When we think about the "things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12), we often concentrate on the hope that it represents for the future. Jesus taught us to pray: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). We look forward therefore to the return of Jesus to this earth, when he will establish the Kingdom and the earth will be filled with God's glory.
In our enthusiasm for the future glory, we must not lose sight of those teachings that instruct us how we as individuals may hope to share in this coming Kingdom.
In the quotation from the top of the page, we learn for example, that there is an obligation associated with our desire to become friends of Jesus. Indeed, there are commandments that we are expected to keep.
Jesus taught that in addition to becoming his friend, we might also become a part of his family, but not without associated responsibilities. "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Matthew 12:50).
One of the most significant discourses that was delivered by the Master is recorded in Matthew, chapters 5-7. This sermon contains many of the commandments of Jesus, and it teaches us how to do the will of God.
One of the keys to the lesson is found in the 6th chapter. Jesus teaches how important it is for us to set the right priorities in our lives. Our nature leads us to be concerned about the necessities of life; our food, clothing and shelter. Jesus teaches us that God understands our need for these things, and that if we place our search for God's Kingdom first in our lives, all these necessary things will be provided also.
Jesus concluded his sermon by telling a parable. All those who listen to his sayings and do not do them are likened to foolish men who build their house on the sand. The wise, on the other hand, are those that hear and do. These are like those who build on a rock (Matthew 7:24-27). We should build on a rock, by learning and then doing, all of the teachings of the Master.
The "things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" are good news for all who are willing to hear the gospel and who then become doers of the word, bringing forth fruit from the Words of God that have been sown as seeds in their hearts.
Jesus assured us that he was coming quickly and that those who kept his commandments would be rewarded:
Some of the most comforting words of scripture are found in Psalm 103. We are reminded of the blessing of the forgiveness of our sins that is now a reality through faith in Christ. We read:
As we review these beautiful words, we are encouraged by the compassion that has been made available to us through our savior. We are given the assurance that God will be pitiful to us, even as a father pities his own children.We also learn that among these precious words of hope are those gentle reminders that these blessings are conditional.
Our own attitude and response to the promises of God is important. We have seen from Psalm 103 that the Lord pities "them that fear him". This fear is not terror, but a sincere respect for our Father, who is the Almighty, the Creator and Sustainer of all life. If we respect His power and authority, loving Him with our entire heart, soul and mind, then we will "Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
We have these wonderful blessings available to us if we have understood that a transformation is necessary in our minds. When we are converted as a child of God, and if we are born again through the spirit, and renewed in the spirit of our minds, then we will appreciate the lovingkindness of God for those that fear him.
The Master taught that there must be a change in our attitude if we are to be really prepared for God's Kingdom. The words above are quoted from Matthew 18, verse 3. Jesus spoke these words in response to a question from his disciples. The followers of Jesus were only concerned with their own status. They had asked: "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (v. 1) Their attitude was entirely wrong. They needed to learn humility, and the example of a little child was chosen to teach them about true conversion.
Fundamental to the way of salvation is the idea of repentance or conversion. When we learn about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, we also learn that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God, and that Jesus was the lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world through his sacrifice.
Forgiveness of sins is only a start. We are encouraged to forsake our sinful ways and to "go and sin no more". We therefore are told to "repent and be baptized" as the beginning of a new life in Christ Jesus. A life in which we are instructed to deny ourselves and to take up our cross and follow the Master, who led the way by his own example.
It was obvious from the way that the disciples acted that true conversion is something that few ever accomplish when they are baptized. Peter, who was one of the closest friends of the Master was told that he still needed to be converted. On the night when Jesus was betrayed, Peter denied Jesus three times because he was not yet transformed (see account in Luke 22).
The idea of conversion is expressed in many ways throughout the New Testament. In Romans 12:1-2 we are told: "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
In John 3:5 the principle of conversion is stated this way: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." We are born of the water at our baptism, but we must then be born of the spirit by the renewing of our minds, by being converted even as a child.
In Ephesians 4 we find the same principle of conversion: "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (vv. 22-24).
Little children should be an example for us. They are totally dependent on their parents, they have simple and honest faith and trust that they will be cared for. We should renew our minds after this example that the Master has appointed for us.
We must trust in our Heavenly Father in the recognition that we are his children and that he will take care of all of our needs if we can learn to humble ourselves as a little child, in subjection to His will.