Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ 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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GOVERNMENT OF GOD – Made For God

April 5, 2009

Introduction –

Coming from a Christian culture where we’ve heard a gospel that is costless and has left us powerless to reign in life through Christ Jesus, when the truth comes you know that the Father was after more than blessing us with forgiveness. The Father’s intent from the beginning was not just that we might have life and then sin so He could forgive us to show us how loving He is. But He had an intent that goes beyond man’s sin, and it goes beyond salvation. And that intent requires His having His place in creation and we are that place in His creation. We are the people made for Him. We’re the tabernacle of God in creation. We are His dwelling place. And He will only dwell where He can reign. He’s not interested in being invited in as a guest. Because the intention is to have the Holy Spirit with us, we sometimes, really not thinking, invite Him in like we would invite a guest. But He’s not interested in coming as a guest. And, I pray that all of that is sinking in and I hope you will have the tenacity to hold onto it. I just want to encourage you that God is going to bless you for your perseverance.

Made For God –

We were made for God. Once again let me say it again, we were made for God. Without Him we can’t function as we were created. I don’t mean by that we are puppets, mindless puppets, and I don’t mean by that we should expect to have a miserable existence. I mean the joy is being with One who considers Himself the bridegroom and us the bride. We need to change our paradigm. When we come together in the end, when Christ returns, we will not be heading for a judgment seat; we’re heading for a banquet hall, a wedding banquet hall. And we need to see that it will be His delight in that moment to feast His eyes upon us. That’s a different paradigm. He will not be able to take His eyes off of us, because of who we have become in Him. And that’s a different paradigm. We’ve all heard it in many different ways, but that’s what God is doing. God is bringing a people to the place where His heart’s intent, love unbounded, love that knows no extremity, can have its place. And that’s us. But it can’t be us unless we receive the fulfillment of the life for which we were created – His life. I can hardly wait until we receive that, when we, with joy, bow before Him and in exhilaration, remove our crown and place it at His feet. And I don’t mean in the sweet by-and-by, I mean the crown of our own reign in our life. Now when we abdicate the throne, with joy for His coming and taking His rightful place, that’s now, that’s where He’s wooing us, that’s where He’s bringing us. I believe you’re hearing that or I pray that you do. Because the dying, the cross, all of that other outside of that vision, is outside of where His heart is set. You cannot put the two together. If you have the cross and death without the promise and experience in the now of reigning in life with Him, it becomes an ugly religious thing, it becomes beating up flesh, it becomes a ritual that is self-exalting in its abasement. And there is little value in self-abasement. And so, unless you have the vision, you’ll not stick with this. But once you see it, once He has wooed you over the precipice, to where you are falling freely into His reign, once you’re out there on the water with Him, there is no going back and there is no desire to go back, there’s no thought of going back.

I know that you have had difficulty in dealing with this. And I have had those places in my life that in leaving it was difficult, it was hard. And it was at great cost and loss. It was with loss. But I’d never go back for what I lost. It’s nothing compared to what He has for us here, and I don’t mean in the sweet by-and-by, I mean in the now. It’s reigning in Christ now. And, it’s my heart for you to see you reigning in life through Christ Jesus. I want to see you on top of life in Christ Jesus to where what comes is irrelevant in terms of our reaction because we are in Him facing it; we are in Him handling it, reigning in life.

THE KEY PARABLE – The Parable of the Sower and the Seed

February 2, 2009

Now we are going to go to the key parable that is the parable of the Sower and the Seed.

Repetition in Scripture –

In the last verse of John 21, John makes this statement, “If everything that Jesus did and everything He spoke were put into books, I suppose the whole world could not contain the volumes.” Jesus did a lot more, a whole lot more than what is recorded in these four Gospels. Well, that raises a question. If there is so much that is left out, why do you suppose the Holy spirit would go to the effort of taking one incident and inspire three different Gospel writers to record the same incident? Why would not the Holy Spirit have used all those Gospels in an efficient way and just simply recorded one time every one of the events? Instead, we find this ‘parable of the sower’ in three of the four Gospels: Matthew chapter 13, Mark chapter 4, and Luke chapter 8. Why in the world would God take all of that space for this one parable when there was so much more to uphold. Why would God want to tell about the same event three times? Why do you suppose? It must be important! Well, it is important. But it is more than important because God’s ways are not our ways.

