Archive for the ‘Citizenship’ Category

GOVERNMENT OF GOD – His Government

May 2, 2009

Continuing in Isaiah 9:2 –

For you shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.

Have we not discovered that the rod of this lesser realm is oppressive? We cannot accumulate enough of her goods to remove her oppression. God’s people in America are so oppressed, and trying to imitate a life that on the whole we have not possessed. And they are not convinced or impressed, that is, our neighbors and the world around us.

For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.

 Everything that has reigned over the children of God, everything, all of her garments and all of her shodding, will be burned. So why do we want to dress in their garments and wear their boots? It is His work, it is in His coming to set us free from this lesser realm.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the government will rest on His shoulders…

This child, this son, this meek lamb that’s coming, it’s with government, because the very thing that Adam and Eve lost and were in desperate need of is the reign of God in their heart, because they were made for the reign as the bird is made for the currents of the air and the fish for the flow of the stream. Man is made for God. We can’t even be normal. Man without God is a freak, a stumbling, babbling freak. And to the heavenlies, the principalities and powers, we are like a zoo or a sick circus side attraction trying to be what we can only be with the indwelling of the life for which we were created. I just encourage you to reach out and grasp, take hold of this offer of life, this other life for which we’ve been created.

And the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace.

These two things go together, by the way: removing of oppression and the establishment of peace. It’s His government.

Most of my Christian life I’ve been without peace. I’ve been the most vexed person. I know that that’s not right. I know that those of you who have had their heart on God, it’s not been with peace, has it? The church is not at peace. I get too many phone calls; I do too much counseling, and most of it I do not enjoy because there’s no heart for His reign. They just want to be free from the consequences of this oppression. They still like the world’s garments.

It’s like the children of Israel in the wilderness. You know, it was the Holy Spirit that led the children of Israel right into the wilderness instead of left into the plushness of the abundance of the Promised Land. But, you see, in the wilderness there was daily manna from God. They didn’t have to go out and work for food. It was laying there on the ground. Their shoes didn’t wear out. There was no sickness for forty years But they didn’t like God’s green. It was the world’s green that their heart was upon. It was the flesh pots of Egypt that their heart was upon. They weren’t satisfied with shoes that didn’t wear out, they were tired of patent leather, they were wanting what the Philistines were wearing. “Do you see what those Philistines are wearing? Boy, that’s cool!” They weren’t satisfied with God’s provision. They weren’t content. Is that too much?

We’ve got to see that God’s green is real green. You know, you can get so accustomed to a counterfeit that you can’t take the authentic. I would dare say most of you were raised on margarine and butter is not too palatable. Get the point?

Margarine is the counterfeit. It’s like butter, but they’ve come to the place where they don’t have to copy the taste of butter any more. I really like butter but I discovered that my children got used to margarine. You can get so use to a counterfeit green that you don’t want the real thing. But the real thing’s good. There’s peace with it and rest. Wouldn’t you like some rest from all of this hectic, striving?

It’s amazing what we will do with the truth.

END

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GOVERNMENT OF GOD – No Insignificant Land

April 24, 2009

Isaiah chapter 9. Here we have the birth and reign of the Prince of Peace again prophesied. Begin in verse 2.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; they will be glad in Your presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 

They are happy because the King has come, the reign has come. And we read that, “You shall multiply the nation.” And I just want to say that we are the nation of God. Our land is the realm. Our land is no insignificant land; our kingdom, our nation is no insignificant nation. We have been called to be a people not of this lesser realm. We’ve been called out of this land of darkness, not removed. Jesus prayed in John 17, “Father, I pray that You do not take them out of but from the midst of it.” If we do not get this issue of the significance of the realm, the nation, the government to which we are called, we’re going to find our hands burned from holding on too tight to a lesser nation.

I’m speaking to you from the depth of my heart. If the church does not let go of, and I don’t mean by that to not pray for, not witness to, not go after to save, these lesser kingdoms, but if we do not let go of our ownership of that which is less, they have no hope, and we’re going to be severely burned when she’s judged. Because she shall be judged, this lesser kingdom and I believe it has begun. And by that I do not mean economic downturn. It is going to begin with us.

Judgment first begins with the household of God, the children of this exalted realm. They must first have removed from their life that which is not from God. That’s what judgment is all about. Only God judges and He only judges that which is not of Him. It is the world that persecutes. It is Satan and the world of darkness that comes against the children of God. And their persecution is always aimed at that which is of God. And because of our immaturity and our ignorance we’re going to be calling persecution what is really judgment, what is really intended to remove from us, to break from us, to tear out of our hands. And if we do not let go early, we will be injured in its removal. It’s necessary what is coming. It’s necessary.

