Monday, January 31, 2011

To enter into the kingdom, we need to be like little children

Is there still relevance for Christians to consider this, since we have already entered the kingdom?

Without going into what constitutes the kingdom, it suffices, for the purpose of this article, to consider whether or not, having entered into salvation or having been born again, constitutes having entered into the kingdom. What do you think; entering into salvation means entry into the kingdom?

Jesus said we need to be like little children to enter
Concerning the need to be like little children to enter into the kingdom, 3 out of the 4 gospel books have almost the same wordings; they are Mark 10:15, Matt 18:3 and Luke 18:17.

I {Jesus} tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Mark 10:15)

And he {Jesus} said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:3).

I {Jesus} tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17)

Has the kingdom already come?
According to my reading and understanding of Jesus’ teaching, the kingdom of God can be considered to have come to Man from the time of His death and resurrection. Some might want to consider it having come with Jesus being born or when he started His earthly ministry, but I believed it should be upon His resurrection (3 days after His death) that the kingdom under Christ Jesus was formed, for upon resurrection, Jesus was restored to the throne, at the side of the Father God. Furthermore, Jesus when He was preaching on earth, He said that the kingdom of God was near or at hand, meaning that it was near but still not yet in place, then. Also, we read in Matthews 16:21-28, when Jesus spoke to His disciples concerning His impending death and resurrection, in verses 27 and 28, He said that He would enter into His Father’s glory and His going into His kingdom:

27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. 28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matt 16:27-28)

To me, Jesus' coming to His disciples, after His resurrection (3 days after death), can be construed as His coming (to His disciples) in His Kingdom.

What about the Lord’s Prayer?
Of course, there are those who challenged such a conclusion, citing that Jesus taught the believers to pray for the kingdom to come, in the Lord’s Prayer.

The argument is: if the kingdom has come, how come Jesus still taught believers to pray for the kingdom to come? It is commonly accepted that the Lord’s Prayer was NOT intended for the believers then only, or to be said by believers only once (like some “overly grace” teachers are erroneously teaching it, because of the issue of asking for God’s forgiveness was found in it). It, the Lord's Prayer, is to be embraced by every believer across time. Then, how do we explain the presence of asking for the kingdom to come?

My understanding is: in the Lord’s Prayer, we are to pray for more and more of the realities of the kingdom of Heaven to be manifest in our present earthly living, not literally as calling for the coming of the kingdom, like it is not yet already formed. The kingdom of Jesus Christ was already formed upon His resurrection by the Father God; He was and is sitting on His throne at the right hand of the Father God as the king and ruler of His kingdom. Yet the fullness of kingdom of Jesus Christ has not fully invaded our earthly living; and we, as believers or Christians, are to help enforce the realities of Christ’s kingdom, on earth; that is what the Lord’s Prayer was exhorting us to do.

Yes, we enter the kingdom upon entering salvation
With this understanding, what we therefore believe, is that after Jesus’ resurrection, when we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior or enter into salvation, we enter into Jesus’ kingdom and is one of His subjects. In this sense, it is every believer is already in the kingdom of God, only that we are still living in a “phase” whereby we are in the world (earthly world) where Heaven’s realities are not fully manifest on earth as yet.

Kingdom of God in phases
Comprehending the kingdom of God in “phases”, I believe, is the correct approach to take. A believer living in his earthly life is in one phase of the kingdom of God; life after this life is another phase; Judgment Day is another phase; thereafter, is another phase; ultimately what is most important is the phase after Judgment Day, which is the phase of living with God in Heaven.

There is even another dimension of this “phases” make-up of the kingdom, and there was the “before Jesus’ 1st coming” phase (Old Testament phase); the “post 1st coming” phase (the current phase), Millennium Rule phase (where Jesus would come back again and rule a 1,000 years on earth), the Judgment Day phase, and finally the post-Judgment Day phase which coincides with the phase of the living in Heaven with God.

As a believer, all of us need discernment of which phase we are in, and carry ourselves according to the requirements of that phase. The people of God in the Old Testament phase had needed to obey the Law; that was their requirements. For us, we need to know what God requires of us, in our phase.

John touched on the fundamental requirement of being born again
Before we go back to the issue posed by the title of this article, by way of mention, I will like to say that in the gospel of John, although the Apostle John did not talk about entering into kingdom of God the same way the other 3 authors of the gospel recorded Jesus’ words, he did cover the fundamental requirement for coming into the kingdom, and it, being that, one must be born (again) of both, the water and the Spirit.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5).

This, I will not cover here, as I have previously dealt with this, and readers who are interested, can read my separate article, “No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit

Having entered, is there still relevance of being like little children?
Indeed, if we can accept that having accepted Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior means that we have entered into the kingdom of God, then, is there still any relevance to consider whether we are to be like little children or not, as believers?

