One of the coolest “inventions” of our modern-day world is the technology that allows us to travel easily and find our way to places we’ve never been. I remember taking vacations with my family as a child. If I’m not mistaken, you could call up AAA and ask them to send you a map that was marked out with the best route for your trip. That was a bit fancier than my family needed. My dad would pull out the well-used, perfectly folded map from the glove compartment and chart his own way. A kid learned a lot by looking at actual, physical maps…tracing roads with your finger, and figuring out which way was north or south!
Today, it’s all digital. We rented a car for our recent trip that has all the bells and whistles. Our favorite feature is the “CarPlay” that connects the GPS maps on your phone to a big screen. Just plug in your final destination, and a very authoritative voice tells you exactly where to go, step by step.
Yesterday we were driving from one city to another. We had a “general idea” of the way – we desired to take the less traveled, more scenic route down the coast. Unfortunately, the GPS has a mind of her own. She thinks she knows more than we do, and for a good bit of the way, she kept interrupting our journey telling us to turn left and get back on the faster, wider way. For a while we just ignored her, knowing when we got close enough to our destination, she would give up and let us have our way. Finally, though, we decided to end the distractions, and unplugged her entirely! We trusted the way that had already been shown to us, and the rest of the journey was far more peaceful.
I’m reminded of the insistent, loud, authoritative voice of the GPS as I read Luke 18 this morning. Throughout the gospels, Jesus spends a large portion of His teaching on the “way” to heaven. He knows the hearts of men … whether we admit it or not, we all want to get to heaven. We might even say we don’t believe in heaven (so we can deny hell as well), but down deep, God has set eternity in our hearts. We all want to think there’s something more after we die — and that it’s good.
Jesus wants us to go to heaven. That was His entire purpose in leaving it to come into our world. He came specifically to pay the price of our entrance, and to tell us which road gets us there. But, like that annoying GPS lady, the world keeps interrupting us, drawing us away from the right path – the narrow, less-obvious way, and insisting that it knows better. The enemy, Satan, wants us to believe the wide, well-traveled road is the better way to go.
In Luke 18, Jesus gives us three descriptions of the true path to heaven:
1. The way to heaven is through bold, persistent faith (Luke 18:1-8, 35-43).
The story of the unrighteous judge and the persistent widow who wore him out by her continual coming shows us that God answers our persistent prayers. At the end of the chapter, Bartimaeus had to boldly keep calling out for Jesus in the face of a stern crowd who told him to be quiet. Perhaps you’ve “prayed a prayer” at one time or another, but nothing seemed to happen, so you dismissed the idea of God. Well, perhaps God is waiting to see if you really want to know Him. He’s looking for a bit of persistence on your part, to keep asking, keep knocking, keep seeking. He will answer you, and He promises to save all who come to Him in sincere, persistent faith. If you desire to know Him, then He is already working in you; don’t get distracted and give up, taking the easy way back to the wide road.
John 6:37 – All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
2. The way to heaven is through humility (Luke 18:9-17).
Jesus uses two examples to teach us that those who are proud and self-righteous will miss the narrow path. It is a fatal mistake to trust in yourself and view others who humble themselves before God with contempt. The Pharisee thanked God that he was “not like other people” but paid his tithe and fasted twice a week. On the other hand, the tax collector was so overcome with God’s holiness he couldn’t even lift his eyes to heaven but begged God for mercy. The sinner found the narrow path. Jesus concludes by telling us if we do not receive the kingdom of God as a child (innocent, humble, trusting faith) will not enter at all. Like that nagging GPS, the voices of our flesh and pride will tell you differently.
Luke 18:14 – I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.
3. The way to heaven is through sacrifice (Luke 18:18-34).
The rich young ruler appeared to want to take the road Jesus offered, but when he heard the details, he counted the cost and decided this world was worth more. He was a good man; to the best of his ability he kept God’s commands, but when Jesus told him he had to release his hold on all his earthly possessions and be willing to surrender everything he owned to God, the road was too narrow. The voices of wealth, success, prestige, position and earthly honor were too loud.
Luke 18:25,27 – For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. … (But) the things that are impossible with people are possible with God.
What voices are you listening to? Do you know without a doubt that Jesus has charted your course, or have you been distracted by all the “other ways” the world says you can take and still end up in heaven? If we had listened to the GPS, we would still have reached our intended destination, but that’s where our analogy breaks down. There are no “other ways” to heaven, except through Jesus, by faith alone in Christ alone. Those who ignore the still, small voice of truth will find themselves in a different place altogether.