Sunday Worship 11th October -Enter through the narrow door
Today's service is being led by Simon Brown from Glencroft Church in Glen Parva, we are grateful that Simon has provided his message for distribution to those who cannot attend.
“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able."
Hymn 106 Come ye thankful people come https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imK0j7eBJsc
I’m grateful, Lord God, that you love me and care for me, that Jesus lived and died for me. I’m grateful that you are interested in me, even me with all my faults and failings. Thank you for sharing my life and my living, for being within my hopes and dreams. Thank you for giving me purpose and meaning. Thank you for showing me how to live a life of goodness and truth, a life of caring and sharing. Thank you for your generosity and abundance even if I fail to see it. Thank you, God, for being you and thank you for making me, me. Amen.
Luke 13 v 22-35
Hymn 511 O Lord, your tenderness (Graham Kendrick)
Comments on Bible Passage
What questions would you really like to know the answer to?
E.g. During the current pandemic: Will there be a vaccine? Is my job secure? Will I get ill? If I do, will it be serious? Will my family be OK?
Or maybe we have more ‘big picture’ type questions: Why are we here? What is really worth living for?
Have we ever asked the question that Jesus was asked at the start of our passage? “Lord, will those who are saved be few?”
The need to be ‘saved’ was not an alien concept to the people who Jesus mixed with, and it won’t be an unusual thought today to anyone who is familiar with the Bible.
But, to some modern ears, the question in verse 23 might be a slightly unusual one. We need to first have a concept of what we need to be saved from. That will come in today’s passage.
Enough to say at this point that today we are talking about safety and danger, about heaven and hell, and about the response that we need to make to these issues.
“Lord, will those who are saved be few?”
“Strive to enter through the narrow door.”
Does Jesus give a straight answer here? He doesn’t seem to, to me.
Jesus points the inquirer to the really important issue as far as that inquirer is concerned.
Q: “How many will get into heaven?” A: “Strive to go there yourself.”
The question is more general and broad; the answer is personal.
For me and you, the big issue is not how many will be saved, but, ‘Will I be saved?’ and ‘Will you be saved?’
The question, and the answer Jesus gave, is the overall theme for us this morning as we look at the rest of the passage.
With that in mind, here are some things we need to learn from these verses.
We need to strive
The Greek word means ‘to contend’ and is related to the English word, ‘agonize’. The same root word is what is used of Jesus being in agony in the garden of Gethsemane, as he faced the cross.
The Bible makes clear that we are not saved by our own efforts to be good.
But, getting through that door should be supremely important to us – it’s not a casual decision or something we do out of curiosity (‘I wonder what’s through that door.’).
When we come to Jesus (who described himself as the door in another place) we should really mean it.
2. It’s a narrow door
Because it’s narrow, we need to deliberately choose to go into it.
Because it’s narrow, we can’t take lots of things through it with us. They won’t fit! Imagine going through a narrow door carrying lots of full suitcases full of all our most valued possessions!
If we go through that door, we won’t be able to live as we did before we entered.
Because it’s narrow, the majority of people won’t be going that way, so we won’t get through it by following the crowd.
We probably all know what it’s like to be going along just doing what everyone else is doing. That’s not how we’re going to get through the narrow door
3. Many won’t be able to go in
See verse 24 – solemn words
Does this mean living people who are striving to enter are now being turned away? That you and I might approach that door in the same way, and yet for some random reason you’ll get in and I won’t? No, read on.
v25. A time is coming, when it will be too late.
Have you ever missed a bus or a train? I remember an occasion many years ago (but it’s stayed with me because of the intense emotion which it, for some reason, generated)
I was trying to catch a bus into Leicester and arrived at the bus stop just as the bus was pulling away. The doors were shut, maybe even just shutting. I remember the sense of frustration – To my shame, I think I may have even gnashed my teeth! I really wanted to be on that bus, and if I’d arrived a few seconds earlier I would have been. But now it was too late – and there was nothing I could do about it!
Have you ever had that experience? If only I’d got up 5 minutes earlier! If only I hadn’t got distracted by reading that thing in the newspaper or on my phone! But you didn’t get up, you did read that article, and now it’s too late! (By the way, how many times in my life have I had cause to regret not just starting 15 minutes earlier!)
But back to the bus … The illustration breaks down, because there was another bus!
It’s not like that with the door.
This narrow door is the only door to safety, and ultimately to heaven.
Come to Christ now, before it’s too late.
4. Contact is not necessarily connection (Scroggie)
Read verses 26-27
It’s not enough to have shared a meal with Jesus.
It’s not enough to have listened to his teaching.
It’s not enough to have come to church, grown up in a Christian environment, even served Jesus in some way – Matt 7 v22-23 talks about people pleading, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” But Jesus says that he will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
Are there any more fearsome words in the Bible? Jesus says a similar thing in our passage today: “I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil.”
So we need, not just an acquaintance with Jesus, but a relationship – a relationship, notice, which stops us going our own way. Without this sort of relationship, we will be ‘workers of evil’, no matter how respectable we might be.
5. The place we need to be saved from is a place of sorrow and bitterness
A place of weeping – in contrast to heaven, where every tear is wiped away
A place of gnashing of teeth – bitter frustration – in contrast to heaven, where there will be no more pain.
