Calvary Road Baptist Church


Luke 13.23-24


Last Sunday morning we broached the matter of false hopes, with an introductory sermon designed to make you aware of the existence of false hopes, a false hope being an attempt by a lost person to erect a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, a claim to being a Christian if you will, that is erroneous, misplaced, inadequate, presumptuous, and reflecting no real salvation at all.

“We know . . . that the majority of people who visit a church do not come to faith in Christ on their first visit - or their second or third.”[1] Going even farther than that, it is quite clear that many, if not most, professions of faith in Jesus Christ may not be the result of genuine conversions at all, but are very likely based upon a false hope that may or may not come to light some day.

I argued, last week, that if there are false professions built on false hopes, then it seems logical that attempts should be made to discover those false hopes, if those false hopes can be discovered by means of a reasonable inquiry into a hopeful convert’s salvation experience. This evening I would like to turn once again to the matter of false hopes, with a message that is a continuation of our introduction to the matter, but with a sharper focus on four doctrinal areas of interest.

Our starting point will be God’s Word, specifically Luke 13.23-24:


23     Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,

24     Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.


By way of background, it is significant that this conversation took place near the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry, not too long before His crucifixion. It is also significant that the Savior and His disciples were in the region known as Perea (on the eastern shore of the Jordan River) at the time this conversation took place.

What do these two facts suggest to us? These facts suggest to us that the audience our Lord and His disciples were preaching to were likely Jewish people who had previously been exposed to the preaching of the gospel, first under the preaching of John the Baptist before his martyrdom, and then under the preaching of the two-man teams sent out earlier by the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, it may very well have been that these as yet unconverted people had heard the gospel preached by the most amazing preachers who had ever walked the earth without being saved, John the Baptist, one or more of the apostles of Jesus Christ, and the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself.

Keeping in mind that this message is yet another introductory sort of sermon about this topic of false hopes, let me bring to bear some doctrinal considerations related to false hopes:




My friends, we know that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” Second Peter 3.9. Thus, if there is any difficulty to be associated with a sinner coming to Christ and being genuinely converted, if there is any obstacle to anyone being joined to Jesus by faith, that obstacle must be somewhere other than with God.

How can we be sure of this? We can be sure of this because we can be sure of God. Keep in mind that God is good, and that His goodness leads sinners to repentance, as is clearly stated in Romans 2.4. As well, God is gracious. In Exodus 22.27, He said, “I am gracious.” In Jonah 4.2, the prophet admits that God is a gracious God, and that He is merciful and slow to anger, and of great kindness besides. Jonah’s opinion of God is bolstered by the fact that there are forty-one verses in the Old Testament alone declaring that His mercy endureth forever. On top of these qualities, we must remember that God is truthful. Titus 1.2 reminds us that God cannot lie. As well, we see that God’s Word is true, Psalm 119.160, and that God Himself is true, John 3.33 and Second Corinthians 1.18.

Granting that God is holy and righteous, and that our God is a consuming fire, Deuteronomy 4.24 and Hebrews 12.29, His nature is an impenetrable barrier to someone who is sinful and defiled. The notion that any sinner can approach God across the vast chasm that separates a holy God from a sinful man is ludicrous.

However, I point out once again that God has sent to sinful men His very approachable Son, Jesus Christ, who urges sinners to come to Him for salvation, cleansing, and forgiveness full and free. In John 7.37, Jesus cried out, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” Then, in Matthew 11.28, He urged, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Thus, though it cannot be denied that God is terrible in majesty, and that His nature is rightly understood to evoke fear in the minds of all His creatures, His graciousness and mercy has been so prompted by His love for His creatures that there are no legitimate barriers to any sinner’s salvation, except those that lie in the nature of the sinner himself.




Granting that there are always obstacles to conversion that result from the activity of Satan, as he works to blind sinners to the truth, as he seeks to distort reality by means of seducing spirits and the doctrines of demons, and by other means, the fact remains that in the end God holds each sinner responsible for his own condition.[2] That God holds you responsible for your own sins, and that you will both give an account to Him for your sins on Judgment Day and suffer the eternal torment of the damned should you die in your sins, is proof positive that despite Satan’s activities to thwart the powerful message of the gospel, in the end no sinner can have anyone to blame for his eternal damnation but himself.

If the problem is ignorance, the sinner has only himself to blame for his ignorance, because he has rejected the light of truth he was exposed to that would have led to a remedy for his ignorance. If the problem is stubbornness, the sinner has only himself to blame for his stubbornness, because he has neglected to cast off a pattern of behavior that was never a benefit to him, first of all, and, secondly, was only a refuge behind which his love for wickedness could hide from the light of truth.

