Entering the Kingdom Today

Dallas Willard Part 6 of 8

Rolling Hills Covenant Church had listened to Dallas for over ten years. For this Sunday school class, they asked him to speak less about the spiritual life and more about God and the kingdom of God, about sin and our redemption from it.


Dallas: Now, in our last three sessions, we need to talk in order about three things—Entering the Kingdom of Heaven, Ministering the Kingdom of Heaven (that’s next time), and then last, Growing—Growing in the Kingdom of Heaven. So, entering, ministering, and growing in the Kingdom of Heaven and you have now—the general outline has scripture passages which if you can study through those before you come, I believe it will be helpful. [00:31]

All of these topics are somewhat difficult because perhaps you have a sense that as you study these topics, they don’t exactly coincide with many of our ideas and we need to especially keep that in mind today as we talk about Entering the Kingdom of God. And we need to keep that before our minds in order to ask such questions as, “What does entering the Kingdom of God have to do with professing your faith in Jesus Christ and becoming a church member?”

I doubt there is anyone here, because I know the theological background of the church very well and know many of you—I doubt there is any of you here who would say that everyone who joins a church has entered the Kingdom of Heaven, right? And, even this church, as good as it is, you would still say, “Well, there might be someone here who has joined the church but has not entered the Kingdom of Heaven.” [1:34]

We Baptists—I am Baptist in background—it’s very, ah, entertaining to watch us on many points [Laughter] and one of them is, as you know, Baptists profess what they call regenerate church membership.  We have revivals then or evangelistic meetings and these regenerate church members get saved right and left. [Laughter] Well, praise the Lord! That’s all you can say, isn’t it? I mean, thank goodness they didn’t get hung up on that so much that they couldn’t do something about their need when it became clear. Right? And so, we even have Baptist preachers getting saved. That’s a hard case if you’ve ever found ones. [Laughter] That happens. It actually happens and Praise the Lord that it does. [2:25]

So, we now need to think and I really hope that today we can stay out of the snare of legalisms and formulas as much as possible just so that we can explore in our spirits with the Lord the idea of entering the Kingdom of Heaven.

So, let’s begin with some distinctions. I’ve put a lot of scriptures on the board but let’s just begin by making a few distinctions that are absolutely essential. First of all, we have to recognize that we are already under the rule of God. No one, no thing is outside of the rule of God, okay? You know, we sing the song “He’s got the little, bitty baby in His hand.” He’s got “the gambling man in His hand.” He’s got “you and me brother, in His hand.” Everything is in God’s hand. Right? So, when we are talking about entering the Kingdom of Heaven, we are not talking about winding up in God’s hands. We are all in God’s hands. [3:17]

When we speak of entering the Kingdom of Heaven, we are talking about meshing our lives willingly and with understanding, meshing our lives with God’s Kingdom. That’s what we are talking about.

You see, before the—it’s an interesting thing about discovering electricity. They discovered electricity some time—you know, remember Ben Franklin and his kite and all that sort of thing? Now, were we in the hands of electricity before we discovered it? You bet your boots we were. I mean, at the basis, electrical power or electromagnetism is an absolutely inescapable part of physical reality, isn’t it? Hmmm?  What we call discovering electricity is a matter of finding this reality and positioning ourselves by choice and understanding with it, right? [4:25]

So you see, there are two senses of entering the Kingdom of God—entering the Kingdom of Heaven. There is one sense in which you don’t have any choice about it. God is in control. His Kingdom is from everlasting to everlasting, period.

But there is another sense in which we have to choose to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and that is, the sense in which God offers to us, as He offered to Abraham, and to Moses, and to David, and to the prophets; He has offered to us the opportunity to live by His power through faith according to His will—to live by His power through faith according to His will.   All of those things now have to be kept there—by His power, through faith, according to His will. [5:20]

There is a life which we can live with a power that is not our own. We live by His power. There is a life which we can live with a power that is not our own. It is a supernatural power; that is, it is a power that is beyond nature. We come to know that power when we are informed about it by acting in faith and reliance upon it.

