Are You In?

Posted: June 11, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 13:18-30, “Are You In?”

“Are you in or out?”  I remember being asked this by my grandmother many times as I stood in the doorway with the door wide-open.  Are you coming in, or going out?  Eventually a choice needs to be made, and it might as well be made when the A/C isn’t running.

Sometimes, the question isn’t so much when you’re in or out, but if you’re in or out.  That was the issue at hand with Jesus and the people He spoke with on His way to Jerusalem.  He had taught about the nature of the kingdom & its growth, which naturally caused at least one person to wonder how many people might be included in it.  Jesus redirected the question a bit: it wasn’t about others; it was about the individual.  Why worry about someone else being included in the kingdom if you yourself aren’t in it?  It’s like the pre-flight presentation given by every flight attendant: before you assist someone else with their oxygen mask, ensure yours is secure first.  Before you get excited (for good or bad) about someone else’s inclusion in the kingdom, ensure you yourself have a place in it.

Contextually, Luke had shown Jesus giving instructions to people to prepare themselves for their final judgment.  The Pharisees (and those like them) weren’t ready, because they were hypocrites.  Jesus warned people away from their infectious leaven, telling His listeners that they needed to have a righteous fear of God, and a fervent trust in God.  It was when people were humbly submitted to God in faith that they were truly prepared to see Him when the time came.  Yet many weren’t ready.  They were neither ready for the final judgment, nor were they ready for their own impending death.  Anyone could see God at any time, and they were not prepared.

This was exemplified through the hypocrisy of yet one more religious ruler.  Jesus had been teaching in the synagogue one Saturday morning, and a woman appeared who was in dire need of healing, having a terrible condition that left her physically bent in half, bound by the devil.  Jesus graciously released her from her bondage, with the synagogue ruler objecting that it took place on the Sabbath day.  This man was willing to let his sister-in-the-faith suffer, treating her worse than livestock, all to satisfy his own legalistic sensibilities & false piety.  Jesus openly confronted the man on his hypocrisy, and the crowd rejoiced in the glorious things of God.

That’s where Luke’s narrative picks up, with two parables regarding the growth of God’s kingdom, followed by an illustration showing who’s included in that growth.  How did this all fit together?  People like the Pharisees and the synagogue ruler thought they knew what the kingdom of God was all about, and believed they would be first through the gate.  In reality, they didn’t have a clue how it would come, nor was their own inclusion within it assured.  What they thought they knew, they didn’t.  They didn’t know if they were in or if they were out.

Are you included in the kingdom?  Strive to enter!

Luke 13:18–30

  • Parable of the mustard seed (18-19)

18 Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?

  • First things first: how do we know this is a parable?  There are times the Biblical writers make it clear, as Luke did earlier regarding the fig tree, when he specifically said that Jesus spoke a “parable.” (13:6)  Other times, the specific label is not used, but certain features are seen.  One of these features is Jesus’ comparisons for the kingdom of God.  This is most often seen in Matthew’s gospel when Jesus gives many comparisons for the kingdom of heaven (7 times in Matthew 13 alone!).  In Luke, the comparison is found only in these two examples, but it is still a common mark of a parable.  In fact, comparison of a real thing (be it the kingdom or not) to a fictional example is enough to have us examine the teaching as a parable.  In a proper literal interpretation, it’s important to rightly identify the genre, or we’ll miss the point entirely.
  • The realization that this is a parable helps guard us from error, which is all too easy to fall into – even for otherwise excellent Bible teachers.  Remember that in a parable, we are to look for the singular main point.  What is the main idea presented by Jesus, within the context He’s presenting it?  The details of the parables are there for illustration & fullness; they aren’t there for us to press for hidden messages.  Unless Jesus specifically gives us an interpretation otherwise, we’re not to assign symbolic meaning to every minor detail.  That transforms a parable into an allegory, and that can drastically affect the interpretation.  Basically, we want to ensure that we’re hearing the parable as Jesus’ original listeners would have heard the parable, paying attention to the main point that He was communicating to them.
    • Why make such a big deal out of this?  Because the particular parables given here have been the source of a lot of controversy from some well-meaning Bible interpreters.  Details are picked up & pointed out & made into a much bigger deal than what the context shows they ought to be – and the lesson that gets taught is likely the opposite of what Jesus originally intended.  As with all Scripture, we need to let Scripture be the final judge.  It doesn’t matter what our favorite Bible teacher has taught on the subject, if it doesn’t match up with the contextual, natural reading of the text.  We need to be Bereans, faithfully seeing the Scripture for ourselves & judge the teaching we receive accordingly.  (That’s just as true with me, as it is for anyone else!)
  • Thus the first thing we notice about this parable is that it is a comparison regarding “the kingdom of God.”  It’s not the church; it’s the kingdom.  Certainly the church is included in the kingdom, but the kingdom of God (as will be fully revealed in the Millennium and beyond) is a whole lot bigger than the New Testament church.  The Jews listening to Jesus would have immediately related to ideas regarding the kingdom, for it was the kingdom that they themselves were expecting to be restored.  They knew the promises God made to David, and they knew a Messiah would come to rule not only over Jerusalem & Israel, but that His rule would expand over the entire world.  They had a solid expectation for a tangible kingdom – one which was reinforced every time they thought of the one they called the Son of Man.  Daniel 7:13–14, "(13) “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. (14) Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed."  Of course, “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself, and one which was never far from the mind of those who listened to Him.  Every time He spoke, people wondered about this prophecy of Daniel.  Was this the time the kingdom was to come?  Was this the moment the glory of God would be revealed in power?  So Jesus gives them a parable about the kingdom.  Did they want to know about the kingdom?  He’d tell them what it was like…

