The burning question

Sermon: Sunday, 24th April, 2022 Video
Speaker: John Johnstone
Scripture: Luke 13:22-30

1. A question unanswered
Someone asks Jesus a question. We don’t know who it was, nor do we know what motivated them to ask it. It’s a serious question because it concerns matters of eternity. There is no greater topic in all the world than salvation. Salvation means ‘to be saved’. Our culture is dominated by the trivial. We might talk about the weather, or celebrities, or sport, or the final of a tv programme, but truth be told, we can be reluctant to speak about the sermon we’ve just heard, our walk with Jesus, or what we are struggling with in the Christian life. Sadly, Christians can focus solely on the ‘here and now’. So, we might talk a lot about our aches and pains, how work is going, or a bargain buy we got on Ebay, but we might seldom ask a question about something which has eternal significance. Rather than avoiding serious topics, we should be able to talk naturally about them, especially to one another.

‘Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.’ (Colossians 3:2)

The question is: ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’ Now, this might have developed into an interesting theological discussion. It would have been fascinating to hear how Jesus would have answer this. Of course, he knows the answer. But he deliberately chooses not to answer this question. Why? Because when it comes to such an important matter of Heaven and Hell, of finding peace with God, of our eternal destiny, Jesus doesn’t want to have an academic discussion. This is not a topic merely for our curiosity; rather, it is an urgent matter. And so, Jesus doesn’t answer the question. Instead, he makes this topic of eternal life much more personal, and gives the crowd an urgent plea to make sure they have entered the door of salvation.

The question asked is ‘Will many be saved’? Jesus asks: ‘Are you saved’? That’s the urgent question. Imagine being on the Titanic and the ship is going down, and asking the captain: ‘Are many going to be saved?’ The captain would say: ‘Get in the lifeboat!’ This morning, the urgent question for us is, are you saved? Have you entered the lifeboat? Don’t waste time wondering about speculative questions, even if we really want to know the answers. Concentrate on the questions God wants us to concentrate on. He knows best. Are you saved?

2. An urgent plea
‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.’ (Luke 13:24) Jesus says ‘strive’ to go through the door. This means we need to take whole-hearted action. The word in Greek is where we get the word ‘agonise’ from. There is nothing casual about this whatsoever. So, if you are here or listening online, Jesus is saying to you with great solemnity, if there’s one thing you need to make sure of, make sure you have entered into salvation.

How can we enter this door? What is this door? It’s not so much ‘what’ as ‘who’, because Jesus himself is the door. Entering the door means having a personal relationship with Jesus. We trust him. We believe that he died on the cross for our sins. We give him our allegiance.

‘So Jesus again said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.’ (John 10:7-9)

It’s so wonderful that there’s a door which when entered will take us to Heaven, to enjoy the feast of the Kingdom of God. All people are invited to place their trust in the Lord Jesus. All people are invited to come to him in prayer, saying sorry to him for our rebellion and mistakes, and thanking him for dying on the cross so sinners can be forgiven. The door is a person – Jesus himself – and our eternal destiny hinges on whether we trust in his death for our sins, or not. This is the primary question. Not, will many be saved? But am I trusting in Jesus right now? Are you? If not, let me urge you too, to come to Jesus in prayer, and confess your wrongdoings to him, and ask him to change your heart.

This is the area of our lives we must treat with the most urgency. Strive to enter the narrow door.

3. A narrow door
If going through the door means having a relationship with Jesus, then why does he say the door is narrow? I think it’s narrow because we have to come on God’s terms- the way he wants us to. We can’t just make it up ourselves. It’s narrow because there is only one way to be saved. We can’t say to God, I can choose any religion I want, or take bits from each of them, and still be forgiven. It’s God who decides how we enter Heaven, and he says there’s only one way, by trusting in his Son.

‘Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6)

‘And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’ (Acts 4:12)

I often think of Naaman in the Old Testament, when Elisha relays the command to dip in the Jordan river 7 times and he would be cured from his leprosy. That was a narrow door because it was exclusive. Naaman couldn’t buy salvation, even though he was used to buying most things and getting what he wanted. He couldn’t contribute anything. This was a huge blow to his pride and that’s why, at first, he refuses to go into the river. But just because Naaman’s door was a narrow one, does that mean he shouldn’t enter it? Of course not! If God gives us a way to be saved, then we must take that way, and not stand arguing with him why there aren’t others ways, or easier ways.

