Who Will Enter the Kingdom?

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Nearing the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus issues this bracing warning:These words by Jesus have troubled many a Christian soul over the centuries. They make admittance to the kingdom sound like a crap shoot. How can one ever know where one stands with Jesus? But elsewhere, the Bible speaks with great assurance to all those who believe in Jesus. For example, the apostle John says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life . . . .”  (1John 5.13.)  How does the assurance of these and many other words fit together with Jesus’ warning? It comes down to the biblical meaning of believing in Jesus.The first step in believing in Jesus is making sure you have the right Jesus. If I ask you if you know John Smith, and you say, “Yes, John Smith, the butcher,” and I say, “No, John Smith, the baker,” it is clear we have two different John Smiths in mind. In the first century and still today, there are lots of Jesus’s out there. There is Jesus, the great man; Jesus, the great teacher; Jesus, the great moral example. There is Jesus, the prophet. There is even Jesus, the savior; Jesus, the son of God; and Jesus, the lord. But as the real Jesus makes clear in our text, all these terms and titles can be infused with different meanings to suit the user. Believing in the real Jesus means not believing in the Jesus we want him to be, but believing in the Jesus he revealed himself to be. And that is Jesus, Immanuel, God-with-us; Jesus the eternal Son and Word made flesh; Jesus born of a virgin; Jesus through whom the worlds were made; Jesus the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his nature, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; Jesus who lived the life we were created to live, in perfect faith, love, and obedience to the Father; who as part of that faith, love, and obedience allowed himself to be framed and put on a Roman cross, thus heaping upon himself all the blackness of evil in the world and all the worst that fallen men could do, in order to break the power of death and sin over us, to bring us home to the Father, to make us his sons and daughters, princes and princesses, joint heirs with Christ of heaven and earth; Jesus, whom the Father vindicated by raising him from the dead, thus declaring that he is the Son of God; Jesus who ascended into heaven and was given all power and authority in heaven and on earth that all peoples, nations, languages should serve him. (Dan 7.13-14; Mat 1.23; 28.18-20; John 1.1-4, 10-14; Rom 1.3-4; 8.15-17; Gal 3.29; Eph 1.20-2.7; Phil 2.6-11; Col 2.9; Heb 1.1-3; 2.14-17; 5.7-9). That’s the Jesus we are called on to believe in, for “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12.) If you have any other Jesus, you have the wrong Jesus. If you believe in any other Jesus, your faith is worthless. If you are calling any other Jesus “lord,” you are wasting your breath. If you are serving any other Jesus, you are wasting your life.The second part of believing in Jesus is trusting in him – casting yourself upon him – that is the biblical idea of faith. (Mat 10.37-39; Phil 3.7-11.) Mere intellectual assent is not sufficient, for you can give assent without having a relationship. (James 2.19.) But you cannot entrust your whole self to someone without having a relationship. And as Jesus makes clear, it is a relationship with him – knowing him and being known by him – that is determinative. (Mat 7.23.) Knowing Jesus and being known by him – that’s the heart of the Christian life, and that’s the criteria for entering the kingdom.I hope you enjoy the sermon. Thanks for listening. –Alan Burrow1. In the sermon, Pastor Burrow said that the first step in believing in Jesus is making sure you have the right Jesus. Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”  (Mat 16.13.) What were some of answers in the first century Jewish community? (See Mat 16.14.) What are some of the answers today in your community? In contrast with those answers, who did the disciples say that Jesus was? (Mat 16.15.) Where did the disciples get this understanding of Jesus? (Mat 16.16.) Did it really matter whether Jesus was who the crowds said he was or whether he was who the disciples said he was? Does it really matter today? There are other writings that many people hold sacred (such as the writings of Mohammed and those of Joseph Smith) that hold Jesus to be a prophet or to be the savior or the Son of God or even to have died for our sins. Is the Jesus of these writings the same as the Jesus of the Bible? (See Heb 1.1-3; Rev 22.18-19.) Is it necessary to believe in the Trinity to believe in the Jesus of the Bible? (See Mat 28.19; John 1.1-3; 17.1-5; 1John 1.3; 5.7.)2. Read Heb 1.1-3.  How would you use these verses to witness to someone who says they believe in Jesus but also believe the “new Scriptures” revealed to Mohammed or to Joseph Smith?3. In our text, Jesus says in essence that those who are admitted to the kingdom of heaven are those who do the will of the Father and those who know and are known by Jesus himself (Mat 7.21, 23).  What is the connection between doing the will of the Father and knowing Jesus Christ? You may find it helpful to break this question down into the following two questions: (a) If someone truly wants to do the will of the Father, what will they do regarding Jesus?  (See John 6.28-29.)  (b) If someone truly believes in Jesus, what will be their attitude toward doing the will of the Father?  (See John 14.23-24.)

Click the play button to listen to 'Who Will Enter the Kingdom?' by Alan Burrow.