O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Based on Luke 13:22-30
Preached on August 25, 2013
Click on the Play button
to listen to the Sermon.
Fellow baptized saints, the Saviour goes to Jerusalem like a bridegroom pursuing his bride. Joy is set before Him and He will endure that which is necessary for your eternal well-being. Our heavenly Father delights in such a Son who loves with an unfailing love, who humbles Himself and is obedient even to the point of shedding blood, His own blood, to cover over the sins of the world.
Yes, beloved Jesus goes to Jerusalem. He pursues her to save her, to bring her peace, and joy, and rest from her labours. He walks our road, lives our life, suffers our frailty, yet at the same time He blazes a new way, a way that is straight, level, clean, and narrow, a way that leads out of this life and into paradise, into life eternal with God.
Along this way "someone said to Him, "Lord are those who are being saved few?" The question is concerned with others - - - those people - - - them. It's a theoretical question framed in the third person. It allows for the examination of others and the evasion of self, the judgment of neighbours and without personal reflection, the putting on of a pious cap and the putting off of repentance. The question is a general "who's gonna make it to heaven?" question. When it really should be an "am I gonna make it to heaven?" question. And that's the question Jesus answers because Jesus is always concerned about individuals. When He speaks, its more direct, more specific. It's not "those people or them." Its "you." When Jesus speaks He's concerned about you - whoever can hear His voice - He wants you to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. He wants you to repent and believe the Gospel. He wants you to be spared the flames of hell. He wants you to walk the narrow way, the way He blazes, the way He forges with His cross and resurrection, the way He covers with His own Blood.
So Jesus responds to the question that should've been asked. His response is not just for the people of the past, but as always, it is also for you and me and all who are hearing. And what does Jesus say. "Struggle" he says, "Struggle to enter through the narrow door, because many I tell you will seek to enter in and they will not be able." To struggle in this way is to repent and believe. Many will not enter because they refuse to repent. What of you? What sins are you hiding? Are you one struggling to enter the narrow door? What is it that clings so easily to your heart? What is it that you do not want to give up, that you don't want to make right. Have you been dishonest, cheated anyone, cheated on anyone? Repent! Has your sin become a habit, an addiction, a deed you can't seem to stop? Repent? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful or lazy? Repent! Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Repent! Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you failed to apologize, failed to love, failed to keep your vows? Repent! These are but a few sins that easily entangle us, snare us, and become so much a part of us that we don't know what to do without them. Beloved, there's no room for them as you struggle to pass through the narrow door. There's no room for sin.
Many will say, "we ate and drank in your presence. You taught in our midst." Many will have given the appearance of piety. Many indeed, will have been to church, been baptized, been confirmed, some even frequented the church as an adult. They did many things but their own doing became their hope. Their own doing became hypocrisy. "We did this! We did that! You were among us!" But it won't get you in. Your doing never gets you in. Jesus says, "I don't know you. I don't where you came from. Depart from me all you workers of unrighteousness."
You see, too many struggle to be good rather than struggling to enter through the narrow door. Too many struggle, work hard, sweat blood, shed tears, in order to make their salvation sure. This kind of struggle allows Old Adam - the sinful nature in all of us, that part that likes to think he can make God love us by being good - this kind of struggle allows Old Adam to survive because this kind of struggle is void of the cross of Christ. It's all about my efforts, my doing, my being responsible, my making things right. There's no room for Old Adam as you struggle to pass through the narrow door. There's simply no room for sin or hypocrisy. Repent!
The struggle through which one enters paradise is one of repentance, which is a work of God. It's not a work you do, neither is it a work your neighbour does. Repentance isn't something you need help with. Gurus, coaches and personal trainers may talk about a better you, a more disciplined you, the kind of "you" you want to be. They will say and teach all sorts of things to make you love you but none of it will make God love you because all of it is void of the cross of Christ.
You see, beloved, repentance isn't reformation - the idea that I can make myself worthy of love and salvation, that I can improve Old Adam. Reformation is repentance - the biblical teaching that Old Adam doesn't need improvement. Old Adam needs death, crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus teaches in John chapter 3 that "unless you are born again - born from above - born of water and the Spirit you shall not enter the kingdom of God.
The struggle of repentance is actually one of surrendering to God's Word of Law which accuses and kills Old Adam in us and then allowing God's grace to be poured into our hearts, renewing, regenerating, and resurrecting us with Christ through the power of the Gospel. The struggle is believing that you can't save yourself by being good enough. The struggle is believing that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus alone. The struggle isn't your work. It's Christ's Work - the work He goes to Jerusalem to accomplish. As the bible teaches,
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
God does this wonderful saving Work through water and the Word in Holy Baptism. This Word and work has been purchased for the world through the same blood which Jesus shed for us, for you, when He offered up Himself in obedience to His Father and made Himself the door. This blood, with its merit and power, He has deposited in Baptism so that men, women and children receive it there. So that baptism is now the door into the kingdom, the door into eternal life. For the person who is being baptized is in effect actually being visibly washed with the blood of Christ and cleansed from all sins. Old Adam is drowned. Sins are covered over, washed away, you are made clean. The heart is born again all as scripture promises when it says,
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The Lord works the repentance. The Lord forgives the sins. The Lord washes, renews, pours, justifies and makes the baptized His own dear children. The Lord does all of the loving and through His love in Word and Sacrament on account of Christ rouses within our own hearts a love for Him and for our neighbours.
So, God does all of the work for our salvation. Does that remove the struggle? Does life all of a sudden become easy? Do we automatically stop sinning? Does the fact that we sin even matter anymore? The truth is that when a person is baptized, he or she is not only baptized into Christ and united with His death and resurrection, but the person is also baptized into the Church. The baptized are snatched from the kingdom of the devil, the domain of his minions, and placed into a community, a family knit together by the Holy Spirit through Word, Water, Bread and Wine. In this Christian Church the Holy Spirit daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. Outside of the Christian Church none of that happens.
The struggle of repentance then is not only an internal struggle of faith in Christ against Old Adam's continual desire to make a comeback, but it is also one that is located outside of ourselves in a particular place with a particular people who regularly gather together around the Word that saves, strengthens, encourages, heals, gives rest to the weary, food to the hungry and drink to those that thirst. Here in this place the lonely are comforted. The despairing find hope. Peace is spoken to the anxious. Life is given to the dying. And Christ is all and in all as He reclines at table with those who "come from the east and the west and the north and the south to sit down in the kingdom of God."
Therefore beloved, you are to pursue Christ your Saviour here in this place. You are to struggle against sin as God works His law and His Gospel in your heart through Christ's Word in this place. Here is the place of repentance because Christ is here! Seek Him diligently with tears. Approach the altar of your God in humility and with integrity. Let no sin cling to your heart. Let no idol govern your delights. Repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Remember your baptism. Rejoice in God's Love. Exult the Name of Jesus and come to His feast. Eat! Drink! Be Merry! Christ is come! Christ is here! Christ is coming again! In His holy Name, AMEN!
Rev. Cameron Schnarr