It is a life-changing demand. Or perhaps I should say demands (plural) bundled together into one.
So far, we have defined the kingdom of God as his redemptive reign. His kingdom is already present, invading this present evil age, but it has not yet come in complete glory and power. Rather, it has come subtly and humbly and unobtrusively. So now the question becomes: how do we enter the quiet kingdom?
The kingdom places one demand on anyone who surrenders to God’s sovereignty and authority: decision.
So what does this decision look like?
1.. Decision to repent
This decision must involve repentance. This word, very unpopular in the Christian world that is enthralled with the hyper-grace teaching, means two things, based on two Greek words. One is the noun metanoia (pronounced meh-tah-noi-ah), which literally means “change of mind” (the verb means the same). The other word (and its cognates) is the verb epistrephō (pronounced eh-pea-streh-foh), and the streph– stem means “to turn.”
Peter proclaimed to the Jerusalem crowd, “Repent and turn to God” (Acts 3:19). Here both words appear, so though they are full synonyms. Repenting is the change of mind, while turning is the new direction, a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn. You were going west, but now you are going east. You were going your own way, but now you are going God’s way.
Please see my post:
2.. Decision of the will
The decision involves the act of the will. People are often self-willed, but there is a problem here. They are also short-sighted. And short-sightedness leads to moral blindness. This moral blindness is in turn motivated by strong animal desires and instinct (2 Peter 2:10, 13). So it is a frightful prospect to be stuck within yourself. The only way out is to follow God and surrender to his sovereignty by relinquishing your will.
And this happens by the first point: Repent! Turn! Surrender!
3.. Resolute decision
The one decision for the kingdom must be final and quick and resolute. Luke records a series of possible disciples, who promised they would follow Jesus instantly (9:57-62). One of them said he would follow Jesus wherever he would go. Jesus said that foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. Was the talker willing to put action to his words and follow him to Jerusalem, without comfortable housing? Was he willing to sleep outside? To go wherever Jesus went, even to the cross?
Next, Jesus saw a man and said, “Follow me.” He replied that he had to first bury his father. There is nothing wrong with taking care of funeral arrangements, which often involved at least a week, but if other people in his family could do it, then they should. The kingdom is paramount.
Finally a third man said that he would follow Jesus, but first he had to go back home and say goodbye. Jesus said that he should act now and not look back. Apparently, Jesus perceived that the possible follower was reluctant. In effect Jesus told him not to get bogged down in the past.
All decisions for the kingdom must be firm and unconditional.
4.. Radical decision
The kingdom demands a radical decision. Jesus said that the kingdom of God is preached and men of violence take it by force (Matt. 11:12) and everyone enters it violently (Luke 16:16). So why a violent entry into the kingdom? This is a metaphor for a firm decision. Let’s look at some other examples of “kingdom violence.”
In Luke 14:26, if we do not hate our family compared to our desire to enter the kingdom, then we cannot be his disciple. Hatred is a kind of violence. (By the way, hatred v. love in the kingdom is the language of covenant; hatred speaks of absolutely rejecting the old covenant and love means absolutely accepting Jesus’s new way he is inaugurating.)
Jesus said that if a kingdom citizen’s right hand or eye offends him, he should cut it off and gouge it out (Matt. 5:29-30; Mark 9:43-47). This metaphor of cutting and gouging speaks of violence.
Jesus said to strive to enter the kingdom, and the Greek verb for strive relates to our word “agonize” (Luke 13:24). We have to strain our will to decide the enter the kingdom.
Humanity today is casual about various things in life, particularly his religion. People can take it or leave it. They go to church for a while; then they quit. Jesus says no. They must make a radical decision and stick with it.
5.. Costly decision
The kingdom demands a costly decision. Peter said, “We have left everything and followed you” (Matt. 19:27). He asked what they would receive. Jesus replied that the twelve would sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, and everyone else would receive a hundredfold of the families they left. This does not mean literally a hundredfold number of biological parents, but spiritual parents (and brothers and sisters and children), no doubt because of the Christian community or family. They will inherit eternal life too.
The context of this point shows the rich young man who was unwilling to give it all away. Jesus had placed the demand to follow him by giving away all he had (Matt. 19:16-30). Apparently Jesus saw in him that money possessed him. He was breaking the tenth commandment against coveting, even though the young man said he had kept all the commandments. It’s not so much about wealth per se, but about the heart. However, let’s not overlook the fact that Peter and his brother Andrew and James and John, two brothers, were in the fishing business with Peter and Andrew (Luke 5:1-11). As we just heard from Peter, they gave up their business.
Following Jesus may cost you plenty.
6.. Eternal decision
The kingdom requires us to make an eternal decision. Jesus said: “I say to you, ‘Everyone who acknowledges me before people—the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. He who denies me before people will be denied before the angels of God’” (Luke 12:8-9, my translation). This demand is serious business. It comes in the context of persecution. If you deny him now, he will deny you in the eternal, fully manifested kingdom. But the good news: the Son of Man will also acknowledge you in the eternal, fully manifested kingdom, if you return the acknowledgement.
How does this post help me to follow Jesus more devoutly?
The kingdom of God demands a final and costly and resolute and irreversible decision to surrender to God’s redemptive rule and power and authority and sovereignty and to follow Jesus. But God enables you to be born again, so the decision you make will be sustained by the Spirit and will come by God’s grace. I believe that no one can strut into God’s kingdom without being wooed first. God invites everyone, and the wooing is started by the preaching of the Word and the Spirit energizing it.
By reading this post, if you are not yet in the kingdom, you can enter it by praying a simple prayer, sincerely and from the heart. “Father, I repent of my self-will and self-wisdom. I have badly offended you by my defiance and refusal to follow your ways. I now see the errors of my ways and surrender to your sovereignty. I surrender to the Lordship and Kingship of your Son Jesus Christ. By your sustaining grace I will follow you for all my days, no matter the cost.”
ARTICLES IN THE SERIES
9 The Demand of the Kingdom
At that link, look for Ladd’s little book published in 1959. It’s still wonderful.