Skip to comments."God's Open Narrow Door" (Sermon on Luke 13:22-30)
Posted on 08/25/2007 1:31:20 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
Gods Open Narrow Door (Luke 13:22-30)
It started with a question. Someone asked Jesus this question: Lord, will those who are saved be few? It seemed like a reasonable question, something you would ask a visiting rabbi. An interesting academic question, to be sure. Are only a few people going to be saved?
But what was the question behind the question? Why did the guy ask this? Lets consider the possibilities. Was it just idle curiosity, sort of like, How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Or in this case, Will those who are saved be few?
Perhaps the fellow asks his question in order to put God on trial. Maybe he thinks that God is too strict and that if God were really a decent God, he would let everybody in. There are a lot of people who think that way today, arent there? God wouldnt dare to send anybody to hell! No, that wouldnt make him a proper God in our eyes. Thats how people think these days.
On the other hand, though, maybe this fellow thinks that God is too loose, letting in all the riff-raff he sees hanging around with Jesus. A righteous God shouldnt be that lax in his justice.
Which leads to another possibility: Maybe the questioner was trying to trap Jesus with his question. We know from reading the gospels that that sort of thing happened. Jesus enemies were out to get him, and they tried to trap him into saying the wrong thing.
But its also possible that the mans question was neither purely academic nor a trick to entrap Jesus. It could have been a sincere question on the personal level for the man. Maybe he was worried about himself, that he wouldnt make it. Lord, will those who are saved be few? Because if thats so, then Im not so sure Im good enough to qualify. Despair could be driving his question, and he was just looking for the slightest sliver of hope.
On the other hand--now how many hands is this?--on the other hand, it could be pride. Pride, as in, Hey, look at me! Im one of the few, the proud, the saved! Im better than all those lowlifes who arent as righteous or holy as I am. God must be pleased with me.
Well, in any case, were not told what the mans motivation was for asking the question. What we do know is how Jesus answered it. Or didnt answer it. You see, Jesus doesnt answer the mans question. The man had asked, Lord, will those who are saved be few? But Jesus doesnt directly address that. Instead, he says, Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
Jesus turns the mans question around. He doesnt let it stay on the academic or theoretical level. He makes it very personal. Its as though he tells the fellow: You say youre concerned about how many people are going to be saved? Well, start by looking in the mirror. Are you going to be saved? Yes, theres a danger that many people will not be saved. But dont let that happen to you. Here, now, Im warning you and exhorting you--yes, you, here today!
Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. What is this door that Jesus is speaking about? It is the door to salvation. It is the door to eternal life. It is the door to the kingdom of God, the household of God and the heavenly banquet. And many will not be able to enter it, even though they will try. Jesus doesnt tell us how many, or what the proportions will be, just that many will not make it. The door will be closed to them at that time.
You see, there will come a time when it is too late. That will happen at the end of time, at the Last Day and the final judgment. Until that time, the end will come for each one of us at our death. After that, it will be too late to repent, too late to enter through the door. So, Jesus is saying, make sure you attend to such matters now, before it is too late. Death could come for any one of us at any time.
The psalmist says, in Psalm 95, Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your heart. The writer to the Hebrews in chapter 3 quotes that verse, and then adds to it, as long as it is called today. Meaning, it always applies: Any time and every time your hear Gods voice, open your heart to it. Dont stop your ears and thus run the risk that the next time it will be too late. There may not be a next time. And even if there is a next time, by then you may be so used to saying no to God that you wont be able to say yes. Listen, God is calling, calling you to repent. The door is open now, now while you have ears to hear.
Strive to enter through the narrow door. There is a door to go through to enter the kingdom of God, but what kind of a door is it? It is, as Jesus describes it, a narrow door. It is narrow, and notice, there is just one door. There are not many doors. Thats what people think today, though: that there are many doors to the kingdom of heaven. You can pick Door #1, or Door #2, or whichever door you choose. You prefer the door of the Christian tradition, somebody else picks the Jewish door. The Muslims believe in and worship God, just in their own way. Buddhists, Hindus--many faith traditions, many doors. Or maybe you have no faith at all. Thats OK, too; you make your own door. Wherever you want to put one, and whatever you want it to look like, thats your door, and it works for you. That is the prevailing message of our postmodern, hyper-tolerant culture. But that idea is wrong, dead wrong.
Now to be sure, many shall come from the east and the west, that is, there will be many saved from every language, tribe, people, and nation. But all those who are saved are saved in the same way: They all will have come in through the same narrow door, the one door that God has provided for all men, namely, Gods only Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus says there is only one door, and it is a narrow one at that. Not everything will fit. This narrow door has no room for your pride or your accomplishments. No room for your money or possessions. No room for anything you think will earn your way in.
