The impact of the narrow gate

Blessed is a Church group that recognizes different spiritual gifts among its members. Most denominational Churches are designed according to the leadership patterns of this world. Ordinary Church members are commonly expected to be spectators, whereas the pastor would be the gatekeeper. The mostly regarded as important, among several doctrines, are tithing and regular weekly Church attendances, as designed by the Church leader.

Members are expected to be strictly submissive to the Pastor. When doing anything considered not agreeable with the pastor, one is deemed unacceptable. In terms of structural dignity and decorum, some of those Churches could take the crown, if competition could be held. That is probably the very reason Christianity is popular but vastly divided.

A simple Google check reveals more than 40 thousand denominations, with over 2.6 billion members. Of these, 1.3 billion are Catholics, while Protestantism follows behind with about a billion. The rest are divided among various sectarian groupings, guided according to the doctrinal guidelines of the respective founding members.

These Christian groupings entertain the idea of critiquing one another. The more respected ones are those having studied theology. The Church leader sets the rules and guidelines. The popularity of any of those Church denominations depends on how many members agree with a particular Church doctrine. Every member feels accepted by God, as long as approved by the Church leader.

The considered more formal ones are guided by a Church Council or a Church Board, which sits to determine Church rules. Orthodox Christianity follows the Nicaean Council resolutions of AD 325, which authenticated the idea of the Trinity. To be a recognized Scholar, one has to appreciate the Trinitarian doctrine; a failure which, one would be labelled heretical.

If desiring to be widely recognized, and not mistaken for being a heretic, one would be advised to then agree with Orthodox Christianity. This describes the position of traditional Christianity. There is no agreement, among those denominational groupings. This is just as the so-called heretics, have reasons to ridicule the theologically authenticated ones. Each feels justified according to the delineated guidelines of the founder.

Surprisingly, all this is what removes Jesus from the equation (Matt. 24:6). Those truly subscribing to Jesus’ teachings would probably exist on the fringes, among those described as heretics. There cannot be any structure in a group that precisely adopts what Jesus taught. Over 2.6 Billion People can be regarded as carrying a huge impact, according to this world’s viewpoint. But that impact is nullified by such divisions.

“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” (Matthew 7:13-15 NIV).

The warning given here can only be heeded by an insignificant few people, taking Jesus’ words verbatim. Those people are prepared to lose friends, families and their businesses when walking according to Jesus’ teachings. They are not followers of Christian leaders, but Christ’s followers.

How narrow is the gate that Jesus talked about, anyway? Modern Christianity would probably treat those influenced by the narrow gate; the most unwanted, among the deemed, heretics. Of course, no Church grouping should be regarded as authentic, except Jesus. The truth of the matter is that most of what Jesus taught cannot be applicable at a human level. This is what Jesus meant by a narrow gate.

The narrow gate eliminates the majority, who find Jesus’ teachings impracticable. For instance, according to the pastoral viewpoint, if Jesus never advocated tithing, how else can the Church survive? Therefore, whoever teaches against tithing would be deemed not authentic, and labelled a heretic.

Even our theologians, cannot effectively document the meaning of Christianity. They categorize Christianity according to the religions of this world. However, Christianity comprises people who are not of this world. These are peculiar people, unrecognized by those of this world. Imagine also where leadership is invalidated, according to Matthew 23:8-12.

The Church of God cannot be superintended by anyone. Those having become members of God’s Church cannot be ordinarily identified. (See Matt. 16:13-20). Jesus promised to give them the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept (John 14:17). If this is not too complicated for those without the Spirit of truth, then Jesus would be a liar.

How then should God’s Church be structured? Romans 12 and 1 Corinthian 12 show that each member would be granted Spiritual gifts. It would not be the person with the spiritual gift doing whatever would be taking place, but the Holy Spirit. The pastor would have no role in how each member would be used spiritually. The allocated spiritual gifts cannot be deemed to be understood by the pastor, as directly coming from God.

While a pastor is regarded as the most important member of a Christian grouping, there is no Biblical authentication of that viewpoint. Actually, the word, “Pastor” is mentioned once, in the entire Bible, among other Spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:11). Each member operates according to the Spirit. It is a mystery that Church groupings are so obsessed with the term “pastor.”

