Luke: Striving…for the kingdom (Part 1): 08/05/18

Message: Series Title

‘The Gospel of Luke: Encountering Jesus’

Message: Striving… for the kingdom’ pt.1

Text: Luke 13:22-30

 Introduction:  Becky Beaupre Gillespie once said, “Good enough… is the new perfect.”

(Thomas Oppong)

When I look around at our society, in general, do you know what I see? I see a lack of striving…

We just, settle. We settle… for mediocrity.

  • We settle for a job we hate instead of striving to improve our usefulness in the job market.
  • We settle for the majority of our relationships being ‘lived out’ on social media, instead of striving to develop, nurture and deepen, real life, face to face, heart to heart connections with people.

We settle, as a society and we settle as Christians. We no longer strive… for anything. It’s just too hard.

ILL: Pastor John Hamby describes it this way.

  • You see them every Sunday when dressed in their Sunday best they respectfully make their way into the worship service.
  • They sing the words projected on the big screen, they greet one another in the service, they put their bit into the offering plate and they listen to another sermon.
  • When the service is over they leave the service and tell the preacher he did a good job.
  • Then they return home, take off their “church clothes” and forget about God for another week.
  • Meeting with God has become for them nothing more than listening to messages, singing songs and placing a token amount in the offering.
  • Yet somehow this routine seems to fill their need for reassurance.
  • And because they have been “faithful” to come to church on occasion, they feel that they’re all right, that they have secured a place in heaven.
  • What a distortion of the message that Jesus delivered. Jesus told the religious crowd that even those who appeared the most dedicated were at best, last in the kingdom and probably would not get in at all, because they had too much religion and too little relationship with Jesus.

It’s the lack of striving to be a citizen of the KoG, that Dr. Luke addresses in our text this morning.

Transition: Open your Bibles to Luke 13:22.

PP: 1. Luke 13:22-24  Striving or seeking?

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.

Jesus has left the synagogue where he was teaching on the Sabbath and as Willie Nelson sang, is ‘On the road again.’

  • He’s heading through the towns that He had previously sent the 72 disciples ahead to prepare the way for Him.
  • And He’s heading towards Jerusalem as He said in the pivotal passage in Luke 9:51.

Along the way an unknown person asked Jesus a question: Lord, will those who are saved be few?

Now, you may think this is an off the wall question, but among religious leaders in Jesus’ day, it was a hot topic of conversation.

  • The conversation wasn’t about Gentiles being in the Kingdom of God, because according to the Jews, they weren’t.
  • It was about just how many Jews would be found faithful enough to earn entrance into God’s

That’s why the Jewish leaders were all about following the many laws and traditions and making a good outward show of being religious.

  • They wanted the common people to know that they, the religious leaders, had an inside tract to the KoG.

To them this was a theological, not a practical question. In other words, to them it was not personal… they knew they would earn their place in God’s Kingdom.

  • Well, Jesus had something to say about that.

But He didn’t directly answer the man’s question. Jesus said Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

That’s a very pregnant statement, that we need to carefully unpack, or we risk losing sight of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

First, let’s remember our context.

  • Jesus is heading towards Jerusalem to give His life on the cross for our sin.
  • Along the way, He has ramped up His teaching about citizenship in the KoG.
  • He’s been teaching about not just recognizing Him as Israel’s Messiah, He’s upping the ante by challenging them to discipleship… Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Me.

Along the way, Jesus has continually revealed the sin of the religious leaders, BUT, and this is a HUGE BUT. He has also, time and time again, extended extravagant grace, by telling them, what to do to get right with God and to be given access to the Kingdom.

  • One word. One word Jesus has used over and over again and was the point of many of His parables and teachings to all those who have yet to place their faith in Him.
  • The one word… repent. Acknowledge and turn away from your sin, turn to Jesus.

So, understand as we read our text this morning, the heart of Jesus’ message is still that one word… repent.

