Strive To Enter Through The Door
Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Archbishop Loren Thomas Hines
August 25, 2019
Readings: Isaiah 28:14-22, Psalm 46
Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-29
God is love. He doesn’t just act in love; He is love. His compassion for us is intense. Sometimes, with the things happening in our lives, we think we’re being punished; that God is doing evil in our lives. But this cannot be because He is good and everything that He has ever done is good. And even if it seems like we’re being punished, we’re not. We are probably being disciplined to make us grow and be like Him.
Christ came to earth, leaving the divinity of heaven to take upon the flesh of man, royalty coming down to make that sacrifice for us that He may take us up to His level. We celebrate His birth and life without realizing what He went through in our behalf. It would be like a billionaire choosing to live in a squatter area, denying the fullness of his life to help others, and coming out of that to show us that we don’t have to stay there and live in squalor. We see the love of God when He sent His Son to become one of us.
The Gospel today deals with the question “Are only a few being saved?” Jesus didn’t give a direct reply but simply made the following statement, “Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able”. He doesn’t say that only a few will be saved, but He wants us to understand that there’s a work we must do in order to receive what He has given us and put it into practice. Striving means struggling, implies the presence of a conflict, battling, pushing, not giving up but being faithful to make it happen. We’ve been blessed but those blessings are useless unless we strive to use them for a witness to those around us. The Collect of the Day tells us that as the Church, we should be manifesting His power, living out a life like His. It’s not just a matter of us coming together to hear the Word of God, singing and giving our offerings, then going out and living like the world. It’s not what God wants. He wants us to live like Christ. We have to strive to battle against our mind, our habits. Scripture tells us all things are possible. There are no impossibilities with God. He can change the things against us to bless us, so we won’t be destroyed. But we have to strive for that and possibly, the greatest battle we have is in our mind. Hebrews tells us that in the latter days, God will shake everything on earth but we are part of His Kingdom that will never be shaken; we are covered by Christ.
Entering through the door that Jesus referred to means being born again and being given new life. It is through Christ alone that we can go through that door; we can’t do it on our own. It doesn’t matter how many good deeds we’ve done; that will not take us through the door. It opens to us when we receive Christ into our lives. Psalm 119 tells us that the sum total of the Word is true. Romans tells us that we have been baptized in Christ and now we have His life as our own. Read Colossians; it tells us all that Christ did for us. But we have to strive to accept them because they don’t automatically come into our lives. Even if the life of Christ is in us, if we don’t recognize it and strive to live it, it will not do us much good.
This is today’s lesson for us, that we need to strive to make certain that we don’t lose what God has given us. When God makes a promise, He will fulfill it. Our mind will tell us that we have to do it ourselves. There are things we must do but the ability comes from Him. It’s up to us to manifest what He’s given us in order that they will be made full in our lives. We’ve been forgiven and delivered from sin. Even if our mind tells us over and over again that we’re being punished, we must receive the forgiveness that God has given us. In striving against sin, we are challenged to understand what Christ did for us. He battled in Gethsemane, perspired drops of blood in His striving. He did this so we can have a pattern for our lives. Today we don’t want conflicts in our lives; we don’t want to pay a high price. But we must face them like Jesus did who, in the end said, “Thy will be done”. He accepted His mission. He strove to be loving in the midst of persecution. He didn’t attack His accusers; He didn’t defend Himself. He went to the cross and asked the Father to forgive them. This is striving. He has given us peace and victory and if we don’t understand this, it will cause tension within us. This strife and tension become sin because we’re not manifesting what we’ve been given and we’re living in doubt. In many cases, the striving is internal as we work to get things out of our lives that shouldn’t be there and taking on what God has given us and manifesting it.
1 Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you have been called….” It’s an internal battle to believe that God will fulfill His promises in our lives. Possibly, one of the biggest problems we have today is health. We’re surrounded by offers for help, even to the point of making body parts, and we’re impatient to get hold of what they promise to relieve us of the pain, instead of trusting God and waiting on Him to fulfill His promise. God intended us to be well and strong; this is His promise to us. But the world is convincing us that we have this and that disease and doctors want you to take maintenance medication and do it on your own. You can’t do it on your own but you can do it with Christ. It’s a battle we fight; it’s striving. This is what faith requires of us.
In the Gospel, when the master locked the door, the people outside were knocking,asking to be let in. But the master said, “I don’t know where you are from”. They replied, “We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.” They may have listened to him but they didn’t live it out and put it into practice, and so they were not allowed to come in. Most Christians think they’re safe because they believe the Gospel. The Mafia were criminals but they were church-going. They gave money to the church and they believed that was enough to gain forgiveness; yet they would go back to being criminals after church. We have to live out what we receive from God. The Church should be a powerhouse in the world, striving to put on the new life, walking in love and patience, assured that God will fulfill His promises, facing the difficulties and not running away from them, and letting Go be God. When everything seems to be against you, don’t believe it. God can turn around your situation and make it good, but you have to strive. Hold on to what you know is yours, and even in the midst of conflict, hold firm. When everything seems to be against you, remember that God is greater. We have to build up our faith to stand against anything that isn’t of God. It may be a test sent to build us up but we can’t give in to it. We have to strive and stand firm and not let the enemy deceive us. In matters of health, we have to believe that it’s God’s will to heal and we don’t put our hope on medication alone. Let’s strive to change our thoughts and get rid of fears and doubts. If God said it, it’s enough. Believe it, hold on to it and don’t give up even if things seem to go the wrong direction. Remember we haven’t yet striven to the point of shedding blood. Christ shed His blood to deliver us from sin. He took the stripes for us. He strove to destroy the power of sin over man, for all humanity. He sweat drops of blood. Imagine the intensity of His pain. The skin on His back was ripped off by the flogging because of the intensity of the power of sin against mankind. He had to destroy its ability, even going to hell to do it. But on the third day He was resurrected. It wasn’t His resurrection alone but ours also. Sin no longer has power over us, including sickness, disease and financial problems. We are deceived into thinking we can’t win. Not true. Greater is He who is in us. We must hold on to this truth.
2 Timothy tells us not to be entangled in the affairs of everyday life, but “be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman….” This means taking what’s been given us and living out, helping others face their own difficulties.
Romans 12:1 tells us to present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is our spiritual service of worship. True worship is when we live out the promises of God for the world to see. Worship comes out of a changed life, presenting our bodies because it is through our bodies that the world will see the greatness of God, that they, too may worship Him. We give Him glory because He is the source of our life. Renewing the mind means striving to believe God’s promises. 1 Timothy 3:7 tells us to have nothing to do with worldly fables, with old wives’ tales. For example, in the Philippines, people will tell you not to take a shower right after a work out. But people in the gym do this and they don’t get sick. They say you can’t get a job without a college degree when so many successful women didn’t go to college. Our lives can be controlled by these untruths. 1 Timothy goes on to say that we should discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness.
This is striving in the battlefield of the mind. Sometimes we set ourselves for impossibility, believing we can’t do it, when we know that with God all things are possible. What God promised He will fulfill. Believe this and live it out. Strive. This is what will get us through the door. I was challenged by the Collect of the Day. The Church should manifest the power of God to the world. This is the challenge to us. We’ve been given the ability. We have to live out what God has given us.