Archive for the ‘Demands of the Kingdom’ Category

POSSESSING THE REIGN – The Universal Principal

May 27, 2009

Let’s go to Matthew chapter 5. The truth is we could write several books just on the Sermon on the Mount. And I would love to do it. I’d love an opportunity to write extensively on the Sermon on the Mount. It is so rich, it is so full. We are just going to spend a very little time on the Sermon on the Mount.

 

Now the Universal Principal for Possessing the Reign.

So let’s begin in Matthew chapter 5 beginning in verse 1.

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them saying…

 

The Lord’s tricky, you know; He really is. He’s hiding something and He’s tricky about how He’s done it.

I’m here in the Atlanta area because He tricked me. I am! I told the Lord, “Lord, I’ll go anywhere You want me to go……on the Gulf side of Florida.” And we were heading out to Florida. We knew we had been called out to minister and teach out of Indiana. And Patti and I were heading to Florida. And He tricked us, He tricked us. And He will trick you.

There’s a bit of a trick here. You would not know that the Sermon On the Mount was an address immediately after Jesus’ receiving the names of the twelve and that it had particular importance to those who were being called to be apostles unless you read Luke 6. But you won’t read Luke 6 because you don’t like the “woes.” And so the church always hears Matthew 5 without even hearing Luke 6. God did this. Satan didn’t do this. God’s the one hiding it. But you’ve got to want it.

 

Blessed When? –

 

I’m going to just put these “blesseds” down for you to read. By the way, “How blessed are” might be an easier to understand translation, and The New English Bible is very good here by using “How blessed are.” I’m going to put it down and put particular emphasis on a couple of words in each of the “blesseds.” There are nine of them although the last two are so similar that it could be said that they are one. Three are different from the nine and have something in common, and six are also alike in another way. You pick out the differences. Beginning in verse 3 of Matthew 5:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Bless are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

 

Did you see the differences? It’s good to compare, isn’t it? Six are future rewards and three are present rewards and the title of this chapter is “The Universal Principal For Possessing The Reign,” the ‘in the now’ reign.

We read in Romans chapter 5, verse 17,

For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Emphasis added.)

In Adam it is death that reigns. In those who received the gift of righteousness and an abundance of grace, they shall reign in life through Christ Jesus. It is this reigning in life that distinguishes the children of the kingdom from the children of the world. You reign in life. Jesus says in Luke 12:32, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the reign,” His reign. We want to read that, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” so we see mansions and streets of gold. That’s not what He’s saying because it’s a present owned promise. It’s a promise of His reign. It is the Father’s good pleasure; it is the Father’s good pleasure to give John or Patti the reign in his heart. It is an offer; it’s not taking against our will, the throne. It is the Father’s good pleasure to give His children the reign. It first and most importantly means His coming into us to take the throne. It’s the Father’s pleasure.

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POSSESSING THE REIGN – These are Beatitudes?

May 25, 2009

Luke 6:23

“Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. But woe to you who are rich…”

 

Whoa! I thought this was beatitude? You know, with all those “Blessed are…” Here Luke tells the rest of the story.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.

“Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry.

 

Woops!

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.”

 

Oh my! I confess it. I want you to think well of me. I do! I would like you to speak well of me too. But that is such a dangerous trap. I have lived most of my life that way, and if God were to reveal it on a blackboard in front of your eyes, it would show that I still strive. It is always there. I want you to accept me.

That is so dangerous. I will not love you to speak to your pleasure so I have to tell you that it’s hard to walk that way. That’s why there are so many prophets who are speaking what the people want to hear. It’s not the way of Christ. Speaking the truth will not please Adam’s ears. It will not. And if you embrace this gospel as I believe you are, you need to know that you will not be received in some places.

I’ve been asked to leave places. I have. I’ve been standing in the pulpit preaching and asked to leave. I really have. I didn’t understand it at the time. It was hard at the time. I saw it as failure at the time, but it was God’s grace preparing me. God’s grace was preparing me. I confess that I was asked to leave or to shut up because I was wrong. God used that too. There is a “woe” next to the “blesseds,” and we need to see the two.

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

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 – Radically Surrendered

March 27, 2009

I read recently in Voice of the Martyrs about a pastor in Indonesia who had been in prison for three or four years and was unexpectedly released. He had a family and children but wouldn’t leave the prison and stayed an additional two years because he was discipling a number of inmates. That’s not “looking back.” That is letting the children of the world do what only they can do. That is trusting God.

