Calvary Road Baptist Church


Luke 13.24


In Isaiah 42.3, the LORD describes as bruised reeds and smoking flax sinners who are responsive to His providential dealings and the proper use of means. However, we see that in Luke 13.24, Jesus prescribed striving for sinners who are not like bruised reeds, who are unresponsive to the humbling providence of God, and who proudly resist the demands of scripture and the wooing of the Holy Spirit. Below you will find two pictures I have taken that illustrate the sinnerís tendency to stand erect and proud with his companions. The top picture shows the reeds standing straight in the water and for the most part unyielding. The bottom picture shows the catastrophe that comes upon the once proud reeds. Notice that the reeds, like so many sinners, stand together while they stand, but are also all doomed to catastrophe. The limitations we are forced to make use of limits the spiritual applications we can make use of. For example: Reeds are useful to show pride and autonomy, standing together in unbowed stubbornness. However, reeds are not useful to illustrate other aspects of a sinnerís willful disposition, so we are left to what we are given and try to be careful not to take the illustration farther than is appropriate. Does the bottom photograph bring anything in Godís Word to mind? I am reminded of two verses, that I would like you to turn to and read with me:

Proverbs 6.15:   ďTherefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.Ē

Proverbs 29.1:    ďHe, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.Ē

The reeds in the bottom picture are broken without remedy, a picture of what your unsaved family member or loved one who has heard the gospel without response will someday be like if he does not become a bruised reed.

The subject of striving (for sinners who are not bruised reeds) is a much-neglected matter in our day. The sad neglect of striving as a means of preparing the sinnerís heart for Christ is a great detriment to the advance of the gospel in our day, as well as the spiritual vitality of professing Christians and gospel preaching churches. Humanly speaking, unsaved loved ones, family members, and others who are close to your heart will die without Christ, because though they are very familiar with the facts of the gospel they have been so damaged by their stubborn resistance to the truth that through their own fault they cannot come to Christ. Striving is the prescription by the Savior to do them the most good, yet it is a neglected remedy in our day. It is our responsibility as believers to persuade the lost in our midst that striving is perfectly compatible with the gospel of Godís grace in Christ. After all, striving was commanded by the Savior, which He would never do if a right understanding of striving promoted works righteousness. I am not suggesting that each of you becomes a preacher, but I would suggest that you become an encourager of the lost. Urge them to abandon their proud attempts to guide themselves to Christ and to employ their own so-called wisdom in striving. Typically, the lost seek help from Christ and seek nothing from a pastor. However, they need no help from Christ, but salvation full and free. What the lost need from a pastor is direction and experienced counsel that is designed to address the very real obstacles to conversion that so many are blind to. Please feel free to inform your lost friend or loved one that striving is no end in itself, but that it is a means ordained by Jesus Himself to help bring about the sinnerís conversion to Christ. Keep in mind that when Jesus said about Himself, ďFor the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost,Ē Luke 19.10, His seeking of the lost fully includes the directions He provided to the lost who need to strive to enter in at the strait gate. As well, it is important that you understand that striving can be understandably painful, but also understand that striving is in no way harmful, in that the reed is only bruised by striving and not broken.

Look at the two pictures once more. In your thinking, place your lost loved one among those reeds in the top picture. Imagine what is required for that one God has placed on your heart to not end up as part of the broken clump of reeds in the bottom picture. How is your love oneís certain catastrophe to be avoided? For one reed to become bruised so that it will not break as those reeds in the bottom picture are broken without remedy, two essential things must happen: First, the reed must be removed from among the other reeds. We can see the practical necessity of this, since it is not possible to bruise a reed while it is still standing in the water along with all the other reeds. Then the reed must be bruised by various means. If your loved one is unresponsive to the various means such as preaching, teaching, testimonies, and reading scripture, and especially if he has resisted the gospel, it will become necessary for him to strive in order to become a bruised reed. I am not insisting your lost loved one must to be physically isolated so much as being somewhat emotionally and socially detached from others for a while.

You can see that some measure of aloneness when addressing serious spiritual concerns is a practical necessity to prevent other lost people from influencing him and seeking to prevent him from becoming a bruised and flexible reed. In my own experience, I spent a weekend entirely alone in my apartment leading up to my conversion. For others, a long drive to work is sufficient, or your spouse being away with family for a couple of days. I am not advocating pain and suffering for anyone. Neither am I suggesting that pain and suffering is necessary for everyone who has heard the gospel and remains lost. I am seeking only to explain, elaborate, and illustrate striving and the importance of becoming what the LORD termed in Isaiah 42.3 a bruised reed. To that end, I am not suggesting how much striving and unpleasant experiences anyone needs to go through, and urge upon sinners only enough striving as is necessary for the sinner to lay his faith on Christ.

Do you understand that it is the sinner who determines the severity or his striving, the intensity of his experience? If we learn anything from Isaiah 42.1-4 and Matthew 12.20, it is that Jesus does not seek to deal with anyone harshly. Therefore, if there are any harsh or severe experiences to be associated with striving, it is the sinnerís own responsibility as he seeks to remedy the harm he has done to himself by his stubbornness. As well, if the gospel minister is providing guidance to a striving sinner, his manner should reflect the gentleness of the Savior. If there is any pain associated with guiding a sinner to Christ, it will not be the harshness of the counselorís tone or the loudness of his voice that induces pain or discomfort. Rather, it will be the thrusts of the Sword of the Spirit that wound the sinnerís heart, the truth producing pain as the sinner comes to grips with reality about his sins and the state of his soul. Once Christ is embraced, however, striving is quickly forgotten. After conversion, much like labor is forgotten by the mother after her babyís delivery, the agonies that are sometimes associated with the wrestlings of mind, heart, and conscience rather quickly fade from memory. What is important is the new creature in Christ. So that we might become perfect in our obedience to Christ in seeking the salvation of the lost, let us urge upon the lost the importance of striving to enter in at the strait gate.


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