Things Hidden and Revealed –

I believe He gives a hint of what He is about in Proverbs 25:2 where it says,

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.”

You know, the skeptics use these different accounts in the Gospels to try and discredit the Word because the accounts often have differences. Every time there is more than one account of the same event, there will be a difference. You will not read the same thing in both. And it has to do, I believe, with God concealing. And once you recognize that, you will start disciplining yourself because you want to know the truth; you want to know what God is hiding. Because, as you go through these verses and discover what is hidden, you’ll find two of the verses in two of the texts will be exactly the same and the third one will just add a word or a phrase that just gives it so much more meaning or even a different meaning than the other two standing alone – not a contradictory meaning but short of what He is really trying to say.

There is another text in Luke chapter 10, verse 21 that relates to this issue of things hidden and revealed. Jesus is speaking: “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.”

Who was Jesus praising God for revealing things to? Babes! Infants! It’s the way of God. In this parable of the Sower and the Seed we find the same account in three texts, because there are things hidden in there you could only discover by comparing the texts to each other. And we are going to do that in the next several pages.

Jesus teaches in parables because, as He will show us here in this very parable, He intends to hide the secrets, the mysteries, the keys, from a particular class of people, from a particular group of people. And until you realize this, you will read one of them and assume that you’ve gotten out of it all that God is trying to show you or to say to you about it. And if you are lazy enough to just take one text and not pursue the others, you’re going to come up short of that which is to be understood by those who want to know what God is trying to reveal. There are things revealed in this parable that can only be discovered by comparing the different texts. That’s an important little principle.

But I want you to see in this particular parable all of the differences in each text which will help us to discover its secrets.

The Parable of the Sower and the Seed –

I have broken the texts into four parts. All three Gospels have these four parts. The following chart will identify for you the four parts and their place in each of the Gospels.

Parable Text             Introduction            Parable            Mysteries        Explanation

Matthew 13:1 – 23          1 – 3a                     3b – 8                9 – 17               19 – 23

Mark 4:1 – 20                1– 2                        3 – 8                 9 – 13               14 – 20

Luke 8:4 – 15                 4                           5 – 8a                8b – 10              11 – 15

To give you an example of how each of these sections fit within the parable, I will give you an example from the Mark text. There is an introduction to the parable, and in the Mark text it is verses 1 – 2. And then there is the parable itself in verses 3 – 8. And then, before He explains the parable, there is a group of verses that He explains are the mysteries of parables, which in Mark are verses 9 – 13. It’s interesting to note that in the Matthew text the section on the Mysteries is longer than any other section. And then He gathers His inside group together and gives them an explanation in the final section of the meaning of the parable, and answers the questions about who the parables are for and how to understand the mysteries. This section in Mark is verses 14 – 20.

Next will be Mysteries Revealed.

THE KEY PARABLE – Be All You Can Be

January 29, 2009

We’ve believed in self-sufficiency and we’ve been raised and taught that we are striving in life to become sufficient. Jesus is working to bring us to a total insufficiency. We are working towards adequacy; He is working to bring us to total inadequacy. We are working to become strong; He is working to bring us to total weakness, absolutely incapable of doing anything on our own to where we can legitimately say before others and the Lord, “I can do nothing…”

I can remember when I thought I could do anything and be anything I wanted to be. And if you insist on that, God will give it to you. As He did for Israel with Saul He’ll give you a king head and shoulders over all the others. But if your heart’s toward the Lord and you try to work towards intimacy with Him, He will break everything, and He will bring to naught everything in which you have trusted.

