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Nature of Christ Kingdom and Terms of Entrance (130)

Jim Davis

Martin Luther said, "The Bible is read forward but understood backward." As we come to Matthew chapter one, Matthew begins to walk us backwards through Bible history so we can get a better understanding of who Jesus is and what God has been doing through the Jewish nation from the time of Abraham. Matthew opens his gospel tracing Jesus from the time of his birth back to Abraham. Matthew emphasizes Jesus' relationship to two outstanding men in Hebrew history, Abraham and David.

The most natural way to begin the story of a person's life in Jewish history was to give his genealogy. Matthew begins his book calling his book "The Book of the Genealogy of Jesus Christ." God had promised Abraham that through his descendants all the families of the earth would be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-5) God had promised David that David's throne would be eternally occupied by one of David's descendants. (1 Chronicles 17:10-14) Matthew shows that Christ was the Seed of Abraham anointed to sit on David's throne. Matthew affirms that Jesus' relationship to Abraham and David is that of a son. But Jesus Christ is much more, not only is he both Abraham's son and David's son but he is also the Son of God. Matthew describes Jesus Christ conceived of the Holy Spirit in the lineage of Abraham as the one who is destined to sit on the throne of David in God's eternal kingdom.

As we come to Matthew the expectation of the faithful remnant of Israel, was the coming Messiah. He would be the Deliverer-King, a Savior to usher in the rule of God upon the earth. Yet the coming of Christ had a more far-reaching objective than just the nation of Israel. When Jesus Christ was born there was an imminent messianic expectation in the world. You can see it in the writings of Josephus, the writings of wise men in the Middle East in Greece and in the writings of Roman historians. At the time Jesus Christ was born there was a general expectation of an act of God to bring a person into the world who would deliver man from his bondage and limitations. The wise men of the world were also looking for a person to fulfill the messianic role. Herod believed the Magi who came telling of Jesus' birth. So he decreed that all babies less than two years old be killed. Both Jew and Gentile feared that Jesus would turn their world upside down and that he did.

The Anointing of a King

The name "Christ" means the anointed one. In the ancient history magi would visit in recognition of the king to be. In Old Testament history, when a king was placed on the throne over God's people, God sent a prophet to anoint the new king. The angels announced Christ birth to the shepherds and three magi visited the Christ child in the city of David. Christ was of Divine birth and anointed by the Holy Spirit as the king that was to sit upon David's throne. When Jesus was baptized the Spirit of God descended upon him as a dove and God said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:16-17)

Immediately after Jesus' baptism he began preaching the gospel of the kingdom saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 4:17) "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people." (Matthew 4:23) Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power." After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters-- one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" (Mark 9:1-7)

God said to David "I declare to you that the LORD will build a house for you: When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever." (1 Chronicles 17:10-14)

In Acts chapter two Peter portrays Jesus sitting on the throne of David in fulfillment to the promise God made to David. Peter states in no uncertain terms that Christ is on the throne of David.

Acts 2:29-36

"Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, "'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." ' "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

The Internal Nature of Christ Kingdom

When Jesus came, the Jewish kingdom had deteriorated to the point that it was defined only by outward observation. The Jews had lost sight of the kingdom of God as the Old Testament law and their man made traditions became a source of pride, while their circumcision became the only mark of their identity with God.

Jesus came saying, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matthew 23:25-28)

The Jews were offended by what Jesus was teaching. When he pointed out their hypocrisy and wickedness they took it as an attack against the law of God. But Jesus assured them saying, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-19)

As in the case of so many religious practices, the formulas and rituals became the defining characteristics of God's people. This was especially true with circumcision. As we read the course of Jewish history, we see how this mark, intended to be the sign of humility and instrumentality, became perverted into a mark of superiority and favoritism. Those who bore it began to look on others as "Gentile dogs" and to be self-righteous and proud over their supposed favored position before God. Although Moses told the Israelites in the very beginning that the real Jews were those who were circumcised of heart, they had actually missed the real intent of the spirit of the Law of Moses. (Deut 10:15-16) In the New Testament Paul said, "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God." (Rom 2:28-29)

Paul says today, "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." (Colossians 2:10-12)

There is a danger of developing a form of godliness but denying God's power in our lives. (2 Timothy 3:5) There is a danger today of the Bible becoming an icon and our way of doings things become all-important rather than what we are. It is sad that when we want to move the church forward today we change the time of worship or order of worship or we try to change where people sit. We usually become upset today if we change how we do something while paying little attention to why we do it.

