The Door to God’s House is Open Enter by Faith. Enter with Haste.
Nathaniel Savage, Seminary Student
Sermon Date: 8/18/2019
Bible Reference: Luke 13:22-30
22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and westand north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
Dear Friends in Christ, our Risen Lord,
You know what one of my favorite things about my phone is? The reminder function. It used to be that you’d have to write all your reminders on a whiteboard next to the fridge, or cover your desk in sticky notes, or literally write “call Mom” on your hand just so you’d remember. But now, these little devices can buzz, beep, or blare a song whenever we need to be reminded of something. AND we pretty much take them with us wherever we go. It’s the perfect system … as long as you look at your phone and act on the reminder, because if you don’t, it just keeps buzzing…
God has given us reminders too, hasn’t he? God gives us reminders through the Bible. It’s God’s own version of the beeping and buzzing reminder on your smartphone. He reminds us of the things we too often forget and too often fail to act on. He reminds us of the hope we have in Jesus, of the importance of the gospel message of Jesus and what it means to be in his house. The account in Luke includes one of those reminders. Jesus tells his listeners:
The Door to God’s House Is Open
Enter by Faith
Enter with Haste
This reminder came at the perfect time. Jesus was on his way to the cross to accomplish what he had been sent for. But then a man stepped forward with a question: “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” We do not know who the man was, but we do know he was asking the wrong question. Rather than wondering about “the few,” he should have been wondering about himself and whether or not he was going to be saved. Jesus says, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”
Make every effort. It’s a struggle. It’s a struggle because of sin. The sinner wants nothing to do with God, wants nothing to do with any doors or reminders or relationship with God. By nature, the sinner hates everything about God. But Jesus says to fight that. Be aware of sin, and repent of it. By nature: we sin, yes, but by faith: repent. It’s not easy, fighting yourself. It’s like arm wrestling yourself. Try it. It’s tough, right? Uncomfortable? It doesn’t seem natural? That’s the struggle of being both a sinner and a saint. It’s very much a fight.
Not everybody is going to get that. A lot of people think they know the way into God’s house, or think they have what it takes…but they don’t. Nobody does. Jesus tells this to the man who asked the question and asks him: are you fighting to enter? Are you making every effort? Instead of making the effort to enter through the narrow door, sinners by nature try to make their own way, try to gain eternal life by their own standards and mistrust the promises of God. Sinners reject what God has to say…and to reject the promises of God is dangerous, dangerous because it risks being outside of God’s house forever. It’s like God sending a reminder message…and all the sinner does is swipe left to ignore.
But Jesus tells the man in the account to enter “…through the narrow door…” The door to God’s house is open…even if it’s narrow. Here is the reminder: Jesus had come to open this path to God through his life and sacrifice and resurrection. Despite the sinful state of the world, Jesus was there to open the door for humanity. He was there to invite everyone into God’s house. And being in God’s house has a lot of meaning. It’s the goal. Those inside get to spend eternity in the joys and peace of heaven, yes, but until then, they also get to spend their time of grace on earth in the joy and peace of living in Christ. They get to wake up every day in this sinful world and be reminded of the work Christ has done for them and for every person. They get to live their lives knowing that Christ lived his for them. They get to go to sleep every night thanking God for the grace and mercy that he has shown them.
There is only one way into God’s house: through faith in Christ. Faith is the invitation in. And faith is shown by the fight, the fight the sinner has with himself to be the saint he knows he is by Christ’s work, the fight to repent of each and every one of his sins each and every day.
Reminder: the door to God’s house is open. Enter by faith.
How is your fight going? Can you recall the sins you’ve committed this week? Today? This past hour? What about those sins we keep to ourselves, the ones that never leave our lips or the ones we just think about? How often do we find ourselves lying? Or coveting? Or being jealous? And then are we sometimes prone to thinking, “Well, I’ll just make up for it by doing something nice. I’m sure God will appreciate the effort.”
And how often do we fail to go to God in prayer, confess all of it, and ask for forgiveness? Martin Luther, in the very first of his 95 theses, points out that repentance ought to be a daily exercise. He recognized the total depravity that truly envelops a sinner. It’s not just the big sins for which God wants us to repent…it’s all of them. Every day.
So. How is your fight going?
Well, here is a reminder: God recognized the total depravity of the sinner, too. He knew we couldn’t possibly gain eternal life on our own. He knew we couldn’t possibly make up for all the sins we commit each and every day. He knew we couldn’t possibly please him by ourselves. So, he opened the door to his house for us…through Jesus. Jesus, who came to fight the fight we couldn’t even hope to win. And he won. Jesus, who lived the life worthy of the law so that we wouldn’t have to. Jesus, who never sinned to take away all of ours. Jesus, who died…so that we might live. Jesus, who rose…to prove that we will too. Trust in him. Rejoice in his work!
