Friday, June 11, 2010

Entering the Kingdom of God

There have been many kingdoms down through the ages. Kingdoms come and kingdoms go. Some are very famous, like the Babylonian kingdom or the Roman Empire. The kingdom is the realm in which a king has dominion. It includes the territory in which the king reigns and everything in it, especially the people.

Kingdoms offer something to the people. It may be that a kingdom provides a place of peace for people to live. It may also provide the hope of prosperity, where there are many opportunities for gainful employment and service to the king, and where everything is well managed without oppression. People want to enter into such a kingdom.

For example, during the time of the Roman Empire, there was Pax Romana or the Roman peace. The Romans built roads, and established seaways for shipping. There were laws established to govern the land that made it possible for people to enjoy justice. As a result, people sought to be citizens of Rome. Some people paid a lot of money to buy their Roman citizenship, while others were born as Roman citizens.

We see the same today where for decades people have immigrated to the United States of America. Some enter legally and pay a great price, and others do so illegally. Why do they do this? They do so in the hope of a better life, safety from harm, freedom and a bright future.

So there are many similarities with the Kingdom of God. This is the realm in which God Almighty reigns and where his government has been established. Many people would like to enjoy the hope, the peace, protection, prosperity and bright future afforded by living in this kingdom. But in order to do so, they first need to enter the kingdom. There is a very specific way to enter a kingdom.

Jesus Christ was the self-representation of the Kingdom of God on earth. If you want to know what the Kingdom of God is like, simply look at the life of Jesus. And He taught us how to enter His kingdom.

You Must Be Born Again
Let’s begin by looking at a conversation that took place at night between Jesus and a Pharisee. Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." (Joh 3:1-2).

Nicodemus was a Jewish ruler who believed that Jesus came from God and that God was with Him. When Nicodemus declared this belief, Jesus had a very interesting response to him. Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (Joh 3:3). The first thing Jesus spoke of was the need to see the kingdom of God. You can’t see it the same way you can see other kingdoms. In order to see this one, you must first be born again.

But even this Jewish ruler was unsure what it meant to be born again. Nicodemus *said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" (Joh 3:4). Nicodemus knew that Jesus could not be speaking of a natural second birth. This would be humanly impossible.

Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (Joh 3:5-6). From Jesus’ answer, we learn two very important things. First, Jesus clarified and defined what He meant by being born again. He said we must be born of water and the Spirit. Secondly, He said that this is necessary in order to enter the Kingdom of God. In doing so, Jesus revealed a close relationship between seeing and entering the Kingdom of God. You’ve got to be able to see it before you can enter it. And if you truly see it, you will want to enter it.

So being born again is being born of water and of the Spirit. Jesus further explained, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Joh 3:6). So we know that when a mother gives birth, she gives birth to a child with flesh and bone. But when the Spirit of God gives birth, He gives birth to spirit. When you are born again, you are born of the Spirit. Jesus said this must happen to enter the kingdom. He said that unless it has happened, you cannot enter the kingdom. Yet how many people attend churches all their life that have never been born again!

When you are born again, Jesus Christ takes up residence in you by the Holy Spirit. You are a new creation. Old things have passed away and all things have become new. Your life starts over. Your sins are washed away and you are given a brand new life. It cannot happen without you knowing about it. You will know if you have been born again. You will be able to point back to a time when your life was completely changed by God. If you cannot identify a point in your life when this happened, then you haven’t been born again.

So how can you be born again? Jesus explained, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (Joh 3:16). You need to believe in Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, and you will have eternal life.

A Greater Righteousness
Jesus also said, "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:20). The scribes and Pharisees were pretty righteous people in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. But not in God’s eyes! They had an outward righteousness that came from the law. But it was a self-generated kind of righteousness, and their hearts were not right.

God is truly righteous. His righteousness is perfect. How would you like to have that kind of righteousness? You can. In fact, you must have it, in order to please God. Your own righteousness is like filthy rags. You obtain the righteousness of God by receiving it as a gift from Him and you receive it by believing in Jesus Christ.

Let me tell you something: you can’t go on living an unrighteous life and enter God’s kingdom. You can’t enter heaven that way. The apostle Paul said, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1Co 6:9,10).

There’s got to be a change in your life. Paul went on to tell the Corinthians that some of them once were this kind of people, but they had been washed, sanctified, and made righteous by Jesus Christ. I can say to you today that I was once among that list of people who will not inherit the kingdom. But I have been washed, sanctified, and justified. I've entered the kingdom.

Do the Heavenly Father’s Will
Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Mat 7:21). There are so many people who call Jesus “Lord” that do not do the will of God. They do not act on what Jesus said. But the only way to enter the kingdom of heaven is to do the will of Jesus’ Father in heaven.

