Welcome back to the Lent Journey podcast! My name is Gina and I’m bringing you the scripture, reflection and prayer today.
Theme: There is only one requirement to be in God’s kingdom
Scripture: Mark 12:28–34 (Living Bible)
When the teacher of religion agreed with all of Jesus’ answers to His questions, did you notice that Jesus didn’t say, “You have answered wisely: You are officially in the kingdom of God!” No, Jesus only said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Notice that the teacher of religion said, “I know it is more important to love God with my heart and understanding and strength and to love others as myself.” He knew it. And the passage said that Jesus realized this man’s understanding. So, why didn’t the right answers and the right knowledge qualify the man to become a citizen of God’s kingdom? Especially since he was already a religious leader? This leader obviously knew all the right answers about theology, God, and scripture.
When someone becomes a citizen of a country or a kingdom today, they must go through a variety of legal processes. Sometimes they have to pass a citizenship test. They have to complete mountains of paperwork. They must pay lawyers’ fees, application fees and documentation fees. They might even have to pay bribes. They swear loyalty to their new country, and sometimes allegiance to its rulers or founding document.
If they do all this correctly, they may be allowed to become a citizen.
Rarely will one of these new citizens ever meet the king, queen, prime minister, president, or other ruler of the country they are joining. And most certainly are not personally invited by this leader to become a citizen, nor are they likely to meet this leader after they relocate there.
But God’s kingdom is different from any earthly kingdom or nation: To be accepted as a citizen, we are not required first to know the right answers or do the right things. We are only required to know, love, and obey its ruler–God.
Maybe that’s why Jesus told the religious leader that he was not far from the kingdom of God, though he was not yet in it, either. The scribe knew all the right answers about God and His kingdom. He even claimed to serve God as part of the temple leadership. But he didn’t yet know God. He didn’t have a personal relationship with God, who was standing right in front of him in the person of Jesus. That scribe had an opportunity that most of us long for and do not get in this life: to talk to and hear from, to touch and be close to the living God in the flesh. And, in that moment of testing Jesus’ knowledge, he missed that opportunity.
What is faith? Is it knowing all the stories in the Bible by heart? Is it being able to recite the characteristics of God from memory? Does going to church every Sunday mean we have faith? What about giving offerings and tithes? Maybe if we volunteer sometimes in a church ministry or outreach project? Go on a mission trip?
These are all good things. Great things, even. But they do not give us citizenship in God’s kingdom. Only one thing does that: submitting ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and journeying throughout our lives, every day, in an increasingly intimate relationship with Him.
Most of us do not know the ruler of our own country, or any other country, for that matter. Most of us could never hope to even get in the same room with one of them. And if we could, they are not likely to take a lasting interest in us and our daily personal lives. They won’t have time to call us up for a quick chat every morning, or give us a tight hug at night before we go to sleep. When we have problems, there’s little chance we could reach them, much less their assistants or representatives.
What a privilege, then, that we are each personally invited by the Creator of all that exists, of our planet and everything in it, to join His kingdom. And we are invited to become citizens through no requirements or qualifications other than that we choose to know Him. We are invited into conversation with Him every day, about anything and everything, small and large. He is eager to hear about our joys and thankfulness, our problems and fears. And He has lots to say to us, too, if we learn how to listen.
Anyone can be a citizen of this kingdom. No one is banned or forbidden. All are welcome. More than welcome. In fact, for every person who refuses this invitation, God is filled with sorrow and loss. But He overflows with joy for every person who accepts His free invitation. No paperwork. No lines. No appointments. No interviews. No fees or bribes. No tests. Just love. His love, and our love in return.
- Where does your faith rest? Does it rest in your own activities for God and knowing things about God? Or does your faith rest in knowing God Himself and growing in that relationship day by day?
- If you realize that you don’t know God personally, as a close friend and as the master of your life, you can take that step of faith right now. Tell God that you want to accept His invitation to become a citizen of His kingdom. Give your full allegiance to God as your heavenly ruler, and ask Him to help you begin your journey of relationship with Him today.
- Maybe you are a citizen of the kingdom, but your focus has shifted more toward doing things for God rather than knowing God himself. Pray now for God to help you bring your focus back to your relationship as your first priority, and remind you of how wonderful it is to confide in and listen to God daily.
Dear God, our Ruler in heaven,
Thank You for inviting us to become citizens of Your just, good, merciful, gracious and everlasting kingdom. Thank You that to become part of Your kingdom, You only ask that we swear our allegiance to You, and commit to knowing You personally, in a loving and intimate relationship.
Thank You that You are not distant and separated from us like earthly rulers; You are right next to us, every hour of the day, all the time!
You want us to talk to You about everything in our lives. And You want to tell us things, too. What an amazing God You are, who longs for vibrant, two-way conversation with us throughout each day. You never get bored of what we have to say or ask, or hearing about the way we feel. You’re never too busy for us, even though You are the ruler of all that exists.
You are constantly speaking to us, even when we aren’t listening. Teach us to hear Your voice clearly. Teach us how to pause and give You our attention. Please tune our hearts to recognize the ways You speak to us.
Thank You for being so wonderful and good to us. We love You and are so honored and privileged to be citizens of Your beautiful kingdom. We come to You in the name of our Lord, Jesus. Amen.
After this podcast is over, why don’t you give at least 10 to 15 minutes sometime today to waiting on and listening to God? We do a lot of talking to God when we pray, and some of us don’t make space for listening, too. Bring Him a question, and over the rest of the day or the week, look for His answer.
Today’s additional scripture readings are from: