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.

GOVERNMENT OF GOD – Made For God

April 5, 2009

Introduction –

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

Made For God –

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

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

OFFER OF THE KINGDOM pt II – A Radical Decision

April 2, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Go to Matthew chapter 19.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OFFER OF THE KINGDOM 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.

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 – Believing vs. Doing

March 20, 2009

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

Verse 44 of John 12:

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

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

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

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

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

In John chapter 17, verse 3, Jesus prays.

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

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

Now go down to verse 8.

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

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

Now turn to 1 John chapter 2, verse 4.

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

Then verses 5 and 6:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE OFFER OF THE KINGDOM – Provision for the Church

March 19, 2009

It is God’s provision. Faith is God’s provision. Believing on the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s provision that delivers us from our own will that enables us to surrender our will to His will. And it is this surrender of both our reign and will that enables us to receive the offer of His reign in our heart.

And I’m convinced that many in the modern church have never made that transaction. I’m convinced that for many in what we know as the church there has never been that surrender because He’s not reigning. And His will is not coming forth in their lives. I believe the most fruitful mission field in the world is in the American church because I believe there are untold multitudes within the church that are hungry for reality and they’ve never heard about how to surrender their reign and their will and to receive His reign and His will into their heart. That’s why the Lord has led me to write this book, so that you can take this teaching back into the church and into your Sunday school classes and in your small groups and in your relationships. You can share the good news that God is offering us His reign and His will to our hearts. And it is not a demand – he has made provision by way of repentance and faith.

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

March 17, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Night in Jail –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s faith. That’s to believe.

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