And I encourage you to let go and take hold of the realm that can bring hope to the children of this lesser realm. Their only hope is in a people being raised up who know the reign of God in their heart. A people who are manifesting a life like Paul and Silas in that inner prison representing a life in the midst of what looks like physical bondage that’s free and above and reigns over all the circumstances of life. And they will not want to leave us once they see it. But if we’re holding on to that which God is judging we offer no hope to them. We’ve deceived them by our own selfish self-reigning ambitions.

DEFINING KINGDOM – The Real Issue

January 23, 2009

The question really gets back to the issue of the reign. Does Jesus have a right to say to you and me, “Sell all that you have, give the money to the poor and come follow me?” There might be some agreement, but I’m also feeling, you know, do you really want to answer that? That’s the question.

The question is not, has Jesus said we are all to get rid of all that we have, sell it and give the proceeds to the poor and come follow Him. That’s not the issue. The issue is, does He have a right to say that? Because, you know, He does say, “No one can be my disciple who does not say good bye to all his own possessions (see Luke 14:33). We’ve talked about that, I think, at least we’ve hinted about it in the introduction. He does say, “You can’t be a disciple of Mine, you can’t come under My reign unless you say good bye to all your own possessions.” Now, He doesn’t say throw them away. He doesn’t say sell them and give the money to the poor. He just says, “Say good bye.”

I may be old but I can remember dating. And I can remember standing on Patti Barmore’s front porch and saying good bye and an hour later still being there. Good bye does not necessarily mean going right now. Usually it was when the light was switched on from the inside. That settled the issue. Then I had to decide, does Patti’s mother have a right to end the evening, and I decided that she did.

The issue is, Jesus is saying to this rich young ruler, “Do I have a right to reign over your life? You’re asking me about salvation and entering the kingdom, about God’s life that was promised in the Garden. I’ll tell you how you can have it. Just let Me die for you and cover your sins.”

Well, he was going to do that for the rich young ruler. But the issue is first and foremost, “Will you give Me the reign?” And that’s the issue in each of our lives. Does He have a right as Lord to reign over all that we are and all that He has entrusted unto us? And unless that issue is settled, we’ll not enter the realm where we can reign in life over all that is. But as soon as we do, we’ll soar like eagles. We are transformed into the realm, out on the water; however you want to say it. But it requires His reign.

END

DEFINING KINGDOM – What Can I Do To Enter In?

January 16, 2009

Now go to Luke 18:18:

A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “why do you call Me good?”

Now, this is a ruler of the people which means that he was a scribe, a Pharisee, or a Sadducee. But, being a ruler, it was required of him to know the Law. He had to know every jot and tittles of the Law. He had to know how many punctuation marks there were in every text of the Law. That’s how they memorized it. That’s how they were tested. They would be asked, “Tell me how many commas and periods and accent marks there are in Isaiah 53.” They’d have to give an answer. The only way they would know the answer would be to know the text. And this was a ruler of the Law and this ruler of the Law knew that one of the Laws that they had extended out of the Law that God gave was that you call no man good – only God is good. And a ruler of the people would never, ever refer to someone as good.

Some who know me may have noticed that I use the phrase with some of my close friends, “good brother.” It is a play on this text. It is saying what this rich young ruler was saying to Jesus: “I see God in you.” And that’s what this rich young ruler was doing. He was risking much. But the proof is that he not only saw a life that was different, but it was a God kind of life. And it could only be described by him as a God kind of thing when he says, “Good Teacher…”

And to a Hebrew, eternal life had little to do with duration. Eternal had more to do with quality. And that’s really the issue with all of us. The issue is not how long will you be, the issue is the quality of your eternity, because you were created in the image and likeness of God. The issue is not eternity; the issue is heaven or hell. The issue is fire or something a bit more comfortable. The issue is quality. And this rich young ruler saw whatever it was that was more than duration but quality, a God kind of quality that was in Jesus. And when the rich young ruler comes and says, “Good Teacher,” Jesus responds with a tongue-in-cheek, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

Well, the rich young ruler had an opportunity there to retract what he had said, because Jesus was reminding him of a regulation in the Law. But the ruler does not pull back. He continues in verse 21: And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” “I have kept the Law, good Teacher.”

Verse 22:

When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.

A new Law? Be careful before you answer that.

