A Bloody Entrance
The kingdom of heaven is ‘suffering violence,’ and I hope that you are part of the reason. You see, Christians are not tame, mellow people. They fight, and they fight hard. Like a besieging army, they have determined to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and despite all the locked gates, celestial powers, and worldly forces lined up to oppose them, they will not be prevented.
Strive to Enter
Jesus told His disciples very plainly: “Strive to enter through the narrow door” (Luke 13:24). The word strive means to struggle, contend, or fight. In fact, the Greek word is agonizomai – and from that word we get the modern agonize. Yes, Christians agonize to enter the narrow door.
In another passage, Jesus described the same situation when he said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). Yes, this is ‘violent language.’ You might think it describes evil people. On the contrary, it describes the citizens of this heavenly kingdom: Christians who fight for an entrance.
Many modern churches are desperate for decisions. They eagerly anticipate the day when a man or woman will ‘decide’ to follow Jesus Christ, as if that is sufficient. Jesus did not exactly see things the same way. When Jesus urged his followers to strive for an entrance, he gave a severe warning to motivate them. “For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24).
What prevents so many from entering the kingdom of God? While there are many reasons, Jesus provides two distinct answers. First, Religious teachers who do not serve the living God are one opponent. Jesus told the Scribes and Pharisees, “For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” It is as if false teaching about God, or morality-based religion (rather than Christ-based religion), can lock the doors of heaven!
Sometimes (as Jesus explains in the parable of the soils, Matthew 13:21) it is tribulation or persecution that deters seekers from entering the Kingdom. Despite accepting the truth, the combined weight of spiritual powers and worldly opposition prevents professing Christians from continuing to follow Jesus.
What About You?
Please don’t misunderstand Jesus. He never claimed that you can work hard enough, or fight desperately enough, to enter the kingdom. Salvation is a work of grace, a work of God’s grace. When Jesus spoke of ‘striving,’ he meant that Christians show a determination – a holy resolve to stop at nothing, and they will not be dissuaded. When they enter that glorious kingdom, they will give all the praise to God who strengthened them for the fight.
Fighting is messy, bloody work. Is your Christian life characterized by this? If you were to do a ‘spiritual inventory,’ does your spiritual life look like a warrior’s agonizing battle, or a comfy, coffee-shop Christianity? Have you obtained a bloody entrance?