Can we trust God with our families and children? Can we? I met a Christian family in China that I came to know personally. The husband and wife had been imprisoned for many years but several of the children survived. Their twelve year old was beaten to death in the town square. The ten, eight, and seven year olds were left without a home because it was confiscated.

This was back in the early 60s during the Cultural Revolution. The children lived in a neighbor’s coal shack where the coal was stored in the basement and they lived out of a bowl of rice that miraculously never did go empty. I met those kids when they were some twenty years older.

Can we trust God with our families? Can we trust our children to be satisfied with less for the sake of the Gospel? It is going to require a resolute decision to surrender self-reign, self-will. Repentance of our reign, repentance of our will is not a light thing. It is a surrender, it is not a performance; it requires a decision that knows the cost.

Jesus in two parables concerning counting the cost makes it very clear that the time to count the cost is at the beginning. Most of us had a gospel with the cost hidden shared with us in the beginning. Some, when they finally discover the cost are going to be, and I’ve seen this, become a bit angry because they believed in the beginning that it was costless. This decision is not only resolute and radical but it’s costly.

A Radical Lifestyle –

Let’s continue in Luke chapter 16.

The decision to surrender our reign and our will must be radical. Go to verse 16.

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John;” it was a Gospel of demand, “since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God,” surrender, “the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”

That is a difficult sentence to hear. Why is everyone forcing his way into it? We are going to look at a couple of texts to get the feel of this.

Let’s look at Mark chapter 9 beginning with verse 43.

“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”

Who is speaking, by the way? Jesus! What is He saying?

If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”

“If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. For everyone will be salted with fire.”

Now go to Matthew chapter 10 and verse 34.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”

It means something!

There’s something wrong with the picture when it shows that we will spend more on our children’s teeth than we will on their discipleship. What’s wrong with the picture? We will make a greater effort to see that they are educated in a way that the world receives them than to see that they are discipled to the kingdom. We will see that our children have more opportunities at extra curricular activities like dancing, soccer, baseball, football, basketball, archery, drama, piano and the like than to see that they are discipled to the King. I believe the Lord is saying, “If some of these things are getting in the way of their making it into the reign and receiving the life…”

Do you know what the percentage is of the last two generations of Christian children who have stuck with it? Do you know how many make it to thirty, I could say twenty, but by the time they are thirty, how many of our children are in church? It’s fewer than ten percent. But they’ve got beautiful white straight teeth!

I’m not saying we need to neglect their teeth. But Jesus is saying the decision has to be radical. If we have to lose an eye or a foot it’s a cheap price to pay. He’s saying those things that we believe are absolutely essential. If they are keeping us from His reign, they need to go. And His illustration is an eye, and an arm and a foot. How much more personal and necessary can you get? Is this too hard? Every illustration I have used has to do with self-will and self-reign. We have chosen these things for our kids. We have chosen this life style, this vocation, this work to fulfill; not the kingdom but our reign and our will. Too hard? Radical!

And if we think we are going to make it by grace that does not empower us to live the life that He’s presenting, we’re deceived, because it is an offer not a demand. And all it requires is a surrender to receive. But the decision is radical because it is repenting of our self-reign, it is repenting of self-will.

Lord we need grace to hear this.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – Believing vs. Doing

March 20, 2009

Let’s continue in John chapter 12. I want you to see that in the Scriptures there is no separation between believing and doing. Faith has as its fruit the doing of, the obedience to.

Verse 44 of John 12:

And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. He who sees Me sees the One who sent me. I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.

It is this faith that enables us to surrender our will and move from the domain of darkness into light.

If anyone hears My saying and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me…” (which is synonymous “with hears my sayings and does not keep them”) “…and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day. For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life.”

This is the commandment. Jesus commanded something. And to those who have turned their back on their own reign and who have turned their back on their own will, who have surrendered their own will and have surrendered their own reign to receive His, receive the commandment of eternal life.

“…therefore the things I speak I speak just as the Father has told Me.”

In John chapter 17, verse 3, Jesus prays.

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God; and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

We would like to describe eternal life in many ways but this is its simplest interpretation or understanding; eternal life is to know God the Father and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. And it’s not just know about Him; it’s knowing Him. He manifests Himself to those who believe upon Him.