Now, there is nothing deep about that. If you don’t have faith in electricity, it may contact you but you will not be able to lead your life without flipping switches and things of that sort. You’ve got to be able to do it, right? That’s just common sense. That’s faith. Faith is not when you are trying to believe something. Faith is when you believe it. That’s awfully important to say. Faith is not trying to believe. Faith is belief. And what we often call the struggle of faith is the struggle to have faith because if you had faith, the struggle would stop. [6:36]

Through faith, we enter into this life according to the will of God. Right? By a power that is not our own, through faith, we lead a life according to the will of God. You don’t start the other way and come back. See? You start by the act of God. God’s operation is in business; it’s not waiting to start. We come to it and of course, we all know now; they didn’t know that for a long while and they had to struggle with symbols and rituals but we all know now that the doorway is Jesus Christ. Jesus—all who come unto God by Him. Hmmmm? He is able to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by Him because why? (Hebrews 7:25 Paraphrased) He ever liveth. He ever liveth and we come, we know now through Jesus Christ. [7:59]

Now, we need to draw another distinction. There is not another distinction between the sense in which everyone is in the Kingdom of God in the sense in which they have to enter it by their choice and by the grace of God. There is also a distinction between entering the Kingdom of God in the sense of standing in the judgment and being judged and then entering into a life hereafter and the sense of walking into the Kingdom now.

OK; let’s go over that again because you see, there is a system of thought which says the only issue for human being is to hear the Gospel, to believe the truth of the Gospel and to get their sins forgiveness so they will go to Heaven when they die. [8:53]

Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that’s unimportant or in a sense, that it’s false. What I am saying is, it is not the whole story.  And the basic error of that way of thinking is it treats belief in Jesus as if it were just a head thing—as if all it was was a mental ascent to the truth. Yes, Jesus died for me. Yes, Jesus died for the sins of the world. Yes, Jesus is the Son of God and so forth. Yes, Jesus arose from the dead. You see, that knowledge that its there is not trust in God. It’s simply knowledge.

You don’t trust a mechanic when you know that the mechanic does good work. You trust him when you take your car to him and all of you know that’s quite a different matter, isn’t it? You trust God when you act on the truth and when you trust God and act on the truth; that is when you make contact with the Kingdom of Heaven. See? [10:13]

Now, there is no formulas that can capture that. People do it upside down, backwards, sideways and inside out. Of course, that’s the wonderful thing about individuality and God’s care for individuals, but we must beware lest we try to put our experience in someone else’s little canned formula because they may have gone in inside out and we may want to go in sideways, you see.

When we walk through, you know; when we—as Charles Spurgeon used to say—when you walk up to the Kingdom of Heaven and look over the door, it says, “whosoever will may come.” Then when you walk in and look back, you see, “you have not chosen me but I have chosen you.” Isn’t that wonderful? “Whosoever will may come,” but God is working in that, you see? Whosoever will can come; the invitation is ours. God is working. It is the work of God, of course that brings us into contact with the Kingdom of Heaven but He brings us into contact with it now and there is a side for both our activity and the activity of God. Jesus emphasized both of those in various places. [11:38]

Matthew 11 contains some of the most important teachings about the Kingdom of God and the one which I think is most crucial for you to see on this particular point that I am trying to make now is in verse 12—Jesus is talking about John the Baptist and the translators struggle with this verse, partly because it just doesn’t fit with their ideas about how things should be. But this says—and you’d have to see it in its context—and it is announcing a new dispensation.

Okay! There are dispensations. They are not exactly what they often are cracked up to be in some quarters but there are dispensations and here’s a dispensation. Listen to this; verse 11—“Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: nevertheless he that is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John the Baptist. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:11-12) [12:58]

See, from the days of John the Baptist who was the last of the prophets, people took the Kingdom of Heaven without standing on protocol and order. It was not their good Jewish manners that brought them in. It was not ritual. It was not holding their mouth in the right way. You see, all of those people that we talked about earlier, Christ receiveth sinful men—all of the Zacchaeus’ and the Mary Magdalene’s, and the publicans and the sinners, who in great crowds sat down with Jesus and ate. They were taking the Kingdom of Heaven by violence. They were taking it now and the whole message of the Kingdom of Heaven that John the Baptist and Jesus preached was “ . . . repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is now available to you. . . “

There is a salvation to be revealed in the last time. There is no doubt about that but entering the Kingdom of God is something you do now. You don’t wait until you die to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. [14:15]

So, now we need to say one final thing—draw one final distinction that will help us in thinking out this matter of entering the Kingdom of Heaven. What are we to do with all of the things that we are told to do by men who are preaching the Gospel to give up, to surrender all, to profess your faith in Jesus Christ, to believe, to pray to receive Jesus is a phrase that is often used today. What are we to do with all of these? We are to accept them. We are to say, “yes.” Those are good things. How else are we to relate to the Kingdom of Heaven? We have to do something. [15:03]

You see, again, we Baptists, we tend to stand up and preach for an hour and a half that you can’t do anything to get saved and then give an invitation. [Laughter] See, it doesn’t really fit together unless you understand that profession of faith, entering into church membership, being baptized, praying to receive Jesus—all of those things are parts of our instructions for how to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. None of them are formulae—which if you do them—you sure have made it. Hmmmm? [15:47]

And I want to tell you there are great possibilities as to how you can enter the Kingdom of God when God is working on you and some of them are very surprising and if you listen to the testimonies of people who have been brought in, you are often surprised as to how it happens but remember that it is the work of God that brings it to pass. We have to do something.

