The Two Paths of Life
It may seem that there are many possible paths of life. Most people (in developed countries at least) follow a free-choice existence, bounded by twinges of conscience. They can choose to follow the paths of wealth or power, live primarily for self and pleasure, select a religious faith, or none, and explore moral boundaries in their relationships.
In reality, these numerous paths of life reduce to just two! According to the Bible, most people follow the wrong path – the broad one that eventually leads to their spiritual and physical destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus described the correct path as narrow (more difficult to find and follow) but this is the one that leads to eternal life. This path starts by believing in the risen Christ.
How many people realise that there are really only two paths of life?
And how many realise how important it is to choose the right path?
“The path is smooth that leadeth on to danger” [William Shakespeare]
It has been said, ‘People take different roads seeking fulfilment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost’. The first sentence is certainly true, but how about the second? If we take the biblical view, some people (in fact, most people) are definitely on the wrong road or path, and are ‘lost’ in a very serious way. The Bible says that there are really just two paths, one right and one wrong, one that leads to blessing, one that ends in destruction.
The psalmist David was certain his God would place him on the right path in life:
You will show me the path of lifePsalm 16:11
For David, there was only one path worth following: the path of life
The other path does not lead to life. Jesus illustrated this point using entrance gates to these two paths:
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many go that way … narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find itMatthew 7:13-14
Jesus is saying that in God’s sight there are just two paths of life: right and wrong, good and evil, the way to heaven and the way to hell. All of humanity walks along one of these two paths. In God’s sight all are saints or sinners, godly or ungodly.
The Broad Way – the Wrong Way
Entering life’s journey through the wide gate leads us to a ‘broad path’ with many side tracks. Some would say we enter a Dawkins type world of chance with the sole purpose of passing on our DNA. This world has no absolutes or boundaries, so virtually anything goes. The path seems easy and it seems we have free choice to do virtually anything. We can choose to follow the tracks of wealth or power, and many do. We can seek life’s meaning by reading the great philosophers like Socrates or Nietzsche, link, or follow New Age ideas, Islam, or Atheism.
Clearly, our worldview or belief system has no bounds and we can believe virtually anything! But this leads to a fuzzy belief system and fuzzy understanding about the world. This world has many side tracks, many beliefs and many theories of life. But where is the truth?
Then there’s our personal life. With ever varying culturally defined moral boundaries we can experiment in relationships and float from one to another. If it’s OK for you, then it’s OK. We can even marry someone of the same sex.
Now for the big one: those who reject Christ may feel free in a world of chance and personal choice. They sense no control, but in reality their thinking and actions are controlled by the unseen god of this world. In reality, they live alone in a cold, unloving, unjust world without help. As the Bible says:
the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving2 Corinthians 4:4, NASB
Consequences of Our Actions
Being broad, this path it is relatively easy to follow (and many do), but all tracks eventually lead to trouble. As Shakespeare put it, ‘the smooth path leads to danger’. Jesus was more explicit: “the broad path leads to destruction”. The seeds of trouble and eventual destruction are sown as this path is walked. Like it or not, there are unpleasant consequences to ungodly actions, like harbouring an unforgiving heart, the selfish pursuit of wealth or living an immoral life. God’s unseen spiritual law applies to all, and none can escape. So if we ‘sow to the wind we will reap the whirlwind’.
Of course, many on this path do ‘good works’ and appear to be ‘good people’. Some even try to work their way to God through ‘good actions’. But whatever we do it is relative to God’s righteousness and all have sinned and fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23). The New Testament makes it clear that there is only one way to God, and that is through belief in His Son, Jesus (John 14:6). That is the ‘narrow path’ of life.
The Narrow Way – the Right Way
First we make the point that Satan – the god of this world – is only god to those who reject Christ and therefore default to him. For those who trust in Christ, Satan is there, and attacks, but he is defeated. So rather than being under the god of this world, followers of Jesus are under God’s Fatherly care, as children (Romans 8:15-16). The god of this world lost all authority over believers through Christ’s death and resurrection (John 12.31). Secondly, we notice that there are few people on this path. It can be lonely, since only a few find that narrow gate!