I tend to look at the entrance requirement, NOT so much like, you have a good university degree and so, you will get into a good company to work, and when you have gained entry, you have no need of the university cert. You will be surprised that many have this “cert” mentality. Actually, what is more important is what the cert. pointed to; that is the real requirement! Suppose, one lazy and unscrupulous Mr A managed to get a forged top university degree showing top honors, and with that, managed to get into a top MNC to work as a manager; do you think he will last long in the top MNC? Do you think he can just rely on “I got the cert, what!” and can cruise along, without doing his part as a manager of the MNC? Even if he managed to get through the probation phase, he might not get through the annual assessment phase!

Well, one maybe already in the Kingdom of God, we, Christians, are in the Earthly Phase, but there is still the final Heavenly Phase.  You and I are NOT there yet.  Perhaps, the "enter the Kingdom", is best undestood to mean to enter all the way to the final gate of the Heavenly Phase of the Kingdom, to where the ultimate Promised Land is.

Bro. Anthony, the kingdom of God is not like that-lah!
The Kingdom is not like that? Is it so? Maybe, not exactly like that, but still, it is not just basking in grace. I am not saying, we are saved through good works, but at the same time, Eph 2:10 does say, we are saved to do good works. Also, the Book of James is very clear about faith without works is dead. It is obvious, such dead faith is not pleasing to God. Ok, I am also not driving believers to do good works solely by their own effort, for Scripture, in Philippians 2:13, does say, it is God who works in you to will and act according to His good pleasure. But at the same time, we cannot hide behind this Philippians verse, and claim no responsibility, purportedly, saying, it is not our fault if God did not work hard enough in us, to will and act according to His good pleasure. We are to partner God, and yield ourselves to obey His Word and be willing to be led by His Holy Spirit; and this calls for a certain mindset and attitude.

Gleaning from little children
Is it possible that such a mindset and attitudes can be gleaned from little children? That is the pertinent issue.

I believe there are relevant mindset or attitudes of the little ones that we are expected to still possess and follow through, even after we have come into the earthly phase of the kingdom of God. They are as follows:

1. Do not give up our fascination with God. When a child steps into a “frontier”, he pictures that there is a lot more, many more, awesome things lie beyond the initial steps, some more new things and fresh things to see and experience if he pursues further. We must continue to hold in our mind and heart, that giganticness, of God and His kingdom, in all dimensions of hugeness, as we once thought it to be; and for many of us, that would be before (or in the process) or at our entry into the kingdom. It is wrong to brush away those initial sense of God’s awesomeness as illusions, as some overly grace believers are encouraging others to do, saying, we should just get on with our lives as before. How can we take that attitude, for we are a new creation; we are now born of the Spirit, having the Holy Spirit to lead us?

2. God love us, we must love God. Children know their parents love them after experiencing what their parents freely gave unto them. They learn to love them back, and would continue to love their parents. When we teach little ones how to love their parents, for example, by making nice little crafts for their parents, they would readily do them. How about us, believers? Have we not recognized that what the Lord had showered upon us were not things that we have merited? Scripture said, because God first loved us, we ought to love Him back. Do we love Him back? Scripture taught us how to love our God, do you readily embrace that?

3. To love God is to obey Him. After knowing their parents love them, children quickly learn that their parents are to be obeyed, too. Do we also, like the children, realize that God is to be obeyed? Parents expect obedience from children, for the children’s own good. It is the same; God expects obedience from us, believers, for our own good. God has our interest at heart. Children learn also that, they obey their parents because they did not want to upset their parents; it is their way of loving their parents back. It is the same; obeying God is loving God. Scripture said, those who obey God’s commands are the ones who love Him (John 14:21). Obedience is not necessarily out of fear; it can be out of love!

4. Do not forget or rationalize away the peace and joy. These, we once had, in the process of/at the entry into salvation. When a child had experienced joy, he wants more of the same. He wants to go the same place, if it was a place; he wants to go back to the state, if it was a state; he refuses to let go. What do we, adults, tend to do? We think, that was in the past, it was over, it was best we just forget about it, and be like “normal” people, conditioned by the world to think, we are to be “just surviving”. Instead of wanting more of the peace and joy, and guarding it, adults succumb to rationalizing it away as being impractical; adults tend to resign to “there are more important things” to pursue. The over-emphasis of self-independence has also caused us not to embrace reliance on God for peace and joy. According to Scripture (Rom 14:17), the peace and joy that we should be wanting is the peace and the joy in the Holy Spirit.

5. Do not stop learning. Children do not stop wanting to know about their fathers (or parents) and to know their fathers (or parents). How peace and joy can come? Children learn, and we, too, should learn how we can have peace and joy and prevent them from slipping away. Knowledge of truths is one way peace and joy can come. Doing that which pleases God is the other. Learning is both acquiring knowledge of truths, and applying the knowledge.

