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COUNTING THE COST – AND STRUGGLING TO ENTER IN!

A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
and preached by Mr. John Samuel Cagan
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, December 17, 2017

“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).


Christ was dealing with the issue of salvation. A man said to Him, “Are there few that be saved?” (Luke 13:23). Jesus then turned to the entire crowd. He told them what they must do to be saved. He told them “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.” The “strait gate” is Christ Himself. The word “strive” is from the plural form of the Greek word “agonizōmai.” Danker Bauer (Danker Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, University of Chicago Press, 2000, p. 17) indicates that the word originally had to do with struggling in an athletic contest. Later, in New Testament times, it came to be used to describe fighting and struggling. It was used in that sense by the Apostle Paul when he said “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7).

So the word “agonizōmai” speaks of fighting and struggling. In our text, it refers to fighting and struggling to enter in to Christ, who is the “strait gate.” Dr. Lenski said, “We have the strong verb ‘struggle’ [agonizesthe] from which we still have ‘to agonize’…We are to exert ourselves to the utmost to enter…This is the opposite of indifference, being…careless, or living in false security” (R. C. H. Lenski, D.D., The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, Augsburg Publishing House, 1961 reprint, p. 747; note on Luke 13:23). Dr. Lenski translated our text as, “Struggle to go in through the narrow door” (ibid., p. 746). Dr. Lenski went on to say,

When it is too late, they wake up and “seek” to enter and cannot “succeed”…because the door is shut. Hence we have the future tenses “will seek,” “will not succeed.” Both point to the time when the door will be shut…Repentance…will then be impossible (R. C. H. Lenski, D.D., ibid., p. 748).

There is an old hymn that says it all,

Have you counted the cost, if your soul should be lost,
   Though you gain the whole world for your own?
Even now it may be that the line you have crossed,
   Have you counted, have you counted the cost?
(“Have You Counted the Cost?” by A. J. Hodge, 1923).

“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).

You must struggle to enter in to Christ. You must fight to enter into Christ. You must move with all of your energy as if your life depended on it. Have you ever seen a video of an antelope run away from a lion? That antelope runs with all of its energy and strength. That animal runs with every ounce of strength within itself in order to escape from the jaws of death. There is also a lion chasing you. That lion is the Devil. Therefore, you must struggle against Satan. And not only that, you must struggle against your own depraved nature. You must struggle against your pride and unwillingness to submit to Christ. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “No man ever became a Christian without stopping to look at himself” (Iain H. Murray, Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008, p. 212).

Have you ever seen yourself as a doomed sinner? Have you ever faced the question of your rebellion against Christ? Have you admitted to yourself that you think you know more about this than He does? Have you admitted to yourself that you are a rebel against Him, that you have shunned Him, and thwarted His love, and pushed Him away all these months and years? Have you admitted all that to Him – and to yourself? If not, you may never enter into Him, you may never be converted, you may never move beyond merely “learning, and never [being] able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:7).

“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).

Have you counted the cost, if your soul should be lost,
   Though you gain the whole world for your own?
Even now it may be that the line you have crossed,
   Have you counted, have you counted the cost?

“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).

I. First, think of what will happen to you if you do not struggle to enter in.

“The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that…obey not the gospel” (II Thessalonians 1:7-8).

Dr. W. G. T. Shedd pointed out that,

Endless punishment is rational…because it is supported by human conscience. The sinner’s own conscience will “bear witness” and approve the condemning sentence “in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16)… The Westminster Larger Catechism 89 [says] that “the wicked, upon clear evidence and full conviction of their own consciences, shall have the just sentence of condemnation pronounced against them” (W.G.T. Shedd, Ph.D., Dogmatic Theology, P and R Publishing, 2003 edition, p. 920).

As Frederick W. Faber put it,

O fearful thought! One act of sin
Within itself contains
The power of endless hate by God,
And everlasting pains.
   (Frederick W. Faber, 1814-1863).

You may be seated. Dr. Shedd told us,

Sin is the suicidal action of the human will. A man is not forced to kill himself; but if he does, he cannot bring himself back to life again. And a man is not forced to sin, but if he does, he cannot of himself get back where he was before sinning. He cannot get back to innocency. [He becomes a slave of sin]. “Whosoever commits sin is the slave of sin,” says Christ (John 8:34); (Shedd, ibid., pp. 923-924).

Again, Dr. Shedd told us,

…that endless punishment is reasonable is proved by the preference of the wicked themselves. The unsubmissive, rebellious, defiant and impenitent spirit prefers hell to heaven. Milton correctly represents Satan as saying… “It is better to reign in hell than serve in heaven”…The wicked would be no happier in heaven than in hell…The ungodly man prefers the…freedom to sin…to the purity of Christian society (Shedd, ibid., p. 926).

“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved” (John 3:19-20).

Have you counted the cost, if your soul should be lost,
   Though you gain the whole world for your own?
Even now it may be that the line you have crossed,
   Have you counted, have you counted the cost?

