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THE BENEFIT OF STRIVING

A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
and preached by Mr. Noah Song
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, November 12, 2016

“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).


All Christian leaders know that there is a serious decline in the churches in Europe and America. The popular solution is to become “progressive” – to “update” the song service, to bring in new translations of the Bible, to have the pastor take off his tie, and to let the people come to church like they were dressed for a beach party. All of this is done because they think that “modern” man in the twenty-first century has changed, and we must be “progressive” to attract him and make a Christian out of him.

Now, of course, that kind of reasoning is absurd. Dr. Lloyd-Jones said it was a serious mistake because,

Man has not changed at all. All the changes about which men boast so much are external. They are not changes in man himself, but merely in his mode of activity, his environment… Man as man does not change at all. He still remains the same contradictory person he has been ever since the Fall (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Truth Unchanged Unchanging, James Clark Publishers, 1951, pp. 110, 112).

So, when we come to this text, Luke 13:24, let us not think that these people were any different from us. Their outward circumstances were different, but they themselves were just the same as we are – “the same contradictory person [that people have always been] since the Fall,” as Dr. Lloyd-Jones put it. And just like some of you tonight, they had heard a great many Gospel sermons. They had heard preaching on many occasions from both John the Baptist and Christ Himself. They could truthfully say to Christ, “thou hast taught in our streets” (Luke 13:26). And yet there they were, still unsaved after all those great sermons. After all, salvation is what Jesus was talking about! A man asked Him, “Are there few that be saved?” And He turned away from this man and said to the whole crowd,

“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).

So I take it, since human nature has never changed, and the Gospel has never changed, and Christ Himself has never changed – that these words are directed to those of you here tonight who have heard the Gospel preached again and again without being saved. Make no mistake about that. Through this verse of Scripture, Christ is speaking to you!

“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).

That text leads me to ask you a very important question – are you still striving, or have you given up? Are you still struggling to enter in to Christ, or are you just killing time, sitting in church, with no thought that you will ever be saved? I certainly hope that is not true! I hope and pray that you will obey Christ’s command,

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

The Greek word translated “strive” is “agonizesthe.” It means “earnest struggle,” even “fight.” We could put it, “Earnestly struggle, even fight, to enter in” to Christ, who is Himself “the strait gate.” It means to make every effort to enter in to Him, to struggle to enter in to Christ.

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

I will deal with this in three ways: first, what you must struggle against; second, why you may give up the struggle; and third, how struggling prepares you to enter in to Christ.

I. First, what you must struggle against.

There is a negative aspect to this struggle. Obviously there would be no need to “strive” if there were nothing to strive against! There would be no need to fight or struggle if you were not struggling and fighting against something!

This is no ordinary struggle. It is an unseen fight, a striving which occurs in the very depths of your mind and heart. Far too little emphasis has been placed on this aspect of conversion in modern preaching. This is an inward struggle.

It is a struggle with Satan himself. Have you forgotten about Satan? Do you think that he will stand by quietly and allow you to enter in to Christ without putting up a fight? Spurgeon preached two sermons on Luke 9:42,

“And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him” (Luke 9:42).

Nothing has changed. As I said, earlier, you are no different from people in Bible times. The Devil threw this young man down and tore him, to keep him from coming to Jesus. Spurgeon said,

Why does [the devil] throw the coming soul down and tear it?...because he does not like to lose it…his design is to throw you down…in order to keep thee from coming to Christ, and decoy thee into his net, where he may utterly destroy thee (C.H. Spurgeon, “The Comer’s Conflict With Satan,” The New Park Street Pulpit, Pilgrim Publications, 1981 reprint, volume II, p. 373).

Satan is the great enemy of your soul. He is

“…the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience”
       (Ephesians 2:2).

It is he who

“…hath blinded the minds of them which believe not”
      (II Corinthians 4:4).

It is,

“…the devil [that] taketh away the word out of [your] hearts, lest [you] should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12).

So, I say to you tonight, you must “strive to enter in at the strait gate,” for the Devil will do all he can to keep you from coming to Christ! He will tell some of you that it is too late – when it is not yet too late for you. He will tell some of you that this isn’t real – that there is no such thing as real conversion. He will put all kinds of questions and doubts in your heart to keep you from Christ. Spurgeon said, “Many a time when the soul is coming to Christ, Satan violently interjects infidel thoughts…He labours to inject blasphemous thoughts and then tells us they are ours” (Spurgeon, ibid., p. 372).

