I just finished watching an interview of a young woman telling her story of how she became an illegal immigrant. She was a well spoken young lady. She spoke English fluently and looked every bit as much a US citizen as anyone else. She was making it public that she was an illegal immigrant because she was tired of hiding her true identity. She said that she pays her taxes, works for what she has and strives to never break the law…except one…being an illegal immigrant. That’s what she said. The only law she has broken was entering the country illegally. That fact seemed insignificant to her. She was, in her own eyes, a US citizen.
She reminded me of other people I know personally, friends of mine, who claim to be citizens of a country. Who strive to obey all the laws of that country. Whose outward appearance would leave anyone to believe they are a citizen but who lack one thing. They entered the country illegally. There was a right way to enter the country but they have chosen to enter through some other way.
If asked, my friends will tell me that there is more than one way to enter the country. They will say that as long as you make it to the country it doesn’t matter which way you enter. They will say that, even though they have read the laws for entrance, they don’t believe it is really necessary to follow those rules. The king of this country will accept them because they have accepted him.
What country do these friends claim to be a part of? It is the country that is talked about in Hebrews 11 when the Hebrew writer tells about those of old. He wrote, “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.” That better country is the kingdom of God. The kingdom that only those who believe that Jesus is the son of God and that He died for our sins can enter. The kingdom that Jesus told Nicodemus about when He said:
“Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” John 3:3-5
Many of my friends and many other people as well as myself want to be a part of this kingdom of God with all the rights and privileges that go with it. We desire, just as those faithful of long ago desired, a better, heavenly country. But Jesus said there is something that must be done. Something that, sadly many people are not willing to do. Most people will readily agree that we must believe that Jesus is the son of God because, after all, that’s what we are told in Acts 16:31 when Paul and Silas were asked by the Philippian Jailer what he must do to be saved:
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
That’s where most people stop. They are told by others who they trust that this is all that God requires of them, but they are wrong. James talks about this very thing in his letter. He points out that even the demons believe. I don’t think that any of my friends would say that the demons are Christians or will be allowed into that “heavenly country”. You can read it for yourself in James 2. Why would anyone say that all you have to do is believe when James so clearly says that’s not true.
So what does someone need to do to become a Christian, a citizen of the kingdom of God, added to His church? He clearly must believe as already stated and can be found again and again in scripture but there is more. He must repent of his sins. That means he must have sinned. A sinless person (a baby for instance) needs no repentance but we all have to admit that we have all sinned so we must repent — be sorry for our sins and change our ways. During Paul’s sermon in Athens he stated clearly that we must repent:
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent…” Acts 17:30
Lots of people will agree that we must repent and even that we should confess. Of course, who wouldn’t want to tell everyone they know that they believe that Jesus is the son of God and that He was raised from the dead. Such a wonderful thing to tell people, but even if we weren’t excited about telling others, we are told that we must in the book of Romans:
“…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10
Here is where many people want to enter another way. They readily say that they believe, they usually even change their sinful way and might enthusiastically tell others about Jesus but for some reason, they don’t think that it is essential to be baptized. I don’t understand. Paul was told he had to be baptized to wash his sins away. Paul did just that and began teaching others that they must do it too. If Paul realized it was necessary enough to do it and necessary enough to teach others, who am I say it isn’t.
“And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’” Acts 22:16
I have friends who say that they were baptized not to be saved but to show others that they were already saved. That’s not what Paul was told. He was still living in his sin until he was baptized. Peter tells that there is something that saves us — baptism. You can read the whole chapter to find out what baptism is an antitype of but the specific verses are verses 20 and 21:
“There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” 1 Peter 3:20-21
Just as the young woman has in every way attempted to live the life of a citizen of the US, these friends and many others attempt to live their lives as citizens of the kingdom of God. Just as the young woman declared her illegal immigrant status, these friends and many others declare their illegal immigrant status in the kingdom of God when they only fulfill part of the entrance requirements into the kingdom. Just as the young woman proudly stated that she had obeyed all the country’s laws except one, these friends and many others proudly state that they have only believed in Jesus to enter His kingdom.
The young woman admitted that she lives with the fear that she will be caught and sent away. She knows she has not obeyed the one law that will truly make her a citizen. She knows that, even though she loves the US and has made a good life for herself here, that she doesn’t really belong here. She said it herself…she is an illegal immigrant.
My friends and all the others who have attempted to enter the kingdom of God a different way than what He has said should be just as afraid that they will not be accepted but they are comfortable in their lives because people they trust have told them they are doing what is right. Jesus knew there would be people like this…people who would think they were doing right. He talked about them in his sermon in Matthew. How heartbreaking that must be for Him to know that there are people who just will not obey Him.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23
To live in fear everyday that you will be caught for not obeying a law must be a stressful way to live. The young woman may one day have to face the consequences of her illegal immigrant status and be sent back to her own country. But it is certain that anyone who tries to enter into heaven anyway other than the way God has commanded will be refused entrance. It doesn’t matter what they believed or what they thought or what good deeds they did. There is only one way to enter into heaven and that is through Jesus, through obeying Him and doing all He has said to do.
“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9