Archive for the ‘The Kingdom of God’ Category

POSSESSING THE REIGN – Hands Too Full

June 29, 2009

Now, to Matthew chapter 5 verse 3:

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

This is a principal that will unlock all the riches. Stay with me. Have you ever tried to give someone something whose hands are full? Have you ever tried to speak to someone from another church to share some little tidbit that you’ve heard but they’re so full of where they are from and what they’ve seen that there’s just no room? That’s why we’re so divided. We cannot receive because we think we have everything.

You know, a man who’s poor and knows it, a man who knows he has needs, his hands are open. It’s the man who thinks he has no needs whose hands are closed or full. The New English Bible translates it this way, “How blessed is the man who knows he’s in need.”

Unless we come to a place where we see ourselves as utterly broke, in abject poverty, we cannot receive the things of God, the reign. Until we see and can say with Jesus, “I can do nothing. I can do nothing;” until we come to a place where we recognize that we, outside of Christ, are in utter bankruptcy, and are in total need in every area, we will not be open to receive His reign. It’s the Laodicean church where we began this book. The deception of the Laodicean church was that they thought they were rich, they thought they were clothed, and they thought they had need of nothing. And they were literally poor, wretched and naked and didn’t even know it.

Running On Empty –

Blessed is the man, the woman and the child who can see that He’s in utter poverty without God, who can see that he was made for God and absent of God he can’t even run. It’s the illustration of the car. You can put a car at the top of a hill and push it off with your foot, jump in and think that you’re doing something, going somewhere. But eventually you get to the bottom of the hill and you find out that it was nothing. The car was made for gasoline, and you and I were made for God. And until we come to the poverty of seeing that, of seeing that in ourselves, we have no good thing; in ourselves we have no good thing; in ourselves we have no good thing.

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POSSESSING THE REIGN – These are Beatitudes?

May 25, 2009

Luke 6:23

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

 

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

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

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

 

Woops!

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

 

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

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

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

GOVERNMENT OF GOD – A Brief Review

April 15, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 – How Much Love

March 31, 2009

Luke 14:26 –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – Radically Surrendered

March 27, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

A Radical Lifestyle –

Let’s continue in Luke chapter 16.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now go to Matthew chapter 10 and verse 34.

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

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

It means something!

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

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

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

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

Lord we need grace to hear this.

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – 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 Demand or An Offer?

March 7, 2009

An Absolute –

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

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

A Demand or An Offer? –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE KEY PARABLE – Seed Sown in Good Soil

March 3, 2009

The last is – the Harmony of the seed sown in good soil.

“And other seed fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundred fold. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word (of the Reign of God) and accepts and understands it in an honest and good heart.”

He’s in truth. He’s not trying to deceive himself or anyone else. It’s with an honest and good heart that he says, “Jesus, reign over all that I am, over all that you’ve entrusted to me; You reign over it all.” He holds it fast. He does not embrace it on Sunday at the altar and by seven or eight o’clock that evening he’s back into the world vicariously by TV; enjoying that for which Christ died, enjoying vicariously, watching the kinds of things for which Christ died. His new life, he holds on fast to it; this word of the reign, he holds it fast. He indeed bears fruit and brings forth some 100 fold, some 60 and some 30; and one of the Gospels adds this word “with perseverance.”

Hold On Fast –

Embracing His reign, making Jesus Christ king on the throne of our lives requires a holding fast and a persevering. Difficulties come and if there is shallowness, there will be a withering and a falling away. But many are holding on in the church. I am so encouraged by what I see in most churches. I am seeing many who have a heart for authenticity; they are hungry for the real things to come forth. I am seeing it everywhere; a desire for something that we’ve all understood was there but we’ve not seemed to get a hold of. There’s a hunger for truth; a hunger for the real thing. I think that is why you are reading this book. I can’t think of any other reason why you would let me harangue and hit you with this difficult gospel.

Many don’t want to hear this Gospel. It’s going to take perseverance. It’s going to take holding on fast to what you are hearing; not from me, but from the Holy Spirit. And I say, in closing, it’s worth it; this life is worth it. I would not go back for anything. I don’t want to go back. I find little pleasure in the world. I have no ambitions and the men that I work with are bothered by that. I have no desire for a future. We have enough business. We should have an office and secretaries and I’m working in my basement; I’m my own secretary. And I’m looking for the day when I will not do another lick of what I am now doing. I’m not interested. And the Lord will test me on that, but I believe He has. I believe I’m speaking with an honest and true heart, because I’ve seen the realm; I have felt His reign and I have experienced a life that is out of the boat. It’s not daily, but it’s been enough. My heart is set on it and your heart is too if you haven’t put this book down by now. I believe that is why you are still reading. But, it’s going to take some perseverance.

This is the one who can hear the mysteries, the secrets of how to enjoy this life, how to live this other life, how to get over the bow of the boat, how to draw near Him so He can make us. He wants to show us.

One thing that I need to add; even Jesus’ disciples did not automatically understand the parables. You can’t assume because you are a Christian or a disciple that you will automatically understand the parables; you will not. It will always require humbling yourself and asking Him to explain it. It will always require you saying, “I won’t know this, Lord, unless You teach it to me.” It will never happen until you recognize that, no matter how much of a genius you are, how intellectually capable you are, you cannot know unless He explains it to you. So, always ask. The disciples did, and that’s what put them on the inside.

Amen.

