Grace, mercy, and peace be
unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Amen. As we sang, have mercy upon us, O Jesus.
Bill Kieler is his name. We
were roommates in college for three years, ran track together. Then
we went off to seminary and were classmates together. He was even the
son of a pastor. We finished our four years of school, and he said he
wanted to take a year off and travel around Europe. He never came back,
and he denies the Christian faith to this day.
Someone like him makes me ask
the question, just like the question was asked of Jesus…Lord, will
those who are saved be few? Now that’s not the Spirit who is asking
that question. It is our flesh who asks such a question. In your mind’s
eye, you may also remember someone who you know, grew up with, and heard
the good news of Jesus. Maybe they haven’t denied the faith and are
apostate, but by their actions, you wonder. You just wonder. I’ve not
stopped praying for him. I tried to contact him and wrote letters. He
never answered them. Indeed, Lord, will those who are saved be few?
On the other side is a woman
who for 50 years her children and grandchildren bothered her regularly,
inviting her to come to church with them, encouraging her to be a part
of the church and the church activities, introducing to her all kinds
of people from the church with whom she could connect to make those
connections and to be a part of the community as a church. Well then
it wasn’t enough for her children. Her grandchildren continued that
on. Finally near her 80th birthday, I baptized her and confirmed her
and communed her for her very first time in her life, never having ever
been baptized. Within a year she died and is in heaven.
Now those are two extremes.
Lord, will those who are saved be few? Now the motivation behind that
question is really a fleshly motivation because the flesh wants an answer.
If the answer to that question is yes, then the flesh cries out,
“Injustice! Not fair! Foul!” Or the flesh cries out, “How
do I know for sure that I am?” That’s worry and fear, and that
is not what the Spirit breathes within your heart.
If the answer is no,
then the flesh cries out, “Good. Then I don’t have to worry about
a thing.” Slothfulness and apathy can set in really quickly by
Satan’s promptings. It is a very good question indeed. Jesus does not
answer it with a simple yes or a simple no. He answers
it directly with, “Strive [struggle] to enter through the narrow
door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”
Now the striving and struggling
isn’t what gets us into heaven. This striving and struggling of which
He speaks is your and my life baptized into Christ. Our spirit knows.
That’s why you’re here hearing the Word. It continually is bringing
you back to where the narrow door is found, but here that narrow door
is wide open. Here where that narrow door is wide open you are being
invited and all those who you bring.
There are a whole host of things
that your and my flesh can think of doing at this time of the morning
on a Sunday or a Wednesday or some other time when God’s services are
offered that we can find other things to do. It is a narrow door, and
it is a struggle to live out that life of a baptized Christian because
Satan doesn’t want us here. Satan knows here that narrow door is wide
open, and the Lord who opens that door so widely for you that is narrow,
though, is calling you continually back and all those who you bring.
Now I don’t have the answer
for Bill. I may never have an answer for my friend, Bill, except I know
he heard the news. He heard the news. The 80-year-old woman I have no
answer as to why it seemed God took a long time in her life to bring
her to faith, but the same method and means for each of them are the
same. It’s just that we were able to see the result in her life, and
I may go to my grave never knowing what God is going to do in Bill’s
life. He even watched my daughter get baptized in the chapel at the
You know, that’s why our elders
call you on the telephone and write you letters because we take seriously
this need to connect with one another because we know it is a struggle
to live out our faith in this world. We are responsible for one another.
I know many of you pick up the telephone and call one another, checking
on them and asking how they’re doing. That is good, but I scratch my
head when I hear somebody say, “Yeah, I called them three times,
and they never returned my phone call.” Why?
As Pastor said so beautifully
before the service began, that’s part of the reason for these cottage
meetings we’re starting to knit our congregation together. Brothers
and sisters, all of you know we are not a neighborhood church for the
most part. The only neighborhood people who come are probably university
students and a few other members, but otherwise we’re a regional church.
Being a regional church, we’re from all over, which means the only time
we possibly rub shoulders is briefly when we pass the peace.
