Archive for the ‘Defining Kingdom’ Category

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.

GOVERNMENT OF GOD – A Brief Review

April 15, 2009

Now, I’m going to do a brief review of this issue of the Gospel of the Kingdom, the gospel of the reign because I don’t believe you can hear it enough. That word basileia means reign, it means the rule itself, the government, if you would.

This reign is an offer. Israel had a problem with this idea because they could not handle a gentle king, a meek king, coming and offering His reign. And that is exactly what Christ has done. He’s come and in this age, if you would, this dispensation, in this period, it is an offer.

We are going to learn the universal principal for accepting the offer. This offer is enacted by our abdicating the throne. It’s called repentance. And we saw in Mark 1:14 & 15, “After John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of God.” I encourage you; you need to memorize that text. You can preach the whole gospel from those two verses. It is the most concise statement on what the gospel is. “Jesus came preaching the gospel of God saying, ‘The time is fulfilled…’ ” What time is fulfilled? The time of man’s reign in his own heart! Man’s reign is coming to an end! The availability of the reign in the earth, the coming of the King! He’s here!

“The time is fulfilled, the reign of God is at hand. Repent…” And that is the enabling force, that is the abdicating, the laying down of crowns. I made the point in the last chapter and I cannot say it too strongly, repentance is the white flag of surrender. It is surrendering our reign. And that’s what repentance is. Yes, it’s first a change of mind, but if a change of mind does not affect our lives by our hands and our feet it is a false repentance. It is like the repentance of the scribes and the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

John the Baptist was not of the realm, the reign of Christ: he was the last of the prophets, the greatest of all, and yet the least in the kingdom. The least in the reign is greater than John the Baptist. So John the Baptist, he came as one crying in the wilderness, crying, “Repent!” It was a demand. But when Jesus comes, the gentle Lamb, it’s an offer.

Can you picture this? A meek and seemingly powerless King facing what appears to be overwhelming forces in the midst of battle? This meek, humble King, walking out onto the battle field to what appears to be this huge overpowering army and overwhelming forces and saying to the enemy, “Would you surrender?”

And no one can handle that. A few could. But, that’s how He came. In the midst of overwhelming odds, it would appear, He comes as a gentle lamb before the wolves and says, “Will you surrender and turn from your reign? You can’t be what you were created to be without the reign of God in your heart. I implore you, be born again. Repent!”

Repentance is the white flag of our reign. It’s turning from our reign to His. Can you not see that? Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled. The reign is at hand. Repent, give up, and believe in the gospel.”

One is a banner of defeat, willing, yielding, surrendered, and the other is the banner of the King. This is accomplished by His faith, it is what He believes. Faith is a gift. To each has been given a measure. But as for faith, He is the author, the one who first speaks it, and the perfecter, the one who finishes. Faith, it’s His banner over us. It’s the sign of His reign. Repent! Raise your flag of surrender, and then lift the banner of His reign. Faith, belief, it is the banner over the disciples of the kingdom. Repent and believe in the gospel.

And so we looked at that in the last chapter. We looked at how it requires a resolute decision, it requires a radical decision. That’s the thing that Israel could not handle. They thought His coming would be such that if you did not bow, your knees would be broken. They believed that He would just take the nations, roll over them like the stone in Daniel. He is doing that but it’s not what we think. And they just could not handle that and neither can we. It requires a resolute, radical decision to follow Christ. And you don’t have to choose Him. It’s an offer. It’s not a demand. He did not come to judge. We may think of it as a demand but as soon as we think of it as a demand, when we’re before the judgment seat we will wish we would have accepted that offer.

And this is why Jesus could walk into a room full of harlots, thieves, embezzlers, and they would know who He was. They knew who He was. He’s this religious teacher, this one some are wondering if He is the Messiah. He’s this prophet who can reveal hearts. He’s a man who can come into your midst and reveal hearts. That’s a little scary even among Christians, isn’t it? Wow! And these people did not feel threatened, judged or condemned. We’ve got to get a handle on that. Why did He not condemn them? They couldn’t keep from doing what they were doing. They couldn’t have the life of the reign. Even though He did not come to judge or condemn, His offer in the end will be that which will judge us.

“My words before the judgment seat,” He said, “they will judge you.” “But I did not come to judge, I came to offer.”

Thank You, Lord. Lord, we thank You for calling us together. And Lord, our hope is in and our eyes are set on Your speaking to us. Lord, we thank You for Your long-suffering with us, Your patience with us, Your delight in our coming to be before You. Our desire, Lord, is to hear whatever it is that will cause us to surrender all that we are and all that we’ve been entrusted with, including our reign, that You might reign. Now, Lord, speak to us from Your word. We look to You only and we know that You will protect that which You are speaking. May my words, O Lord, fall to the ground. You speak in our midst. Include me. I pray in Jesus name, Amen.

