The Narrow Door
Topic: Discipleship Passage: Luke 13:22–13:30
Some time ago my son Matthew found a book in my office called Ghosts of the Abyss. It’s a book that journals the story of the Titanic and includes photographs of the Titanic before it sank and of the sunken wreck taken by underwater robots. Matthew found the pictures fascinating. But that night as he got into bed he said that he was afraid because he kept thinking of the people on the deck of the boat, and how they died. In particular, it was a picture of a couple of lifeboats pulling away from the Titanic, and crowds of people on the deck of the Titanic as it began to sink that disturbed him. For him that picture made it so real: some were saved, but so many were lost that night.
In the passage we are looking at this morning, while Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem where he knows he will be rejected by the Jews and crucified, someone asks Jesus an unusual question: Lord, will those who are saved be few?
It is a question most of us have probably wondered about at some time or other: who will be saved, who will be lost. When someone we care about leaves this life, we wonder deep inside: where are they? We hope they are safe, we hope they are saved. If we could see a picture of those who are saved and those who are lost, where would we find their face on it?
But that question hits closer to home if we are honest. If a photograph could capture the faces of those who were lost and those who were saved, where would I find my face on that photograph? Where would you find yours? Could there possibly be a more important question to answer?
In the series we are in called Following Jesus, we are taking a biblical and honest look at what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and how we can grow as disciples but this morning I want to talk to those who are not disciples of Jesus Christ at all. It would be dangerous to assume that everyone in this room is a follower of Christ. You might go to church regularly and you might talk Christianese fluently, but in your heart you know that Jesus Christ is not the Lord and Savior of your life. Maybe you are a young person and you go to church every week cause mom and dad make you go. Maybe you feel like God is working in your heart – maybe you want to be a Christian - but don’t know what that means or how you do it. I don’t know who you are, but God does, and I pray that in your heart of hearts you do. If you think it might be you please listen carefully because I believe that through His word God wants to speak to you this morning about the state of your soul. Would you pray with me?
Jesus doesn’t answer this man’s question directly. He doesn’t say, yeah there will be a few, or no, there will be a lot. Rather than fueling his speculation about the number of those saved, Jesus answers with an urgent appeal that he not miss the opportunity to be saved, strive to enter through the narrow door…don’t worry about how many, worry about you. Make sure you don’t miss it. See this question can actually be a distraction: what about the primitive tribes in Africa, how will they be saved? Let God worry about that, you worry about you. Strive to enter through the narrow door. What is the narrow door Jesus is talking about and how do we enter it?
I. The narrow door is the only way to enter the kingdom of God
In verse 28 we see that Jesus is talking about those who will enter the kingdom of God and those who will be shut out of the kingdom forever. The kingdom of God is a glorious kingdom and an eternal kingdom – it is where God’s perfect rule is obeyed perfectly. We often call it “heaven”. We can’t really imagine what it is like, but deep within us is a deep longing for a place that is perfect: where there is no sadness, no tragedy, no cruelty, no pain, no loneliness, only perfect love and justice and lasting meaning. The Bible says God has set eternity in our hearts – that means that we are hardwired to believe in the eternal even if we deny it. Deep inside we want something more than this temporary world and temporary life can give – and deep inside we believe there is something more. That something is the kingdom of God or heaven.
Jesus said, strive to enter through the narrow door…for there will be some who are cast out and heaven will be forever shut to them. Some will be saved, some lost. Forever. It is almost too staggering to consider. But the Bible tells us that the reason heaven isn’t open to mankind is because of sin. We are deeply and hopelessly corrupted and if we were allowed to enter heaven we’d corrupt it with our sin. Think of the kingdom of God as a kingdom surrounded by walls that can’t be scaled – and there is no way for any one to enter into that kingdom except one narrow door. If the narrow door is the only way to enter heaven, we can understand why Jesus says strive or make a strong effort to enter by that door. The narrow door is the only way to enter the kingdom of God.
II. The narrow door is Jesus
So what is the narrow door we are to enter in by? Jesus tells us it is He Himself.
So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:7-10
Jesus is the narrow door, and he promises that anyone who enters by him will be saved and will go in and find pasture, or to change metaphors, will enter the kingdom of heaven. The only door into heaven is Jesus. He is the door, the only door. That’s why in the gospel of John Jesus says no one comes to the Father except through me (14:6).
Honestly, this goes against a lot of people’s grain. Its way too exclusive: the only way to be saved, the only way to heaven, is through Jesus. The popular thinking today is that it’s pretty easy to go to heaven – and there are a ton of ways into it. Doesn’t even matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. Jesus might be one door, but there are many others. To think anything other than that is arrogant and…narrow.
