Driving back from Camp yesterday I blew through a rural area where some religious organization had posted this portion of a Bible verse:
Matthew 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Since I've been under the influence of ecumenism, I got to wondering how the above applied to my context. I don't know which little country church put up that sign, but I can imagine it's vastly different from the mega-suburban Blythefield Hills Baptist Church that I attend. What exactly constitutes "strait gates" versus "broad ways?" In my separatist days, I would have answered that "strait" means rejecting the world and all its wisdom. But now I don't think that's the answer.
What I like most about Camp and what brings me back every year is theological conversations around the campfire. Usually these conversations involve something interesting and philosophical. This year I was surprised when a friend's daughter mentioned "Lordship salvation." I hadn't heard that term in decades. It's funny how some problems just don't get solved but the confusion remains over decades.
If you don't know what "Lorship salvation" means, let me refresh. Some teach that there is a distinction between asking Christ to be one's Saviour and asking Christ to be your Lord. If such a distinction is possible, then those who ask Christ to be Saviour but not Lord, can be termed "Carnal Christians." Carnal Christians who wish to improve their spiritual lives can do so by upgrading their Saviour relationship to a Lordship relationship. Others teach that Salvation means more than just a fire insurance policy, but conversion of the whole person and that Salvation means rescue from one's current life of sin. This second group would term the "Carnal Christian" a "non-Christian."
The first group claims that the second group makes "Lordship" a work that must be added to one's faith in order to be a Christian. The second group asserts salvation by "faith alone" but it is a "faith that is not alone." Surely, everybody in both camps claim that one is justified before God by "faith alone." (This is a Protestant argument.) This leads to a two-tier Christianity with mere fire-insurance policy holders looking up to their spiritual betters who have "rededicated their lives" to the Lord Jesus.
Coversely, the second group claims a causal relationship between good faith and good works. Good faith will cause good works and thereby I justify my good faith before myself and before other Christians by my good works. This is how the Protestant interprets James 2:24. (The Protestant distinguishes between Paul's use of Justification before God, and James use of Justification before Man. Luther failed to make this distinction and thus sought to remove James from the canon of scripture. Catholicism defers Justification in order to bring James and Paul together.)
I happen to be a Reformed Christian who asserts this causal relationship between good faith and good works. I think that identification with Christ as Saviour in true saving faith alone suffices to justify a man before God. Causally, faith alone causes justification before God. This is how I read Romans 5. Moreover, I think that true saving faith has its root in the supernatural creative act of God within the believer's heart. God causes a change of heart and that changed heart starts functioning by believing. At this point, logically, the believer is Justified. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer at this point. This changed heart that believes then obeys. This obedience is the way in which the righteousness of Christ inheres within the believer and this is termed Sanctification. Thus one is saved by faith alone, but it is a faith that is not alone.
You'll note that there is no room for über-Christians or Saints in this second way of looking at things. Every Christian is identified with Christ to the same extent.
Good faith causes good works. You can distinguish between them, but you cannot separate them. If you belong to a "cannibalistic church" that doesn't quite get around to keeping Christ's double-love command, you've good reason to doubt the bona fides of that church.
Christ is in the forgiveness business. He does so by means of putting his righteousness into the lives of his followers. The WWJD bracelets are nice if we keep in mind what exactly it was that Jesus actually did. I suppose the broad way that leads to destruction is to try to "do what Jesus did" and latch onto this bit of his life or that and copy it. Jesus said "woe" to evil doers. and Jesus fed the five thousand. and Jesus did the all the stations of the Cross. The strait gate is to ignore all that and rest in Christ alone by faith.
Periodically, we should test our faith asking whether our lives fit what Christ taught. We need to periodically revisit the Law that Moses revealed and that Jesus interpreted on the Sermon on the Mount. The Law is a mirror that should point out the dirt on our face and metaphorically drive us to the soap of Christ's righteousness claimed by faith. This self-critical introspection and this utter dependence upon Christ doesn't come naturally. I hope this is what Christ called a "strait gate."