19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”

  • There are probably a lot of images that come to mind regarding Daniel’s prophecy.  It’s doubtful too many of them look like a mustard seed. Mustard kernels are tiny, insignificant things.  How can something so small be compared to the kingdom of God?  Take notice of the growth.  It may start small, but it grows into something quite large.  The black mustard (which is/was common to Israel) can grow up to 8 feet high.  That’s quite a plant from a tiny seed!
  • Objection: “That’s not a tree!”  No – it’s not a tree like we think of as an oak or pine.  It’s not even a cedar which would have been common in nearby Lebanon.  But don’t get too hung up on the English word “tree.”  The Greek word translated “tree” can refer to any large, woody plant – which is a suitable description of a black mustard.  Objection #2: “But what about the birds nesting in its branches?”  Although the Greek preposition εν is often translated “in,” it can also be rendered “by, with, among,” and many other ways, depending on the context.  It’s not difficult to envision birds nesting in the recesses of a large mustard plant.  Nests don’t need to be high in the air to be effective.  That said, Jesus does imply extraordinary growth.  This isn’t just any mustard plant; this is a very large mustard – one that would attract the attention of birds to come and find protection for their homes.
  • All of that is nice imagery, but so what?  What does any of this have to do with the kingdom of God?  This is where the idea of a parable becomes so important.  Some look at this & say, “Yes, the seed became a large plant, but notice the birds!  Birds are symbols of unclean things & tools of Satan, so this shows the infiltration of unbelievers within the church.”  The problem is, birds aren’t the main point.  Jesus didn’t liken the kingdom to the birds; He likened it to the seed.  The birds are there to illustrate how big the seed became as a plant.  Besides, birds aren’t always bad in the Scriptures.  Certain birds were allowed to be used in sacrifices, by those who weren’t able to afford larger animals like bulls & goats.  The Holy Spirit even took on the form of a dove (a bird!) when He appeared at Jesus’ baptism.  Again, birds aren’t the main point; the seed is.
  • Others look at this & say, “This shows the growth of the church, how it gets so big that it goes throughout the world!”  While that might get closer to the main point, we need to remember that the parable is about the kingdom; not the church.  Again, the church is included in the kingdom & is the current expression of the kingdom – but it isn’t the fullness of the kingdom.  The kingdom is “now,” but it is also “not yet.”  There is a day coming when the kingdom really will be known all over the world, and all the nations of the world will recognize Jesus as King.  Every knee will bow & every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord.
  • So what’s left?  The plainest interpretation that sticks to the main point of the parable is: the kingdom will be glorious, but it won’t appear to start that way.  Again, the main comparison is that to a “seed.”  It’s not even the tree, but the seed.  That’s how the kingdom begins.  It may start small, but it will grow!  Thus, the kingdom won’t come as expected.  The Jews expected the Son of Man among clouds of glory – but that’s not what was coming, at least not yet.  The Jews expected Jesus’ 2nd Coming, but they weren’t prepared for His 1st.  They needed to receive Him in His humility before they would be received by Him in His glory.  They needed receive Jesus on His terms; not theirs.
    • That’s a problem many people share with the Jews of Jesus’ day.  They want God on their terms; not His.  They want God to fix their problems – they want God to give them their desires – they want God to give them their victories.  Basically, they want the 2nd coming without the 1st.  They want the promises of heaven without the realization of its cost.  What’s the price?  The cross.  Sinful people don’t go to heaven, and means we’ve got a big problem!  We’re all sinners!  Our sin needs to be dealt with, and that’s what Jesus does at the cross.  He dealt with all our greed, pride, anger, lusts, and other rebellions against God when He died in our place – and that was the price that needed to be paid for us to experience all of the promises God has to offer.  Without the 1st Coming of Jesus, we have nothing to look forward to at His 2nd Coming…only judgment.  It’s the 1st Coming that makes the 2nd Coming possible for us to enjoy.  So we have to receive Jesus on His terms as He came.  We have to receive His humble service & sacrifice on our behalf – then (and only then) will we know His glories.
  • Parable of the leaven (20-21)

