Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Don’t Be Fooled: Inheriting the Kingdom

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
This is not an exhaustive list; the apostle Paul expands on it in some of his other letters:

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:3-5)
Paul summed it all up pretty well in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The Greek word for “sin,” hamartano, and means to “miss the mark.” Think of an archery event in which you win the prize for hitting the bullseye. To sin is to miss the bullseye.

But Paul not only said that we have all missed the bullseye, but we have also fallen short — we’ve missed the target altogether! God created us to share in His glory, to experience and enjoy all the goodness that is in Him, but we have fallen far short of that.

None of the things Paul listed have any place in the kingdom of God, because the kingdom of God is all about the glory of God, all these things fall far short of that glory. God is all about life and light, but the things on Paul’s list bring only death and darkness. God is love, but the things on the list demonstrate nothing more than selfishness. They are lacking in love for God and one’s neighbor.

Bummer.

But there is a solution. No one has to remain this way. For in 1 Corinthians 6:11, Paul is quick to add, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
  • We can be washed (made clean).
  • We can be sanctified (set apart to experience God’s glory).
  • We can be justified (declared righteous).
Now, we cannot wash ourselves — but we can be washed. We cannot sanctify ourselves — but we can sanctified. We cannot justify ourselves — but we can be justified. How does this happen? Through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul addresses this in another letter:
For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)
Because of what Jesus Christ has done for us, and through faith in Him, God makes us new—gives us a new birth—by the Holy Spirit. Jesus does not come short of the glory of God, and in Him, neither do we, for we are new creations in Him.

When we receive the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes into us to bring forth the same fruit He brought forth in Christ: “For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

This is what you and I were created for, to experience the life of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit, and the glory of God. This is what the kingdom of God is all about.