're giving up your old way. You're surrendering your life to Him. That's the narrow path. That's the narrow gate. That's where the few are because most people want to have religion and liberty. They want freedom to do anything they want to do and then go to their god and say, Lord, I, in Jesus' name, forgive me, or whoever they're praying to. So I ask you a question. When you confess your sins to God, do you simply say, Lord, I'm asking You to forgive me in Jesus' name or however you say it, amen.

Well, why should He forgive you? In other words, if you just have a guilty feeling and you know you're going to do it again tomorrow, that's not confession. There's not repentance in that. What did Jesus say? He says, Except a man be born again. What does that imply? What does that say? There's got to be a change. A new birth is, is a new life. And Paul said, If any man be in Christ, trusted Christ as Savior, you're a new creation; old things are passed away; behold things have become new. Because now you have Christ living on the inside of you, enabling you, showing you what is right and giving you the power to live a godly life. There are only two paths. And the path that you're living today will determine what happens tomorrow.

And I don't say any of these things to be critical; I'm saying because you need to understand Jesus Christ, the Son of God, will be the One every single one of us stands before, kneels before, stretched out before, whatever, when we stand at the judgment. All the stuff that you hear people tell you, Well, it's going to be like this, He says it is appointed unto man, once to die; and after this the judgment. There is no escape. When you and I stand before Him, if we have been washed in the blood of Jesus, having trusted Him as our Savior, surrendered our life to Him, we're going to be able to stand before Him freely. Only the love of God will be there. If you reject the Son of God, listen, think about this. You reject the only hope you have; you reject the Son of the Almighty God who created this world and its atmospheres and everything around us. You reject Him, whatever your reason for rejecting Him, you'll stand before God and give an account.

There are two paths. You've chosen one already, whichever path that is. You say, Well, how do I get off this path. I'll tell you how. If you're willing to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; and you're willing to acknowledge the fact that God sent Him into this world for the purpose of dying on the cross in order to shed His blood to make the payment for your sin and the sin of the world. You're willing to believe that Jesus Christ crucified was a sacrificial, substitutionary death, in other words, it was for us. You're willing to believe that He's the Son of God and the Savior. You're willing to ask Him to forgive you of your sins and to repent of those sins; to turn away from them by the strength and the help and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You're willing to turn away from that. You're willing to surrender your life to Him totally; and believe in that surrender and that confession that Jesus Christ is forgiving you of your sins; you're accepting that forgiveness and accepting that He has a brand new life for you, and you're choosing to walk in that. He takes you right off that old path, puts you on the new path because now you've become a new person in Christ.

My friend, believe me, if there were any other way, I would tell you. I would tell you. If there's any other way, I would tell you. But you have to decide whether you believe the Word of God or you do not. So let me just ask you this. You say, Well, you know, something about this Bible that bothers me, and so let me ask you this. If for some reason the Bible bothers you, if you don't live by this, what are you going to live by? I'll tell you a better question than that. If you don't die by this, what are you going to die by? And where are you going to spend eternity? In Jesus' name, I trust that you'll be wise enough right now wherever you are to ask God to forgive you of your sins; forgive you for your unbelief; forgive you for walking the path you've been walking; forgive you for the sin in your life; forgive you for all the excuses you've made and all the attempts you've made to quieten your own stinging conscience and tell Him that you're surrendering your life to Him and today you want to become a child of God right now, you can. This is the only way. And the God who wrote this Bible will be the God who judges you and me one of these days. That's why you better stick with the Book.

Father, how grateful we are for Your love for us. I think about how many people, Lord, are traveling a path that's a path of destruction. They have lots of encouragement to keep following that path. But I pray that the gospel of Jesus will so penetrate their hearts they can no longer even live with themselves following in that path, and they'll make the decision to step across to the path that You have for them. It's narrow. Won't be as many people there, but it's the way of eternal life. And we praise You for it, in Jesus' name, amen.

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