Friday, September 27, 2013

A Difficult Kingdom to Enter

The first of three posts on the Kingdom being "Difficult to enter"...

Memory Verse

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 7:21 (NIV)

Matthew 7:21 (see above) has bothered me since childhood.  Perhaps you are like me and thought, 'Hmmm.  I wonder if I am one of the ones Jesus is talking about here.'  If you have read that verse and never wondered that, it may be time to start doing so.

It would be one thing if this was just an outlier verse and we seemed to have caught Jesus on a bad day.  Hanging around with His motley crew of disciples, always having crowds follow Him, and having stayed up late praying the night before, you could kind of understand if that was the case.

But this verse is VERY consistent with EVERY time Jesus talked about entering the kingdom.  Take a couple minutes to go to or the like and do a search on verses that have both "enter" and "kingdom" in them.  When it was Jesus speaking, He consistently made it clear that entering this kingdom was actually quite difficult.  It wasn't just repeat after me prayers, raising a hand, or walking an aisle.  To enter the kingdom, He said our righteousness needed to surpass that of the Pharisees, that we needed to change and become like little children, that it would be difficult for the rich (note to self - that's you and me by Jesus's standards, not just Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey), and that tax collectors and prostitutes were ahead of us.  He said to "see" and "enter" the kingdom, we needed to be born anew or born again.  There were many times Jesus had large crowds around Him and He never hesitated to turn to them and give full disclosure of what it meant to become one of His followers.

So, back to Matthew 7:21.  What does it mean to "do the will of my Father who is in heaven"?  I believe Jesus answered this in this same Sermon on the Mount.  "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."  That's it!  God's will was to see the kingdom of heaven extended to earth.  Not just my life extended from earth to heaven by what we might call "salvation", but the kingdom of heaven, in all of its richness, extended to earth.  WOW!

As a result of that rebirth, I can now commit my life to joining the Holy Spirit in the work of extending the kingdom of heaven to earth.  That's going to require me being not just a believer, but a true disciple.  That is fully worthy of me giving up everything to accomplish.  And that is what will help me accomplish the will of my Father in heaven.

Difficult?  Yes.  Until you start doing it, and then you find out it's much easier than you might have imagined.  More on that in our next post.

Questions to Consider
1.  Have you downsized the kingdom to mean just salvation to have made it easy to enter?
2.  Why do you think Jesus was so consistent in insisting that the kingdom was difficult to enter?

Action Steps for the Week
1.  Read through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and take just one of Jesus' many commands that seems impossible to do, but ask the Holy Spirit to help you start doing it.  A couple of examples - Jesus said "do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth" and "do not worry".  Try it for a week.
2.  Think about what the kingdom of heaven must be like.  And then identify at least one way this week to extend a bit more of that kingdom into someone else's life.  

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