A test from the words of Jesus
Today I’m asking the question, “Will you enter the kingdom of God?”
The phrase, “the kingdom of God” (or “heaven”) is another way of talking about God’s salvation. And it was the favorite way that Jesus spoke of this. It means the blessings of the age to come – eternal life, joy and peace. We can have a foretaste of these things now, but we await the fullness of these blessings when Jesus returns.
So you can see, this is a very important question. And you can answer this by testing yourselves against the words of Jesus. Here are ten specific examples where Jesus speaks of entering or being in the kingdom of God.
Do you have faith in Jesus?
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 8:10-11. (NIV)
Jesus here commends a non-Jewish soldier for recognizing his authority as the one sent to establish God’s kingdom on earth. The man had asked Jesus to heal his servant. His sense of Jesus’ authority was so great that he didn’t even need Jesus to come to his house. He said, “Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed” – Matthew 8:8. Jesus was amazed.
Unlike so many in Israel, this man both recognized Jesus’ authority and boldly acted on it. That is, he had strong faith in Jesus. And Jesus is saying it’s those who have faith in him, whether Jewish or Gentile, who will take part in the great feast and celebration of God’ kingdom salvation at the end of the age, which is what’s pictured in these verses.
Do you recognize Jesus’ identity as the Messiah and will you boldly act on this? Like this man, do you have faith in Jesus?
Have you repented of your sins?
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” – Matthew 21:31 (NIV)
Jesus is referring to the tax collectors and prostitutes who had responded to John the Baptist’s message of repentance (Matthew 21:32/Luke 7:29-30). These are the same people who received Jesus’ message of repentance (Matthew 4:17) as opposed to the leaders of the nation of Israel, the “you” in this verse.
To repent means to have a change of mind and heart that leads you to begin to do God’s will (Matthew 21:28-31). You turn away from your old life to live a new one. These are the ones who enter the kingdom, even ahead of others who may seem like they should be first in line – religious people, or people without sordid backgrounds.
Have you repented? Have you had a change of heart and mind so that you now have submitted your life completely to God? Those who have repented can ask for and receive the free gift of the forgiveness of their sins through Jesus (Luke 24:47, Acts 2:38).
Are you born of the Spirit?
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” – John 3:5.
To be born of water refers to the process of natural birth. We all have this. To be born of the Spirit is to receive new life from the Spirit of God; it is to be born anew (John 3:3). And not all have this. Jesus is teaching us here that each of us must be born of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God.
Have you received this gift of God; this gift of new life? This is what makes all the rest of what we’ll talk about today possible.
Are you doing God’s will according to the teaching of Jesus?
Jesus said, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” – Matthew 5:20.
Jesus also said, “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 in heaven” – Matthew 7:21. (NRSV)
The first verse is near the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, a long series of Jesus’ teaching on what it means to do God’s will. And the second verse comes near the end of the Sermon on the Mount. It gives a warning to heed all that Jesus has just taught. Both make the same point, to enter the kingdom you must practice the will of God that Jesus teaches. This is the righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. (See also Matthew 19:17; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5; 2 Peter 1:11).
Having been born of the Spirit and empowered by the Spirit, are you practicing God’s will just as Jesus taught it?
Are you generous with your wealth?
This is a specific example of doing God’s will, and one that Jesus talked about constantly.
Jesus said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” – Luke 18:24-25.
Jesus said this after a rich man chose not to follow him because he loved his money too much. The camel proverb is meant to make the point that it’s impossible for a rich person to enter the kingdom. The pull of wealth and what comes with it, security, power and comfort is just too great.
But then Jesus says in v. 27, “What is impossible for people is possible with God” (NLT) That is, God is able to change our hearts so that we give up our wealth and become generous toward God and others. In this way we can enter the kingdom.
Has God worked in your heart, so that you are now generous with whatever resources God has given to you?
Are you separating from what causes you to sin?
Jesus said, “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell” – Mark 9:47.
Not only do you need to repent, you also need to stay away from whatever might lead you to sin – stumbling blocks. Even if this means taking radical action – like tearing your eye out. Even if this means losing something precious to you – like your eye. Not literally, of course. That wouldn’t stop you from sinning. It means get rid of whatever leads you to sin – maybe it’s a friend who influences you in the wrong direction, a job, unfiltered access to the internet, alcohol or whatever.
Are you guarding your obedience to God? Are you willing to give up whatever stands in the way of your doing God’s will?
Are you humble like a little child?
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” – Matthew 18:3-4.
In Jesus’ day children were very low in social standing, like slaves. To become like a child is to be humble or lowly. This is in contrast to the disciples who were focused on who was the greatest among them (Matthew 18:1). Humility means being willing to submit to others, to forsake honor, to serve others and to suffer lack. (See also Matthew 19:14; 5:3).
Are you doing these things? Do you accept lowliness?
Do you experience rejection for your commitment to God?
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” – Matthew 5:10.
Those who suffer rejection for the kingdom will enter the kingdom; indeed it is already theirs. Suffering includes anything from being ridiculed to being killed. (See also Acts 14:22; Romans 8:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-5).
Is your commitment to God more important than your reputation? Is it more important than your life?
Are you serving God?
Jesus said, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” – Matthew 25:21. (NRSV)
This comes from the parable of the talents. This parable teaches that we are to be busy serving Jesus while he’s gone. We are to be busy with whatever responsibilities God has given us. This could include sharing your faith, serving in Jesus’ community, and serving the needs of others. It means using your gifts for God.
Those who serve Jesus will enter the kingdom, “the joy of (their) master,” with a reward based on their work. But those who do nothing to serve God will be cast out of the kingdom (Matthew 25:30).
Are you serving God doing the work of the kingdom?
Are you ‘forcibly seizing’ the kingdom?
Jesus said, “The good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone is forcing their way into it” – Luke 16:16 (NRSV)
Those who want to enter the kingdom must be forceful in how they lay hold of it: They must seize it; they must grab hold of it; they must seek it first above all else (Matthew 6:33). This paints a picture of someone who refuses not to gain the kingdom, but does everything necessary to enter it. They pursue it at all costs (Matthew 11:12; 13:44-46).
Do you seek God’s kingdom above all else – money, relationships, family, status?
Finally, let me say, it’s not too late. That is, when you test yourself against the words of Jesus and you find yourself lacking. Rather, see this as an invitation even now:
- to look to Jesus in faith
- to submit yourself fully to God
- to receive new life from the Spirit
- by God’s grace to walk in this new life
- and to hold nothing back as you do this
Where do Jesus’ words convict you? How do they show you what you need to do? Do these things and you will be ready for the kingdom of God and the blessings of the age to come, when Jesus returns.