20 And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”

  • Once again, Jesus gives a comparison with the kingdom of God, and once again the picture is unexpected.  “Leaven” is yeast – not exactly something that a person would normally associate with the kingdom.  In this particular case, it was probably a large amount, for it needed to be enough to work its way through “three measures of meal.”  That’s about 47 pounds of flour, enough to feed 100 people.  Either the woman in the parable was extraordinarily hungry, or she was preparing a feast!
  • But this idea of leaven is truly unusual.  The last time Luke records Jesus speaking of leaven was in a bad sense, when Jesus told the people “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (12:1)  In fact, that instance & here in 13:21 are the only occasions Luke uses the term.  Matthew provides the same parable & warning, and Mark provides only the warning, so they don’t broaden our understanding.  Paul uses it as an example of sin among the Corinthians & Galatians (1 Cor 5:6-8, Gal 5:9).  The Hebrew Bible primarily uses leaven in a bad sense, for it was something that needed to be removed for the Passover, and wasn’t to be offered with most of the normal sacrifices.  For this reason, many Bible teachers believe Jesus to be warning His listeners about the future corruption that would eventually infiltrate the church.  Historically speaking, there’s no doubt the church did experience corruption, both doctrinally & morally.  To this day, the church still struggles against false teaching & sinful practices among those who claim the name of Jesus.
  • Yet – is that what Jesus was teaching here?  Is that how His original listeners would have understood Him?  Probably not.  Yes, leaven was typically used in a bad sense, but it was still used among the Hebrews in their normal day-to-day cooking.  It wasn’t inherently evil, as if it should be forbidden from their kitchens 365 days a year.  Additionally, the Old Testament law actually had occasional use for leaven.  The peace offerings were made with both unleavened and leavened bread. (Lev 7:12-13)  The Feast of Weeks was celebrated with leavened bread. (Lev 23:17)  Challah bread seems to go back 4000 years, and it most certainly has yeast in it.  The point?  We don’t want to get stuck on the symbol before we look at the text.  The order of inductive Bible study is: (1) observation, (2) interpretation, (3) application.  To read this parable & immediately jump to the symbolic meaning behind leaven is to skip the step of observation altogether.  We have to first look what the text says before we can determine what it means.  What does it say?  (1) It is the kingdom of God which is likened unto leaven.  That itself makes the idea of leaven = sin unlikely!  (2) This leaven was able to affect a massive amount of meal.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  A little sin can have a large effect, but so can a little godliness.  Context has to determine the meaning.  And what’s the context?  There’s already been one parable about the unexpectedness of the kingdom – here, the kingdom is doing something else unexpected: changing something from the inside-out.  Put it all together, and what do we find – what’s the main point?  The kingdom of God brings massive internal change.  The true kingdom of God transforms all whom it touches.
  • This isn’t about some sort of world-wide revival, as if every single person in the world will come to faith in Christ before He returns in glory (as some Christians scholars are prone to believe) – neither is it about sin that exists within the church today, which (although true) is not equivalent to God’s own kingdom.  This is about God’s ultimate plan for the kingdom, just like the first parable.  It comes in unexpected ways, and it does unexpected things.  And one day all the earth will see it for what it is!
  • There’s a natural follow-up question to all of this, and it’s what Jesus encounters next…
  • The exclusive kingdom (22-30)