OFFER OF THE KINGDOM pt II – How Much Love

March 31, 2009

Luke 14:26 –

“If anyone come to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

Do you know how the word “hate” is literally translated from the Greek? Hate!

What does He mean? I’ve given you the meaning by reading the text. Usually I read it the other way around but it’s too hard to hear the other way around. It means: by comparison to your love for Me.

God is not interested; our God is not interested in a mere second love. The distance between our love for our own children and the love for our Lord is as far apart as love is from hate in the illustration that He gives.

I’m going to say this. I hope you can hear this. We are not loving our children by putting them first. We are loving ourselves. If we really loved our children we would do whatever it took to see that the reign of God was in proper perspective in their understanding. The best way we can love our children is to put Christ a far distant first. We are teaching them and training them that He is not all that important by how we treat them. It means something.

“No one of you can be my disciple who does not hate his spouse, his father and mother, sister and brother, children, and even his own life compared to your love for Me.”

He’s not saying hate them outside of our love for Him. He is just saying your love for them is that distant a second love. I am convinced that it is self-reign and self-will that has put our children in that place. It’s not for their best interest to be there. That’s a deception. It costs less for our treating them that way because it allows us to enjoy that lifestyle that we are giving them and keeps us from cutting the cords of this world under the guise of loving our children, our family.

You’re not loving your wife and you’re not loving your husband and you are certainly not loving your children if you ignore what Christ has called us to, just to take care of them, to provide for them. It’s a deception. Am I speaking with too much authority? You may need to decide whether or not I have it. It is the Spirit speaking, and not John Brown.

OFFER OF THE KINGDOM pt II – Three Who Would Follow

March 23, 2009

There are three who would have followed Jesus but were brought up sharply when Jesus revealed the reality of what they were getting into. How Jesus responds to them was somewhat different than what we might expect to hear from those who are called to follow the Lord.

Holes for Homes –

Luke 9:57 – 58:

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

What has Jesus touched upon? Well, the man, no doubt, who has seen Him to be King of kings and Lord of lords, has recognized that here is the Son of God; here is One who has life. Like the rich young ruler, this man has seen that Jesus has this quality of life that’s not found in Adam. And so he, to join the corps, says, “I’ll go with You Lord, any where You go.” But his expectation is for something different. Jesus said, “You know, the birds of the air have nests and the foxes have holes, and I have no where to lay My head.”

“Oh, I thought it was going to be different, You being who You are.”

And we have heard a gospel that offers what Jesus did not offer. We’re expecting mansions here and now. Perhaps you’re not but many have grown to expect to be able to get wherever He is going in comfort, and being there, prospering, as the world measures prosperity.

Jesus makes it very clear where He is going. And those who would follow Him need to know at the beginning, that where He is going, in terms of this world, the birds and the foxes have it better in terms of a place to lay their head, a nest that they can roost in or a hole that they can crawl in every night. It takes a resolute decision to say, “Okay, I’ll go.”

Leave It To The World –

Now, let’s look at this next man. Jesus speaks to another whom He would like to invite.

And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.”

Now, that seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it? I have a suspicion, because of how Jesus answered him that his father didn’t just die. He was probably near death; he was probably going to die. Jesus said, “Follow Me.” And the man said, “I’ll follow You but first let me go and bury my father.”

Now he may have been dead. I don’t know that he was or wasn’t. I suspect that he was not. I suspect that had he died while his son was following Jesus, the Lord would have gone with him to the funeral. It was the nature of Jesus. But Jesus saw something in this man. What did he see in this man?

You, know, there are some things the world can do as well as we can. There are some things that the world can do better than we can. It’s true. There are some things the children of God shouldn’t even put their hand to. There are some things that any dead person can do. Be careful listening to this, there are some things that the world can do as well as we can do. How many of the things that we are doing that any child of the domain of darkness could do just as well? How much of our life is wrapped up in those things that any child of the world could do, perhaps as well or better? How much of our life is entangled in those things? Let the dead deal with the dead. Let those who have not found the reign or the will or the life do those things that any child of the world can do.

“But those things,” Jesus said, “that I’m about are all of those things that they cannot do.”

Isn’t it time that we made a decision to pour our lives into doing those things that the world cannot do and are really waiting on us to do? The surrender of self-reign and self-will brings us into the life of doing those things that the world cannot do. Jesus’ response was, “Let the dead bury their own dead. But as for you…”

The decision that is required to yield up, to surrender our reign and our will, must be a resolute decision to follow Him in the doing of those things the world can’t do and to leave to the world those things that any child of the world can do. I say to you with boldness, not at all with apology, God is calling you and me to surrender all that we are and all that we’ve been entrusted with to the reign and the will of the Father.