I know many Christians who are going through breakings who are really fighting against God. God is breaking them. And whether you can receive this or not, every situation in your life that comes from the outside, and even those that you cause, God is ordering. He will not allow anything to come to you, even if you deserve it, if your heart is towards Him, and you want to be restored. He will only allow those things to come to you which will accomplish His purposes in your life. And what you and I are going through right now, everything that you are going through, including those things that you like, God has had to give permission for it to go on because you are His children. The enemy cannot touch you or move in your life without permission from the Father (see Job chapters 1, 2 and 3). The devil has to get permission. So, we need to see that it is the work of our Father, bringing us to a place where we can say, “I can do nothing on my own, I can see nothing on my own, I can hear nothing of His, unless He opens my ears, opens my eyes, unless He speaks it or shows it to me.” Am I coming through? Are you seeing the place for this exercise?

Let’s offer up to the Lord an honest heart saying, “Lord, I want to see that which you are trying to show me, and I’m blind to see it unless you open my eyes. I choose to be blind to my own seeing that I might see those things that You would reveal and show to me.”

Father, you’ve said it: our ways are not Your ways; our thoughts are not your thoughts. But Lord, we’re starting to see this; we’re starting to see that You are really bringing us to the place to where You are our life. We thank You for helping us see that we were made for you and that you’ve not intended for us to rely upon our abilities: our abilities to hear, our ability to see, our ability to do. We just, with joy, and with a sincere heart, say to you, Father, “We cannot see unless You show us. And we want to see.” O Father, we want to see what it is that You want to show us. And we want You to increase in our sight, those things that You have already shown us. Lord we want You to add to them everything else that You would add to them in Your time. With a conscious effort Lord, we just are not discarding, Lord, we are just setting aside those things You’ve already shown us so that You can show us more. Help us to not allow the things from the past, even the truths from the past, to get in the way of what You would show us. And, Lord, so that the enemy does not sow fear, I’m asking myself that you would keep these readers from any falsehood or deception or inadequacy of John Brown. Lord, I am asking that they not listen to me. Help them to focus their ears Lord, turn their eyes toward You that You alone would show them, teach them. And I thank you, Heavenly Father, right now, for that which You are going to do with us through this teaching. In the Name of our wonderful Lord Christ Jesus we pray. Amen.

THE KEY PARABLE – Introduction

January 24, 2009

Here is “The Key Parable for Understanding the Mysteries of the Kingdom” and all other parables. I can’t over emphasize enough how important is the learning of this parable. This is a familiar parable but you need to understand this parable and the role of this parable in interpreting all of the other parables and everything that Jesus taught by way of parables. Actually everything He taught by parables, though it appears to us to be many different subjects, all of them relate to just one subject. And until you see that disclosed through the teaching of this parable, you will handle them as if they do not relate. But all of them relate to the reign of God. All of them relate to the gospel of the kingdom. And once you see that you will understand many of the parables a bit differently than you have understood them in the past. And, you’ll also discover the key for understanding the mysteries. As we have touched on before, God has not intended for everyone to understand this teaching. He purposefully hid it. So it’s important for you to grasp this parable. This parable is a key parable because it unlocks many doors once you understand the fundamentals of this parable. And Jesus makes that point. That’s were we are going here.

Blind But Seeing & Seeing But Blind –

But first we are going to begin with a little spiritual exercise that deals with how we perceive something and how we see things. We find it in the Gospel of John chapter 9. And we’re going to read verses 39 – 41.

And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”

Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?”

And Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

And this exercise has to do with seeing, and of course, seeing the things of God.

“For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.”

The things that get in the way of our seeing, oftentimes, are what we have seen in the past, what we are holding to be a correct view, what we’ve determined is the right perspective.

It’s like trying to give someone something whose hands are full. Have you ever talked with someone and there was just no room to get into the conversation? Or it would seem that there was room but after you’ve said your little bit you soon realize they didn’t hear a thing you said. All the while you were talking they were preparing their next statement. Their hands were so full that they could not receive anything. And that little symbolism, that little analogy there, that little parable is true in many areas we will look at, in terms of seeing, in the text in this chapter. True ‘seeing’ is being able to see the things that God wants to show us. And Jesus is making it very clear; He’s not suggesting that these Pharisees referred to in John 9 do not see. He’s not suggesting that they have no truth. But being blinded by what they have seen keeps them from going on with God.