As they walk this narrow path, believers can be guided along it and protected from wrong turns or decisions (Proverbs 16:9, Psalm 37:5). They can even be protected from Satanic attack. Such guidance is like a boundary to stop us wandering off the path. Of course, even this path has dangers and believers often suffer in this fallen world. For instance, believers are told to fight for justice (Mic 6:8), but often they do not see justice done. It’s as though there is a boundary to the execution of true justice, and we have to wait for true justice to be done at the judgement. In this sense the path is narrow and difficult.
Life on the narrow path is one of serving God rather than ourselves. Our self-defined ambition in the Dawkins world morphs into serving God and life takes on real purpose. With God’s help, our service to God can be seen as unbounded and powerful. Jesus put it something like this:
Whoever loses his own selfish life for My sake will find real lifeMatthew 16:25, paraphrase
The concepts of guidance and service suggest that God has a plan for our lives (Ps 139:16). Life is not a pointless existence. Certainly our steps along the path are ‘ordered’ by God (Ps 37:23) and (if we listen) God ‘instructs’ us in the way to go (Ps 32:8). So what appear to be free-will decisions often turn out to be the best for us:
All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purposeRomans 8:28
Then there’s belief and understanding. As we travel along this path, believing in God our Father and the living Lord Jesus, God promises to guide us into “all truth” (John 16:13). This puts transcendent bounds on our beliefs, making them firm and preventing them from wandering off into myths and humanistic thinking. Absolute truths are revealed.
Since this understanding is from outside ourselves, it implies there is almost no limit to obtaining a true understanding of the world – a world as God sees it. Of course, the limit is our finite minds, and we see only part of the picture (1 Corinthians 13:12). Likewise, as we walk this narrow path we can develop a Christ-like love that is almost without bounds. This is the most important attribute we develop as we walk the path (1 Corinthians 13).
Lastly, the narrow path constrains us to live moral lives and places boundaries on sexual relationships. For example, in God’s eyes these should be heterosexual and then only within the bounds of marriage.
Consequences of Our Actions
Just as wrong actions on the broad path lead to bad consequences, so a life of good actions on the narrow path leads to many blessings. This also is God’s unseen spiritual law. So for example, if we give we are given back even more, if we have a good spirit our health benefits, if we bless Israel we will be blessed, and if we trust in God we will have His peace.
As mentioned, it is indeed possible to wander off the narrow path into error. We can do ‘bad actions’ as well as good ones whilst walking the narrow path. And when we do wander off we suffer the consequences of our error. Sadly, many Christians have found this to be true, but it is also true that we can be forgiven and reconciled to our Father in heaven (1 John 1:9).
Paths of Life – SummaryChoose the narrow path in life and not a free-choice existence bounded by twinges of conscience. In God’s sight a free-choice existence is a pointless existence, similar to living in a Dawkins world, but with loose and variable conscience-defined boundaries. The majority of mankind lives like this. Rather, real life stems from choosing one of two paths, one broad and relatively easy (but leading to destruction) and the other narrow and relatively hard (but leading to real life). Suppose we choose the narrow path and trust in Jesus Christ. This path leads to a life that loses its self-defined purpose in the Richard Dawkins world and finds purpose in living for Christ:
- It’s a life of picking flowers (receiving good things) by the wayside
- It’s a life of thanking our Creator God (our heavenly Father) for golden sunsets and delicious food
- It’s a life of loving the needy and lost as our path crosses those on the broad path
- It’s a life of committing our way to Christ when we need guidance
- It’s a life of trusting that God has a plan, and all that happens along the path is best for us (despite problems)
- It’s a life of rewards for following God’s Law written on our hearts
- It’s a life of comforting hope in the face of pending death
- And at the end of the path, at the end of life, we will again be rewarded for how well we have walked that narrow path