Jesus didn't come trying to change what they were doing at the temple but what was going on in their hearts. The key verse to Christ's Sermon on the Mount is in Matthew 5:20 in which he says, "I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." "Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach." (Matthew 23:1-3) They went to the temple everyday, they paid tithes, they fasted, they prayed. They were religious freaks!"

Soren Kierkegaard wrote that, "It's so much easier to attempt to become a Christian when you aren't one, than to strive to become one when you assume you already are." This was why Jesus' ministry was so difficult. The Jews thought that they were in touch with God when they killed him on the cross.

Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount as a means for the religious to evaluate their lives. The teaching exploded in their minds as they stood before God being examined by his standards of right living. The Jews spent their time inscribing the scriptures given to them on tablets. The preservation of those scriptures was their all-important task. But Jesus came to inscribe God's law on our hearts. Paul told the church at Corinth, "You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts . . . He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-- not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:2-3,6)

The Nature of Christ Kingdom Characterizes the Terms of Entrance

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus sets forth the nature of his kingdom and the terms of entrance. In Matthew 5-7 Jesus begins to reveal the nature of the kingdom of God. Jesus says to enter into his kingdom we must be stripped naked, broken in spirit, mourning, hungering and thirsting for God's law to be tattooed on our hearts by the Spirit of the living God. Kingdom living is about a person coming to Jesus Christ shattered to the very depths of his/her being and mourning over his/her sinfulness, with a hunger and thirst after righteousness more than anything else.

When you arrive at the port of entry in a foreign country, you need a passport, shots, etc. to enter the country legally. If you arrive in a foreign country without proper credentials you will not be allowed to enter. Terms of entrance into Christ kingdom are just as crucial. Likewise when arrive with contraband at the gate of Christ kingdom you will have to leave it behind or entry will be impossible. Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (Matthew 7:21-23)

Jesus warns that many are lulled into believing they have met the terms of entrance into his kingdom but they have not. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus came saying don't be like those phonies who blow a trumpet, come pray, give and fast, prophesy, cast out demons and perform miracles to make a spectacle of their pious ways.

Actors on the big screen always amaze me as they act out the part of some great person such as Abraham Lincoln. They analyze his speeches and study his biographies as they endeavor to offer a semblance of what he was like. But no matter how well they act you never see the essence of Abraham Lincoln. The same is true if we only try to do what Jesus did and act like Jesus acted. If we do that we only become religious.

If we are not careful we will only become actors learning just enough about Jesus Christ to act out the part as we do what he did. Too often only the hollow shell of religious routines or formulas are performed as an act of service to God. Some people today claim to be Christians because they have walked down an aisle five years ago. Others claim to be Christians because they signed a card or was baptized. But right thinking, obedience, right talking, and right doing characterize the real test of Christianity. The nature of Christ kingdom requires examining our lives not our baptismal certificates.

Nicodemus was a very sincere religious man who came seeking Jesus Christ. Jesus told him that he must born again. His religion left him acting a part. Churches and religion can leave us only acting the part. We must become what Jesus Christ is not just act like him. To be born again is to receive a new nature, the nature of Christ. Receiving that new nature is as mysterious as the birth of a child.

John 3:4-8
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Jesus again compares the process of receiving a new nature to a grain of wheat. "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. "He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (John 12:24-25)

Christian baptism is a beautiful portrayal of receiving this new nature as it represents a commitment to death, a commitment to be reborn as we are immersed in water. Rising up out of that water is a resurrection to a new life in Christ. We come up out of the water walking in newness of life as Christ begins to live in our hearts. (Romans 6:3-4) It is at this juncture in life that Christ adds us to his kingdom. The beautiful thing about baptism is that at this point Peter says we receive the Spirit of God. It is the Spirit of God that gives life. Of course that seed must be planted and firmly rooted in the word of God to receive life from God's Spirit. Then that seed can receive nourishment and bring forth the fruit of the Spirit of God.

