March 27, 1999
Thrust statement: It is incumbent upon every individual to strive to enter the narrow gate.
Scripture readings: Luke 13:23-24; Matthew 7:13-14
|Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to (Luke 13:23-24).|
There are some here today who have never been baptized as penitent believers into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. There are some here today who have been baptized but who no longer serve God on a day to day basis. There are some here today who need to rededicate their lives to the service of God’s kingdom. There are some here today who need to respond to baptism. There are some of you here today who are just “lukewarm” Christians. I am asking you today to consider your own soul’s salvation. Ask yourselves the question: How do I stand with God? If you were to die today, do you know that you would have a home with God in the ceaseless ages of eternity. I call upon each of you to reflect upon the words of Jesus to the church in Laodicea:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne (Revelation 3:20).
This invitation is extended to every person. Are you hearing His voice? Are you willing to respond to His call? Are you “cold” or “hot” in the service of the Lord? Jesus warns the Laodiceans: “ I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). It is also in this vein that Paul admonishes the Romans, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). Again, he writes, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
I encourage each of you to reflect back upon the time of your conversion. How often did you read your Bible? How often did you pray? How often did you meet with Christians on Sundays and Wednesday nights? How often did you invite someone to attend church with you? Do you remember how you changed your unwholesome language? Do you recall the words of Paul to the Ephesians when he warns them, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 5:29).
I still recall the day that I was baptized; my uncle, E. H. Miller, baptized me on November 9, 1949. My heart burned with zeal for God and His kingdom. Approximately eight years later (October 20, 1957), I baptized a young girl named Katrina, who later became my wife on the 19th day of April 1968. I still remember the zeal she had for the Lord—her devotion to reading the Bible and her attendance at all the church meetings. Our son, Lavone, who is with us today, was baptized on January 1, 1981; he was only eight and one-half years old at the time of his baptism. His wife, Mindy, who is also with us today, was also baptized by me on January 22, 1990. I also baptized (January 22, 1990) Mindy’s sister, Missy, who is also with us today. I baptized (March 2, 1997) one of my granddaughters, Becky, who is also with us today. My daughter Regina was also baptized by me (I am sorry to say that the records that contained the date of her “new birth” were lost). Do any of you today recall the time and place of your baptism? Do you recall the zeal that you had for God and the glow in your eyes. Have you lost that zeal? Have you lost that desire to serve the Lord? Also, I should mention Casey Calloway, a member of this congregation who made her commitment on March 13, 1999. Her parents led her to Christ, but I had the privilege of baptizing her into the Messiah.
THE GOSPEL DEMANDS OUR OBEDIENCE
Let us reread our text: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to” (Luke 13:24). The NKJV translates this verse: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” What does the word “strive” convey to you? What does it mean to “make every effort to enter”? Did not our Lord say, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). What does the word “strive” convey to you? Does it mean to “exert oneself”? Are you saying to yourself that it does not make any difference? Are you saying, “I can not believe that God would do so and so.” One thing that strikes all of us is the arrogance that some take in denying that God condemns those who refuse His demands. Luke records for us one of Jesus’ responses concerning some Galileans who perished. He writes,
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:1-5).
God wants change in the lives of men and women. When John the Baptist came on the scene, he proclaimed “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2). Jesus began His ministry with “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17). Solomon, the son of King David, writes,
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
The statement of Jesus, as recorded by Luke 13:23-24, desires not our approval but demands our obedience. It does not court discussion but rather demands diligence. Jesus did not lead the discussions as to the appropriateness of what He said, but rather He gave instructions. It is not our business to express our own opinions but rather to discover the mind of God. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, expresses the importance of the Word in His encounter with Satan: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Isaiah states the gravity of going to the Word: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Isaiah 8:20). What is Christ’s response to mankind? Listen again, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate” (NKJV, Luke 13:24).
Are we melted and softened into the ways of the world? Have we forgotten God? Have we forgotten His eternal love in Jesus Christ? Do we long to be better and cleaner? Do we yearn for that narrow way? Is the voice of God speaking to your heart today? Has not the Father sent us a message of pardon and forgiveness through Jesus Christ? Remember the words of Paul to the Christians of Thessalonica: “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Listen to the Spirit of God as He seeks to move you today. One way to put out the Spirit’s fire is to forget that you are a servant of righteousness. Christians are no longer servants of sin. It is in this vein that Paul sought to remind the Christians at Ephesus:
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:25-32).
As previously stated, Paul does not want Christians to quench the Spirit. It is not uncommon for believers to search after salvation with all their hearts in the early stages but gradually drift away by and by. They attend the local gathering of the saints for a while and avoid the ways of the world for a time, but then they begin to slacken off and to be less careful and eventually cease to be active in kingdom work. Peter addresses this kind of behavior in his second epistle:
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud” (2 Peter 2:19-22).
God’s people are to strive, they are to be ready, they are to be constant, they are to be diligent, they are to be persistent, and they are to apply themselves whole-heartedly to the work of the Lord. The Hebrew letter also address this issue of perseverance:
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:12-15).
He is saying to strive, to get on, to not stop, and to not feel satisfied. In other words, he is saying that every Christian should finish with sin and give up worldly sinful pleasures. The writer of Hebrews reminds his readers that they must act:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Are you running this Christian race with perseverance? Are you keeping your eyes on Jesus? When you become discouraged, do you consider Him that endured the cross? Are you growing weary and losing heart? If so, then Jesus is the answer.
Oakwood Hills Church
DeFuniak Springs, FL
Time: 11 am
Scripture reading by: Timothy Williamson
All Scripture citations are from The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984, unless stated otherwise.