We need to see one more great truth from this passage. Jesus said, “Enter in at the narrow gate” or, as the parallel saying in Luke’s Gospel puts it, “Strive to enter in” (Luke 13:24). Clearly it is not enough merely to listen to preaching about this gate or to study its architecture. It is not enough to praise it. It is not enough to stand by it. It must be entered. And this means that there must be a personal decision to enter into Christ by everyone who comes under the preaching of the Gospel.
The idea that a decision is necessary in order to become a Christian is strange to many people today chiefly because they imagine they already are Christians. Some think they have inherited Christianity from their parents, who may or may not actually have been believers. Some think they are Christians simply because they have been born in a so-called Christian country. Others consider themselves Christians because they are nothing else. That is, they are not Jews, Mohammedans, or “pagans.” But none of these assumptions is adequate. No one is automatically a Christian. You cannot be neutral, for Jesus teaches us that you are either on the broad way or on the narrow way. You cannot drift into Christianity because the true gate is narrow and the way that leads to it is very hard. If you are to become a believer, you must make a decision, and no one else can settle the matter for you.
Hasn’t this always been the case? Moses told the people of his day, “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil…. Therefore choose life, that thou and thy seed may live” (Deut. 30:15-20). Joshua spoke to the people, saying, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Josh. 24:15). Jeremiah wrote on behalf of Jehovah, “Unto this people shalt thou say, Thus saith the LORD: Behold I have set before you the way of life and the way of death” (Jer. 21:8). Peter declared, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). That is what God calls you to do.
What is the state of your heart? Perhaps you are one who has listened to many of these studies on the Sermon on the Mount saying, “Yes, all of those things are true.” But they have never become true for you personally. If so, Jesus is warning you against that stance, for He is saying that it is not good enough. He is saying that there must come a point in your life at which He becomes your Savior. John Stott, the minister of All Souls Church in London, is one who knows this. For he writes in Basic Christianity,
I remember how puzzled, even indignant, I was when it was first suggested to me that I needed to appropriate Christ and His salvation for myself. Thank God, I came to see that, though an acknowledgement that I needed a Saviour was good, and a belief that Christ was the Saviour of the world was better, best of all was a personal acceptance of Him as my Saviour.”1
Jesus said, “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life.” But He must be the way for you. He said, “I am the door.” But you must enter it.
1John R. W. Stott, Basic Christianity (Chicago, IL: InterVarsity, 1968), 122-123.