So Jesus says Strive to enter through the narrow door. Where does the narrow door lead to? The Kingdom of God.

The end of ch 12 and all of ch 13, Jesus has been talking about, linking, repentance to the KoG.

Here, Jesus is making entrance to the KoG a bit more clear, in how He responds to the man’s question, How many will be saved?

  • By replying: All those who strive to enter through the narrow door.

Don’t miss this. Jesus, by answering the question the way He did, is saying in order to enter the KoG you must be saved.

  • So, it’s not automatic like the religious leaders thought just because they followed laws and were Abraham’s descendants.
  • We’ll see that explained more completely next Sunday.

The word for strive, as in strive to enter through the narrow door can also be translated; agonize, work painfully hard for. To strive to enter through the narrow door means

  • the effort expended will be so intense
  • it will agonize the soul and spirit.

OK… are you thinking what I’m thinking? That sounds like Jesus is teaching a works-based salvation.

  • What happened to just believing in Jesus as our Savior?
  • What happened to just accepting His finished work on the cross for our sin?
  • What happened to whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved?

It sounds like Jesus is saying I really have to work hard to be saved.

  • And that’s exactly what He is saying.

But, remember the context.

  • He’s talking to people who believe just by being Abraham’s descendent,
  • just by outwardly following the law,
  • they’ve automatically earned a pass to the Kingdom.

One reason, and it was a huge reason, one reason they wanted Jesus dead was because He called them out on their sin, that they too needed to repent and ask for forgiveness… and here’s the kicker, just like everyone else.

So here’s the big picture.

  • The narrow door, I believe, is not Jesus in this case, it’s repentance.

And because the religious leaders felt they had nothing to repent of, it would take a great amount of effort on their part, to admit their sin and repent.

 Let me illustrate this with a visual.

PP: Religious Leaders

PP: Us today

PP: All trying to get through the door of repentance.

Question: What does that guy need to do to get through that narrow door?

Yes, drop all the baggage.

That’s… why it’s a struggle, that’s why people agonize over it, that’s why it’s necessary to strive to enter through the narrow door:

  • Because we love our baggage.
  • We have way too much of it…
  • And we refuse to let it go.

 It was true in Jesus’ day and it’s just as true today. And that’s why many, most, do not go through the door of repentance in order to enter the KoG.

  • It’s just too hard.

Look, this is not a works salvation. God still chooses us, still extends grace to us, still gives us the faith to believe…

  • But we need to receive the faith and use is to acknowledge our sin and repent of it… to let it go.

And that’s why it took me a long time to come to Jesus. I was churched, I knew God was knocking on the door of my heart, but I refused to surrender my baggage. I refused to repent. Until… I got to the point Jesus’ disciples came to when they said:

  • Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (John 6:68)

I dropped my baggage, repented of my sin against God, placed my faith, my trust, my life in Jesus’ death on the cross. And received Him as my Savior.

  • I knew about Jesus in 3rd I wasn’t saved till I was in 10th grade.
  • And yes, it was a struggle for me.
  • Perhaps it was for you as well.

PP: You see, many are like the people Jesus mentions in our text when He says For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

PP: Remember, all through Luke’s gospel, he has made of point to use comparisons to teach a valuable lesson. In our text, Jesus is comparing two kinds of people: Those who strive and those who just seek.

  • Strive to enter through the narrow door
  • Many will seek to enter

The words, the actions that reflects someone’s life are strive and seek.

And Jesus concludes that those who just seek will be disappointed because they will not enter the KoG.

Today, we have many seekers in the church, like those who Pastor Hamby mentions in the illustration I began with. Let me remind you:

  • You see them every Sunday when dressed in their Sunday best they respectfully make their way into the worship service.
  • They sing the words projected on the big screen, they greet one another in the service, they put their bit into the offering plate and they listen to another sermon.
  • When the service is over they leave the service and tell the preacher he did a good job.
  • Then they return home, take off their “church clothes” and forget about God for another week.
  • Meeting with God has become for them nothing more than listening to messages, singing songs and placing a token amount in the offering.
  • Yet somehow this routine seems to fill their need for reassurance.
  • And because they have been “faithful” to come to church on occasion, they feel that they’re all right, that they have secured a place in heaven.

