Archive for the ‘The Reign of God’ Category

POSSESSING THE REIGN – Blessed are the Poor

June 5, 2009

Glory –

It’s what His heart’s been set on from the beginning. Not just before Adam, but before the creation of all things. It’s what His heart is set on: to bring His reign into His new temple, into a living dwelling place that is capable of (which is hard to fathom) displaying His glory, the radiance of His beauty, the radiance of His very nature throughout all creation. And there is not a single star or solar planet that is able to reveal glory like this throughout the entire universe. But He is preparing a sun, a light, a star that will leave no shadows anywhere and will speak, will manifest His very nature throughout His creation. And it is called man, it is called his bride. Is that not a fantastic promise?

Why are we so busy with lesser things? We must give up our small ambitions. Who could grasp anything like this? Who could even think of something greater than what is being offered to the sons of Adam in Christ Jesus?

Now, go back to verse 3 in Matthew 5 and see the Universal Principal.

 “Blessed are the poor…” In Luke 6 it says, “Blessed are the poor and woe to the rich.”

Having wealth is an awesome responsibility and an easy trap. We think it’s ours. And we think it’s for us. And we even think that it came to us because of something inherently good or right or better about us.

Ugly Americans –

 All you have to do to understand this is to see Americans overseas. I’ve traveled overseas. Americans are not pretty people overseas. They are ugly overseas. There is a reason the world has a leaning against Americans. They admire us on the one hand and on the other hand they can hardly stand us. You have to spend some time elsewhere to understand that. We think we’ve deserved what we have. Most of the world has worked harder from day break until dusk just to eat, just to eat. And we think that our abundance has something to do with us. That’s a lie from the pit.

Really Poor –

My father was a godly man who always knew more than I’ll ever know. And he had to work two to three jobs at a time to feed our family. He dropped out of medical school in the depression. I was raised in a four room house with no running water. Poor! It was not because my father was not smart or did not work harder that I have ever worked.

And in high school I had a drafting teacher that took an interest in me and taught me how to do house plans and I was in business my second year out of school and thought it was because of me.

Woe to the rich!

It does not mean it’s impossible. All things with God are possible. But it’s extremely hard for Americans to come into the reign. I believe that’s applicable. It’s extremely hard. The most difficult mission field in the world is here in the West, in America. The church is growing; the kingdom is increasing by leaps and bounds in third-world countries. Percentiles are in the 1000s. And we are dying here.

And we are so arrogant that we believe that if God’s going to move in the earth it’s going to begin here. All you have to do is listen to what we are saying publicly. Listen to our mission endeavors. We see ourselves as the largest mission country in the world. That’s a lie. That’s a lie. We are the largest funded, do it on an American scale, mission country in the world. And God has used the mission movement in America. I’m not decrying that. But I am here to tell you that there are churches in China that are sending out thousands with nothing; no purse, no bread, no support. They are doing it. Thousands! And they are looking to the Middle East and they’re praying for America and the west. And we are so trapped by that but even when we hear it from a John Brown, if we had a choice between two fronts, we’ll pick the one where we are losing. Is it starting to register a little?

We’ve got to change our paradigm. We’ve got to see out of His eyes. We cannot say that it is a mistake in Luke because it does not say, “poor in spirit.” You cannot say that’s an error; that’s a half truth, that’s not a full truth. It is a full truth, but He has something more to say.

Advertisements

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 – 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 – 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.

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 pt II – Three Who Would Follow

March 23, 2009

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

Holes for Homes –

Luke 9:57 – 58:

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

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

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

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

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

Leave It To The World –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Behind Us –

The third man’s story begins in verse 61.

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 17, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Night in Jail –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s faith. That’s to believe.

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

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – 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.

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.