When I was going to my first baseball game in St Louis, I brought a bag along with me. I wasn’t allowed through the turnstile. I had to go and get rid of my bag, and come back without baggage. I think that’s a helpful spiritual picture. Sometimes we come to God, as Naaman did at first, with all kinds of bags, and so we aren’t allowed through the turnstile. We have to put down the bag of self-righteousness, and give up thinking we can earn our way to Heaven. We have to put down the bag of pride, thinking that we are quite good people, when we are not. We have to put down the bag of selfishness, thinking we can do what we want when we want. Instead, we must come to the turnstile just as we are, asking God for mercy and forgiveness. In other words, those who are proud and self-reliant don’t want to enter a narrow door. It’s those who know they are messed up sinners who come humbly to Jesus and say ‘Sorry, Lord, please forgive me’, and they enter through.

Another reason the door is narrow is because there will come a time when the door is shut. That happens when we die. Once we leave this world, there will be no more opportunities to be saved. That’s why it is so urgent to enter now. None of us knows how long our lives on earth will last. You might think you have years and years ahead of you. Perhaps you only have weeks. You don’t know.

The door will also shut when Jesus returns to the earth – the Second Coming.

The door can shut for people when they hear about Jesus and his offer to enter through the door, but keep rejecting that offer. Each time we reject Jesus’ offer of salvation, our heart gets harder and harder, and there will come a point (we don’t know when) when no more opportunities will be given. We invite people to church and they might say ‘I’m too busy’ or make some other excuse, or ‘Maybe when I’m older’. But after a number of times rejecting the offer, they get used to rejecting Jesus, and that’s what they do for the rest of their lives.

4. A warning – don’t deceive yourself
What Jesus describes in verses 25-30 is very sobering indeed. Here are people who think they have a relationship with Jesus, but they don’t. They’re self-deceived. They think that when it comes to Heaven they are ‘in’ but the reality is they’re ‘out’.

Here’s the bottom line – their relationship with Jesus is only a superficial one. Yes, they have heard Jesus’ teaching and interacted with him. They might be very religious and can ‘talk a good game’ when it comes to the things of God. However, they’ve never turned from their sin, asked Jesus for forgiveness and placed their trust in him.

Whilst waiting in a queue at church event I saw someone I knew and said: ‘How are you? Good to see you!’ To my embarrassment, the person had no idea who I was. That’s not too big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but imagine our horror were Jesus to say that to us when we meet him.

‘But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.’ (John 1:12-13 )

Many of the Jews thought that almost all of the Jews would be in the Kingdom of God, such was their privilege being God’s chosen people. And they thought very few Gentiles would be there. How wrong they were. The tragic thing was that many regular synagogue attenders never came into a living relationship with King Jesus, thus they never entered through the only door. They thought they were on good terms with God, but were totally misguided. This was the most serious mistake they would ever make.

Today, there are many churchgoers who think they know Jesus, but they don’t. Their relationship with Jesus is only a superficial one. They might take communion, come to church regularly, and even read the Bible sometimes, but they have never humbled themselves before God and asked for his mercy. They are those who hear God’s Word, but do not put it into practice.

Don’t be deceived. Don’t kid yourself. Entering the Kingdom of God isn’t about your status. You might have been a church elder, minister, tither, you might have tried to keep the Lord’s Day, but without a living relationship with Jesus, all of this counts for nothing, and we will be thrown outside, and not enter Heaven. Let me ask you today, are you assuming that God is pleased with you, but you are deceived? How can you know? It’s all about your response to Jesus Christ. Unless you love and follow and trust him, you shall be lost.

It’s often said that there will be many surprises in Heaven. There will be those there we didn’t expect to see, and those who aren’t there and we thought they would be. ‘Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.’ (verse 30) Many Jews thought they would be first on Heaven’s guest list; they do not appear at all. Those pagan Gentiles like the Greeks or Romans whom they thought would never be included, many of them shall enter through the narrow door.

Today we must focus on our own salvation – have you entered the door? Have you a living trust in Jesus? May we never hear Jesus say to us: ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ Without Jesus as our Saviour, we will need to pay for our own sins. Hell is a place of grief and rage, of weeping and gnashing of teeth. What a warning we have here! Who would want an eternal destiny in such a place? That’s exactly why Jesus says to us: Make every effort to enter through the narrow door… (Luke 13:24)

‘And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ (John 17:3 ) Do you know Jesus Christ?