Calvary Road Baptist Church

“GOD’S GRACE MINISTERED TO THOSE OBEYING CHRIST’S COMMAND THAT SINNERS STRIVE TO ENTER IN AT THE STRAIT GATE”

Luke 13.24

Over the course of the next four or five consecutive services my intention is to bring to your hearts and minds a grasp of a spiritual application which is all but ignored in modern times despite its importance. The importance of the spiritual application to which I will draw your attention and then hopefully improve your understanding has a direct bearing on those around you who are resistant to the gospel of God’s grace.

However, before I proceed any farther, I must point out to you the importance of your personal decision to involve yourself in seeing your lost loved ones come to faith in Christ. Sometimes loved ones slip into the mode of protecting their relationship with a lost loved one, treating that relationship as more important than their relationship with God. May I caution you to be wise in that regard? Recognize the particular role you are called upon to play in persuading your unsaved loved ones that not only is God great, Jesus altogether lovely, and the Spirit of God surpassingly comforting to your soul, but that you eagerly and not at all reluctantly embrace the gospel and side with God against all His enemies. Remember when Jesus approached Simon Peter after His resurrection and challenged in front of the others the disciple who had denied Him three times, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?”[1] Twice more in short order on that same occasion the risen Savior asked, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”[2] The point that I seek to emphasize is the absolute necessity that you love Jesus if you seek to be effective in your service, if you really want to see your loved ones converted to the One who is your life, your love, and your all. My Lord Jesus was not at all out of line in asking Simon Peter those questions, and challenging Him in that fashion in front of his peers. After all, the eternal Son of the living God has every right to expect and to insist upon the same allegiance from His followers that God demanded of Moses and the children of Israel from atop Mount Sinai, from which place He issued what we refer to as the first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”[3] This high and holy obligation is repeated to the children of Israel in a positive way in Deuteronomy 6.5: “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Only by having a right attitude and commitment toward the Savior can you also have the correct posture toward those in your life who refuse the Savior you embrace.

That established, consider the lost, especially that one lost loved one that now comes to mind. I speak precisely not of your feelings for him, or of your great love for him. Rather, it is paramount that you consider his situation and the state of his response to God’s command to “all men every where to repent,” Acts 17.30. Ponder the great tragedy of his condition. Reflect with me on his spiritual state. Meditate upon the barrenness of his life and the hopelessness of his future without Christ. Like him and love him, while not losing yourself in such sentiment as would blind you to the realities of his rebellion and certain destruction so long as he rejects the Savior. Can you, for a moment, see your son or daughter, your husband or wife, your mom or dad, in relation to God and not exclusively in relation to you? Your relationship with your unsaved child is, after all, a temporary relationship, while that child’s relationship with God will endure throughout eternity. Your relationship with your Christ-rejecting loved one will effectively end when one of you passes off the scene, but her relationship with God, whatever that relationship happens to be, will continue forever. That means her relationship with God and with His Son, Jesus, is infinitely more important because it is infinitely more durable than her relationship with you. God’s feelings toward them must, therefore, take precedence over your feelings toward them. You must see this is the case or your usefulness to God in reaching them will be seriously compromised.

What issue I propose to develop for your consideration has to do with your unsaved love one’s relationship with God and with His Son, Jesus Christ, what should be seen as a more important consideration for you as a child of God than your lost loved one temporarily being your son, your daughter, your husband, or your wife. Can you get yourself to that thinking? Can you cut yourself loose, for a bit, from the kind of sentiment that blinds so many people and the emotional investment you have toward that person you know who needs Christ? I hope so. Your willingness to see yourself and your relationship with your lost loved one as being of secondary importance to his relationship with God is crucial to your usefulness as an instrument to help in this important task of bringing your loved one to Jesus Christ. In your mind, begin to think about your lost loved one in terms of his relationship to God, and considering his spirit and his soul. To help you accomplish that mind set, I want to direct your attention by way of introduction to some passages that you will find useful for the purpose of seeing that lost friend or loved one with real clarity, so that a winsome smile, a delightful personality, and whatever sentiment and feelings of love you have for that lost loved one will not distract you from the spiritual realities. Understand that what I bring to your attention will not contaminate your love for your loved one, but will set it in the context of truth that is necessary for you to give God His glory and at the same time loving your lost loved one with the highest and most holy kind of love he will ever experience from another person.

