During my freshmen year of College at the University of Arizona I was approached by young man who belonged to one of the Christian Campus Ministries. He simply asked me one question. “Do you know where you going when you die? Of course, I knew of only one of two responses. Heaven or Hell. I responded by saying, “I hope Heaven.” This response was all he needed to know about where my eternal destiny laid. So, he then began sharing with me about how I could go to heaven. His whole belief was that there was nothing more important that God wanted from a person than they go to Heaven. The way to Heaven was by believing Jesus died for my sins and asking Jesus into my heart. So, I asked how one might put their belief in Jesus? He told me that I simply needed to pray the “sinner’s prayer” asking God to forgive me of my sins and telling Jesus that I now believed in Him. After saying the prayer, we both went away happy. He went away happy because he believed that the Kingdom gained another soul for heaven. I went away happy because I believed I was going to heaven because I said, “I believe in Jesus.” To celebrate this monumental occasion in my life I went and got drunk that night.
I applaud this stranger’s passion to want to see me go to heaven. Yet his presentation of what God wanted for my life was not only lacking but even dangerous to my eternal destiny. He believed that what Jesus wanted for my life was that I acknowledge him verbally. Now this is certainly true that Jesus wants us to believe in Him. Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32) Yet we do not have to read too far into the Sermon on the Mount to realize that Jesus was not simply looking for an intellectual consent of his existence. The Sermon on the Mount proclaims loudly that Jesus actually expected his followers to have him reign in every area of their lives.
John Stott gives a beautiful picture of what this reign looks like in the follower of Jesus when he says, the “kingdom is to desire as of first importance the spread of the reign of Jesus Christ. Such a desire will start with ourselves, until every single department of our life—home, marriage and family, personal morality, professional life and business ethics, bank balance, tax returns, life-style, citizenship—is joyfully and freely submissive to Christ.” The whole message of the Sermon on the Mount pointed its listeners not simply to believe in Jesus, (although belief is the beginning point) but live in what Jesus believed and taught. Martin Luther coins it well when he says, “doctrine is a good and a precious thing, but it is not being preached for the sake of being heard but for the sake of action and its application to life.” To live out what Jesus taught would mean that one would join the new and exciting Kingdom God was starting.
Believing is important. It is the entrance into this new way of life, and this kingdom community. Yet believing is not an end to itself. Believing is a call to a new way to live life. A life where we have a king who has broken into World history and says follow me. This King and his Kingdom are exciting. Let me close with these words from the book “Endangered Gospel” by John Nugent as he describes this new reign by King Jesus.
“It is the reign of God over his people on behalf of all creation. It is the new world order that the prophets foretold. It is everything God’s people longed for, and more. It is Israel’s God intervening in world history to make a better place in this world.”