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!
The devil hates the Gospel of the Kingdom. It is most dangerous to his domain. It does not concern him if we stay in our little circles and comfort one another in the knowledge that heaven awaits us. If we devote most of our time and resources to building great monuments to the prophets and to polishing their sepulchres, he is not hindered. He loves it when we attack one another over subtle differences and interpretations of Scripture. As long as we are not transformed into warriors for the Kingdom of God, he is pleased.
But venture out into the call of Christ to kingdom living and proclaiming, and it becomes a different story. You will easily become misunderstood or overlooked, even discredited. While the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is the most liberating word that you will ever hear, it is also the most threatening to our adversary’s power. Why do you think that the religious authorities in Jerusalem, and the political authorities in Rome were so fearful of it?
It seems the enemies tactic today is basically to encourage people to ignore it. He can so easily entice them to an easy form of religion that requires absolutely nothing of them. They might be willing to pay a price to achieve their own personal safety and comfort, but dying to self for an unworthy world full of sinners? Now that is something else!
The Gospel of the Kingdom is simple, and yet powerful. We are challenged first to repent. This is a very unpopular message. We want to hear that we are all okay. Even repentance has been watered down to just “thinking positive.” Jesus would say that we can only be positive after we faced the negative fact about our selves. “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have gone our own way.” The solution according to Jesus is to lose your life for His sake! Reject the way you are going and follow Him!
Where is He going? To the Cross! The only way to understand and to receive the genuine reality of God’s purpose for us and this world He has created is to lose our lives and to find them in Him! This is not theory or a good idea. This is reality — a wonderful reality to those who accept it! When we repent and believe the Gospel that Jesus has presented we are empowered to live as our Maker intended.
From the outside it might appear that we are hindered from the freedom that others desire. The truth is that He has given us freedom from the things that imprison those very same observers.
The situation is so simple it seems complicated. Life for humans in the very beginning was easy, pleasurable and wonderful. The descriptive word is paradise. Now the modern man has a problem. How can he explain the desire every human being has for something we have never seen? we tell fairy stories and fantasies about something we have absolutely no reason to believe exists, outside of the fact that God has placed it into every heart.
Scientists might tell us that survival belongs only to the strong, and that evolution is making us better and stronger all the time. And yet, there is this desire to save the weak creatures in this planet. Why? Because God has set eternity in our hearts. we know instinctively that something is not right when the strong destroy the weak.
Because repentance and submission to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords sounds so difficult, we choose the harder way. The very concept of the Kingdom of God is now being used as a means to an end. This too is the work of the devil. He wants you to believe the Kingdom of God is only for your benefit. To many today it is not about losing your life for Christ sake. To many it is about gaining the whole world instead, and ultimately missing the opportunity to live as Christ lived, for others.
The short term benefits of preaching, teaching the man-centered gospel will never bring back paradise. Today I would like to challenge some of you to catch a vision of something greater than yourselves. It is more glorious than you can imagine, but the Holy Spirit of God is pleased to share it with you! It is not a passing fancy or a whim of some man or woman. It is the eternal purpose of the eternal God Who made it all! He is looking for partners. not that He needs anyone, but it His joy to share His plan and purpose with the likes of you and I!
This is not about winning a doctrinal debate. It is about finding completeness in Jesus Himself. It was His joy and passion to declare the appearing of the Kingdom of God to us. It is His pleasure to fill us with the life of His Kingdom and to rule and reign through us, to restore Paradise to the people He so loves!
There is strong opposition to this simple truth. I know. I have faced this opposition in many forms for over forty years. I stand here in the knowledge of what God has blessed us with, certainly not in my own strength or resolve. My own resolve would have failed me decades ago. I have struggled all of my life to maintain an optimistic outlook, only to see my optimism struck down time and again. But the vision of the Kingdom of God as it has already appeared to so many will not leave me. I can still see the continuing work of God even now as the Knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea!
The Gospel of the Kingdom is very powerful, but it is difficult to accept the simplicity that is in it. Yet for many thousands of years, we have taken for granted that a small seed from any living plant will reproduce the very plant that yielded it. Jesus explained how the Kingdom of God increases by this same principle. He said it was like a very small seed that is sown in a field, which grows into a much larger plant, bearing herbs for nourishment and providing places for birds to nest. (Matthew 13:31-32, Luke 13:18-19)
He further explains this process in John 12:23-25:
And Jesus answered them, saying, ” The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. ” He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.
Notice that first of all He is telling about the Cross upon which He will soon die. His sacrifice will be like a seed planted into the earth that will grow up and reproduce itself. The fruit of His death will bring untold millions into the Kingdom of God, and thus will His influence in the earth grow! But He does not leave it there. Those disciples He has called to repentance are to continue in a lifestyle of yielding their wills to God’s greater purpose and glory. This life of “falling to the ground and dying” is the secret to the simplicity of the Gospel!
There was a time in my younger days when I felt I had nothing left to lose. I had been resisting the call of God upon my life for far too long. Finally when I gave up on my personal plans I surrendered to my Heavenly Father. It was then that I learned the beauty in the truth that Jesus taught. The more that I let go of my personal plans, the more that God’s better and more wonderful plan was revealed! It was then, some 45 years ago that my fascination with God’s Kingdom began!
Realizing that each of us have a specific part to play in the Kingdom, I have discovered that my part has been to glean from others from both the past and the present and attempt to paint a picture as clear and understandable as possible of God’s Eternal Purpose in His Kingdom. This Kingdom is a place of victory over sin, hatred, defeat in the lives of individuals, but also of nations! That aspect can often be forgotten. Our God is not prone to failure. He can and will complete His plan until the “knowledge of the glory of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea!”
His victory is not won by military or political conquest. It is won by sacrifice and devotion. Jesus won the greatest victory over sin and death for all time, and He is calling for us to follow Him in that victory. Some have faced a literal death, but most will learn that our victory is in sacrificing our will to the will of the Father. We too become the seed that falls to the ground in order to bear much fruit!
While this idea might seem revolting for some, those who have tasted of the sweet comfort and presence of the Holy Spirit understand how He outweighs any discomfort that we experience in our natural state. His is a love that is absolutely overwhelming! So sad it is that in our blindness we resist His love for fear of losing that which does not even compare in value!
The last thing I desire is to be controversial or critical. Far be it from me to judge the motives of others. But deception is real. Many are following those who will appeal to their human desires for pleasure, comfort, popularity and material wealth. Jesus and the apostles warned of this. None of these compare to a genuine, trusting, loving, and obedient relationship with the Creator of the universe! Certainly He has good things for those who love Him in this life, but chasing after things is antithetical to the Gospel of the Kingdom!
Seeking first the Kingdom is not in order to get what we want in material substance. It actually frees us from worrying about our need for these things!
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