How does this figure into our consideration of false hopes? It figures very prominently, in light of every sinner’s tendency to deceive himself, every sinner’s tendency to misrepresent himself, every sinner’s great love for his sins, as well as his great love of self that interferes with any love he might foster toward God. It could be argued that many false hopes a sinful man can embrace in his pretense at being saved will have its defect in Isaiah chapter 53. Turn to that chapter, if you will.

Of course, this is the great prophetic chapter about the Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for sins, given by the prophet Isaiah seven centuries before it was fulfilled in the person of my Lord Jesus Christ. Notice, if you will, the imaginative ways in which sinners with false hopes build their houses on sand. One will say he has come to Christ, but a cursory examination of his testimony will reveal that he has no love of any kind for Jesus, being of the opinion expressed in verse 2 still: “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” Another will claim that he is now a Christian, but from his own mouth will come words that reveal that he actually despises my Lord, verse 3: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Still another false hope is revealed to be some plan of salvation of the sinner’s own devising, wanting to go his own way to get to heaven instead of trodding the gospel path, as verse 6 reveals: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Here is the real problem. A man’s own nature is his biggest obstacle to coming to Christ. He loves his sins, or he turns away from the Savior, or he wants to formulate his own plan of salvation. However it ends up, the cause of the sinner’s false hope lies in the sinner himself. Much as you might want to blame someone else, much as you will try to blame someone else once you find yourself in a burning Hell, the fault for your lost condition will be your own and no one else’s.




I say narrowness, because the Lord Jesus Christ so described it. In Luke 13.24, He used the phrase “strait gate” as a metaphor for saving faith, with the English word “strait” translating the Greek word stenoV, meaning narrow.[3] Let me explain: The only way by which a sinner can acquire a standing before the holy God is by means of faith. As we learn from Habakkuk 2.4, Romans 1.17, Galatians 3.11, and Hebrews 10.38, God’s plan has always been for the just to live by faith. Abraham is used in Genesis 15.6, Romans chapter 4, and Galatians 3.6, by his own life experiences to illustrate that truth.

The reason faith is so important is because the only alternative to faith is works, righteous deeds of some kind, that are performed in an attempt to earn a standing before God and change the dynamic from salvation being something God gives to the undeserving to salvation being earned by the worthy. Since there are none who are good, none who are worthy, salvation must be by means of faith. That makes salvation a very narrow proposition, indeed.

However, despite the reality of God’s goodness and graciousness, God’s mercy and generosity, God’s long-suffering and patience, God’s kindness, and great love wherewith He loves us, this whole matter is a good deal narrower than you might believe. Not only is faith narrow because it is the only way to please God, “without faith it is impossible to please him,” Hebrews 11.6, but faith is also narrow because of the requirement that your faith be placed in the right Object.

You see, technically, faith saves no one. In fact, faith accomplishes nothing because faith by itself is completely powerless, utterly impotent. What is wonderful about faith is not its power and potency, but its proper Object. The proper Object of faith, if it is faith of the saving variety, can only be the Lord Jesus Christ. So many false hopes are the result of someone trusting correct doctrines, or trusting a religion or a church. Sometimes false hopes are built on a person’s trust of himself and his ability to maintain his integrity or his commitment. However, when such hopes result from a presentation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and when such hopes follow on after a sinner has been urged to embrace Christ, to trust Christ, to believe on Jesus, or to come to Jesus, then the false hope can only be the result of the sinner despising Jesus, turning away from Jesus, and refusing Him, as is predicted in Isaiah chapter 53.

You think that faith is narrow because all works of righteousness are excluded, because all self-help is to be discarded, and because the sinner must abandon himself? Then add this to the recipe. The only proper Object of faith is Jesus. You cannot trust only in what He did or who He is. You must have faith in Him. Thus, the narrowness of faith lies in these two things: First, salvation comes by means of faith only and nothing else, and that faith must have for its only object and confidence the person of the risen Savior, Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the living God. That, my friend is very, very narrow.

How narrow is faith? Acts 4.12 sums it up quite nicely, I think. These are Peter’s words to the rulers and elders of Israel: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”




The nature of God guarantees a way of salvation for any who will enter in. Despite the formidable obstacles of God’s holiness and righteousness, He has sent His approachable Son, Jesus Christ, who bids the lost to come to Him for salvation full and free. However, the nature of man guarantees that obstacles, even if they are only obstacles of the mind, will be erected. Stubbornness, ignorance, a love of sinning, a fear of the unknown, and other barriers of the mind virtually assure that the sinner will resist God’s urgings and promptings to embrace Christ.

