The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

Strive to Enter

Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”  And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are 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 you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ (Luke 13:23-27)

Notice that in response to the question, “Are there few who are saved?” the Lord answers that many will seek to enter salvation but will not be able. He claims that people will call Him “Lord, Lord” in that day, and remind Him that they spent time in His presence and under His teaching, but He will tell them to depart from Him. Why does He not know them?–because they are “workers of iniquity.” The Lord’s exhortation is not “Just rest in my promises and relax and enjoy the ride,” as some suppose, but “Strive (the Greek word for “agonize”) to enter.” Make stringent effort to enter, otherwise you will be like others who sought to enter but were not able. Are we taking the Savior’s words seriously?

What does striving to enter look like?

Recently I met a Catholic man, who told me with tears that he was trying to raise money to support certain Catholic charities so that he wouldn’t have to go to purgatory after he died. He was certainly striving to be saved, but is this what the Lord meant by striving to enter?–No. Not only is purgatory an unbiblical and false idea, but no one can do enough good deeds to cancel out their bad deeds and make themselves justified before God. Wrongdoing must be forgiven by the One who was wronged (God), and His forgiveness (salvation) is granted freely to those who repent of sin and believe on/follow Jesus with saving faith.  However, entering into and abiding in salvation (Jesus) will take an agonizing effort, because to truly make Jesus Lord & Master of your life is not easy. Your flesh wants to rule, but it must be cast down, dethroned, and crucified. There can only be one King in the Kingdom, and usurpers of the throne of God are antichrist. Only those who are in submission to the King will be allowed in the Kingdom.

The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 13:41-42)

Today we have multitudes of people who go to church and know lots of religious lingo about the salvation they do not understand and do not in reality possess. They have never really agonized to enter the kingdom of God. They never truly repented of their sins. They don’t really believe in Jesus; if they did, they would follow Him and do what He says.  They haven’t experienced the sorrow that leads to repentance, and they remain waffling between the world and God, imagining they are the friends of God while they are really His enemies ( James 4:4).  Listen to what Paul described as the sorrow that precedes repentance leading to salvation:

Now I rejoice…that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!  (2 Cor. 7:9-11)

These people had responded to Paul’s rebuke with sorrow that led to a change in their behavior. They were diligent to clear themselves of wrongdoing, they were indignant against sin (siding with God against their own wrong), and they acquired a zeal for practical righteousness. This is a necessary step toward salvation, but it can’t be taken without some striving. Anyone who has been under the conviction of the Holy Spirit knows that a great wrestling occurs as the Lord convicts of sin, and the sinner is compelled to wave the white flag of surrender. Only those who allow Jesus to reign over them will escape being the “slain of the Lord” (Luke 19:11-27; Isa. 66:16). After being rebuked for his adultery and murder, David described his agonizing time of sorrowing to repentance as follows:

When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.  (Psa. 32:3-5)

Many people feel the hand of the Lord heavy on them, and their vitality is turned to the drought of summer, but they respond by lashing out at others and growing angry and bitter, rather than confessing to the Lord that they have wronged Him grievously and need His merciful forgiveness. It is easier to pretend the fault is all someone else’s than it is to acknowledge our own sin and turn from it. But this is what we must do if we want to be right with God. He does not allow pretension of godliness while hiding unconfessed sin. He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. (Prov. 28:13)  Jesus went so far as to say cut off a hand or foot, or pluck out an eye, rather than continue in sin and wind up in hell fire! (Matt. 18:8-9) What is He saying, but that overcoming the flesh and entering eternal life will require some painful effort! Satan has a snare for everyone; we must watch and pray lest we fall into temptation and forfeit the great salvation prepared for us by choosing temporal pleasure over the things that have eternal value.

Often people will enter Salvation, but when they realize that it is a life of daily consecration, of presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, they want out. They are like the children of Israel who cheered and rejoiced when they saw Pharaoh’s army drowned in the sea, but turned back to Egypt in their hearts when things got uncomfortable.  They have a “been there, tried that” mentality toward God, who they suppose should be more indulgent of their sensual cravings; rather than a loving thankfulness for His redemption and necessary providence.  They want to circumvent the valley of the shadow of death, rather than go through it. They want anything but to deny themselves, carry a cross, and to be as selfless and misunderstood as Jesus was;  but this is the only way. Jesus is the only way, so we have no choice but to obey His instructions no matter where they take us or how much it hurts.  Overcomers have three things:  the blood of the Lamb (forgiveness through Jesus), the word of their testimony (a changed life), and they love not their own lives to the death (Rev. 12:11).

Dare we imagine that loving not our own lives to the death is possible withoutstriving?  We have this exhortation from the writer of Hebrews–You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin (Heb. 12:4).  Listen to Paul’s words on the necessity of striving for the imperishable crown of eternal life:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (I Cor. 9:24-27)

Dear Reader, strive to enter through the narrow gate. Do whatever it takes to make sure your life is 100% submitted to God. Many will be unable to enter because they will not part with their iniquity. Do not think to call Jesus “Lord, Lord” while disobeying His commands. He is not hoodwinked by empty words as men sometimes are. Do not think you will win the prize without self-discipline and effort. To produce the fruit God expects will require not just hearing, but keeping the Word of God, and patience under trial (Luke 8:15; 21:19).  The good news is that Jesus wants you to make it in! He offers instruction, strength, comfort, and everything else that is needed to bring you to heaven. All things are made possible through Him.  Will you strive to enter the narrow gate, and continue to live by your faith, or will you be like those who draw back to perdition?

God bless you!

2 Responses to “Strive to Enter”

  1. Lee Poskey said

    Praise God that we are Abraham’s seed, because we are in Christ by grace through faith.

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