by George Sidney Hurd
Many today are coming into a new and fresh revelation of God’s grace which is introducing them into a level of intimacy and transformation never before dreamed possible. They are overjoyed to discover that the straight and narrow is not less traveled because it is too difficult for all but the strongest of the strong, as some translations and paintings have portrayed it. Contrary to what some believe, it is only less traveled because it is passed by unnoticed by the self-sufficient who continue on their way, not recognizing their need for grace.
Rather than being a hard, arduous and treacherous path that can only be embarked upon with much difficulty and self-effort, it is a grace-walk – a rest that Jesus invites us to enter into with Him (Matt 11:28-30; Heb 4:1-9). Those who do not find it fail to discover it simply because their illusion of potential self-fulfillment blinds them to its presence.
Peter, in his sermon on Solomon’s Porch after Pentecost, indicated that seasons of refreshing would prepare the way for the Lord’s coming, and that His return would commence the times of the restoration of all things – something which had been prophesied since the beginning of time (Acts 3:19-22). I believe that it is significant that “seasons” appears in plural. Our generation has seen significant seasons of refreshing or revival and each one has served to restore essential truths to the Church in preparation for His coming.
Many of my generation, like me, were saved during the revival which has come to be known as the “Jesus Movement Revival” in the late 60’s and 70’s. Jesus was the focus of that revival. The essential truth revealed during that season was the reality of Christ in us – the exchanged life. In a time of cultural decay, many of us were miraculously delivered from immorality and drug addiction by the abiding presence of Christ in us. We became consciously aware of His wonderful transforming presence within us.
The next season of refreshing was the Holy Spirit revival of the 80’s and early 90’s. The gifts, anointing and communion of the Holy Spirit were restored to the Church in that season. In the mid 90’s came another glorious season of refreshing in which the Father’s love was revealed to what by then had become a fatherless generation, which had only known the distant, capricious and vengeful god of traditional Christendom.
This new season, which is regarded by some as the “Grace Revolution,” could possibly be the final season of refreshing, bringing us into the greatest harvest of all time, followed by the Second Coming of Christ. I see it as potentially being the culmination of all the previous seasons – the free abounding favor of God upon the Church, bringing to perfection the revelation of the knowledge of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; the love of God our Father; and the communion of the Holy Spirit, all coming together into one glorious season (2 Cor 13:14).
Some see the darkness enveloping the world and sensing that the apocalyptic judgments are impending, only look for an escape. However, the darkest hours of history have also seen the greatest visitations of the glory of God. And the final and darkest hour of this age will see the greatest manifestation of His glory that man has ever known. God, in His judgments always remembers mercy, and the final judgments of Revelation are no exception. John in vision was shown an innumerable multitude who will come out of the Great Tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14).The greatest days of glory in this age are yet to come. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. (Isa 59:19). The darkest hour is just before dawn and the Lord has promised that the gates of Hades will not prevail against His Church (2 Cor 13:14).
In the darkest hour multitudes will come to an end of their self-sufficiency, being in Great Tribulation, only to discover the super-abounding grace of God in Christ Jesus, entering into the kingdom through faith in Jesus who is the narrow gate into the straight and narrow grace-walk in which we no longer live, but Christ lives in us and leads us into fullness of life giving us grace upon grace; taking us from glory to glory, from faith to faith, and from strength to strength (Jn 1:16; Ro 1:17; 2Cor 3:18; Ps 84:7). The straight and narrow is Jesus Himself. He is both the Door and also the narrow Way. It is not a difficult way because it is no longer us who live, but Christ who lives in us. We simply live by His faith, allowing Him to do His words through us – works which God prepared for us to walk in from the foundation of the world (Gal 2:20; Eph 2:10; Heb 4:3-11).
However, while the straight and narrow is a grace-walk, it is nevertheless a narrow path to walk. The only way we can continue upon it without stumbling or turning aside is to keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus, the author and finisher of faith (Heb 12:2). We must daily consider ourselves to have indeed been co-crucified with Christ to our old life in Adam and by faith see ourselves as the new creation we now are in Christ. We must understand and recognize that the life that we now live is no longer us, but Christ living in and through us.
As we walk upon the narrow path of the Christ-life we will be tempted to leave the path of life and, in our independence, follow the branches that appear both on the right hand and on the left. Anytime we take our eyes off of Jesus we cease to be Christ-conscious and become self-conscious and will inevitably stray from the straight and narrow.
