It's either strive or depart

Opening Prayer Thoughts. 
 
Praise God
Praise God for the reality of heaven. Praise God that we know that it is a real place, where those who have been called by saving grace with dwell with God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, for all eternity. John 14:1-4.
 
Acknowledge Sin
Confess the sin of thinking too much about earthly things, and not setting your hope on what awaits those in Christ. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s help to set your mind on things above. Colossians 3:2.

 

 

Please ask the Holy Spirit's help as you come to his Word.
Please read Luke 13:22-30
It's either Strive or Depart.

 
V22. The door is narrow.
In response to the question of "Lord, will those who are saved be few?", Jesus focuses on the individual's need to 'strive' to enter the narrow door to eternal life. The fact that the door is narrow makes it clear that people will not be able to saunter up and stroll nonchalantly through it. The narrowness brings focus and concentration, and requires action now, today.
 
What follows is sobering, very sobering, and should cause every professing Christian to closely examine the desires of their heart.
 
V24. The door will, and does, close.
A day is coming when the narrow door will close. The door does not stay open indefinitely. The 'master' of the house will exercise his power to close the narrow door when he wants.  The question is – 'does this refer to a closing of the gospel to a specific individual, or what will happen when Christ returns’? Both. There are the ongoing acts of individual closing, and there is one great final act of closing for all eternity.  God is longsuffering and patient, but the free offer of the gospel today is not to be taken for granted; it is a gift from the Lord and must be received as such. 
 
In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul writes that when Jesus ascended into heaven, he gave as gifts to His Bride, men commissioned to bring the good news of the gospel to the world, and to the church for her equipping and maturing, Ephesians 4. These under-shepherds have no power to do any opening and closing. The closing of the door belongs solely to God's secret counsel, to his perfect judgement upon the unbelief of the human heart. R. Lenski writes, "God either removes the gospel entirely from those who despise it, or its presence only plunges them more deeply into guilt."
 
V25. I don't know where you come from – but did we not ....
So, this matter of closing the narrow door is not held in the hands of men, and that must be understood.  For once the door is closed, no amount of knocking on the door will see it open. No matter the intensity of the requesting, even in the name of Jesus, the door will remain closed. Yes, appeals will be made on the basis of profession of faith. Those pictured as knocking use the term 'Lord', indicating that they saw themselves as being subject to Jesus as their Lord. These people are 'good' church-going people. They appeal for the door to be reopened because they can say that they have been with Jesus. They have eaten and drunk in his presence, and listened to him as he taught.  They were not out running with the world; they were with Jesus. They saw him, heard him, and gave themselves to the things of the 'church'. But what was missing? An appeal to the fact that they had lived their lives in intentional obedience to the will of the Father.  Why? Because they hadn't done so. Yes, they had heard. Yes, they had been present. But what had they done with what they had heard, and what had they done with what they had seen? Nothing! When not in the presence of Jesus, they had continued living their lives for themselves. The thought that they should actually do what Jesus was telling them, it may have entered their head, but it had never taken root in their hearts.  A willingness to be with Jesus for a part of their day – 'certainly, not a problem', but when asked the question, 'are you willing to follow me with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?' Well, that is a different issue. 
 
V27. I don't know where you come from; depart from me.
Jesus' words to such people are shocking in their specificity and concluding pronouncement. First, the pronouncement – "depart from me".  It is emphatic. It is final. There is no way back; the door is closed, never to be reopened. The opportunity had been freely given; they had been pleaded with, implored to be reconciled to God in Christ.  They had heard it so clearly, and yet they had not heard it at all. They had apparently received it so willingly; however, their hearts had been cold and fully resistant. They were on board for all appearances, but their feet had not moved an inch from the path marked, 'submission to self and self alone'.  And that is the reason why the command to 'depart' is declared. It is because they had never ceased being a worker of evil. For all their outward allegiance, their hearts only did what was evil all the time, even when they were in church 'playing' along.
 
