Intro: Summarize first 3 points
Part I: When did the kingdom of God begin, what is the kingdom of God, how do I enter the kingdom of God?
1. The kingdom of God is near – that’s what Jesus announces during his earthly ministry. The kingdom is not quite here until the resurrection and then Acts begins with 40 days of Jesus speaking about the kingdom of God prior to his ascension. The kingdom of God was inaugurated by the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.
2. The final picture of the kingdom of God is described in Rev. 21 as heaven coming down on earth, or a new heaven and a new earth. The kingdom of God is not a heavenly place in the clouds that our souls go to escape the physical world and our flesh. The kingdom of God when Jesus returns will be heaven coming down on earth, making a new heaven and a new earth. We need to advance the kingdom of God on earth. This means not just saving souls but doing our part to address poverty, social injustice and other “physical” issues.
3. How does one enter the kingdom of God? Through repentance and receiving forgiveness of sins.
Why is it difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God?
Why is it difficult for the chief, priests and elders to enter the kingdom of God?
Practical applications? (preach to me)
Part II: Obstacles to entering the kingdom of God and being forceful about entering it
4. It is very difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.
5. Chief priests, Pharisees and elders cannot enter the kingdom of God because they lack repentance, belief and fruit.
6. We need to preach forcefully as well as to be forceful and intentional about entering the kingdom of God (removing all obstacles to entering the kingdom of God).
4) PART II: (OSTACLES) WEALTH AND THE DIFFICULTY OF ENTERING THE KINGDOM (LACK OF SURRENDER) + BLESSED ARE THE POOR
There are quite a few references in the Bible that say one major obstacle of entering the kingdom of God is wealth. Mark 10 – the passage about the rich young ruler ends with Jesus saying, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
I want to explore a moment why having wealth makes it hard to enter the kingdom of God.
Luke, the writer of Acts, makes an interesting statement in Luke 6:20, which is a famous verse in the Beatitudes. He says, Luke 6:20 — Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
In other versions of the Beatitudes, there is the added phrase, blessed are the poor IN SPIRIT.
And I think many people make the mistake of seeing words like poor and we automatically append “IN SPIRIT.” While I believe there is a close tie between being poor materially speaking and spiritual poverty, by spiritualizing everything, we fall into the trap of glossing over the warning of not entering for those who are rich in a material sense.
If I threw out $2 into the audience, I bet most of you would not think twice about grabbing for it. I doubt that a fight would break out because $2 is like spare change.
Yet $2 is what 53/100 people in the world make in a day. $2 is the average daily income of people living in this world.
What if I threw out two $100 bills – then some people would be fighting for it. That’s the average salary in this country – $200 a day translates to $4,000 a month.
Does it strike you that we make 100 times what the average person on this planet makes?
Or maybe more striking is if you were to ask many people living in America, whether or not they think they are rich, many I believe would say no. It’s shocking that although we live in such affluence relative to the rest of the world, none of us feels like we are rich.
Rather, it seems most people I know who are working and raising a family, esp. in California, are stressed with finances.
1 Tim 6:10 warns that “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” There is nothing wrong with money itself. But the love of money is the ROOT, the SOURCE of evil. Money does weird things to us that make it very hard to enter the kingdom of God.
Luke 16:13 – “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
Did you ever wonder about this verse? Somehow, money is elevated to the same level as God himself.
God and money – one observation is that both of these things elicit a similar reaction in us. The more you taste of God or money, the more you want it. You taste the eternal, the infinite God, you have a genuine encounter with him and one taste is not enough. You want more of him. We call this spiritual hunger.
But money has the same effect on us as God to the believer. You have some money and instead of being content with what we have, we want more and more. We call this greed. And there is no end to human greed – history can attest to this fact.
A brother shared with me recently that the center that he has been volunteering to help low income and homeless people get some practical help with academics so that they can earn a high school degree and make a better future for themselves. And one of the volunteers made hand-made notebooks for the rest of the volunteers and her students. And this brother commented that when he got this notebook, he thought, it’s no big deal, he didn’t really need it and he just threw it in the bottom of his bag. And he watched as one of the students receive the very same notebook and she was so so thankful. And this brother remarked, there was such a gap between their responses.
And I thought about it and it made me sad how in this example, money clearly damaged this brother’s ability to be properly thankful. If we get socks for our bday, we would say, ah, it’s no big deal. But if we get an Ipod or a laptop, now that’s another story, we’d be thankful.
My two oldest boys, Timothy and Jeremiah, are 6 and 3 respectively and I have this routine with them that I reward them for good behavior throughout the week for various “surprises” on the weekend. And as kids, they are easy to please, I can offer them a mcdonalds breakfast or a smoothie for lunch or I said I’ll take them on a bike ride or play soccer with them. I want to make the most of the time now because I know I won’t be able to get away with theses kinds of surprises when they get into their teens. And growing up in this country, I know it will be an uphill battle for my kids not to get spoiled by money.
