Saturday, January 30, 2010



John's Gospel uses the term "believe" in order to experience eternal life. The rest of the Gospels don't seem to make this an emphasis with a couple of exceptions, however all of the Gospels speak of "following" Jesus. Although Christians have boiled everything down to believe and you'll go to heaven and don't believe and you'll go to hell, Jesus' concern seems to revolve more around entering or not entering the Kingdom of heaven. And, entering the Kingdom seems to be an immediate experience, since the presence of the Kingdom is a present reality according to Jesus.

This week I want to cover all of the times Jesus refers to what we must do to enter or not enter into the Kingdom. To enter the Kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of God may be the closest thing Jesus ever says about "getting into heaven". Jesus only uses the term "church" on two occasions. The emphasis of Jesus is on the Kingdom and how to enter it right now. Each of these references provides significant insight into what Jesus counts as most important in order to get into the Kingdom.

The first reference is found in Jesus' first seminar in Matthew 5:20: For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. The requirement here seems really tough. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were known for their religious displays of righteousness.

Now, Jesus makes it clear that in order to enter the Kingdom of heaven your righteousness must SURPASS that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. With all that Jesus teaches from here on out I think what He means by surpass is to go beyond their levels of righteousness. To be more specific, I think what He requires is for righteousness to be INTERNAL with an emphasis on the heart rather than the EXTERNAL emphasis of the legalistic, letter of the law of the Pharisees. Their emphasis was to look good-to look and act religious and holy-to be seen by others as righteous. Jesus wants us to surpass that kind of righteousness by going internal or going deeper.

Three observations that come to mind here for me: 1. God looks on the heart; man looks on the outward appearance. So, if you want to please God, then pay attention to your heart's response to Him.

2. After developing a full sacrificial system, the Lord tells His people that He doesn't want their sacrifices any longer, but wants their heart of compassion.

3. Jesus wants us to first be people of the heart where we are allowing Him to relate to us in a most personal and private way. All external actions should naturally flow out of that transformed heart. To Jesus, nothing else matters-nothing is more important.

Matt Redman wrote a terrific song entitled, "A Heart of Worship". When I think of what it is that Jesus really wants from us I think of the words of this song. The first verse goes:

When the music fades All is stripped away And I simply come Longing just to bring Something that's of worth That will bless Your heart.

The song continues with: I'll bring You more than a song For a song in itself Is not what You have required You search much deeper within Through the way things appear You're looking into my heart.

Then he concludes with the chorus: I'm coming back to the heart of worship And it's all about You, It's all about You, Jesus I'm sorry, Lord, for the thing I've made it When it's all about You, It's all about You, Jesus.

Let me tell you how to enter the Kingdom according to Jesus. Focus your heart on a personal relationship with Jesus and make it your business to follow after Him. And, don't allow yourself to be caught up in the religiosity of following a list or system of do's and don'ts, thinking that you are impressing God while you are impressing others. Jesus makes it clear here that He is not impressed with this kind of thing, so don't you be!

If I have a choice as to whose word I'm going to accept as the ultimate truth-some bible teacher or Jesus, I'm going to choose Jesus' word every time. How about you?