And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”

Oops! I thought we were talking about eternal life? Jesus uses in a synonymous way “eternal life” and “entering the kingdom of God.” And there are many other texts that would make this connection. You need to make this connection too. Eternal life and entering the kingdom are one and the same. And you might ask yourself, “I wonder how this basileia is translated or is being used in this particular text – “to enter the kingdom of God?”

Hard For The Rich –

It might help us to know, before we go on to the next verse, that the average American household income puts that average American in the top 1% of the wealth of the world. So when we are thinking about the rich – you know, we think of wealth that is always beyond what we have. And it may be beyond for many of us. There is a lot beyond us, isn’t there? We use to think of the wealthy in terms of millionaires and now billionaires are the common extreme rich. But the average American is in the top 1% of the wealth of the world. So evidently the rich are rarer than that. Maybe they are in the top 1/10 of 1% of the wealth of the world or something like that. It is certainly beyond us.

Jesus continues, “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

You are all familiar with this text. I’m sure you’ve heard it preached. Some say that the “eye of the needle” is a gate in the city. And in order for a person to enter after dark, they had to come by way of the “gate of the needle.” And this needle gate would require that everything on the camel is unloaded. You couldn’t enter the city armed or bring anything in undisclosed. And so, in order for a camel to get through, it would have to be stripped of its luggage and the camel would have to literally scoot in on its knees to enter the city after dark. It was a security precaution.

Others say that this is simply an illustration by Jesus of a physical impossibility: for a camel, the largest animal in that area of the world, to pass through the smallest opening, the eye of a needle.

The issue is really not the interpretation of the “eye of the needle” in this commentary. It really doesn’t matter one iota in the context of this book or in the context of Scripture which way it is interpreted. Either way the result is the same. It’s harder to enter the kingdom of God if you are among the wealthy than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. That’s the imagery that is being used here.

Then the disciples took up the commentary in verse 26,

They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?”

Wait a minute! I thought we were talking about eternal life or entering the kingdom. And now the question is raised by the disciples, “Well then, who can be saved?” It’s as if they are saying, “Who can have eternal life or who can enter the kingdom?” It’s synonymous. Salvation has to do with entering the kingdom. We’ve obviously held this precept that salvation has to do with eternal life. But you need to see that it also relates to the realm of His reign. All three are used in the same text, all are used synonymously. So, when you go to talk about eternal life to your friends, your brothers and your sisters, you need to know that it includes entering the kingdom, the realm of the reign; it includes coming under the reign.

So, we ask the question, what is Jesus doing here? Is Jesus adding another Law, like, “you call no one good, only God is good,” or “thou shalt not kill?” Is Jesus laying down a new law for being a disciple? Well, no He isn’t. What is He doing? Yes, Jesus knows what is keeping this young man down. And what’s keeping him down? His riches? No! His trust? Certainly that is part of it. But, it seems to me Jesus is saying, “Will you give Me the right…to your life? You’ve asked Me about this because you have seen God in Me. Will you allow the God in Me to say something to you? Will you give Me the right to say, “You are lacking something and the only way for you to make up the lack is to sell all that you have, give it to the poor and come follow me.”

DEFINING KINGDOM – Receiving The Right To Rule

January 10, 2009

Now, back to Luke 19:12:

So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return.

He went to a different country to receive a kingdom for himself. Well, you’ve got to ask the question: Is he talking primarily about a realm, the people, or the reign or the right to rule itself? Let’s continue – –

“And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’

Now, what was he going to this distant country to receive? The right to reign! The right to rule! By the way, down in verse 14 where it says, “we don’t want this man to rule over us,” what do you suppose that phrase “to reign” is in the Greek? It’s the verb, basileuō. And in verse 12, where it talks about him going to receive a kingdom, the word kingdom is the noun of the same word, basileia. What he went to receive, they did not want him to have – the right to reign over them.

And by the way, although this applies to Jesus Himself because He was going to go off and receive the right to rule, one of the first things He said on returning after the resurrection was at the front end of His commissioning the disciples. He said, “All authority has been given unto Me in heaven and on earth” (see Matthew 28:18). “The right to rule is now Mine. I’ve taken the keys.” And though it is so in the heavenlies, it is not yet fully exercised here because He is establishing His reign. Where? In the hearts of those who love Him! And so we see here in this text the definition of Jesus’ use of the word ‘kingdom.’ It’s the same word He used in referring to the gospel of the kingdom in passages throughout the gospel accounts.

