Today, verse 12 stood out: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” In the New King James Version, it says that “the violent take it by force.” It prompted me to look it up in Matthew Henry’s commentary.
It’s incredible what Jesus meant by these words. Take it in. Digest it.
“This violence denotes a strength, and vigour, and earnestness of desire and endeavour, in those who followed John’s ministry, else they would not have come so far to attend upon it. It shows us also, what fervency and zeal are required of all those who design to make heaven of their religion. Note, They who would enter into the kingdom of heaven must strive to enter; that kingdom suffers a holy violence; self must be denied, the bent and bias, the frame and temper, of the mind must be altered; there are hard sufferings to be undergone, a force to be put upon the corrupt nature; we must run, and wrestle, and fight, and be in an agony, and all little enough to win such a prize, and to get over such opposition from without and from within.
The violent take it by force. They who will have an interest in the great salvation are carried out towards it with a strong desire, will have it upon any terms, and not think them hard, nor quit their hold without a blessing, Gen. 32:26 . They who will make their calling and election sure must give diligence.
The kingdom of heaven was never intended to indulge the ease of triflers, but to be the rest of them that labour. It is a blessed sight; Oh that we could see a greater number, not with an angry contention thrusting others out of the kingdom of heaven, but with a holy contention thrusting themselves into it!” ~Matthew Henry – emphasis mine.
Salvation is more than saying a “sinner’s prayer” and accepting Jesus. If that’s all you’re content with, I beg you to open your eyes and see your deep need. It has nothing to do with YOU accepting HIM. Not from what I can see in Scripture, anyway.
Salvation is asking GOD to accept YOU into His Kingdom, based on what Jesus Christ did on the Cross.
We are not slightly imperfect beings bestowing our faith graciously on a beggar-God. Heaven forbid!
We are orphans asking God to adopt us as His son or daughter. To cover our sins with His blood, and to extend grace to us. We are sinners in need of saving from Hell itself. Each and every one of us.
Salvation requires humility. It requires fully knowing that we are unworthy, and in need of supernatural transformation from the inside. A transformation we are powerless to even initiate, let alone complete. It requires understanding that we can do nothing to attain our own salvation. The fight to “take it by force,” is not a wrestling with God to demand our entrance. It’s a wrestling with ourselves to put our flesh to death. It is warring with our sinful self, and wrestling to lay hold of the hem of Christ’s garment, determined to be dragged into Heaven by Him if need be, and trusting Him to save us in spite of ourselves.
It boils down to this: God has already done everything we need for salvation. Everything. All that he requires of us is to be soft clay in His expert, potter’s hands. How in the world does clay do anything to shape itself? Who are we to think that we can add to the work of the Great Potter?
Our only striving is against our own sinful nature to repent and believe. Once that is accomplished, we are ready to be molded and worked into something useful and beautiful in the Kingdom of God. The Potter’s Wheel (this earth), is our training ground. Once we are fired (Jesus promises that we will all go through the fire of trials and trouble in this life) and set, we will be fully ready for the task we were created for when we finally come into the final and eternal Kingdom God is preparing.
Are you relying on a rote prayer you prayed a long time ago? Or have you laid hold of Christ’s garment, and contended to enter through the narrow gate of repentance and belief? That narrow gate is like a tight place in a cave, that opens out into something more grand and glorious and hard than anything we could make for ourselves. The striving is squeezing through that gate – leaving behind any extra burdens you were carrying, no matter how “precious” they were to you. It’s leaving everything, even down to your brass buttons. It is being willing to leave literally everything and everyone behind in order to gain something you can never lose.
It’s real. It’s tangible. It’s offered to everyone, but tragically, only a few find it. Be sure you are one of the few. Take it by force!
Are you thrusting yourself into the Kingdom of God with holy contention? Or are you a trifler, looking for a life of ease? If Christ is not everything to you, please examine yourself and see if you really belong to Him. Don’t trust in a few words you spoke years ago. Trust in Him today, right now, in everything. Think about it.
I know that I am saved, that I belong to the Kingdom of God, because I have been accepted. I also know that I am still on the Potter’s Wheel. I won’t be complete until the day I’ve come through the fire. I’m okay with that. I trust the Potter. He’s a master craftsman, and will not rest until I am a true work of art, fit for good use and beauty in the eternity to come.
Grace & Peace,