Turn to Matthew 5.3, where Jesus begins His sermon on the mount by declaring, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” To remind you, the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount sets forth the great truths that apply to everyone, but which particularly sets forth His standards for those living in Christ’s kingdom. Remember, however, that Jesus told Nicodemus that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” John 3.3, and also said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” John 3.5. Therefore, since your loved one is not born again, he can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God. That means things take place in our worship every week that, if he does see and hear those things, he does not comprehend them. In Matthew 5.3, Jesus’ words speak of someone who is a child of God, which is not the case with your unsaved loved one. Thus, your loved one is not blessed, and is not poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is not his; he is not born again. Keep in mind that “poor in spirit” does not refer to weakness of character, but rather a person’s relationship with God. It is a believer’s positive spiritual orientation, the converse of the unsaved person’s arrogant self-confidence which not only rides roughshod over the interests of other people but more importantly causes a person to treat God as irrelevant.[4] Your lost loved one does not see himself as spiritually impoverished, and is unaware of his profound spiritual need of Christ. Therefore, the spiritually aware believer’s relationship with an unsaved loved one will always be colored by the sadness and regret that accompanies your awareness that the kingdom of heaven is not his.

Turn to Matthew 6.33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” The call here is to “make it your priority to find” the kingdom of God.[5] If your loved one sought the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, would he not then seek Christ? This is because the way to see God’s kingdom and to enter God’s kingdom is only through faith in Christ. Justification, which is the pronouncement of righteousness of the sinner who has come to faith in Christ, Romans 5.1, is the way in which Christ’s righteousness is imputed to one born a sinner. Yet the unsaved loved one displays only a passing interest in the Savior at a church service, and no interest at all during the week and during our church’s outreach. Have you noticed that? Do you attempt to explain that conduct and lack of interest away? Justifying such disinterest in God and the things of God is how sentiment and untutored love can adversely affect a Christian’s usefulness in reaching an unsaved loved one.

Turn to Matthew 7.13-14:

 13     Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

14     Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

 This passage is still part of our Lord’s sermon on the mount, so His remarks are still about kingdom concerns. Here we are introduced for the first time in the gospels to the idea of a strait gate, with the spelling of the word s-t-r-a-i-t showing us that our Lord’s emphasis is on the narrowness of the gate that leads to spiritual life. A strait gate is a narrow gate. Three things to notice in these two verses: First, the wide gate and broad way leads to destruction, and is the path most people will follow in their pursuit of popularity and pleasure. Next, we notice that the strait (or narrow) gate and the narrow way leads unto life, but few there be that find it. Finally, it is obvious that the conclusion Jesus declares is that most people will not gain entrance to His kingdom because most people will take the wide gate and the broad way, the way that is popular with the majority, with only a few entering the strait gate and moving along the narrow way that leads to life. Concern for what the multitudes think, and insisting on enjoying the pleasures of this world, is what distinguishes your lost loved one as one of the many who will not gain entrance into Christ’s kingdom.

Look to Matthew 7.21-23:

 21     Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

22     Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

23     And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

 This passage, which is also part of the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, should serve as a wakeup call to many, though my experience has been that frequently it does not. Many who honestly think they are citizens of Christ’s kingdom, and who on Judgment Day will protest their right to enter in by recollecting their prophesies, by reminding of the demons they have cast out, and by rehearsing the many wonderful works they did in Jesus’ name, will be utterly shocked to learn that He rejects them. The reason? He will reject them then because they reject Him now, feigning life in Christ by religious pursuits and practices instead of really knowing the Savior. The lost will have failed with regard to the sole criteria for entrance into Christ’s kingdom. Because they do not know Jesus, He does not know them. Was there religion without the miracle of the new birth? Was there reformation apart from regeneration? If so, that person will never gain entrance into Christ’s kingdom. No one becomes a citizen of the kingdom who does not first come to know the King, even if there is an apparent response to the gospel, a sincerity that is genuine but unfounded, and what subsequently seems to be a religious life being lived. Christianity is a matter of the heart, rather than some business of mere externals, and Jesus is the Door. In John 10.9, He said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.”

Turn to Matthew 11.20-24:

 20     Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:

