Archive for the ‘Jesus Reign’ Category

POSSESSING THE REIGN – Sermon on the Mount

May 4, 2009

We will begin in Luke chapter 6.

In the Gospels, actually there are more than two places, but there are two places particularly, you will find the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew it is very clearly in chapters 5, 6, and 7. In Luke, it’s broken up in pieces and there is a piece or two even in Mark.

What conclusion did we arrive at as to why the Holy Spirit would use up so many pages or texts to say the same thing? Why would the Holy Spirit repeat Himself when all the things that Jesus did and spoke would fill up so many volumes that the would could not contain them, according to John 21:25? And yet there are those things that He repeats. Why? God hides things with the intent that can only be found by searching them out. If you discover that the same incident is repeated in two of the Gospels, know that the accounts are given so that in either one you do not find by itself the whole truth. It’s the hiding of a mystery. So, if you want the word to open up to you and there is a repeat of the same account, the same situation in another text, compare them to each other because in that which is not in both, there will be a truth that is very significant.

Here in Luke chapter 6 we discover something right from the beginning. Let’s begin in verse 17.

Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples…”

“A large crowd of His disciples…” that’s more than twelve isn’t it?

…and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.

 

There is not only a large crowd of His disciples but there is a multitude of other than His disciples. I want you to see that distinction here in the gathering.

…who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.

And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

 

So we see here the beginning of the beatitudes. This is the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew chapter 5. But we discover something different here in the Luke text, and if we go back to verse 12 we find out what is really taking place.

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles.

 

And now He names the apostles and at the end of naming the apostles we find Him facing His crowd of disciples as well as the multitude of those who were not His disciples.

And this is how I see this. It’s not new with me. Many see it somewhat similar. Jesus has spent His night in prayer and in this night in prayer the Father has said to Him, “I want You to choose, out from among the larger number of disciples, twelve.” And the Father gives Him the names. You discover that in John 17:6 and other verses. The Father tells Jesus who the twelve are to be, including Judas Iscariot. And it is to these twelve in particular, as in the presence of the multitude of these other disciples as well as the larger multitude of non-disciples, that we find Jesus preaching this sermon.

I see it as more an ordination address, more as an explanation of what it’s going to mean to follow Him. And we find in here the attitudes and the principles and the law of the realm. The Sermon on the Mount is very important. It is usually handled as a series of teachings that are like targets to aim at, never really expecting to hit. And when you read it, it sounds like that to Adam’s ears, but it’s not that at all. He’s now describing the normal Christian life. He is describing what it is to be the children of the reign, disciples of the reign. And if you do not see it from that perspective you will never take it as a life to be expected. You will never see it as norm, it will always be out there untouchable.

And it almost seems that way to Adam’s ears. But to the man born of the Spirit, to the regenerated spirit, it is the coming in of the Holy Spirit, as in Ezekiel 36, who will cause you to walk in the ways of the Lord. The difference between Adam and the new man is Adam could not, and it was not in him. It was impossible for him to walk in the ways of the Lord. The Law was given to prove that very thing. The Law was given as a tutor to show us that man cannot live by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Man needs regeneration. He needs this Second Man.

Again, 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus was both the last Adam and the second man. He was the first of a whole new race. It takes this other life force; this other life force lives the Sermon on the Mount. It’s His breath, His air, His food. It isn’t something to be imposed upon disciples; it is something that is exposed in their life. Yes, there are new commandments in it; there are new laws in it. Yes, there are! Jesus ends His time on earth by admonishing His disciples, saying to His disciples, “Teach them to observe all the things that I commanded you.”

The difference is, by nature we can’t live it. It’s not by our nature, but by our new nature, in Christ. The old man can’t keep from going back to the mud. The new man has no taste for the mud. By nature the new man is caused by his spirit in it, his life in it, to live this other life. Ezekiel 36 again says, “And I will put My Spirit,” right after He has said, “I will give you a new spirit.” That’s the regeneration, the new birth. “And then I will put My Spirit within you and He shall cause you to keep my statutes and to walk in My ways.” Aren’t you wanting that? Aren’t you wanting to be able to be what you know God’s created us to be without striving? It’s called entering into the rest.

