It is not straight forward to enter another country. E.g. In 2000 I hoped to travel to Afghanistan 18 months before 9/11. I just couldn’t get my Pakistan visa to fly to Peshawar. Or when I travelled through western Africa needed a Yellow Fever inoculation. Without the certificate, you cannot travel. Many people try to avoid paying the £60 or so by bribing local officials or risking an injection of who-knows-what!
Once in the country you are committed to living differently. For example to use its money, drive on the correct side of the road, respect its laws. It is no good saying “I’m British, I can do things the way we do at home”. It is the same with entering the Kingdom of God. We need a visa to get in, and then live as its citizens.
Summary of the Kingdom series so far:
1. It is an Upside down kingdom:
Again and again in parables, sermons, and acts Jesus startles us. Things are not like they are supposed to be. The stories don’t end as we expected. The Good Guys turn out to be the Bad Guys. The ones we expected to receive a reward are losers. Things are reversed. Paradox, irony, and surprise permeate the life of Jesus. The least are the greatest. The immoral receive forgiveness and blessing. Adults become like children. The religious miss the heavenly banquet. The pious receive curses. Things are just not like we think they should be. We are baffled, perplexed, and most of all surprised. We are caught off guard. We step back in amazement. We aren’t sure if we should laugh or cry. The kingdom surprises us again and again by turning our world upside down.
2. The Kingdom of God is Spiritual not Physical: It is dynamic not institutional
3.The Kingdom of God was foretold, the Kingdom of God is present, the Kingdom of God lies in the future
At the height of His ministry "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power." (Mark 9:1-9)
4. The Kingdom blesses us with God’s forgiveness, God’s care, God’s family, and we receive God’s Holy Spirit.
John Ortberg pictures belonging to the Kingdom in these rooted terms:
…. all marriages would be healthy and all children would be safe. Those who have too much would give to those who have too little. Israeli and Palestinian children would play together on the West Bank; their parents would build homes for one another. In offices and corporate boardrooms, executives would secretly scheme to help their colleagues succeed; they would compliment them behind their backs. Tabloids would be filled with accounts of courage and moral beauty. Talk shows would feature mothers and daughters who love each other deeply, wives who give birth to their husbands’ children, and men who secretly enjoy dressing as men.
Disagreements would be settled with grace and civility. There would still be lawyers, perhaps, but they would have really useful jobs like delivering pizza, which would be non-fat and low in cholesterol. Doors would have no locks; cars would have no alarms. Schools would no longer need police presence or even hall monitors; students and teachers and janitors would honour and value one another’s work. At recess, every kid would get picked for a team.
Churches would never split.
People would be neither bored nor hurried. No father would ever again say, "I’m too busy," to a disappointed child. Our national sleep deficit would be paid off. Starbucks would still exist but would sell only decaf……
Who can enter the Kingdom?
You can! (John 3:16; Galatians 3:28) for God so loved the world:
Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The Kingdom is about making outsiders insiders. There is no them and us in the Kingdom! People belong in the Kingdom. So why do we talk about class? Or age? Or gender?
How do we enter the Kingdom of God?
1. There is the need for obedience to the will of God.
We need to do what God calls us and commands us to do. There is a story in Matt.21:28-32 about two sons who were asked to go and work in the vineyard. The first said yes but didn’t go; the second said no, thought better of it, and then went. It was the one who did what his father had asked that pleased him. What is required is that we hear the command of God to obey – to repent and believe.
For example, the Thessalonians are told: your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:8)
2. There is a need for repentance.
There is a widespread misconception that entering the Kingdom of God is about people doing God a favour! They take eligibility for granted. It is only by repentance and belief ( = total trust) that we benefit from it. Both John the Baptist and Jesus preached a message of repentance (Matt 3:1-2, Matt 4:17). That means a turning away from sin and going in the other direction. Paul tells in Galatians what will keep us out of heaven.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious:
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Glatians 5:19-26
Equally, trust in self righteousness disqualifies, Isaiah talks about our righteousness being as filthy rags. (Isa 64: 6):
We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
3. There is a need for sanctification
This means to be holy; and to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16). This is not an airy fairy sort of notion but a real down to earth change in our hearts and in our lives. We need a spirituality that starts in heaven and finishes here where we are. It is to be a sanctification that enable us to become more like Jesus, in our very nature and the qualities that we have.
4. It needs a new birth
When people go to live in a new country they often speak about “beginning a new life” Jesus said you must be born again. (John 3: 7); and become like a little child. (Matt:18:3). In order that we might depend on God and obey him, we are to be born of water (natural) and the Spirit (regenerated by receiving the life of God through Christ).
As a result we can say, like Paul in Galatians: I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2: 20.)