This month’s guest devotion is written by Rev. David Mahsman. Pastor Mahsman is completing his time as a missionary in the Eurasia Region and returning home to the United States. He has served as the Managing Director for The Wittenberg Project, seeing in through from its inception to the renovations, grand opening, and first year of its use. We are grateful for his service and wish he and Lois all God’s blessings on this next chapter in their lives. Here is Rev. Mahsman’s final guest devotion for us.
–By Rev. David Mahsman
He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Luke 13:22-23 ESV).
This passage reminds me of a “Little Rascals” short from the 1930s. You might have seen it on TV. Alfalfa is a private eye. He and two younger pals climb into a trunk and end up in a spooky “funhouse,” but they don’t realize what it is. At one point, they have to go through one of two doors. Which would it be?
Finally, Alfalfa pulls one of the doors open, and a monster springs out. The rascals scream and run through the other door—with an even worse fate in store.
Much more seriously, Jesus warns us not to pick the wrong door.
Jesus was preaching and teaching in one little village after another. Someone asked, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?”
Jesus doesn’t give a simple “yes” or “no.” Instead, He tells everyone to make sure that they will be among those who are saved—by going through the narrow door , the right door. He says that many will try to be saved but will not, because they tried the wrong door.
And what is the right door? Jesus Himself is the right door! He spoke as the only way to enter the kingdom of God. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Jesus confronts His hearers about their own personal relationship to Him as He identifies Himself as the “narrow door.”
He talks about how narrow that door really is. He describes the door to heaven as the door to a house that the owner will not open to some of those who want in.
You don’t get in by claiming to have eaten with the Master of the house, or to have heard the Lord teach in the streets. This wouldn’t qualify for salvation. The Master’s response would be damning: “I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!” (v.27).
“But, Lord, I went to church. I took communion. For heaven’s sake, I was a Lutheran missionary!”
“I don’t know you. Get away!”
This is not good. The opposite of salvation is being thrown out of the kingdom of God — excluded from the presence of God and from His blessings, forever.
Don’t pick the wrong door!
There’s only one door into the kingdom of God. We can’t squeeze through with our own goodness or merit.
In the words of the Reformation, we are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. We are saved because God has had mercy on us and sent His Son to live the perfect life we cannot live and to suffer the punishment we deserve. Now He gives us the faith to trust in Jesus as our only door into heaven. By trusting Christ alone—not trusting anything in ourselves, not thinking that we can be good enough or do something to add to what Christ has done—by trusting only in what Christ has done for us, we have eternal life as a free gift.
Maybe you think I’m preaching to the choir. I hope I am. But, unfortunately, surveys of Lutherans (and members of other churches, too) pretty consistently have bad news as far as where folks put their hope for eternal life.
Back in 2000, a survey by the Barna Research Group asked, “Can a good person earn his way to heaven?” More than half of Lutherans, 54 percent, said “yes.”
A newer study, by Pew Research from 2008, found that 82 percent of Lutherans said, “Many religions can lead to eternal life.”
These are tragic answers!
We are justified before God only through faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible says we are “justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom. 3:28).
Of Jesus, the Bible says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
None of us is perfect. Many of you probably come closer to perfection than I do, but none of us can live up to God’s demands.
Thank God we don’t have to. Thank God He sent His only Son to do it for us—to live up to His Father’s demands in our place, and to suffer and die in our place. So that we can live, and live as children of the one true God!
There are many wrong doors. But God shows us the right door. Jesus Christ is that door. And through that Door, through Christ alone, we have forgiveness, peace with God, and abundant and eternal life.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, You sent Your only Son to live and to die for us so that by trusting only in His merits, we can live with You forever. Thank you for this priceless gift! May we tell others of your love for them and the free give of eternal life that you offer to all people. In the name of Jesus, Amen.