Proclaiming a Message of Good News and Hope to our generation!

Month: March 2019

The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, Part 2

First the Kingdom, part 11: The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, Part 2

Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to nature in the manner of its growth. He said that the tiny mustard seed had the potential to grow far beyond its original size. He also noted that amazing things happen in the earth while we sleep. A farmer does not have to stand over the area where he prepared the ground and planted the seed. The seed gradually absorbs moisture and nourishment from the ground, and extends its roots very quietly and steadily. Most of the growth is hidden at first, and even when visible it is not much to look at. Many months go by before the goal of the farmer is actually reached. Finally in the harvest season, he can bring in the visible proof of this process, providing food for many!

In modern times many are in such a rush to achieve their goals. They need to see results fast. I have noticed how excited people get in the process of new church buildings. They are usually eager to give money and time to something they can physically see come into view. I know buildings do not grow up overnight, but you can see fairly soon that digging has begun. All the heavy machinery is there throughout the process of preparing for water, gas and electric lines. Then the foundation is laid, walls go up followed by the roof. Sometimes progress is seen daily. Often it is at least weekly, unless held up by unfavorable weather.

Actual spiritual growth is different. Maybe that is why patience is so emphasized in the Bible. There are times when the seed is being sown, but very little growth is seen. The message of the Gospel and the teachings of Christ are being shared, but it takes time for hearts to be changed, and lives to reveal what God has done in them. This is both true with individuals and groups of people. Because things often move slowly, some become discouraged and even give up in the effort to spread His Word.

A common way to generate enthusiasm in a church is to start another building program. This really sparks interest. Today however, some folks are finding the joy of Other wonderful efforts that can equally spark interest. These might not draw as much attention, but they can be powerful expressions of the Kingdom of God in the earth. Things like prison ministry, small group Bible studies and House Church networks, prayer groups, recovery groups, serving the homeless or young families etc. These activities are the Church in action. They mirror the forward movement of the First Century Church.

If this message does one thing, I hope every one of you who feels insignificant in the Body of Christ will come to realize how powerful in Christ you really are! Paul in his letter to the Romans strongly urges his brothers and sisters in Christ in this way. In chapter 12 he tells them the greatest act of worship is to offer our bodies, our lives in service to God. This is different from the world in general and requires the transformation of the renewed mind. If you are feeling insignificant, then you need to have your mind renewed! Hear the Word of the Lord! God has given each of us a special capacity to serve and to bless others! Notice in Romans 12 that this is not limited to leadership gifts. He simply gives examples of some of the things that God might want to do through you. Don’t worry if your gift is not included in that list. It is the principle that counts. I have often noticed that the best environment for discovering your purpose is in the fellowship of small, dedicated groups of believers.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he explains how important it is for each person to fulfill his or her purpose. As each organ and part of the human body needs to do its part for the body to be healthy, so it is with the Church, the Body of Christ. As each part functions, the whole body becomes stronger and grows to the full potential that it has in Christ. This is real Kingdom growth. While a church building with a sign on its door can become filled with people, that does not necessarily translate to the growth of the Body of Christ. In fact, up to half and even more in some situations are not even born-again children of God!

The growth of the Body of Christ cannot be measured by the size of the building or the numbers in the seats. Thank God for buildings full of people who are hearing the Gospel and learning about Christ! But thank God also for the small groups all over the world that only God can count. Those who deeply love Jesus, and one another. It can become a problem in our modern culture for the people in large meetings to miss the growth the comes through true fellowship. To some, church is sitting in a pew for an hour and watching others perform. Then they go home and return to their ordinary lives, missing the joy of participation in the adventure that is the Kingdom of God!

If you have ever tasted of the vital church experience that even in a small way resembles that of the Church in the book of Acts, you know what I am talking about. I have found that I can no longer be satisfied with anything less. While I love large gatherings with dynamic music and powerful preaching, I have found that face-to-face gatherings and one-on-one fellowship are much more important to me. This is where I learn of the great value that Christ has invested in my fellow believers.

