Last week Mary and I and our brothers and their wives visited Noah’s
Ark.  This ark is the exact right dimension according to the Bible.  But
that’s about all the Bible tells us, other than it had three decks;
and Noah was to take with him two of every kind of animal and lots of
food.  Something we really appreciated was they showed how all the
animals could fit, and how Noah may have handled food, water,
ventilation, and waste removal.  Something else that really struck me
was standing inside by the door.  When the Flood started, God Himself
closed it.  I wondered what that must have been like for Noah and his
family. Outside was death and judgment.  Inside they were safe and
secure.

But have you ever wondered why God sent a worldwide flood in the first
place.  I mean, wasn’t killing every person and every animal not
inside the ark a little extreme?  Well, the world had become a very
dangerous place, and God wanted to make it safe for believers.  Peter
tells us that the Flood accomplished that.

Sadly, the world is becoming increasingly dangerous again, both
physically and spiritually.  For the sake of His believers God will
cleanse the earth a second time, but with fire.  In the meanwhile, as
long as we are inside the ark of the Holy Christian Church, we are safe.
 And God is with us.  And He’s bringing us to a new heaven and a new
earth.  On the other hand, if we AREN’T in ark of His Church when the
fire of judgment starts, that won’t be good for us. In our text this
morning Jesus pleads with us to Make Every Effort to Enter through the
Narrow Door. 1.  We enter through faith in Christ.  2.  When God closes
the door, it stays closed forever.

1.  We enter through faith in Christ

Our text reads: Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching
as he made his way to Jerusalem.  Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a
few people going to be saved?” – Luke 13:22-23   Many of the Jews in
Jesus’ day thought that only Jews would go to heaven, and at that,
only the really “good” ones, who kept all the Old Testament laws.
Well, they looked around and realize not very many were doing that, and
so, the question.  

We read on: He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the
narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be
able to.”  – Luke 13:24  Jesus doesn’t answer how many are going
to heaven.  He’d rather that we each ask, “Will I be among them?”
You see, not everyone, who thinks he’s on the road to heaven, is.  For
example, some claim to be Christians, but they’re lying about their
sins.  Maybe they’re living in the sin of adultery; or, they’re
piling up more and more THINGS to make themselves happy, which is the
sin of idolatry; or, they’re carrying around anger and hatred, which
is the sin of murder.  When confronted with their sin, their response
is, “I didn’t do anything wrong.  I’m not an adulterer or idolater
or a murder.”  Such a person could attend services everyday of the
week, but he’s not yet inside the ark of the Holy Christian Church.

Or, here’s another example.  The person doesn’t deny his sins.  He
admits what he’s doing is wrong.  But they have no intention of
stopping, because he’s enjoying his sin, and insists God will take him
to heaven just as he is.  If that were true, there would have been more
than 8 people on the ark.  In fact there wouldn’t have even been a
Flood.

Do you know what I think some of the problem is?  Many don’t  believe
God that sin is as serious as He says it is.  But sin is like mold
growing in your loaf of bread.  You might see it on only one or two
slices, but there’s always more mold that you can’t see YET.  And so
you probably should throw the whole loaf out, as much as you hate to do
that, because mold is not safe to eat.  In the same way God sees the
full extent of the sin that’s in us, and He knows better than we do,
how sin spreads and grows without our realizing it.    

Now, God has no pleasure in throwing anyone out.  In my Bible reading
this week, I happened upon a term for sin I never noticed before.  In
Jeremiah 6, God calls sin, “Sickness and wounds.”  This tells me
something about how God feels about sinners.  His heart is constantly
going to them, because he sees the physical, and mental, and spiritual
sicknesses that sin cause.  Also He sees the painful wounds that sin
brings into each person’s life.  

Nevertheless God’s solution isn’t to just let things ride, because
we’re sick and wounded.  He sees how our sins are wounding and making
others sick with sin too.  That has to be punished, and in Jeremiah 6,
what He’s going to do. “From the least to the greatest, all are
greedy for gain… Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct?  No,
they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.  So they
will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish
them,” says the Lord. – Jeremiah 6:13, 15-16  Imagine our sins as a
smelly bag chicken scraps, that sat in the garage for a week.  When the
punishment starts, we don’t want to be holding that bag.  We want to
be safe and secure in Jesus.