GOVERNMENT OF GOD – Remarkable Miracles

April 9, 2009

In the last chapter I recommended that you read the book Remarkable Miracles by G.C. Bevington. He was a Holiness preacher out of Wesleyanism. He preached holiness and sanctification. But I’m not sharing it with you on the basis of that particular theology he is coming from. Here is a man, who as a young boy discovered what was required to hear God. He learned that the greater portion of prayer is hearing not speaking. And he often would not get up for hours or even days until he heard. And what came out of that hearing was “Remarkable Miracles.” And he’s just sharing his life experience.

I hope you discover two things in this book: the role of the kingdom, the reign of God in Bevington’s preaching because our Lord Jesus has promised that whenever this gospel is preached, signs and wonders will follow. He wasn’t a Pentecostal, he wasn’t a Charismatic, he was a Christian. You’ll see that he talks that way.

You do not see him mentioning his church. He was a “Kingdom” kid – the kingdom was everything. I want you to see the kingdom here. With his preaching, with his view of the reign of God, I want you to see the role of prayer, the role of intimacy. If in the end you come out of this with three new doctrines, one on the kingdom, one on discipleship, one on this other life, you would have lost. My intent is, in the giving of all that you are and all that you’ve been entrusted with to the King and His kingdom that you end up with Him and He ends up with you in an intimate relationship. And Remarkable Miracles talks about that relationship. I encourage you to read it.

John’s Remarkable Miracle –

Along with the theme of Bevington’s book, I want to tell you about an experience I had back in the late 70s right after I had read Remarkable Miracles for the first time. In this book, Bevington explains that whenever he got down, he waited until he heard. And you find him in a hay stack in the middle of winter and the Lord would come and tell him where to go. He would show Bevington the roads and the turns because there were not many road signs in those days. He would go miles and cross states to see a man and already have his name. He got on a train one time and ended up in West Virginia from Ohio. He got off the train and there was another man who lived a somewhat similar life who was waiting on Bevington when he got off the train because he had seen him in a dream. This is the kind of life that Bevington lived.

I had never experienced those kinds of things. I had never experienced precise kinds of stuff in prayer that were in the book. I was living in Watseka, Illinois and had been invited to Kankakee, Illinois to teach in a little home church meeting. In this house there were probably about sixty people in an old house that had a living room and the living room overflowed into the dining room. The people filled both rooms.

I had never met these people before and in the back of my mind was Bevington’s book. I was praying that I would know the Lord that way and hear Him speak and have Him direct me specifically.

So, I’m sitting in a chair up in front of the room. The brother with me was leading the music. It was his home town and because he knew some of the people there, we got the invitation to come because they had heard about me through him. So we are sitting there and all of a sudden I hear this woman crying. I heard this woman crying in my mind. And it was not a little cry, it was wailing. It was so real that I was looking around the room to see who it was and very quickly I realized that no one was reacting to it. But I heard this wailing in my head. And it just would not stop. I’m trying to think about my message, you know, and before you know it I’m introduced to speak. I’m standing up there and still it’s in my head. I’m praying in my heart, “Lord, what am I to do?”

So I said to the group, “I don’t know what’s going on. I hear some woman who is just in great agony and is wailing.” And as soon as I said that, a lady that I could not see broke out crying and I recognized her voice. She could hardly control herself once she started, so we took a few minutes and some of the women comforted her, and when she was able, she shared what was going on.

She is Charlene Gray and her husband Bob who was an executive with Penn-Central Railroad in Chicago which is just north of Kankakee, had been in a mental hospital for six months. He had not spoken for six months and was almost, like, comatose. You could lead him around but there was no response from him to anything. And she had heard that very afternoon from the hospital that if there was no change in his condition over the weekend, he would be transferred to the incurable ward. They both were in their late forties and had had twin boys just after she turned forty. She owned a flower shop and he worked at Penn-Central. His benefits were running out and she had to sell her flower shop to pay bills. She was desperate; just desperate.

So, all I could think of at that moment was Bevington and how, when a situation like this would come along, he would just get on his knees and say, “Lord, what is going on here? What’s happening here?” And he would hear and go and there would be healing, restoration, freedom, whatever. And so I tell this little story about Bevington to the group there and suggest that we get down on our knees to pray for Charlene and Bob and look to the Lord to speak to us.

