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"Enter Through the Narrow Door"

In our text, Luke emphasizes Jesus’ teaching ministry: “He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem” (Luke 13:22). If you know the end of the story, the mention of Jerusalem strikes an ominous note, because it meant rejection by the nation and the horror of the cross. Somewhere in some village some unnamed person in the crowd asked Jesus an interesting theological question: “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” I don’t know the man’s motives for asking the question. Perhaps he saw the increasing opposition from the religious leaders and he could sense that the crowds, although superficially interested in Jesus’ message, tended to side with their leaders. But he asked this question, “Are there just a few who are being saved?”

Most of us have wondered about that question as we look at the billions of pagans compared with the few committed Christians. It would have made for an interesting theological discussion. But Jesus did not answer the question directly. Instead, He directed the question away from abstract theological speculation and toward specific application for each person in the crowd. The man had asked, “Will the saved be few?” Jesus turned it around to ask, “Will the saved be you?” Strive comes from a Greek word used of athletic contests and of war. Obviously, it implies a great deal of effort. You don’t win wars or athletic contests by being passive. You never see an athlete receiving the gold medal, who says, “I had never worked out or run in a race until a few weeks ago. I thought it would be fun, so here I am.” Every athlete who wins strives to win. He invests great energy and effort into winning. It is not an accident if he wins. It is the result of deliberate and sustained effort. Not everyone receives the prize. Only a few are winners.

The narrow door implies that it takes some deliberate thought and effort to go through it. There aren’t many doors into the same place, so that we can take our pick. There is one and only one door, which is Jesus Christ. He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6).

Jesus is asking, “Are you striving to enter the narrow door? Are you making your salvation a matter of deliberate and sustained effort? Are you sure that you’re entering the narrow door as defined by Jesus and not a broad door of your own choosing?” You say, “Whoa! I thought that salvation is a free gift, received simply by grace through faith, not a matter of our effort. How does this harmonize with striving for it?”

Jesus isn’t talking about salvation by works or human effort. But He is talking about our attitude toward it. Those who are only mildly interested about salvation will not obtain it. Those who view salvation as an interesting topic for discussion are missing the point. Those who say, “I believe that all roads lead to God and all good people will go to heaven” are engaging in human speculation, but they are not submitting to Jesus’ divine revelation.

Again, picture the Olympic athlete. He makes winning the gold medal the focus of his life. Everything he does is controlled by his goal of winning the gold. He won’t eat anything that is not good for him, because it might hinder his muscles from performing at their maximum on the day of the race. He doesn’t go to parties and stay up late the night before, because he wants to be rested and ready to give everything to the race. He will refrain from engaging in fun activities that his other friends enjoy, such as skiing or playing softball, because he doesn’t want to break his leg or tear his ligaments. He is disciplined to work out for hours, often when his body is screaming, “That’s enough!” because he wants to win.

It should govern everything we do. It should determine how we spend our time, our money, and our leisure hours. Now, not later, is the time to make sure that we have a personal relationship with Jesus, not just a casual acquaintance with Him. One major evidence of such a relationship is that we are growing in holiness, not just outwardly, but in our heart.

These verses demand our careful attention because we who are in the church are in the same place as the Jews of Jesus’ day. We are familiar with the things of God. Perhaps like me, you were raised in the church, enrolled in a Christian school, raised to commit to a ministry and required by parents to attend the Mass. But being in the church is not enough. Have you entered through the narrow door? Are you seeking to know Him and grow in Him as your Lord and Savior?

David Brainerd, the great missionary to the American Indians, was once witnessing to a chief who was very close to trusting in Christ. But he held back. Brainerd got up, took a stick, drew a circle in the dirt around the chief, and said, “Decide before you cross that line.” Brainerd knew that if the chief missed that moment he might never be so close again. My prayer is that we will draw the line around us if we have never entered through the narrow door, which is Christ alone. Salvation is not just an interesting theological notion to discuss. It is of crucial importance for every person because the door is narrow and it soon will be shut. “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”

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