Now go down to verse 8.

“…for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me.

What does it mean to believe “that You sent Me?” What is eternal life? From John 17:3 it is to know the Father and the Son. Eternal life is to know Him.

Now turn to 1 John chapter 2, verse 4.

The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

Then verses 5 and 6:

…but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

You can not separate the believing from the doing. How is it that we have allowed a faith that does not require the doing? Has it been out of a false sense of the Law?

Jesus said to His disciples, “Teach them to observe everything that I commanded you.” “A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Is there an option there? If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you have surrendered your reign and your will. As I’ve said it’s not a reign of demand; it’s a reign of offer, an offer that is received by surrender.

Catch this: knowing Him, that word is intimately knowing Him, like a husband knows his wife, it’s like Adam knew Eve; it’s entering into an abiding relationship with: knowing Him.

How do you suppose the commandment is kept? It’s not a demand. It isn’t observing everything that He has commanded but it is just simply turning it to Him that He might perform it. He has both spoken it and He will do it, the writer of 1 Thessalonians said. He will do it. Now if you come about it as if doing it proves it or doing it makes it, you are back to demand. I can tell you that many in our churches do not believe this and do not know Him. This is evident because they are not doing even the minimal of what we would observe in those who have entered into His life.

It may not mean what I’ve just said it means, but it means something. You give it meaning. You get before the Lord and you give it meaning. If you feet and hands aren’t in keeping with His life, maybe there is a surrender that must take place: a surrender of our reign and a surrender of our will. Believe on Him and allow Him to perform it; do it. He is the only one that can live the Christian life. None of us can live the Christian life. He’s the only one.

But we can not know Him if we are not willing to surrender our reign and our will; if we are not willing to repent of our reign; if we are not willing to repent of our will and believe on Him. It is not the knowing or the doing, it’s a counterfeit. It’s intellectual ascent to some concept. It’s not faith.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – A Provision for Self-Rule

March 17, 2009

Now, what do you suppose is the provision for self-will? Back to Mark chapter 1, verses 14 and 15. It says, “repent” and “believe.” Placing our faith in the one to whom we are turning is the provision for self-will. When Jesus was responding to the request to explain how to pray in Matthew 6:9, He said, “Pray, then in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your Name. Your “reign” come. Your will be done…”

These are the two provisions for surrender: Your reign come; Your will be done. It begins with us, our surrendering self-reign, our surrendering self-will. And God’s provision for that is repentance and faith.

Let’s go to Mark chapter 16, verse 15.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved…”

And belief is like repentance. Show me your faith without your works, and I’ll show you my faith by my works (see James 2:18). This is hands and feet faith. We live out of what we believe in our heart. That’s what faith is, by the way. Faith is the noun form of the Greek word pisteuō which means to believe. To believe is to have faith. To have faith is to believe. You cannot have faith without believing. You cannot have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and not believe in what He said. You cannot believe in what He said and not do what He asks. In Matthew 28 He said, “Go and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you.” And that Greek word translated “commanded” literally means “commanded.”

I know I am covering some very simple elementary things, but somehow the church has yet to grasp this. We’re saying we believe in the Lord Jesus, but we’re ignoring those things that He has asked us to do. He has asked us to do some things. He has actually given us some commandments. Did you know that? You cannot say that you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot say that you have faith in your heart to make Him Lord of your heart and not do what He has asked. That’s not faith. Well, what does He ask? We will look at that in the next book A Radical Discipleship but He has asked us to do some things that on the whole the church has ignored. And you cannot believe on Him and not believe on what He has said.

A Night in Jail –

Let’s go to Acts chapter 16. Here we have a great example illustrating that what we believe in the heart is manifested in our experience. In Acts chapter 16 we have a story of Paul and Silas being dragged into prison and then being dragged into the inner dungeons of the prison. You all know the story. They have been beaten, lashed, probably 39 stripes, which is the maximum of 40 minus one. They’ve been beaten so badly that their backs have been laid bare and they are bleeding. We see this because the jailer eventually attends to their wounds.

