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THE STRUGGLE OF CONVERSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, February 22, 2009

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24).


Many people believed that Jesus was a prophet. They also believed that He could work miracles. But very few of them repented and were converted. They were satisfied with themselves as they were. But Jesus said,

“Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).

The Greek word translated “repent” means to have a new mind. It means to be converted. And Christ told them that they must experience that or they would “all likewise perish.” This was a surprise to them. They thought they were good enough the way they were.

Christ was going toward Jerusalem. Someone noticed that only a few people were actually following Him. This man said to Him, “Are there few that be saved?” Jesus did not answer the man’s question. Instead Christ spoke to him directly. He said to that man,

“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).

He told that man that he must “strive to enter in at the strait gate.” And He says the same thing to you this morning: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” What does that mean? What is Christ telling you to do? You must understand three words in the text.

I. First, the two words “strait gate.”

Jesus said, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” The Greek word translated “strait” is “stĕnŏs.” It means “narrow” (Strong). The Greek word translated “gate” is “pulē.” It means “gate…entrance” (Strong). So, Jesus said, “Strive to enter in at the ‘narrow entrance’.” Those same words are used by Jesus in Matthew 7:

“Enter ye in at the strait [narrow] gate [entrance]…Because strait [narrow] is the gate [entrance]…and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13, 14).

The “narrow entrance” leads “unto life” (Matthew 7:14). Dr. Gill said, “By the strait [narrow] gate is meant Christ himself; who elsewhere calls himself the door…yea, he is the gate of heaven” (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 edition, p. 70; note on Matthew 7:13).

Jesus said, “Strive to enter in at the strait [narrow] gate.” That is, strive to enter into Christ. Why is Christ called “the narrow gate?” Because Christ is the only gate to salvation. People in the world often say, “You Christians are so narrow. Why can’t people be saved some other way? Why do you say Christ is the only way?” Our answer is that Christ Himself said He is “the strait [narrow] gate." He said,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

Dr. Gill said,

Christ is the true way to eternal life…Christ is the only way of access unto the Father; there’s no coming to God…without a mediator, and the only mediator between God and man is Christ (ibid.).

The Bible says,

“There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all”
      (I Timothy 2:5-6).

God “gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16) to die on the Cross, and shed His Blood, so that men could be “ransomed” from sin and death. God sent His only begotten Son to bleed and die on the Cross,

“that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).

No other religious leader or teacher was “the only begotten Son of God.” No other religious leader or teacher was the “one mediator between God and men.” “The man Christ Jesus” is the only one

“who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree”… on the Cross (I Peter 2:24).

That’s why the Apostle Peter said,

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

“Strive to enter in at the strait [narrow] gate” (Luke 13:24).

Jesus is the narrow gate. Christ is the narrow gate to salvation. You must come to Him, because only He can save you.

II. Second, the word “strive.”

Jesus said,

Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24).

The word “strive” comes to us in English from the Greek word “agōnizomai.” It means to “labour fervently…to fight” (Vine), “to struggle” (Strong). “Agōnizomai” comes from the root word “agon.” It means “effort, anxiety, conflict” (Strong). When Jesus said “Strive to enter in,” He meant that you must fight to enter in, struggle to enter in, with “effort, anxiety and conflict.” A form of this Greek word was used by Luke to describe Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before He was crucified.

“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44).

Jesus had to go through great agony, striving in prayer, or He would have died there in the Garden under the weight of your sin. If the Son of God had to go through such a conflict of agony and striving to save you, doesn’t it seem logical and Scriptural that you should go through some of that “to enter in at the strait gate”? That’s why Jesus said, “Strive to enter in at the [narrow] gate.”

The great Protestant preachers of the past all went through great “strivings” when they were converted. Luther was in agony for months before he “entered in” to Christ. John Bunyan came to the edge of sanity before he found peace in Christ. John Wesley flung himself back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean in a frenzy of self-doubt and misery, striving “to enter in at the strait gate.” George Whitefield nearly starved himself to death by fasting and prayer, struggling to enter into Christ. Spurgeon fought with all his might to find Christ as a seventeen-year-old pastor’s son. The conversions of all these famous preachers included great effort, anxiety and conflict, as they fought their way to Jesus. Why should it be different for you? Jesus said,

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24).

There’s an old hymn that says,

Fight the good fight with all thy might!...
   Lay hold on life, and it shall be
Thy joy and crown eternally.
   (“Fight the Good Fight With All Thy Might”
      by John S. B. Monsell, 1811-1875).

That is the way real conversions occur. Listen to one of the most popular hymns ever written – “Just As I Am” by Charlotte Elliott (1789-1871). She knew exactly what it means to strive, in conflict and struggle, to find Christ.

Just as I am, though tossed about
   With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
   O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
(“Just As I Am” by Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871).

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 13:5, 22-24.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Christopher J. Bebout:
“Just As I Am” (by Charlotte Elliott, 1789-1871).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE STRUGGLE OF CONVERSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24).

(Luke 13:5)

I.   First, the two words “strait gate,” Matthew 7:13, 14; John 14:6;
I Timothy 2:5-6; John 3:16, 17; I Peter 2:24; Acts 4:12.

II.  Second, the word “strive,” Luke 22:44.