Romans 8:10-12
But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation-- but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.

The nature of Christ kingdom makes the entrance to Jesus' kingdom narrow. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14) Have you ever tried to go through a turnstile with four suitcases? You have to drop all the baggage to get through. You have to come in barehanded. Neither can you enter Christ kingdom with your works, your self-righteousness, your I'll-do-it-my-way, and your I-want-Jesus-but-I-want-the-other-stuff too approach.

I must admit that, at times, the narrowness by which Jesus describes entrance into his kingdom makes me uncomfortable. "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Jesus means what he says, his disciples knew what he meant for, "When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?" (Matthew 19:23-25)

Jesus spoke these words to the disciples after a young rich man came to him desiring salvation. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. He believed that he had kept the commandments. Then Jesus told him to go sell all he had and give it to the poor. At this point the rich man realized his reliance for salvation was on what he had done and what he possessed. The Jews figured they were rich because of a blessing from God. They believed that physical blessing was indicative or in a right relationship with God. This rich man had all the right indicators. The young man seems to have asked the questions expecting altogether another answer. He may have actually asked the question to hear Jesus tell him how good he was. So the young man refused Jesus' request. So at this point Jesus turns to his disciples and says, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:23)

The statement is so shocking that his disciples began to question their salvation! Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?" (Matthew 19:27) They had no doubt as to how hard it would be to get through the eye of a needle. They understood the meaning of the statement; they know how the size of a camel and they know the size of the eye of a needle. But Jesus assures them that with God's guidance and help they can get through the needle's eye. "Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19: 26) It is only impossible for those who fail to arrive at the gate broken, humbly mourning, thirsting for what Christ has to offer, while stripped of their own righteous works and accomplishments. Salvation is not impossible; it is just impossible to come to Christ without getting rid of your baggage.

The nature of entrance into Christ kingdom makes salvation sure. The restricted way sounds harsh but Jesus assures the disciples that our salvation is sure. "Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." (Matthew 19:26-30)

Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)

Jesus assures us that if we come seeking, asking, and knocking the door to his kingdom will spring wide open. David's attitude as he came to God in the midst of his sinfulness is indicative of what each of us must do when we commit our life to God in Christ.

Psalms 51:1-10
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight-- that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice.

Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Jesus gives us assurance that God will answer this prayer. Jesus said, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Entering God's kingdom is only impossible for those who refuse to come with this attitude.

Psalms 34:17-20
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.

Eph 3:16-21
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Entrance into Christ kingdom leaves no illusions. The broad way as contrasted to the narrow way leaves the illusion that we don't have to leave anything behind. In contrast the broad way is made up of people who are building religious lives upon foundations other than Jesus Christ. The broad way leaves the illusion that you don't have to think different and live different. In fact you don't have to do anything. It leaves the illusion that all you have to do is remind others that you have been baptized, you walked an aisle, or you went forward or you signed a card. This road leads to destruction.

Jesus said, "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash." (Matthew 7:24-27)

Those of us who live in Florida know how easy it is to wash sand from under a foundation built upon a pile of sand. We have seen enough sinkholes swallow houses and cars during all the rain of the past few months. Jesus compares disobedience is compared to building a house upon the ever-shifting sand. Time is like ever shifting sand. This world is not going to stand forever. Throughout the Bible obedience to God's commands is referred to as building your house upon a rock. Jesus is the eternal Rock of Ages. When this world passes Jesus will survive and if our lives are built upon his directions our lives will stand the test of time and eternity.

Daniel said that the God of heaven would set up an everlasting kingdom. Christ was anointed king of that eternal kingdom. Those who have obeyed Christ by having God's laws tattooed on their hearts become a part of that eternal kingdom. When we come to Christ building our lives upon what he has taught we build our lives on an eternally sure foundation. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away." (Matthew 24:35)


What we have been describing this morning is the kingdom of God, which is the church of the living God the pillar and ground of truth.

Matthew 16:16-19
Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

When they responded to Peter's call on Pentecost Luke writes.

Acts 2:46-47
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.


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