But the Jew of His day had a different image than the one that Jesus referred to in this parable about Him going off to receive a kingdom for Himself. The image they had is of a family that they were familiar with—Herod’s family. And Herod’s family, history records, travels to Rome, visits with Caesar and in negotiation receives the right to rule over Israel as the head of a puppet government. And it was the threat of the loss of that right to rule that Jesus represented to Herod and his family; a threat to Herod’s rule that he received like this nobleman that went off to a far country.

So when Jesus told this parable, everyone understood, at least in the likeness of Herod going off to receive a kingdom. When Herod went off to receive the kingdom, did he go off to get a land that he was not living in? No! Did he go off to get a people that he did not know? No! He comes back to the same place that had the same boundaries, the same name, and the same people as before he left. So what did he receive? The right to rule! And that’s the issue. The gospel of the kingdom is the gospel of the reign first, then the realm, then the people over whom he reigns.

Nothing will make sense for the rest of the book unless that is in our heart. What was lost in the Garden? The truth that it takes the reign of God in the heart of man for man just to be man or woman as God gave them to be. That’s what Jesus came preaching and establishing: the reign of God is now here; the reign that was intended to be exercised from the heart of man is now here.

But, let’s continue reading in verse 14:

“But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’

When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had dome. The first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’

I want you to see this, understanding this parable in the context of Jesus Himself. Before He goes off and receives, He has those who are His servants, that is, those over whom He is master being entrusted with a certain stewardship. And in this context, it would be the disciples, wouldn’t it? And in this context it would also be you and me. And whatever he has entrusted to us we recognize that it is not really ours but in the end is all His. And I’ve said right from the beginning it is my intent, and I hold no punches back, it is my intent to challenge every one of you to give all that you are and all that you’ve been entrusted with to the King and His kingdom. And how you use what He has entrusted to you which is your life and all that is entailed and all that you’ve been entrusted with, it is all about using them for the day when the Master returns and is going to hold you and me accountable.

Being Accountable –

This living our life as if we are not accountable for what God has entrusted to us is a deception that is gong to harm many before the throne, because we are handling our resources and our wealth as if they were ours on the whole. I do not know many in this country who have a good handle on our being His stewards and we’ve been entrusted with creation until He comes. What we are given in eternity and the rule we are given in eternity and the authority we are given in eternity is determined by how we handle what he has now entrusted to us.

Our 70 or 80 years is nothing compared to a million times a million years plus infinity. It’s just a vapor, just nothing. Why do we get so entangled in such small ambitions when He is entrusting to us that which can be multiplied in eternity to who knows what? Because it is the church, His bride, who is going to be sitting next to Him on the throne, reigning over all eternity. And so this parable is very applicable concerning the coming of the King.

Let’s continue in verse 18:

“The second came, saying, ‘Your mina, master, has made five minas.’ And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Another came, saying, ‘Master, here is you mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave.’

Now, he was this master’s slave. He did belong to the king.

“He said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’ ”

Now if you think He’s going to be harsh with the man who held onto it tight, hid it, saw that it was not lost, if you think He’s going to be harsh with that man, what about the man who squanders it on his own good pleasure, thinking He may not come? I don’t know. Why do we do such things? Am I being too hard? It’s got to mean something.

“Then he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’ I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.”

Verse 27 ties up the definition: “But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them…”

Remember, He went off to receive the right to reign over them.

“But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them…”

Heavenly Father, our heart is that Your Holy Spirit convicts us of all of those areas that we’ve not wanted You to reign over. We trust Your grace and mercy. We know your love; it’s spoken of so well in Christ Jesus.

“But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.”

They also were citizens of the kingdom but their end was not very pretty. I believe this whole issue of His reign, the gospel of the reign, is the front issue, is the pivotal issue before the church in the West. It’s not so much an issue in much of the eastern church – Asia or Africa, because you will not come to Jesus unless you wrestle with who is going to reign, because the cost of coming to Him is too high. In the West we’ve had a gospel that has been, for the most part, costless.

“No one of you can be My disciple who does not take up his cross, deny himself daily, and follow Me” (see Luke 9:23). He wants to reign. It may sound like a big sacrifice on our part, but it’s only because of short sightedness that we would ever think such. It is because the least in the kingdom is greater than the greatest man who ever lived before. And that runs from John the Baptist all the way back through Solomon, David, Moses, Abraham, you name them. Because it’s the Father’s good pleasure to give us the reign. We’ll look at that again a little later.