But how does that happen?  Let’s confess to God what we have done and
failed to do.  Let’s also confess what we deserve because of our sins.
 Then we plead, NOT some sliver of goodness, we say, is still in us, or
that we’re better than the person sitting next to us, or that in
future we’re going to try harder and do better.  Rather, we plead the
only thing we can, the only thing that’s true.  God’s Son lived a
holy life for us, and God’s Son died for us on the cross.  Through
faith in Christ, God sees us as healed from all our sicknesses and
wounds, and He counts us clean enough to enter heaven.

But that’s not reality yet, is it.  As long as we are in our body, the
good we want to do, we don’t, and the evil we don’t want to do, we
end up doing.  On top of this, it’s so easy for us to fall into
playing mind games with God as if just saying we’re sorry, or just
asking for forgiveness, makes it safe for us to keep on in our favorite
sins.  But this is why we need to stay in the ark of the church, until
we actually land at heaven’s door.  Here, whenever two or three come
together in His name, Jesus is with them to bless them.  And so, here,
Jesus continually leads us to turn from our sins.  And here, He
reassures our forgiveness through Word and Sacrament, and in this way
the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith and enables us to keep praying,
“Create in me a clean heart, oh, God, and, “lead me, my Savior and
my Shepherd, in your righteous paths!”

But just how easy is all this?  Jesus said in our text to make every
effort!  It’s only through the Word and with prayer that we can force
ourselves to turn from a temptation; or if we do give in, it’s only by
God’s strength that we can let go of our bag of guilt and hold on to
Christ.  Maybe it’s because true repentance over the long haul is so
hard, that many keep putting it off like they put off going to the
dentist.  But the Flood warns us: don’t keep doing that!

2.  When God closes the door, it stays closed forever.

We read in our text: 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.’ “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you,
and you taught in our streets.’ “But he will reply, ‘I don’t
know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ –
Luke 13:24-27  Sometime people will say that they’re going to keep
doing whatever it is that’s wrong, and then they’ll repent as soon
as they start getting chest pains, or they hear the trumpets of Jesus’
return.  They shouldn’t bet their soul that they’ll be able to
repent.

Faith comes from the Spirit through hearing the Word.  When these people
argue with Jesus someday that they deserve to go to heaven for whatever
reasons, they show that they weren’t trusting in Jesus’ blood and
righteousness all along.  This makes them evildoers, because Christ died
for them, yet they ignored or rejected this, and encouraged others to do
the same.  And so, because they had cut themselves off from the Word
during their life, in death they won’t get a second chance.  God will
have closed the door on them.  

We read: “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.” – Luke 13:28  Gritting your teeth
together can mean one of two things or both.  It can mean anger.  The
people in hell are forever angry with God, insisting it’s not fair
they’re in hell, while those in heaven are only there through faith in
Christ.  Gritting your teeth is also of sign of pain.  Hell is a place
of forever pain, and what will add to their pain, is seeing heaven from
a distance, and knowing they could have been there too, except they
threw it all away by hanging on to their sins and their pride.   

Now at this point, some would say that God’s justice is too much, too
vindictive, and for too long.  Yet the reason God revealed His justice
is because of His love for us.  Only the message of His justice can
break through our sinfulness, so we see our need for a Savior.  But
right now the door is still open.  Right now the Savior is pleading with
us to come to Him.  And so right now, there is hope for everyone who’s
in here.

Our text reads: “People will come from east and west and north and
south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of
God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first
who will be last.” – Luke 13:29-30  The word “first” means
literally the most favored.  Whoever considered himself most favored,
because of his own goodness will be last getting into heaven, if he even
has any faith in Christ at all.  But the person, who considers himself
unworthy of heaven, because of his sinfulness, that person is on the
right path.  If this describes you, take one more step – through the
door!  Rely on Jesus!  And keep relying on Him, until the ark of the
Holy Christian Church comes to a rest in heaven!

Finally, let’s go back to Noah one more time.  What was Noah feeling,
as he built the ark?  At times sadness, as he saw what people were doing
to themselves.  I think Noah also felt urgency.  He had 120 years to get
everything done, which wasn’t much time when you look at the size of
the ark, and all the problems he would have had to solve.  Most of all,
I think, Noah felt joy as he looked forward to having a fresh start.
Sadness, urgency, and joy!  May these also be our feelings as we make
every effort to enter through the narrow door, and do everything we can
so others also will make every effort, because we enter the narrow door
through faith in Christ.  But once God closes the door, it stays closed
forever!  Amen.

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