This past week's Lac qui Parle County Fair reminded me of the days when I showed my horse, Molley, in our small county fair back in Michigan. Out of the many who entered the showmanship classes, only one was chosen to compete in the state fair. It was easy to show in the county fair--all you needed was a horse and an entry form--but much more difficult to show in the state fair.
Once a man asked Jesus, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" (Luke 13:23). Jesus had been preaching the good news of forgiveness for quite a while and was on his way to Jerusalem to live out that good news; he was on his way to suffer and die to earn forgiveness for the sins of mankind. How many people would actually receive that forgiveness? Would only a few of the many people who heard Jesus believe his message?
Jesus didn't give a simple yes or no answer. Jesus told those who were listening, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to" (Luke 13:24). Don't simply spend your time wondering who or how many will make it to heaven, but make every effort to get there yourself!
Why did Jesus say, "Make every effort" to enter heaven? Why does it take such effort? Because heaven isn't a wide open city open to everyone who approaches; rather, the gateway to heaven is a "narrow door." If it weren't for Jesus, we wouldn't even have that narrow door. Our sins close heaven up completely; sinners have no chance of entering heaven at all. God gives heaven to those who obey him perfectly in thought, word and action. No human being has ever lived up to that standard. We all deserve to be shut out of heaven forever, to be separated from God for eternity in the punishment of hell.
Even though we don't deserve it, God opens a narrow door for us into heaven. That door is Jesus. By obeying God perfectly and by giving up his perfect life on the cross for us, Jesus earned forgiveness for all people. Those to whom God gives faith, look to Jesus alone as their only hope of entering heaven, and God gives them that eternal gift.
The door to heaven is truly narrow; Jesus alone is the way. The world is full of people seeking God and seeking to enjoy eternal joy and blessing in heaven, but Jesus himself said that "many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to." It is easy to try to enter heaven, just as it is easy to try to win a trip to the state fair. Actually getting there is much more difficult. You can only get to show in the state fair by being the best showman. You can only make it to heaven through Jesus, and through the faith and forgiveness God himself gives.
Jesus said, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door." Paul put it a different way: "Fight the good fight of faith" (I Timothy 6:12). Keep your faith strong to win that fight. Keep your faith strong through God's Word, by hearing what God has to say to you in the Bible, by seeing what God did for you through Jesus. Through his Word, God shows you how to fight off sin and temptation which can take your faith away and keep you out of heaven. Through his Word, God keeps your eyes on Jesus, your Savior, and brings you through the narrow door to heaven.