The branches which branch off to the left and to the right can be compared to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In their original state of God-consciousness Adam and Eve lived in God, free from all self-consciousness. It wasn’t until the serpent convinced Eve that she needed something they could not find in God to complete her that she ate of the tree. And, why did she eat of the tree? Was it willful rebellion against God? No. She was deceived into thinking that she was incomplete and that by eating of the tree she would complete herself, making her more like God. It wasn’t until Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that they became self-conscious. In this state of independence from God they felt shame because of their nakedness. Instead of running to God for Him to cover their nakedness they hid from Him and tried to cover their nakedness themselves with fig leaves. Mankind has been doing the same thing ever since then.
Since the fall, mankind has sought to find a sense of self-fulfillment – some through partaking of the good branches, seeking self-improvement through the “good” deeds of the flesh, while others partake of the evil branches seeking fulfillment through the self-gratification of the flesh. The religiously self-righteous despise those who eat from the other side of the tree, considering themselves to be better in God’s eyes than other “evil sinners.” But all fleshly self-originating activity, whether “good” or bad, comes from the same forbidden tree and is therefore unacceptable to God.
The term “flesh” in the Bible, when not referring to literal butcher shop meat, is referring to the independent self-life which we inherited from Adam. Although the old adamic flesh was crucified with Christ and we have now become new creatures in Christ, thereby changing our essential nature; we still carry in our physical bodies the residual desires and tendencies of the old fleshly self-life. As long as we remain in this body the desires of the flesh will be in tension with the desires of the Spirit (Gal 5:17).We must by faith continually consider ourselves to be dead indeed to the sinful flesh, but alive to God in Jesus Christ (Rom 6:11).
On both sides along the narrow path of the grace-walk there are branches leading us away from the Christ centered life back into the fleshly self-life. On the right we are drawn towards fleshly self-effort to produce "good" works independently of our union with Christ. On the left we are enticed to find fleshly self-gratification independently of our union with Christ. If we take our eyes off of Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, and look inward, we will always wander off of the narrow way of the grace walk. If we look to the left and fear going in that direction we will inevitably wander to the right into fleshly self-efforts through volitional obedience to an external law. This causes us to fall from grace into fleshly striving in order to subdue the flesh. (fighting flesh with flesh). This is deceptive since it appeals to our fallen human logic, but as Paul says, self-imposed religion is of absolutely no value against the indulgence of the flesh (Col 2:23). Sooner or later, no matter how strong-willed one is, he will eventually cross over and partake of the fruit from the left side in fleshly self-indulgence. This inevitably produces feelings of guilt and self-condemnation.
Our natural instinct is to cross back over into the right side, rededicating ourselves in will-worship, full of resolve to outperform our previous attempts. The longer we continue to abstain from the evil branches and partake of the fruit of the “good” branches, the greater our self-assurance and pride. But inevitably our will wears down and in a vulnerable moment we cross back over onto an evil branch and partake of its fruit. The more determined we are to “do” good the more we feel devastated when we once again partake of evil.
Many who enter through the narrow gate by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, only enjoy the glorious grace-walk for a brief time. We are born again into a new life in which it is no longer us who live but Christ who lives in and through us. But newborns are not born walking. Paul said that we must learn to walk in the grace-walk in the same manner we entered, which was by grace through faith. He says:
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” (Col 2:6,7)
What are we to do when we stumble in the grace-walk? The human tendency is to take a quick detour from the grace-walk to the right and hide in the bushes until we can prepare “fig leaves” to cover our shame, and only when we have eaten sufficient fruit from the “good” branch to satisfy our conscience do we feel worthy to return to the well-lit path. That is a great mistake which we have all frequently made. The apostle John says that while we walk in the light of the grace-walk in communion with Him, the blood of Jesus continually cleanses us (Greek present continuous katharizo) from all sin (1Jn 1:7).
Even when we leave the path to willfully indulge the flesh, whether it be to the right or the left, fellowship is immediately restored by simply confessing or coming into agreement once again with God (1John 1:9-10). Confession is simply “saying the same thing” or coming into agreement with God. When we refuse to acknowledge sin in our lives – whether it be self-righteous sin or self-indulgent sin, we leave the path of light and communion with the Father is interrupted. To wallow in remorse and self-effacement in an attempt to propitiate our failings only prolongs our detour from the grace-walk. Your Father says that your sins have already been cast as far as the east is from the west and that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Ps 103:12; Rom 8:1). Paul says that we should walk in Christ in the same manner that we received Him – by faith abounding in thanksgiving. When you come into agreement with the Father concerning your standing before Him in Christ, you will be abounding in thanksgiving for His unconditional acceptance in Christ by grace instead of leaving the light to hide in the bushes in remorse and self-castigation thinking that your contrition somehow propitiates your sins. Christ’s once and for all sacrifice is the propitiation for all your sins and much, much more (1John 2:2).
