12. How to Become a Citizen of the Kingdom
It should be clear by now that it is most important to make sure that you are a citizen of the kingdom of God. All prayers, fastings and other religious rituals are in vain without it.
Jesus warns in Matthew 7:22 that many religious people will discover in the Day of Judgement that they never were part of the kingdom:
“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ”
We should therefore make very sure that we are, in fact, citizens of the kingdom of God.
Citizens by Birth
Jesus explained the way to enter the kingdom of God when He spoke to the Jewish theologian Nicodemus.
Read John 3:1-21.
Jesus says that to become a “child of God” or citizen of God's kingdom, we must be born again. We are first born biologically, but to become part of God's kingdom we must be born again, spiritually. The difference between spiritual life and spiritual death lies in the spiritual birth which is the result of faith:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16.)
Or, as we read in John 1:10-13 about Jesus, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God's children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.”
Or, as we read in Galatians 3:26, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
The Key to Forgiveness
Did you notice how one word is repeated again and again? It is the word “believe”. You are born again by faith.
The faith that causes this miracle to happen is more than just a belief in the existence of the living God. The saving faith is a trust in God's way to obtain forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
As you saw in John 3, God sent His Son into the world that the world might be saved through Him. There is no other way.
Read John 3:36
It is clear that God's way to give forgiveness is completely different from man's way. We would expect that we will have to earn forgiveness by keeping the law of God, but we have already seen in Lesson 8 that it is impossible to keep God's law according to God's standards. God opened a new way to forgiveness:
“Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through Him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).
The word “justify” in the Bible means “to declare sinless” or “to reckon to be sinless.” It is more than just pardon. A criminal remains guilty, even if he is pardoned afterwards. But when God forgives, it is as if we have never sinned at all:
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12; Jeremiah 31:34.)
God is holy and just. He hates sin. Sin must be punished by death. But God is also love and mercy. He wants to pardon lost sinners. This is only possible if a sinless Man is willing to bear the punishment in the place of the guilty man. Since all men are sinners (Romans 3:23), God had to provide the sinless Man Himself.
“God made Him (Christ) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21.)
There is only one way to receive this complete forgiveness, and that is by trusting in Jesus Christ. Read Romans 3:20-31 over and over again until you understand it well.
Read Galatians 2:15-16.
Use the Key
When you are seriously ill, the best medicine in the world will not help you unless you take it. And you will only take the medicine if you realize that you are ill.
If you have the key to a locked door, that door will remain locked unless you use the key. And you will only do that if you really wish to enter through that door.
So it is with Jesus, the only door or gate to salvation (John 10:9-10). You have studied well in order to understand the Christian faith. Perhaps you have discovered the truth that you also need to be forgiven. Listen to the first sermon of Jesus recorded in Mark 1:15:
“The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News!”
To repent means to leave your sin and to turn to God. Jesus once told a story to illustrate how God receives a sinner.
Read Luke 15:11-24.
The best robe was a symbolical cover of his sins. The ring symbolized his reinstatement as son in the house. The sandals symbolized his new freedom, since only free men wore them. The feast symbolizes the joy of forgiveness that everyone who returns to God in repentance receives.
In our next lesson we will see the results of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ in the life of the believer.
Test Yourself No. 12
Fill in the missing word in each sentence, using a word from this list: sinless/ believe/ receiving /again/ spiritual. The correct answers.
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