The idea behind the cottage
meetings is knitting us together so there are relationships formed,
so accountability to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ is
forged. We had a cottage meeting planned last Thursday, but we had to
cancel because many of the people who called and said they would be
there cancelled at the last minute. It could be busyness. Absolutely
true. This is a busy time of the year, but you need to know very clearly
the intent behind letters and phone calls and encouragement is because
that door is narrow that leads to eternal life.
Our spirit knows that and finds
great comfort and confidence in that because we know there is no other
name given among men by which we must be saved. Our spirit also knows
that wide and broad is the way that leads to destruction. The many who
respond, listen to how He talks to them. He is referring to you and
me because the temptation is great. If we think the temptation is
not great for us to be pulled away from the church, we overestimate
our flesh or underestimate it depending upon the perspective.
They’ll stand at the door and
knock, “Lord, open to us.” Then Jesus will answer. Notice
He answers, “I do not know where they come from.” He puts
it back in your and my lap. “‘I do not know where you come from.’
Then you will begin to say
[the text says], ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught
in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know where you
come from. Depart from Me, all you workers of evil!’ 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 heaven, but you yourselves
As we sang, “And people
will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline
at the table in the kingdom of God.” Some like that 80-year-old woman
will be brought in, and some like my friend Bill, I don’t know.
This drives me to repentance,
for it’s very easy for my flesh to well up inside me and be frustrated
with, “Why not, Lord? Why doesn’t that person answer the phone
call and allow us to love them and they love us? Why is there this,
‘I want my life to be completely alienated from the rest of the communion’?”
But that’s the flesh, that’s not the spirit. That flesh you and I share
right here because we get frustrated. I have to repent like you because
it’s of Satan.
But it was the inviting and the
encouraging and the introducing that finally brought that woman to Christ.
Well, we know it wasn’t all that. It was God’s Holy Spirit who did that,
but here where they brought her and encouraged her and invited her (not
necessarily in this place here at 3501, but in the church where they
did) is where God’s Holy Spirit works because this narrow door is open
broad and wide for those who hear, for you and me.
Don’t give up. Do not give
up, and do not let Satan take the joy away from you. Don’t let your
flesh kowtow to him. Repent, as I need to repent. It’s too easy to be
brought down that negative, cynical path we’ve trodden very often in
Her name is Rose, and it’s
a unique name given the kind of woman she was. Rose was a drug addict
and was in prison for being a drug addict. Rose’s face and body did
not look like her age. She had seen life more than she needed to see.
Her mother-in-law and father-in-law, who were regular in church but
one could say, “Well, I didn’t know they were members” because
they would quietly come in and quietly leave again, continued to invite
her and encourage her and introduce her. I, by God’s grace, got to see
the fruit of all their work and God’s Holy Spirit at work, and she was
confirmed and baptized.
It didn’t stop there. You better
hold on to your hat whenever you begin inviting and encouraging
and introducing people because you don’t know what God is going to do.
God’s Holy Spirit got a hold of Rose in a way that was beyond my imagination.
Rose came to me and said, “I want to teach Sunday school.”
Can you imagine the Sunday school superintendent’s face when I said,
“Do you think we could have a place for Rose to teach?” Part
of me was hoping the Sunday school superintendent would say, “No,
Pastor. We have everybody filled up.”
Like our own Sunday school,
there wasn’t. There was an opening in the third and fourth grade, mind
you. “Okay, Lord, You’re the boss.” You know who was in that
third and fourth grade? Whose child? Mine. My son. She taught him about
Jesus. She also spoke about her life as a drug addict and how Jesus
changed that. She spoke about the tattoos and the weathered face upon
her own countenance. She spoke with joy about God’s grace in her life.
Do not give up. Do not let
Satan and your own flesh rob you of that. Repent of it as I need to
repent of it. Come back again to the place where the narrow door is
open wide for you and for all whom you bring. Know…know…just
as these two are examples God will bring it about…in His time, but
God will bring it about.
To the others who grieve our
hearts like our Bill‘s in your life and in my life, we can only
entrust them into the hands of the God who called us and brought us
through this narrow door to recline at His table. Hence why we sing,
“Have mercy upon us, O Jesus” because God has brought those
from the north and the south and the east and the west to gather at
His table around the world and even here. In His name we pray, have
mercy upon us, O Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God which passes
all understanding keep your hearts and minds on Christ Jesus to life