Paul continues in verse eight of Colossians saying:
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” (Col 2:6-10)
The problem with philosophy, whether it be moralistic or hedonistic, is that it is all based upon the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and therefore the preaching of the cross with its unmerited grace is seen as foolishness. The goal of philosophy is self-realization and self-fulfillment and is not according to the truth that we are now already complete in Christ. The believers in Galatia had become bewitched into thinking that, although justification was a work of free grace, their sanctification into Christlikeness was a work of the flesh. He said to them:
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal 3:1-3)
Wherever Paul went preaching the pure gospel of grace through Jesus Christ, he was followed by a group of Judaizers. Judaizers were Jews who most probably had entered by the narrow gate which is Christ. Nevertheless, they insisted that it was necessary to keep the Law of Moses in order to ultimately be saved. They did not outright deny grace for the Christian life. However, to them grace was not the free unmerited favor of God which Paul preached. To them grace simply empowers or assists us in order to produce good works for salvation. To Paul, their teaching constituted being made perfect by the flesh instead of by the Spirit of grace. He made it clear that free grace is antonymous to works:
“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law…. Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” (Rom 3:28, 4:4,5)
Can you see what Paul is saying? Grace is the gift of God’s free unmerited favor. If salvation is not entirely apart from works then God owes it to us and it is therefore no longer by grace. If a loved one were to give you a precious gift out of the goodness of his heart and you were to insist upon paying at least ten percent of its value in return, wouldn’t it be taken as an insult against their grace shown towards you? Even if we were to say that grace was simply given to assist us as we work, it would no longer be grace, and God would end up owing us.
To illustrate this, let’s suppose that I needed someone to mow my lawn. Seeing a young man walking by I offered him the job. The lad responds: “I would be glad to but I don’t have a lawn mower.” I say: “No problem, I have a lawn mower. All you have to do is sit on it and steer.” The young man accepts my offer and at the end of the day he finishes mowing the lawn and when he comes up to me I say to him: “Well done. I’ll see you next time.” What is missing in this equation? He was working; albeit with the assistance of my own power mower, and he justly anticipated payment for his labor. Paul said that if one works for something, then payment is expected in return. Grace by definition is "unmerited kindness and favor” and not merely divine enablement. Paul makes that even clearer in chapter eleven of Romans:
“And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Rom 11:6)
You see, what God has given us by His grace is more than a restoration of the old; it is an entirely new creation. That is why Paul said: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.” (Gal 6:15). The narrow way which is our new life in Christ is not simply a matter of eating from the good branches instead of the evil branches with divine assistance but living an entirely new creation life in Christ. The works are not ours but rather His works in and through us:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10)
The works done in our bodies in the grace-walk are not ours but rather are His workmanship in us. As we simply abide in Christ resting in Him in yielded surrender, He works in us, giving us both the desire and the power to do all of His good pleasure. He works – we bear fruit. In Him we no longer partake of the old tree of the knowledge of good and evil which only left us weary and heavy laden. Now we partake of Christ - the Tree of Life and bear fruit for God.
Peter said: “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18). As we grow in grace it is inevitable that we stumble in many ways. Contrary to what some grace teachers affirm, we are not born mature sons. (I consider this subject in more detail in my book “Focusing in on End-Time Events.”) The Church is designed by God to provide a nurturing environment in which Christ is formed in us through the combined ministries of teaching, assistance, encouragement and corrective orientation. When it pleased the Father to reveal Christ in Paul, his goal in ministry was no longer to reproduce religious Pharisees after his own kind. His goal was to see the same Christ who was revealed in him formed in others as well. He said that he suffered what he could only describe as a second labor until he saw Christ formed in the believers of Galatia (Gal 4:19).
I, along with many others, believe that we are entering into a new season of refreshing in which the Church is receiving a new revelation of the grace-walk in which we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. As with all major seasons of revival in the past, the enemy will do all in his power to discredit what God is doing. We must be wary of any doctrine based upon a dilution of the pure gospel of grace which is nothing less than “Christ in us, the hope of glory.” Any gospel which would attempt to combine works with grace is a falling from grace (Gal 5:4). Grace plus works is not grace at all. It is another gospel which is not really good news at all. It is the leaven of the Pharisees (Matt 16:6). All which is not entirely Christ-centered is self-centered and a partaking of the “good” fruit of the forbidden old tree.