Many in the church could be 30 or 40 years in the Lord but they are really still infants and babes in the Spirit. What they originally saw they took as the whole picture and everything they needed. What they now see is keeping them from the fullness for which they were first introduced to the Gospel. Some of the reasons churches stagnate, is that they have a teaching on baptism, or they have a teaching on the Lord’s Supper, or they have a teaching on salvation, and it is not the whole picture; it is a narrow, little picture. And because they have accepted it as the whole picture, they cannot see anything else.

It’s like we’ve accepted that our grandmother and grandfather are saved because they did such and so. And our view of salvation is such that what our grandparents did proved to us was that everything was alright. But it might have been that everything was not alright with grandmother and grandfather, or Aunt Hilda, or Uncle Joe, or even Momma or Papa. But because we have seen them as alright we cannot see anything else that might suggest that possibly that view of salvation which included them may be an inadequate view of salvation. And because we’ve seen it that way and we’ve identified that view as the truth, and it includes Momma and Papa, we can’t afford to see anything that might exclude them. I’m coming through, aren’t I? You all have dealt with some of these things before.

Well, Jesus is making it very clear to those to whom He is teaching what His teaching is about. He says, “I did not come to judge” (see John 3:17). And yet in John 9:39 He says “it’s for judgment that I came.” And in that text that says, “I did not come to judge,” He ends up saying, “the words I have spoken, they will judge you” (see John 5:30 & 8:26, 31-32). It’s the truth here. “That which I am speaking to you,” Jesus is saying, “will judge you.”

We have got to always present ourselves to the Lord choosing blindness, becoming blind. That’s how the phrase in verse 39 says it: “and that those who see may become blind.” We have to choose the position of saying to the Lord, “Lord, we’re closing our eyes. Although we’re not erasing things from our memories, and we’re not denying what we’ve already seen, but we are putting it back; we’re putting everything we hold dear back.”

And I can say to you, I don’t know how the Lord did it in me, but I am almost 180 degrees on almost everything I believed after I left Bible College. I mean, I was preaching then, and yet, had the Lord not struck me blind, really putting me into situations where He dealt with me so that I could not see, I would have been in trouble. I had to become blind in order to see. And Jesus is saying here that that is the place for seeing. “In that you say that you see, you’re blind. What you have seen already, blinds you so that you cannot see anymore.”

Being Blinded By Light –

It’s like at night the lights of a car that’s coming blinds us from seeing everything else that’s out there. And if you have poor night vision, (and as you grow older some have real problems with night vision) you will have a hard time seeing anything other than the light that’s out there in front of you. The key to driving at night with the oncoming car’s lights is to not look at the lights. It’s to look at the lines in the road that will take your focus off the oncoming lights both mentally and visually. And sometimes when you’re caught off guard with a car coming around a curve and all of a sudden you’re blinded by that, and it appears that you cannot see anything, but if you can concentrate and focus and look for the lines, all of a sudden not only do the lines appear, but much more appears and the lights that are coming at you fade out of your range of vision. The lights will seem to dim and you will be able to see clearly again.

Jesus is saying here that to really see the things of God you will need to become “blind” to everything else. You need to lay aside the distractions of the world, not deny them. I need to make it very clear that I am not suggesting that what you see is not true. I’m just suggesting you need to set your seeing aside and let what He is showing you speak for itself. And maybe what then appears does not connect with what you already believe because what He is showing you may seem contradictory. And you cannot read the Scriptures without recognizing that there are many places in the Gospels that it appears that what He is saying is contradictory to other truths, but they are not. But just embrace, “it’s true,” because your inability to connect it does not make it untrue. And as you are going to learn in this chapter, there is a secret for learning how to connect the truths of Scripture.

