“Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father I heaven” (Matt. 7:21)
Jesus frequently mentioned heaven (a.k.a. the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God). In this instance He gave us a qualification for entering it. You would think entrance should be by faith alone. Jesus tells us plainly that entrance requires obedience to the Father’s will – of having His words and doing them. Isn’t it supposed to be by faith alone? Is this a contradiction in the Bible?
In the matters of salvation, Jesus frequently looks to the future, to the kingdom of God, as well as to a present relationship with Himself. But we frequently look to the past, to the time we first trusted in Christ. Is our emphasis misplaced? Are we resting our security upon a confession made years ago, but have not attempted to know a life of on-going obedience to God? Perhaps we are focusing on a theological idea rather than on pleasing God and living for Him. God has a goal we are to reach for.
In Col. 1:27-29 Paul tells us of a great truth, of “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Paul said that he labored mightily by the power of God to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” The perfection of being in Christ is – Christ being in us. Paul worked hard to get these truths out because they were not automatically given upon our initial confession of Christ. It’s like receiving a very nice camera as a gift, but several accessories you need require extra expense on your part to obtain. In our case, enjoying the coming kingdom of God will require obedience to the Father’s will. Obedience does not contradict faith; indeed, Peter tells us to “add to your faith” so that we will have an abundant entrance into the kingdom (2 Peter 1:5-11). We believed God’s offer of sins forgiven and responded with faith. Now let’s believe His reward of a kingdom and respond in obedience.
Perhaps Paul had to labor strongly to bring his readers to obedience to God simply because we have been accustomed to obeying the leading of the flesh, the world, and the Devil. By learning how God works, we discern the difference between following the True Shepherd and the counterfeiters. His sheep know His voice, and they follow Him. Perhaps the essence of obedience is doing whatever it takes to follow the Shepherd.
Christ in you is the hope of glory. The said glory will be enjoyed in the kingdom of God. Obedience is the path to the indwelling Christ, as Jesus taught His disciples in John 14:19-24. “At that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” What day is that? “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” How can we have hope that we’ll enter the kingdom? Christ in you is the evidence you have been obeying the Lord, and is the basis of your hope!
If we believe this wonderful promise of the Godhead dwelling in us, then we’ll take action to submit our lives to obedience. Obedience is not legalism, but an expression of our faith. You believe what God says – so you obey. Faith without works is dead, James taught (James 2:26). When you first heard the gospel of salvation by faith, you responded in obedience by confessing your sins. Have you continued in obedience? Have the affairs of this life choked the Word, preventing your faith from growing to full-flowered obedience?
When the disciples were arguing over who would be the greatest in the kingdom of God, Jesus used the occasion to teach an aspect of entering the kingdom of heaven related to obedience. “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3-4).
The person who is obedient to God has turned away from following other masters. Obedience to God has no substitute. The proud do not obey God, nor can they, for personal reputation is a master taking God’s place. Only the humbled will obey. We are humbled when we realize that the things we’ve heaped up around us have not given us the life we’ve hoped for. Our lack of peace and joy despite our tornado of activity converts us into a meek child who acknowledges the Father again.
Unfulfilled expectations humble us to seek God afresh. Then obedience is begun anew when we decide that we’ll do what the Bible says so that we’ll get the life that really matters. Jesus is the true life, and that life will be ours when Jesus enters the heart through a love that obeys by faith.