Thursday, August 25, 2016
The narrow door. . .
We want to know what we want to know. How many will be saved? The disciples then looked around and saw what we see. They lamented empty pews and hard hearts, people caught up in the moment who rejected the call to faith and disciples who had lost their way. Will those who are saved be few? Is it not our curiosity as well? Even Jesus had His critics. Those who are saved are the Lord’s business – not ours. Though we want to know how and why, we are not given this to know.
What is our business? Our business is the strive to eneter by the narrow door. In other words, our business is faith. Our business is to live this faith our daily before the Lord and before the world, living in hope and as witnesses of this hope, rejoicing in the comfort of the cross and telling its story to all around us.
That is probably not what we want to hear but it is the truth. Strive to enter by the narrow door. Those are hard words for a people seeking easy street. To strive means that faith does not come naturally to our hearts sinful by nature. Faith cannot be taken for granted but must be constantly nurtured by the means of grace. Faith comes not by hearing once but by living where the Word of God is spoken. Faith lives by daily repentance that is the fruit of our baptismal new life.
Strive means that life in the Kingdom is not easy but hard. We have heard it – persecution by a world that hated Jesus and hates those who belong to Jesus. Tribulation in a world where the easy way is nearly always the wrong way and to stand up for Jesus is to stand out from the crowd.
Life in the Kingdom is not a path of moral perfection but of daily repentance. We live in this daily repentance by the power of forgiveness as the Spirit works to dailiy reclaim us from our pride and from our weakness both at the same time. Strive means that we work at this, working out our salvation by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Strive to enter by the NARROW DOOR. That again is not what we want to hear. We want to believe that the way of salvation is a broad boulevard but it is a narrow path. We want to think of it as a grand entrance but it is a narrow door. Christ is the way the truth and the life and no man comes to the Father but by Him. Sincerity does not save but faith in Christ does.
The narrow way is truth – not good feelings or noble intentions but solid doctrine formed from Scripture and normed by that Word. The narrow way is creed that confesses with specificity who Jesus is, from whence He has come, and what He has come to do. The narrow way is confession of this faith boldly before a world that may or may not hear.
The narrow way is the life of faith – life in the Spirit, life lived by faith and not by sight. The Christian life is our concern – not who will be saved but the Christian life born of baptismal rebirth, nourished by the Word and Supper of the Lord, lived in tension with the world, confessed without fear by those who would persecute us, and lived confidently even in the faith of death.
Have you read how many hymns in our hymnal sing of the glory of a faithful death or pray for the same? These words have nothing to do with whether or not that death is painful or it comes at the end of a long life. No the faithful death is the Christian who dies in faith no matter the circumstance, confident that they will rise with Christ to everlasting life.
You have probably noticed this is no pep talk to try harder for Jesus. No, this is the unpleasant truth of false prophets, of hypocrites, of lies that damn, of true alone that saves, and of the vanity of sincerity without the narrow faith in the one and only Christ. We may be curious about what belongs to God but it is God's to decide and ours to believe. Instead of trying to know what is not ours to know, He has called us to do what does belong to us. Strive to live by faith, to walk the narrow path of salvation by grace alone for the sake of Christ alone, and our own entrance into eternal life through Him who is the way, the truth, and the life. So strive for this. Work for it. Live for it. Die in it.
The narrow way is Christ alone – exclusive for there is salvation in no other but inclusive because everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. The hypocrisy of good works and dead hearts is exposed. The arrogance of sincerity which believes everything in general but not in specifically in Christ is laid bare. Repent. Believe. Strive to live in Christ alone. This is our only peace and comfort. Amen.