In High School, I was a member of our local branch of the National Honors Society (NHS). Well, I say “I was a member...” The truth was, I was inducted. I never actually attended any meetings, turned in any paperwork or submitted service hours. I couldn’t have told you the name of the faculty sponsor, or identified any of the officers. Frankly, I couldn’t have even told you what NHS even did. Despite my complete lack of participation, however, when I graduated I nonetheless walked across the stage with a collar proudly identifying me as a member in good standing.
Most of us have met at least one “Christian” (note the quote marks) who treats their faith like some sort of religious honors society. They claim to be followers of Christ based upon some long-distant baptism, but have gone decades without letting their supposed belief affect their lives in any meaningful way. They rarely attend church, spend no time with other believers or with their Lord, and ultimately live a life that is indistinguishable from someone who had never heard of Christ.
Jesus concludes His most famous sermon with a warning to those who would think that the Kingdom of Heaven will be nothing more than an honorary association. He begins the final stretch by telling His followers to enter through the “narrow gate” rather than the broad and easy path followed by many. He clarifies His metaphor by first cautioning against false teachers, saying that such false leaders can be recognized by their “fruit” (that is, whether their lives match their teaching). He then warns against false followers, chillingly saying that:
“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:22-23 NIV)
In short, Jesus’ message is that the Kingdom of God - this movement that He was starting - would not just be some honor to put on your resume. It is not something you can just half-heartedly pledge allegiance to and hope to gain entry. If you intend to be His disciple, be a citizen in His Kingdom, then you will need to follow your Master even when the path is difficult, even when the cost is high. There is no free ride, and no prizes for those who pay mere lip-service.
If you intend to follow the Savior, you must prepare to climb the narrow road to Calvary.