22 And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.

  • We’re not told a timeframe here.  Luke doesn’t give a picture of one conversation flowing into another.  Rather, he’s giving snapshots in time, arranged thematically for the point of his gospel.  What came earlier was representative of the things Jesus was teaching while on His way to Jerusalem, and the conversation that follows arose out of that teaching.
  • That said, note something important: Jesus is still “journeying toward Jerusalem.”  Luke’s narrative takes quite a while to get there, but he shows that Jesus is still focused upon His mission.  Jesus is still headed to the cross, and although Luke’s narration may be a bit circuitous, Jesus was not.  He was laser-focused on what way ahead, determined to follow through on the will of God for Him.

23 Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”…

  • There’s the rub.  If the kingdom of God is going to be so unexpected in so many ways, who is going to be saved?  This particular man understood that not everyone is going to be saved, and he wonders how many (or few) would there be?  Quite possibly, there’s a bit of hesitancy in the idea that Gentiles might be included.  If all the birds of the air make their nests in the branches of the mustard plant, where might these birds come from?  Who’s going to be there that some of the Jews might not like?
    • That’s not unlike what many people today think.  We’ll look at a certain person dressed a certain way & think, “There’s no way that person is a Christian!”  We might be surprised!  Heaven is likely to be full of all kinds of people who others never expected to be there – and likewise, hell is going to be full of people who never imagined themselves being there.  A person doesn’t have to meet our expectations for them to go to heaven – they simply need to belong to Jesus Christ, having believed upon Him as Lord & Savior.  After all, He saved us!  If He did it with us, why not others?
  • There’s one glaring problem with the man’s question: it was all about others.  He simply assumes he’s one of the few.  Jesus points out to him (and all those listening) that he first needed to concern himself with his own salvation…

And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

  • The key word here is “strive.”  The Greek word is the same from which we get our word “agonize.” (ἀγωνίζομαι)  Jesus is telling this man to fight – to struggle – to intensely do whatever is necessary to enter through what He called “the narrow gate.”  This isn’t something to take lightly – it wasn’t something to let roll by.  Salvation isn’t something received by osmosis.  We’re not included in the kingdom of God by default.  That was the idea that many of the Jews had.  They figured that because they were Jews, they were bound for the kingdom.  They put their hopes in the fact that they had been born as children of Abraham.  Yet John the Baptist made it clear: God could raise up children of Abraham from the rocks! (Lk 3:8)  Their heritage was not enough to save them.  They needed to actively ensure they were able to enter the kingdom of God in eternity.
    • So many people share this same view!  They believe that because they were raised in a church that they’re already saved.  They think because they prayed a prayer as a child that they’re bound for heaven.  Sure, they’ve given no thought to Jesus in the years following & they live like they’ve never heard the gospel, but because they identify themselves as “Christian,” they believe they’re saved.  They are deceived.  It’s not a matter of how you choose to identify yourself; it’s whether or not you belong to Jesus by faith.  It’s not a passive, indifferent viewpoint of eternal things; it’s an active striving – a grabbing hold of Jesus, refusing to let go.
    • Question: is Jesus telling the man (and us) to work for our salvation?  Is He saying there’s something we must do in order to be saved?  To the first question, no – to the second question, yes…at least, in a manner of speaking.  No – we don’t work for our salvation.  The New Testament never once teaches anything besides a salvation by grace.  If Jesus doesn’t save us, we’re not saved…period.  But yes – there is something we must do in order to be saved: we need to actively believe upon Christ.  Belief isn’t a work, but it is intentional.  It’s something in which we exercise our will.  We have to choose to respond to the work of Christ, or we do not receive His grace.  Thus, we are to strive.
  • Strive to enter what?  “The narrow gate.”  Like the parables of the mustard seed & leaven, Jesus has used the picture of the narrow gate before – this time, in the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 7:13–14, "(13) “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. (14) Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."  The context is different, as is the comparison – but the idea of a restricted entrance remains the same.  Jesus (like any teacher) used similar illustrations and analogies from time to time, which means we have to take each teaching in its individual context.  In Luke’s version, there’s no mention of a wide gate, and the emphasis is on those who can’t enter, versus the few who can.  Why is that?  Because at this point in Jesus’ ministry, He’s speaking to different people.  He’s facing rejection from the religious & political leaders, as will be explicitly seen at the end of Chapter 13.  Many people all over the land have chosen to reject Him, and their window of opportunity is closing.  Soon, Jesus will go to the cross, and it will be too late for them to hear Him in person, and for many, it will be too late for them to be saved.  They need to be warned of what it is they’re about to miss.  That’s what Jesus goes on to illustrate…

