Friday, June 25, 2010

Devotions for Friday, June 24

Every Friday, we have been posting original Scripture devotions on our Devotions page. To alert our readers to this edifying resource, we will post those devotions to the blog, as well.


Contemplations on Luke 13:22-30

Jesus speaks here, simply and clearly, about those who will and those who will not enter eternal life with God. He uses the picture of a house with only one entrance, and a very small one at that! He reminds us that the door to heaven is narrow!

What Jesus taught throughout His entire ministry, wherever He went, was always the same: that there is forgiveness and salvation in Him, and Him alone; that God's love to mankind has been shown in His Son, Jesus Christ, and that by believing in this Son of God anyone can and will be saved. In fact, He was, at the time of this parable, on His way to terrible agony and death in Jerusalem.

As He made His way to the scene of His Most Holy Passion, a man asked Him a strange question. It was strange because it showed concern for how many would be saved rather than the process of salvation. In His answer our Lord warns us that we are in a very personal and intense struggle which requires great vigilance on our part because of the opposition of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. Jesus pictures the kingdom of heaven as a house. The entrance to that house is through a very narrow door. The door is standing open, but only for a short time. In fact, it looks impossible for us to get through that door. And indeed it is impossible to do so – by ourselves! There is only one way to make it through that door: faith in Jesus Christ as God, Lord, and Savior! As He once said, "I Am the Gate," and again, "No one comes to the Father but by Me."

And Jesus wants us to know that there will be many people who will have such saving faith. They will come from the four corners of the earth. It's not race, or nationality, or politics, or poverty, or power, or anything else that places anyone into heaven. It's faith in Jesus Christ as the one and only Redeemer of mankind. That's why we preach the Gospel to all people everywhere. And there are many who are still far from the Gospel. They may be on another continent, or they may be just around the corner. By the power and love of God the Good News of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ will reach out to them, and these "last" shall be made "first," just like all other believers. And this is where our own sanctification can be important. Preaching is one thing. Doing is another. We must let our lights shine and our salt season so that others might be drawn to the Word we proclaim. Sanctification is not just for us, and it's not just to please God – though that would be enough. Our sanctification also aids our outreach and the spread of God's kingdom.

Sadly, far too many will not be able to enter through that narrow door. Again, not because they are too sinful, but because they carry the weight of their own righteousness. Those that think they are good enough to get into heaven without Jesus are way too "fat" with their so-called good works to squeeze through the door into heaven. All their efforts will be in vain. Notice how Jesus makes it so emphatic, "I tell you!" In other words, here is the truth – listen up!

Not only is the door to heaven far too small to admit our "works," but the door could be shut altogether without notice, and for good. This door closes for each individual at death and for the whole world on Judgment Day. And once the Judge of heaven and earth has closed the door it is forever shut. It's just that simple, and yes, that terrifying! But only for the unbeliever. And no amount of protesting or arguing will make any difference. Jesus says that at the Last Day many people will say that they knew of Christ, that they had seen Him, heard His message; that they had, in fact, had every opportunity to believe in Him, but yet remained in the ranks of the unbelievers. In like manner, there are those even in the church who can claim to be confirmed, long-time members of a congregation – or at least their names are on some church's membership list somewhere, but in fact their faith is dead. As Jesus puts it, "By their deeds you will know them." Here again, He's talking about REAL sanctification – not deeds without faith, but faith shown by deeds!

Jesus is saying that many who have the blessings of the Word, through their own pride and carelessness often refuse to accept it, indeed reject it, and are lost. We need to warn them; whether they are those who are plainly living in unbelief, or those in our own circles who seem to be losing their way through that narrow door. And we need to warn ourselves. If we ignore or despise the blessings of the Gospel, they could be taken away from us!

Today the door is open. It is open to all the living. Tomorrow it may be closed. Tomorrow it may be too late. Let us follow Christ's instruction today, and through the Means of Grace, given so bountifully to us in Word and Sacraments, make every effort to enter through the narrow door by trusting in Him alone and not in ourselves. Truly, the door to heaven is narrow, but it is wide open to all those who trust in Jesus! Amen.

Pastor Spencer

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