Jesus appointed twelve apostles, comprising the foundation of the Church. After the elimination of Judas Iscariot, Jesus added Paul, into their ranks. The apostles appointed Matthias, meant to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts1:26). But this was done outside Jesus’ instruction. Jesus never instructed His apostles to do anything except what He had commanded them (Matt. 28:18-20). Christianity requires taking instructions directly from Jesus. Anything outside Jesus’ instruction should be ignored.

They were supposed to wait for the Holy Spirit to then direct them in everything (Acts 1:8). The appointment of the apostles was Jesus’ prerogative. The number of apostles appointed by Jesus remained at twelve. Paul was not an addition, but a replacement of Judas Iscariot, for the number of the apostles to remain twelve.

Those apostles later died, but the foundation of the Church required twelve apostles. The believers to be added later, through the works of those apostles, are not designated, with apostleship, necessarily. But they would be used by God, spiritually.

Jesus never advised His disciples to study the Bible, which comprised only the Old Testament, at the time. He simply instructed them to obey what He had taught them. Those of us today, didn’t have the privilege of hearing Jesus. But what is recorded in the four gospel Books is sufficient, for us.

In John 14, Jesus said another counsellor, meaning the Holy Spirit, would teach Christians, accordingly. The starting point was to believe the testimony of the apostles, concerning Jesus. In short, God’s Church is directed by the Holy Spirit, more than theological studies.

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gift of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines” (1Corinthians 12:7-11 NIV).

 The above statement was not exhaustive, as if suggesting limiting God. None among such people, with multifaceted gifts, could be said to be senior to others. For instance, the one with the gift of wisdom and knowledge cannot then be viewed as senior to those with other gifts.

Fixation with idolatry causes some people to feel secure under some considered superior leaders. One can observe proud preachers dangling the Bible, parading their ability to interpret the Scriptures, as a sign of them being superior to others. But only Christ takes credit for everything.

If the gift of spiritual discernment is given to one person among many members, the entire group has the light. The hindrance becomes the leadership structure. The gift of Spiritual discernment could come through a person considered to be a nonentity, which keeps the group mystified.

The person with the gift of discernment might feel intimidated, especially by authoritarians advancing theological liturgy. Another way of distinguishing whether spiritually led is tolerance of disputations within ranks. An orderly Christian Church is devoid of God’s Spirit.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34 NIV).

Out of naivety, most people assume that a peaceful Church organization represents God’s approval. Those people ought to read the four gospel Books, especially the Book of John. Jesus was the most controversial figure, having caused commotion wherever He travelled.

The controversy characterized by Jesus was not about Church leadership, as observed in some Church denominations. It was about matters of truth, as compared to falsehood. A truthful person would not even waste time entertaining the scholastic credentials of an individual, but what Jesus said.

What probably exists among the listed Church groupings, are individual members, who keep the knowledge to themselves, fearing the backlash. However, cowards are not Christians. Truthful Christians fear nothing. The starting point is renouncing everything, including not fearing death. That is what keeps the person at peace.

“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they are in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment: In this world, we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister” (1 John 4:14-21 NIV).

The willingness to confront the truth does not invite irritability. The person understands people, although people might not understand him. Being not understood is not bothersome, as Jesus was also not understood. Jesus made it clear that His followers would be opposed.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. 

If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.  If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.  

Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both my Father and me. But this is to fulfil what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason’” (John 15:18-25 NIV).

Therefore, the consideration of being truthful cannot be judged by being in agreement with others, necessarily. The only confirmation of being on the Lord’s side is by not deviating from what the person considers truthful, despite stiff opposition. This creates friction, with other members of the fellowship or from elsewhere.

Jesus instructed His followers to rejoice only when persecuted. Being a darling of those of this world is not what makes a person in conformity with God’s truth, necessarily. There is no need to entertain the consideration of rejection.

The most important thing is standing by the conviction, according to the discernment accorded to the individual. Through one’s conviction and standing for the truth, God might touch one or two individuals, for the entire year. The narrow gate was never intended for the majority. God’s work should never be personalized.

Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. Most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope, in a simple conversational tone.

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