And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:23,24).
There is no matter which touches your own personal interest than YOUR own salvation. You will either enjoy Eternal Life forever, or you will suffer loss forever. Let’s not argue for now about what that loss means exactly. It will be bad for those who experience it. Nothing you lose in this life will compare with THAT loss.
So there is an urgent need for salvation. There is an urgent need to be restored to a condition of right standing with God.
Many preachers teach on salvation, but do they teach it anything like Jesus did, as recorded in the gospels?
When it comes to matters THIS important, you would be VERY FOOLISH to NOT pay attention to the meaning of the words involved.
What does “salvation” mean?
What does “believe in Jesus” actually mean?
What is God’s grace and how does it save?
Are there any conditions Jesus puts on salvation? Can we clearly unpack them today?
Who exactly IS this Jesus? How do I know I have an accurate idea about Him?
Why is all this important? Well, have you ever asked this question: “Do I believe in Jesus or do I only believe that I believe in Jesus?” Mormons, Roman Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses and many others believe that they believe in Jesus. But most are not right with God, and they wouldn’t think you are either, if they knew what you believed.
The Issue of Works Based Salvation
We get this idea in a lot of popular evangelical churches that the problem with all these cults is that they believe in a “works-based salvation”. That is, they believe you have to DO certain things the cult says in order to have any chance of salvation, and generally, you have to keep trying harder or you might miss out. And generally these cults DO teach that, in one form of another. And it does not lead to any kind of liberty and consciousness of God’s approval, righteousness and favour. There is no peace in it.
These false cults all preach salvation by loyalty to the Organisation and its “God-appointed leaders”.
So many modern evangelicals and “pentecostals” jump to a totally different position. They say or imply that you can get saved, “not by works”, but by praying a “sinner’s prayer”. In this prayer, people are going to be led to repeat words such as “Dear Lord Jesus, I come to you because I know I am a sinner, and have offended you. But I believe you died on the cross to take away my sin, and that you rose again. I receive you as my Lord and Savior. Thank you for making me a child of God. Amen.” After praying such a prayer, people are often told that they are saved “by grace” and that their sins are forgiven, now please come along to church. If they DO continue to come to church – and many don’t, of course – they might be told that its all by grace, meaning, no particular effort is required on their part in order to enter life. But if they want to live a better, more happy life here and now, here are some principles from God’s Word to make you more successful. Have you heard or seen anything like that lately?
How does this square up with the words of Jesus quoted above, “”Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” ? Jesus is talking about salvation here! The question was, “Lord, are only a few going to be saved?”
Actually, in a lot of ways, it depends on whether there was real FAITH involved when the person prayed whatever prayer they prayed, whether JESUS was truly the object of that prayer, and whether there has been a sufficient revelation of Jesus as LORD for people to understand what it actually MEANS to say, “I receive you as LORD”. Is it just the words themselves that have power to save, like some kind of spell or incantation? Or is the real power of it in the establishing of the RIGHT KIND of RELATIONSHIP with the Lord Jesus Christ?
Is salvation a ‘fait accompli’ for the person who sincerely prays this kind of sinner’s prayer and connects with the Lord in a meaningful way? Let’s not speak for now of those who don’t have any real understanding, conviction or connection when they pray.
Getting back to Jesus’ words and the picture the gospels present.
Jesus is urging people to give their attention to the matter of salvation. There is a “Narrow Door” that must be entered. What is that narrow door? I believe it is renouncing one’s right to rule over one’s own life, and giving your life to Jesus Christ. That is VERY difficult for people to do. People naturally want to be Sovereign over their own life. They want to call the shots. They might be willing to take Jesus on as a kind of part-time advisor, or even as a full-time Savior from consequences of sin – but to give up one’s own life? To DIE? The price seems a bit steep.
A lot of times those who speak in the name of Christ as church leaders want to sweeten the deal in order to make it more palatable to the masses and get a higher take up rate. Jesus said “make every effort” to enter the narrow door. And once you are on it, your loyalty to Jesus Christ will still be tested. You have to stay on the WAY. Jesus said that HE is the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE. Continue to know Him as the WAY, and you will then also know Him as the TRUTH and He will become your very LIFE.
The way to “make every effort to enter the narrow door” is THIS: it is to focus your attention, as best you are able, and as much as you can, on the Person and Life of Jesus Christ. Often the best way to do this is to meditate on His Words. It is not always easy to do this at all – because the devil has a thousand different kinds of distractions for you to get you away from this ONE THING that is NECESSARY.
When you are caught up in Jesus, you can get your eyes of your self, and you can realize that the only right thing for you is to come in under His authority, because of WHO HE IS. The Lord, the Creator, the Son of God. Your Redeemer. You get down on your knees and acknowledge Him. And stay before Him in humility. That is what is called for. This is what it takes to enter life. And He will help you.
What is the alternative? Well, in a world filled with demons and distractions, the alternative to keeping your eyes on Jesus is quite simply to be led and moved by other considerations. You will be led by your own natural programming – your brain flesh, unaided by the Spirit of God. In the end, this flesh will fail you. It doesn’t give the power to live right. It always fails. We need our minds renewed by the Word and the Spirit of God constantly. And out of that renewal, all kinds of works of faith will eventually grow.
Salvation is by faith, and faith comes by GIVING FOCUS to the right things. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). We need that faith in order to be saved. It is either a life of disobedience and rebellion to God’s authority, or a life characterised by surrender, trust and obedience to God’s will. And if it is the latter, God surely knows that we belong to Him, and our imperfections and failures to live this life perfectly, as well as all our past sins, are washed away, so that we have by faith the perfect record and gift of righteousness that comes by faith in the Lord.
You don’t have to give your loyalty to any one local church, unless the Spirit of God is truly leading you to do so. Your primary and overruling loyalty at all times must be to the Person of Jesus Christ – the one whose words are recorded in Scriptures. This means that you must be loyal to the Scriptures also, as the Spirit of God reveals them to you. Again, no one can do this perfectly, but if the intention is not there, then idolatry is. And we are told in the Bible to “Flee from idolatry”.
What Does this Passage Mean for Us in Practice?
Don’t take salvation lightly. Don’t assume you are secure in it no matter how you live or believe. I am continually shocked as I look over the years seeing how many people that once believed as I do have seriously departed from the truth. Instead of being haughty and comfortable, study the Scripture. Pray. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Confess your sins to God regularly. Allow God’s light to shine in your life. Give up your own ways and desires when God makes it clear that they are in conflict with His plan for your life at this time. Do the things God shows you to do.
I am not saying do this in your own human energy. But instead, welcome and seek the Holy Spirit and together with the Holy Spirit wrestle against the powers of darkness that would seek to take you on and others on the wrong path. Paul did say in Ephesians 6 to take up the Whole Armour of God because we are involved in a kind of spiritual wrestle against dark demonic powers whether we see them or not.
God bless you.