Sunday, September 30, 2012

Carrying the Kingdom of God

As believers in King Jesus the Messiah, we bring the kingdom of God wherever we go and it addresses every part of life in every part of the world. The apostle John said, “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8). That is quite an amazing thing, especially when many Christians seem to think quite the opposite, that the darkness is getting darker and the true light is fading away. But in the overlap of the ages, the age of God’s kingdom breaking into this present evil age, it is this present age with all its darkness that is passing away and God’s kingdom with all its light that is continually increasing.

In Isaiah 9, the messianic prophecy of the Child that is born and the Son that is given, it says that “of the increase of His government and peace will be no end” (vv. 6-7). That Child has been born and that Son has been given. All authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18), and His government (His kingdom) will continue to increase until it fills the whole earth.

In recent days, we have seen the disturbances in Libya, Egypt and Syria. But because the kingdom of God has come into the world we have some powerful ways to address that. For one thing, in our worship when we proclaim that Jesus is Lord over all, we are not just doing our own little thing in our own little space. We are announcing the Lordship of Jesus in the heavenlies, including to the principalities and powers (the demonic influences behind all the political, religious, cultural and economic oppressions). Paul said that God is making His manifold wisdom known to the principalities and powers — through the Church! (Ephesians 3:10).

For another thing, we have the very powerful way King Jesus taught us to pray: Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven (my paraphrase). So in this present situation, for example, my prayer is, “Kingdom of God, come into Libya, Egypt and Syria. Will of God, be done in Libya, Egypt and Syria just it is being done in heaven.” Because Jesus is Lord and King over all those. They belong to is domain, His kingdom.

I also pray that the Father will give them a revelation of the Lord Jesus, by the Holy Spirit. I keep hearing reports about an amazing thing that has been happening in Muslim countries and communities. Many Muslims have been having dreams and visions of Jesus — they are clear that it is Jesus, not Mohammed, that they are seeing — and because of this they seek out Christians to learn more about Him. Many have come to know the Lord Jesus through way. On one of my other blogs, I have curated some links to what is happening with many Muslims, how they are coming to the Lord Jesus because of dreams and visions, healings and other miracles: Muslims Come to Jesus. I pray for the Lord to continue and increase that.

We also have the Holy Spirit, to bear the fruit of the Spirit and gifts of the Spirit wherever we go. This is a manifestation that God’s kingdom has truly begun and is now present in the world.

And we have the Great Commission. The Lord Jesus announced that all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth, and then He commissioned the disciples to go out into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them about Him and all that He taught (Matthew 28:18-20). In other words, to go out and announce that the kingdom of God has come and Jesus is the King of heaven and earth.

Within that discipleship, we bring the influence of God’s kingdom to bear in every aspect of life. Including government, religion, media, family education, business, arts and entertainment — these are the seven “mountains” of the Seven Mountain Strategy movement. The kingdom of God has something to say about all of these because it comes to redeem every part of life.

Seeing the kingdom of God at work in the world and participating with Him in that work is very exciting. I live now with great expectation of what God is going to do next. Not a dread that things will get darker and darker and that the true light will fade but a joyful anticipation of the darkness fading more and more as the light of King Jesus and His kingdom increases more and more on the earth. I’ve never been more passionate about the gospel than I am now.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Sermon of the Kingdom

Someone asked about the Sermon on the Mount, whether it is for today. I call it “The Sermon of the Kingdom,” because it is the announcement that the kingdom of God has now come into the world. In Matthew 4, “Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people” (v. 23). Then just a few verse later, beginning in Matthew 5 and on through to Matthew 7, we see what that preaching looked like.

It begins with the Beatitudes. This was not a new code of ethics that Jesus was offering. It was an announcement, the declaration of blessing because the kingdom of heaven had now come to earth. The beatitudes begin and end with express reference to the kingdom (Matthew 5:3, 10), and all in between are implicitly about the kingdom. These are not instructions about how one gets “saved” and enters into the kingdom. But they announce that, for all who have been looking and longing for the kingdom of God and the fulfillment of what God promised throughout the Old Testament, that kingdom has now come.

