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Entries in Heaven (2)


The Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, Part 2

Last week we recognized that the primary key to the Kingdom of Heaven is the Truth of the Identity of Jesus and what he came to do on our behalf.  However this does beg the question, “Why is the Kingdom of Heaven “locked” in the first place?

When taken as a whole, the biblical message is this: the nature, choices, and actions of a person lock themselves out of God’s Kingdom.  John 3:16 says it well that God gave his one and only son that WHOSOEVER believed on him would have life rather than perishing.  Also Peter says that God is not willing that any should perish.  God has done absolutely everything but make people into robots.  Judas had an intimate view of the nature and wisdom of Jesus.  Yet, he made a different decision than the other disciples.  He refused to humble himself and follow Jesus.  He chose wickedness over righteousness.  This clear choice is made everyday by countless people.  Thus the Book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of the end of the age.  Not only will mankind gather for global war, but when Jesus appears, the armies of the earth will turn their firepower against him.  Though Christ puts this rebellion down and institutes a 1,000 year peace on the earth,  still a large number of people will be able to be tempted by Satan to surround the “camp of the saints” and try to destroy them.  God in his wisdom knew that sin would never be content to choose a different path.  If given the chance it would always seek to destroy God and those who follow his way; thus the need to lock out the kind of person who will not repent and turn away from wickedness.

Now today, we are going to go to Matthew 18:15-18 and look at a second key that can lock or unlock the Kingdom of Heaven to people.

How We Deal With Sin Is A Key To The Kingdom Of Heaven

This whole section begins with the disciples’ question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  Jesus responds by saying in verse 3, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (NIV)  Without the humility of a child, and a simple openness to being taught by God, none of us will even enter the Kingdom of Heaven; much less be the greatest.  So facing the gospel requires an initial humility and surrender to God and his plan.  When it comes to dealing with sin we tend to lose our humility and surrender.  Thus Jesus deals with this area in verse 15 and following.  If we do not get a handle on how to correctly deal with the sins of others and our own sin then the Kingdom of Heaven will remain locked and inaccessible.  So what should we do when others sin against us, especially fellow Christians?

First we start with a private confronting.  The world is too quick to publish the sins of others and it relishes too much in the fall of others.  Believers in Jesus are not to be this way.  We are to be motivated by love (hard to do when you have been sinned against).  Love covers a multitude of sins.  However, it doesn’t cover them up.  The difference between a cover-up of sin and covering sin is that a cover-up seeks to avoid dealing with the sin and its consequences.  Whereas, covering sin keeps the circle of intimates small so that the issue can be dealt with in respect and honor.  However, if the sin is a public sin then the Scriptures state it is to be dealt with publically.  So here is the principle.  Do rush to expand the circle of those involved in dealing with a sin.  Only involve those who were present.  The balance between going to war against those who sin against us and not dealing with it and hoping it will go away, is to lovingly confront in private.

The next issue is how the rebuke is received.  The phrase, “if your brother hears you,” means if he listens to you and recognizes his sin.  The second key in dealing with sin is that we need to humbly receive rebukes.  We don’t talk about this much, but, the sinner has just as much responsibility to receive it humbly as the aggrieved does to give it lovingly.  God in his wisdom uses each of us to perfect the other.  But this only works when we are humble.  If we refuse to be humble, we refuse to be perfected and ultimately we refuse the way of Jesus.

If the rebuke is not humbly received then the Issue needs to be made accountable to one or two others.  We need to be careful who we choose to bring into such a situation.  Choose individuals who can be objective and give godly wisdom if needed.  In other words you are not bringing your own personal posse to beat up on the person.  They are there to give witness to the actions and demeanor of both sides.

At this point I should bring up the problem of gossiping.  Even under the guise of getting advice we can be guilty of publishing the sins of others before we have rightly confronted them.  If you need advise get it in a general manner; not giving the name of the offender.  However, if the rebuke is not received you get two witnesses to verify.

Lastly, if you are still refused then it is to be exposed to the Church.  There is no process given and it is highly doubtful that Jesus intends us to stand up in church and tell the sins of the other.  Still, it needs to go before the elders of the church.  It has to be dealt with publically.  When a person goes through such a process and they still refuse to humble themselves and reconcile then something is deeply wrong in their heart.  They are not following the Lord.  They are following themselves.  For the sake of the church it is best, as in 1 Corinthians 5, to disfellowship the individual until they repent.  This doesn’t have to be a blow up.  It can be something as simple as this, “We love you, but because you refuse to deal with this sin and make things right, we have to ask you to leave until such a time as you can admit your fault and make things right.”  Otherwise, it will become a festering wound in the church and ultimately cause many more to be caught up in the issue.

Practical Thoughts For Christians

We must always remember that God uses our fellow Christians to help us grow to be more like Jesus.  It is the litmus test of our inner spiritual life.  We may not like it.  We may even run from it and try to avoid it.  However, we need to learn to properly challenge each other and we also need to learn to properly receive a challenge.  It is too easy not to say anything until we blow up.  This is a sin, also.  However, just because someone does a poor job of confronting us of our sin does not get us off the hook of repenting ourselves.  We can spend our time playing the legal game or we can become more like Jesus.  “He got mad and yelled at me in an unchristian way, so I don’t have to listen to him.”  “He sinned against me so I get a freebie to scream at him and vent.”  Both of these attitudes are sinful.

Sin that is not dealt with will get worse and hurt more people.  The choice to do nothing is sinful because it puts personal comfort in front of the pain of others.  Sin does not stay the same.  Rather, it grows and becomes worse.