So they are chained up in the dungeon of this Roman jail in Philippi, and it is midnight. You need to know that this is a Roman jail not an American jail. The Romans had no system of rehabilitation. You were in jail either waiting on trial, to determine if you were innocent or guilty, or you’ve been determined to be guilty and are waiting for your punishment. And, the nearest thing to rehabilitation would be to be put on a ship as an oarsman for the rest of your life, because the sentence for guilt was death or to be an oarsman for the rest of your life. You might be held in prison because you owed your landlord some money and you were held there until your relatives paid off the debt by selling your property. If they couldn’t come up with the money you would have a life sentence in the jail. And, often times, the jailer was one who had such an offence. He had a life sentence because he couldn’t pay his bills. And he kept his life by keeping the prison. And this jailer was one such. I don’t know what his crime was but he was no more than a prisoner. He had his life on the basis of keeping the prisoners.

It’s midnight and here’s Paul and Silas singing. And we’d like to think that Paul had his beautiful second tenor voice and Silas was a mellow baritone and they just made music like none that anyone had heard before. But that’s just not the case. I don’t care how good you sing, you don’t sing in a Roman prison or an American Federal prison or a high security prison at midnight. You just don’t do it. I’ve been in prison at midnight. You don’t make a big commotion at midnight. You will be dealt with. I don’t care how good you sing, at midnight nobody is interested in hearing you.

And it wasn’t until I put this together in my mind, until the Holy Spirit opened this up to me, that I got a vision into this realm into which you and I are called, to the other side of the bow of the boat, to where eagles soar, to where it’s beyond Adam’s capabilities.

Because here are two men in a Roman prison, singing at midnight and the Holy Spirit moves and there is an earthquake and an angel comes and they are set free. Not only are they set free but every door in the prison is opened and all the prisoners are set free.

Now what would you do if you were in a Roman prison, already sentenced or waiting on sentence, and the doors are opened at midnight and the jailer is somewhere else? What would you do?

Is that too difficult? Why didn’t they escape? Why didn’t they just run away? Was it because they saw something and believed it? At the risk of their life they saw something. I’m here to tell you that that jailer knew what they would do. He didn’t even need to check inside to see if they were still there because he knew what his prisoners would do and he was about to commit suicide because he knew what his punishment would be for letting them go. He was about to commit suicide without even looking. So, it’s pretty safe to assume that the other prisoners would not have stayed there unless they believed something.

And it hit me. Somehow they saw two men living in this other realm. They saw two men who were not of the earth. They heard something heavenly. I do not know the songs that they were singing, no doubt they were witnessing in their songs.

It reminds me of this woman in China that was in prison three different times and her witness began by singing in prison. She has won them from every tribe and ethnic group from all over China beginning by singing.

So, Paul and Silas may have been singing a nice gospel hymn. But I mean, think about it, if you were facing death and had a chance to escape, would you stay around just to hear more of what a preacher that you’ve heard has to say?

Somehow, the Holy Spirit opened these prisoner’s eyes to see two men who were living apart from their wounds and their condition and their situation. And they believed what they saw. And, the jailer, as for him, he did not need a message. Just seeing these prisoners still there with these two men convinced him that something is going on here that’s beyond him. And his response is, “What must I do to be saved, me and my house? How can we get in on what we see here?”

That’s faith. That’s to believe.

It isn’t just turning from self-rule and to His rule. It’s believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, a belief that will risk everything to enter into His will and reign. It is the surrender of our will. Those prisoners, in Acts 16, who were free and who could have run, they surrendered their will right there. Believing in something they did not understand brought them to full surrender of their will.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – A Demand or An Offer?

March 7, 2009

An Absolute –

Here we are going to be talking about “The Offer of the Kingdom” and the nature of the decision that is necessary to surrender our reign and our will to the reign and will that our Father is offering.

First of all, the Kingdom of God, the reign of God, is an absolute, it is a fact. It is! God reigns! So the issue is not our establishing the reign, the issue is our relating to the reign. God reigns. That’s a fact. The issue is our relating to that reign. Jesus came preaching the gospel of this absolute fact that God reigns and that we were made for that reign. Man, woman, child, we were all made for the reign of God. It is an absolute fact. And unless we see that the reign is an absolute, unless we see that it is both absolute and our future is determined by how we relate to that absolute, we will be distracted by all the other issues of life and never settle the issue. Because the issue of life, the bottom line issue is, who reigns? That’s why it is central in the Gospels. The issue is who reigns! And the absolute is that God reigns! And, unless that absolute coincides with the reign in our heart, we will lose. The absolute is the reign of God.

