2018-07-18 / Religion

Strive to enter God’s Kingdom

Sunday School Lesson
Rev. James Temples

Luke 13:22-30; Matthew 7:15-23

The ministry of Jesus Christ of Nazareth began as an extension to that of John the Baptist. John preached a very simple — but profound — message — “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:2. After our Lord was baptized in the Jordan River, and had overcome the specific time of temptation, he began his public ministry. His message echoed that of John — “Repent: for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17b. The message preached by these two men was easily grasped by their hearers. The fact of a kingdom was the condition under which they had lived.

In what we know as “Western Society,” the picture of a “kingdom” does not touch personal lives to any great degree. Yet, for one to grasp the concepts being taught by our Lord, we must accept the principle, and apply it to our own lives.

Our Lord spoke to many different individuals, and groups. The message was the same, even though the words might be slightly different. The term “Kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” are used interchangeably in some of the teachings. He declared, “behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21b. He told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I might not be delivered to the Jews: but my kingdom is not from hence (here).” John 18:36. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Spirit).” Romans 14:17.

As the beloved physician, Luke (Colossians 4:14), recorded his account of the life and ministry of Jesus, he penned, “And he (Jesus) went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.” Luke 13:22. This road would take our Lord to the hill of Golgotha, when he would give his life for the sin of the whole world. While on this trek, “Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved(delivered)?” Luke 13:23a.

The devine answer has echoed down the corridors of time — “Strive to enter in at the strait gate...” Luke 13:24a. The use of the word “strive” shows the attitude that is expected to any person who will follow Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This Greek word paints the picture of one who “contends” or “competes for a prize.” The entrance into the Kingdom of God is always through the “strait gate.” This “strait gate” is “narrow from obstacles standing by.”

On another occasion, Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there that be that find (to come upon by search) it.” Matthew 23:13, 14. He addressed this thought in a direct way, as he spoke to the religious leaders — “But woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer (permit) ye them that are entering to go in.” Matthew 23:13. The psalmist could have had this picture in mind, as he wrote of the “Blessed man...nor standeth in the way of sinners.” Psalm 1:1c.

As Luke continued his account, he recorded the words of our Lod, “for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” Luke 13:24b. The hinderances continued to build against the entrance into the place of rest in Christ. See Matthew 10:28-30. The Apostle John recorded a scene in which our Lord declared of himself, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber...I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:1,9. Even in our day, there are many people who are attempting to “invent” some other way to enter, except through the Door. Modern methods are no more successful than those that have been tried in the past!

These charlatans are addressed by our Savior — “When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut the door, and ye begin to stand without, and knock, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, we have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not, whence ye are: depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.” Luke 13:25-27. Yes, Israel had “seen” the many mighty works of Jesus and had heard his great teachings. However — nationally — they rejected him. The only reward that they could expect is that of rejection. “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.” Luke 13:28.

The Jews were steeped in the doctrine of the “exclusiveness” of monotheism. This fact colored all of their religious vision. The continued words of Jesus were enough to gall the self-centered Jewish heart. “And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.” Luke 13:30.

This picture of the Gentiles — non-Jews — entering the kingdom of God was not a “new” teaching, but one that most Jews preferred to ignore. However, today, we can rejoice in the fact that “whosoever will (desires), let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17b. Have you accepted this divine invitation? The call of heaven is open to you, today. John 3:16.

Rev. James C. Temples’ Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. A native of Early County, Rev. Temples taught in public schools 32 years and 10 years at Southeastern College of Assemblies of God, in Lakeland, Fla. He also served as pastor and evangelist during those years. He can be contacted at P. O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478- 299- 2068. Email: temples_ james@ yahoo. c om

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