How can I enter the kingdom?
So let us look at what is required to enter the kingdom of God. Remember there is only one qualification for this and the very mention of it will cause many religious minds to shake their heads in disbelief, just as the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. Indeed the only qualification for receiving the Holy Spirit is that a person should be ‘ungodly’. That’s right there was no typo error there. A person ought to be ungodly to receive the Holy Spirit. Let me explain, in truth all of us are sinners no matter how good we try to be, we are not sinners because of what we do. This is more easily illustrated by the question:
Q) How many sins does a person have to commit to become a sinner?
Check if you answered ‘1’ or more. The correct answer is zero. That’s right, we are not sinners because we sin but rather we sin because we are sinners. So even before you sinned your first sin, you were a sinner. If you have understood this then praise God, His kingdom is not far from you. Understanding this makes us realize that no matter what we do we have sin in our nature and we are ‘ungodly’. The sooner we realize it, the sooner we can come into His kingdom. The Pharisees could not understand this and were therefore considering themselves as righteous and holy people and questioned Jesus in [Luke 5:30-32] NRSV about His mingling with sinners and tax-collectors, which is why Jesus said “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
If you consider yourself righteous or godly from birth then Jesus would say the same thing to you today. If only the Pharisees understood that they too were equally sinners they might have had a chance. Now when we realize this, we also realize that we are in need of a Savior and that we can do nothing in ourselves to earn God’s kingdom. But a person trusting in his good acts is likened to the Pharisees who could not see the need of Jesus in their lives. So now you see why it is only the ungodly who can receive what God has to offer, yes it is because they can no longer depend upon their own merit but need a Savior and have to rely totally on God’s grace.
Born from above?
OK, so you understand that there is a need of a Savior in your life, what next? Now we come to the importance of Jesus’ words in [John 3:3] NKJV “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” To be born again or to be born from above means to be born of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said this to Nicodemus who was a Pharisee who secretly came to Jesus at night. But Nicodemus could not understand this statement; therefore Jesus said to him in [verse 5], “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”**.
The Word of God tells us in [1 Thessalonians 5:23] that we are essentially a 3-part being made up of Spirit, soul and body. Today there are many different ways to categorize how the human being is made up, however I prefer the biblical way stated above. The body is our external part which includes our 5 senses; our soul is made up of our mental, intellectual and emotional being that includes our personality and character. The spirit is the part which God created for us to operate in union with Him, however because of Adam’s sin our spiritual union with God was broken and we were spiritually dead (separated) from God. Now being born of water signifies our biological (physical) birth, where we are enclosed in the womb surrounded by water. To understand what being born of spirit is, let us take a look at the account of the birth of Jesus. Now we know that Jesus likened God’s word to a seed [Luke 8:11]. In [Luke 1:26-38] the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary bringing the Word of God to her. Mary heard what the angel said and finally said in [verse 38] NRSV “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” In other words she agreed and accepted the Word or the seed into her heart which God gave to her through the angel Gabriel and then the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and activated that seed in her which resulted in the birth of the holy child Jesus. Now when a person realizes that he is a sinner or is ungodly, he knows that he is in need of God and His Word. So when someone brings the Word of God to him, he has the freewill to accept or reject it, if he chooses to reject it, he is rejecting God’s seed or Word that can bring life into him, but if he accepts the seed then like Mary, he receives the seed into his heart and then the Holy Spirit activates the seed in him and it results in a new creation (a holy child) being born in him.
This new creation (or child) is his spirit which is one with God. Which is why Paul said in [2 Corinthians 5:17] RSV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come”. We know that our old body did not pass away the moment we chose Jesus as our Savior, our mind and thinking are pretty much the same, the only thing that has changed is our spirit. This is our new born again spirit living inside of us. Paul says in [1 Corinthians 6:17] NRSV that “But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him” and in [Ephesians 4:24] NKJV “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness”. Why would Paul have asked us to put on the new man created according to God? Simply because we still experience the oldness of our intellect and emotions, that part does not instantaneously change, but it is our spirit that has instantaneously changed.
From this it is evident that when we are born of the Spirit, a new spirit is birthed into us, one that is as righteous and holy as Jesus was, one that is equal in every aspect with Jesus. So being born of the Spirit is nothing but the Holy Spirit bringing the Spirit of Christ into our spirit. We now have the nature of Christ ‘in our spirit’. Many have misunderstood the meaning of being born again; some mistake this term to refer to a cult or religion, some have the notion that it is the result of the repetition or utterance of a sinner’s prayer or the performance of a ritual and that the acts of going to church or reading the bible or services of charity and help to the poor are acts of being born again, but these all are counted worthless in front of God if there is no conversion of the heart and more importantly no spiritual birth. No matter how many times a person confesses or how many times he receives communion, when there is no relationship with God all these acts are but dead works.
It is important to note that only because of this new birth, God our Father can now consider us to be children of God and joint heirs with Christ [Romans 8:16-17]. In fact we can call God ‘Abba Father’ because of the new relationship that results from this new birth. God is Holy and hates sin; therefore nothing that is unholy or ungodly can come before God to worship Him. But because of who we are in the spirit, we now have access to God [Ephesians 2:18] to worship Him, as God looks at us based on who we are in the spirit and in the spirit we are equal to Jesus; if we are indeed truly born of the Spirit. At this stage we can be conscious that the Spirit of Christ dwells in us, however it is important to note that we have not yet been immersed or baptized in the Holy Spirit, which I will speak about a little later.
How many shall enter into the kingdom of God? One thing is certain, Jesus said that wide is the gate and broad is the way to destruction, this we all very well understand but He didn’t stop there, He went on to say in [Matthew 7:14] NRSV “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” And in [Luke 13:24] NRSV “for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able”. Wow, this speaks volumes. In other words, if there are many people going along a certain way we can be sure that it is not the narrow way that leads to the kingdom of God. Otherwise Jesus would have made a mistake in making that comment. No wonder then that there are secrets to the kingdom of God, and these secrets or mysteries are only revealed to those with child-like faith [Matthew 11:25].