You need to know that I’m a guest speaker in this home. They’ve never met me before. They’ve never heard me teach before. So, they’re looking at me kind of funny but I get down on my knees where I was and they slowly began to kneel where they were. I had this feeble little prayer and a few others prayed. We are down, I suppose, about five minutes. People are getting restless; some are getting back up on their chairs. I’m saying to myself, “O God, what have I done?” I said, “Lord, won’t you speak.” And finally I get up and shared this miserable little message. I’m defeated. I go back home just miserable.

This is Saturday night and I’m preaching Sunday morning. I don’t do well Sunday morning either. Sunday night comes and I can’t sleep. I get out of bed and go down to my living room. I got down on the floor and said, “Lord, I’m not getting up until I hear.” So an hour passes and I pray everything I can think, of to pray. Two hours pass, then three. I’m waiting to hear and I’m determined to wait it through. I’m determined I’m going to stay there until I hear. So it’s the wee hours of the morning and I’m out of things to say. I haven’t said anything in a while and I didn’t recognize it at the time but it was what Bevington called “getting quiet.”

I realized I was out of thoughts. And just out of my mouth comes this statement: I said, “Lord, if You would heal Bob Gray, I will praise You as you deserve.” And then this thought came to me that I just knew was not my thought. “You never did before.”

And I knew instantly that I’d pray for something for six months or nine months with little 30 second prayers, 10 second prayers, two minute prayers; and it would come to pass that I’d thank Him in 10 seconds, or 15 seconds and go on.

And so, I spent another hour asking, “Lord, what does it mean to praise You as You deserve?” I realized that He needs to get the honor for the act. He works to show Himself strong that men might get to know Him. You’ll find that all through the Old Testament. He speaks it, “It’s not for your sake that I do these things, it’s for My name’s sake.”

So I end up making this list of those that I’m going to give Him honor and praise His name. And on the top of the list are Charlene Gray and the elders in that little house church that I’d done so miserably with.

After I had made the list I felt pretty good about it. Then the next words that came out of my mouth, sort of like a prayer, were, “Why won’t You heal Bob?” And immediately the thought came back, “I’m interested in more than his healing.”

Now what would you think if you hear that? He’s not saved, is he Lord? I knew instantly he’s not saved. And so I spend the next little while preparing in my heart this outline of how I am going to share the gospel with Bob Gray as soon as I hear that he is healed. I said, “Lord, as soon as I hear he is healed, I will go and share the gospel.” Well, it’s about 4:30 in the morning and the very next thought that comes is, “What are you doing this morning?”

Now, what would that say to you? It would say, He’s healed, wouldn’t it? Well, that’s what I thought it said. And I wrestled the next hour over, “What if he isn’t?” “What will I do if I call all these people praising God for Bob’s healing, go there and he’s not healed?” But I finally realized that the only way to know is to go.

And that’s when I learned another thing that Bevington points out in his book, it’s as important to know what voice is not God’s as to know what voice is His.

So I said, “Lord, I’m going.” Now, it’s 5:00 or 5:30 in the morning. Kankakee, Illinois is an hour earlier but I have already said to the Lord, “The minute I know he is healed, I’m going to begin praising You.” So, at this early hour of the morning I call Charlene Gray and I said, “This is John Brown.”

“Who?”

“John Brown who was at the house meeting.”

“The house meeting on Saturday night?”

“Yes…” I knew what was going through her mind: “That John Brown?”

And I said, “Charlene, the Lord has just spoken to me and said that Bob is healed.” And there was dead silence. And I said, “….and he’s not saved.”

And she said, “No…., he’s not.”

And I said, “I’ve promised the Lord that as soon as Bob is healed I would go to the hospital on the south side of Chicago to share the gospel with him.”

She then said, “You can’t get in. I can only see him once a month and they are supposed to be transferring him this morning.”

And I said, “If the Lord has spoken, I believe He’ll get me in because I’ve promised Him.” Then I shared the whole story with her.

