Go to most churches, and you’ll encounter a lot of activity that has nothing to do with building God’s Kingdom.
Prayer books. Electronic worship. Coffee hour. Kids’ plays.
These things are nice, but Jesus never mentioned them.
According to the Bible, what are musts for Christians called to build God’s Kingdom on earth?
The requirements are the things that Jesus did and taught His disciples to do in His Name.
1. You must be born again.
Nicodemus approached Jesus one night and said, “‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him'” (John 3:2 NIV).
Knowing Jesus as a teacher from God is not enough. All orthodox churches admit that.
You also must recognize the power behind the miraculous signs that Jesus performed—healings, deliverances, and mastery over nature.
How did Jesus answer Nicodemus?
“‘I tell you the truth, no one can SEE the kingdom of God unless he is born again‘” (John 3:3 NIV).
You can’t understand the spiritual operation of Kingdom power unless you’re born again. In fact, Jesus went on to say, “‘[N]o one can ENTER the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit'” (John 3:5-6 NIV).
To enter the Kingdom of God, you must be born of the Spirit:
4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
–Titus 3:4-7 NIV
Spiritual regeneration doesn’t result from simply knowing about God or Jesus or from going to church. Rather, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9 NIV).
The new birth is received by turning from sin and turning to God in faith: “‘Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out'” (Acts 3:19 NIV).
To comprehend the Kingdom, to enter the Kingdom, you must be born again.
Spiritual regeneration is actually an Old Testament experience: Abraham is father of all those who have faith (see Rom. 4:12-16). What kind of faith?
This is why Jesus was incredulous that Nicodemus did not understand the necessity of being born again. He should have. For, Jesus said, “‘the Lord, “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” … is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive'” (Luke 20:37-38 NIV).
Why are we born again? To have living relationship with God. To enjoy eternal life.
Also to enable us to be filled with the Spirit: “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham [being born again by grace through faith] might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by [that same] faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Gal. 3:14 NIV, bracketed additions mine).
2. You must be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Paul wrote the Ephesians, “Don’t get drunk on wine, which leads to wild living. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18 GW). This is a commandment for born again believers.
Jesus told His disciples, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3 NIV). See also Ephesians 5:26 and Titus 3:5. The disciples were regenerate from Jesus words, which are spirit and life (John 6:63).
Then He said,
16 “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—
17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be IN you.”
–John 14:16-17 NIV
Jesus promised them He would send the Holy Spirit, now with them to regenerate and cleanse them through the word, to be IN them.
He commanded them, “‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit‘” (Acts 1:4-5 NIV).
One hundred twenty born again disciples received the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
Later, Philip proclaimed Christ in Samaria. The Samaritans “believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, [and] they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12 NIV).
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.
15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
–Acts 8:14-17 NIV
The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a separate experience from being converted. The Samaritans, though born again and water baptized, did not receive the indwelling Holy Spirit until hands were laid on them.
The fullness of the Holy Spirit is not automatically received when you’re born again. You must separately receive the Holy Spirit and be “clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:49)—the power to be Kingdom witnesses (Acts 1:8).
You need this power to love God, love your neighbor, and move in the gifts of the Spirit.
For more information:
3. You must love God and your neighbor.
Colossians 1:13 says, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (NKJV). Those who inherit the Kingdom are those who love God (see James 2:5).
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
–Luke 10:25-28 NIV
You can’t love God without loving your neighbor (see 1 Jn. 4:8,20-21). And everyone is your neighbor—no exceptions.
If you’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit, love is easy “…because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:5 NIV). The fruit of the Spirit is love (Gal. 5:23).
They will know we are Christians—Kingdom Christians—by our love.
4. You must move in the gifts of the Spirit.
Jesus demonstrated, taught, and trained His disciples to do the miraculous works He did. He commissioned them, saying, “‘As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give'” (Matt. 10:7-8 NIV).
Paul said, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Cor. 4:20 NIV). There’s a lot of talk in the Church. But where is the power Jesus and the early disciples demonstrated? This is the Kingdom and the true Gospel: signs and wonders.
To minister Kingdom power, we need the Spirit’s enablement. We must submit ourselves to be used of God through the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7-11). We must excel in the gifts that build up the Church (1 Cor. 14:12).
Paul wrote, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1 NIV). The “most excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31) to move in the gifts is through love. Love sets captives free.
5. You must live an obedient, holy life.
Even if we’re born again and Spirit-filled, moving in the gifts does not guarantee us heaven. Jesus warned His followers,
20 “Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’
23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
–Matthew 7:20-23 NIV
Peter preached, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32 NIV).
John wrote, “Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 Jn. 3:24 NIV).
We must obey God and do the Father’s will. How?
The indwelling Spirit leads us to live a life filled with good fruit, set apart and sanctified for the Lord and His Kingdom. “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14 NIV).
6. You must help fulfill the Great Commission.
Ninety percent of what today’s churches are involved in, Jesus never mentioned nor practiced. What was He about? Peter told Cornelius,
37 “You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—
38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”
–Acts 10:37-38 NIV
Jesus said, “‘Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons'” (Matt. 10:8 NIV).
“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 Jn. 3:8b NIV). What’s your reason for following Him?
Jesus set aside his divine powers (Phil. 2:5-8) and instead received the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Lk. 2:21-22), through which He healed and performed miracles and prophesied.
We, likewise, need to be filled with the Spirit; move in the gifts, motivated by love; and set captives free. This is true Kingdom work.
Just before He ascended to heaven after the Resurrection,
18 Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
–Matthew 28:18-20 NIV
Jesus Christ is Lord of heaven and earth. He has delegated His authority to His born again, sanctified, Spirit-filled followers. We are to go in His name and make disciples.
What kind of disciples? The kind who do what He did. The kind who do what He released the Twelve and the seventy-two to do: heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leper, drive out demons.
15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues;
18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.
20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked WITH them and CONFIRMED his word by the SIGNS that accompanied it.
–Mark 16:15-20 NIV
We must do the greater works Jesus promised we could do (John 14:12). This is “God’s Kingdom come, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).