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“Then, hearing this, a number of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard saying; who is able to take in such teaching?’ ” (John 6:60 Bible in Basic English).

JESUS’ TEACHINGS WERE NOT ALWAYS EASY. Some of His sayings were, for various reasons, hard to understand, but other things He taught were simply hard to accept. As the disciples said in the text above, “Who is able to take in such teaching?” Let’s look at some of Jesus’ bold statements concerning the kingdom of God.

“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). The disciples may have been shocked to hear this. How could anyone’s righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees, of all people?

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). The kingdom could not be entered without accepting the lordship of Christ, but more would be involved in accepting it than a merely verbal acknowledgment of His authority.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). Material wealth does not, by itself, disqualify us from the kingdom, but its tendency is to pull us away from God, and most people allow that to happen.

“The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43). Blessings not used are eventually taken away (Isaiah 5:1–7), and so it is with God’s kingdom. If we don’t say yes to its invitation, there are others who will.

“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). It is a strong dose of medicine to hear the Lord say that some are not “fit” for the kingdom, but that’s the truth. And we are the ones who decide whether we’re fit or not.

If we find ourselves challenged by what Jesus taught concerning the kingdom, it’s because we need to be challenged. Whether we will allow God to rule in our hearts or not is the central concern of the gospel. And it’s not a comfortable subject because, truth to tell, there is still in our hearts a good bit of resistance to God’s rule.

“The importance of this subject may be inferred from the fact that the New Testament contains more than 100 references to the kingdom. Jesus spent the three and one-half years of His ministry ‘preaching the gospel of the kingdom’ (Matthew 4:23). Everything He said and did during this period of His life was related to the kingdom” (Sewell Hall).

Gary Henry — +

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