August 21, 2016

Pastor Bernt Tweit

Old Testament Lesson; Isaiah 66:18-23

Epistle Lesson; Hebrews 12:18-24

Sermon Text; Luke 13:22-30

The Word of God we look at for today is taken from Luke, chapter 13, looking at verses 22 to 30.

He 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 shout, 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.”

This is God's Word.

Several weeks ago, in a sermon, we heard about a man who knocked at his neighbor's house at midnight. The friend who went knocking at the neighbor's house did so, because they had a request. A friend had come to them, late at night, and he wanted to provide food for his friend, (three loaves of bread, but he didn't have any). So at midnight he went to his neighbor's house, and knocked at the door. His neighbor, who was the master of that house, said, “I am in bed. The doors are shut. The doors are locked. I am not getting out of bed to give you any bread.”

But, it was because of the persistence of the man knocking at the door, that the master of that house got out of bed. He not only unlocked the door, but he opened it. He didn't just give his neighbor three loaves of bread. Scripture tells us he gave his neighbor everything he wanted, because he was persistent.

Today in our text, we also have another, after hours, knocking at the door. This time, the result is different. This time the result is final.

As our text for today begins, it tells us Jesus is journeying toward Jerusalem.

It is important for us to be reminded of what Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to do. He was on His way to Jerusalem to contend for a prize for you. He striving to win a prize for you, and that prize Jesus was striving to win for you, contend for you, was eternal life in Heaven. Jesus did that at the cross, as He laid down His life, suffered, and died to pay for our sins so that we could have everlasting life, with Him in Heaven.

As Jesus was journeying toward Jerusalem, there was somebody in the crowd who comes to Jesus, and asks a great question. From our text for today, the question is:

“Lord, will those who are saved be few?”

Well, that is a great question. And, it is a very abstract question that man asked. Will those who are saved be few?

What does the Bible say? Let's look at what scripture says, this morning. As you think about your lives, what should be your greatest concern in life, from a spiritual perspective? Our greatest concern in life should be that we want to be in Heaven, one day. That is what God's Will is. That is what God wants for you, and for me.

“God wants all to be saved,

and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

That is the positive way of looking at it. The negative way of looking at it would be to say,

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world,

and yet forfeit their soul?”

That is to be so focused on “the here, and now”, that we lose focus of what the goal is of everlasting life, with Jesus in Heaven.

So, why should we be concerned about that? Why should we be concerned about that goal of eternal life in Heaven? Well, we don't want the opposite to happen, do we? We don't want Jesus to say to us,

“Depart from me, you who are cursed,

into the eternal fire,

prepared for the devil and his angels.”

As we recognize that concern, we understand there is this division we have between ourselves, and God. We might call it a barrier. We might call it a wall. We might call it a closed door.

That division is our sin.

That division is death.

It is the power of the devil.

We understand our sin has separated us from God, and there is nothing we can do to 'open that door', by ourselves, to eternal life in Heaven.

Today, we live in a time in which many people think “all roads lead to Heaven, all doors open to Heaven”. And yet, we know from scripture that is not the case. We have some 'idioms' in our language that we use.

An 'idiom' is simply taking a whole bunch of words, and putting them together. The outcome of that phrase is different than what the words, in and of themselves, really are saying. So for example, we have an 'idiom' that says, “His head is so big, he can't even fit through that door”. Well, it doesn't mean his head is physically so big that he can't walk through the door. What does it mean, then? He has a big ego, right? He is so big-headed. He thinks so highly of himself. He is inflated.

Well, in a sense, that is what Jesus is talking about here.

       -Not all 'roads' lead to Heaven.

       -Not all 'doors are open' to Heaven. It is only through 'the narrow door', which is Jesus, Himself.

       -Only through faith in Jesus, can a person enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

So, the 'open door', yes it is narrow, but the 'open door' is open for you, and the 'open door' is Jesus.

We look forward to what Jesus will say to those who, through Him, enter through 'the narrow door', to the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Come you who are blessed by my Father.

Receive the inheritance

prepared for you,

since the creation of the world.”

“Lord, will those who are saved be few?”

Abstract question. Notice how Jesus answers the question. He turns it around. He makes it concrete. He turns it into a statement. This is what He says to that question, “Lord, will those who saved be few?”

He says,

“Strive to enter through the narrow door.”

“Strive to enter through the narrow door.” I love the Greek word for 'strive'. As soon as I say it, you are going to know what English word we get from it. It is the Greek word, 'agonizesthe'. That is where we get our English word, 'agonize'. You see, Jesus here is telling this man to 'strive', to 'struggle', to 'contend for a prize', to 'agonize for a prize'. This was the word used to refer to those Greek Olympians, who would 'contend for a prize'.

What would those Greek Olympians do? They would 'struggle'. They would 'strive'. They would 'agonize' in their training to 'contend for that prize', for that wreath, or that medal.

