November 26, 2018

Pentecost 27 - Luke 13:22-30

Stay with Jesus
1. Presently through His Word
2. Eternally in His kingdom

Luke 13:22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them, 24 "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.'"But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.' 26 "Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' 27 "But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!' 28 "There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last."

There’s a well-known saying in real estate – “location, location, location.” In terms of the value of your home, location is so important. The structure itself can be changed, but the location cannot. Homeowners want a location that’s going to have lasting value.

Location is also important for our faith, but in a different way. For your faith, it’s not the physical aspects of location that are important. What’s important is what is going on where you are located. Another way of thinking about it is what is happened is present time. As Christians, there’s an eagerness to always look forward, to the future. Just like a little child who cannot bear the anticipation of presents on Christmas, so also it can be difficult for us to stay in the moment of where we are at. But that is where Jesus directs us in the verses of our text this morning. He speaks about the importance of your life now, and what is going on to support your faith right now. He speaks about your location.

The question posed at the beginning was a common one: "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" It would be nice to know the answer to that question. In the immediate context Jesus was preaching a lot of things about the kingdom of heaven. From the beginning He had made it clear that there are believers and unbelievers on earth. Believers will be saved. Unbelievers will not. Jesus’ ministry in this sense was incredibly simple. But, as it still is today, it’s hard to believe what He’s saying. We, too, wonder, will only a few be saved?

The person who asked this question wanted to cut to the chase. Perhaps they thought there was value to what Jesus taught. Maybe they even believed that He was the Savior. But, they figured, can’t we just skip ahead? Who’s gonna be saved? Give us a clue Jesus. The Savior’s response is telling. The very first word brought that person back down to reality, and back to their current location. Jesus replied, Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Other translations say “strive” or “contend.” The meaning is that we should be more focused on what is going on today. Don’t worry about how many people will be saved or lost – that answer belongs to God alone. Consider yourself. Stay in the present.

Today, this question has sort of taken a different form. Very often it’s posed as this, “Why are some saved and not others?” The Bible tells us why. It depends on a person’s relationship with Jesus. Believe in Him and you are saved. However, human psyche wants to get beneath the surface. Why, though? Why is it that way? Well, again, the Bible gives us that answer. Jesus is the Savior. Jesus has atoned for the sins of the world. All people can be found righteous – meeting the demand of Almighty God – by faith in Jesus. But, only through Jesus, because only Jesus suffered, upheld the Law, died, and rose again from the dead. If we want those blessings, we need to receive them from the One who achieved them – only Jesus.

But, yet again, that’s too simple for the human mind. We want to dig deeper. We want to access the mind of God, not just to consider what’s there, but to give our stamp of approval. Is God fair? How could He claim to love all people and yet sentence some to hell? The further we dig into those questions, while ignoring the actual answers that God provides in His Word, the further away from God we will find ourselves – until we reach an island of our own pride, isolated from all Biblical truth.

Many false teachings have developed in the quest to answer, “Why are some saved and not others?” Some Christians say it’s based on works. The way you prove yourself worthy is by what you do, or by what others in your life have accumulated on your behalf in God’s spiritual bank. Others say that the answer really rests with you. Have you accepted Christ or not? God is aware of your answer, but you alone offer it – so get on with it. They demand this even to the extent that they say Christ only died for believers, so if you want to be sure your sins are paid for you better believe.

How tangled we get the deeper we thrust into the unknown. I don’t want you to think that we shouldn’t question things. Part of the beauty of the Christian faith is growing into a deeper and deeper faith by seeing how God answers our questions in His Word. If you never question things, you’ll never grow in this way. It also highlights the precious gift that God’s Word is. It really is our attachment to Him while we wait for heaven.

What I warn you about is being discontent with the answers that God provides and seeking to interject your own. That will not help you arrive at the truth. Listen to what Jesus tells you here. He may not answer your question word for word, but what He does tell you is something much more important for your faith. He tells you, don’t be so focused on things to come that you forget about things today.

Part 2

Within the example that Jesus gives is a similar lesson. On the day that the Lord comes back to judge the world, there will be many who are left out unexpectedly. They will have all the markers of true believers. They desire to be in heaven. They know who God is. They even call Jesus “Lord.” However, they will be excluded. Why? Jesus answers twice, “I don't know you or where you come from.” Jesus describes unbelief in terms of not knowing who a person is. Obviously, as God Jesus knows all people. But He’s speaking about knowing them by faith – knowing them as a believer. Jesus pictures that as a location: “where they come from.” If Jesus doesn’t know where you come from, you are not His own.

Faith in Jesus is about knowing where you are now, just as much as where you’ll be after this life. Those who fail to consider their present circumstances have no part in Christ’s kingdom. Those who are too invested in questions about the future are in danger of neglecting the current needs of their faith. Jesus tells us to focus on what pertains to our lives and that involves preparing for His return. He has given us more than enough details in His Word about what will happen. He has not told us everything, but more than what we need to be saved. Focus on this Word from God.

Many of the Jewish people of Christ’s time thought they had a free ticket to heaven because they were Jewish. They were God’s people from the very beginning of time, how could they possibly be left out? Jesus was warning them from being caught off-guard. They thought they would make it because of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob - their forefathers. How surprising and painful it would be to see that this was not the case!

What would be analogous to our lives? What might we use as a reason to neglect management of our faith in present time? What blessings become burdens because they supplant the daily use of God’s Word?
·       Knowledge of Christ and His Word? “I know what the Bible says, I don’t need to keep hearing it over and over again.”
·       Wisdom and experience in this world? “I used to believe what God says but then I realized I was naive and I finally grew out of it.”
·       How about the truth of our confession? “Thanks be to God that we’re not like those other Christians who have so much error in their church!”
·       Could it be something in our relationships, perhaps in our marriages, where we put our family above what God says, and we’re more loyal to family than to God.

We, too, like the Jewish people of Jesus’ day, have many things that can get in the way of considering our present circumstances. But lest we hear the same judgment from Jesus, let us always be aware of where we are from. If you need a reminder, it’s all over the Bible. Take 1 Peter 1:3-5 for example, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  

Where are we now? Living in the resurrection of Christ. We’re not in heaven yet. It’s coming. Peter says we’re waiting for it to be revealed in the last time. But right now, we’re victors by faith in Jesus. We’re products of His death for sins and resurrection over the grave. If you ask me, that’s a pretty good place to be. Falling from that location is not about evil triumphing over you. You’re a conqueror now. Evil has nothing on you. The danger is in stepping off the safe ground of faith and venturing out on your own. Looking too far ahead into things that only God knows. Being discontent with what you have now. Thinking that you’re stronger than you are. The reasons for drifting are varied and never stop. The protection Jesus offers is always the same, though. Through His mercy, given any moment you need it in the gospel, you are assured of your redemption from sins and the promise of eternal inheritance in heaven. That’s the solid footing of faith. Could we ask a hundred unknown questions about heaven? Yes. Could you spend all our time speculating between varying opinions? Surely. But, who needs that when you have Jesus – the resurrected Jesus.

A chapter later in Luke’s Gospel Jesus preached about a similar theme. This time, He portrayed it as a great feast. No one wants to be left out of that heavenly banquet. No one wants to be on the outside banging on the door, “Lord, Lord…” Within that story Jesus described the Gospel invitation saying, “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready. (Luke 14:16-17).” That’s where you are now. “All things are ready. Come.” Stay there, with that blessed truth from Jesus, and you have nothing to fear. Know where you are today, living in His resurrection, and you will be with Him in heaven.  Amen.

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