Advancing the Conversation of 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”. 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: 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. (Matthew 5:20)The requirement here seems really tough. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were known for their religious displays of righteousness. Their emphasis was to look good-to look and act religious and holy-to be seen by others as righteous.
Instead of going the ways of the external, legalistic lists of the Pharisees, Jesus clearly says there must be an internal work in a person’s heart. Later Jesus says that no flesh and blood can bring about this kind of revelation and internal change of the heart, but God, Himself. This kind of heart surgery surpasses all other religious representations of righteousness.
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. 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.
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?