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“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.’ (Luke 13:23-25)
The book ‘Practical Religion,’ by J.C. Ryle won my heart and challenged me, as it looks at the practical side of being a Christian. One of the first chapters brings us to Luke chapter 13. Jesus was heading towards Jerusalem. There was a lovely turning point in Luke’s gospel where, at last, the disciples have understood who Jesus is. That great declaration has been made, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus told them that His Father in heaven had revealed that to them. If you understand who Jesus is, it’s a miracle. You might say, ‘He’s a great man, a great teacher,’ but it is only the Spirit of God can convince you He’s the Creator of the universe. It was a shock to me, it came suddenly to me at the age of 19.
His disciples had got the point that He is the Son of God. Jesus Christ is the second person of the one Triune God, one being but mysteriously three persons, distinct in their persons, yet one in their essential essence. It’s the Father who sent the Son and the Son who came in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s the Son who died on the cross, not the Father. It’s the Spirit who oversees it all. It’s the Son who rose from the dead. It’s the Lord Jesus Christ who is reigning and will return one day. Are we ready for that day?
Why did Jesus ever come to this planet? From the point where the disciples understand who He is, He starts to teach them why He has come; He is going to die. Jesus set His face like a flint towards Jerusalem.
As He is on His way to Jerusalem with the disciples, there is a crowd around them. Someone asks a theological question of interest then melts back into the crowd. We don’t know who he was or what he was about. ‘Lord,’ he says, ‘are there few who will be saved?’ We hear nothing more about this man.
Many people want to speak about points of theology. On many occasions they are a smokescreen, a distraction from the one thing that’s necessary. There are different points of view, for example on dress codes, of what the preacher should wear to church. Is it a key issue? The question here is a good one, ‘Are there few who will be saved?’ But Jesus takes the opportunity to address the whole crowd, not just the one man. The punch line is this, whether there are few or many who will be saved, you make sure you are saved.
‘Strive to enter through the narrow door.’ Strive! There is a time coming when many will try but will not be able to.
In these three verses there is a door, a command and a prophecy.
A door. Jesus says, “Strive to enter.” There is a door. Here is the door which we can go through and enter eternal life. Is there a time when you went through the door of life eternal? Once I’ve gone through that door it guarantees I’m going to enter a glorious place called heaven. I’ll have eternal life, I have peace with God, my sins that are many have been forgiven. Why have I done the things I’ve done? We’ve all got a problem. We sin because we are sinners. Some say babies are born neutral. But they are born with a bias, wanting their way. This leads to sin. We have to teach children to do the right thing. It’s a wonderful thing for fathers and mothers to train children in the way of the Lord. When we go through this particular door, sin, which is such a burden, is rolled away.
It’s a narrow gate that leads to heaven. Sin is a problem. It’s a deep chasm, a vast gulf. But the good news from Jesus isthere is a door! What an amazing thing in such a world as this, with war, economic chaos and where anything goes, there is a way back to God. Sin is the barrier. God is holy beyond our imagination, heaven is pure. There is no way we can get there ourselves, but thank God there is a door and Jesus is the door:
“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5).
This morning, you’ve come into the chapel. How did you come in? I came in through the front door. Straight forward. What’s the way to heaven? There’s a door. Jesus says there’s a difficulty with the door. It’s narrow and you couldn’t take a bag through it. You have to go one by one. To get to heaven you have to renounce sin. When you trust in Jesus and go through Him, He counts you as righteous because He sees His Son covering you. In actual fact you are still a sinner – a saved sinner. Because you have new life, you desire new things, to please God. Little by little, He transforms us. You leave your desires to sin at the gate. You can’t go through that gate with your sin, your own agenda, what you want – what university you want to go to, what kind of job you want, what husband or wife you want, what house you would like to have. You leave that at the gate. You go through alone and Jesus meets you. You put everything in His hands and ask, ‘Lord, who do you want me to marry? What university do you want me to go to? What job do you want me to have? Where do you want me to live? You put everything into His hands. You walk with Him.
It’s a narrow door. You go through one by one, leaving self and sin, the worldliness of my agenda. Through that door is Jesus. We should commend Jesus to people. The early church was a beacon. See how they loved one another. After all Paul says about the gospel to the Corinthians and the gifts of the Spirit, he says he will now show the most excellent way – love. ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ Notice this, it’s only attached to this – ‘by this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you love one another.’ The world needs to see that Christianity actually works. Love is the outwards expression of the reality of truth. Despite our differences, it’s a command of the Lord Jesus to love one another.
Jesus is the only door. There is no other way. He is the only way to heaven. It’s Jesus or not at all. It’s not religion that gets you there. It’s not church-going that gets you there. It’s not morality. It’s not doing good – life by human standards. Why? Because God’s standards are perfection, purity. His righteousness is beyond our imagination. Human morality is like stinking rags. What gets us to heaven? Is it my repentance? Is it my turning from sin to God? No. Is it my faith that gets me there? No. It’s not my faith. It’s not my works that gets me to heaven. It’s Jesus. Jesus. Jesus only. He died that we might be forgiven. There was no other good enough to pay the price of my sin. Have you gone through the door, trusting His redeeming blood? Don’t think your works get you through.
Zechariah 13:1 is a lovely prophecy, “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” Zechariah is looking forwards to Calvary. We’re looking back on Calvary. That fountain was opened up. Same Old Testament. It certainly saved us who go back to it. The door is wide open now. At some point it will be closed. We are all encouraged to come.
Many of the most unlikely candidates have gone through that gate. A man called Manasseh, in the Old Testament, was a wicked, wicked man. Totally amoral. He even offered his own children as living sacrifices to the false god Molech. What a dastardly, evil, wicked man. But late in life he saw the door and he went through it. Saul of Tarsus, a wicked man who persecuted the church, approving of people being stoned to death, went through the door. It’s amazing.
Here’s a question, not ‘Lord, Lord, are there few who will be saved’? but ‘Lord, what must I do to be saved?’ Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Open the door and you shall be saved. Not ‘Are there few or many?’ but ‘What about me?’
What a privilege it is to have a door at all. For the angels who fell and were cast down to Earth, including the prince of demons, the arch angel, glorious in beauty, there is no door. But for us there is a door.
Are you saved? Have you been trough the door? If you are saved and have been through the door, be thankful. Thankful has ‘full’ on the end. Be full of thanks. Does my life express that I’ve been through the door? Am I full of thanks to Him? Does my love overflow to my fellow believer and to the world around about me? Focus on the door. Go forward in confidence in Him. Be thankful.
If you’re not a Christian, don’t hang around. Jesus says, ‘Strive to enter.’ Don’t say, ‘I tried’ and it didn’t work. If you knew there was a million pound behind a certain door, you wouldn’t try and give up, you’d try again. Jesus says, ‘Strive.’
Jesus expands on this. The time is coming and many will try and won’t be able to because that door will be shut. It’s not shut now. It’s open. Strive to enter through the narrow gate.