The Narrow Path
Copyright © August 1, 2017 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.
(All Scripture Verses are from the New International Version of the Holy Bible.)
Jesus warned us several times that we should not believe everything we hear.
Instead Jesus told us that we should seek to find and then follow the narrow path that leads to heaven because the wide path that most people follow only leads to hell.
Unfortunately many religious people today are content to believe whatever they are told, if it is something they want to believe, and if it can be supported by a few scripture verses.
This is one of the reasons there are so many different Christian denominations. Each denomination has decided that it will place its primary emphasis on a few selected scripture verses that support its beliefs and ignore all the scripture verses that contradict those beliefs by stating that those other scripture verses no longer apply today, or they can be safely ignored because they are really not important or relevant.
Some religious people today will only believe what their Church teaches them to believe, and they will only follow the traditions of their Church, regardless of what those traditions are and whether or not they are in alignment with the teachings of the entire Bible. These people frequently defend their behavior by saying that their Church traditions were good enough for their parents, and their parents before them, and therefore those traditions are also good enough for them today. These people basically have no desire to know whether or not they are following the narrow path that leads to heaven or if they are on the wrong path that leads to hell.
Before I provide an example, I want to stress the fact that the following is only an example and the following example is not the reason I wrote this article.
As an example, the Old Testament has prohibitions against the eating of a variety of animals, such as pigs, camels, hares, and a variety of birds and seafood. If a person wanted to prove that it is wrong for a Christian to eat any type of pork then that concept could be supported by carefully selecting scriptures such as the following:
Genesis 1:29 - Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
The basic problem with the above "proof" is that it only uses scripture verses that appear to support the conclusion that pig meat should not be eaten. It does not include any scriptures that are in direct opposition to that point of view.
Leviticus 11:7 - And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you.
Deuteronomy 14:8 - The pig is also unclean; although it has a split hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses.
If a person desperately wanted to defend the above point of view, then he will also have a variety of reasons why it is okay to ignore all the scriptures that contradict his interpretation of the Bible.
On the other hand, if a person wanted to base his or her beliefs on the entire Bible then that person would not accept any interpretation that ignored specific scriptures or that set scriptures aside as not being relevant to the discussion. An individual who wanted to know the truth would carefully search for an interpretation that was consistent with all the scriptures in the Holy Bible.
As an example, the following scriptures clearly indicate that it is okay to eat meat such as pork:
Genesis 9:3-4 - "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it."
Based on the above scripture verses, all foods are okay to eat, assuming they are safe for human consumption, and that includes pork. This would be an example of using the entire Bible to support a concept instead of carefully selecting a few isolated scripture verses to prove a point of view that is inconsistent with other scriptures in the Bible.
Mark 7:18-19 - "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")
Acts 10:9-16 - Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."
"Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean."
The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
Romans 14:10 - Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean,
1 Timothy 4:3-5 - They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
Searching for the Truth
Most people will never take the time to read the entire Bible, or to even do a simple word search on a digital copy of the Bible about a topic they are interested in.
Instead most people chose to believe everything they hear in the Church they attend regardless of whether or not it is consistent with the entire Bible. The basic reason they will believe anything is because it eliminates the need for them to study the Bible for themselves. They are perfectly content to believe any interpretation of the Bible if it can be supported with at least two or three scripture verses.
On the other hand, there will always be a few people who want to make sure that what they believe is consistent with the entire Bible so when they stand before God they will not have to plead ignorance of the Bible as the reason they lived their entire lives believing everything they heard in whatever Church they attended, or that they read in some type of book other than the Bible.
Proverbs 14:15 - A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.
The purpose of this article was not to cause you to doubt the teachings you hear in the Church you attend. The leaders in most Churches are faithful servants of God and they teach the Bible based on how they feel led by God.
Proverbs 14:12 - There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
Matthew 7:13-15 - "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."
2 Peter 2:1 - But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.
Colossians 2:8 - See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
Mark 7:6-8 - He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: " 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."
Matthew 13:14-15 - In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: " 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'
Luke 8:18 - Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.
2 Timothy 2:14-15 - Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
The purpose of this article was not to encourage the formation of another new Christian denomination or a new religion. In my opinion, the world already has more than enough denominations and enough religions. If you believe in an eternal God who is all knowing and who is all powerful, then it does not make good sense to believe that God has recently changed His mind and that He now wants people to worship Him in some new way based on the teachings of some new prophet.
(Note: Some major Christian denominations are gradually making some small changes in a few of their basic foundational beliefs. In my opinion, some of these changes are bringing their denominational beliefs into a closer alignment with the teachings of the Holy Bible. However, in my opinion, some denominations are changing their basic foundational beliefs in order to bring them into alignment with the current politically correct philosophies of the world and these denominations are drifting further and further away from the teachings of the Holy Bible.)
The reason I wrote this article was to encourage you to take the time to read the Bible yourself. This would help you to know when scripture verses are being correctly interpreted and when some scriptures are not being correctly interpreted because the proposed interpretation does not agree with other scriptures in the Bible.