And, you know, being the way we are as human beings, probably everything we do, there is something a little wrong with it.

You know, I’ve still to find a church who is perfectly correct on every point of their doctrine, except of course Rolling Hills Covenant. [Laughter] I’ve still to find a great leader who was perfectly right in everything they did. I haven’t found anyone like that. And yet, we tend to get in battles about these kinds of things. We tend to get thinking this person is perfect or this church is perfect or this way of doing it is perfect. No. God’s perfect. God’s perfect. God never misses a beat. He’s hitting on all eight cylinders all the time. See? We are not. [17:08]

So, you see, we can’t get whetted to these little things that we—we have to do them. We still have to do them. You can’t do nothing! You see, we have to, as Paul did so well distinguish between the vessel and the treasure that is in the vessel. We have this treasure of the Kingdom of God in earthen vessels. That’s what He said. We always have the earthen vessel. It’s got its cracks and its knots and holes and all of that in it and the treasure is in there just shining through. The vessel is not the thing but you’ve got to have a vessel. You’ve got to have a vessel. You can’t “not” have a vessel. [17:51]

And your vessel is basically you and your history and your experience and your church and your race and culture and all of that. That’s a part of your vessel but that’s not where the glory is. The glory is in the treasure which is in the vessel and the power is not in the vessel either so don’t worry too much about the vessel and someone else finds something wrong with your vessel, say, “Well, you are probably right.” [Laughter] “You are probably right.” And just say, “but you ought to look at the treasure.” [18:33]

You see, the treasure. The treasure is the life that comes as we enter the Kingdom of God. The old vessel gets drug along. It gets some of the glory and we love the vessels. It’s all right to love them. We need to love them. We need even to love ourselves, to love our poor bodies that have been dragged through our lives with us and have compassion and pity on them. We need to—we need to be able to look in the mirror and love that thing in there. [Laughter] Dragging along, you see and God can give us the grace. We need to love it!

St. Francis, so touchingly referred to his body as “Brother Ass;” [Laughter] that he had ridden through life, you know? Referred to it as “Brother Ass.” [Laughter] Now when he was in his younger and more fanatical days, he didn’t—he wasn’t kindly to Brother Ass and he apologized later because he wasn’t. [19:42]

See, we need to have pity upon ourselves—have pity upon our bodies. We’ve been hurt there. We’ve been wounded and I rarely ever find anyone who likes their body. Did you know that?  And of course, that’s what’s back of this madness that you use people going through—working on their bodies—getting all the muscles and lumps and things in the right places. [Laughter] They don’t like it.

They don’t like their minds and many of them take the drugs to help them get their minds dressed up and do other things. We need to just relax and receive the grace of God where we are. The grace of God’s Kingdom is not made perfect in our strength. It’s made perfect in our weakness. So, Paul says, “I glory in infirmities, in persecutions, in distresses,” see? “ . . . Because when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 Paraphrased) You see? [20:55]

Now, we need to apply that to our churches, folks. You know there are a lot of Christians that are unhappy with other Christians. We need to apply it within our churches and between our churches and especially when it comes to talking about the realties of the Kingdom of God because it’s heady stuff and when you begin to get a little touch of it, you begin to sort of go wild and crazy sometimes, you see.  See, John and James, “Lord, there is this guy over here that’s casting out demons in your name.” How about it? Would you like us to call down fire out of heaven and just cook him?” (Luke 9:54 Paraphrased) [Laughter] See? Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?

Remember Jesus’ answer was just like that passage in Moses that I read to you some weeks ago where he said, “I would that all the Lord’s people were prophets.” (Numbers 11:29 Paraphrased) Jesus did not give them permission. They wanted to. [21:55]

It’s interesting you know, they didn’t—they didn’t just go ahead and try it. They felt they better get permission from the “head” man. {Laughter] That’s not a bad rule before we decide to singe someone’s case; maybe we ought to get permission from the “head” man. He may have some liberality that has somehow bypassed us and some love, which we haven’t yet shared. And so we need to keep that in mind. It’s very important for us to keep that in mind as we think about the treasure and the vessel and our profession. [22:33]

Now, you see, I am building up to this because when I go through the rest of the hour and talk about the things that we do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you might well say, “Well, I wonder if I have entered the Kingdom of Heaven.” The test of entering the Kingdom of Heaven is the manifestation of the life of the Kingdom. Whether or not you were born is not what you prove when you produce your birth certificate. I don’t need to provide you a birth certificate to prove to you that I am born. I am here. Right? I am here.