A Demand or An Offer? –

The question comes then, is this Gospel of the Kingdom a demand or an offer? Is the Gospel of the Kingdom, is the reign of God, a demand or an offer?

My first impulse is to say that it is a demand. And those of you who have heard me teach on this before, realize that I had spoken of it as a demand, because it is an absolute.

And one of the reasons Israel rejected the Gospel that Jesus brought, is that it wasn’t a demand. It did not come with power. It did not come bending every knee. It did not come crushing every other kingdom and nation, as was prophesied in Daniel 2, for example. It came offered in such a way that it could be accepted or rejected. It was an offer.

The difference between a gospel that is a demand and a gospel that is an offer is the gospel that John the Baptist and all of those who preceded him preached, which was a gospel of demand. Do! – Don’t do! It was a gospel of requirements. And it required our performing to the demand. We call it the Law.

The Gospel of the Kingdom is a gospel of offer. We can choose to reject it or accept it. But it is different in nature to a demand, and that’s why it is an offer. The gospel of demand is a gospel of reformation, a gospel of change. The gospel that is an offer is a gospel of regeneration, which is a difference in kind.

John the Baptist brought a gospel that was intended to change man. Jesus brought a gospel that was intended to regenerate man. One requires the performance of the man, the gospel of demand, while the other requires the performance of another. One leaves you nervous and uncomfortable. You’re always wondering if you’ve measured up, completed the task, done it right. That’s why Israel ends up in translating the Law and breaking the Law down into hundreds and hundreds of interpretative laws.

For example, take the Law of rest. “You shall not work on the Sabbath.” It is the one that has the most laws under it because the issue is: what is work? And the nature of man is, if he is greedy or is wanting more than what the Lord has provided in a six day week and living under the Law of the Sabbath, then he will try to find a way around this law. The issue is – what is work?

For example, if you’ve got chickens and you raise chickens to produce eggs and egg production is a part of your provision, then can you eat an egg that is produced on the Sabbath? No! But if you have chickens who happen to lay eggs and those eggs are sometimes eaten and they do not go outside of the household, then an egg laid on the Sabbath, you may lawfully eat.

Or if you raise a crop and you are a tiller of the land and you come in from Sabbath services one day and as you are walking down your walk you’ve got roses there and there is a dead leaf on the roses, can you pick that leaf? And the Law goes further than that. If you can pick the leaf, can you pick off a dead twig, and then a dead branch, and then uproot a dead plant. And the Law adjusts for each one of those things depending upon the nature of a person’s work on the other six days.

I mean, that would get heavy, wouldn’t it? Some of us are living that way – burdened by whether or not we are performing, whether this or that is in grace or not. The difference is that the law of demand, the kingdom of demand, the reign of demand, depends upon our performance; where the reign of offer depends upon His performance. One leaves us with nerves on edge; the other leaves us with nerve to do whatever He asks us to do.

The Gospel of the Kingdom is the gospel of the reign that is offered. And because it is offered and we can choose to accept it or reject it, it is a gospel that is dependant upon a person’s accepting His performing. What is required for receiving the offer? The least in the kingdom of surrender or regeneration is greater than the greatest in the kingdom of demand.

That sounds a little like the words that Jesus spoke about John the Baptist. “He who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than the greatest…” And He is speaking of John the Baptist who was greater than any who had preceded him. And the difference between the two is the difference between the gospel of demand and the gospel of surrender, or offer. To receive the offer of His reign, simply requires the surrender of what? Our reign! The receiving of His will requires just simply the surrender of what? Our will! It is an offer that is received. It is not a demand that is made.

Now the day comes when that changes. The day comes when grace is no more. When Jesus returns, the economy will change. And then there will be a season of demand. Following that season of demand, because all that remains at the end of that millennial period, all that will remain are the surrendered, those who, with joy, surrender to the reign and the will of God in their heart.

When you see that the issue is surrender in receiving the offer, as opposed to performance to comply with the demand, you’ll then see the difference between much of the gospel that we are hearing today as opposed to the gospel of the reign. The reign is offered; it simply requires surrender to receive. The offer of the kingdom is accepted by surrender of the reign of self and the surrender of self, of will, and how that is possible.