God wants to connect it for you. But you cannot connect it if you are judging it solely on the basis of the light that you have already received. The light that you already have seen may blind you to what else God is trying to show you. Jesus isn’t suggesting that the scribes and Pharisees were absolutely devoid of all truth. He’s not suggesting that they were ignorant of everything. He’s just saying, “It’s because of your view of the prophets, and especially because of your view of the prophesies concerning the Messiah that you cannot see Me.”

They did have the prophecies. But something else they were seeing kept them from interpreting what they were seeing as being valid which was right before them in Jesus Christ. There were even those who, upon discovering who Jesus was, still opposed Him. For example, when He raised Lazarus from the dead it was from that day that the Jewish leaders plotted to kill Jesus and Lazarus as well. That takes a bit of something, you know, brass, to stand before God and try to explain why you tried to kill the evidence, the supernatural evidence. But there is that kind of self pride and self preservation of the old man. In trying to save their life they kept losing it.

In Seeing Your Sin Remains

It is in setting aside what we’ve already seen that enables us to see what Jesus is trying to show us. Once again in John 9, verse 41:

Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

You can have the truth and end up in sin because you will not look at more truth. Your half truth, your inadequate truth, can end up keeping you from walking in the light. So it’s important that whenever we come through the things of God, reading the Scriptures, hearing a teaching, reading a book, listening to a tape or CD, or just being quiet before Him, to understand the truth of what the Holy Spirit is speaking to us we must believe it regardless of how it may contradict what we already know. Not only have we already talked about knowing, “he that is willing to do, he shall know,” we’ve talked about entering in, and now we’re talking about seeing, and we’re going to talk about several other issues that are like these that require our coming to a place of insufficiency so we will know the truth.

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 – 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.

DEFINING KINGDOM – Some Key Definitions

January 1, 2009

We’re going to begin this chapter on new ground in order for us to understand what this Gospel of the Kingdom is. You know, I’ve gone to great lengths, and you probably are tired of me pounding it in, to point out that Jesus preached a gospel that is referred to in the Scriptures consistently as the gospel of the kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is this gospel of the kingdom that is the power of God unto salvation. And in order for us to understand what this gospel is, we need to deal with some very elementary things. And that is where we’re going to begin.

The key to understanding the gospel of the kingdom begins with a definition of this word that is translated “kingdom” in the New Testament. That Greek word is basileia – it’s a noun. However, this is one of those words that we find in the New Testament in both a noun and verb form. The noun is basileia, the verb is basileuō. And there is another word like that in the Greek that is often used in the New Testament that we use often, and it is the word pisteuō the verb and the noun pistis. The noun pistis and the verb pisteuō means faith. The word for faith in the New Testament in the Greek is pistis. The verb form of it is pisteuō and it means “to believe.” They are the same root. ‘To believe,’ the verb, is an action verb; “to believe” is “to have faith.” You can not have faith without the action of believing. That’s why James says, “Faith without works is dead” (see James 2:17). Faith that has no action in believing is a dead faith; it is an inadequate faith to accomplish anything.

And it is one of those words that we find translated with two different words: faith, which is perhaps would better be, in this illustration, translated “belief,” that which is held or believed, and “to believe” – we have faith “to believe.” And we have a similar thing going on with this word basileia and basileuō. And we’re going to look at that in the scriptures now. But the root meaning of this word basileia, if you were to go to Strong’s or Vine’s concordance or any of the Greek-English dictionaries, you will find that it has three basic meanings. Basileia will be first translated ‘kingdom.’ In the Webster’s dictionary, this will be the first meaning also. Kingdom, the first meaning, is the realm, the territory, the geography over which a king reigns.  When we think of kingdom in the 21st century,almost inevitably our thinking is limited to the realm itself – a kingdom is the realm. But that is not its root. It is realm by extension.