The issue is not, “Am I alive?” The birth certificate tries to tell you where I came from. [Laughter] How did I get here? Who is responsible for this sad situation? [Laughter] That’s what the birth certificate is about. It’s not a question and when you are raising a question, “Am I in the Kingdom of God?” The test is very simple. Do I manifest the life of the Kingdom? As Paul said, “ . . . as many as are lead by the Spirit of God are the children of God . . .” (Romans 8:14 – Paraphrased) [23:52]

So, I just want you to understand that now and there is a time and a place for returning and we will try to quit on that note this morning and looking at where we have been and looking at our first love and reconsidering where we are, we need to do that from time to time; we all need to do that but I just want you to understand that all of these things I am going to talk about—though they are very important—the real question, “Are you in the Kingdom of God?” That question is settled by whether or not you manifest the life of the Kingdom now; not by some little thing, which you may have done or not done. Hmmm? So, remember that. [24:33]

Now, let’s look at some scripture passages.

Comment: We don’t need to forget to take the offering.

Dallas: Oh, sure! Give you a chance here to manifest something. [Laughter] Let’s look at these scriptures now about entering the Kingdom of Heaven. There are five primary passages that I want to refer you to and one we’ve already looked at so we will set Matthew 11:12 aside. We are referring in that a passage to how people do not stand on proprieties but are driven by the zeal of their heart to rise up and seize the Kingdom of Heaven. [25:13]

Matthew 7:21 says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven . . . ” (Paraphrased) How does that finish up? “ . . . but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Now, Jesus was referring backwards to His teachings in Matthew 5, 6 and 7 and in Matthew 5, 6 and 7, He is teaching about the righteousness of the Kingdom of Heaven and that ties in with Matthew 5:20. Would you look that up now and let’s mark that in your Bibles because this is perhaps the single most important verse from our side; that is, from the human point of view, not from God’s side. [26:06]

This is perhaps the single, most important verse for us to understand. What does that verse say? Would someone read that to us? Don’t worry if two of you read at the same time. Someone read it to us? 5:20?

Comment: “But I warn you unless your faith is greater than that of the Pharisees or Jewish leaders, you can’t get into the Kingdom of Heaven at all.” [26:28]

Dallas: There are two kinds of righteousness. There is the righteousness of the scribe and the Pharisee. The righteousness of the scribe and the Pharisee is the righteousness of the outward act. You cannot contact the Kingdom of Heaven. You can’t make the contact and enter into it unless you go beyond a righteousness, which lies in specific deeds and actions. You can’t contact it.

It doesn’t say you can’t earn it. The question is not one of merit. It is a question of reality. It is a question of making contact with the Kingdom of Heaven and all of Jesus’ teachings now in those verses, which follow and those chapters, which follow are designed to illustrate what the righteousness of the Kingdom of Heaven is. Righteousness of the Kingdom of Heaven is a righteousness of the heart. [27:34]

What is the heart? Hmmm? Well, the heart is what you really are inside—what you really do feel, what you really do want, what you really do love, what you really do hate—that’s what’s inside.

And Jesus said, on the dark side, “Out of the heart of man comes all kinds of evil deeds.” (Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21 Paraphrased) He taught about this constantly. He said, “ . . . a good tree does not bring forth corrupt fruit, neither corrupt tree good fruit . . .” (Matthew 7:18 Paraphrased) Hmmm? Why is that? [28:12]

Now, the apple, which comes out of the end of the branch is for example a golden delicious apple instead of a Winesap or a Granny Smith or whatever these other apples are. Why is it a golden delicious on the end of the branch? Because that’s what the tree is inside. Now, you go inside the tree and dig around the trunk, you won’t find any golden delicious apples, will you?

Suppose you found a tree and you went inside of it and there was a bunch of little golden delicious apples and they popped out on the end of the branch, you see? But that would be a kind of legalism. That would be trying to define the nature of the tree by talking about the result only—the outward manifestation only but Jesus says it is the heart that matters. Now, when the heart enters into the righteousness of God, then you begin to contact the reality of God.  [29:13]

What is the righteousness of God? Basically, it is love. Love! God is love! Someone say that? God is love. You suppose that means what it says? What makes God good?

