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GOD’S DRAWING AND MAN’S STRIVING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, May 9, 2010

“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).


Last Sunday night I preached a sermon titled, “Resurrection Now!” It was an exposition of Ephesians 2:4-6,

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6).

I said that the new birth – also known as regeneration – is spoken of in the Bible as a spiritual resurrection. The points of the sermon were (1) First, we were dead; (2) Second, we are made alive; and (3) Third, we are raised up by God’s power to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). I showed that “Coming to Christ is only made possible by the grace and power of God, that draws our souls up to Christ when we are converted.” That is the only way a child “of wrath,” “dead in sins,” can come to Christ (Ephesians 2:3, 5).

But I ended the sermon by asking “What must you do, if you are still lost?” And then I gave the first part of our text, “Strive to enter in.” Someone undoubtedly thought, “How can I strive to enter in to Christ if I am dead in sin?” At least I hope someone went that far, and thought that deeply! Often the sermons just pass over people’s heads, and there is no thought involved. This is indeed an important point! How can a person who is “dead in sins” do what Christ commanded – “strive to enter in”? How can a spiritually dead person do that? How can he “strive to enter in”? Dr. Lenski spoke of that very question,

But does this not contradict the teaching that man is spiritually dead and cannot struggle and strive? This struggling is not [done by] man’s corrupt natural powers – they never could or would struggle to enter that narrow door. This struggling is caused by [the power of God, working] upon and in the heart (R. C. H. Lenski, D.D., The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, Augsburg Publishing House, 1961 edition, p. 748; note on Luke 13:24).

I am not going to speak long tonight. But I do want to make as clear as possible the two sides of coming to Christ.

I. First, God draws us to Jesus.

Jesus made it clear that we must come to Him. He said,

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

We must come to Jesus to have rest in our souls and peace with God. Again Jesus said,

“He that cometh to me shall never hunger” (John 6:35).

We must come to Jesus, the bread of life, for He is the one that can satisfy the hunger of your heart and give you life. Jesus died on the Cross to pay the full penalty for your sins, and He rose from the dead to give you eternal life. Again Jesus said,

“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”
      (John 6:37).

Jesus receives everyone who comes to Him. He never turns anyone away who comes to Him.

Yet people ask, “Where is Jesus?” There are many wrong answers to that question. But the Bible tells us many times where Jesus is today. You can’t come to Jesus if you don’t know where He is. The Bible tells us exactly where He is right now. Dr. Henry M. Morris said that there are “twenty-one Biblical references to Christ at the right hand of the Father” (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, World Publishing, 1995 edition, p. 655; note on Psalm 110:1). After Christ rose from the dead He ascended back to the Third Heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. We are told that fact in Psalm 16:11; Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:3; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42; Acts 2:34; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; I Peter 3:22; and in many other passages of Scripture. In Mark 16:19 we are told,

“After the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19).

So, we are told again and again that Jesus is up in the Third Heaven (II Corinthians 12:2) – in that place which He called “paradise” (Luke 23:43).

But we are also told that we must come to Him to have our sins pardoned and have eternal life. How can we get there – above the atmosphere, beyond the planets and stars of this galaxy? People say, “How can I come to Christ way up there – in another world?” The answer is obvious. You cannot get there on your own! God must raise you up and make you “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). You cannot come to Jesus on your own. God has to draw you to Him – up in paradise, beyond the stars! Jesus made that clear when He said,

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…” (John 6:44).

God must draw you up to Christ, who is seated at His right hand in glory! That is the divine side of salvation. God must draw you to Jesus so you can be cleansed from your sins with His Blood. That is the work of God! That is salvation by the power of God – salvation by grace!

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
   (“Amazing Grace” by John Newton, 1725-1807).

That’s the first point. But there is a second point.

II. Second, we must strive to enter in to Jesus.

Jesus said,

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

That is the human side. The divine side is that God draws us to Jesus. The human side is that we must strive to get to Him! Jesus Himself is the “strait [narrow] gate.” The word translated “strive” means “struggle” or even “fight.” It is “agonizomai” in Greek – translated “strive” in the King James Bible. These, then, are the two sides of what happens when someone comes to Jesus and is saved – God draws us, but we must strive to enter in. Both sides are given in Philippians 2:12-13,

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

God awakens you and draws you. But you must “strive to enter in” to Christ.