Lastly, we need humility and love on both sides in order for there to be reconciliation.  God help us to love one another and thus prove that we do love Jesus.

Keys to the Kingdom P2 Audio


The Keys to the Kingdom

No one knows who invented the first lock and key.  But it stands to reason that the necessity of protecting valuables mothered its invention not long after sin entered the world.  The oldest discovered locking mechanism is 4,000 years old and was found in Nineveh.  It is similar to other locks found in Egypt within that same time.  The Bible also makes mention of locks in the book of Judges, which isn’t long after this period.

In Matthew 16 Jesus uses this imagery to speak about the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is a place and dominion that you need a “key” in order to join.  We don’t generally think of heaven as being a place that is locked.  But Jesus here reveals that he is giving his disciples “keys” that would unlock its gates to specific people.

Do I Know Who Jesus Is?

Jesus had asked his disciples who people were saying that he was in verse 13.  Of course they gave several answers.  Then in verse15 Jesus makes it personal.  Who do you say that I am?  The question is directed to all the disciples.  They had been with him for a while now and Jesus checks to see what they have come to understand about who he is.  Peter is the one who steps forward and answers for the group.  Obviously he risks “getting it wrong.”  However, this time, Peter nails the answer in verse 16.  The first part of his answer is that Jesus is the Christ.  Now Christ is a transliteration of a Greek word, not a translation.  The translation would be Anointed.  So Peter declares that Jesus is The Anointed One.  Now what is he talking about?  In the Old Testament the first group we see being anointed (having oil smeared on or poured over) was the priests.  Aaron and his sons were anointed for the ministry they were going to perform.  It was a picture of the presence of God’s Spirit to empower them for the holy function they were called to do.  Later the same was done for those who were to be King of Israel.  Thus only those called to an important and holy job on God’s behalf were anointed.  This idea of anointing was later given a connection to another concept of a Messiah or Savior that would rise up to save Israel and the World.  We see this in Psalm 2.  In this Psalm God’s Anointed One becomes a specific title.  The messiah would be God’s Anointed One who would be given the kingdoms of the earth.  Thus Peter recognizes Jesus as this Messiah/Anointed One for whom the world had been waiting.

The second part of Peter’s statement is that Jesus was the Son of God.  Now in a physical sense we can understand Jesus being called the Son of God because he was directly created by God in Mary’s womb.  Jesus was miraculously born by a virgin girl through the power of God.  Just as God directly shaped Adam and breathed the spirit of life into him, so God directly creates the matter that would become the man Jesus.

Yet, Jesus was the Son of God in an even deeper way.  The apostle John brings this out in the first chapter of his gospel.  In regard to his humanity, Jesus came into being just over 2,000 years ago.  But in regard to his spirit, he had existed from before the creation.  In fact he was in essence not only with God the Father, but he and the Father were together One God.  Yes, this does bring up the mysterious Trinity that can be a mind bender.  But this is what the disciples came to know about Jesus.  He and the Father were two and yet One.  To see the Son was to see the Father.  Both Son and Father have eternally been One with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was the only, True God-Man that has ever existed.  All others have been pretenders and fakes.

The Key of  The Knowledge of Who Jesus Is

Jesus points to Peter’s statement as important.  First it was not given to them by a man.  It was God himself who had revealed this to the disciples.  How did God do that?  He did it by first sending his Son, Jesus, who performed miracles and spoke the words of the Father.  He confirmed this by the Scriptures that had been given before hand.  The disciples could recognize the God of the Scriptures in what Jesus said.  The third thing is the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.  When push came to shove, something within the disciples testified that Jesus had the “Words of Life.”

In verse 18 Jesus then begins to talk about the Church he was going to build.  The Church would be built upon the truth of who Jesus is.  This truth is an immovable rock that is like a mountain in comparison to the small rock that Peter was.  But all of these individual rocks making their confessions of the Great Rock of Jesus and his true identity would build a group that even Hell itself could not stand up against.  I know that some try to make Peter himself the foundation of the Church but this seems to fly in the face of the language that is being used.  Yes, Peter is a part of the foundation of Jesus and His apostles, but that is it.  This knowledge of the identity of Jesus is a key that opens the way into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Thus the main task of the leaders of the Church is to use the Key of Knowledge to open the door to those who will receive it in faith.  However, this knowledge also repels some, just as it did in days of Jesus.  In like manner today, the truth of who Jesus is repels some and because they refuse to receive it, acts like a lock that both keeps them out of the Kingdom and stuck in their lost condition.  They are bound in a prison of their own making as they refuse to receive the truth.  So all who follow Christ and proclaim the truth of who he is have this key that both looses and binds those to whom they proclaim it.

Now the word “keys” is plural.  So it stands to reason that there are other keys and we will talk about those in the weeks to come.  But this key is critical and cannot be left out.

Here are some practical thoughts for those who have put their faith in Jesus.  People who have not heard the truth about who Jesus is are bound in a prison and kept back from his Life.  They are bound by a principle of death that comes from the effects of sin.  Only those with the keys to Life can help them.  God has given you a powerful key to life in the truth about who Jesus is.  Are you sharing it?  We must first see the plight of the lost before we will be motivated to help them.  What was it like for you before you became a believer?  May God start by reminding us of our own past, but also continue the teaching by opening our eyes to the pain, hurt, and death that is in the lives of people around us who do not know him.

Keys to the Kingdom audio