She’s not convinced but she promises me that she will call the hospital. So she hangs up and I get on the phone with the elders of that fellowship in Kankakee, Illinois. I shared the story with each of them and finally got two of them to agree to go with me to Chicago. I am about an hour and a half from Kankakee and then it’s another hour to Chicago. They agree to take off that morning and go with me. So after I pick them up, all the way to the hospital they keep asking me, “How do you know it was God? What if it was not God? Why did you call Charlene?”

But I had promised God that I would do this. And I am thinking, “Do I have faith? No! No! I was just learning faith.”

We get to the hospital and go to the front desk and I said, “I’m John Brown from….”

“Oh, yes, Reverend Brown. You’re the reverend who believes that Mr. Gray is healed. The doctor wants to see you.”

Everyone there in that area is watching me because they have all heard about why we were there. The elders with me were about two paces behind me.

The doctor comes out and says, “So you’re the reverend who believes that Bob Gray is healed. Well, come with me.”

He was not pleased by what I had told Charlene. He leads me to the incurable ward which was behind locked doors. Here was a person walking around with no clothes on and another beating their head against the padded wall. It was horrible.

The doctor leads us into what looks like a little counseling room with a small table and a couple of chairs. The man sitting in one of the chairs was Bob Gray. He was dressed in a suit that looked slept in and it was baggy on him because he had lost lots of weight. He does not seem to recognize our coming into the room either. The doctor says, “Here is your Mr. Bob Gray who you believe is healed. Just call me when you are through.”

Bob Gray looked so pitiful and my heart went out to him as he sat there with his head down staring at nothing. I said in my heart, “Lord, no matter what, I’m going to share the gospel with that man.”

I remember that his eyes were so milky that you could hardly see his pupils. He did not move, he did not look at us and there was no recognition that we were even in the room. The two elders with me were leaning against the wall near the door.

I sat down across from Bob and couldn’t even look at him. I opened my Bible and started reading the Scriptures and relating the gospel message. And as I was delivering my message, without thinking I said, “Bob, do you understand what I am saying?”

What I heard was, “Yes, I do.”

This had obviously startled the two elders because they were desperately trying to get their balance as they stood erect.

Then I led Bob Gray to the Lord.

Within a couple of days he was out of the hospital and about a year after Patti and I moved to Marietta, GA we got a call saying that Bob had been restored to his job.

All this came about because of Bevington’s book. I encourage you to get one and read it. I hope it sets in your heart a fire to know God in that way. There are some things in the book that may be different than what you’ve been taught and what you believe but don’t get tripped up on that. Some of it is good. I just want you to see what Bevington says about the gospel of the kingdom.

Also, you will find in Appendix II an article reproduced there called “Where Will Our Hearts Be Buried” by Bishop David Huskin. It is an account of Doctor David Livingstone, the missionary of the mid eighteen hundreds that pioneered the gospel to the “dark continent” of Africa. When he died after 32 years of service to his Lord, his body was buried with dignity in Great Britain in Westminster Abby, while his heart, having been removed by his servants, was buried where it belonged, under a shade tree in the plains of Africa.

I have included this article because we will look at the passage in the Sermon on the Mount which says that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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.

OFFER OF THE KINGDOM pt II – A Radical Decision

April 2, 2009

Now turn to Luke 13 and we will begin reading at verse 22.

And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”

“Strive to enter by the narrow door.” You know how another text reads, “Wide is the door, broad is the way” (see Matthew 7:13). “Strive to enter by the narrow door.”

We began this section in Luke chapter 16 where it says, “Many are trying to force entry.” And you know the text in Matthew 11:12 that says, “The violent take it by force.”

It’s a radical decision and may require radical measures to carry out the decision. That word translated “strive” in verse 24 is also translated “agonize.” It literally is a word that is used in competition where the athlete is straining so much that he is sweating profusely. It is going to take some effort to enter by this door. It is a decision that is radical. I’m not speaking of performance, I’m saying that it’s gong to take some strain, some sweat just to make the decision to turn our backs on our own self-reign, our own self-will. And many want to enter by that door and will not because they will not make the radical decision to put Christ in His proper place and allow the reign to take over by way of their surrendering their reign, and allowing His will to come in place of their will. It requires a radical, radical decision and a costly one too.