A place of exclusion – seeing that we are ‘cast out’, while others are there, enjoying the kingdom of God.
Hell is described in various ways in the Bible. In terms of fire, darkness, death, destruction. I think often, when the apostles preached, they spoke of judgement. So this is a place, where justice is served.
Because we have all sinned, we all deserve justice, and so we all need saving from this place.
6. The place of safety includes people from everywhere!
Consider who is there – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; all the prophets. Imagine, being able to actually meet those characters some of us have heard about in Sunday school and read about in the Bible.
And then … a great multitude of people from every nation, tribe, people group and language (Rev 7v9). Pick a place in the world – there’ll be someone in heaven from that place. ‘Christian’ nations, nations dominated by other religions, wealthy nations, poor nations, countries that are technologically advanced, people from remote tribes. All arriving in the Kingdom of God.
Somehow, through God’s servants going out and sharing the good news about Jesus, a great multitude will have heard and responded.
Will those who are saved be few? It depends how you look at it doesn’t it?
The door was narrow, and we won’t go through it by following the crowd, but lots of people seem to have found their way in!
All these people will ‘recline at table’, enjoying being there over a meal, enjoying each other I guess, enjoying the company of Jesus.
In recent times, maybe one of the things some of us have missed is enjoying a meal and the company of family or friends. It seems that this will be one of the joys which await us in the kingdom of God.
7. The door is narrow, but the heart of Jesus is not!
At this time, Jesus receives a warning from some Pharisees – ‘Herod wants to kill you’ (v31)
Jesus basically says he’ll be carrying on according to the plan! (v32)
Jesus is safe, because his destination is Jerusalem, where he is due to die for our sins.
Ironic statement in v33, making the point that Jerusalem has a really bad track record when it comes to receiving prophets.
Prophets are those who come with God’s truth, but Jerusalem has, time and again, rejected God’s approaches to them, rejecting God’s messengers in the most violent way.
Hear what Jesus says: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!”
But hear what he says next: “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
The door to the kingdom of God is a narrow door, but the heart of Jesus, the heart of God, is not!
He has wanted to gather and protect them like a mother hen. Time and again he’s wanted to do it. But they were not willing.
Earlier in the passage we found Jesus saying ‘no’ to people, but that is because they have said ‘no’ to him.
C.S. Lewis: “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.’ That is kind of what is happening here in our passage.
Look at Jesus later in Luke’s gospel – 19 v41-42 (read)
If we, as followers of Jesus, are like him, we’ll find ourselves weeping as well.
Richard Baxter –1600s – puritan leader and hymn-writer – said to himself, lamenting his own coldness in preaching, “Shouldst not thou weep over such a people. Should not thy tears interrupt thy words.”
George Whitfield – preacher in 1700s – it is said he could seldom manage a sermon without weeping. “Do you blame me for weeping? How can I help it when you will not weep for yourselves, although your eternal souls are on the verge of destruction?”
Robert William Dale – 1800s – was a Congregational minister in Birmingham. Criticised the American preacher D.L. Moody … until he heard him! Then he changed his mind. Said Moody could never speak of a lost soul without tears in his eyes.
I don’t know about you. But my eyes are too often dry.
But not Jesus. He wept. And he did more. He went on to Jerusalem and went to the cross.
The cross is the place where God’s love and God’s justice meet. Justice demanded punishment for sin; Jesus, out of love, took that punishment upon himself.
So, what do we see in this passage?
On the one hand:
A narrow door. A door that one day will close. A fearful warning about being left outside. A coming day when the state of being outside will be irreversible. A day of bitter regret. Weeping. Gnashing of teeth.
On the other hand: An open-hearted Saviour and God. A picture of people coming from all the four corners of the globe: east, west, north, south to a great kingdom banquet! A day of opportunity – which is today – when we may come and enter and know this loving Lord Jesus. So don’t wait. Come today
Hymn 444 Lord speak to me that I may speak
So often we want to pray for others. But sometimes, God, we don’t know how. We can’t remember names or numbers; other issues weigh heavily on our hearts. Thank goodness, God, that you know what we mean when we pray. So, we bring in this moment those names and faces, images and desires for others that pop in and out of our minds throughout the day: the old lady at the bus stop who needed a hand up the step; the young mum at the checkout trying to contain her four kids; the chap up the road who’s lost his dog and is calling for him; the teachers struggling to understand the needs of those in their class; the doctors who wants to give us more time but who simply can’t; the young families who can’t make ends meet; those without work, who can’t find new jobs; those helping people to find work, knowing it is an uphill struggle; those with mental health issues and seeking help, or who are afraid and ashamed to seek help, or who are ignored and can’t get help.
So, God, for all these people and countless others,
we offer our prayers.
We know you do not need reminding,
but you do need willing workers – even us
–to help them know your love and have their needs met.
Hear our ramblings, O God.
Prayers for those on our prayer list and known to you personally.
Hymn 674 There is a green hill far away https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gINRtKhgmDs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW5unzXXC0k Come to the well
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTDoDA-1lsE Here’s my heart Lord (Long, but good)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDdTt7AB0gI Love moved first