Comment: His love.

Dallas:  His love! Yeah! You know, the kindness of God is the thing that leads us to repentance. You know, the Bible says that in Romans, right? “ . . . the goodness of God . . “ (Romans 2:4 Paraphrased) and that’s sometimes translated, “the kindness of God.” [29:50]

Now, I’ve given you that verse in Luke 6:34, I think it is. “God is kind to the unthankful and to the evil.” How could He do such a thing? Doesn’t this betray the foundations of civilization that you are supposed to be mean to people who are—well, you see, God is love. And so all of those issues of life—we’ve talked about them in past courses here. We can’t go into them today but I want you to study or try to get a chance to just study Matthew 5, 6, and 7 to see what the righteousness of God that is beyond the law is; and He goes right below verse 20—goes on down to talk about how to deal with your brother.

The old law says, “Thou shalt not kill.” Then He goes on to show you what a real tender heart is in relationship to your brother. The old law says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Then He goes on to show you what a real tender heart is towards members of the opposite sex and your desires for them. He goes to show you what real love is, see?  And then into divorce, and then into swearing, and all of those things. [31:09]

Now, you see, you can go back and turn that into a legalism, can’t you? That’s been done over and over and over.  So my dear friends, the Quakers—a movement I love so much—and George Fox and William Penn, very deep and wonderful people.  They come up with these wonderful legalisms like you can’t make an oath in court, but you see you can be legalistically not swearing and profane in your heart. See? The point of the not swearing command is don’t try to bulldoze people by making all these affirmations. You know, I bet the Devil my head, that car will run from here to the judgment day as I sell it to you. [Laughter] That sort of stuff.

Well, Jesus said, “You don’t have power over your head. You can’t make one hair white or black,” see? So, who are you to presume in this way? You are just trying to get your way. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Now he wasn’t saying, “Don’t let your yes be a no.” He’s saying, “Don’t let your yes start running down the road here trying to bulldoze people into agreeing with you.” Just speak it and let it stand. Let your no be no; say, “No.” Oh how much trouble would be avoided in human relations if we just obey that simple little thing. [32:37]

That goes back to what we were talking about briefly last time about being pushy and being humble. Don’t push. Don’t push. Let people believe what they will, see? Don’t push!

Well, all of those things—love your enemies; we ought to maybe just read a passage that is so good there. I hate to go by without reading it. Listen to this. “You have heard that it hath been said that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth but I say unto you, resist not evil whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to the other also. If any man sue you at the law and take away your coat, let him have your cloak. Whoever will compel you to go a mile, go with him two. Give to him that asketh of thee and of him that would borrow the turn not away. Ye have heard that it is said, thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy but I say unto you, love your enemies. Bless them that curse you and do good to them which hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you that you may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven.”  (Matthew 5:38-48 Paraphrased) [33:48]

Oh, you say, “I can’t do that.” Well, you see why, faith is called for, isn’t it? Hmmm? See, when you do this, you put yourself in touch with the Kingdom of God. Before you do it, you are not in touch with the Kingdom of God. [Laughter] Not through your will. It’s like praise, you see? When you praise God for things that are happening to you, you put yourself in touch with Him and sometimes it’s such a tremendous act of faith to do that. It just about chokes us down sometimes but we are told, “Count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations.” (James 1:2 Paraphrased) Why? Why is that? Well, you see, you are acknowledging God. You are putting yourself in touch with God. Well, let’s move on quickly. [34:35]

Let’s look at Luke 18:17—Luke 18:17—wonderful passage—this is a situation actually that is hard to resist reading the whole passage from verse 10 on. Really, it’s just a wonderful teaching about prayer and faith and self-righteousness and humility, but as He taught, verse 15—“they brought unto him babies, infants,” why? “That He should touch them.” Why did they want Him to touch them? We are gonna talk about touching next week so if this makes you uneasy—better stay home. Ok? Why did they want Him to touch them? Because, you see, they knew that the Kingdom of God was in Him. They knew that God was in Him. They knew that He was in his body.

