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Entries in Keys (2)

Tuesday
Aug072012

The Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, Part 3

We have seen how Matthew 16 and Matthew 18 demonstrate the Keys to the Kingdom that Jesus has given to his church.  First, the truth about God and His Son Jesus and, second, How believers and the church as a whole deal with sin.

There are no other passages that tie into the terminology of these passages to suggest other keys.  However, it is easy to see how many aspect become "key" to helping people into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Love and humility in all we do is Key.  Mercy and Grace are also Key.   But these things are the how to the above whats.  Today I want to tie together some concluding thoughts on this subject by starting in Luke 11.

The Old Testament Saints Had The Key of Knowledge

The key to the kingdom of heaven was not a new thing.  God had already given it to Israel in his Law and then reminded of it through his prophets.  The problem was that the religious leaders kept missing the point because of their sin.  In Luke 11 starting in verse 52, Jesus holds the religious "lawyers" accountable for taking away the Key of knowledge.

This knowledge that they had been given was about who the Creator was and how men could please him.  Clearly the Law was misunderstood.  The religious leaders who were responsible to interpret the law for the people improperly used the law to build up their own traditions or ideas.  They ignored the warnings and revelations of the prophets and instead fixated on a technical keeping of the law.  In fact they didn't even do that well.  It is important for us to understand that the Law that God gave Moses was to help us understand who He is and what He desires of us.  It is the very words and judgments of God.  Thus it is not something that we can twist and manipulate looking for loopholes and technicalities.  When we do this we are shaping God in our own image, our own thinking.  This is a political attitude that is not only found in courtrooms but also in the halls of government today.

The lawyers showed their true self once they were rebuked by Jesus.  The Bible says, "Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you, rebuke a wiseman and he will love you."  Of course Jesus' job is to reveal the true self of these hypocritical posers.  Luke says that they began to assail him vehemently.  Not only at that time, but also from that time forward, they did not listen to what he said.  They only watch him like a hungry wolf for any point of weakness in which they might attack.  Doesn't that just about sum up politics and the courtroom here in America?  I am not judging everyone.  However, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that politics and justice in this country has become a bunch of posers who do not debate.  Rather they look for loopholes and leverage points in the law and the words of each other in order to better their position.  This will not work with God.  He will not be mocked by our psuedo sophistry, or our false wisdom.  We will be held accountable and believe me we know too much.

The attitude of the lawyers is that of a dog in the door.  I don't mean the lazy dog picture.  But rather the pit bull that stands in front of the door barking and foaming at the mouth.  They don't go in but rather stand at the door keeping everyone from getting in.  Their is a need for religious leaders, but not those who make a mockery of the Truth of God, not those who attack anyone who tries to really know God.

So the Old Testament saints had enough knowledge to enter the Kingdom. However, the religious leaders had so confused the issue that God had to send Jesus to clarify and give greater definition to the truth.

By Faith We Already Live in Christ's Kingdom

In Colossians chapter 1 verse 13 we have a powerful verse.  "He [God] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love."  This is a picture of a military incursion.  Although it is not a physical airlifting from one country to another, that is the picture spiritually.  We once were in a kingdom of darkness and ignorance to the Truth of God.  But now through the life, miracles and teaching of Jesus we have been airlifted into a kingdom of light that is ruled by the Son of God's love.  Yes we are physically in this world, but spiritually we are not of it.  We are of a heavenly kingdom.  That kingdom will one day physically come to earth.  But until then we spiritually participate in it now through our faith in Jesus.  Jesus told the pharisees of his day that they would not see the kingdom of heaven come.  Rather it would be in the hearts of people.  That is where we have been for nearly 2,000 years.  However, he is not saying that it will never "really" come, that it was only meant to be spiritual.  So we are to live today in the light of a future kingdom.

What does kingdom living look like?  In Galatians 5:6 it says, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love."  The first thing I would point out is that Kingdom living does not fixate on the technicalities of God's Law but rather looks to the spirit of what is being said.  That doesn't mean we don't obey it.  However, we don't stop there.  Rather, we realize that the rejection of sexual immorality speaks of a deeper rejection of spiritual harlotry, adultery and promiscuity. 

Instead of working on a list of do's and don'ts, our faith in Jesus expresses itself in loving actions towards God and our fellow man.  This is the life God has called us to.  A life that is lived with an ear to the Spirit of God who is the Spirit of Truth.  The previous method of technicalities and loopholes may look godly, but it is empty and powerless to accomplish anything spiritually.  However the life that is lived by faith expressing itself through loving actions, this life is the life that pleases God and transforms our life.  It is powerful because the Spirit of God is within it.

Here are some practical thoughts for Christians.  Make sure you have fully entered into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Challenge yourself by looking into the mirror of God's word.  Have I been a dog in the door towards others?  Have used technicalities and loopholes to my advantage and yet disadvantaged others with them?  Have I judged others strictly and yet hypocritically justify myself at every turn?  God is not pleased with such actions and calls us to repent and walk by faith in Jesus Christ and in the power of His Spirit.

Another challenge for us is to not trust the mind of man.  No matter how brilliant a theologian is, we must trust God's Word over the top of man's attempt to explain it.  The Rabbi's were very creative and brilliant in their analysis of the law and the creation of traditions.  However, they were completely off track.  They missed it.  Don't turn God's word into a document that you can twist and find technicalities in.  Don't look for loopholes and what you can get away with.  Instead see it as a glimpse into the heart of God.  God has revealed his heart and we need to respond in faith through the actions of love rather than looking for was around it.

Keys to the Kingdom P3 Audio

Tuesday
Jul312012

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