THE KEY PARABLE – Seed Sown Among Thorns

February 28, 2009

“Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up with it and choked them out, and it yielded no crop.”

This parable is not really talking about four soils; we’re talking about four different hearts, that’s the soil, we’ve seen that already. Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit is sowing the word of the reign of God on hearts. The heart that is too near the world is not going to receive or understand the word and it’s going to be immediately plucked away. You’ve brought people to church, haven’t you? And you were just hoping that the word would just connect and it didn’t. Their hearts were still too close to the world and the enemy immediately plucked it away.

And then there is this rocky ground. You know you’ve seen those who have received… I’ve seen family members receive it and now it is no where in their life now. It’s gone. Difficult times come. And difficult times are coming. If there is no depth of soil and no moisture to sustain a root system, if the word isn’t working within, the moisture of the word, the water of the word, and no depth of soil that will enable a root to go deep, that one will be lost.

Here we see the seed sown among the thorns, on thorny soil.

“Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up with it and choked them out, and it yielded no crop.”

The thorns came up with it. They were not there apparently when the seed was sown. If it were apparent when the seed was sown, many hearts would not have received it.

There are many who see the cost and just have no heart to pay the cost. They do not want to give up their drugs, their alcohol, their lifestyle, their wanting the best the world has to offer, their vocation, their future in the world. They see the cost and are not interested. They don’t receive the seed. They’re back beside the road. We are talking about lives that do not see the thorns when the seed is sown. The seed is received, but there are thorns that come up with it. That’s what it says; “the thorns came up with it…” They were not there to be seen at the beginning, but “the thorns came up with it and choked them out, and it yielded no crop.”

“And those on whom the seed was sown among the thorns are the ones who hear the word of the reign of God in the heart of man, and they go on their way and they are choked.”

It’s interesting that in these three texts you probably stumbled over this, this is difficult. You find two phrases, “they are choked,” and later, “and the word was choked,” the seed was choked; both are choked, and strangled is an accurate translation of the word “choked.”

And those on whom seed was sown among thorns are the ones who hear the word (of the Reign of God), and as they go on their way they are choked with the worries of the world, and the desires for other things.”

If that is not the American church, I don’t know what is. There is a reason the church in America is dying. There is a reason there are fewer churches this year, in the hundreds, than there were last year. And on the whole, almost without exception, the mega churches are seeing exponential growth, but this huge church growth boom is at the expense of hundreds and thousands of smaller churches. What’s happening is, we’re just moving around, finding that which appeals to us the most. There is some growth by conversion but it is very small. It does not keep up with those that leave the church every year. And that’s why the church in America is declining.

“They are choked with the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things.”

I wonder what “deceitfulness of riches” means? You hear some of the Gospel that has been preached over the last twenty years, a Gospel that would make a Hugh Hefner or Bill Gates a saint. If the riches of the world is the promise of God, billionaire Bill Gates is a saint. The prosperity that is promised in the Scriptures is everything we need, but it is not going to include the deceitfulness of riches, because riches are a deception. That’s why not many rich enter the kingdom. It is extremely hard for the rich to enter the kingdom because it has a deceit in it.

We think that somehow there is some security in having enough. That’s a lie. All we need is God. His checking account is more than adequate. It’s a deceit to think that we can manage it better; that’s what we are saying. It isn’t that God is looking for those in whom He can entrust great riches. I’ve known very few men who are able to give the bulk away.

When I was making it, and had a very substantial income back in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, I had four companies. I was an elder in the church, speaking and preaching several times a week, giving well over a tithe; but I wasted most of it. I wasted most of it. It is lost to the kingdom of God.

He is not looking for the tithe. He wants to reign over it all. And if you can’t hear that, you need to set some time aside to deal with this, because the enemy will use that against you. And you’ll have a hard time finding the reign of life. You’ll have a miserable Christian experience. You will always be short of reigning in life. Sin will plague you and the battle will just be non-stop. You might daily have victory over it but it will be a miserable victory. And most of you here know exactly what I am talking about, a miserable victory.

I know – reigning in life requires the reign of God. Those who receive an abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life (that word is basileia) in Christ Jesus. Well, it might not mean what I just said it meant, but it means something. You deal with it.

It reads just quite simply,

“and as they go on their way they are choked with the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things.”

The pleasures of this life enter in and choke the Word (of the reign of God), and they bring no fruit to maturity and yield no crop.

I’ll have to confess, in much of my earlier walk in Christ in leadership I did things differently. Somehow if two families came in and one family was struggling financially and was always in need and another family was financially secure and could really help out the cause, which family do you suppose I catered to more? No, John Brown wouldn’t do that.

Two men considered for the church board. Two men considered for the treasurer of the board. One is an accountant, the other is a farmer. Now, which one do you suppose we would choose? And, then I ask you, which one would spend more time praying over the management of the church funds?

This is the hour for the Gospel of the Kingdom to be preached in all the nations. It is not just happening in your heart, it is happening all over the earth. Everywhere I go now, I am hearing it, and I think that if you are listening, you are hearing it too. This Gospel of His Reign is going to raise up an army here in the states that love not their own lives, that love not their own lives even unto death, because they found the King and the realm of His reign within and it’s all that matters; nothing else matters. There isn’t a second in the picture.

“…and they bring no fruit to maturity and yield no crop.”

We have just looked at three kinds of soil. We’ve looked at three kinds of hearts that cannot understand the things of the kingdom, cannot receive it, will not find fruit in their lives. And all three you’ll find in the church.