What we have said is that there are two definitions or two ways for arriving at the definition of what Jesus means by the gospel of the kingdom. It is the gospel of the reign, first by definition itself of the word and secondly, Jesus defines it in this Luke 19 text. It’s defined elsewhere but it’s very clear in this Luke 19 text… how the word kingdom is used in this text and is often used to mean the reign itself.

DEFINING KINGDOM – Where Is The Kingdom?

January 7, 2009

For with the heart man believes and it is with the mouth that he confesses that Jesus is Lord (see Romans 10:9). That’s the issue. The issue is, the reign of God is come and is now available for man in man. Up until Jesus Christ, starting from Adam, there never was a man or woman in whom God could enter or would enter their heart to reign, because it was an unclean, defiled vessel. It was a vessel that could not be made clean enough by the blood of goats and bulls (see Hebrews 10:4). It wasn’t until ‘The’ sacrifice came that cleansed the vessel that made it possible for God now to enter in and reign on the throne that was created right from the very beginning in the heart of man.

Man was made from the beginning with a throne on which he could not reign himself. He thought he took the reign for himself in the Garden but he didn’t. He really gave it to another, didn’t he? That’s why Satan is referred to as the god of this world, the prince of the air, because he has been reigning in the heart of man. He took over the throne in the heart of man. As soon as man submitted to the reign of Satan it was lost for man.

Let’s continue. We have two parts to this key that is the key to understanding the Gospel of the Kingdom, that is, the definition of the Gospel of the Kingdom. What did Jesus preach? The first is in the word itself. We’ve covered that and we’ll refer to it several times throughout the next few chapters.

But the second thing I want us to see is in Luke chapter 19. This is the defining text. In this text you will see Jesus, by the Spirit, defining the use of this word kingdom. The parable we will be looking at begins in verse 11 but we’re going to begin just two verses prior to the parable in verse 9 where Jesus is having an interaction with Zaccheus.

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

We are seeing the purpose of the coming of Jesus in Luke chapter 4, verse 43:

But He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.”

In this text His stated purpose was to preach the gospel of the kingdom.

But here is Luke 19:10 He says His purpose is, “…to seek and to save that which was lost.” My point is, and we’ll see it more clearly later in this chapter, the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom is all about salvation. It’s all about coming to seek and to save that which was lost.

There was a reason Jesus spent 3 ½ years preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and finding it not necessary to preach about His death, burial and resurrection which was coming. He did preach it before it came, within just a week of His passion. And it becomes a means whereby the kingdom can enter man. It was after His resurrection that He was able to breathe on His disciples and the Spirit enters His disciples. It was now possible because the sacrifice had been made – the vessel is now clean.

Supportive text would be Ezekiel 36: the promise from the Holy Spirit that a day is coming when God is going to cleanse the vessel. Then you’re going to take out of that vessel a heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh and He’s going to regenerate, He’s going to give that man a new spirit, a regenerated man. Then He adds, in Ezekiel 36, “And then I will put My Spirit within him” (see Ezekiel 36:27). This process is referred to as the coming of the reign of God into the heart of man. And when God’s on the throne, you’ll not need to teach each other the Law because He who is the writer of the Law, and the power to keep the Law, is within. He will cause you to keep My statutes (again refer to Ezekiel 36:27).

That’s the difference between the old covenant and the new. That’s the difference between the reign of God on the inside and the reign of God out here on the outside with Satan still ruling within. The sad commentary on the church of our age is that most have yet to find the reign of God in the heart. Another is still reigning. We are still fighting the same old battles over and over again because we’ve not understood the promise. And unless you understand the promise, you’ll not understand the Gospel – the necessity of the reign of God in the heart, the yielding of man to the reign of God in the heart. That’s the Gospel of the Kingdom.

The Promised Kingdom –

Let’s go to Luke 19:11:

While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.

There was this expectation and just following this He enters Jerusalem on the foal of an ass on “Palm Sunday”. He was hailed as king. It’s Palm Sunday and they’re expecting the reign that was promised, the kingdom of God. It was to be the kneeling of all of the kingdoms of the world to the throne of God; the submission of all the kingdoms of the world. It had been prophesied that every nation would bow before this king that was coming. And they saw Jesus coming to take power, and with His power and authority, He would establish His kingdom.

But He has something quite different in mind. Just turn back one page in your Bibles to Luke 17. In verses 20 and 21 we have this touched on again when the Pharisees are questioning Jesus.

Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.”

Now, they are saying “realm” and He is saying “reign.”