“What?  Know ye not that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost?” (1 Corinthians 6:15 Paraphrased) What you have is in your body, friends. Mmmm…think about that. What you have is in your body. God has given you your body; that is, your earthly, your earthen vessel. He’s given you your body to receive God. And He gives that to you and then you are able—and this is the part where you may get worried but we need a little something to worry us to keep us awake—you can pass that on from you to others because it is in your body. [36:30]

Ultimately, the only instrument of evangelism from the human point of view is the human body and Jesus touched them. They wanted Him to touch them but it’s when His disciples saw it, they rebuked them and said, “Get those kids out of here.” But, Jesus called them unto Him and said, “ . . . Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.” (Luke 18:16-17)

See, when a little child comes into the world, it has no reason to believe that anything is going to work. Did you know that? It doesn’t. It has no reason to believe that anything is going to work; in fact, it probably doesn’t even believe anything. It doesn’t even have beliefs about it. Right? What’s the position of a little child? Well, the position of a little child is, “Here it is.” Right? [Laughter] Here we are. That’s it! It’s just that simple. [37:57]

What are we gonna do? Don’t know what I’m gonna do—just one thing after another, right? And as it begins to move and things begin to move around and it and begins to interact, it begins to find that, indeed it can rely on some things around it. Isn’t that what happens? It’s—you know, the kid lies around awhile and it discovers its fingers and it’s a wonderful discovery. That keeps it busy for quite awhile. [Laughter] And in fact, it will be years before it sort of parts company with its fingers and—wonderful things and it begins, it branch out. It begins to act. It begins to move. See? And it finds though it had no evidence to start with, it finds a reliable world out there.

That’s how you enter the Kingdom of God. You enter the Kingdom of God, and of course, you have those around you one hopes that are preaching the truth and showing forth the Kingdom of God. You enter the Kingdom of God just like a child, in all lowliness and humility, experimenting, learning, enjoying something. It’s not an easy road, see? One of our problems is that we have a lot of people who are selling quick, easy trip packages into the Kingdom of Heaven. [39:30]

Listen to these words from the book of Acts—the 14th chapter. Paul had been getting knocked around Asia Minor here a bit. And he has actually finished his, the furthest reach of his trip now—I believe at Derbe and verse 21 of chapter 14—“ . . . when they had preached the gospel in that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium and to Antioch, Confirming the souls of the disciples and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21) We must, through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God. [40:26]

See, people who want to tell you an easy way mean well but they are wrong. What they should say is, “I will give you an absolutely sure and certain way but it will be hard.” See? That’s what they should tell you and you will suffer and Jesus will be there with you. That’s what they should tell you.

Instead they tell you, “Well, we got this thing going here now and you are going to be healthy, wealthy and wise and you are never gonna have any troubles and really, if there are some of you having troubles, that means you don’t have any faith.” They just hurt people right and left because they give them false advice about this. We enter into the Kingdom of God through much tribulation, you see? [41:06]

I wish I had had time last time to talk about Job and others in this connection when we talk about Satan. Why did God let Satan loose on Job? Wouldn’t Job have been better off to have just kept in that nice, smooth little routine that he had? Hmmm? The answer is, “No, he wouldn’t.” He was better off to go through what he went through. Ooooo!

What about the man born blind in the ninth chapter of John? Remember him?  They said, “You know, my goodness, sounds like completely modern theology, the disciples roared, ‘who did sin; this man or his parents?” The assumption was that somebody sinned, wasn’t it? Jesus said, “Neither did this man sin, nor his parents, but that the glory of God should be revealed in him.” Oh; wouldn’t that guy have been better off to have had sight from birth; to have been able to play in the little league and do all the wonderful things that the kiddies did? No, he wouldn’t have. That man was better off to go right through what he went through. Think of all the wonderful little kids that could see that were born at the same time he was born and compare where they came out. [42:34]

Which would you rather be? Think now a moment. Think now a moment because your flesh will recoil, but think it through. Would you rather be Job or would you rather be someone who never found out what he found out and just had this wonderful smooth little routine until the day came they slipped him in a hole in the ground and it was all over. [43:05]

I hope that each of your hearts rises up and says, “Well, at least there is a choice there. I should think about this.” You see? I should think about this.

Now, remember when you are going through your troubles—I know that there are heartbreaks in many of you and God does give mercy but sometimes we are not quick to receive it and problems with our children and with our jobs and our health and all or these sorts of things are very troublesome but now you want to ask yourself the question, ”Isn’t it possible that in this difficult affliction there is something greater than anything I could have had otherwise?” I want you to think that thought and I want you to think it seriously this morning. I believe it can lift a great burden from you. You don’t have to have everything going right. It’s alright if there are tribulations. It’s all right.  [44:02]

“Count it all joy . . . when you fall into various kinds of tribulations.” (James 1:2 Paraphrased) Listen to these words from the 8th chapter of Romans. (This should be the 5th chapter of Romans). See, we come down here and we are apt to just read the first verse, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . .”—period—there ain’t no period there and there are many, many people who will present things to you as if that was it. You are justified by faith. You have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ and you are just going to sit there and collect mold until they bury you and you go to Heaven.   That’s not what life in the Kingdom of Heaven is about.