Someone who knows theology may say, “That is synergism.” No, it is not. It is monergism. The Catholic Church teaches synergism – the idea that God's grace co-operates with man's will to produce salvation. “Decisionism” has picked up this error as well, beginning with C. G. Finney. That's why so many evangelicals don’t see any significant difference between themselves and the Catholics. But classical Protestant and Baptist thought rejects synergism. The old Baptists and Protestants taught monergism – the idea that all of salvation comes from God, and does not depend on the will of man. And what I am trying to bring out in this message is that the drawing of God and the striving of man both come from the same source – God. Both points are from God alone. “Salvation is of [from] the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). God draws us to Jesus. And God works in us to cause us to “strive” –

“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

The divine and the human side of salvation are both brought about by the grace of God! God draws us, and God awakens us to strive! It is all from God!

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

As I look back more than fifty years, I realize that this is exactly what happened to me. When I was fifteen I began to be serious about being a Christian. I thought I was saved already, but I knew something was missing. So I “rededicated” my life – nearly every Sunday night! After each Sunday evening sermon I went “forward,” with many other young people, to “rededicate” my life to Christ. But that didn’t seem to help. I still felt guilty and far away from God. So on Easter Sunday, when I was seventeen, I “surrendered” to preach the Gospel. Everyone came and shook hands with me to congratulate me for dedicating my life to become a minister. I believe that God did call me to preach at that time, but something was still missing, even though I was licensed to preach by the First Southern Baptist Church of Huntington Park, California. I began preaching when I was seventeen, everywhere that there was an opportunity. I passed out tracts. I preached in skid row missions, in a few churches, and even on street corners. But something was still missing. I still felt sinful and far from God. Then I dedicated my life to be a missionary. I joined the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles. I taught Sunday School. I went to a Bible college. Several nights each week doing all I could for God. But I still knew that something was missing. I thought I was saved by doing all that, but I still knew I wasn’t right with God. I was praying a lot and trying to please God, but I still had no peace. Then, on September 28, 1961, at 10:30 in the morning, during a sermon by Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge, in the auditorium of Biola College (now University) I suddenly came to Christ. I can only say that I was in Christ’s presence, and I came to Him – for the first time in my life. Then I knew that I was saved! It was all different. I could not save myself. But that morning Christ saved me. That made all the difference!

Looking back now I realize what happened. All of that work I did was really “striving.”  I was striving to “enter in.” Finally, on that morning, my striving ended, and God drew me to Christ. I was cleansed by Christ’s Blood and saved by His life. I entered in to Jesus Christ “at the strait gate.” From that moment on Christ has kept me – even to this hour – kept by the power of God, saved by the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
   (“Amazing Grace” by John Newton, third stanza).

Many famous preachers had an experience similar to mine. John Bunyan strove and struggled to enter in to Christ – and then was suddenly converted. That was also the experience of Martin Luther, George Whitefield, John Wesley, and Charles Spurgeon. It was the same with our deacon, Dr. Cagan. He said, “I wrestled inwardly with thoughts about Christ for two more years…I continued to fight inwardly against Jesus…Yet I felt strangely drawn to those evangelistic meetings…For many years I had turned Him away…But that night I knew that the time had come for me to trust Him…At that moment, in just a few seconds, I came to Jesus…I “crossed over” to Jesus Christ in the most important event that can happen in a human life – conversion. I turned around and came directly and immediately to Jesus Christ” (C. L. Cagan, Ph.D., From Darwin to Design, Whitaker House, 2006, pp. 17, 19).

Dr. Cagan had been “striving to enter in” for a long time – reading the Bible, attending church, praying and struggling. Finally, in a few moments of time, God drew him “directly and immediately to Jesus Christ.”

There are some of you here tonight who need Jesus. Only God can draw you to Him. You cannot get to Jesus on your own. “Well,” you say, “what can I do?” “Strive to enter in” (Luke 13:24). When I pass out the printed sermons at the end of each service, take your copy of the sermon home and read it over and over again. “Strive” to understand the sermons and apply them to yourself. Be in church for every service and listen with all your heart and soul to the preaching of the Gospel. Pray for God to awaken you and bring you under conviction. Pray for God to draw you to the Saviour. Come to Jesus. Trust Him. Turn away from the world and its sins and follies, and come “directly and immediately” to the Son of God. He will save you from the penalty of your sins. He will redeem you! He will give you eternal life!

“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).

May that verse of Scripture be a means of grace to awaken your slumbering soul and bring you to the once crucified, now risen Christ! Amen.

(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: Ephesians 2:1-6.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Come Unto Me” (by Charles P. Jones, 1865-1949).


THE OUTLINE OF

GOD’S DRAWING AND MAN’S STRIVING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“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).

(Ephesians 2:4-6, 3, 5)

I.   First, God draws us to Jesus, Matthew 11:28; John 6:35, 37;
Mark 16:19; II Corinthians 12:2; Luke 23:43;
Ephesians 2:6; John 6:44.

II.  Second, we must strive to enter in to Jesus, Philippians 2:12-13;
Jonah 2:9; Ephesians 2:8.