God is calling us to follow Him where the world cannot go. God is calling us to a life of following Him that will require of us leaving much. We’ve got to eat; we’ve got to drink; we’ve got to raise our children; we’ve got to sleep somewhere. But let’s not major on those things and leave unattended those things for which we have been called.

What can be more necessary than burying our own father? But even if that act keeps us from doing that for which we’ve been called, it is a distraction that can be cared for by the children of the world. It may not mean what I am implying it means. Jesus said it, “Follow Me; let the dead bury the dead. As for you, go and proclaim the good news of the reign.”

Looking Behind Us –

The third man’s story begins in verse 61.

Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom (reign) of God.”

We could have picked some easier to swallow illustrations, couldn’t we?

“No one after putting his hand to the plow and looking back…”

How many times have you looked back? I have spent most of my Christian life “back.” Not just looking, but “back,” carrying out the semblance of the Christian life, doing just enough of those things that made me feel like I’m still “in,” but according to this text, “back” is keeping me not “fit” for the reign.

We need to make a resolute decision to turn our backs on our self-reign and to surrender to His. We who by faith believe on Him must allow our self-will to be surrendered to His will. And what is His will? His will is that you be children of the kingdom; that you and I be ambassadors of the kingdom; that you and I be bearers of the light; that you and I be the salt that preserves; that you and I are so surrendered that His life will come forth so much that prisoners would stay in jail just to be with us.

THE KEY PARABLE – Seed Sown in Rocky Places

February 25, 2009

Here is the harmony of the Soil in Rocky Places.

“Other seed fell on the rocky ground or soil where it did not have much soil: and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil.”

By the way, a farmer is suspicious if it comes up too quickly; he knows he’s got a problem. A too quick response is not always a good response.

Bear with me. When we get to the second book in the series, A Radical Discipleship, (Follow Me and I Will Make You), Jesus lays out some very heavy demands on those who are going to follow Him. He says things like: “No one of you can be My disciple unless he takes up his cross daily. You can’t be My disciple; you can’t be with Me if you do not hate your father, mother, sister brother, husband or wife in comparison to your love for Me.” Notice that He is not leaving room for even a close second. “He can not be My disciple who does not say good bye to all his own possessions.”

These are pretty heavy demands but woven into the middle of these in Luke 14 He makes this statement: “What king of you before he goes into war does not first make an assessment of the enemy’s strength and size to determine if he with his five thousand can overcome the enemy that is coming with ten thousand?” “What man of you who builds a house does not first count the cost lest he begins and not be able to finish?”

Jesus makes it very clear that it is not to anyone’s advantage to get a decision that is not based on a clear understanding of what is being asked or sought. We are not doing anyone a favor by getting them to sneak up their hand at the end of a service and believing they are saved without them understanding that what they are being asked to do is going to cost them everything that they are and everything that they have been entrusted with for the rest of their life.

We are not doing a plant any good that is going to spring up quickly, but the conditions are so that there is no depth of soil, no room for root. Are you getting the implications of this?

That’s why those who come to Christ in China or North Korea or Uganda or in Nigeria or Ethiopia or Sudan or Iran or Syria or Indonesia all know the cost. They know what coming to Christ will cost them. That’s why the church is multiplying there and she is declining here at a fairly rapid rate. That’s why over there the church is increasing in the 100s of percent, because they have considered the cost and have determined that He is worth it. His reign in their heart is worth it! Being filled with the life of God is worth it! And we in the West or in America have approached it as if it were worthless, costless.

“…and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And as soon as it grew up, and after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no moisture it had no root.”

It had no moisture so it had no root. I wonder what the moisture could be. It is where there is no sufficient depth of the word, the water of the word in the soil of the heart that will feed and nourish and sustain the root system. The foundation of this life is choosing to follow after Christ and seeking the reign of God in their heart.

“…and because it had no moisture it had no root. And because it had no root it withered away.”

I have seen untold numbers of those who have withered away. It’s the reason why our whole approach to mass evangelism ends up with 1%, 2%, and at the most 3% who are in church a month later. Because there was no depth of soil there was no understanding of the need for the word to do its work.

“In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places. This is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation when affliction or persecution arises because of the word of the Reign of God, immediately they fall away.”

And I can promise you if you have not discovered it already, the more you hear, the more you will be proven. “Through many tribulations must we enter into the reign.” Tribulation means pressure from the outside. It’s God’s way of driving the roots deeper for those who have the moisture and the depth of soil – it’s necessary. But to those who have been deceived into believing it is a costless, shallow experience, sin forgiven, heaven bound, no more hell in their future, but no love for Him; no real depth of understanding what God is all about and what God is doing.

