Calvary Road Baptist Church


Luke 13.24



After several months of dealing with the issue of striving to enter in at the strait gate, we now consider the last major portion of our study. We first explored the problem addressed by striving, the effects upon a sinner from repeated opportunities or exposures to the gospel. At that time I reviewed Christís teachings in Lukeís gospel, surveyed the Bible from Cain to Jezebel, and rehearsed the associated damage resulting from neglect or refusal of the gospel that is typically overlooked. We then explored the pain caused by striving (which is considerable), the benefits that accrue from striving, and some illustrations of striving. From there we moved on to a consideration of the problems that interfere with striving, namely ignorance, pride, demonic opposition, the general love of sin characteristic of the lost, and confusion about the goal of striving. Then, when we last took up the issue, we explored the partnership that accompanies striving, noting that it is the Holy Spiritís ministry to prepare the heart for conversion to Christ and that striving is one means used by the Spirit of God to humble and prepare the sinner.

We now explore the preparation that is the result of striving, under six headings:

First, striving can leave the sinner frustrated with his attempts to save himself. This is the most frequent of responses by those who have experienced false hopes, excepting those with false hopes in decisionist ministries who are lost and will never be confronted with the likelihood that they are unsaved.[1] This is because, for the most part, evangelical Christianity will not address the matter of false hopes, building a facade of professing Christianity that relies only on a personís assertion that he is a Christian without any corresponding validation. It is in ministries like ours that false hopes are considered, that attempts are made to discover false hopes, and those with false hopes are encouraged to remedy the problems brought on my false hopes by striving in obedience to Christís directive. However, most who are influenced enough by our ministry to know they have experienced a false hope are not so influenced that they will consider our appraisal of the benefits of false hopes if they are used in conjunction with striving. A false hope can be a wonderful learning experience for a sinner if he will then strive to enter in. Thus, if he eventually comes to Christ, the entire collection of expectations and disappointments characterized by false hopes and subsequent striving can be very useful. However, if he gives up, if he concludes by his reluctance to continue striving that Jesus is not worthy of his best efforts to posses the Pearl of Great Price, then he is left with nothing but memories of frustration associated with his misguided attempts to save himself. He has not strived for a sufficient amount of time to truly realize anything of lasting spiritual value because he has fallen short of coming to Christ.

Next, striving can leave the sinner humbled, like a bruised reed. This, of course, is only if he continues to strive until this is achieved. All sinners are proud. Every lost man is resistant to the gospel to some degree. This is because despite all evidence to the contrary, men are prone to think of themselves as competent and able to fend for themselves. However, despite having certain skills and attainments, men are without competence of any kind when it comes to spiritual matters. Godís intention is for the hard knocks of life to providentially bruise the reed so that he becomes flexible to Godís will. Life is hard for just about everyone, and those rough experiences in life leave us with a realization that there are too many variables, the complexity of life is such that we cannot anticipate or control everything that happens to us. Therefore, we need help from on high if we are to make it safely to port through the storms of life. If a sinner is not humbled by the providential experiences of life, the things that happen to everyone over the course of life (such as a life threatening car accident or a child with a severe illness), and on top of that there has been resistance to the gospel and a refusal to consider the claims of Jesus Christ, then striving will be necessary. When striving is done rightly, and the Spirit of God succeeds in humbling the sinner by means of striving, the result will be a sinner who is no longer rigid and inflexible, a sinner who is no longer a know-it-all and cocky, a sinner who is not longer deaf to the truth and blind to his spiritual needs. When striving is done rightly, and for long enough, the sinner will no longer be belligerent. Neither will he be confident in himself. Instead, he will be for the first time in his life, truly humble.