21     Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

22     But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.

23     And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

24     But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

 Most of Christ’s miracles were worked in and around the communities on the north side of the Sea of Galilee (Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum), yet the people who lived there and who saw His miracles and who heard His sermons did not repent of their sins. This passage shows the terrible price to pay for being exposed to the gospel and not receiving its message. The infamous cities of Tyre and Sidon would certainly have repented had they seen the miracles done in Chorazin and Bethsaida, so on Judgment Day it will be less harsh for those of Tyre and Sidon. The same goes for Capernaum’s refusal to repent after seeing miracles that in the wicked city of Sodom would have produced repentance. The principle is here established that the severity of punishment in the Day of Judgment will be more a matter refusing to respond to the light of truth than a matter of the wickedness of one’s sins. What does this mean? It means the horrors of eternal torment will be far worse for the person exposed to gospel truth than for the person who was not exposed to the gospel, far worse for the person who grew up in church than for the person who did not. Can you fathom the implications of what Jesus declared in light of your loved one’s church attendance, familiarity with the gospel message, and his refusal to bend his knee, bow his head, and confess with his words the Lord Jesus? How often have you thought, “Well, at least he doesn’t do drugs?” Perhaps you have thought, “I am so thankful that she is not promiscuous.” Such thinking, and such comments, betrays the warnings of Jesus, that those who have greater light will have more severe judgment. The woman who grows up in church and lives out her life without converting to Jesus Christ will face a more harsh eternity come Judgment Day than the skid row prostitute who dies without hearing the gospel. You see, “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required,” Luke 12.48. It is so important that your support be enlisted to set before your loved one a clear view of gospel truths and an earnest consideration of what are at stake. No one loves your loved one like you do. No one cares for your loved one like you do. Therefore, it is all the more crucial that you engage as an informed and spiritual participant in the effort to sort through the mental barriers that distort perception of the truth and the spiritual blindness that the Apostle Paul informs us about in his Corinthian letters.[6]

Look down to Matthew 11.28-30:

 28     Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29     Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

30     For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

 This is part of the same address in which our Lord pronounced woes upon Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.[7] In these three verses, the Lord Jesus speaks to an identified category of people, directing them to come to Him for rest. He also describes Himself and the salvation He provides. Those in His audience that He addresses these remarks to are weighed down by their concern for their sins and their spiritual plight. They are laboring and heavy laden. Jesus is not, here, speaking to the unconcerned and the unconvicted who heard Him. In describing Himself, the implication from His words is that He is approachable and kindly. What He specifically says about Himself is that He is meek and lowly in heart. Thus, there is no barrier to conversion on His part, since He can be approached by any sinner concerned about the state of His soul. As for the relief He offers, it pictures a yoke of oxen, two in harness together, but with Christ carrying the heavy load and the one who comes to Him promised a very easy load. This passage is one of many that convey the simplicity of the sinner’s prescribed response to the gospel. Jesus is meek and lowly in heart, is more than capable to save, and demands only that the sinner who is serious about his sins come to Christ. How could the demands required of a sinner be any simpler? How could less be expected of someone who is responsible for his own sins? Therefore, it is so easy to see the responsibility of the believer toward the lost loved one. Lovingly urge upon them their responsibility to come to Christ (He did not urge upon anyone but the sinner a response), and keep clearly in your mind the clarity of comprehension to see that there is no possible excuse for failing to come to Christ. No honest person can deny his sinfulness, can he? In light of what is at stake and considering the assignment of personal responsibility for our own sins to each one of us, no one else can properly be blamed for a sinner’s refusing to respond to the gospel. Each sinner is accountable to God for himself.

Despite the obvious guilt of sinners, despite the approachability of the meek and lowly-in-heart Savior (children sought Him out, after all), and despite the utter the simplicity of taking advantage of His directive (come to Him), you and I both know so many people who have heard the gospel presented carefully and cautiously many times and in many different ways, yet they have not come to Christ. What if a loved one hears the gospel and rejects Christ, which is precisely what happens when the gospel is heard without the sinner being converted? Are we left helpless? Is there nothing more to do? If you have concluded that your loved one is doomed to eternal torment, and that you have no role to play in seeking that loved one’s conversion, then you are helpless. I am not so persuaded, about any sinner. Please consider Matthew 12.18-20:

 18     Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.

19     He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.

20     A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.

 It is interesting to note that Matthew’s gospel cites this passage, from Isaiah 42.1-3, in response to Christ supposedly violating the Sabbath by pulling the ripened grain from the stalks and eating it, and also healing a man’s withered hand. Both of our Lord’s activities, the Pharisees objected, constituted working and thereby profaning the Sabbath. “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him,” Matthew 12.14. Jesus then withdrew Himself, and multitudes followed and were healed. Matthew then places this passage to explain to the reader the larger context. Verse 18 identifies Jesus as God’s servant, who He has chosen, His beloved, who well pleases God’s soul, upon whom He has put His Spirit (this occurred when He was baptized by John the Baptist), who will someday show judgment to the Gentiles. In other words, Matthew shows Christ’s ministry to be thoroughly endorsed by God according to the prediction of the prophet Isaiah. In Verse 19, the words translated strive and cry are virtual synonyms for shouting. The Lord Jesus Christ has withdrawn Himself from the synagogue to avoid a shouting match with the Pharisees.[8] It is verse 20 that deserves special attention, where a bruised reed and smoking flax are descriptions of the lost people Jesus deals with in order to bring them to saving faith.