That’s exactly what Jesus is saying – it is narrow. Very narrow. And many people will want to be saved but will not be on that final day. And on that day they will be filled with incomprehensible regret. Look with me at verses 24-28:
"Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then he will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.' 26Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.' 27But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!' 28In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. Luke 13:24-28 (ESV)
On that day there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth – expression of deep frustration and deep regret. I wish it were different. I wish I had listened. I wish with all my heart that I could change reality but I can’t.
ILL: some of us guys in the church went camping Friday and Saturday. We had a great time, but I have one regret. We decided to cross the lake to play football on a field on the other side, and so in canoes and kayaks we went, but it was pretty windy and the waves were a little high and Derrick’s kayak was swamped, leaving him in the middle of the lake. We were able to get a life jacket to him and he swam to the other side, but lost his keys and his dad’s keys.
I regret that we didn’t just go to a field on the same side we were on. I regret that we didn’t take all the cell phones and keys from our pockets before we went. I regret that when Derrick was trying to get our attention to let us know he was in trouble and we couldn’t hear him we didn’t row over to him to see what was the matter. But here’s the thing: I thought about it over and over again, but all my regrets and what if we had done things differently couldn’t change reality. Reality is reality and when it hits its unalterable. Maybe you have some regrets – something you said or did to someone you wish you could take back, some choice or set of choices that set in motion consequences that you want so much to undo. But we can’t undo reality. It is what it is.
One of the things that will bother these people so much is how close they came: many will say to Jesus, hey, didn’t we see you in our town? Yeah, we ate and drank with you – we heard your messages – didn’t believe them, but we heard them. Isn’t that good enough? We believe them now! Isn’t that close enough? There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth as they realize with regret that their eternal reality is that it wasn’t good enough or close enough. They missed it by a mile because they didn’t enter by the narrow door.
Jesus isn’t saying this to gloat. He’s saying this to warn and urge: while there’s still time, strive to enter by the narrow door.
III. We enter the narrow door by faith in Jesus Christ
It’s interesting that Jesus tells us to strive to enter by the narrow door. The word strive is an athletic term – agwnizesqe -struggle. Get the word agonize. Agonize to enter, struggle to enter, fight to enter, make every effort to enter. We don’t enter halfheartedly, we need to make every effort. The stakes are eternal.
But the Bible makes it clear that we don’t strive by our works to enter heaven. That is not the narrow door. The people Jesus is talking to are religious Jews who prided themselves on their religious works, but they will find they are cast out and Gentiles – people they equated with pigs and swine – are entering. How can very religious people be shut out and pagans from heathen nations be welcomed into the kingdom of God? Because the narrow door isn’t religious works – no one will enter through their works. The narrow door is Christ and the way we enter is through faith in Christ.
Remember this question of will there be few that are saved came to Jesus as he was heading to Jerusalem. He was going to make it possible for any to be saved. The reason the door is narrow, the reason that there aren’t many ways to God, the reason that it is so, so exclusive isn’t that God is a snob or mean. It’s that our sin is so defiling and so needing to be punished that there is nothing in the universe that can cleanse us or allow a righteous God to forgive us other than the atoning death of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son. There was no other way to save us than to give His very own Son, and so out of love for the world God gave His very own Son. So that whosoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life. whosoever. It’s your choice – if you refuse than on that day you will know that it’s not God who rejected you, it’s you who rejected God.
The great point is to believe in Jesus, and confess your faith. Do you believe in Jesus? Then, dear friend, dismiss your fears; you shall be saved. Are you still an unbeliever? Then remember, there is but one door, and if you will not enter by it, you must perish in your sins. The door is there; but unless you enter by it, what is the use of it to you? It is of necessity that you obey the command of the gospel. Nothing can save you if you do not hear the voice of Jesus, and do his bidding indeed and of a truth. Thinking and resolving will not answer the purpose; you must come to real business; for only as you actually believe will you truly live unto God. – CH Spurgeon
The door is before you now – it’s Jesus. Will you believe? Maybe you’ve realized that you’ve been trusting your church attendance, or you’ve been thinking that because your parent’s are Christians you are saved. Everyone needs to enter this door for themselves – no one can enter it for you. Will you enter? Will you believe?
As we sing Amazing Grace, if that is you and you want to be saved, please reach out to Christ. He’s waiting to hear you call His name – He is ready to save. After we sing I’m going to lead in a prayer for salvation. If you are ready to do business with God I’m going to ask you to pray it with me. Let’s stand together.