Third, striving can leave the sinner thinking more clearly and able to reason. When Jesus is high and lifted up and you see yourself as low and weak, you are not suffering a delusion. Rather, you are seeing reality as it has always been, but which you have heretofore been blind to. Excuse me, but Jesus is high and lifted up. He is exalted to the right hand of the Father, and He now displays His eternal brightness and glory, such as Isaiah saw in Isaiah chapter 6. When, through striving, you are able to look up into the sky at night and appreciate the immensity of Godís creation, and realize that Jesus not only created this universe and all that herein is, and that He alone sustains creation, then you are beginning to appreciate the King of glory. However, the main thrust of striving is not for appreciating the power of Jesus Christ, but His holiness and your dreadful filthiness. Striving is part of that reasoning that we are challenged with in Isaiah 1.18: ďCome now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.Ē The main result of such reasoning should be to see the scarlet of your sins and the purity of Godís holy demands upon you. Thus, though striving does not result in everything becoming crystal clear in your thinking, it does result in clarity with respect to your sinfulness and your absolute need of Christís cleansing blood.

Fourth, striving can offset the searing of the conscience to heighten oneís sense of guilt. We know that the forgiveness of sins results in a clear conscience toward God, a good conscience. The lost, however, have consciences that are seared, defiled, convicted, and evil. Striving is useful to the Holy Spirit to address such consequences of stubbornness and rebellion, undoing to a significant degree the impact of sin upon the conscience. So, what happens when a sinnerís conscience begins to affect him once more? He begins to feel guilty again. He begins to feel bad about his disregard for the things of God and his mistreatment of other people. He stops acquitting himself of wrongdoing and once more sees himself for the scoundrel he really is. Thus, the conscience that is no more seared is a conscience that is once more active. And how will an active conscience affect a sinner? His own conscience will make him feel badly about his sins, coming to agree with the convicting work of the Holy Spirit of God. Though it feels terrible, this is not a bad thing but a good thing.

Which leads to the fifth item, striving can drive home the exceeding sinfulness of oneís soul. Turn to First John 1.9, a verse that we have reviewed any number of times over the years: ďIf we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.Ē We recognize, from previous studies, that the Greek word translated confess refers to agreeing with God, having the same pronouncement about our sins and sinfulness as God, and that the word does not refer to reciting our sins to God one at a time. Thus, since the Christian is one who agrees with Godís pronouncement about his sins, does it not stand to reason that striving will be useful in changing a sinnerís estimation of his sins? Think about it. Most sinners will justify themselves by saying or thinking, ďWell, at least I am not as bad as Joe,Ē or ďYou would do the same thing if it happened to you.Ē However, Godís own children embrace their own guiltiness. ďYes, I am wrong, and there is no excuse whatsoever for my sins. I deserve Godís punishment, though I am thankful Jesus paid it all.Ē What striving accomplishes is the persuasion by the sinner that, indeed, he is guilty in the sight of God, and has no excuses whatsoever for his sins. One of the goals of striving is to see you persuaded that you should stand on Godís side with respect to this matter of sin, against yourself!

Finally, striving can effect a greater willingness to embrace the gospel in oneís heart. When your mind is corrupted, your conscience is seared, and your heart is hardened, no wonder a sinner would rather commit sins than seek the forgiveness found only in Christ. After all, sin is pleasurable, Hebrews 11.25. If you are spiritually unfeeling, and the only thing you are aware of is your sensual delights, it is entirely understandable that sinners would seek booze, drugs, illicit sex, and the thrills of other kinds of wrongdoing. However, once striving has straightened out a manís thinking, activated his long dormant conscience, and softened his wicked old heart, he begins to long for forgiveness. He anticipates the joy of sins forgiven. He even begins to believe that what he now has is not life, and that with Christ he will experience real life for the first time. You see, it is the heart that is the seat of the will. Therefore, once your heart is persuaded that sin is a dead end, that eternity is a long time, and that God is real and Jesus saves, you will begin to give thought to believing with the heart unto righteousness, Romans 10.10.

[1] Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a Lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion; it is the belief that a person is saved through the agency of a merely external decision; the belief that performing one of these human actions shows that a person is saved.

  Conversion is the result of that work of the Holy Spirit which draws a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for justification and regeneration, and changes the sinnerís standing before God from lost to saved, imparting divine life to the depraved soul, thus producing a new direction in the life of the convert. The objective side of salvation is justification. The subjective side of salvation is regeneration. The result is conversion.

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