Scripture Reading: Luke 13 - 14 …
Those of us who know Jesus and who have heard God's promise of a new heaven and a new earth LONG for Jesus to return. We know that the Bible tells us there will be trouble and suffering and tribulation prior to the Rapture - when Jesus sends His angels to gather His elect, His chosen people. But we also know that even though we lose our lives for the sake of Christ, we will live forever in His kingdom. We will share in the Great Banquet, the Wedding Supper of the Lamb and His Church, and we will live forever with new spiritual bodies in a world where there is no more pain, or crying or death. Oh, "Come, Lord Jesus!"
Until then, the message Jesus preached during His brief ministry on the earth is OUR message. Luke 13-14 gives us some important information about God's kingdom, both in the present and for the future. Some people in Jesus’ day apparently thought that certain Galileans had been killed by Pilate as judgment from God, but Jesus points the finger back at them and says, "Unless YOU repent, you too will all perish!" (13:3,5). One sin is not worse than the other. As Paul writes to the Romans, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God would be perfectly just to pour out His judgment on the entire human race! God looks at the "fruit" of our lives and a life lived for any other reason than to bring glory to God is a life that deserves judgment.
Many people seem to misunderstand repentance; they think it means to be sorry for your sin. True repentance is more than that. To "repent" means "to turn aside; to turn around; to change your mind." Being sorry is only the first step in repentance. True repentance is produced by the Holy Spirit and results in changing your mind about sin. It means that you hate what is evil and love what is good - what GOD says is good, because you love God! Only those born again by the Spirit can and will repent and believe in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and life.
So many today are content with being religious. Like the Pharisees, they go through the motions of "being good," but that's about it. God is not at the center of their lives, they have not confessed their sin and guilt before God or placed their hope in Jesus. They are like those whom Jesus describes in Chapter 13, verse 24, who try to enter the kingdom but who are unable to do so because they are not willing to go through the "narrow door." The wide road of lumping all religions and all paths together (the “interfaith movement” of today) leads to death and judgment. Even those who think they are pleasing God by being religious (like the Pharisees) are on the wrong road!
Here is where most people fail to understand the message of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. I can tell you that I KNOW the way to life and His name is Jesus. I can tell you that I KNOW I am forgiven and that I am going to spend eternity in the kingdom of God, living with Him on a new earth. How do I know? Because I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ. His blood is the payment for my sin and His Spirit is at work in me. I trust completely, 100%, in Jesus. I cannot add anything to what He has done for me, and I see the evidence of the Spirit's work in me because I HATE the sin that remains in me and I LOVE righteousness. I want to please God in everything I do, not to earn anything, but because of His love and grace to me. Does that describe you?
The Pharisees were zealous for God's law (the way they understood it), but they missed God's grace. They didn't like it when Jesus healed on the Sabbath day, but they didn't understand that the Sabbath day was not a religious ritual or habit; rather, it pointed to God's work of creation and to the rest people find when they put their trust in Him as their God, their Savior, their Healer. We ALL need God and Jesus came to reveal Him to us, to pay the penalty for sin and then, by His Word and Spirit, to give us new birth so we who believe can enter His kingdom.
Jesus warned that those who think they can earn a place at the Great Banquet or those who get the invitation to come through the narrow door but who ignore it, will be cast out and will go to the place where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth" and an eternity of regret. I can't think of anything worse than that. Jesus looked over Jerusalem and wept, expressing God's heartache that He had offered them safety and forgiveness, yet they refused to come. That is the situation throughout the world today where the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been proclaimed, but people, even nations, have refused to come and have turned to other gods. They will endure an eternity of regret.
When people hear the Gospel and reject it they are condemned because they have rejected Jesus. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ in this world is not an easy road. There is a cost. You may not have many friends or be popular or get the promotion you deserve or be as successful in the business world because you refuse to compromise your integrity and the truth God has revealed to you in His Word. Some people hear the Word and appear to be followers of Jesus, but then troubles come, or they get distracted by the things of the world, and they show that they are not rooted in Christ. They were just pretending – they were fooling even themselves.
Jesus calls His followers to come to Him and to find all they need to persevere to the end, to testify that HIS power is at work within them, to boast not in themselves but in the One who gave His life that WE might live forever!! There's a new world coming, and only those who enter the narrow door will have hope in this life and will finally enter into God's kingdom through the narrow door of faith in Jesus. May you be one of those as you live daily with Him and for Him. He WILL give you all you need!
"My Father in heaven, as I read Your Word and hear the voice of Jesus speaking to the crowds and to individuals, I hear Him speaking to ME! I love You, Lord, and my heart is set on pleasing You in all that I say and do. Forgive me when I give in to temptation and continue Your work in me, that I may not waver in my faith or give up in times of trial. Let my life glorify You, in Jesus' name, Amen"