Go to Matthew chapter 19.

This, once again, is the story of the rich young ruler that begins in verse 16.

And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

And you know what the young man’s answer is; he has done that since youth.

The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?”

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, 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.”

When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?”

And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”

And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.”

We covered this parable from the Gospel of John and we saw that the issue with this man was with the selling of his possessions. But Jesus was not giving us a new law about getting rid of all of our goods. He was really saying, “Do I have the right to be Lord?”

Turning our back on self-reign, and self-will makes available to our Lord everything that we are and everything that we have been entrusted with; and that is a costly decision. It is a decision that must be resolute, firm, with perseverance, radical, extreme from the world’s eyes, extreme from the eyes of most even in the church. And it will be costly because from the very beginning you’ve said goodbye. It doesn’t mean get rid of it. It just means that He now reigns over it: families, farms, children, possessions. But there is a promise with it. There is a life to come promise, and there is a present promise too. A promise of more children than you can count, more possessions than you could ever own of your own; houses a hundred fold. He’s promised us houses a hundred fold as our own should he require our home. I’m telling you, it is far better to live out of His purse than our own.

Patti and I have counted beyond a hundred, places where we could go to live were He to require our home. And I’ve had several people who have attended our seminars come up to me and say, “Add ours.” And it works that way. But it is a resolute, radical, costly decision to surrender our reign and our will.

O Lord, I am asking that the ones reading this book make a conscious effort that they intend to face this decision to repent of their reign if it has not yet been done, and to repent of their will and in surrender, repentance and faith, accepting your offer to reign in their stead. Lord, I am believing that from among these will come a people that requires of their neighbors and of the church at large a supernatural explanation for their lives. Give us the courage to make the necessary decisions in surrender because You have made it possible. Lord, we give you thanks and praise Your Holy name. Amen.

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 – The Gospel Jesus Preached

March 14, 2009

Let’s go to Mark chapter 1. The question now is how do we surrender self reign? What is God’s provision to enable us to surrender self-reign. Mark chapter 1, verses 14 and 15. These are two verses that you need to memorize. You’ll find the entire gospel in these two verses: what it is, where He is taking us, and what it’s all about.

Now after John had been taken unto custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

What was He preaching? “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God (the reign of God) is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The gospel of God that Jesus came preaching was the gospel that the time is fulfilled, and that which all of creation has been waiting for from the fall of Adam, is now fulfilled in Christ. The reign of God is now available to the heart of man. The reign of God is here to deal with the rebellion. And unlike what Israel was expecting, God has chosen to first establish that which He intended to establish first in the Garden, and first in the heart of man. And so, in secret almost, in hidden places nearly, He is establishing His reign where it cannot be clearly seen. They cannot say, “Look, here it is or there it is,” for behold, the kingdom of God is within you, the reign of God is within you.

He has first come to establish this kingdom which is both a now kingdom and a future kingdom. It really is not fulfilled in fullness yet. It is going to remain in the heart of man until the return of Christ. And then for a millennium it is expanded over the nations of men. It is not until the end of the millennium that it finally conquers the last enemy which is what? Death!

And so progressively, in a three fold way, God is establishing His kingdom but he is first establishing it within us. But He gives in this passage two provisions for the surrender of self-rule and His provision for surrendering self-will.

About Face!

The first provision is found in verse 15.

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand…”

And then what does it say?

Repent!

Repentance is God’s provision for surrender of self-rule. Now follow with me if you would. What does repentance mean? Does it mean to turn from your sins? Yes… Or does it mean to change your mind? That is usually the definition that is given because change is at the root. But we are living in an age where changing the mind may not affect the feet or the hands. Changing the mind is an intellectual concept change. To the Hebrew mind and to the Greek mind, there is no change of mind that is not expressed in life. And so that is the way it is expressed in scripture.

