7. The Way to the Kingdom

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

These words assist us in our understanding of what true religion is. The Lord Jesus Christ informs us of both the fact of the Kingdom, and how one may get there.

The nature of true religion
Here the Lord calls it ‘The Kingdom of God.’ The apostle Paul uses the same description in Romans 14:17 … “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” The Kingdom of God is not ‘meat and drink,’ meaning that a person is not saved by observing rituals and ceremonies. These are just outward forms of religion. True religion on the other hand is ‘righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost’ – or inward and heart religion. The religion of Christ is infinitely higher and immensely deeper than ceremonies. The most godless man can practice outward religion, but this is not true religion. 

True religion does not consist of orthodoxy, right opinions, and doctrines. A man may hold to these and still not be a child of God. Why? Because his religion is not of the heart. The Lord requires more than this. Mark 12:30 reminds us, “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment,” but also, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31). On thee two statement hang the whole teaching of the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:40). Such love is the fulfilling of the Law (Romans 13:10).

True religion implies that we should have real happiness and joy – “peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Peace and joy is the product of truly having Christ as our Saviour. All fear, and torment is cast out (1 John 4:18). The Holy Spirit works in us that calm, humble rejoicing in God through Christ Jesus. The Psalmist writes, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1).

So we see that the Kingdom of God reigns in a true believer’s heart. It is eternal life in the very nature of the believer … “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). The Kingdom is ‘at hand’ because it is made manifest in the lives of those who have turned to Christ for salvation.

The way to the Kingdom
“This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21). A person who desires to enter the Kingdom must first repent and believe the word of God. This means that he must admit that he is a sinner of the most offensive kind. Corruption is found at every level of the sinner’s life, and he always acts and thinks contrary to God’s laws. Everything about him is perverse and distorted. Out of this root springs unbelief which asks, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice?” (Exodus 5:2). His whole desire is earthly, and he drinks from the bitter streams of vanity and pride. The Scriptures inform us that “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) – that is, eternal death which the sinner deserves. Wrath and damnation is all he should expect at the end of his life.

How can such a one appease God? Through good works? No! He can never come to God through this means, since good works can not deliverer him from the sin rooted in his heart. What has any man wherewith he may pay God? Instead, all must come to God through repentance and faith. 

Jesus clearly states, “Repent, and believe the gospel.” What is the gospel? Paul speaks of it in this fashion, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). He suffered and died in our place. He was “wounded for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53). It is these facts that the sinner must acknowledge to be absolutely true, for they are at the very foundation of the Gospel Message.

There can be no place for doubt regarding these truths. If there is belief, then the Kingdom of God immediately reigns in the heart, all sin is washed away, and there is ‘righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Of course, such a faith is not simply a mental assent to Biblical truth. Devils remain devils no matter how much they know about Christ. True faith is full of confidence and reliance upon the merciful and loving God who has redeemed the sinner through the blood of Jesus Christ.

Do you believe these things? Does your spirit rejoice in God your Saviour (Luke 1:47)? Can you truly cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15)? If you do believe then “The love of God is shed abroad” in your heart “by the Holy Ghost” (Romans 5:5). You love the brethren, and there is peace and joy in your heart. You live in holiness and righteousness. You are being changed from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18) because you have Christ’s image in you.

If you are a member of God’s Kingdom, that is, you have true religion, do not allow anyone or anything rob you of your crown. Hold fast, and follow Christ to the end. Remember, “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).

John Wesley preached this sermon 6 June 1742.