Have you ever been among the great crowd moving toward the entrance to a big time football game? At first the entrance seems wide and open to all; but once you begin seriously pushing and struggling to go in you discover that the gate is not wide at all. The broad gate narrows down to a turnstile where you enter one by one,   go through the narrow door: one at a time, and hold your own ticket.

This does not match up with our sometimes comfortable idea of the Christian life: being kind when it’s not too difficult; going to worship when it’s convenient; giving a little money when it’s tax deductible; helping with the Lord’s work when we feel like it; acknowledging Jesus as Savior when we happen to think about it.

It’s easy to think that once we are members of the church, we have reached the goal, come to the end of the road, and our striving for the Kingdom of God is done. The Christian life is a constant striving to do the will of God as Jesus revealed it. The Christian life is not simply a destination, but a journey.

Jesus says we are to "strive to enter the narrow door." It is interesting to note that the Greek word for "strive" is the same word from which we get our word "agony." "Will those who are saved be few?" they asked. His reply says, in effect, that we are not to worry about that, but the door is narrow, and we are to strive to enter by that narrow door.

We are to strive ("agonize") to enter. That seems like a strong word for the kingdom of a loving God. We should not be too surprised: there are many narrow doors in our life where those who enter must strive to enter. It is true of the scholar who, in Milton’s words, must "scorn delights and live laborious days." It is true of the athlete, adhere to a good diet, engage in rigid discipline and practice with constant, faithful diligence.

It is true of the musician. Someone once said to Paderewski, the great pianist, "Sir, you are a genius."

He replied, "Madam, before I was a genius I was a drudge."

He said that if he missed practice one day, he noticed it;

if he missed practice two days, the critics noticed it;

if he missed three days, his family noticed it;

if he missed four days, the audience noticed it.

The door is narrow. Why should we think we can "drift" into the Kingdom of God?

The Christian life is a constant striving to do the will of God as Jesus revealed it.

Why this need to strive? Because there are forces of evil within us trying to pull us down. Have you ever tried to walk up a down escalator? Not to strive upward is to be constantly pulled down. There are forces of evil within us and around us, constantly trying to pull us down from generosity to selfishness; from compassion to indifference; from sacrifice to greed.

            We are living in an age that we need to strive to do what is right.  For many, many centuries the Christian Church was revered and beloved.  Today we live in a world where we are being told we have to embrace the societal norms.  Many of us have been tolerant, we love the sinner but not the sin.  As we are all sinners we do not stand in judgement of anyone, but rather we hold ourselves to a higher standard, we strive for what Christ has laid out before us. 

Each of us must enter on our own - not because we ate and drank where he happened to be; not because he taught on our street. Each one is to strive to enter the Kingdom. We enter in not because we go to church suppers; not because there’s a church on our street. Each one must strive to enter the Kingdom on our own.

A man does not enter the Kingdom because his wife is a member of the church women’s society. A woman does not enter the Kingdom because her cousin is a missionary. Each must strive to enter on our own.

There are times, of course, when our striving seems useless. The goal of Christian living is unattainable, impossible; but that is not the point. The point is: are we doing all we can?

Striving! Here, of course, the New Testament teaching of Justification by Faith comes in. We are made acceptable to God by our personal faith in Jesus as our Savior; by our own public profession of Jesus as our Savior. Martin Luther, in his great hymn "Em’ Feste Burg," wrote

Were not the right man on our side Our striving would be losing.

We are not saved by works, but by grace through faith alone; yet if this faith in Jesus - this profession of Jesus as our Savior - is genuine, it will have a constant meaning for our daily living. It is not that we must do good works to be redeemed. We don’t do good works for Jesus in order to be saved; we do good works for Jesus as the outward sign that we are saved. They are the outward evidence of our inward faith.

Do you love the Lord? The opposite of love is not hate - it is indifference. Lots of people don’t actively hate Jesus and what he taught; they are simply indifferent to it, doing what suits them, not what suits him.  We see this all around us.  Seemingly good people with an indifference to God Grace.  They want to live their lives as they want.  They say that they do not need church to believe.  This is true but you need the church to know what God expects of you in your life. 

It is God’s judgment, not the world’s, that will determine the citizens of the Kingdom. Someone once said to a woman, "Your husband seems like a wonderful man." Out of her years of intimate experience she replied, "You don’t have to live with him." I am wondering if that would no be the response of Susan after the last three weeks or maybe after our 42 years of marriage. 

Intimate experience, not outward appearances, determines what we really are. God lives intimately with us. He knows our thoughts, our ambitions, our desires. He is the one, "to whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hid." What will his judgment be? Never mind what the neighbors think.

Jesus points out that for each of us the time is short. "When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying ‘Lord, open to us.’ He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ " There will come a day - we know not how soon - when God will say to us, as Jesus told the farmer in Luke 12:20, "This night your soul will be required of you."

In this Gospel Jesus is telling us that the Christian faith is an active, lifelong striving, with God’s help, against the evil in ourselves and in our world. The end of it is a narrow door where we enter - if we enter - like a turnstile: one at a time, holding our own ticket.

Our heavenly Father, inspire us with your Holy Spirit, that we shall not be listless and do-less in our faith, but eager, determined to do our utmost for the Lord Jesus our Savior. Amen