As described in an earlier article in Charisma Leader, one of the most neglected messages of the American pulpit is the kingdom message. The coming kingdom was announced by John the Baptist. Jesus' message was a kingdom message. Whether preaching and teaching parables to the masses, or gently explaining kingdom mysteries to His disciples, Jesus was focused on the kingdom which He was to restore.
Jesus also focused on the requirements to experience His kingdom. Although a small proportion of American churches are teaching about the kingdom, an even smaller number are teaching about its requirements. The topics weren't popular in Jesus' day. They aren't popular today. This supposedly "hard" message is the secret to unbounded blessings in this life and in the life to come. Neglecting this topic is a failure to warn and a failure to teach the secrets of indescribable joy.
Kingdom requirements were clearly expounded by Jesus and His disciples. Three were particularly emphasized on multiple occasions. Specifically, we need to be born again, repent and obey.
A Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus came to Jesus at night. He wanted to tell Jesus that they knew He was a teacher from God, and that God was with Him because of the miracles which He was performing. Jesus told Him that there was more; one had to be born again. Although Nicodemus didn't fully understand, He was saying that on had to accept Him as Lord, Savior and King to enter into the kingdom of God. The rebirth is a necessary requirement of kingdom citizenship.
Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
Jesus answered, "Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5).
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of rebirth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).
Repentance is inexorably linked to the kingdom. Jesus began His ministry by preaching on the link between the need to repent and the kingdom. Repent simply means to turn away from sin. Because of the cross, the Lord Jesus has made it easy to receive forgiveness. If we confess our sins to Him, he will forgive.
"From that time Jesus began to preach and say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand''' (Matt. 4:17).
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
But dire kingdom consequences await those who habitually practice sin without the intention or desire to repent and overcome. We are called and empowered to repent by the cross and Holy Spirit. For kingdom citizens, repentance should be a continual process as we strive to be more like our Lord. Repentance is a core kingdom requirement.
"And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the fire of hell" (Mark 9:47).
"For this you know, that no sexually immoral or impure person, or one who is greedy, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God" (Eph. 5:5).
"That those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:12b).
As kingdom citizens, we are called to obey our King. Most Christians will say they love the Lord. But according to Jesus, our profession isn't the measure He uses to measure our love. Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey. We don't obey to gain acceptance or to earn anything; we strive to obey because we love Him. We deserve nothing but freely receive mercy and grace. A lack of obedience has kingdom consequences. Obedience is a necessary principle for kingdom blessings.
"Jesus answered him, 'If a man loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our home with him'" (John 14:23).
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21).
All ministers of the gospel are teachers. We are called to obey and teach the full word. In today's American culture, some otherwise faithful ministers will make and teach excuses for what we consider "small" sins. Jesus taught differently. He referred to the least of these commandments impacting our kingdom rewards. Let us guard against legalism. But strive to keep and teach the whole word so that our kingdom reward will be great.
"Whoever, therefore, breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:19).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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