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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Agonize!


Image result for strive to enter through the narrow gateStrive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” (Luke 13:24, KJV)

No doubt one of the mantras of our age is the refrain that to become a Christian is easy and, furthermore, you need only receive Christ and all your worries will be a thing of the past. “Let Jesus into your heart” the preacher will tell us, “and He will give you peace and joy and you’ll never have to worry about anything anymore.” To be sure, the idea that becoming a Christian will solve all your problems, cure all your ailments and make right whatever is wrong in your life is not new. But it seems it has never been as prevalent as it is today. The so-called “prosperity gospel” is perhaps the greatest purveyor of such silliness. Alas, it is not surprising in a generation that is desperately trying to find meaning while at the same time spurning the God who alone can give it to them.

Note, however, the scripture at the head of this article. Jesus told his hearers that there is a striving to be done in order to enter the narrow gate. I recently heard a “preacher” say that this scripture does not speak as to how hard it is to enter into the kingdom, since it simply says that the gate is narrow. The logic here is that, it is not hard to enter in, it simply has reference to the few that will enter as opposed to those who will go in through the wide gate. The idea that this has reference to the fewness of the number that will enter the kingdom is certainly correct. But the illustration does not end there.

If it is true that few are going to be in heaven, compared to the great mass of humanity, it is also true that Jesus said, first and foremost, that we need to strive. The word that is translated strive in the King James Version, is agonizomai in the original language. You will likely recognize that we get the word agonize from that root. Thus, Jesus is telling us that, not only will there be few who will be in heaven, but that it will be those who agonize, who strive to enter that will be there. This is not some simple nod of the head in the direction of Jesus and everything else is done. This implies there is work for the Christian to do and that it is not simply to believe and you have your ticket punched. The individual I mentioned above is a believer in what has come to be termed “Non-Lordship” salvation; the idea that you can believe in Christ and you may or may not at some future point make Him your Lord. You don’t even have to repent!

It is plain to see that Jesus would have none of that warped idea. Time and time again, we are admonished to work out our salvation and to live as children of light (2 Peter 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:6-9). Ours is not a profession only faith; it is a possession and action faith. James reminded his readers that faith that is devoid of works is dead (James 2:26). That is a faith that cannot save anyone and those who convince others that such a faith can indeed save, will have to give an account to the Lord in the day of judgment; not only for their own souls, but for those of the myriad of people they mislead!

It is imperative that we understand that our faith has to work. It is not an option. If we are devoid of the works that God throughout scripture demands of us, that is the surest sign that our faith is dead. If that is your case, dear reader, I admonish you to flee to Christ first and to ask Him to cleanse you and to make you the “workmanship created in Christ Jesus for works of service” (Ephesians 2:10). Your “goodness” will not do. The standard is not you and it is certainly not others. It is God, a Holy, Blameless, Impeccable God. You must come to Christ in true trusting, living faith. Without it, you are little more than a moralistic person who has no hope of ever “entering the narrow gate.”




2 comments:

  1. A question that some may ask: How is "striving to enter the narrow gate" reconciled with the knowledge of God's electing grace? Or to put it another way, how is striving/agonizing to be understood coupled with the new birth, in which man is not striving, but is merely the recipient of grace?

    This is answerable, but I'm going to put you on the spot and see how you respond!

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    Replies
    1. Hey David, I'm pressed for time at the moment, but just a couple of thoughts and I'll try to expound more later. First, God not only ordains the ends He also ordains the means. Thus, the fact that He is commanding us to strive in no way negates His election. And second, everything that takes place in the life of a Christian is intended by God to accomplish something. He put Job through what He put him through because He wanted to teach him, and us, a lesson. Blessings.

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