Shutting the Door to the Kingdom of Heaven

Understanding the Red Letters   Part 18

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13).

How do we “shut off the kingdom of heaven to people” today?  I think we do this in two ways to two different kinds of people.

To the lost, we shut off the kingdom of heaven by preaching a message of rules and regulations to become a Christian.  We have painted Christianity as a religion of restrictions, sin management, and self-effort.  How is the message of try harder, clean yourself up, and then come to Jesus good news?  It’s not.

The grace of God is good news.  The love and forgiveness of Jesus that is waiting and available to you no matter where you are in your moral endeavors is good news.  The fact that Christ died in our place on a cross, finished the work, and took away our sin is great news!  Our response is to believe His gospel message and be saved.

When we preach an old covenant to-do list such as obeying the ten commandments as our path to God’s acceptance; when we preach the punishment awaiting us from an angry God when we stray; when we preach an Old Testament mindset as part of the Christian life, we are raising a barrier to the gospel.

Jesus’ offer is come as you are.  Our offer is often come when you have it all together.  Preaching a behavioral requirement to becoming a Christian is shutting people out of the kingdom.  Preaching grace is opening a door to the kingdom.

Secondly, we can shut the door for those who already believe from enjoying the kingdom of heaven.  We do this by leading them away from the freedom that comes to us when we enter God’s family; when we enter the kingdom of heaven.

It seems everywhere I look, I see heavy chains placed upon believers.  Following rules, regulations, and spiritual disciplines are required to stay in the kingdom (if your church believes you can lose your salvation) or at least to stay in good standing in the kingdom (if you are taught that your salvation is secure).

In either case, join me, join us, in throwing off your chains!  You are always in good standing with Jesus.  Why?  Because His love is unconditional, His death paid for all of your sins, and you believed His gospel message.

You are set free in Christ from rules, regulations, the Law, or any other burden that leaders send your way.  “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

Throw open wide the doors to the kingdom of heaven so the lost can enter in and the saved can find joy and freedom in the journey!