“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Many translations substitute, “within you” for “in your midst.” I believe that’s an accurate translation. You can say it either way. The end result of the promise is that it, the kingdom of God, is within. The reign of God is within. And that is what Jesus came to establish first. Now, when He returns, He will have the authority and the power to cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess. It will either be voluntarily or it will be by a breaking. But every knee will bend because He will have the power and the authority to reign over all the earth and over all the kingdoms of this world. At this time, during this age, and we are going to quote from John 18:36 a little later, we are going to see that it is only for a little time that the reign remains hidden in the hearts of his man.

Back To Eden –

By the way, this line of thought in this text has led me to go back to the Garden of Eden. Because almost all kingdom teaching in our day goes back just to Israel and you see an effort to establish a kingdom of men over men in the earth like Israel. That is not where the battle began with man. And Jesus makes it very clear in this text; the issue is the reign of God in the man. That cannot be seen, at least immediately. The results may be seen but you can’t observe Christ on the throne of a heart from without. But that’s the first work of Christ. That is the work Jesus came to do. And when you see that, when that becomes clear and you see the significance of that in the salvation experience, it will empower your witness. You will know what the issue is with your lost relative.

The issue with your lost relative is not just that they’ve sinned. You can cover the sin but unless you deal with the issue of the reign, the question remains, Who is reigning? Are the light bulbs starting to come on here?

Unless the issue of who is reigning over the heart is dealt with, there’s no salvation. Because, unless there is the reign of God in the heart of man, you are going to just have Adam repeating what Adam did in the Garden. You see, Adam was without sin. But as soon as God lost the reign in the heart, Adam fell. Christ is not just trying to return us to where Adam was before he fell, because Adam did not have the power not to sin. He was not bound to sin like the sinner is today; he didn’t have to sin. But as soon as God lost His place in the heart of Adam, it was lost to Adam. As soon as Adam came out from under the reign, the reign was lost to Adam. That’s why the issue of salvation is: Who is reigning? You can cover the sins and you can bring the blood to bear, which you must do. But if the issue of the reign is absent, you’ve got the very thing Jesus was trying not to do.

That’s why He hid it. He did not want a response that was just based upon not going to hell. A lot of people think they’re in the kingdom, that is, they think they are saved, but they have no desire whatsoever for God to reign over their lives. They do not love Him or His reign. That’s the issue.

Was It A Waste Place?

December 19, 2008

Let’s go back to Genesis chapter 1. In Genesis 1, down around verse 26 it says:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Has He made man yet? No, He has not! He’s just saying, “Let’s create man.”

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and rule…”

This word for “subdue” in both the earliest texts, Aramaic and Hebrew, what do you suppose the difference between “subdue” and “rule” is? This is before the weeds and things after the fall. This is before the need to work by the sweat of man’s brow. Come on! What’s the difference between subdue and rule?

Subdue means that you have to bring under rule. Subdue means there is that which is unruly. That’s the literal meaning. Subdue is to take that which is unruly and bring it under rule. At the creation of man, God said, “You are to subdue and rule.” Isn’t that interesting? Is this dawning on anyone where this is going? You have a problem getting Lucifer, Satan, as the angelic being, being created, being raised to being the anointed cherub and doing all the things the Scripture talks about him doing before he is cast down. He trades. He is the head of all music in heaven in one of the texts. He’s very busy dong heavenly things. And then, seeing his splendor and deciding to “I will,” he’s cast down. Before Adam and Eve encounter him in the serpent, God says to his newly created man, “You are to subdue and rule.” It means something. It may not mean what you think I’m implying, but it means something. You can’t just say it means nothing. It means something!

Let’s go to Genesis 1:1:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

The earth was formless and void…

If you have the New American Standard Bible there is a foot note that further defines “formless and void” as a waste and emptiness. Could the text read, “The earth was a waste place,” or literally, “and uninhabited or empty?”

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was a waste place and formless and void.”

You are pondering this, aren’t you? Then go to Isaiah 45:18. Here we have another one of the paradoxes of Scripture. Isaiah, under the Spirit of God is prophesying, and right in the middle of the prophesy, there is this little group of words in parentheses that has nothing what so ever to do with the prophesy. But they are there for a reason. Let’s read verse 18 of Isaiah 45.

For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), “I am the Lord, and there is none else.”

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was a waste place.” But He did not create it a waste place. When Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan was cast down to the earth, in Isaiah 14:12 and following, he was cast down in shame. Jesus says that he was a liar from the beginning. And yet, we know from the very beginning, he was perfect and a covering cherub. But from a particular beginning he was a liar. And he goes around like a lion seeking who he may devour. He does nothing but stealing, destroying and killing. It does not take much of an imagination for the sons of men to recognize that when ever Satan enters a life he steals, robs, destroys and kills.

