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Author: Phil Hodson
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Congregation:Christ the King Presbyterian Church
 Longview, Texas
 www.christthekinglongview.org/
 
Title:Strive to Enter in at the Strait Gate
Text:Luke 13:22-30 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Added:2004-01-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Luke 13:22-30
Luke 13:22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem.
23 And someone said to him, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" And he said to them,
24 "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.
25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then he will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.'
26 Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.'
27 But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!'
28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.
29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.
30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.

The Word of the Lord
Thanks Be to God
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Phil Hodson, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


The sermon this week comes from the notes of a sermon preached by Charles Hodge on May 14, 1856 at Princeton Seminary. I'll be incorporating Hodge's notes almost verbatim and then expanding upon them.

Charles Hodge was professor at Princeton College and Seminary from 1822 until I believe the time of his death in 1878. He is very well known for his three volume ST which is still one of the standard reference works in the Reformed community. Mark Noll calls Hodge the most influential American Presbyterian theologian of the 19th century

"Strive to Enter in at the Strait Gate"

A Sermon by Charles Hodge

[at the College of New Jersey, May 14th, 1856]

There are two ways of speaking which are found throughout the Bible, which appear to contradict each other.

According to the one, the plan of salvation is set forth as simple.

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,
touch and you will be healed,
look to Him and you will be made whole.

According to the other way, salvation is made out to be very difficult. We must

strive to enter through the narrow door.
we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
we must run as in a race where the prize is our life.
We must fight the good fight.
It says that many who seek will not enter in.
And that even the righteous are scarcely saved.

Both these ways of speaking are of course correct. They just refer to different things. The first one has to do with the meritorious and efficient cause of salvation. We don't have to work out a righteousness of our own, nor are we to attempt the work of regeneration or sanctification in our own strength. The whole work of meriting salvation has been done for us. We have nothing to do but to accept the righteousness which is offered to us, to trust in what Christ has done. For the forgiveness of sins which we call justification, Jesus died on the cross and has been raised from the dead. He has accomplished our justification. He is the substitute which God has provided as sufficient to accomplish this. There is nothing that we can add to His work for us. He has satisfied the demands of the Father. The Father has accepted Him in our place and raised Him from the dead.

And just like justification, our forgiveness of sins which is completely of the Lord, So, too, with regard to sanctification. Sanctification is the work of God. We are renewed by the Spirit after His image. It is not just something that happens because of the laws of nature which God set up at creation, but it happens by the intervening and miraculous power of God, accompanying the use of God's appropriate and appointed means. His appointed means are such things as the Word, Sacraments, Prayer, Discipleship, Fellowship. These are the means that God uses to work salvation in His people.

So in one sense we are the passive recipients of salvation. It is God Who justifies. It is God Who is at work in you to will and to do of His good pleasure.

But on the other hand, the difficulty of bringing our hearts to a simple, constant and entire reliance on Christ, and the difficulty of avoiding the grieving and resisting the Holy Spirit, is unspeakably great. So much so that the Scriptures say that it is hard to be saved. How can this be?

The Bible says very explicitly that no drunkard, or unclean person, or covetous man,
no one who loves the creation more than the Creator,
no one that is fleshly-minded,
no one who is not converted and made as a little child,
can enter the kingdom of God.
To all of these things which would keep us from the kingdom and other forms of destructive evil we are powerfully impelled or drawn in various ways.

1. One of the ways we are impelled or drawn to these things is By the corruption of our own nature.

We see this in Romans 7 where Paul speaks of his own personal struggle with his own sinful nature. He says that the more he learns about the righteous requirements of God, the more he finds out how sinful his heart really is. It is a continual and unending battle with him. He says in 1 Corinthians 9 that he buffets his body to make it his slave so that he will not himself be disqualified.

2. Another thing that impels us to things that would keep us from entering the kingdom are the allurements of the world.

1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions- is not from the Father but is from the world.
17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

John is saying here that we need to take care

3. Another thing that impels us is the influence of evil companions.

Scripture warns us again and again about this.

1 Cor 15:33 says "Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals."
Prov 13:20 says: "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm."
Prov 22:24-25 "Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.
Prov 24:1 says "Be not envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them,
2 for their hearts devise violence, and their lips talk of trouble."

And remember how in the Old Testament God told the people of Israel over and over that they were not to associate with the idolators of the land that God was giving them, or they would become like them and follow after their gods. And sure enough, that is exactly what happened.

The influence of evil companions is a very real danger that would draw us away to destruction.

4. Something else that would keep us from entering the kingdom are the temptations of Satan.

This is nothing new. The serpent offered our first parents the creation by suggesting that they could rule over it on their own. They could be as God, knowing good and evil, determining for themselves what was right and wrong.

And the same temptation was also given in full measure to our Lord Jesus. In Matthew 4 we read, "the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, 'All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.'" We need to remember that the temptations of Jesus were very real and that his resisting them was real as well. We do not want to make His sinlessness or God's foreordination cancel out the reality of what He did for us.

And the Scriptures speak of the reality for us of Satan's temptations. He roams around like a lion and would devour us. Sin is crouching at the door by way of temptation.

All of These things: 1. Our corrupt nature 2. the allurements of the world 3. the influence of evil companions and 4. the temptations of Satan, all of these are formidable enemies, which are not overcome without effort.

Therefore (says Hodge),

1. Lay it to heart that salvation is a difficult work. You cannot float to heaven.
2. [Lay it to heart] That a constant use of the means of grace, of secret and social prayer, of public worship, the reading of the Scriptures, and the use of the sacraments is absolutely necessary.
3. [Lay it to heart] That constant watchfulness against sin, avoiding temptation, company, associating with the people of God, are all necessary.
4. [Lay it to heart] That constant effort to advance in piety is the only way to avoid declining, and declension leads to apostasy.
5. [Lay it to heart] That with all these means should be united a constant sense of danger and constant dependence.
6. At the same time, the spirit of the gospel is not a fearful desponding spirit, but a spirit of filial confidence and joy. The main thing here is to remember that safety is only to be found in a lively and growing state of piety in the heart.

A heart that looks to Christ alone. A heart that finds its rest in Christ alone. That is focused on Christ and Him crucified and raised alone and thus is eager to walk in service of Christ alone. Our minds are to be only and always first set on things above. We are to seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

The solution then to every thing that would draw us away to destruction is the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Peter 1:3-4 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

1 Cor 10: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability (1 Cor 10). The implication is that there is pressure to be resisted

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. The blind see, the deaf hear, the dumb speak, and the dead live. The prisoners go free. Sinners are saved. This is why we may rejoice in our sufferings, why we can be content in every circumstance, why we can have the peace that passes all understnainding and is foolishness to the world. It is a paradoxical mystery that God would stoop to save us. What can we do except worship Him by pouring out our lives in return.

Let us pray.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Phil Hodson, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Phil Hodson

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