Then in a series of paradigms, Jesus teaches about what the coming of the kingdom means in relation to the Torah. He did not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). What God required was not merely the external behavior that the law required, but something much deeper, concerning the heart. That was something the Law could never satisfy. That is why God promised, in Ezekiel 36, that He would come and gather Israel from among the nations and do an internal work in them:
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)
This was a promise God made about the end time, the age of His kingdom in the earth. A new heart and a new spirit — God’s own Spirit — placed in them, enabling them to keep His laws and statutes from the heart. This is the righteousness that God requires, the righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). It is the righteousness that comes from the heart — the new heart and new spirit that God gives, with the Spirit of God Himself enabling it.

This is why Paul, in Galatians 5:22-23, contrasts the fruit of the Spirit not only with the “works of the flesh” but also with the Law. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” The Law could never produce in us the fruit that the Holy Spirit can. The Holy Spirit, who is God at work in us to create the desire for His will and enabling us to do His good will (Philippians 2:13), brings forth in us the kind of fruit, the kind of righteousness God is looking for.

Now, don’t get me wrong here — every believer in the Lord Jesus is accounted as righteous because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. But the Holy Spirit works in us to manifest or reveal that righteousness in and through us.

So the Sermon on the Mount is very much about the kingdom of God, and the kingdom has now begun and is presently in the earth. We can see this because God has given every believer a new heart and His own Spirit to produce in us what the Law of Moses never could. The kingdom has already begun, though it is not yet complete, and will not be until King Jesus comes again. We live in between the time of the kingdom as it has already come and the kingdom as it has yet to come.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Already Begun, Not Yet Done

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus came “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:14-15). Jesus was announcing that the kingdom of God, long ago promised in the Old Testament, had now come.

After the cross and the resurrection, and before He ascended to heaven to sit on His throne at the right hand of the Father, the place of ruling and reigning, Jesus declared to His disciples, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus was announcing that He was now King over heaven and earth.

What happened in between was about how the kingdom came into the world and Jesus became the King. That is why the Gospels spend so much time on the kingdom of God (a.k.a. the “kingdom of heaven,” in Matthew). That is why Jesus spent so much time teaching about the kingdom of God and demonstrating it through healings and exorcisms and other miracles.

So the kingdom of God has begun in the earth. However, it has not yet arrived in all its fullness. That will not happen until King Jesus returns. We are living in between the times of its inauguration and its final fulfillment. Some refer to this reality as “already/not yet.” I call it, “Already begun, not yet done.” As the apostle John said, “The darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8). This present age has been invaded by the age of God’s kingdom and is already in the process of passing away. The age of God’s kingdom has already begun to shine, and its light continues to increase as more and more people turn to the Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Random Thoughts

Here are a few random thoughts that have been buzzing around my head. For your inspiration and/or amusement.

  • Not to brag or anything, but I am God’s gift to the world. And God’s gift to God. So are you. Understand this through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Live accordingly.
  • My God supplies all my needs according to His glorious riches in the Messiah, Jesus. And there is not even the slightest possibility of a shutdown there.
  • Has anyone ever noticed that whenever someone says, “I assure you ...,” it is never really assuring at all?
  • The Bible says that God is Love, God is Light, God is a Consuming Fire. I don't think that is saying three different things but saying the same thing three different ways.
  • Had an interesting revelation today: Obituaries are the Facebook of the elderly. It is how they keep up with many of the people they know (or knew).
  • God’s heart is for all nations and all generations. His plans and purposes are as wide as the world and as deep as time.
  • Your words are very powerful. Choose them with care and use them wisely.
  • Debt is a bondage. A nation in debt is a nation in bondage.
  • The most politically powerful thing we can do is to worship, to proclaim that Jesus the Messiah is King over all the earth.
  • I died and was buried. Now I live. True story.
  • LORD, fill my mind today with Your thoughts, Fill my mouth today with Your words, Fill my heart today with Your affections. In King Jesus, Amen.
  • I am the sharpest knife in the box ~ God gives me the wisdom to cut anything that He wants me to cut.
  • “Does this taste funny?” she asked as she handed me the fork. I took a bite ... and laughed.
  • If you are going to dream and believe for something, you might as well dream and believe for the best.
  • Some people are hoping they can just stay afloat or keep their head above water. But the people of God should have a greater expectation ~ we live in the favor of the LORD.
  • God gives strength sufficient for every day, each in its turn. Don't go and start running a deficit by worrying.