15th Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, the narrow door, dear friends in Christ,
What does it take to be an Olympic athlete? I’m guessing that not very many of us here have ever really considered that question or have much of any desire to either J. With the Olympics wrapping up, what does it take to be one of those people? How do they do it? Well, I did a little research and although every athlete has their own workout regimen, it’s pretty typical for an Olympic athlete to train for 2 hour sessions, twice a day, five to six days a week. That’s at least 20 hours/ week on training. Then there’s strength and conditioning sessions which are usually 1 to 1.5 hours at a time and 3-4 sessions per week. And they also get “extra workouts” that are more sport specific for 15-45 minute sessions. There’s also time spent with sports medicine for rehab and recovery, there’s proper nutrition and hydration and sleep, studying past performances to learn from mistakes. Wow! So to be an Olympic athlete you’d need to have a LOT of discipline, determination, dedication, hard work, sweat, etc. Why? So that you’re well prepared to excel at your particular sport. And what’s the goal? To win a contest, get a medal, a trophy, maybe get a name in a record book.
What are you prepared to do? What are you spending your life training for? Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect of athletes who can do far more than I’ll ever be able to do and I have even greater respect for the athletes who do what they do not for their own glory but for the glory of their Lord and Savior Jesus. But there’s a far greater, far more important, far more costlier contest and struggle that each of us are involved in than the Olympics. And the stakes aren’t just a medal or a trophy, but where you spend eternity. And here’s the question: what are you prepared to do? What are you prepared to do for this struggle? No one would dream of preparing for the Olympics by sitting at home watching TV on the couch while eating potato chips. In fact, if an Olympic athlete did that, not only would they fail miserably, but they’d be a huge embarrassment to themselves and to their team. What are you prepared to do to enter eternal life?
As Jesus was passing through villages and cities and teaching people the gospel while he was making his way to Jerusalem for one final time, someone in the crowd asked Jesus, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved.” And what you notice is that Jesus doesn’t answer the question. Jesus takes it to a different place. And perhaps that’s good for us. If Jesus had directly answered, like, “Yes, only a small few are going to be saved.” That could lead us to anxiety, concern, worry if we’re going to be saved. And likewise, if Jesus said, “No, there will be many, many saved, don’t worry.” That could lead us to a lazy and lackadaisical approach to our faith. No, rather, Jesus says, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.”
Jesus is picturing the kingdom of heaven to be like a great big house, but this house has only one entrance and that’s through a door, and this door happens to be quite narrow. The door is open, it’s open to all to enter, but it’s narrow and one day it’s going to be shut and locked. The door being open is the time of grace that God has given to each and every person. Time of grace isn’t just a religious TV broadcast, it’s time that every human has in this life on the earth in order to come to faith in Jesus and finally be saved. But there will come a time when the door is shut – either when someone dies or when the Last Day arrives – either of which could be at any moment.
And the door is narrow. So, what is this “narrow door.” The narrow door is indicating faith in Jesus as the Savior. You see, there is only one way to eternal life, one way to life in heaven, and that’s through faith in Jesus as your Savior alone. It’s a narrow door, you car won’t fit through this door, your house isn’t going to make it through, your good works won’t fit through this door, it’s narrow.
And what does Jesus say? “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.” Make every effort, strive, struggle to enter through it. The Greek word that is used here actually pictures an athlete striving, struggling, and straining in order to compete and win the prize. In other words, Jesus is saying, “Be an Olympic athlete in your discipline, dedication and determination in entering eternal life.
Why so? Because one day the owner of the house is going to get up, close the door, lock it and there will be people left knocking and pleading, “Open the door for us!” But Jesus is going answer, “I don’t know you or where you come from.” But…but…but we know you! “We ate and drank with you and you taught in our streets.” We know who you are Jesus, we were baptized, we warmed a pew in church once in a while, we were part of a Christian family!
But he will reply, “I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me all you evildoers.” Maybe you called yourself a Christian, but your heart was far from me. Maybe you thought you were a Christian but you lived your life like an unbeliever. Maybe you were baptized and the fire of faith kindled in your heart for a time only to let life’s worries, riches, and pleasures lead you astray. And there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see all these people in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrown out. You know the feeling of missing a flight, missing a deadline, not making it to an event on time, but infinitely worse would be to hear from God: “I don’t know you…away from me.”
