A Season of Preparation
Luke 13:22-25 "Strive to enter through the narrow door...."
The season of the church year that we are in is known as Advent. The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1), His baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and His first miracle at Cana (John 2:1). During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas. From that change, we have come to the point where this season has little to do with preparation and more to do with enjoyment and celebration.
Yet, in the midst of holiday celebrations, shopping, lights and decorations, and parties, Advent is intended to be a season of fasting, much like Lent. As such, there are a variety of ways that this time of mourning can work itself out in the season. Reflection on the violence and evil in the world should cause us to cry out to God to make things right—to put death’s dark shadows to flight. For the church and what we are experiencing in this present world, the animosity and slander leveled at us in the present should make us look forward to our future Exodus. And our own sinfulness, spiritual poverty and need for grace should lead us to pray for the Holy Spirit to renew His work in conforming us into the image of Christ so as to prepare us for the day of His return to this world in the final judgment so that we can go back with Him as He promised.
In this passage of scripture, Jesus is asked a question that gives way to an important teaching on preparation for His return and the final judgment. In answer to a question that had been asked by Jews since the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, “would many or few be saved in the final judgment,” Jesus basically says that the important thing to be focused on is being prepared. He makes a very stunning statement in His answer that is in direct contrast to what many people believe today. He says, “There is a narrow door that one must strive to enter through, for many will try but will not be able.”
We must ask ourselves, what is this narrow door? And, what will it take to enter through it?
Looking at the context, we see that Jesus has been teaching on repentance and faith in God. In order to prepare for His return and be ready to enter through that narrow door, we must repent of our sins and exercise faith in God by receiving and submitting our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is this a narrow door? It is because this is not just about being baptized and being a part of a local church. It is not about being a good person from a good family.
You see, people have their own estimation of themselves and their goodness. People also believe that they own themselves. As such, the contemporary mindset is that a person can live as he or she wants to live without any regard to God or His standard and still expect to go to heaven when they die. Even in the church, there is not this serious concern for God’s standard of righteousness. We have watered down righteousness. We, like the early Christians who shifted this season from penance, prayer and fasting in preparation for the Lord’s return to shopping, gift giving and celebration without any regard to the Lord’s second coming. We have shifted our focus from God’s standard and our standard; from God’s ways to our ways.
Yet, God’s word still speaks loudly, “I am the Lord, I do not change.” (Mal. 3:6). Just because we change our perspective based on the tenor of the times and the influence of society does not at all mean that God changes. There is still this narrow door that we must strive to enter through if we will be saved. We must strive because it is difficult to resist the pull of society and the mindsets of people we associate ourselves with; yet, if we are to see the Lord and enter His eternal Kingdom, He is calling us to His standard.
For us today, it calls for recognition of the fact that we have fallen away and that we need to repent and return to Him in faith and commitment to do His will. In this season of preparation, it is my prayer that many people will receive this teaching, turn our backs on the worldly ways and mindsets, repent of our sins, and in humble submission to His will, commit ourselves to living according to His will and His way. Also, because faith comes by hearing the Word of God, I pray that we will commit ourselves to spreading the gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world of people so that others will come to faith in Him, live and prepare to go back with Him when He returns.
"Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers." (Proverbs 11:14 NLT)