We have, for example, only a few kingdoms today where a monarch has the reign. For instance, Queen Elizabeth is the queen over the realm of the kingdom of Great Brittan. But she has absolutely no authority to reign over it. And the situation has developed over the last several centuries that we’ve had kings and monarchs who actually did not reign. And so, the meaning was lost. The realm became the prime meaning. And realm is one of the meanings by extension and it is used that way in the New Testament as we will see. Another meaning, the second meaning in Webster’s, is the people over which a king reigns. The subjects of a king are often referred to as his kingdom.

In the Webster’s dictionary, particularly the older Webster’s, published around 1950 or earlier, down around definition number 4 or 5, they will have the archaic meaning being the reign itself — the rule, or the right to rule. And that is its root meaning. The root meaning of the word “kingdom” is the reign or the rule itself; and by extension that over which the rule applies – the geography, or the people. And there is this kind of interrelationship between the three. Unless there is the reign, that is the right to rule, the authority to rule does not exist.

And, by the way, authority never exists without power. Power and authority go together. The limits of one’s authority or the limits of one’s reign are determined by how strong the king is, how strong his armies are. If a king’s armies are able to maintain and keep a realm of 500 square miles and no more, that’s the size of his kingdom. But if a kingdom on the North, South, East or West determines that it is able to take 100 square miles of that kingdom because they know the king is not able or does not have the strength with his armies to defend those 100 square miles, they move in on that territory and take it. The aggressor then becomes a king over that particular territory and the other kingdom decreases. The size and scope of a kingdom is determined by the strength of the power to rule. There’s that relationship between the two. But unless there is power to rule, the right to rule, and the authority to rule, with all of its power, then there is no kingdom.

Queen Elizabeth has a kingdom but she has no power, she has no reign over it or authority to reign – it’s invested in a parliament, in a democratic process – not her. She’s just a figurehead. There are a couple of countries who really do have a monarchy, for example Saudi Arabia. And there are others like it but they are very few, where the king really has the power and the rule. And, by the way, Saudi Arabia refers to their realm as ‘The Kingdom.’ The phrase ‘The Kingdom,’ is used by the rulers because they have the power and the authority to reign over it.

The Archaic Meaning

But, unless you see that the primary, the archaic, the first century use of the word ‘kingdom’ is always first the rule itself or the reign itself; unless you understand that, you’ll not understand the text that we are about to explore. For example, turn to Luke chapter 11, verse 1. In this passage Jesus is asked, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And Jesus comes back with what we call the Lord’s Prayer, or an example prayer. And right from the beginning, something is said. Beginning in verse 2,

And He said to them, “when you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come.’ ”

Is He saying, “Your ‘realm’ come?” Is He saying, “The ‘reign’ itself come?” Can you see the significance of knowing what the definition of the word “kingdom” is? We’ve been praying this prayer for a long time and we’ve sort of had this fuzzy view of what this “kingdom” might be. And, on the whole, because of modern theology, most have held that this prayer is praying for the return of Christ when He sets up His earthly kingdom, when his realm is finally here. But the truth is, Jesus went everywhere preaching that the realm is already here, the reign is right here inside of us, it is at hand (see Mark 1:15).

Let’s now go to Matthew chapter 6, to verse 33 and let’s ask that question again: How is the word “kingdom” being used in Matthew 6:33?

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

The definition is made even clearer were we to study the context in this little portion of the Sermon of the Mount. But I think it’s pretty clear just reading the verse itself.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Is He telling us that in order for the things of the earth to be added to us we need to find the realm, the place where He rules? Is He saying to us, in order for us to enjoy not having to seek after the things of the world, what you eat, what you drink, how you are clothed, you need to find the people of the reign? No! What is He saying?

He’s saying, “Seek first the reign of God, and His righteousness.” That’s exactly what He is saying.

Question: Doesn’t that require some submission on our part? Yes! It would seem to me that submission is the very issue. The issue is, we want to see God’s reign in the earth and still maintain our own. The issue is, we want God’s kingdom to come but not at the expense of loss of our own kingdom and that over which we reign. But this is the very point that in order for man to be the man that God created for him to be, it is required that God reign in his heart.

Did God Say?

December 12, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look at verse 5:

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

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

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

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

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