The Lutheran Church of the Triune God

14th Sunday after Pentecost August 25, 2013

 

Luke 13:22-30 The Lord's Narrow Wide-Open Door

 

Dear fellow redeemed,

"Is heaven large enough for those of another faith?"

* Have you heard that question before? If so, it may have caught you somewhat flatfooted.

Maybe you had just informed a friend that you were Lutheran, in fact, you're Missouri

Synod!

* And for whatever reason, this friend had the idea that Lutherans believe they're the only

ones going to heaven. And you sat there a bit irritated and at a loss of words.

* "Well, I believe the truth about who Christ is and what he did to save me.

I trust in his sacrifice for my sin and therefore I certainly believe I'm going to heaven.

So, I'm a Lutheran. That doesn't mean I believe we've got this monopoly on the truth."

* What was this outburst all about?! All I did was comment on how Lutheran doctrine

offers great comfort concerning forgiveness and eternal life, and boy did I get a mouthful!

Was I coming across somehow as arrogant; as a hypocrite?

* Or was it this friend of yours, perhaps, who was feeling a bit insecure?

Yes. You must believe the right stuff. You can't just believe any sort of teaching.

The door to God's Kingdom is narrow. But it's also wide open to sinners everywhere!

 

There are many in our lives whose beliefs cause them to feel insecure about the next life.

That's why they ask their questions which are both flawed and unfair.

* I'm thinking that's why the person in our text asked his question of Jesus.

"Lord, will those who are saved be few?"

* Christ had been talking about life in God's Kingdom.

But he had also been speaking about sin and evildoers.

* And maybe it occurred to this individual that God will grade us on some kind of curve

when it comes to giving us eternal life in his Kingdom.

* But what kind of curve will God have?

If his curve is fairly generous, then a lot of people will be saved.

But if his curve is quite strict, then only a few are going to be saved.

* That's where many are at today. There are many professing to be Christian who sadly

are very insecure about their future life. Apparently, they haven't learned that Jesus

Christ has opened the door of his Kingdom to every kind of sinner.

 

It explains why people try to boost their confidence about going to heaven.

* They sense that the number to be saved isn't as high as it might be and they try one of

two things to overcome their insecurity.

* Either they build themselves up, or in their efforts to disqualify a certain percentage of

the contestants, they knock others down.

* Let's first refer to those who seek assurance by building themselves up.

They'd like to sense that God's door is wide open, but poor religious instruction has left

them believing otherwise. So they try to compensate for their insecurity.

* They give thought to their personal association with the church.

If they have the proper ties, they're thinking, they can stop worrying.

* Maybe that's where the person was coming from in our text.

If only a few people would be saved, perhaps he already had things covered.

* He was a descendant of Abraham; one of the chosen.

Besides, he observed the Sabbath faithfully; resting from work on this day every week.

 

But when Jesus came to his town teaching, did this person really listen?

* Perhaps he was reading into what his Lord said. And maybe this came fairly naturally,

having received such lousy instruction from the local religious leaders.

* That's what often happens today. People aren't interested in knowing the truth as much

as they are knowing that their pastor or church knows the truth.

Somehow this connects them to the truth, and that's all that matters.

1 One person maintains he's "saved" because he's "born again."

Like all of his friends, he made a decision for Christ.

2 Another person is confident of heaven because like everyone else in his congregation he

lives a pious life. There's no carousing on the weekends; his friends are his church.

3 Another believes what finally makes the difference is that he's Missouri Synod.

* And suddenly being secure has taken on a new meaning.

We're sure of our salvation not because of Christ; not because of his Gospel.

Rather, it has to do with our being connected to that certain group.

* The words of St. Paul may come to mind.

"Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall!"

* Poor instruction inevitably produces hypocrites; those who are heading for a fall.

 

And there's a second way people try to compensate for their insecurity about their future life.

* I speak of those who've received little or no instruction, or perhaps they've turned their

back on it. They try to knock others down a few notches by making note of their double

standard.

* "The church is just filled with a bunch of hypocrites!" they complain.

"They act one way Sunday morning, and then there's the rest of the week!"

* "They speak of the narrow door. But it's simply their way of insisting: "I'm better than the

rest of you, you know, those of us who don't make it to church every Sunday."

* And they're right about one thing. There are a lot of hypocrites in the church.

There are a lot of people who'd rather be saved by their connection to the church and

other believers, than by the Gospel and the words of Christ.

 

The problem is, sometimes people are so turned off by hypocrites, that they can't tell the

difference between a hypocrite and a faithful worshiper, for they're all lumped together.

* And unfortunately they end up judging and avoiding those who simply want to confess

their sin and know they're forgiven.

* We who talk about being saved and going to heaven; is apparently the height of

arrogance. How can we go to church so regularly when we're constantly proving what a

sinner we are?

* Some might even remark: "You have no sense of responsibility!

You join this church, but you don't even have to change who you are!"

* Of course, what's happened, more than likely, is they've made a judgment based on their

observance of a few.