V28. Weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Surely this is sobering. Does this not drive you and me to ask ourselves, 'is there clear evidence in my heart of genuine love for God and all righteousness?'  It is a question we must ask, for the consequences of hearing the words “Depart from me, all you workers of evil!” is truly unimaginable.  If Jesus had not uttered the words that follow, could we dare to think them, let alone speak of them? These words – "In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth," do not speak of something merely pictorial, they speak of what is real. Hell is a real place where God's holy presence is absent in the sense of bestowing good, but present in executing just and terrible punishment. During his lifetime, Jesus spoke more about eternal punishment, of Hell and aspects of it, than he did about 'love'.  It is reasonable to think that he used this phrase, “weeping and gnashing of teeth” numerous times when preaching and teaching, because it is recorded six times in Matthew's gospel, as well as Luke's use of it here; Matthew 8:12, 13:42, 13:50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30.  Yet, despite Jesus' repeated use of this descriptive term, because he wanted to warn people of what was coming, people refused to hear it. And they do the same today. I did an online search to find how many times this term is used in the gospels, and in addition to the facts, this is what is written, "These occurrences .... are widely held to be redactional additions by Matthew. (In other words, Matthew added these words in.)  Others, however, believe redactional theories of the parables are speculative at best, and offer little explanation as to the meaning of this phrase, and only speculate as to why Matthew and Luke included this apparently familiar saying."  Let me write that again, "Others offer little explanation as to the meaning of this phrase, and only speculate as to why Matthew and Luke included this apparently familiar saying."  Can you believe it? You couldn't make it up. Jesus is screaming from the rooftops – be warned, this is what is coming; and the world says – 'you're a good man and a gifted teacher we know, but sorry, we just don't understand what you are talking about here'.  How incredibly blind the human heart is.
 
And if that was not horrifically bad enough, the agonizing pain will only be magnified by the fact that, as they are cast out, they will see something of the measure of the joy that those inside the house will experience.
 
V29. They will come from all over the world.
And on top of all that, they will see people coming from the four corners of the world. Heaven will not just be a place for those descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Jews, who have repented of their sin and believed in the Lord Jesus as their Messiah. Heaven will be full of Gentiles, those numbered among the spiritual descendants of Abraham, Galatians 4:29, and aren't we thankful to God for that. Such a thought was unthinkable to the Jews. That they could be excluded and that Gentiles, as many as the sand on the seashore and the stars in the heavens, would sit at the table in the Kingdom of God.  I wonder who we will be shocked at seeing in heaven?
 
V30. Who really will be first, and who will be last?
And behold, some who are first will be last, and some who are last will be first. This is not about 'timing', that is, when a person enters into the Kingdom, but 'position'. There are those in the church who think of themselves, and may be considered by others, as eminently godly. They may well be, but there are countless insignificant men and women, people who barely register on the scale of church activities, who are lovers of God with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind, and give themselves daily in obedience to God. They are waging war against the enemy in prayer, they are practicing the true religion of caring for the widow and orphan, James 1:27, with a phone call, or a visit, not just offering help, but being a help. They are doing the will of the Father, in unseen, unattractive ways, the jobs many in the church would turn their noses up at.  What does God say, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7.
 
I exhort you – strive, struggle, be intentional and deliberate, agonize over your delighting in the salvation that is your’s in Christ. Do so as you seek to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12, making your calling and election sure, in the knowledge that you will enter through the narrow door to eternal life in the presence of Jesus. 2 Peter 1:10.

 

 

Sing with joy in our heart to the Lord.
Psalm 84B - Link to the words. Link to it being sung.

 

 

Store up the Word in your heart.
Romans 1:16-17
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed, from faith for faith,"
 
 

Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 98 - What is prayer?
Answer - Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you will find proof texts.

 

 
Thank God.
Thank God for eternal salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank God for the graces of repentance and faith that we may enter through the narrow door. 
Pray for the salvation of those who you see as giving no evidence of saving faith, even if they are members of the visible church.  Pray that Christ would not close the door on them to the hearing of the good news.
 
Take care in Christ,
Andrew 
 
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley
Minister, Ottawa RPC