Reminder: the door to God’s house is open. Enter by faith.
Now, as far as our phones go, we don’t always act on the reminder right away, do we? Sometimes it’s really easy to just swipe left to ignore, put it off til later, deal with it when it’s more convenient, right? And generally, nothing catastrophic happens. But, if we hesitate to act on the Bible, if we reject even for a moment what God has to say and rely on ourselves, well, Jesus has another reminder. In the Luke account, Jesus continues with a warning: not only is the door to God’s house narrow, but it also won’t be open forever!
Jesus says, “Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, `Sir, open the door for us.’” The door will be closed. The time the door is open is when a person has the opportunity to enter God’s house. We call that his time of grace. Only through faith can a person enter through the door. But he doesn’t control the door or when it closes. God does. God decides when someone’s time of grace ends. Eventually, God will remove the gospel from someone’s life, whether at his death, when God judges that he can no longer receive faith, or on the Last Day, but the gospel will be removed and when it is, it’s power for repentance and faith will also be removed. Without these, there is no entering God’s house. The door is shut. Here is the reminder: enter with haste!
Enter with haste because everyone outside will be pleading to enter. From the text, there is every indication that the people outside knew that the door was there…but they didn’t go though it. The temptation for the sinful person is to say, “Eh. I’ll look into that Christianity thing later. Now, it’s time for me to live my life the way I want to.” To those that think this way, those that know that the door is there, that faith in Christ is what saves, but don’t accept the invitation, the owner of the house will close the door and reject them. Jesus continues, “But he will answer, `I don’t know you or where you come from.’” God’s response to those who reject him is simple: “Fine. I don’t even know you.” And that’s about as low as it gets. To be a stranger to God is to have lost all connection with him. And that…is eternal and irreversible damnation.
Naturally, those outside will try to argue their case. Jesus says, “Then you will say, `We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’” There are going to be those who think they have a connection with God. There are going to be those who think they can get right with God by their own efforts. But Jesus’ response to them is the same, “I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!” To these people who think they are right with God, Jesus says they’re dead wrong.
Jesus continues, “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” For this man in the account, who was likely a Jew, to hear that the patriarchs and the prophets, people he knew, are at the feast while he himself is outside of the house must’ve been devastating. And then that people from all over the world, people who aren’t even Jews, are at the feast, while he himself is outside of the house? That must have flipped his entire understanding of salvation upside down! Jesus was saying that it’s not about being a Jew. The feast is a celebration not of making it to heaven, but a celebration of finding life with God and being in his house despite not deserving it. It’s a celebration of God’s grace and mercy. It’s a celebration of the benefits of faith. Being in God’s family. Living this life in the peace and joy of Christ. And yes, having eternal life. Despite not deserving it. And all of these people entered God’s house through the narrow door by faith. It’s not about being a Jew or following the law or being a good person…it’s about having faith in Jesus as the Savior of the world.
And then Jesus emphasizes just how mixed up people’s understanding really is. He says, “Indeed, there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” The sinful person’s natural understanding is completely backwards. By nature, the sinner tries to work to gain eternal life. But Jesus says it’s not about work, it’s about faith. And if a person doesn’t get that, and his time of grace ends, there is no second chance. Once it ends, once the door is closed, there is no other opportunity to enter through it into God’s house.
Reminder: the door to God’s house is open. Enter with haste!
Sometimes it’s easy to become lazy with our devotion to God, and even easier to say to ourselves, “I can skip church today” or “I’ll start my devotions later” or “I don’t really have time right now.” When we don’t make God our first priority, it’s like we’re looking at God’s house, at the celebration going on inside and saying, “No, that’s not important to me right now. I’d rather be out here, in the darkness, away from God.”
Friends, how often do we see the reminders of God’s love for us…and swipe left to ignore them? Sometimes, we see and hear and read of God’s love for us, and we fail to apply it to our daily lives, to fight our sinful selves, to actively live in the light of God’s grace. And sometimes we fail to fully grasp just how important it is to rely entirely on Christ. We are sinners.
And yet here we are. We have entered God’s house by faith in the resurrected Jesus, we are listening to and meditating on his Word, and we rejoice in being a part of his family! Exactly what he wants. Because we are also saints. But, there are people out there who doubt that message or who don’t apply it to themselves. They are our friends, family members, coworkers, strangers. But this is exactly why God has given us the reminder: his Word, the message of salvation, the message of his love for all people. And the really cool thing is: all of *this* (Bible) can be accessed and shared through that ever so convenient device (phone) we take with us wherever we go. So let’s go, let’s go talk to those in the east and west and north and south, and let’s share that ever so important reminder: The door to God’s house is open. Enter by faith. Enter with haste! Amen.