Sermon for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost September 15, 2019
Text: Luke 13:22-30 ILCW Series C 19:2150
Theme: Heaven’s Door – Be Quick to Go Through It!
I. Won’t everyone be able to get through?
(Read vv.22-24) I would like all of you to think about this door. In our lesson Jesus talks about a door. So we’ll let this door represent His door. Let’s call it the door that leads to heaven.
Now, you know that this door only goes to a storeroom (at Zion) or the hallway to my office and stairs to the basement (at Peace). Let’s pretend that heaven is on the other side of this door. All of us want to be there, so we are eager to go through the door. Here, let’s do it. (Try to open the door but pull rather than push). I can’t get it open. Maybe I need a key. Or maybe somebody’s locked it on the other side. Maybe if we pulled together we could get it open. What’s the problem? (the door must be opened a different way – not by pulling but turning the handle and pushing.) It’s easy go through a door when you go through it the right way.
Now think about the door to heaven. Jesus tells us that many people will not be able to go through the door. That surprises some because people want to think that everyone should get to go to heaven. Will everyone be there? Jesus’ answer is direct: NO! Although God wants everyone in heaven, not everyone will be there because they won’t be able to get through the door, which Jesus says is a narrow one. We would do well to ask why they won’t get through the door so that we’re not the ones left out. Why won’t everyone be able to get through?
They won’t get through it for somewhat of a similar reason that we couldn’t open this door at first. I was trying to get through it the wrong way. In their case, they don’t like the door God has provided. It’s too narrow for them. They also try to get in the wrong way.
They don’t want to go through God’s door, they want to make their own door, a bigger, more comfortable door for them. Puffed up with pride, they think they are good enough to save themselves. They have earned the right to be there. Some think other gods, which don’t even exist, will get them there. In both cases they don’t want God narrow way. But one must enter the right door the way it’s intended to be entered.
No one can open the door to heaven on their own; nobody can except Jesus. He is the way, He is the door through which a person must go to get into heaven. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn.14:6). Again, as the Good Shepherd, He said, “Amen, Amen, I tell you: I am the door for the sheep…who ever enters through me will be saved.” (John 10:7f).
You see, our sin was too heavy a burden to allow us to go through. Sin barred the door; it kept us out. Sin made it impossible for us to get through to God. But God in His grace, sent His Son Christ to die for that sin, took it away and unbarred the door. And now He says, “See, I have placed before you an open door” (Rv.3:8).
But if you don’t like His door, if you don’t believe in Him, but believe in yourself or other things, you won’t enter it. Not everyone will get through. And no one who turns from Christ and relies on something else makes it. Heaven’s door is opened by grace, through Christ, and by faith in Him alone. Be quick to go through that door. Faith in Him as the Savior is the only way to enter it.
II. Is any effort required?
(vv.24-27) Some people are going to be mighty surprised when the Last Day comes. They’re going to be surprised because they won’t be there in heaven as they imagine it. They won’t be there because they haven’t done what’s needed to get in.
Does that surprise you to say people haven’t done enough to get into heaven? After all, as confessional Lutheran Christians we know that you don’t get into heaven by what you do, but by what God through Christ has done for you. I just made that point. Like Paul told the Ephesians (2:8), “It is by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God.” You aren’t saved by what you do, but by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. No effort is required by us … or is it?
Listen again, Jesus said: “Strive to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.”
“Strive! Make every effort.” Another way to say it is, “Give it all you’ve got.” The original word from the Greek is used in athletic contests where the athletes are straining with all their might. We get our English word “agony” from it.
Think of that word as describing a wrestling match where the wrestlers are locked together in a firm grip. Sweating, struggling, grunting, each is striving with all his might to overpower the other. Now pulling, now pushing in order to knock his opponent off balance and defeat him. They throw all their effort into the struggle, giving it all they’ve got.
Is an effort required to get into heaven? Yes! Not to win heaven, not to open its door, but an effort is required so that you are ready to go through it. There will be a struggle because Satan, the sinful flesh, and the world will use many things to prevent you from entering.
Some find that surprising because they expect that Jesus lowers the bar in order to make Christianity easy. They think of Him as standing at the entrance of His kingdom and saying, “Come right on in and be comfortable. No effort is going to be asked of you as a Christian.” Others expect that the door is going to swing open to them at any time and that no effort on their part is needed. So, for the present they can do whatever they want and live the way they want.
But the Savior never says that He is “at our beck and call” and subject to our whims, as though it makes no difference whether we come to Him in faith today, tomorrow, or any day. Many spurn His grace and assume they can come on their own terms and in their own time. They make no effort to hear His Word, go to church, pray, or put Him first in life. Boy, will they be surprised when they hear Him tell them at His return: “I don’t even know you. Go away from me.”
Is an effort required to go through heaven’s door? Yes, for it is a struggle against the sinful flesh, the devil, and the world which seek to hold you back from coming to Him, the narrow door. And they are mighty wrestlers. The Bible says, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ep.6:12). You can’t let down your guard. You’ve got to give it all you’ve got.
Are you wrestling hard enough to prevent them from stopping you from entering God’s Kingdom of grace? Are you making daily use of His Word? Are you giving it all you’ve got and not letting earthly distractions pull you away from your time with the Savior? The opponents line up daily against us, grabbing, pulling, seeking to overcome us. Do not take them lightly. Once saved as you are in Christ, once brought to faith by the Holy Spirit, apply yourself to the task. An effort is required. Strive to give it all you’ve got before it’s too late and the door closes. Late pounders on heaven’s door won’t get in.
III. Will we be surprised to see who’s left out?
(vv.28-30) A third surprise is that the ones to be seated at the heavenly table of grace are not necessarily the ones who were expected.
Logically, Israel should have been there. They were the chosen people of God. They had the promises given to Abraham. They saw the Savior when He came. He ate and drank with many of them, walked in their streets, taught them. They thought they were a sure bet to be there. But Jesus’ verdict upon them was: “I don’t know you or where you come from.”
If one does not recognize his complete reliance upon Jesus and come in faith and love in Him alone, if one has no time for Him, if one takes God’s way of salvation for granted and think that God simply has to let you in, don’t be surprised to see that one left out. Israel thought God had to let them in because of who they and their relatives were. They’d be the first ones in, right? Jesus said, “I don’t know you.”
If that seems harsh, bear in mind that Jesus is speaking to hard-hearted people who turn away from Him for a variety of reasons. But there are others from all corners of the earth, from east to west, from north to south who look to Him alone for their salvation. They put themselves last and Him first in their lives. They trust in Him completely and leave all matters of salvation up to Him. To them He says, “Come and I will give you rest.” There’s no surprise there! By faith they will be quick to get through heaven’s door. God grant that in faith we always be among them; for Jesus’ sake. Amen.