The Almost Christian 2

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits.

Luke 13:24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

Why should people examine their hearts? Why should they want to know how far a person may go and still not be a Christian? It is because “many will seek to enter and will not be able.” Again, notice carefully the language that Jesus uses. People should “strive” to enter through the narrow door. The word for “strive” means to agonize, struggle, and labor earnestly. Now, we must be careful to set out clearly that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is by free-grace alone. There is nothing we can do that will bring God into some form of obligation to us. However, that is not contradictory to the message of Scripture that we are to strive and seek.

Where are we to seek and strive? We are to strive and labor earnestly at the narrow door. Why are we told to strive there? It is because it is the only entrance. It appears that there are many others entering through the wide gates, but the narrow gate is where we are to put forth our labors. The reason that Jesus tells us to strive is because man will only seek to enter and will not be able. The word for “seek” in this passage (Luke 13:24) is a lot weaker than the word for “strive.” Striving includes labor and even agony, but seeking is more of an inquiry, a deliberating, though perhaps with some effort made. Again, this must not be seen as negating the glorious Gospel of free-grace, but rather it teaches us that our striving must come as a result of being under the grace of God. It also teaches us that grace will strengthen us in ways that the flesh cannot. We can only enter the gate by grace alone.

We must take notice of this Scripture and not try to water it down. The reason that we must strive is because many will just seek to enter and not be able to do so. Those who seek to enter (in contrast to strive) will not have the strength or ability to enter. It takes striving to enter. Now while this sounds like works to most people in our day, the text is not saying that our works qualify us to enter at the gate. The striving that is done is not an effort to earn something, but it is a great effort to recognize who we really are and the war that God works in us against our self and pride. It is the crucifying of self and the dying to self that is the striving and agonizing that we do.

This explains why people are almost Christians, at least to some degree. They deceive themselves into thinking that they are doing what a Christian does and so they think that they are converted. However, the outward acts that we usually attribute to Christians can be done by unbelievers as well. In another context, Jesus asked what we do more than others. Even unbelievers love those who love them, but believers are to love beyond that. In takes self-denial and at times an excruciating pain to the inner man in order to love those who hate us and abuse us. The inner man will agonize and feel inner pain as that sinful heart is in a fight to seek the Lord for grace that he may love those who are abusing him. That is striving in a way that can only be done by grace.

The almost Christian will be satisfied with a humility that is put on and perhaps may mistake a mellowing with age for true humility. The almost Christian is satisfied with outward morality rather than a broken heart that looks to grace alone for all things. The almost Christian is satisfied with looking to Christ for some things rather than all things. The almost Christian is satisfied with church attendance and outward faithfulness rather than seeking the glory of God in those things. The almost Christian is satisfied with saying prayers rather than seeking the living God in and by prayer. The almost Christian is satisfied with reading the Bible or perhaps even with serious Bible study, but the almost Christian does not pant after Christ in the reading and study of the Bible.

It is possible for the almost Christian to be thought of in church circles today as a spiritually mature person. It may be the case that there are many almost Christians (so to speak) filling the pulpits in our land and as leaders in the churches. We are so devoid of true Christianity today that almost Christianity is far ahead of the lukewarmness that passes for truth and reality in our day. It may be that a person that is going to strive to enter by true grace will have to leave the world and its pleasures. It may be that a person that is going to strive to enter by true grace will not have time for all the social things of the day and that even in the professing churches. It may be that a person that is going to strive to enter by true grace will be called many things by the accepted religious people of the day. It may be that a person that is going to strive to enter by true grace will be thought of as opposite of orthodoxy and as one who is antisocial. It may be, but perhaps it will have to be. Jesus said that striving was necessary. This means that we must strive regardless of what the easygoing folks want or say.

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