Actually, the Hebrew word for repentance is a military word and it means literally, “about face”. In other words, I’m going this direction but now I’m going the opposite direction. It is turning my back on where I was set for, bound for, and then moving in an opposite direction. Repentance literally means a change of mind that affects hands and feet. It’s a change of mind that is a turning from both in the head and in the expression of life. When there is no legitimate turning, if it is just a change of mind, that’s not repentance. Repentance is not just a change of mind. The Greek does not allow it to be just a change of mind nor do the texts in the New Testament allow repentance just to be a change of mind.

The scribes and Pharisees depended upon their heads and their intellect. When they encountered John the Baptist preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” how did they handle it? How did the Sadducees handle it? Well, they accepted John’s teaching but there was no fruit of repentance, because John said, “Bring me fruit of your repentance.” There is no repentance without its accompanying fruit, without it being expressed in hands and feet. Am I coming through?

We are doing others a disfavor to suggest that salvation is just a change of mind. Because we have come to believe that faith is an intellectual thing. Faith is not an intellectual thing. Faith is a heart thing. “For with the heart man believes.” We keep talking about getting what we believe in our head down to our heart. It’s not just believing it in our head because we live out of what we believe in our heart.

No matter what you say you believe, I’ll tell you what you believe by what your feet and hands do when someone runs in to the church worship center and yells, “FIRE!” I’ll tell you what you believe in the next ten seconds. I’ll know whether or not they’ve convinced you that the church building is on fire by what you do with your hands and your feet. You will not sit there and analyze the statement. If one of your church’s deacons comes running into the Sunday morning service and yells, “FIRE!” what would you do? Debate the issue? Consider the pros and cons of whether or not there is enough smoke to determine if there is a fire that would endanger you? What would you do?

I’ll tell you what you would do. You would make a change. And you would find the nearest exit. And you would hope the life of Christ reigns and the men would not run over the women and children on the way out.

But, it’s what we believe in our heart that rules. Actually it is not only the righteous man that lives by faith. The unrighteous man lives by faith too. The unrighteous man lives by what he believes in his heart too. And you can tell whether or not we are living in righteousness or unrighteousness by what our hands and our feet are doing, no matter what we say we believe. We’re talking about true repentance.

Let’s go to Matthew chapter 3, verse 1.

Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Repent! Once again we have this requirement.

Now we’ll go to chapter 4, verse 17 and we see Jesus at the beginning of His ministry.

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Both Jesus and John the Baptist are preaching a gospel of repent for the reign of God is at hand.

I want to ask you a question: repent of what? Now think about it. Don’t be quick. Is Jesus preaching against sin? You would be hard pressed to find anywhere in the Gospels a reference of Jesus speaking against sin. I challenge you. He refers to it on occasion. There are a couple of occasions where someone is taken in sin but He never deals with His teaching to them or His parables to them or His speaking to them about sin other than, “Go, and sin no more.” That’s the longest one in the Gospels.

But He does talk a lot about the gospel of the reign being here. Repent! What we need to repent of is who reigns. What we are to turn our back on and turn to is turning our back on self-reign and turning to His reign. Many have gone over their sins and repented but have yet to repent of their own reign. That’s why the church is so filled with so much sin. Because the sin issue cannot be dealt with by constantly confessing and leaving the issue of who reigns un-dealt with.

That’s why we are in such trouble in the church. That’s why marriages are in trouble in the church. That’s why our wives and daughters in the church are getting abortions at the same rate as the world is getting abortions. That’s why couples in the church are divorcing at the same rate as the world. It’s because we’ve never dealt with the issue of who reigns. And if you are going to repent of your sins without repenting about your reign, you’re just going to repeat your sin. Can you see the significance of this? It’s the Gospel of the Kingdom.

He came preaching the gospel of God and saying, “The time is fulfilled. The reign of God is here. Repent, and believe the good news!”

We need a repentance party. We need a surrender party. Some of us, maybe many of us need to go through the exercise of dealing with who’s reigning. It is the means where by we surrender our reign. We surrender our reign by turning our back to our reign and unto His. It’s the surrender of our reign that repentance is all about.

Let’s go to Romans chapter 10, verses 9 and 10.

…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

It’s turning to the Lord. It is confessing Jesus as Lord and believing in your heart.

Let’s go to Acts chapter 2, verse 37.