They’ve chosen the wide door, the easy door, the one they can carry all their baggage and still get through.

  • They haven’t surrendered.
  • They haven’t let go.
  • They haven’t truly repented.

And they’re in every church. And like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day,

  • they have their religion, they do church,
  • but they’re not the church
  • because they have no real relationship with Jesus.

There is ultimately a very serious problem for people like that, they will run out of time. Jesus says For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able..

  • and will not be able.

We’ll look at it more closely next week, but it’s enough here to say that Jesus is warning the religious in the crowd, and in the church today

  • That just seeking is not enough,
  • they need to start striving because they don’t know how long they have.

And I hope you can see that this is not meant to be a message of inevitable judgment, but rather another extension of the extravagant grace of God.

  • Jesus is letting them, and us, know that there is still time to strive to repent,
  • to be welcomed into the KoG…
  • but that time, like sand in an hour glass, is quickly running down.

PP: Conclusion: The real question here this morning is not what the man asked Jesus ‘How many will be saved? But what Jesus implies in our text: ‘Are you saved?’

You see, Jesus always make it personal. He takes it out of the realm of theological inquisitiveness and into the realm of your personal reality.

If you have yet to give your life to Jesus. If you have yet to drop the baggage in your life, understand time is running out.

  • Struggle with your sin.
  • Wrestle with your separation from God that your sin has caused.
  • Battle with whatever is keeping you from going through the narrow door?
  • Admit your sin and ask God to forgive you.
  • Then strive to deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Jesus.

Don’t wait. Now is the time to be bathed in God’s grace, now is the time to receive God’s blessing of forgiveness and eternal life… Don’t let this monumental moment pass by.

By the way for the rest of you here this morning, striving doesn’t end once you’re saved. Far too many Christians, once there’re through the narrow door, start picking up all the baggage they’ve dropped in order to pass through.

And they often end up becoming like the people in the opening illustration who go through the motions, who settle

  • For a Christianity w/o power,
  • For a Christianity w/o the Spirit,
  • For a Christianity w/o obedience,
  • For a Christianity w/o faithfulness,
  • For a Christianity w/o service,
  • For a Christianity w/o passion,
  • For a Christianity w/o Jesus!

Listen to how pastor John MacArthur explains it.

  • It’s a fight.  It’s a striving.  About what?

What are we fighting about here?  Luke 9:23 “If anyone wishes to come after me,” so you want to come into my kingdom do you?

You want to be saved, “let him deny himself.”

  • That’s it.  It’s not about self-fulfillment.  It’s about self-denial.  It’s the end of you.
  • And then take up His cross. Be willing to die if need be, daily.
  • In other words, you so desperately want to enter the kingdom of God and be saved from your sin and receive eternal life that you are willing to die physically every day because this gift is so surpassing.
  • And then follow me.  And He says this, “For whoever wishes to save His life shall lose it.”  You try to hold onto your life the way you want to live it, you’ll lose it.
  • Here’s where the battle lies.  The battle is between you and Christ.  If you lose, you win.  If you win, you lose.  You save your life, you lose it.  You lose your life, you save it.
  • What’s the point, he says, if you gain the whole world and you forfeit your life, your soul?

Christian listen, that doesn’t change after you give your life to Jesus… Paul, speaking to Christians, says in 1 Timothy 6:12 to fight the good fight of faith.

Here’s something interesting and I’ll end with this.

  • The Greek word fight in 1 Timothy 6:12 and the Greek word strive in Luke 13:24 are the same!

Christian, have you settled or are you still striving for the KoG?

 PP: Next Slide