“Yet they have no firm root within themselves, but are only temporary.”

THE KEY PARABLE – Seed Sown Beside the Road

February 19, 2009

Here is my commentary on the harmony of the Soil Beside the Road.

“Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow his seed and as he sowed, some seed fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air came and ate it up.”

Now, here we are looking for those who have received a particular word, and you can’t read this particular segment without recognizing that in one of the texts it refers to the ‘word.’ In one of the Gospels the seed is the word, and in one of the other Gospels, it is the word of God, and in the third, it is the word of the kingdom. The mystery is, the seed that this sower is sowing is the word of God regarding the reign of God. It is the word about the kingdom. This word about the kingdom is a very broad word. It is referred to in the Gospels as the gospel of the kingdom, and good news about the reign of God. It is not just any word. It’s not just any word of God. It is the word concerning the reign. The parables have to do with Jesus sharing words concerning the reign of God in the lives of His disciples.

And you will not understand the power of this word of God, this word of the kingdom, this word of the reign; you will not understand how it is the power of God unto salvation unless you understand the mysteries. These things will only be understood by those who seek them out, those who search them out. “It is the glory of God to hide a matter; it is the glory of kings to search out a matter.”

We need to recognize we are a realm, a nation of priests and kings, referring to the text in 1 Peter and in Revelation. We are a kingdom, a realm of kings and priests, that’s who we are. We’ve been called to rule and reign with Christ, to share the reign. And, you will not understand how to enter into the fullness of that reign, you will not understand how that reign is going to work in your heart and in your life and you’ll not understand how to exercise the reign in sharing the reign with Christ and how to relate to Him as the head unless you understand these mysteries.

So, it is not just any word. A harmony of this particular seed thrown by the road makes it very clear it is a particular word; it is the word concerning the kingdom.

“Hear the parable of the sower. Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of the kingdom (the reign, realm, and people of the realm) of God.”

The word, the seed, is the word of the kingdom of God.

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom (reign of God)…”

Not just any word. But when anyone hears the word that the Spirit of God is putting out concerning the reign of God, “and does not understand it, immediately the evil one, Satan, the devil…” Now how is he referred to in the first part of the parable, this evil one, this Satan, this devil? It’s the bird!

There is a bird that is watching over what is coming into our life, and if Christ is trying to speak to us by His Spirit concerning the things of the kingdom, if it is not taken in, if it is not understood, there is a bird that will rob you and I of that word, quickly, immediately. So it is clear that you cannot understand the mysteries of God if you are not able to understand the word that He is sharing. If you are not in a place where you can receive the word, hear the word, understand the word, it is not going to lie around for a later date. We would like to believe that it is back here in the background and some day we’ll get a hold of it, but it will be taken from you and me if it is not planted where it can bear fruit.

Now where is this place where the seed is sown where it is not planted and can be stolen by the bird? It’s by the road! The Luke text adds this little phrase, “and it was trampled under foot.”

Do you know the person who can not receive and understand the word concerning the reign? I just told you! They are out on the road where the world is traveling. If your heart is too close to where the world lives, the seed of the word will not find any ground to be planted in. It’s on soil that cannot receive it and it will be trampled under foot and immediately stolen by the devil. What does that mean?

You can’t watch much of what is going on on TV; you cannot find your pleasure in the humor of the world; you cannot live vicariously where the world lives; you cannot spend your life where the world is walking and expect to receive and understand this word concerning His reign in your heart. The seed that is on the ground that cannot be buried and is trampled is the heart that is living near to where the word is walking.

I was raised on a farm and I have done everything relating to seeding from manual broadcast to machine casting. And as you make your rows and come along to the end of the row, particularly the side that is next to the road, and if there is no fence there is no growth there by a fence, some seed will get out there by the berm of the road. And it will be eaten by the birds; run over; walked over; it’ll not even spring up; it’ll not even come forth; because it is out there where the world travels.

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom (the reign of God) and does not understand it, immediately the evil one, Satan, the devil comes and snatches it away, takes away the word (of the reign of God) that has been sown in his heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.”

Only one of the texts adds, “so that they will not believe and be saved.” It is this word of the kingdom that is the word that is the power of God unto salvation. That’s what it says. The word of God that the sower is casting is the word concerning the reign of God in the heart of man. It is that word that, if it is not believed and received, and planted, then it is the absence of that word that keeps one from salvation.

The issue is, if you don’t understand that, if your heart is too near the road where the world is traveling, and you don’t understand that, you’ll not get your heart out of the world. A lot of Christians are suffering and miserable in their walk because they are living too close to the world. Their hearts are just too close. Does that communicate with you? You know what I am talking about, don’t you?

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.