If possible, you might also wish to consider the purchase of a digital copy of the Bible so that you can do a word search on a topic you want to know more about so that you can find every scripture in the Bible that has that word in the scripture verse. Then you can form your own conclusion about what the entire Bible says instead of putting your confidence in a few carefully selected scripture verses that may lead to a wrong conclusion.
As a member of a Church it will be easier for you to improve your understanding of the Bible if you do not confront the other members in your Church about their beliefs. As you grow in your understanding of the Bible then you will gradually improve your knowledge of what the entire Bible says and this means you will be growing in the faith and you will be gradually improving your beliefs so that they more closely align with the entire Bible. This process will continue for your entire life and at the end of your life after you have read the entire Bible many, many times, then you may be surprised as you think back on some of the things you firmly believed after you finished reading the entire Bible from cover-to-cover the very first time.
On the other hand, it is very difficult for the leaders of a Church to modify their beliefs for the following reasons:
Sometimes a Church leader will gradually realize that the Bible actually teaches something different than what he has believed and preached for many years. When this happens the leader will also realize that most of the people in his Church will not be willing to change their beliefs and if he makes an issue out of the topic then he will cause serious problems within his Church. Therefore he will usually avoid preaching on that specific topic in the future in order to maintain harmony within his Church. This allows him to continue to be of service to God and to lead more people to Christ while avoiding a topic that may be too controversial for most of his Church members to accept.
- They have been taught to interpret the Bible in a specific way and it is difficult to set aside a concept they have been taught is the truth by people they respect.
- They are part of a larger denomination and to remain in good standing in their denomination they must adhere to the basic beliefs of their denomination.
- They have been teaching what they believe for many years and it is difficult for a person to admit that what they have been saying for many years was not correct.
- The members of their Church expect their leaders to have very specific beliefs and if a leader does not adhere to those beliefs then that leader will forfeit his position as a leader of their Church.
Please do not expect to find a Church that believes exactly as you do. The body of Christ is composed of many different people and none of those individuals have a perfect understanding of the Holy Bible, and that includes both you and me. As long as we continue to read the Bible then we will gradually grow in the truth and each one of us will always be at a different level of maturity if we compare ourselves to the other people in our Church. We will also be at a different level of maturity if we compare our current beliefs to what we personally believed just one year ago.
Although we will be continually maturing in the Christian faith, we should not be frequently changing our Church membership in a never ending search to find a Church that exactly matches our current understanding of the Bible. Instead we should be content to remain in our current Church and to serve God in a manner that does not cause problems within our Church.
On the other hand, if we gradually discover that the Church we are attending has too many of their fundamental beliefs based on the traditions of their Church and those traditions are in complete disagreement with what the Holy Bible actually teaches, then we should seriously consider searching for a new Church that more closely teaches what the Holy Bible teaches. This is a very personal decision and it is not a decision you should make until after you have diligently prayed about it and you have asked God to guide you to the Church that He wishes you to attend.
In your opinion, do you think that a "good person" should know the true answers to the following questions?
- Does it matter to God how a person worships Him? (One possible answer.)
- Is the entire Old Testament in the Holy Bible truly the inspired Word of God?
- Is the entire New Testament in the Holy Bible truly the inspired Word of God?
- Is it okay to put more faith in some other religious book instead of the Holy Bible? Is it okay because the other book says it is okay?
- Should a person carefully follow all the teachings in some other religious book instead of the Holy Bible?
- Is faith in Jesus Christ the only way to have your sins forgiven so you can enter heaven?
- Does a person have to be water baptized in order to enter heaven? (One possible answer.)
- Does a person have to eat unleavened bread and drink the cup at the Lords' Table in order to enter heaven?
- Does a person have to do good works in order to enter heaven? (One possible answer.)
- Is a person required by scripture to give 10% of their total income to their Church as part of their regular worship of God? (One possible answer.)
- Are there any valid reasons in the Holy Bible for a divorce? If so, then can a divorced person remarry? (One possible answer.)
- Is it morally wrong for a person to consume alcohol in moderation? Is it morally correct to criticize a person who consumes alcohol? (One possible answer.)
- Is it morally wrong for a person to consume nicotine or use tobacco? If nicotine is wrong, then can the same exact scriptures also be used to morally condemn the consumption of caffeine? Is your answer based on what you personally want to believe?
- Does a person have to handle poisonous snakes as part of their regular worship of God?
- Will Christians be raptured at or near the beginning of the Great Tribulation, or sometime near the middle of the Tribulation, or at or near the end of the Tribulation? (One possible answer.)
- Is it okay with God to kill someone or to be cruel to someone if that other person does not share your specific religious beliefs?
- Is your vision of heaven filled with people who love one another and who are kind to one another, or is heaven filled with people who are cruel to other people or who intentionally murder other people in order to please the God they worship?
- Is God the supreme final judge of the eternal destiny of all people or has God delegated some of that responsibility to you?
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