Introduction: Struggling. What a difficult word. Hebrews 12:4 speaks
of the “struggle against sin.” Is struggling what God wants of us?
Is it all He wants? I feel so inadequate because God has to forgive
me of the same sins over and over again. I teach others, why am I
still struggling? God offers to lift our burdens, should I ignore my
sin and let God handle it? If that is true, how can the Bible speak
of the “struggle” against sin? When Luke 13:24 tells us “to make
every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many … will
try to enter and will not be able to” this sounds like serious work.
I believe in righteousness by faith, not righteousness by works. How
can these texts be true? Let’s dive into the Bible and see what we
can learn about the Christian’s struggle!
- Struggle of the Few
- Read Luke 13:22-23. What question is asked of Jesus?
- What answer would you think Jesus would give?
- Read Luke 13:24. What is Jesus’ answer? Does he say “Yes,
only a few?” (He does not. He says “many” will try,
unsuccessfully, to enter. Thus, it seems that more do not
enter than enter. But, Jesus does not say only a few
enter. It is a narrow door and many fail to enter.)
- How do we enter this door? (It involves “effort” on
our part. “Make every effort to enter the narrow
- Read Luke 13:25. What does this tell us about entering
into the narrow door. What is the first requirement in our
“effort?” (Act promptly. It is a limited time offer
because “once the owner of the house gets up and closes
the door” it will be too late.)
- What requirement does the owner give for entering his
door, other than being prompt? (The owner needs to
know the person who wants to enter. That makes sense.
Who wants to let strangers into their home?)
- Since this is obviously a parable about God,
what does the all-knowing God need to know? What
does it mean “I don’t know … where you come
from?” (The owner says that he does not know the
most basic information about these people. He
does not even know their background.)
- Read Luke 13:26. Do the people correct the home owner? Is
this just a case of poor recollection?
- Read Luke 13:27. Does the owner admit this a matter of
mistaken recollection? (No. Apparently, just being around
the homeowner is not enough for him to know them. He does
not deny that he taught in their neighborhood or ate with
them. Notice again Luke 13:24 which says “many … will
try to enter and will not be able to.” This paints a
picture of people who want to enter. People who made some
effort to enter. The rejected people heard the teaching
of the owner, yet it does not say they followed the
teaching. Instead, the owner calls them “evildoers.”)
- Read Luke 13:28-30. What is NOT required to enter? (You do
not have to be Jewish (or part of the accepted group).
This is not a “group thing.” People from all over are
allowed to enter. You do not have to be “first” here on
earth to enter. This is not a worldly status thing.)
- Is this just a message to the Jewish nation of Jesus’
time? Or, are eternal principles stated here?
- If you say “eternal principles,” what do these verses
suggest is the key to entering? (Having the homeowner
know you. Making “every effort” to enter the door.
Not being classified among the “evildoers.” )
- Read Romans 1:21-23, 28. What does this suggest about this
idea of knowing God and God knowing us? (Just having the
knowledge is not enough. We have to think the knowledge
“worthwhile to retain” and we have to be thankful for it
and use it to glorify God.)
- What kind of a link can you begin to see between
“struggling” and being known by the homeowner?
- The Meaning of Struggling
- Read Romans 7:21-24. Does this sound like a struggle? If
so, what is the struggle about?
- Read Romans 7:25. Jesus will rescue us. The question is:
will He rescue us from the struggle or from something
else? (Jesus rescues us “from this body of death.”)
- Read Romans 8:1-3. From what do these verses suggest we
are rescued? (We are rescued from “condemnation.”)
- Read Colossians 1:19-23. What must I do to be free from
accusation? (Christ’s death on my behalf allows me to be
presented “holy” “without blemish and free from
accusation.” Here we are rescued from “accusation.”)
- What a glorious thing! We are rescued by Jesus from
both accusation and condemnation! Is that the end of
it? (The text looks towards the future. “If you
continue in your faith… not moved from the hope
held out in the gospel.” Being saved is a free gift.
Living the Christian life is a partnership with God.)
- Read Colossians 1:24-29. On what point is Paul struggling?
(Read Colossians 1:28-29 several times. Paul is working
with the power of the Holy Spirit (all His energy) to
promote the gospel. He is a partner with God in getting
the work done. My imagination sees Paul, like a fireman,
holding a water hose with tremendous water pressure. It
takes a partnership to do the best work to put out the
fire of evil in our life and the lives of others.)
- Life Struggle
- Read Matthew 5:27-30. Here is the ultimate work in
struggling – cutting off body parts! Let’s assume for a
minute that you regularly think lustful thoughts about the
opposite sex. Would pulling out your right eye fix that
- What if you have a compulsion to steal? Would
cutting off your right hand stop you from stealing?
(I suppose plucking out both eyes and cutting off
both hands might slow us down a bit – but these
things are more matters of the mind.)
- If Jesus is not asking us to cut off body parts – and
I don’t think He is – what does He mean by this
language? (He is calling us to radical action to
avoid sin. If you have a weakness for a particular
sin, then you should avoid doing things that might
not be sin, but which lead you closer to your
- Let’s ask the tough question. If salvation is a free gift
from God, then how can Jesus refer to “making every
effort” to enter the narrow door and cutting off body
parts to avoid being sent to hell (i.e., missing the
narrow door)? (We cannot earn salvation. Our reading in
Colossians 1:22 tells us that Jesus’ death on our behalf
makes us “without blemish and free from accusation.”
Romans 8:1 tells us there is no condemnation for those who
are in Jesus Christ. But, our Christian life does not end
with salvation. God expects us to push on in partnership
with Him. This partnership requires effort on our part to
resist our character defects and to promote the gospel.)
- So, what about my struggle with the same sins? What
about you and your struggle with the same sins? (I
think this is what the Christian life is about. When
you stop struggling, you are dead – eternally. Romans
7 & 8 are critical to this issue. If you are not
familiar with these chapters read them. Now read
Romans 8:12-14. I think this is where the struggle
exists in the life of the Christian. We are “by the
Spirit [to]… put to death the misdeeds of the body.
We also struggle to bring the gospel to others.)
- Friend, how about you? Have you turned your life over to
God? Have you determined to set your mind on what God
requires, rather than what your nature requires? Are you
serious about, through God’s power and His partnership,
putting to death the deeds of the body? God calls us to
turn our hearts and our minds over to Him to live a life
in accord with His will.
- Next week: Indestructible Hope.