Add to that the narrowness of the way, the gate being strait, and you find reasons for the many false hopes that litter the landscape of American Christianity. It is so easy to pretend to be a Christian in most churches these days, without ever having to consider repenting of sins. Thus, whatever troubling of the conscience is experienced when a sinner is exposed to the truth of God’s Word, so many people are willing to call anyone a Christian these days that it is relatively easy to build an unchallenged profession on a false hope that is unlikely to ever be thoughtfully questioned.

One fellow will think he is a Christian because he has been baptized and is a church member. Another will think she is a Christian because some personal worker thought he was doing her a favor when he rehearsed the facts of the gospel to her again and again before directing her to pray a prayer and then giving her a false assurance of her salvation. Excuse me, but the nature of sinful man and the narrowness of faith will result in false hopes even with the best of conditions for guiding a sinner to Christ. Remember Judas Iscariot? Remember Simon the magician? Remember the young Corinthian fornicator? Remember Demas? Even where a false Christ is not preached and the ministers exercise great caution in dealing with the lost there will still be false hopes.

That is one reason why there is oftentimes a great need for preparation of the heart. May I strongly assert that I do not think every sinner’s heart needs preparation? I think it is possible for a sinner to respond and be genuinely converted the first time he hears a complete presentation of the gospel. However, when the heart is hardened and the conscience is seared, the heart must be pricked, as occurred on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.37, or as in the case of the trembling jailer who fell down before Paul and Silas in Philippi, Acts 16.29.

So, then, how is this preparation of the heart to take place in the absence of a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as was the case on the Day of Pentecost, or when a great revival is sweeping through by means of apostolic preaching, as was the case in Philippi with Paul and Silas? Your heart is cold and your conscience is hard. What can be done to create a concern in your heart and an interest in your mind? Striving, as is urged in our text by the Savior.

However, what happens if, after striving for a while, you think you came to Christ but did not? What happens if you find yourself with nothing more substantial than a false hope? Then you resume your striving to enter in at the strait gate. After all, the fact that you are told to strive and the fact that the gate is said to be strait, or narrow, implies in itself that you may not meet with immediate success. Does not a consideration of the nature of God, the nature of man, and the narrowness of faith, suggests to you that false hopes do occur? So, what is the remedy for false hopes to be? Are you to give up? Are you to pack it in? Are you to take your exposure to the gospel of God’s grace to Hell with you, along with the additional severity of your condemnation resulting from your hearing of the gospel? Alternatively, will you reconsider what we know about the nature of God, that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance? Could it be, just could it be, that false hopes and the necessary striving to prepare your hard and sin-stained heart is just what God has in His goodness and mercy ordered up to bring about your genuine conversion? Could it be that there is just no other way for your heart to truly be opened to a consideration of Christ until you had first been disappointed again and again by strivings that led to false hopes before your faith was finally placed in the Savior to good effect?


How will a proud sinner be convinced of his pride, but by failure in the form of a false hope? How will ignorance be remedied, but by the knowledge of one’s self that is gained through striving to enter in at the strait gate? Do we not recognize that many sinners are both proud and ignorant, and in great need not only of the salvation that Jesus Christ provided, but also but also the humbling and the knowledge that can be acquired only through strivings and false hopes that lead the way for the persistent all the way to Christ?

I am persuaded that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Pearl of Great Price mentioned in the parable Jesus taught in Matthew 13.45-46:


45     Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:

46     Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.


What is it to sell all that you have in order to obtain the Lord Jesus Christ as your own? I believe that in the case of many, it is the strivings to enter in to the strait gate, coupled with the false hopes that accompany failed attempts to come to Christ, that when persisted without interruption lead to genuine conversion. Is knowing Jesus worth the disappointment and discouragement that results from false hopes and fruitless strivings? Yes, because such are used by God to prepare your heart for saving faith in the Savior.

If you do not persist in striving, and if you are not willing to suffer false hopes along the way to Christ, you may end up like those Robert Murray McCheyne wrote about in his own church: “They think that coming to Christ is some strange act of their mind, different from believing what God has said of His Son; so much so, that they will tell you with one breath, I believe all that God has said, and yet with the next complain that they cannot come to Christ, or close with Christ. It is very hard to deal with this delusion.”[4]

The remedy? Continue to strive and put up with the discouragements brought on by the discovery of false hopes until your conversion is genuine and your hope is built firmly upon Christ.

[1] Nelson Searcy with Jennifer Dykes Henson, Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests Into Fully Engaged Members Of Your Church, (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2007), page 28.

[2] 2 Corinthians 4.4; 1 Timothy 4.1

[3] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 182.

[4] Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir And Remains Of The Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, (Edinburgh: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1892), page 118.

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