Sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on September 2, 2007 by Pastor Dale Raether Make Every Effort to Trust in Jesus AloneLuke 13:22-30A question many have often asked is if a loved one doesn’t make it to heaven, how can heaven be heaven? How can we not have an everlasting sadness knowing that someone we care about is in hell? Some have attempted to answer that by saying in heaven we won’t remember any of our relationships here on earth. That answer doesn’t work. If we’re perfect in heaven, how can we not care about others even if we don’t know who they are? Also, in I Thessalonians Paul comforts believers, who had lost fellow believers, that they would be together again; and he doesn’t add, “Oh, by the way you just won’t remember anyone.” Or, consider what happened on the mount of transfiguration. Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus, and Peter, James, and John knew who they were. Based on all this, I believe that when we get to heaven we are going to be able to talk to our great, great, great, grandparents, who died in the Lord, along with all the prophets and apostles of the Bible. Okay, then, if we’re going to remember our relationships here on earth, how can heaven be heaven if we also remember the terrible things we did to each other? I once heard someone answer that by saying that there are enough rooms in heaven, so we’ll never have to run into anyone we don’t want to see. That’s just plain unscriptural. St. Paul tells us in Corinthians that in a blink of an eye, at the last trumpet, we shall all be changed, and then we’ll be as holy and loving as God is. And so, while we’ll remember that this person was my spouse, and these people were my children and so on, our relationship with them will be perfect, and we will all have moved on from whatever was bad in this life. However, I still haven’t answered the first question. How can heaven be heaven if some of our loved ones didn’t make it? In our text this morning, a man in the crowd asked Jesus a similar question. “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” Jesus answers that, not be explaining how many people are going to be saved, but how people are saved. And so, what we all really need to focus on is making sure that we get there. There almost seems like there’s a contradiction between the words of our text and the rest of the Bible. In Ephesians chapter 2 Paul tells us that we are saved by grace through faith, and that even our faith is a gift from God, as well as the good we do because of our faith. So, then, why does Jesus here say, “Make every effort”? Actually there is no contradiction, because look at the rest of the verse, “to enter through the narrow door.” Jesus is the only door to heaven, because in order to get into heaven, not only must our thoughts and words and actions be perfect, WE must be perfect. Our hearts must be perfect. Unfortunately, we lack the righteousness God requires, and we are stained with sin. For example, instead of loving and trusting in God above all things, we have put ourselves and things first; and we have wanted to believe that we’re not so bad as others and that we’re basically good enough for heaven. Insisting that good is good enough is rebellion against God. And the sentence for this sin is eternal separation from Him. However, a lot of people are at odds with God over this. They would say that as long as they’re loving toward others by their standards, why should it matter if they don’t love the God of the Bible. In fact they would say that God condemning people to hell for not trusting in His Son alone makes Him unloving. These are the kind of things I hear people say. But this is blasphemy, and Jesus will have to say to them on the last day, “Away from me, you evil-doers?” Yet this need not happen to anyone. He had lived a perfect life for all. He had suffered hell for all. And so, if only they would let go of their sins, if only they would let go of their own merits, then they would be spiritually skinning enough to get through the narrow door. What Jesus is emphasizing by comparing Himself to a narrow door, is that faith and trust in Him is ALL we need to enter heaven, and even this faith HE gives us through our baptism, and preserves in us through His Word, and nurtures in us through Holy Communion. And now here’s what it means, then, to make every effort to enter through the narrow door. By the power of the faith He gives us, let’s make every effort to stay trusting in Christ alone. For example, in Revelation chapter 2 Jesus warns some Christians that they no longer loved Him as much as when they first believed. What about us? Are we growing in our love for the Word? If so, does that show in the amount of time that we’re actually spend in the Word? On the other hand, if our love for the Word is waning, how do we get it back? Jesus answers that. “Repent!” Everyday let’s compare ourselves with the Commandments, as we do when we examine ourselves before taking communion, and then let’s add to our faith, goodness; and let’s add goodness, self-control; and let’s add to self-control, perseverance; and let’s add to perseverance, brotherly kindness. As we strive to add these things, we’ll see all the more how much we need Jesus, but then as we keep looking to Him, we will love His Word more and more. Another effort Jesus says we need to make, and again this is from Revelation, is that when our faith is being severely tested, we hold on to His promises. We hold on to His promises by repeating them in our heart and then praying like Jacob did, “Lord, I will not let you go until you keep your promises to me.” People, who do this, make it through their problems, and even come through them with a stronger faith in Jesus.The next effort Jesus says we need to make is to not tolerate sin and false doctrine. You see, agreeing to disagree or not saying anything is lovelessness toward others, because then we’re not caring whether they love and trust in Jesus. And not caring about that is a sign that our own love and trust in Jesus is faltering. And so, let’s confess to God our lovelessness, our laziness, our desire to have it easy; and then let’s remember again that Jesus died for all, for us and for others. However, our sinful nature never stops trying to tear us away from Christ. As a result, when we’re spending good time in the Word, and we’re walking the walk and talking the talk, and doing all kinds of good things to help others, our sinful nature will tempt us to pat ourselves on the back. But that’s only a small step from starting to trust in our own merits again instead of in Christ alone. In addition, when we start trusting in our own merits, we will feel a lot of pressure to do everything everyone asks of us. But that can only lead to more patting ourselves on the back, or guilt, when we fail. And so, let’s make every effort to stay in Christ alone, by continually looking to His standards, not ours: and then whenever we see we fall short, let’s look to His merits, not ours! And then as far as how much we serve God and others, let’s continually pray that God guide us to do all that HE wants us to do and then leave the rest in His hands.Unfortunately our sinful nature can go too far with that too. I mean, it we can get to the point where God has enabled us to do more in serving Him and others, but we lazily say, “I’ve done enough. Let someone else take over.” This lukewarm-ness is also a threat to our faith, because lukewarm-ness comes from not caring that much what happens to others, and not caring that much what happens to others can only mean again that we’re starting to trust in our own merits, instead of Christ alone. And so, let’s make every effort to keep up our spiritual fire! Everyday let’s recognize the faith destroying power of sin. Everyday let’s flee to Christ for reconciliation with our Heavenly Father. And then everyday let’s also pray that God increase our love for lost souls and that He use us, so that many more will enter heaven through the narrow door. However, time is running out. We read, “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!'” A lot of people find this passage confusing. Since Christ died for all, when He comes again, why wouldn’t He give everyone one more chance to turn to Him after they see the first signs of His coming? Actually, all the signs of His coming are already here, and that’s why He urges us in His Word, “Now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation – II Corinthians 6:2.” Jesus gives faith through His Word, but if a person doesn’t heed the word now, and insists that he’s good enough because he wears the name Christian and perhaps even attended some services somewhere, he’s not going to be able manufacture faith in his heart on the last day. And so even on the last day he’ll be pointing to why he deserves heaven, and why Jesus is wrong. And now we come back to the question I had asked at the start. How can heaven be heaven, if some of our loved ones don’t make it? We need to simply trust Jesus on this and leave it in His hands. And so, what we all really need to ask ourselves is, ‘Are we making every effort now so that we are in Him, when He comes again?’ And ‘Are we making every effort now so that our loved ones will be in Him when He comes again?’ This gives us more than enough to think about and to do. And finally, when it seems too much to think about and do, let’s hang on to Jesus’ simple promise, “Be faithful to the point of death and I will give you the crown of life - Revelation 2:10.” Amen.

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