I know many thirty and forty year old men and women who look fifty and sixty – absolutely ragged out with sin. You let a person spend much time with Satan and he destroys them. There’s nothing beautiful left in them. They are absolutely a waste. And, the point I intended to make is that when Satan was cast down to the earth, he did what was his nature to do – make waste. And I believe that it is because he was cast down here that it became a waste place. It wasn’t created a waste place. The Holy Spirit makes a point of letting us know that in Isaiah 45:18 it was not created a waste place. And yet it was a waste place but it wasn’t created a waste place.

I think it is the coming of Satan, the casting down of Satan to the earth that caused it be become a waste place. And that will be so in your life and mine. That’s all I wanted to add. We could have spent more time on it but I’ve made the point.

Did God Say?

December 12, 2008

 It is so in your life and mine. The battle is not won here. When you understand that, you’ll understand why the weapons of our warfare are not insignificant, but they are powerful for the bringing down of strongholds, and powers. All heaven is waiting on is for us to lift the staff. All heaven is waiting for is for us to finally speak out of what Christ is speaking. But not in presumption; He does not speak to the presumptuous. He’s waiting on those who will allow Him to reign in their heart. He’s waiting on those who will draw near Him that Christ might make him instruments and her instruments of His life. He is teaching us the ways of the eternal kingdom. And if we will learn the lesson we will share the reign of eternity with Him. That’s the promise. This is the classroom. It really does not begin until He returns. And when that captures us, we will give all that we are and all that we’ve been entrusted with to the King and His kingdom that we might have our part in this wonderful thing that He is doing, raising up sons and daughters after His own Son. It’s a marvelous thing.

Well, anyway; I get excited about this. That’s what is going on. That is what is taking place. But, where did it begin? When did it start? Well, I believe the Holy Spirit wants to give us some understanding. Let’s go all the way back to Genesis chapter 3.

The entire Gospel is preached in Genesis 1, 2 and 3. The entire Gospel is fulfilled in Revelation 20, 21 and 22, if you can hear it.

In Genesis chapter 3, we are going to read the first few verses.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’ ” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!”

You might make a mental note of this key question: Did God say?

You are lost if you have got to take what God said and say, “Did God say?” An illustration of this is that almost every one of you has little areas, little discipline areas, where in the strength of your quiet time you hear Him and you are sure of what you should do. But as soon as temptation comes, I’ll tell you what the first argument is: “Did He really want me to do this? Is this really significant to God? This surely has nothing to do with my walk.”

Now, come on – fess up. Isn’t it true? There is no place, once God has spoken, for us to question God saying – once He has spoken. The enemy knew, however, that Adam and Eve would succumb. He had already read the signs. God was not occupying that place of honor in their heart as God. And, when God is not honored as God in our heart, we need a lie, and the enemy is quick to bring us one. Next time you go to the refrigerator, or give up your quiet time for TV or whatever, you’ll be reminded of that. I put that on you by the Holy Spirit. I like this. I now see that I’m getting through. Well, that’s not the point of my reading this.

Look at verse 5:

“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

And that’s the truth. God verifies that in verse 22:

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil.”

They did not become like God, knowing good and evil like God knew good and evil. They knew good and evil by knowing evil, having practiced it, having participated in it. God’s knowing evil is not because He has tried it. There is that difference. Someone pointed it out to me one day. It’s important.

But God said the very same thing Satan said. Satan does not come at us with three dollar bills, thirty dollar bills, three hundred dollar bills; it looks like the real thing except it does not honor God as God. But, here’s the point, here’s the question that the Lord has snuck in on us: How did he get there, this serpent?

The Kingdom of Evil

December 6, 2008

                    If we go to Ephesians 6 verse 11, we have a description of the devil as a schemer. But we see under the devil that there are kingdoms. These are called “powers” and “rulers” and “world forces” and “spiritual forces” all of which are arrayed against us. And we are in that battle. And you have no option. If you’ve not heard this before, you have heard about it now. You are without excuse. You’ll not be able to stand before Him and say, “I didn’t know.” And our enemy has been so good with his deceptions.

            I’ll just share this little story. If we are in a war and it is galactic in proportion and in this earth there are two fronts – one is in the East and one is in the West.  And in the East the church is gaining ground, we are growing at a fantastic rate, unprecedented in history, and there are few casualties. And on the other front, the casualties out number the victories; we are losing ground; we are being defeated on almost every front. And if the side that is winning is the East and the side that is losing is the West, which forces do you want to be on? What front would you choose?