Jesus said,

“Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).

“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41).

The Bible says,

“The fearful, and unbelieving…and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

Think, think! Think what will happen to you if you do not obey Christ’s command!

“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).

Have you counted the cost, if your soul should be lost,
   Though you gain the whole world for your own?
Even now it may be that the line you have crossed,
   Have you counted, have you counted the cost?

Dr. Hymers knew a man that had been dead for seven days before they found his body. He said, “Close the casket – he’s rotting!” But the family would not listen. They had to walk by the coffin and look down into his rotting face. His teeth protruded from his decayed lips. Think of it! Your face will some day rot away like that! But your soul will sink down into everlasting flames!

“Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isaiah 33:14).

O God! “Who among us this night shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”

Have you counted the cost, if your soul should be lost,
   Though you gain the whole world for your own?
Even now it may be that the line you have crossed,
   Have you counted, have you counted the cost?

“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).

Ah, soul, wilt thou not escape from these horrors? Not without striving to enter in – not without striving and struggling, nay fighting, with all thy vigor and force to enter in to Christ!

“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).

II. Second, how you must struggle to enter in.

A man in his natural state must struggle to be convicted of sin, to feel his sin-nature – to know his need for salvation! But how can a natural man prepare himself? There are some things that you must perform – with zeal, with exertion, with intensity:

1.  You must hear the Word of God. The Bible says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). You must listen carefully to the words of the sermon. Do not sit there in front of the speaker with a closed mind and a closed heart. Do not sit there with a mind that is far from the truths that are being delivered to you. If you do this, you are not striving to enter in. You are still only fooling around. You must get serious, and listen seriously. You must fight against your tendency to feel sleepy during the service. You must fight against your sinful nature which gets distracted when the sermon is given. You must muster up every ounce of energy within yourself, and soak in the Law and the Gospel as if your life depended on it. Strive to enter in. Listen to the preaching of the Word of God.

2.  You must read the sermons carefully and seriously after they are preached. Serious application of the mind and examination of the truth in order to understand and feel its force. “Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given” (Luke 8:18). Some people read the sermons just for the sake of saying that they did so. They are not really striving in. They are just fooling themselves into not feeling guilty for not trying to be saved. They are just lying to their own soul by telling themselves that they are only doing their best. No, you are not doing your best. You cannot remember what the sermons say even though you say you read them every day. You either read the sermons absent-mindedly or not at all. You are not striving to enter in unless you read the sermons seriously and carefully. There is a girl in our church who began to read the sermons, and then she underlined the parts that seemed especially important to her. She agonized over the sermons. She struggled through the points of the sermon. She put all of her energy and all of her strength into reading the sermons. She was serious. She was careful. She strived, and so it was not long until she was saved. However, there are others, that go for months and even years, without ever making any kind of spiritual progress. And in your most honest moments, you blame others, you blame the pastor, you blame the counselor, you even blame God. But you should blame yourself, because you are not striving to enter in. Maybe you are seeking to enter in, but you are probably not even doing that. Seeking to enter in will result in your soul being lost forever. You must strive to enter in. You must read the sermons seriously. You must read them carefully. You must read them even when you don’t believe it will help. You must read them even when you are tired and you would rather forget about your soul. You must strive. You must fight for the salvation of your soul. You must read the sermons. The use of these means of conviction tends to produce a sense of the requirements of the law and failure to obey them, and to bring the lost soul under conviction of sin.

3.  You must pray for the work of the Holy Spirit in conviction of sin. The Bible says, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13). Have you ever prayed for your soul? Are you so confident in your own strength that you won’t even ask God to help you? That is not striving to enter in. The Bible says, “Ye have not, because you ask not” (James 4:2). You must pray for your soul. Be honest with God. Pray even if your heart is filled with unbelief. Pray with urgency and struggle in your heart. Pray every night for your soul. Pray for God’s Spirit to convict you of sin until your heart is softened and your mind is filled with horror at the thought of your sin – and your need for Christ to save you. (Abbreviated from Shedd, ibid., page 774).

“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).

Have you counted the cost, if your soul should be lost,
   Though you gain the whole world for your own?
Even now it may be that the line you have crossed,
   Have you counted, have you counted the cost?

I pray that you will be convicted of sin, and that God will draw you to Jesus, “The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Amen.


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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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Have You Counted the Cost?” (by A. J. Hodge, 1923).


THE OUTLINE OF

COUNTING THE COST – AND STRUGGLING TO ENTER IN!

A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
and preached by Mr. John Samuel Cagan

“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 13:23; II Timothy 4:7; 3:7)

I.   First, think of what will happen to you if you do not struggle
to enter in, II Thessalonians 1:7-8; Romans 2:16;
John 8:34; 3:19-20; Matthew 25:30, 41; Revelation 21:8;
Isaiah 33:14.

II.  Second, how you must struggle to enter in, Romans 10:17;
Luke 8:18; 11:13; John 1:29.