25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’

  • Why would someone rise up to shut a door?  We have to put ourselves in the ancient culture, where a wealthy man with a large home would have a gate leading into his courtyard.  If he threw a banquet, he’d leave the gate open long enough for his guests to arrive, then shutting it at some point to attend to the party.  Even on a normal day-to-day occasion, there would come some point in the evening when the gate was locked & no one else was allowed inside.
  • So what happens when someone arrives late?  They might knock at the door, but the homeowner isn’t going to open.  No matter how much they plead with him, the door is going to remain locked.  Why?  Because the homeowner doesn’t know the people outside.  This is true in our culture today.  If someone rings your doorbell late at night, you might peek through the window to see who they are.  If you know them, you’ll open – if you don’t, you won’t.  (And you might even call the police!)
  • So far, so good.  But what if the people did know the homeowner?  What then?  That was the objection Jesus showed them raising…

26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’

  • The people outside might have known the homeowner, but the homeowner didn’t know them.  At least, the people on the outside thought they knew the homeowner, but they obviously didn’t.  They had been around him at various times – they had been in his presence at meals & teachings – but they didn’t have any relationship with him.  They didn’t know him in such a way where he knew them as well.  Thus he told them to depart.
  • This sounds very much like another teaching from the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 7:21–23, "(21) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ (23) And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"  Just as in the illustration in Luke 13, there are people who call Jesus “Lord,” and claim to do things with or around Him – but Jesus does not know them as His own, and in fact know them to be lawless workers of iniquity.
  • Is this harsh?  Maybe, but it’s the truth!  Being around Jesus isn’t the same thing as knowing Jesus.  Doing Christian activities (even miracles!) isn’t the same thing as being a Christian.  Not a single person will be in heaven based on the number of times he/she walked through the doors of a church building, or how many hours they listened to Christian music, or how many Christian friends they may have had.  Praise God for all those things, but they don’t make anyone a Christian believer.  None of those things are striving to enter the narrow gate, doing whatever is necessary to enter the kingdom of God.  That might be stuff people do around Jesus, but it’s not the same as actually knowing Jesus.
    • Try treating any other relationship this way, and see how far it gets you.  The way some people treat their so-called Christianity, it would be as if you wake up in the morning, say hello to a picture of your spouse, have your breakfast by yourself, tell your friends what a great spouse you have, listen to love songs on the radio, and then generally go about your day…all the while never once actually engaging with the person you married.  It would be ridiculous, and your spouse would be right to wonder if you even knew who they were.  Worse yet, imagine doing all of that while actively engaging in activities that were the opposite of what your spouse enjoyed.  You did the things that he/she hated.  They would wonder if they ever really knew you at all.
    • That’s basically the picture here.  Does the Almighty God know every single person in the world?  Of course.  He has knit together every human baby in the womb of his/her mother.  He knows the numbers of hairs on our head – God knows us infinitely better than we know ourselves.  But in terms of a relationship with Him, He does not know everyone as His own.  He does not recognize everyone as belonging to Him.  To those who arrive at the door late, knocking on the outside pleading with the homeowner to let them in, the homeowner can rightly say: “I don’t know you.  If you truly knew me, you would have come to me when the time was right for you to arrive.  You didn’t care enough about me to come when the invitation was open, so now it’s too late.”  The gospel of Jesus is freely offered to all.  His grace is handed to us as a free gift…but there will come a point that it is too late to receive it.  The key is to respond before it’s too late.

28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.

