What matters is true faith and love for Jesus. He is the narrow door and putting our full trust in Him is the “effort” he is speaking of.
Jesus was always pressing on toward Jerusalem where he would give His life. He loved and longed for his people there to receive him. Jesus grieved over the unwillingness of his people to repent and believe the Good News.
While on his way to Jerusalem, teaching in the smaller villages, someone asked the question, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” Perhaps this person had heard some of the Lord’s difficult teachings or even saw some of his followers turning away. With only a handful of disciples, it would make sense to ask the question. At first glance, Jesus’s reply seems to indicate that personal effort, or hard work, as the NIV states, is required to enter the Kingdom. He replied,
“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
Jesus went on to illustrate how some may believe they deserve to be in God’s Kingdom because they were with him as he taught. “We ate and drank with you, and you taught us in our streets” (v.26). In essence, Jesus says many will say they knew me, that they had fellowship with me, but I never knew them. They were not my true followers nor did they have a relationship with me.
Jesus’s teaching here reminds us that it’s not enough to claim a knowledge of him or some type of affiliation with His Church. Many of his listeners would miss their opportunity because they had put their “faith” in their religion instead of him. He was referring to the religious leaders and all those who failed to acknowledge Him as the Messiah and the only way to eternal life. Jesus made it clear that having the appearance of good but lacking a true relationship with him would not fool God (Read Luke 13:25-27).
Appearances can be deceiving. But God is never tricked by our hypocrisy for he knows our hearts. We can fool others with filling a seat on Sunday, serving meals to the homeless, teaching a class and any number of religious activities but God knows those whose hearts are committed to Him. Sincere faith will be demonstrated by faithfulness in worship and serving others and by using our gifts to build the church but let’s not forget that a true RELATIONSHIP with Jesus (THE NARROW DOOR) is how we enter and remain in God’s Kingdom.
God will judge religious hypocrisy, which is what Jerusalem and its leaders had been known for, but He will honor those who truly desire to honor him with their lives and to know him more.
You may be tempted to believe that simply being affiliated with Jesus and His Church puts you in a right relationship with God but, according to this teaching you and I can be deceived and the consequences are eternal. What matters is true faith and love for Jesus. He is the narrow door and putting our full trust in Him is the “effort” he is speaking of.
We who believe in Jesus and what he did at Calvary have forsaken every other way to earn God’s favor or escape his judgment. Jesus is the only way to enter the Kingdom. Every day we are reminded that we fall short. But there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). Every day we are tempted to hide our sins and defects of character for there is hypocrisy lurking in each of us. So make every effort to be sincere in your faith and honest about your shortcomings trusting wholeheartedly in Jesus, the Narrow Door by which we enter into life.