            And, it is exactly that way. The church in the West on the North American continent is declining, and the figure is something like 50,000 a month in members here. Every year there are fewer churches and less numbers.  It has been going this way for some time. But in the East there is the largest church growth in all of history – twenty-five to thirty-five thousand a day in China. If I were to ask you, which front would you choose to be on, the one where we are winning or the one where we are loosing? I know intellectually what you would choose. But why would we choose the West? Well, we could choose it out of mission but why do you think most choose it? If the enemy was going to build a concentration camp, this is how he would build it. He would make it so nice no one would want to leave. It is so comfortable and so more than normal, why would anyone choose to go anywhere else? Am I communicating? We are in a battle. And unless we have this context in our paradigm, we will not be ready for tomorrow. We have been chosen for this front and it’s not going to remain as it is.

            I heard a brother refer to the younger generation, the “X” generation,  as the generation of the harvest. I believe this is the generation, the generation that is coming up now. Some of you are that age. This new generation is not enamored with my generation’s values. They are looking for authenticity. They are looking for relationship. They are looking for the real thing. I believe that’s true for many in America today. But it is going to take a changing generation to turn it around. It isn’t gong to turn around by our just doing better at what the world does. That’s why we’re in the predicament we are in in the West.

            Well, you see this front here, and you see this battle in this world. There are levels of authority and kingdoms, all under the god of this world, the prince of the air, Satan, the devil himself.

 

Kingdoms Created By Him and For Him –

             Let’s go to Colossians chapter 1. Speaking of the incomparable Christ starting in verse 13:

    For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

   He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation… The first born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him.

             All of these rulers and powers and world forces as well as spiritual forces that are arrayed against us were created by Him and for Him. And a third of all that exists in their rebellion with Lucifer, in joining Lucifer, were created by Him and for Him. He could have just in a word snuffed them all out some time in the past, but He did not. And the reason He did not is because He needed to express something to them that they were yet to grasp, as well as the two-thirds that were observing, and to us. And I want you to get a glimpse of that. The unique and wonderful thing that God is doing in the midst of this has to do with both and it pertains to us. But, here we again see these thrones and dominions, rulers and authorities, all have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.

War in the Heavenlies

December 5, 2008

A History of Kingdoms –

 

 

          We’re going to begin with a little history lesson and we’re going to go back in history a little further than you’ve probably gone before, particularly when we talk about kingdoms. And this is the issue. The issue is kingdoms, plural. The issue is there is something going on in creation that has to do with kingdoms. Most of the time when we hear the gospel of the kingdom taught or preached, most of the texts go back to Israel, looking for God’s pattern for Israel. And it is there. It is a very good pattern. But the issue of kingdoms precedes Israel. And, so we will be looking at that. We’re going to be talking about kingdoms. I want you to hear the history and to at least start understanding the context in which Jesus comes preaching the gospel of the kingdom. And so, we are going to look at the issue of kingdoms and go back to where the conflict begins.

            My objective, of course, is for you to have this context but it is also to help you to see that whether you choose to be or not, you are already in the battle that is of galactic proportions. And my objective is for you to see how crucial and vital and key you and I are in bringing this to a conclusion, and seeing the awareness of God’s way. His ways are just not man’s ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. He is doing something that is just awesome. It boggles the imagination. It is as extreme as in The Lord of the Rings, this little Hobbit child is discovering that the entire future rests on him. J.R.R. Tolkien was a Christian, and although he did not intend for it to be a Christian novel, it certainly has some interesting parallels. But, if you think that’s extreme, wait till you see what is in store for you. Just keep reading.

 

War in the Heavenlies –

 

            So, we are going to begin in Ephesians 6 with the war in the heavenlies. In Ephesians 6 we come to the text concerning the armor of God in verse 10.

 

   Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Verse 12 – For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

 

            Wow! You could read, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against rulers, presidents, parliaments, kings in this world,” but you quickly recognize that’s not at all what it is talking about. We must have in our paradigm; we must have in the context of all of our thinking, that there is a battle going on. We, just by being in Christ, have been drawn into a battle and you have no choice. If you are not standing in this battle, you will be a casualty because He has a very clear intent for you and I in this battle and it is not to be casual observers; it is not to be totally distracted with other things. And so we must grasp that. There is a battle going on. And our struggle is against rulers, against powers, against world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.