In this context I have watched when an individual confesses a need, and others who never speak up in the public service rush in with compassion and support. Then there are the times when I discover that someone was confused by what was said from the pulpit, but was not free to ask a question. This is where the small group can greatly help bring understanding and at the same time build relationships with one another. This is where we discover that we are not a corporation, but a family!

Speaking only from my own experience, it is only too easy to think of people as a necessary component of the church, and not the church itself. Sometimes we even tend to think that the people are there to support the pastors, teachers and evangelists so that they can do the work of the ministry. As a matter of fact, in God it is the other way around! These are gifted to the Church to equip the members for their individual ministries!

We need the Biblical view that each follower of Christ is a member of this supernatural Body in which Jesus Himself lives! The material building is only important for how well it provides a place for the Body of Christ to meet. The Early Church met from house to house and in the Temple courts in Jerusalem. Elsewhere they took advantage of any suitable venue. In fact, the true temple to them was made up of individual living stones, that together made up the House of God!

It is important to notice that during the period before the building of dedicated church buildings, the growth the Church was phenomenal! The Kingdom of God is about transformed hearts, minds and lives. This hidden work is much more effective in transforming society than a great show of success on television. History will bear this out. George Whitfield along with John and Charles Wesley did most of their work in the open air in 18th Century England. Then they organized small groups for discipleship outside of the established Church. During this period the Gospel of Jesus Christ transformed England in many visible ways. Look it up!

It is time that God’s people allowed themselves to realise that He is not confined to special buildings we call “churches,” but He is everywhere His people are! If we return to the simple pattern we see in the New Testament, we will see how the Holy Spirit of God can work through us in wonderful ways as well, and we will experience the true freedom that He has always desired for us!

We hope this series on First the Kingdom has been helpful to you. To continue in this study with us, we invite you to “like” and “follow” https://www.facebook.com/livingtruthcom/ or subscribe to our blog on https://www.livingtruth.com

The Mustard Seed Conspiracy

First the Kingdom, part 10, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy

What we have been discussing in these podcasts is nothing less than the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ over the whole earth. For thousands of years the prophets foretold of His reign. Then from the very beginning of the New Testament, it was announced that the time for His reign had come. Everything Jesus had to say was related to the Kingdom of God. Great crowds of people rallied around His message and to receive the benefits of His healing powers. But most finally rejected Him when He failed to meet their expectations of Him.

A small band of followers stayed with Him and became His closest friends. To them He explained the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. Yes, it was real and very near. Yes it would come in power and the glory of God. Yes it would change everything. But only those who would patiently trust and learn from Him would be prepared for it. Only they would have special insight into what form and how it would appear.

In the story of course, it does not appear that the disciples and apostles understood everything perfectly. Their greatest struggle was with how He should die on a cross. After His resurrection, He was able to make things clearer. In fact He took them through the writings of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms and opened their understanding of the scriptures concerning Him. (Luke 24:44-45). This is the work of what Paul called the “spirit of wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of Christ.” (Ephesians 1:17-18)

Before His crucifixion, Jesus told them that the Spirit of Truth, Who was with them, would soon be in them. After His resurrection, Jesus explained the Kingdom of God to them even further before He ascended to His throne of authority in Heaven. Soon after, about 120 of them were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, and began with great authority to declare His Lordship to the world! You see, there is intellectual truth, and their is also experiential truth. His Lordship was not academic to them. His Lordship was real and wonderful. The Kingdom did not come unto them from looking at the skies, or observing the political scene! The Kingdom of God was within them, to demonstrate His power in the earth!

Even then they struggled to understand the relationship between the Old Testament or Old Covenant and the New Covenant that Jesus introduced. In time the Holy Spirit would work this out, but they were already on their way in this adventure to “turn the world upside down!”

We have the advantage of hindsight in looking back at what they experienced and what followed. There were times when the Kingdom was so overwhelming that it looked as if paradise would be returning to the whole earth in a matter of weeks or months. Many gladly sold their possessions and freely shared with those in need. The euphoria did not last, however. The comfort of the Holy Spirit would never leave them, but circumstances would often test their faith in the future of God’s people and His Kingdom.