Become Like Children
Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 18:3). Notice He said you must be converted and become like children. A change has to happen in your life. You’ve got to become like children. A child is trusting of his father. He’s gentle, caring, innocent, loving. He hasn’t been polluted by the world yet. You’ve got to change and become like that. This is necessary in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.
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Give What You Have and Follow Jesus

And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 19:23). And Jesus, looking around, *said to His disciples, "How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!" (Mar 10:23).

Why is it so hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven? It’s because he is in love with his worldly wealth and possessions. He cannot stand the thought of giving it away to others. He doesn't want to get out of his comfort zone.

This is what happened when a rich man came and asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. The man had kept the commandments since he was a boy, but Jesus told him he lacked one thing. Isn’t that amazing! He lacked just one thing. He needed to sell his possessions and give to the poor, then follow Jesus. But the man went away sad. He could have had treasures beyond compare in heaven for eternity, but he could not see his way to parting with his earthly wealth.

You need to give up your possessions and follow Jesus in order to enter the kingdom.

Remove Anything That Hinders
Jesus said, "If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell.” (Mar 9:47). He said you need to remove whatever causes you to stumble. Get rid of it. Don’t protect it or try to keep it a secret so you can continue in sin. Aggressively remove from your life anything that causes you to stumble.

You need to bring that thing into the light. Tell a trusted friend, who is a mature believer in Christ. Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. (Jam 5:16). This is missing from the lives of most believers. But it's required in order to be a disciple. Make yourself accountable to a fellow believer who will be gracious, but will not give you a pass to continue in your sin. You don't need someone who will put a pillow under your head and lull you back to sleep with excuses why your sin is ok. If you're a guy, confess to a brother in the Lord. If your a female, confess to a sister in the Lord.

There will be plenty of people who are thrown into hell, because they were unwilling to get rid of the things that caused them to stumble. They enjoyed their sin too much. But there will also be plenty of people who enter the kingdom of heaven who took drastic measures to remove anything that hindered the presence of God in their lives.

Enter the Kingdom Through Many Troubles
The apostle Paul went about strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." (Act 14:22). He didn’t teach that being a disciple was an easy life. And neither did Jesus, who also said we would have tribulations. This means pressure, anguish, persecution, and troubles.

If you're like me, you've got plenty of these. We could wish they would just go away. But they often bring about a brokenness in us, as well as greater intimacy with God. While we may experience these in our lives, we can be encouraged, because Jesus Christ has overcome the world.

It is Only Possible with God
When Jesus spoke about how hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God, the disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." They were even more astonished and said to Him, "Then who can be saved?" (Mar 10:25-26). You see, when his disciples heard Him teach on this, they could not see how it was humanly possibly for anyone to be saved with the standard set so high.

Looking at them, Jesus *said, "With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God." (Mar 10:27). This is the key. Humanly speaking, it is in fact impossible to enter the kingdom of God. With man, it’s impossible. That’s why people need Jesus. With Him, it is possible to enter the kingdom. This is the reason Jesus came and died on the cross.

But His disciples had already left everything to follow Jesus. Peter began to say to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You." Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mar 10:28-30). You don’t ever have to worry that the price you’ve paid is too high. Jesus promises great reward in this present age and the age to come.

Putting it All Together
So we can see from God’s Word that if you want to be a citizen of God’s kingdom, you need to enter it. In order to enter, you must be born again. You need a new life. You need Jesus to come and live inside you by His Spirit. You need a greater righteousness than what pious people have. You need one that’s not man-made. You need the righteousness of God Himself. Nothing else will do. And the only way to have it is to receive it by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

You’ve got to do the Heavenly Father’s will. There’s no other way. You can’t expect to inherit the kingdom if you live your life the way you want to live it. If you go on living for yourself, you’ll perish. So do what Jesus said. Act on His Words.

One thing He said was that we must become as children. A change has got to take place inside of you that people can see. Your attitude and behavior must change. He also said you need to be a giver. Give what you have and follow Jesus. Part with your earthly possessions for His sake.

And get rid of anything in your life that hinders the constant presence of God. It’s not going to be easy. We'll have troubles and hardships. In fact, Jesus said straight up that it’s hard to enter the Kingdom of God. But with God it's possible, and it’s worth it. He promises a great reward in this life and the next.

Author's note: Also see All Things Are New!  And you may find my complete collection of blogs at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Him.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.



Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He has been based in Eastern Europe, helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. He is currently on furlough, off the field, praying and seeking the Lord's guidance regarding where to be, and for the provision to fulfill the mission. www.dmiworld.org.

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