Posted by: gbake783 | April 16, 2012

Luke 13:22-35

In Luke 13:22-35, Jesus brings us face-to-face with a sobering reality – some people who call Yahweh their God will not truly be saved. In the passage, someone asks Jesus, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” Notice that Jesus does not answer the inquiry directly, but rather turns the  question back to the one asking with a present, personal imperative, “Strive to enter the narrow gate.” God’s people often ask this question in some form or another and Jesus’s counsel is instructive. When wondering about the state of another’s soul, Jesus encourages us to think of our own. Jesus invites us to use the question as an opportunity to examine ourselves, to see if we be in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

But why should we examine ourselves so carefully? Because some of us might be in for a surprise when we stand before God. Jesus says that God will tell some, “I do not know where you come from” (13:25). Those rejected are shocked and start listing their religious accomplishments – “we ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets” (13:26). Matthew records a similar saying but ups the ante: some will say, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name” (Matthew 7:22). God’s response is the same as in Luke, “I never knew you, depart from me” (Matthew 7:23).

These pleadings with God belie something about the human condition: people often set their own religious requirements. Spending time with God, patiently hearing His teaching, preaching, and even performing grand acts are all wonderful religious activities, but none of them save. Judas, after all, engaged in every one of these activities. Yet, when people talk about what qualifies them to spend eternity in heaven, they invariably list nebulous religious credentials of their own making. It reminds me of when my three-year-old son attempts to negotiate his diet at the dinner table. I say, “Son, eat your sandwich.”  He says, “How about, strawberries.”

Jesus says this about the narrow door: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3); “except one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3); and “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Nowhere does Jesus list religious credentials as requirements for salvation – he names repentance and faith (Mark 1:14-15). These are not activities; they’re convictions. And these convictions capture – they cause the heart to submit to the gospel. When Jesus says that “many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (13:24b), He means that when judgment time comes, they cannot enter the narrow gate because they would not submit to Jesus’s narrow parameters of faith and repentance.

I have no doubt that many disagree with this message. They reason that God is too magnanimous, loving, or gracious to keep anyone out of heaven. For those who reason thus, I simply encourage them to consider where they’re getting those religious notions. I’ve heard people list all types of sources for their religious beliefs: mere intuition, a grandfather who was a deacon, a book they read several years ago. If we’re depending on the God of the Bible, then we have to come to terms with passages like Luke 13:22-35.

Strive to enter the narrow gate.

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