(Article for publication week of 12-17- AD 2015)
"Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able" (Luke 13:24).
The Reader is invited to compare our text with Matthew 7:13-14. For the past couple of weeks we have been focusing on the main theme of these weekly articles-- the narrow way that leads to heaven, which is only entered by the strait gate. Our Lord in parabolic language illustrates for us true conversion (the strait gate), and true perseverance (the narrow way). In order to get to heaven and immortal glory you must walk in the narrow way for it is the only way to heaven. And there is but one way to get into the narrow way and that is by the strait gate of conversion. Most of you are complete strangers to the truth of my text, for you have never been converted.
Note well that our Lord says that conversion is a difficult thing. The archaic word used in our text, "strait," literally means "difficult." Contrary to popular opinion it is not an easy thing for a sinner to get saved. In your day and mine we have been told that if we will just repeat a prayer after the preacher or "soul winner" we will be saved. We hear reports of young people walking the aisle chewing gum and laughing as they "respond" to the appeal of an evangelist in a "youth revival." Such modern day false evangelism is filling the professed church with lost people. Multitudes are headed for hell so fast they are kicking dust in the devil's face because they have been told that it is easy to be saved. Friend if you had an easy time getting saved, you are not saved, you are only deceived. Salvation, conversion, is simple but it is not easy. I wish you would listen to the words of Christ. He said (not this little country preacher) that it is a difficult gate you must get through if you will be saved. Salvation is simply repenting of your sins and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and a little child can do that if he is regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Conversion, though simple, is so difficult that no one would ever be saved apart from the sovereign grace of God. By nature you love yourself and your sins and it is foreign to your nature to repent. In fact you will never repent unless the Lord Himself grant you repentance (Acts 11:18). Faith in Christ is simple, yet no one will ever believe in Christ to the saving of his soul until the Lord gives him faith (Ephesians 2:8) for saving faith is a gift of God. You cannot come to Christ by your "free" will. Christ has plainly declared in John 6:44, "no man cometh unto me except the Father who sent Me draw him." It is not only difficult to be saved, it is impossible to be saved without the drawing work of God.
Our Lord says something else here about true conversion that is completely foreign to this generation of Mississippians. He commands us to "strive" to enter in the gate of salvation. The word "strive" in our English translation is from the Greek work "agonizomai" from which we get our English word "agony." Our Lord is telling us that if we will be saved we must agonize. Dear reader do you know anything of which I speak? Have you ever been in agony of soul, striving to be saved? Or did you just say a little prayer and walk the aisle and join the church? When it pleases God to call an elect sinner from the darkness of this world into the marvelous light of His Son, He brings that poor sinner into distress of soul. I tell you that real conversion is a painful experience. To be under Holy Spirit conviction is an agonizing experience. To see yourself as spiritually bankrupt without a farthing to pay is a distressing thing. To have you eyes opened to the truth that God is thrice holy and I am so unholy and unclean that I despair of ever being saved is a most disturbing experience. To try to pray and feel like I cannot pray because my heart is so cold and hard and wicked, why this is agony of soul! To want to repent, and not be able to repent, this is soul agony. Dear reader do you know anything of which I write? Have you ever agonized in your soul because of your lost and ruined state? Have you ever lost sleep at night fearing that you were too sinful for a holy and just God to save you?
Now this is a little of what our Lord speaks when he says that true conversion is difficult and painful. But I close with a word of comfort and cheer for the chief of sinners. Christ came to save sinners! If you are in agony of soul because you have felt your lost and ruined state then Christ says to you, "come unto me"! Though you your sins are as scarlet, ye shall be as white as snow by the blood of the Lamb. In the words of John Newton, "I know two things, I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Saviour. If grace has taught your heart to fear, grace shall also relieve your fears. May the Lord grant you peace in believing in the Lord Jesus Christ this very day is my prayer for each of my readers.