We are rich and with these material blessings, but how does this translate to us having a hard time entering the kingdom of God?
I think this is related to my second point, not only is it hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, it is hard for the religious. I think there is a commonality between these 2 groups – the rich and the religious.
5) PART II: (OBSTACLES) CHIEF PRIESTS, PHARISEES AND ELDERS AND LACK OF REPENTANCE AND BELIEF + EXPECTATION OF FRUIT BEARING
In Matthew 21, Jesus is addressing the chief priests, pharisees and elders. In Matthew 21:32, we read, Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you
d not repent and believe him.” Then in Matthew 21:43, it says, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”
What make it easier for the poor, the tax collectors and the prostitutes to enter the kingdom of God?
Put another way, why is it hard for the rich and the religious to enter the kingdom of God?
To answer this, I want to study one final passage. A person who was both rich and religious and because of these things, he walked away sad and missed his opportunity to enter the kingdom of God.
Mark 10:17-31 – rich young ruler
17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18″Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'” 20″Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” 24The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” 28Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!” 29″I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
The rich young ruler – I want to underscore the fact that this young man wanted to follow Jesus and enter the kingdom of God. He ran up to Jesus, not the other way around. But there are 2 problems.
First, he’s rich. Second, he’s very religious (v.19-20).
He’s a good kid. He didn’t commit many overt sins, he kept all the major commandments, probably like many of us here. We never stole or committed adultery, we listened to our parents growing up, we studied hard, we never went to prison, never intentionally hurt anyone. And this rich young ruler says, I have kept all the commandments since I was a boy.
But Jesus gives him one final test. He says, one thing you lack, go sell everything you have and give to the poor, then follow me. I used to read this in a broad sense – for him, he couldn’t surrender his money but for me, I lack other things, other things I have a hard time surrendering. So I generalized this one thing to mean anything I cannot surrender. But these days, I’ve been thinking, this is a direct question, I and the rest of us in America, should be asking ourselves. One thing you lack, go sell everything you have and give t the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come follow me.
This doesn’t mean that all of us have to literally sell everything and live in Africa as a missionary. But it is a good question to wrestle with, esp as elites in the most prosperous country in the world.
Why? Because both money and being a moral/religious person, both of these things make us believe that we are in control of our lives. It’s an issue of control. Money makes us feel powerful. It says, when the going gets tough, don’t worry, I have my savings account to fall back on. The same for religion. Religion makes us feel like we are in control of our lives. The Pharisees had life boiled down to regulations that in their own power they could obey and feel powerful.
Both money and religious rule keeping make us feel powerful because we maintain control. If you are poor, you have zero control. You can’t even guarantee your next meal. For a prostitute or tax collector, you know you are hurting people and hurting yourself. You can’t help it. You are out of control.
That is why for the rich young ruler, having money and having religion, he was in total control of his life. And when Jesus said, sell everything, basically Jesus was inviting him to give up the control of his life which was tied up in his money and religion.
And for us who grew up in this country and even grew up in the church, we are at great risk of not entering the kingdom of God. It’s an issue of control.
Rev 3:17 – 17You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
This is our true spiritual state. Whether you grew up in the slums of Calcutta or a mansion in Manhattan, whether you went to church your whole life or you grew up in total immorality, this is our state. We are wretched, poor, blind and naked.
It is interesting that this verse begins with “I am rich, I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” Not needing a thing includes not needing God.
Money and religion masks our true and desperate need for God. We cover up our spiritual poverty with nice houses and nice smiles on Sundays, but inside we know we are wretched, poor, blind and naked.
How desperate are you for God today? If not, perhaps your wealth, your upbringing, your socio-economic status, your regular church attendance, perhaps these things are giving you a false sense of security and control over your life.
As I wrap up, I want to share one song and a few verses.
“Somewhere In The Middle” (Casting Crowns)
Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me
Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who You’re making me
Somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me
Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control
Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle
Are we caught in the middle
Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves
Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Somewhere between the altar and the door
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle You’ll find me
Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control
Lord, I feel You in this place and I know You’re by my side
Loving me even on these nights when I’m caught in the middle
I like the line — Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control
We want God, we confess he is the best thing in our lives, we know
that we ought to surrender everything to God, but we want to walk the fine line, how much can i surrender without losing all control?
6) PART II: PREACHING FORCEFULLY, BEING FORCEFUL/INTENTIONAL TO ENTER + REMOVING ALL OBSTACLES TO ENTERING KINGDOM OF GOD
Luke 16:16 – “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”
Finally, to enter the kingdom of God, we must be forceful and intentional. Mark 9 follows this same idea.
Mark 9:42-48 – 42″And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. 43If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.[c] 45And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.[d] 47And 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 to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48where ” ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
Part of being forceful is removing all obstacles. What are obstacles that make you feel like you are in control? What are some concrete reasons why you are not desperate for God?
Let’s take an inventory and remove these obstacles that falsely make us believe we don’t really need God.