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Here we see both the repentance and the believing but focusing on the repentance,

“Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…”

Here is this repentance, this turning from the reign of self in our hearts, turning to the reign of Christ. It is turning from our reign to the reign of our Lord, and that is called repentance. Repentance is God’s provision for surrender of self-rule.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – A New Lifestyle

March 11, 2009

We are going to begin in Romans chapter 1, verse 16.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel. What is the gospel? Well, it is the gospel of the reign. “For I am not ashamed of the reign” would be another way to put it.

When Christ comes to rule in our heart, we live differently. We look different. I’m not saying it requires a particular kind of clothing but our countenance is changed because our reign is taken out and everything that goes with self reign and self will; all is removed. And when you think about it, it’s a lot of uncomely things: pride, arrogance, ambition, greed, all of those things that mark self-reign, and self-will.

Self-exaltation, striving for position, a working to get on top, considering my needs as more important than another’s; all of these things relate to self-reign, and self-will. And, when His reign comes, we take on a whole new countenance, we take on a whole new life style; we are unlike the children of the world. And out being like the children of the world, with a carnal mind set, should leave us ashamed.

Jesus, no doubt, came across to many as a wimp. He perplexed those who were His enemies among the scribes or Pharisees, and the council of Israel, because He would not defend Himself. He would not do battle with them. He always answered them with gentleness, even though His words were often very cutting because they were the truth. It was prophesied of Him, “He did not lift his voice in the streets. He would not bend a bruised reed.” (See Is. 42:2-3) He was gentle in all of His ways and all of His character. He was kind. He moved out of love, because He was love. God is love. It isn’t just what He does, it’s how He is. And Jesus lived in that realm. The divine nature was always working in Him. And if you were to look at what that divine nature looks like, for example, in 1 Corinthians 13, “It bears all things, it believes all things.”

An example of this is in the story of His encounter with the woman at the well. She comes up to him, and what was that dialogue where He knew truth? “You’re right, you have no husband. You’ve had five husbands. And the one you are living with is not your husband at all.” He said it in a way that did not put her off. He said it in a way that did not judge her. She did not respond as if she was judged.

Jesus says in John 12, “I did not come to judge.” He did not move in judgment. He did not put them down. He could have, but He did not. Wouldn’t it be something to see that in the church? Wouldn’t it be something, where our countenance and our words and our lives expressed, “We are not here to judge. We are here to bear. We are here to cover. We are here to always choose to believe the best.”

Boy, that’s contrary to much of the carnal life that is in the church. Wouldn’t it be something if we were to choose to believe the best, to choose to hear what we are hearing in the best light, to choose it? I may know that it may not be; I may know it’s probably different. But if I choose, if I choose to believe it in the best light, then there is power in that isn’t there?

Power to Change –

There is in that tremendous power to influence and change. That will happen when we are not ashamed of the reign of God in our heart, if the reign of God is in our heart… You see, when it says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel,” it is saying, “I’m not ashamed of the reign, I’m, not ashamed of the reign of God in my heart. I’m not ashamed of the life He has called me to. I’m not ashamed to choose the least position. I’m not ashamed to sit at the foot of the table rather than the head of the table. I am not ashamed to wash feet. I am not ashamed to make a young brother, new in Christ, as more important than myself in a meeting.” Is this coming through?

The working of that “I’m not ashamed of the gospel” in us is by choice, not by performance. It’s by choosing His reign. Now hear this: every thing that I have just said you can do by imitation, but you’ll be a miserable person trying to perform all that. You’ll be washing feet and hating the smell. Am I coming through?

But if you have chosen His reign, if you have received His reign, if you’ve surrendered your reign and your will, if you’ve surrendered your life, if you’ve chosen not your life but His, He performs it. There’s peace in that, there’s joy in that, there’s ease in that, there’s an absence of striving in that. And that’s the difference between a gospel of demand, our trying to perform a Christian life, our always trying to be imitators of Christ, rather than participators in Christ. And that is what we’ve been called to. We’ve been called to participate in His life, not to imitate His life. We’ve not been called to manufacture His life. We’ve been called simply to surrender our life, our reign, our will to receive His. That’s the difference between the gospel of demand and the gospel of surrender; the gospel of performance as opposed to receiving the offer.