By whom we have access by faith unto this grace wherein we stand . . . “ That’s here and now, isn’t it? That’s standing in the Kingdom of God here and now. Romans 5:2—“ . . . and rejoice in the hope of . . . ”—getting out of our troubles. Nah! That’s not what it said. Sorry. “Rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” That’s what we rejoice in, see? And not only so, but we glory in tribulations. We just say, “Whoop-tee-do; here’s comes another one.” [Laughter]  “ . . . Knowing that tribulation works patience, and patience works experience; and experience, hope . . . “—all these wonderful things we’d like to have but thank you, we’d like not to go through that to get it. [Laughter] [45:43]

“And hope does not make ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our . . .” that’s the glory that we hope for— is to have your heart full of love—easy, powerful, coursing love of God in our hearts because we’ve been through all of that. See? We’ve been through all of it.

We could spend a lot of time just talking about the compartments of the heart—the different kinds of places in there that have to be filled. We are not here just talking about love in the sense that we are loving, but rather, we are receiving love and the receiving and giving of love is the fulfillment of the hope for the glory of God that is set before us. [46:33]

A little child comes into the world; he doesn’t know what is going on. He strikes out and actually does pretty well in spite of all the difficulties and problems and failures and in spite of having to live in a world that is filled full of sin and still, that little child comes in. You see that’s the way we enter the Kingdom of God. We enter the Kingdom of God through that kind of surrender to it.

John 3:5 is the familiar verse now and this states it from God’s side. This is where Jesus says to Nicodemus, first of all, “unless you are born again or born from above, you can’t see the Kingdom of Heaven. “ We’ve talked a lot about seeing it but then he says in verse 5—“ . . . Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” See, that’s God’s action on us! That’s God’s side. That’s what God does to give us this life. So entering the Kingdom of Heaven can be looked at in all of those ways. [47:36]

Now, how do we approach it practically? We approach it by becoming disciples of Jesus Christ and the question that I want to conclude this morning with is are you a disciple? What is a disciple? When did you become a disciple? At what point did you know that you were, in fact a disciple?

A disciple is someone who has abandoned everything for Jesus. A disciple is one who continues in—that’s Luke 14. A disciple is one who continues in the word of Jesus. A disciple is one who loves. A disciple is one who bares much fruit. These are descriptions of a disciple. A disciple must be one who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to be like Jesus.  That’s who a disciple is. A disciple is a learner and he comes to Jesus and says, “I want you to show me, teach me how to live—all of this life that I have before me now. See, there is so much that needs to be done. I want you to teach me how to live. I want you to enable me to be like you are. And now, I am going to arrange all of my plans and make my plans in such a way that you will be able to do that if you will just instruct me and lead me.” That’s a disciple. See. A disciple is one who has absolutely surrendered everything to Jesus. [49:16]

Well, you say, “What’s that mean? How would I know if I have?” The surest way to know what you haven’t surrendered to Jesus is to consider what you are worrying about. That’s the surest way to know what you haven’t surrendered to Jesus.

Took me a long time to surrender our first child to Jesus—took me a long time. At last, I’ve been able to do it. Thank God, I’ve been able to do it. There was a problem from the very beginning when he was born and I held him in my arms as a little boy. I thought he was so beautiful—so wonderful and I couldn’t accept the fact that this little creature was going to go out into a world over which I had no control and was going to face incredible things—might be tortured, might fail in so many ways and would certainly—the thing that just struck me to the heart—was certainly die. You know, you never get over being a parent. You can’t divorce your kids but you can surrender them to God. You can give them to God; and it’s one of the greatest challenges as a parent is to do that. You have to surrender your children to God. You have to surrender your future, your mate, your job—yes, your own righteousness and everything about you. So, you just lay it down so you just—I’m gonna leave that to you. [51:00]

Now, you will need a lot of help in doing that and there will be a lot of false starts but if it takes you a few minutes at least to learn how to dance and a few days to learn how to play the piano, accept the fact that it’s going to take you a little while to complete this process of absolute surrender and the tribulations are there to help you do that. See? That’s one of the reasons why those tribulations are there. They are there to help you learn that you might as well surrender because you can’t do anything about it anyway except worry yourself to death—[Laughter]—make yourself a “nervous ninny.” You will drive your kids crazy trying to control them. I know people who are 70 years old who are trying to put—kind of
“body English” on a child that’s 45—trying to get him in there. Oh! Oh! Oh! You know? You will just drive yourself crazy trying to do that. Surrender! Give up!  [52:00]

Cathca has a story of a dream—Cathca, the writer where he dreams of a man. He is walking through a city and he can’t find where he’s going and he keeps looking for this place and suddenly a man comes up to him and says, “Give up! Give up! Give up!” [Laughter] There is a lot of gospel in that. Give up! Give up! Stop trying to manage the thing. You are not running the world.