It is frequently, but mistakenly, overlooked that Jesus withdrew Himself from the contentious Pharisees in the synagogue who objected to Him healing the man’s withered hand. However, it is clear that He continued to minister to a whole host of others whose dispositions were quite different. Verse 20 shows us who He dealt with, describing them as bruised reeds, and smoking flax. The Puritan divine Richard Sibbes explains:

 (1)     This bruised reed is a man that for the most part is in some misery, as those were that came to Christ for help, and (2) by misery is brought to see sin the cause of it; for whatsoever pretences sin maketh, yet bruising or breaking is the end of it; (3) he is sensible of sin and misery, even unto bruising; and (4), seeing no help in himself, is carried with restless desire to have supply from another, with some hope, which a little raiseth him out of himself to Christ, though he dareth not claim an present interest of mercy.

This spark of hope being opposed by doubting, and fears rising from corruption, maketh him as smoking flax; so that both these together, a bruised reed and smoking flax, make up the state of a poor distressed man. . .

This bruising is required [1] before conversion (1), that so the Spirit may make way for itself into the heart by levelling all proud, high thoughts, and that we may understand ourselves to be what indeed we are by nature. We love to wander from ourselves and to be strangers at home, till God bruiseth us by one cross or other, and then we bethink ourselves, and come home to ourselves with the prodigal (Luke xv.17.)

A marvellous hard thing it is to bring a dull and shifting heart to cry with feeling for mercy. . . Again (2), this bruising maketh us set a high price upon Christ. The gospel is the gospel indeed then; then the fig-leaves of morality will do us no good. And (3) it maketh us more thankful, and (4) from thankfulness more fruitful in our lives; for what maketh many so cold and barren, but that bruising for sin never endeared God’s grace unto them? Likewise (5), this dealing of God doth establish us the more in his ways, having had knocks and bruisings in our own ways. This is the cause oft of relapses and apostasies, because men never smarted for sin at the first; they were not long enough under the lash of the law. . .

2.      The second point is, that Christ will not ‘break the bruised reed.’ Physicians, though they put their patients to much pain, yet they will not destroy nature, but raise it up by degrees. . . .[9]

 Richard Sibbes correctly understands Matthew 12.20 as showing that the Lord Jesus Christ was willing to deal with the multitudes and not the Pharisees on that occasion because they were like a bruised reed and a smoking flax. A reed must be bruised so that it can be bent to your will without breaking. Smoking flax must have the slightest breathe blown on it so that the smoldering is not extinguished, if there is to be any hope of a flame. Concerning the bruised reed, God’s dealings with a sinner are granted to be very painful, but this is necessary in order to subdue a sinner’s natural pride, in order to elevate the sinner’s appraisal of Christ, in order to make the sinner grateful for blessings already received, in order to till the soil in preparation for the seed of the Word, and in order to introduce the sinner to God’s ways of dealing with people. He is God and we are creatures, and nothing about that priority should ever be reversed. In many cases, this bruising of the reed is brought about through God’s providence. Grinding poverty, financial reverses, and serious illness, the sudden loss of a child, a divorce, or the offhanded remark of a loved one or respected associate. An example: “A few years ago, a private equity friend of ours was bragging to his wife about the windfall he had just earned thanks to a portfolio company’s initial private offering. ‘Honey,’ she responded, ‘just because you’re rich, doesn’t mean you’re smart.’ Her candid feedback was a reminder that achievement is nurtured in the arms of humility, not arrogance.” If she had been a Christian, perhaps her remark would have ministered grace to her husband.

What advice should be given to a person who has heard the gospel without being converted? What about the person who once thought he was a Christian, but then by some set of circumstances was convinced that he had a false hope? Should that person wait for God to bruise him, so that he will more easily bend to God’s will and come to Christ, so that he will smolder like flax that needs the gentle breathe of the Holy Spirit to coax him to burst forth into a flame? Christianity is not fatalism, so rarely is any advice that is based upon scripture a recommendation to do nothing.

 

END OF PART 1



[1] John 21.15

[2] John 21.16, 17

[3] Exodus 20.3

[4] R. T. France, The Gospel Of Matthew, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), page 165.

[5] Ibid., page 270.

[6] 1 Corinthians 2.14; 2 Corinthians 4.3-4; 10.4-6

[7] A. T. Robertson, A Harmony of the Gospels, (New York: Harper & Row, 1950), page 59.

[8] R. T. France, The Gospel Of Matthew, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), page 472.

[9] Richard Sibbes, Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 1, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust reprint 1973), pages 43-45.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org