For the last two weeks, many of us have been caught up in the Rio Olympics. What does it take to 'contend for a prize'? What does it take to 'contend for a medal'? At the end of a race, or at the end of a contest, many an Olympic Medal Winner has had a microphone thrust into their face, in which they were asked questions. Not one time did we ever hear an Olympic Winner say something like this. “I was sitting on the couch for the last ten years. I was eating donuts. I have not trained a second in my life. Can you believe it? I entered the race, and I won a medal!”

We never heard that, did we? In their answer, they always talked about their training schedule, and what it took to 'contend for the prize'. One of the 'darlings' of these games was Simon Biles. Before the Olympics began, she was asked, “What is your training schedule like?”

Here is what she said. “I train 32 hours a week, over six days. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, from 9:00 in the morning, until noon, I focus on basics, and skills so I can break everything down, and really get a hold of them. In the afternoon, from 3:00 until 6:00, I put the skill sets together. On Monday and Wednesday, from 12:30 to 5:30, I work on basics for 15 minutes, and then a combination of everything from skills to routines. The same thing on Saturday, from 9:00 am to 1:00pm.”

Now, if you add up all of those times, it is actually more than 32 hours! You get the point. She was 'contending for a prize'. She was 'struggling'. She was 'striving'. She was 'agonizing' for the prize she was desiring.

The prize Jesus is encouraging us to 'strive' for, for us to 'contend' for is far bigger than an Olympic Medal. Jesus is encouraging us to 'strive', and to 'contend' for Heaven. Jesus is 'the narrow door', through which we get to Heaven. Scripture says about Jesus, (and these are Jesus' words Himself),

“I am the way,

and the truth,

and the life.

No one comes to the Father,

except through me.”

Jesus said,

“I am the gate,

(or I am the door.)

Whoever enters through me,

will be saved.”

We have another 'idiom' in our language. It is the 'idiom' 'window of opportunity'. A 'window of opportunity' simply means 'to seize something now', before the 'window' closes. 'Seize something now'. 'Grab something now' so that the 'window of opportunity' is not missed.

That is what Jesus is encouraging us to 'contend' and 'strive' for. Heaven, yes, and to do so, now. In everybody's life, that 'window of opportunity' one day is going to close. It is either going to be the day of our death, or it is going to be the day of Judgment Day, which ever comes first in our lives. The 'narrow door' will be shut, and those who believe in Jesus will be in, and those who don't believe in Jesus will be shut out. That is finality.

Back in October, of 1994, the Supreme Court of the United States had just finished their three month, summer, recess. And, on October 3rd, 1994 they were beginning the new session, the new season. On that day, 1,600 cases were brought before them. 1,600 cases. On that day, the Supreme Court said, “No” to every case. In every single one of those cases, 1,600 cases, it was finality. It was the final word. The case wasn't going to be heard. Case closed.

Probably the hardest thing in life for me is the end of Vacation Bible School, the end of Camp Indian Head, and the end of LYA Convention, standing before all the youth who are there. On one hand, it may be the last time I see them on earth. It might be. The thing I struggle with most, though, is I wonder if I am going to see them, again. It is the greatest struggle I have. That is what Jesus is talking about in our text for today. He said,

“For, many, I tell you,

will seek to enter and will not be able”.

Why will they be shut out of Heaven? It is because they don't believe in Jesus, as their Savior. The door is going to be shut. They are going to be pounding on the door saying, “Jesus, we knew you”.

But, He will say,

“I do not know where you come from.”

They may have known Jesus, but they didn't believe in Jesus.

Which brings us back to why Jesus was going to Jerusalem. Jesus was going to Jerusalem, with resolution on His mind. Jesus had laser vision.

What was He going to do? He was going to 'agonizesthe'. He was going to 'strive', to 'struggle', to 'agonize', to 'contend for a prize'. It wasn't a prize for Himself. It was a prize for you, and it was a prize for me.

It was a prize of eternal life in Heaven.

Jesus did that when He said,

“It is finished.”

Jesus did that by forgiving you of all of your sin, and opening the 'narrow door' to eternal life in Heaven. Yes, the door may be narrow, but the door is still open to you. Seize the opportunity, while that time of grace is still available to you, and to me in our lives.

Today I would like to close by looking at a hymn verse we are going to sing at the very end of our service. It is hymn 339. I am going to focus on one verse. The hymn is entitled Today Your Mercy Calls Us. It is verse two I want to look at, right now. I want you to focus on the words, as it talks about what our text for today is talking about. The words 'gate' and 'door' are interchangeable.

Today your door is open.

All who enter in

shall find a Father's welcome,

and pardon for their sin.

The past shall be forgotten.

A present joy be given.

A future grace be promised.

A glorious crown in Heaven.