Persecution, famine, and various trials would come on the young church, and yet it continued to grow. over time, the hope for the Kingdom on earth was replaced with contentment to experience it in the next life. It was left to people like Peter and Paul to keep the expectation and the vision of it alive. To them knowing Jesus and that He said His reign had begun was enough.

We live in a time when many have failed to see the long-term the progress of the Kingdom in the earth. The freedom it brought us has long been taken for granted. When modern Christians see the rise of crime, immorality, terrorism, injustice, pornography, addictions and abortion, they become discouraged. All that is left is to await the end. Those of us who continue to look for more of the Kingdom to come, as God’s will is being done in this earth, are ridiculed. They think we are like those who would “polish the brass on a sinking ship,” or those who “rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

It is only by Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation that we can see the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is Lord of all right now! He came to reconcile mankind to God two thousand years ago, and began His reign in the heart of a few. Like that grain of wheat or mustard seed He fell to the ground and died. He planted His life in the hearts of His followers and also in the collective consciousness of humanity. The world can never be the same! As evidence of this, we mark time around the world from the approximate date of His birth in Bethlehem! (Mark 4:26-34, John 12:23-25)

The heart of the Kingdom of God is of course the converted sinner, who lives to love and serve Him. But changes in society are also the result of the leaven of the Kingdom of God, leavening the whole loaf. Rome itself eventually bowed to Jesus Christ. The empire imperfectly served Him as did institutional Christianity. In spite of the imperfections, the drive for a better and just society has persisted. We realize that every advance of the Kingdom has been met with great opposition. Some through violence and others through subtle deception.

It has to be either fear or faith. When we consider only the outward appearances we might become overconfident when things go our way, or discouraged when the other side begins to succeed. The key is to stay focused on Christ and the work He is doing. Everywhere great victories are going unnoticed, just as in the days of the Roman Empire. Will we trust in the methods of Jesus, and follow Him to where ever He leads? Or will we assume the methods of the world, force, intimation, putting forth a false image, trying to impress people instead of pleasing God? If a shepherd boy could stand before a giant armed only with a slingshot and the Name of the LORD, Why do we think we need Saul’s armor?

As for me, I will stand with the meek and humble, those who believe that all things are possible with God. They take the Word of God and live in it by His power and grace! They know that the Father will take the hidden things that are pure and faithful to bring down tyrannical kingdoms that exist for their own glory. Next time we will take a closer look at the simple, and yet effective strategy that Christ has always used to extend His Kingdom here on earth.

We hope this series on First the Kingdom has been helpful to you. To continue in this study with us, we invite you to “like” and “follow” https://www.facebook.com/livingtruthcom/ or subscribe to our blog on https://livingtruth.com

The Simplicity of Christ

First the Kingdom, part 9: The Simplicity of Christ

When dealing with the Kingdom of God it can easily become overcomplicated. Jesus had a way of hiding His message from the proud, the arrogant, and those who seemed to be wise. At the same time He could bring the most powerful teachings to the uneducated, whose hearts had been melted by His gracious nature. Of course God can use anyone, even intellectuals, for he took an intelligent, educated man like Paul, and broke him down to see the simplicity of Christ!

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The Time is Fulfilled!

First the Kingdom part 8, The Time is Fulfilled

It has been said that in the Old Testament the New Testament is concealed, and in the New Testament, the Old Testament is revealed. This is not immediately evident. This realization comes over time and after much searching and illumination of the Holy Spirit. The writers of the New Testament almost force us to this conclusion. Because they had to deal with the biblical scholars of their day, they went to great lengths to show how everything that had transpired in the life of Jesus had been foretold in the Scriptures.