The narrow door has a fraud detector, too. An insincere mere surface association with Jesus will not make it through: Lord, open to us. We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets. But the master of the house will turn them away, saying, I dont know you or where you come from. Depart from me! With this door, theres no sneaking past security.
Nevertheless, come in through this narrow door. Theres just room for you and Jesus, with Jesus leading the way. In fact, Jesus is the Way. He says, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. Again Jesus says, I am the door for the sheep. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.
You see, there is just one door, and it is narrow, but that door is open, and it leads to salvation! Come in through the way that is Jesus, the new and living way that he opened for us--by his coming in the flesh, by the blood that he shed for us on the cross. Christ, the everlasting Son of the Father, took upon himself all our sins, all that would block us and exclude us from Gods presence. Jesus suffered that exclusion in our place, when he cried out, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? But that perfect sacrifice having been made, the way for us sinners is no longer blocked. It is as open as the empty tomb with the stone rolled away. Christ our Savior has overcome the sharpness of death and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. The door is open! Jesus is our open door!
Come in through Gods open narrow door. But if there is no room through this door for our works, our efforts to save ourselves, then why does Jesus say, Strive to enter? Isnt that a contradiction? I thought being saved was giving up on our own efforts and instead trusting in Jesus work for us? Well, it is. But going in still is an effort, it involves a struggle. We strive and struggle against our own flesh. You and I are saints and sinners at the same time, and our Old Adam is at war with the new man. So we struggle every day with sin and temptation, the temptation to not listen to God, to not trust in God above all things. We do battle against the devil, the world, and our flesh. Thats why the way of salvation involves a certain effort. Yes, salvation is all Gods work for us in Christ, entirely apart from our works of self-justification. But because our life is lived in this fallen world and in this sinful flesh, therefore it does involve a striving and a struggle. Thats what Jesus means when he says, Strive to enter.
Strive. The Greek word thats used here is agonizo, from which we get our English word, agonize. It was used of athletes in competition, like at the Olympics. They agonize to win the prize. Same here. We agonize, we sweat and strive and struggle. We press on to run the race, keeping our eyes on the prize, the crown of life that God freely awards us for Christs sake. The paradox of the Christian life is that its a gift and a struggle at the same time. Strive to enter through the narrow door.
Our message this morning started with a question: Lord, will those who are saved be few? But this is no place for a dry academic exercise; this is no time for a mere theoretical question. The question is, rather, Will those who are saved include me? And God is not the one who is on trial here. You and I are. How are we going to fare in the heavenly court of justice? How shall we enter the kingdom of God?
The door is narrow, but the door is open. It is open now, for you. Behold, now is the time of Gods favor, now is the day of salvation. Right now, as you hear the living voice of the gospel, God is opening his door to you. God is speaking to you, inviting you in, welcoming you home with open arms.
If the question is, Lord, will those who are saved be few? then Jesus answer is, You, you who are hearing me today, come in through me and be saved while there is still time. Yes, come to the feast of salvation, enter the kingdom of God, through Gods open narrow door.
[Jesus] went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to him, Lord, will those who are saved be few? And he said to them, Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, open to us, then he will answer you, I do not know where you come from. Then you will begin to say, We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets. But he will say, I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil! In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.
I usually post these sermons in the Bloggers & Personal forum, with the topic there being, “Religion.” That’s what I thought I did this time, too. But somehow it got redirected to the Religion forum. Oh, well.
I moved it to the Religion forum, I thought it was more appropriate there. If you would like me to restore it to the Bloggers forum, please let me know via the abuse button.
Sorry for any inconvenience.
I like it here.
God knows the answer to that question. That's enough for me.
That's true, as far as it goes. "Do this and you shall live." The problem is, we don't keep God's Law! If the Law was all there was, we'd be sunk!
Fortunately, God has another word for us: The Gospel. It tells us of what Christ has done FOR us. That is the only way any of us will be saved!
Thanks. I’ll pass it along.
From a post on the Daily Readings Thread for Sunday.
It is the humble soul that never presumes that one can claim heaven on one’s own terms. Rather, it is the humble spirit who is totally dependent on the gatekeeper and the gate, who is Christ Himself, who will enter the kingdom of heaven. The humble spirit is disposed to obeying God in all things, loving Him on His terms.
Thanks for the sermon Pastor. I really enjoy these on Sundays before heading to Church.
And keep in mind that “love God and Love one another” is Law.
Reminds me of something John R.W. Stott wrote; "Christianity cannot be reduced to a law of love."
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