You know the lady who said when she goes to sleep tonight, she just signs it all off to the Lord because He’s going to be up anyway. [Laughter] He’s up! “He that keepeth Israel shall not slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:4 Paraphrased) Right? Give up! Resign! [Laughter] Say, well, but you know if you do that, you will be responsible. No, if you do that, you will begin to have strength and you will begin to have love and remember, that being responsible is a matter of being able to respond—re-spons-“A”-ble—able to respond.  [53:05]

Being able to respond is a matter of having the strength to do it and you don’t have the strength—no one has the strength apart from their unity with the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s how a person gets the strength. That’s where the strength is. That’s why we gotta give up!

You have to forsake everything you have. You see, the world is going to come at you. “Oh, you are not responsible. You must hate your parents. You must hate your kid; you are not driving them nuts.” You know? Leave them alone. Let them loose and then you’ll be able to love them as you’ve never been able to do before because then you will be able to place them in the hands of God effectively so that He can make a difference in their lives and you can let Him love them through you, which will be a great relief to them. And you will be able to love yourself for the first time instead of harassing yourself all the time. [54:06]

Again, you know, that’s what Jesus says in Luke 14—“ . . hate your own life also.” (Luke 14:26 Paraphrased) That is to say, you must turn it loose. He that would save his life shall what it?

Comment:  Lose it.

Dallas: Lose it! And he that would lose his life for my sake and the gospel, shall what?

Comment: Find it.

Dallas: Find it!

Now, I don’t know where this finds you this morning so I’ll just close by a word from the first chapter of Revelation to the Ephesian church. I’m sorry—the 2nd chapter of Revelation. The Ephesian church had been a wonderful power house; perhaps as great as any in the New Testament world for God. [55:10]

Verse 2 says, “I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, how thou canst not bear them which are evil . . . “—and I think this is such a good word for many of you folk.  I know you and I know many churches that have people that really are so sincere and work so hard—“And hast born and hast patience and for my name sake hast labored and not fainted. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee because thou hast left thy first love. Remember, therefore from whence thou art fallen, and [re-think it,] repent and do the first works . . . ” (Revelation 2: 3-5) Maybe that’s what we need to do. [56:02]

What are the first works again? Where do we stand? Are we clear about our commitment and our surrender? Perhaps we need to get alone and just say, “Lord, I know I’ve been on this path a long while and I’ve done so many wonderful things and people say good things about me and they all know where I stand and they can count on me being there at the church like they can count on the sun coming up and all these wonderful things, but maybe I need to re-think my surrender. Maybe I need to re-think my commitment.

You know, if you don’t have a sense of steady growth in the Kingdom of God, may I tell you that’s what you need to do. You know, we have in the church a lot of problems with boredom—spiritual boredom among faithful people. They are not growing. They stopped growing.  We need to address this question to ourselves, no matter where I am, where I’ve been, what I’ve done; do I need to go back and look at my commitment?  [57:13]

Perhaps I have entered the Kingdom of God but perhaps I haven’t pursued God in the way I should. Perhaps I am stagnate and stymied and full of questions and doubts and a bit frustrated and maybe a little angry because I have not stayed with my first love. Go back and do the first works.

Now, the first works for you now will not be the same as they were before. Go back and do the first works. Don’t be above it. Humble yourself. And seek the guidance of God to renew and complete your surrender to the Kingdom. [57:59]

“Jesus, won’t you guide us and have your way with us because the further we go, the more we know how badly we need you and it’s revealed to us where we’ve been just whistling in the dark and didn’t have any reality and you’ve hid that from us possibly for a long while so we could stand it now but now, Lord take your word and your spirit and search our hearts that the fullness and glory of your Kingdom should break through—the treasure should glow so brightly that the vessel would never worry about it’s flaws. In Jesus Name. Amen.”

Listen to all parts in this The Soul’s Eternal Anchor series