* The fact is, they too have become a hypocrite. They want to feel positive about their

future, but they don't want to hear about their sin and their need for forgiveness.

 

Whether someone's a hypocrite or a hypocrite detector, they're sure to have something in common.

* They've rejected true and solid instruction. They've rejected the Gospel.

And often they'll remain insecure about their future until they have no future.

* Jesus speaks about the owner of the house who gets up and closes the door despite those

on the outside who knock at the door, saying, "Lord, open to us.'"

* The shut door represents the end of time or the time God's grace has ended.

For eternity the lost will try to argue their case.

"We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets."

* "But we were the responsible ones! We were there in church every Sunday.

Or: "But we didn't flirt or party with those of the world. Our family was our church!"

Or: "But we belonged to that confessional church where your Word was taught in its

truth and purity."

* But did they believe from the Word that they were a sinner? Having not, the response

will be one and the same. "I do not know where you come from."

 

Apart from proper instruction people cannot appreciate The Lord's Narrow Wide-Open Door.

They can only live with the deepest insecurity regarding a future life with their Savior.

* That's, undoubtedly, what Jesus had in mind when he responded to this morning's

question whether only a few people would be saved. "Strive to enter through the narrow

door" he says.

* He's not saying that being saved requires a great effort on our part.

Although many "will seek to enter" on the basis of their efforts, they "will not be able"

Jesus remarks. For salvation comes by grace; it's a gift.

* But what Jesus is saying is an effort is required of us when it comes to hearing God's

Word and responding with repentance.

You see, we'd rather not hear God's Word. We'd rather not repent of our sin.

We'd rather fulfill some impressive responsibility and prove to our Lord that we're

somehow worthy of his eternal gifts.

* Speaking of the narrow door we're to enter, another translation refers not to an effort

on our part but a struggle. It involves a struggle, because we can't march though his

door with our magnificent religious medals.

We can't strut inside holding hands with those for whom we have the deepest respect.

* The door is only wide enough for us to enter on our knees, as we are, poor and

miserable in our sin – and yet covered by the blood of our Savior.

* And so the door may indeed be quite narrow. But it's open, and it's wide enough!

"I am the way, the truth and the life!" Jesus says.

Jesus is the way through the narrow door for he is the door.

* Only he is both God and Man. Only he is both Judge and Savior.

And so only he could lay down his life as the ransom that would cover the world's sins.

* Jesus is the "narrow door", for he is the only way in.

* But the only way in is wide open. We acknowledge the truth about our sin and the truth

about our Savior, and there he stands welcoming us inside.

 

But some are still troubled.

* However wide-open the door may be, they're afraid it isn't wide enough.

On the last day God will tell some: "Away from me!" "I don't know you!" (Matt. 25:12)

* So what about me? Will God know me? How can I know for sure?

To them the door isn't simply narrow; it closed.

* I once spoke to a neighbor of mine who had pretty much given up on church; any church.

He used to be a Mormon and might have considered becoming active somewhere else

had he not been so turned off by those who professed the Christian faith.

* In his case, he wasn't told only certain Lutherans are going to heaven.

He'd been told flat out that since he was a Mormon, he was going to hell!

* Now, although I'd agree that Mormon doctrine can only lead a person away from the

true faith, I know what I'll tell him the next time we have a chance to visit about religion.

* I'll tell him: there are only two religions in the world. There's man's religion which

teaches that the sinner must open the door to God's Kingdom.

And there's God's religion which teaches that Christ has already opened the door.

* As narrow as that door may be, it's wide open on account of the blood Jesus shed for

every last sinner on the face of the earth.

* Man's religion can only disappoint us.

Christ's religion, however, comforts us, revealing that our Savior has done everything

for us, earning salvation for every single soul on earth.

 

So where do we find the one true religion? Where is this narrow door that's wide-open for us?

* It's fastened on every church and home which allows people to repent and believe in their

only Savior. Christ's religion is found where we're permitted to see two very simple

truths.

* First, we can see the truth about ourselves. Our sin had corrupted us making us arrogant

and puffed up so that we could no longer fit through the Kingdom door.

* But secondly can see the truth about Jesus Christ. He's our Savior, for he reduced our sin

to nothing, having suffered for our sin in our place.

* Yes. He's the one door to God's Kingdom. Believing what we've been taught about our

sin and our Savior, we can see the door is wide enough to travel though.

 

"Will those who are saved be few?" "Will only Lutherans make it to heaven?

* Thank our Lord, those are the wrong questions.

The only question we really need to ask is will my Lord know me on that final day.

* And we already know the answer to that question. "My sheep listen to my voice" Jesus

says; "I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27).

* The question is not how large is heaven.

The question is: how great is the teaching of God's grace?

* Think of it this way; in the words of St. Paul: "This is good, and it is pleasing in the

sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge

of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:3-4).

* God would have you be saved. And that's just what he assures you of this day.

Through faithful instruction; the teaching of his truth, you may know that the narrow

door is wide-open for you!

Amen.

 

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Amen.