On the other hand, we must beware of any doctrine which would invalidate the many admonitions in the Scriptures. John, confronting the encroachment of an early form of Gnostic libertineism which encouraged fleshly indulgences, saying that we are under grace, said:
“Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9 NASB)
The Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, commenting on this passage says: “Not the teaching about Christ, but… the walk of Christ…. These Gnostics claimed to be the progressives, the advanced thinkers, and were anxious to relegate Christ to the past in their onward march.”  We are living in an age of lawlessness in which many have chosen to live a life of self-gratification, eating the fruit of the evil branch of the old tree. Seeking spiritual affirmation for their licentious conduct, they flock to teachers who will only say what they want to hear. Paul warns us saying:
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Tim 4:1-5)
Jude warns against these false teachers who will interpret the grace of God in such a way as to present the grace of God as to affirm those who are living an immoral lifestyle:
“For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” (Jude 4 NIV)
These modern “grace” teachers present God as a father who is always jolly no matter what his children are “into.” Their selective use of Scripture avoids all New Testament warnings and declarations of the judgment of God against persistent and unrepentant sin in the lives of His children. Many of them conveniently relegate all the warnings of Jesus and the epistles concerning the last days, along with the judgments of the entire book of Revelation to the first century. Others simply ignore all warnings in the Scriptures entirely. The grace of God is not to be understood as being His affirmation of an ungodly lifestyle. Quite to the contrary Paul says:
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.” (Titus 2:11-15)
We need every Word of God. Some “grace” teachers show a contempt for the written Word of God in favor of the incarnate Word of God, which is Christ. However Jesus, the Logos Himself, continually affirmed the absolute authority of the Scriptures or the written Word. Paul, the apostle of grace himself said:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17)
Some “grace” teachers present all reproof and correction - all judgment and discipline, as contrary to grace. We all stumble many times as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The admonitions of the New Testament are New Covenant grace admonitions, intended to correct our focus when we take our eyes off of Christ and deviate from the straight and narrow grace walk. The writer of Hebrews says that God rebukes and disciplines those whom He loves (Heb 12:5-6). His rebukes are to keep us in His grace, restoring us when fall from it, or taking His rod and bringing us back into the fold when we go too far and do not abide in the doctrine of Christ. Almost all of the New Testament epistles were written to bring correction when believers begin to become focused upon self rather than Christ and either wander into Old Covenant law and legalistic self-effort or veer to the left into lawlessness and self-gratification.
While I may seem critical of what I see as excesses among some grace teachers, I also, at the same time want to recognize and honor those who have been the cutting edge in this glorious grace revival. When God does something new He must find a willing instrument that is open to change. Often new seasons of change are resisted by the very leaders God raised up in the prior move. We often build our tabernacle around a move of God and remain stationary when the glory cloud moves on. God must then seek a “new wineskin” – someone willing to think out of the box, so to speak - someone teachable.  New moves of God often have extremes at first – even among the primary leaders of that new move. Nevertheless, God is ultimately in control of every revival and He brings each new revelation into balance in His own time.
Therefore let us keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus, the author and finisher of faith – and enjoy the grace-walk as He leads us into fullness of life, giving us grace upon grace; taking us from glory to glory, from faith to faith, and from strength to strength. For a fuller treatment of the grace-walk I recommend my book entitled “The True Grace of God.”
 One of the most misleading paraphrases is the New Living Translation. It reads: "You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. (Matt 7:13-14) This version renders the Greek word thlibo, literally meaning “narrow,” for our word “difficult,” giving the impression that it is comparable to a rigorous obstacle course, requiring much human ability. It also replaces the word apoleia which describes a state of “perdition or being lost” for the word “hell.” Then the translators close the passage by adding the word “ever,” precluding the possibility that those who lost their way will ever be found by the Good Shepherd in the future. The New American Standard Version is representative of a better translation of the idea expressed in the text: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.” (Matt 7:13-14 NASB)
 Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament
 Thinking out of the box should not be seen as going beyond Scripture but rather refusing to be defined by established religious dogma. Great reformers such as Martin Luther, William J. Seymour and others, questioned tradition but never the Scriptures themselves. They challenged established dogma based upon the authority of the Scriptures.