You see, the real question isn’t “Are only a few going to be saved.” The real question you and I need to be asking is, “Am I making every effort to enter through the narrow door?” Am I making every effort to feed my faith, nourish my soul, strengthen my spirit? And the warning Jesus gives is real. Olympic athletes train, they strive, they struggle, they discipline and dedicate in order to win a prize. What about you? What about me?
Are you willing to gamble on being part of a congregation, group, or organization where a little false teaching or error is taught or tolerated? Your eternity’s on the line! Are you willing to gamble that you could be spiritually ok with a little false doctrine? Or what about living in a way contrary to God’s will? Scripture is very clear that living in unrepented sin is inviting the wrath of God. Do you want to gamble with that? Are you willing to gamble that God won’t really be angry with you if you purposefully live in a way that is contrary to his Word? That’s an eternal gamble! Or what about our approach to our spiritual life? Is it ok to skip church? Is it ok to not read God’s Word on a regular basis? Faith comes from hearing the message. Are you willing to gamble that your faith will be strong enough when you’re not giving it your all? There are no second chances, once the door is closed, it’s closed forever!
So, what are you prepared to do? I hope that each of us would say, “I want, I need, to give 100 percent, full effort to my spiritual life! Many are going to go to hell, I don’t want to be one of them! There’s only one way in through faith in Jesus. I want and need to be focused on the Word of God so that God can build my faith and keep me on the narrow path to eternal life. So be an Olympic athlete, train like an Olympic athlete when it comes to your faith. Jesus said, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.”
But what does God see when he looks at us. Does he see us giving a 100 percent to our spiritual life? What do we see when we look at our offering amount, when we examine our prayer life, when we reflect on our worship to God, when we think about how much time and how quality of time we spend in his Word. Is it an Olympic effort? I have to hang my head in shame as I look at the struggle Olympic athletes go through for their sport and how pathetic my faith life really is in comparison. Instead of an Olympic training regimen, it’s more of a spiritual potato chips and TV regimen. You too?
So, it would be fair if God did to you and me like the home-owner did in this text, lock the door and say, “Go away! I don’t know who you are!” That would be fair.
But that’s not what God does! God says, “There’s a way in!” In incredible love God opened the door of heaven. There was a far greater competition and struggle that happened on this earth than the Olympics. The real hero, the real athlete, came into this world and did what no one else could do. By living a perfect life He earned a perfect record before God. And He didn’t stop there, he also took the competition to the cross, shedding His own blood for all of our spiritual lethargy and laziness, for every time we’ve eaten potato chips and watched TV spiritually instead of watching and praying, reading and studying His Word, for every failure we’ve made in the spiritual competition, Jesus died and with his blood paid for it. And Jesus didn’t compete to win a medal for Himself, no, he gives His trophy, His medal, His prize of eternal life to you! He opened heavens doors! He opened the place of eternal peace, eternal joy, eternal hope. He opened the door to being able to live in peace knowing that your sins are forgiven now and forever. The door is open and it is open for all.
And through faith in Jesus you’re going through that narrow door. He made sure that you knew that you were in by baptizing you into His own name. He continues to strengthen you in your baptismal faith by speaking to you in the Word, by feeding you with the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. And in so doing He’s assuring you over and over again that the door is open, open to you! God STROVE for you. He did all that was needed for your salvation! He did it all! FULL effort! One hundred percent focus! In regards to winning salvation, God has done absolutely everything that we need! He’s died, He’s risen, He’s opened up the door!
But now there’s effort to be done. No, not an effort to earn salvation, not at all. Jesus did that work. But rather, effort to keep us on the road to eternal salvation. God has chosen to strengthen our faith through the Word, through the sacraments. He gives to you the incredible honor of deciding how much you will be into that Word, how often you will partake of the sacrament. The stakes are THE highest! But the blessings are THE highest, too, the blessings of life eternal.
Knowing all that, what are you prepared to do? Amen