What Does it Take to Enter God’s Kingdom?
Some places are easy to enter, like a large shopping mall, where wide doors and hallways lead from all directions. The stores inside of course want you to come in and spend money; it is to their advantage. Some places are harder to get in, like the Razorback stadium, where you would have to go when there is an activity inside and you may need a paid ticket. And of course there are places like the proverbial Fort Knox which are designed to not let people enter to protect its contents. It seems that the places that are easy to enter are the ones that want to make money off of you.
In our text Jesus talks about how easy or difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God. Certainly entering God’s kingdom is something desirable. Everybody wants to get into the ultimate revelation of God’s kingdom, heaven. It is good for us to review what Jesus says about entering that kingdom, since there is much misinformation about this in the world and it is far too easy to lose our grasp on that wonderful kingdom
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO ENTER GOD’S KINGDOM?
- Recognize the narrow but open door into it
- Recognize the effort it takes to enter it
- Recognize the blessings of entering it
- RECOGNIZE THE NARROW BUT OPEN DOOR INTO IT A. Jesus directs us to think about the door to God’s kingdom The topic of entering God’s kingdom is brought up because a person approached Jesus with a question about how few people would be saved. It is an abstract and impersonal question. The person could have been hiding his true intent to ask about how to be saved or he could have been trying to deflect his thinking from this thought with serious eternal consequences. In any case Jesus, as usual, directs the person to thinking about his own salvation, not the abstract question. “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.” From this we can realize that there is a door into God’s kingdom, a door through which we can pass, a door which is open to us. It is not wide but it is available, it is open.
- Jesus is the door to God’s kingdom To find out what that door is we listen to other words of Jesus. He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). In another place he says, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep…Whoever enters through me will be saved” (Jn 10:7,9). Peter emphasizes this later when he says about Jesus, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Ac 4:12). It becomes clear that there is only one way, one door into God’s kingdom, and this is Jesus Christ himself. Anyone who does not believe this about God and Jesus will not enter God’s kingdom.
- We enter God’s kingdom through repentance and faith in Jesus The reason that is true becomes clear when we consider the nature of God’s kingdom and what Jesus was going to Jerusalem to do. God is absolutely holy and perfect and can tolerate no sin in his presence. That would exclude all of us by nature; we have absolutely no ability to attain that standard ourselves. Jesus was going to Jerusalem to fix that problem, namely by taking our sins, all their guilt and punishment, on himself, who was by nature sinless and holy. He suffered greatly and died, as the wages for those sins. And he lived a perfect life under the law in our place. All so we can appear before God as spotless and holy. The way we go through this open door is by repentance and faith in Jesus. From the very beginning of his ministry this is what Jesus proclaimed, just as his forerunner, John the Baptist proclaimed, just as all the prophets of Old Testament days proclaimed. Repent, recognize your sins, confess your sinfulness, and then believe in Jesus, in him who paid the price for those sins, in him who washes you clean from all your evil deeds and wicked thoughts. That’s how you pass through the narrow and only door into God’s kingdom.
Jesus becomes so important for us as we recognize him as the narrow and only door into God’s kingdom. All his words take on special importance to us, not just some but all his words. Likewise all the words the Bible speaks about him, since he is the heart and center of all of Scripture. We don’t pick and choose what we want to believe. We know that Thomas Jefferson took razor and glue to put together his own Bible, leaving out all Jesus’ miracles and his resurrection, among other things; his Bible ends with Jesus’ burial and leaves out the heart of Jesus’ work and how he is the door to God’s kingdom. People and churches do this today, so that they can talk about Jesus without recognizing him as the door to God’s kingdom, without having the repentance and faith necessary to pass through that door. And here we start to see something else about it takes to enter God’s kingdom:
- RECOGNIZE THE EFFORT IT TAKES TO ENTER IT
- We must put down the sinful nature
We have just talked about how Jesus did everything for us to be the door to God’s kingdom and we need only believe in him. Why does he then say, “Make every effort to enter”? Quite simply because there are so many distractions and so many false doors put up by others, also so many people who are not entering God’s kingdom though they seem to be trying. The sinful nature which resides in each of us does not accept the things of God, does not want to recognize that it is totally depraved and sinful, and does not want to accept free grace and forgiveness. We have to beat down this sinful nature, “with daily contrition and repentance,” as Luther puts it in his explanation to Holy Baptism. The more we can recognize sin in our lives and in our thoughts and repent of them, the more we remove the danger those sins present to us, especially the loss of our faith and being kept out of God’s kingdom. Sin is nothing to trifle with. And such introspection and repentance takes effort, requires a struggle in our soul.
- We must avoid false doors to God’s kingdom
There are so many beliefs in this world that seek to supplant repentance and faith in Jesus as the way to enter God’s kingdom. Many of them sound good and appeal to our sinful nature. Perhaps we are not susceptible to the teachings of Islam and their more blatant system of work righteousness to enter God’s kingdom. But even in Christian churches you can hear claims that God is a God of love and would not exclude anyone, that simply believing is not enough—we must do good works also to be accepted by God, that Jesus didn’t really perform miracles or rise from the dead and it is not necessary to believe that he did, that true faith will not only get us spiritual blessings but also earthly riches and healing. While the teaching that Jesus is the only true door to God’s kingdom can still be present, such teachings can paint illusionary doors that lead people astray and maybe lead them to miss the true door entirely. We must make every effort to avoid these illusionary but attractive doors and enter through the one, simple, narrow door of Jesus Christ and faith in him. When we get a glimpse at what is on the other side we see good reason for this:
III RECOGNIZE THE BLESSINGS OF ENTERING IT
It is comforting and encouraging for us to hear, “People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” We will be among them. Cleansed of our sins completely and provided with bodies that are glorified, we will take part in the great banquet God has prepared for us in heaven. It is already ours and we receive many blessings even now from our God, but picture what it will be like in heaven where nobody will be plagued with any sin or suffering from any disease or disability, where everyone will speak every word with love and joy, where God will take care of us directly without the need for the sun or the sea.
Now we go back to our original problem with perhaps greater interest and earnest: What does it take to enter God’s kingdom? We start by recognizing the narrow and only door is Christ Jesus, which is open to us, open through repentance and faith in Jesus. We make the effort to put down our sinful nature through daily contrition and repentance and avoid the distractions false teachings by listening only to our Lord. And we look forward to taking our place at the feast in the kingdom of God, where we will praise and thank him forever. Amen.
This message by Rev.Bruce Ahlers brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project , You can read more at oursaviorsuncity.org