Spurgeon was only twenty-two years old when he preached this sermon, “The Comer’s Conflict With Satan.” He clearly remembered how Satan filled his mind with evil thoughts just before he was converted. Seven years earlier, at the age of fifteen, he said, “…on a sudden it seemed as if the floodgates of hell had been loosed…ten thousand evil spirits seemed to be holding carnival within my brain…Things I had never heard or thought of before came rushing impetuously into my mind, and I could scarce withstand their influence…But if you fear that these thoughts are your own, you may say, ‘I will go to Christ, and even if these blasphemies are mine…I know that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven [by Him]’” (Spurgeon, ibid., pp. 372-373). You must struggle against Satanic thoughts to enter in to Christ!

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

But there is another enemy to struggle against. You must struggle against the enmity of your own carnal mind,

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God” (Romans 8:7).

Unless you begin to realize that, because of the Fall, your entire relationship with God is wrong, you will not understand that your greatest enemy is yourself. Your own heart is wrong. Sin is not “primarily a matter of actions,” said Iain H. Murray, “Sinfulness is a graver problem than sins. ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God’…Until a person comes to know the truth about himself he can never approach the gospel in the right spirit. Without self-knowledge he may investigate, discuss and reason but it will do him no good at all” (Iain H. Murray, Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008, p. 74).

You will twist and turn, “Having a form of godliness” (II Timothy 3:5) until you realize that your own heart is sinful to the core. All you can do is ask questions, like Nicodemus. Jesus said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). All Nicodemus could say was, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9). “How can I be born again?” “How can I come to Christ?” – all questions like that show that you still trust your own sense of reason. “I can reason this out. If I just have a little more information I can figure out how to come to Him.” A person can go on like that for years, twisting and turning, without ever being converted. As Iain Murray said, “he may investigate, discuss and reason but it will do him no good at all.” Instead of discussing and reasoning, you must

“Strive to enter in” (Luke 13:24).

Struggle against your own pride, your own desperate unwillingness to submit to Christ. Struggle to see yourself as a doomed sinner, whose heart is unwilling to trust Christ, whose pride seeks to understand what a sinful man cannot understand, whose whole approach is only to “learn more” – rather than to see himself for what he is – an enemy of God. Have you ever faced the question of your attitude toward Christ? Have you admitted to yourself that you are a rebel against Him? Have you admitted to yourself that you feel you know more about this than He does? If not, you can never experience real conversion. “Strive to enter in.” Struggle against your own mind and heart, until you can honestly and truthfully say, in the words of an old hymn,

I give up myself, and whatever I know,
   Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
(“Whiter Than Snow” by James Nicholson, 1828-1896).

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

II. Second, why you may give up the struggle.

I know it will grate the ears of some, but the simple fact is still there on the pages of Scripture. You may give up the struggle to enter in to Christ because you are not “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God” (I Peter 1:2). Who can dare to say that election is not taught in Scripture? Whether we understand it or not, there it is, on the pages of the Bible, staring you in the face, “The election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded” (Romans 11:7).

If it is true that you are not “elect according to the foreknowledge of God” then, of course, you will not “strive to enter in at the strait gate.” If that is your case, you will sit and hear sermon after sermon with no depth of thought, no concern for your soul, no thoughts of eternity, no anguish of heart, until “the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door” (Luke 13:25).

“And the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not” (Matthew 25:10-12).

“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),

before the door is closed, and you are doomed to the “lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). Struggle “to enter in” now, before it is too late!

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

III. Third, how struggling prepares you to enter in to Christ.

To paraphrase the Puritan Thomas Hooker, “If you continue to strive you will be saved.” Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). “Only the violently resolute would press into it” (The Scofield Study Bible; note on Matthew 11:12). As Thomas Hooker put it, “If you continue to strive you will be saved.” On the other hand, if you do not continue to strive, you will not be saved!

One preacher said something that is worth thinking about. He said, “Your striving must fail! The benefit is in failing.” What did he mean? This is a deep point, and well worth thinking about for days! “The benefit is in failing.” You see, when you strive with all your heart and soul – and fail – it may bring you, at last, to the end of yourself. You may then say with Jonah,

“When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord”
       (Jonah 2:7).

When your soul faints under the heavy labor of striving you may find that Jesus was right all the time, when He said those wonderful words that you have ignored so long,

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

Dr. Hymers, please come and close this service.


WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

(END OF SERMON)
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Prayer Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Unpardonable Sin” (author unknown;
sung to the tune of “O Set Ye Open Unto Me”).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE BENEFIT OF STRIVING

A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
and preached by Mr. Noah Song

“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).

(Luke 13:26)

I.    First, what you must struggle against, Luke 9:42; Ephesians 2:2;
II Corinthians 4:4; Luke 8:12; Romans 8:7; II Timothy 3:5:
John 3:7, 9.

II.   Second, why you may give up the struggle, I Peter 1:2;
Romans 11:7; Luke 13:25; Matthew 25:10-12; Revelation 21:8.

III.  Third, how struggling prepares you to enter in to Christ,
Matthew 11:12; Jonah 2:7; Matthew 11:28.