The opposite of peace is anxiety, and the main ingredient of anxiety is uncertainty. We are uncertain because we have insufficient knowledge, for with insufficient knowledge it is difficult for us to understand and to trust. Children secure their peace through learning and interaction with the fathers or parents. It is the same for us, believers; we are to learn about God, and get to know Him, and we are to interact with Him, in order to secure peace. If we do the things God disapproves of, we are not going to be able to interact positively with Him.

6. God knows best and is capable. For the little ones, their papa (or parents) knows best; their papa (or parents) knows what he is doing. They would insist that their papa would come through for them. They would have such “faith” in their daddies, who are heroes to them. (Of course, because of the fallen state of the world, some papas disappointed their little ones, and at times, such failures brought very negative developments in children). When you malign their dads, they will fight you! They will even refuse to listen to anything bad that you want to say about their fathers; they just want to continue to trust that their papa is good all the time. As believers, we all trusted God before; the question is, “Are you still like the little children, continuing to put your faith in the God who is good all the time?” Do you believe He knows best, and that you can trust Him to know how best, to see you through if you would obey Him?

6a. [Inserted 17/12/2012] Be lowly or humble. Another way of looking at children's keenness to learn and to be acknowledging fathers or parents know best and are capable, and therefore, deferring to their fathers/parents and even to others, is view it from the dimension of lowliness or humility. We, adults, on the other hand, tend NOT to defer to another, instead, would rather claim that we could do it or have the answers to problems.  Children are humble to ask for help, and more readily acknowledge that fact, voluntarily; adults, on the other hand, want to be face-saving, want to boast, and if possible omit, saying help was sought or received, i.e. we are prideful.

7. God is never too far away. Children know and rest in knowing that their fathers or parents are never too far away. When they need their parents, they will be there. It is also so, for us; God is never too far away. In fact, in God’s faithfulness, through the Holy Spirit indwelling us, God knows what is going on in our lives, despite, we not sensing it or seeing it. In God’s eyes, we are all, despite our age, still his children. Those interested, can read my separate article, “The Lord as the Papa eagle – a vision of faithfulness, comfort and assurance”.

8. Stay in fellowship with believers. Children just mix, play, and even work together; be it, in their made-believed roles or actual endeavors. We, adults, conditioned by the world to emphasize personal achievements and looking after self-interest, have learned not to share, and give. We are also, too worried about being hurt and disappointed. And we have bought into the deception, that the only way to be happy is to receive, and never the other way round, to give.

9. Learn to love your neighbors. Children know love and they will learn to love, not just their parents, but also others. Children recognize the love coming from their fathers (or parents), and they learn to love them back. Not only that, they learn to love other kids. A child who freely received from his parents, freely shares and gives to others; it is the adults who teach them differently (or they learn it differently by observing the adults)! Can you be a child again, and believe that God freely gives you all good things, and you can share and give some away to others, and in the process you will be happy? A sister, on her blog has humbly written about what her little girl taught her about this; you can read her article, “Lessons from a child

10.I want to be with my God. Children want to be with their father or parents, there is no denying about this. They know their father or parents love them, and they in turn love them back, and they know they will miss their father or parents, and that their father or parents’ hearts would be broken if they are lost. As a believer, do you feel the same for your Abba Father? We should not doubt our Father’s love for us, and if we love our Father, we should want to be able to go to Him when we pass on. I do not appreciate a believer being nonchalant about going to Heaven. We break our Father’s heart when we are not serious about going to Heaven, to be with Him. Jesus died so that we can make that journey; do not profane that.

We want to be with our God, but do we know the most fundamental nature-hood of our God? No, it is not love; it is holiness. Scripture exhorts us to be holy as God is holy; we, be righteous as God is righteous. If we say we want to live with God eventually, are we currently submissive to His refining fire to refine us in that direction (Heb 12:10)? Do you know that without holiness, no one sees God (Heb 12:14b)?

So, even though we have entered the kingdom of God, for our current phase of the kingdom living, we still need to be like little children; continue to be fascinated by the things of God, always remember God loves us, and so, we ought to love Him back, and to love Him is to obey Him; we are to pursue peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, never stop learning concerning God and our faith heritage, and to continue to believe that God knows best, and that He is capable, and we are to be humble; we are to know that God is never too far away, for His Spirit is indwelling us; meanwhile, we ought to stay in fellowship with other brothers and sisters, and love our neighbors even as we love God; finally, we must want to be with God, eventually; and towards that end, we must be willing to align ourselves to His righteousness and holiness.

Anthony Chia – Father, I still lack the faith to trust you to provide for me fully, even though as a child previously, I trusted my parents to provide for me, unconditionally. God, forgive me for my lack of faith in you. Help me in my unbelief, Lord. I pray this in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

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