Jesus Himself pointed out that He came to fulfill everything that was written about Him in the ancient writings. (Luke 24:44). Paul also basically said that everything He came to teach and proclaim was based upon what was written in the sacred Hebrew scriptures. (Acts 26:22)

These things were concealed in such a way that even His disciples first missed them until Jesus “opened their understanding.” (Luke 24:45) Paul explained how this was the operation of the “spirit of wisdom and revelation” that is available to believers who receive it. Many of the prophetic predictions concerning Jesus and the coming Kingdom we have discussed in the previous lesson.

There are many fascinating studies of the Old Testament references to Jesus and His ministry which the writer to the Hebrews called “shadows” and “types.” Special events and the Levitical system of animal and grain sacrifices depict the manner in which Jesus would finally atone for our sins and give us an example to follow. Even the stories of many Old Testament individuals like Joseph, Moses and David would also become examples of some of the traits that Jesus would fully display in the New Testament era.

This series is mainly focusing on the importance of the Kingdom of God in the Old and New Testament. The Old Testament looks forward to it, the New Testament reveals the way in which it is fulfilled. In fact, Mark’s Gospel states this from the start. After telling of John, the forerunner baptizing Jesus, and the following temptation of Jesus, he writes:

Mark 1:14-15:
Now after John had been taken into 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.” 
NASU

Let us look at this closely. We know that God has always been sovereign over His creation. There has never been a time when He was not in control. However, the coming of the Kingdom of God is related to this specific time. Something was near that was not so near before! Change was coming to that place and in that time, according to Jesus and John. There seems to be two tendencies when people think of the Kingdom of God. One is that the Kingdom has to be more like an earthly authority that is exercised by force, the other is that it is only like a personal spiritual experience.

Even among those who followed Jesus there was confusion about what to expect. In fact they were shocked when He told them that He would be crucified in Jerusalem, and even more shocked when it happened! After His resurrection they were of course relieved, but He continued to explain the Kingdom to them during the 40 days up to His Ascension! They must have understood things somewhat better then. Earlier when He told them He would have to leave in order for the Holy Spirit to come, they were full of sorrow. Now, when His physical form was taken from them, they were actually rejoicing! From that time forward they proclaimed Him as Lord and King, ruling from heaven, and sending them forth to declare His Kingdom had come!

It would be difficult to deny that Jesus did come to bring a spiritual experience. My problem is with those who limit it to that. As I have pointed out, there is a time element to the Kingdom of God. It was alluded to in the book of Daniel. In the days of the kingdoms that came down to the days of the Roman Empire, the God of Heaven would set up a kingdom that would consume all other kingdoms and be established forever! We cannot disconnect the words spoken by God before from the Words of Christ Who came to fulfill them. We are concerned with the whole counsel of God!

It does take a spiritual experience, being born from above to see the Kingdom of God has come! And yet, the same Holy Spirit can and will transform our lives to the extent that others can see it too! Moses had to prove to Pharaoh that his was the true God. Jesus proved He was the Messiah to His own people by undeniable miracles and teaching with great authority. But the nation of Israel as a whole did not see the truth because Rome appeared to still be in power in the end.

If they had understood the parables of Jesus they would have understood that Rome’s days were truly numbered. The Kingdom of God did come in power 50 days after the Crucifixion and religious Jews from all over the Roman Empire witnessed it! Thousands of pilgrims who came to the yearly ceremonies were caught up into the wonderful presence of God along with the early apostles and disciples. Jerusalem was the first “beachhead” to borrow from a World War II analogy. Later, Samaria, Antioch, Ephesus, Alexandria, and Rome itself would become infiltrated with the Gospel of the Kingdom of God!

There were both great explosions of supernatural transformation and small, unnoticed advances as well. Jesus explained that growth often takes place in the darkness of the earth and in the chemical reactions between leaven and bread. This is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. All the while the great Rock is rolling over the kingdoms of hatred, jealousy, murder, and injustice around the world, even impacting the political forces that express them, until the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea! (Isaiah 11:9).

We hope this series on First the Kingdom has been helpful to you. To continue in this study with us, we invite you to “like” and “follow” https://www.facebook.com/livingtruthcom/ or subscribe to our blog on https://livingtruth.com

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