  • Did you notice Jesus’ consistent use of the 2nd person throughout the illustration?  This wasn’t like a parable where everything was fictional; Jesus put His listeners directly into this story.  Meaning, it wasn’t all fiction.  It was a symbolic way of making His point, but there is a literal truth to it: some of the people listening to Jesus that day would not be entering the kingdom.  They will want to enter, but they won’t be allowed inside.  In fact, they will be “thrust out” & told to “depart.”  This was a fate that many of the Jews would face, even as they saw the patriarchs & the prophets on the inside.  Remember, their hope was placed in the fact that they had been born-Jews.  They were the recipients of the national covenants that God made with Israel, and they had been raised reading the prophets, psalms, and the rest of what we call the Old Testament.  This was their heritage – this was who they were.  Yet even with all of this, they would still be cast out to the place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  They wouldn’t be allowed into the kingdom, but would instead be left in a place of grief and torment.
  • More than that – not only would the ones who expected to be let into the kingdom be the ones cast out, there would be others included in the kingdom that they never expected to be there in the first place…

29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”

  • From all over the world, people will come to the kingdom of God, and be let in.  They will have striven to enter, and they will be known by Jesus (the ultimate Master of the house).  They will arrive from every nation & culture – even the ones that were despised from the Jews in Judea at the time.  Although Jesus doesn’t use the word, He strongly implies that Gentiles will arrive in the kingdom before many of the Jews.  These were the ones the Jews would have considered “last,” and yet they would be “first”…with the opposite being true for themselves!  Imagine being a 1st century Jew listening to Jesus at the time, hearing Him say that Gentiles will sit in the kingdom of God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but you won’t.  That would have been scandalous – shocking!  And that was the point.  Jesus hoped to shock them into reality, like someone having a bucket of cold water being dumped on his/her head.  They needed to wake up and realize their danger – wake up & understand the urgency of the moment.  They had an opportunity right now to be saved – they had an opportunity to enter the kingdom…they dare not waste it!

Conclusion:
Neither should we!  No human being is guaranteed of entering the kingdom of God, apart from one way: active faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  If you don’t know that you belong to Him – if you don’t have the assurance that you are known by Him – then you don’t have any assurance at all.  Strive to enter the narrow gate of salvation!  Agonize & do what is necessary to ensure that you will be included in the kingdom of God!  If you aren’t 100% certain of your eternity, then make sure you are by the time you get up from your chair today.  Do what needs to be done in your heart to commit your life to Jesus Christ, intentionally & actively putting your faith & trust in Him for salvation.  Turn away from your past, and place yourself in Jesus’ hands, knowing that He is the God who died for you, who rose from the grave, and who is the only one who saves.

Are you in the kingdom?  It comes in unexpected ways, it does unexpected things, and it includes unexpected people.  It didn’t arrive in clouds of glory, but in the grandest display of humility when Jesus died upon the cross.  It did not impose itself upon the world, but it transforms believers one at a time, and will eventually spread over the entire planet during the Millennium.  It does not include everyone who expects to be included, but only those who are known by Jesus as His own.  We’ll likely be surprised by some of the people we’ll see in the kingdom…and no doubt they will be just as surprised to see us!

For those who aren’t sure of their inclusion, the biggest issue for you is to be sure.  You can be sure.  In his first epistle, the apostle John gave the purpose for his letter: 1 John 5:13, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God."  You can know that you have eternal life.  You can be sure…all you need to do is actively, knowingly believe upon Jesus.  Do it.

What if you already believe?  Take it on faith, but don’t take it for granted.  What you and I have been promised is a glorious gift!  It’s something that should be treasured & treated appropriately.  And the best part about this treasure is that’s it’s one that can be shared.  We have striven to ensure we’ve entered the kingdom – now we strive to help others do the same.  In fact, Paul used this same Greek word with Timothy when he wrote to him to “fight the good fight of faith.” (1 Tim 6:12)  Timothy needed to stay firm to his calling, and continue to proclaim the good news of Jesus.  Likewise with us.  You cannot decide for anyone else whether or not they receive Christ and enter His kingdom – but you can decide whether or not you’ll tell someone about Christ.  Tell them!  Tell them while they still have an opportunity to believe, because it won’t last forever.

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