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

Tag: Holy Spirit

Freedom!

First the Kingdom part 31, “Freedom”
Today’s topic has long been a favorite of mine. I grew up in the sixties, when many young people were seeking freedom from the constraints of society. The civil rights movement, and the Vietnam war was largely in the news and pressing on our minds. The pressure to get a job and find a career also was one more thing to infringe upon a young persons sense of freedom. All of this gave birth to the hippy movement with its search for freedom of thought and action, expressed powerfully in the music of that time.

While all of this appealed to me back then, it was not long until I realized the search for freedom can become a trap and form of bondage in itself. It was at this point that I cried out to God and finally found the freedom that I really and truly needed the most.

The thread of this topic goes all the way back to the beginning. Adam and Eve in the garden knew freedom as it had not been known since before the fall. And yet, they had one restriction placed upon them. That one restriction must have weighed on their minds and distracted them from what they already could so easily and freely enjoy at the hand of their Creator.

Think of it! They had the very priviledge of walking and talking with God in the cool of the day! And yet they were not truly free internally. They wanted their independance from their Creator, to decide for themselves what was good or evil, right or wrong. This led to the loss of their external freedom in a sense as they were thrust out of Paradise.

The pursuit of freedom to fulfill our own fleshly desires has always brought us to bondage in the end. Yet God in His great love for His creation has always had a plan. He chose Noah to preserve the human race from the judgment of the great flood. He chose Abraham to begin a great family of faithful believers through whom He would teach the world of His ways.

When they found themselves under the oppression of Egypt, they cried out unto the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He raised up Moses to deliver them, and through mighty signs, wonders and miracles freed them from slavery. Yet, even as he was leading them out of Egypt it was discovered that much of Egypt was still in them!

After 40 years a new generation would take on the task of conquering the Land of Promise. Jehovah had intended for this nation to become a kingdom of priests, but the majority rejected this priviledge, which was accepted by the tribe of Levi. He also wanted to be their King, but they wanted an earthly king instead. The true freedom of living fully in the Kingdom of Heaven would be a long way off.

By the time of the New Testament, they had been conquered and occupied by Babylon, Greece and finally Rome. But many continued to cling to the promises from God through His prophets, that a glorious time would come, where all nations would look to them to be taught the wonderful ways of their God. In Nebukanezzers dream, it was revealed to Daniel that the power of all previous kingdoms would be destroyed by their Messiah, depicted as a Great Rock descending from the Mountain of God!

From this they envisioned a great military leader who would crush the power of their oppressors, not a humble Lamb who would offer His Life for their sins. When the angel told Joseph of Christ’s birth, he said, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.”

Then Jesus began His public ministry. Instead of raising an army, He urgently called for  the people to repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. This was the very same Kingdom that Daniel referred too when He said, “In the days of these kings, the God of Heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed!”

However, His description of this Kingdom was not like what most had pictured in their minds. In His primary claim of fulfilling the scriptures, He read from Isaiah 61:1-2.

(Luke 4:14-21:)
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  NIV

In Leviticus 25 we are told that every 50th year was to be a time of restoration and freedom, known as the year of Jubilee. The inscription on our Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is a reference to this year as written in Leviticus 25:10:
“proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof”

We don’t know how many times in the history of Israel this year was observed, but by the time of Christ it must have been long overdue! In any case, the people in His home town were outraged by His claiming to be the Messiah and that He would be the one to declare the year of jubilee!

He would continue to describe a Kingdom that was not like any other kingdom. Its rulers would be servants, rather than lords. It would be a realm where compassion and love ruled. It was one that you could not even tell when and from where it was coming. It would be a domain where God would change stony hearts into warm and tender hearts. He would write His laws into their hearts and minds, and all would know Him!

He did not just come to save His people from Rome, but to save them from their sins. The freedom that He came to bring was true freedom for them to live as God had planned for them from the beginning. In fact, the root word for His Name in Hebrew actually means, “to be open and free.”

God cares for the whole person, spirit, soul and body. He also cares about our physical circumstances, but the freedom He brings starts inside of us. We are truly changed from the inside out. This becomes evident as our circumstances often change because of changes in our behavior. The law of love that is written on our hearts and minds guides us in our decisions, and the Holy Spirit empowers us to follow through with those decisions!

John 8:31-32:
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  NIV

So hearing, receiving, understanding and following the truth is critical to obtaining and maintaining freedom. Is it possible to be a Christian and have your sins forgiven, but still not live the full, abundant life and in the fulness of the freedom that Christ has brought us?  It would seem so. As believers our justification is finished, but our sanctification is on going.

While it is crucial for us to believe Jesus when He said that the time for the kingdom had come, it is equally important to believe Him when He said there is more to come!  We are being changed from glory to glory!

Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians of this battle we are waging against evil. He also wrote this in his letter to the Galatians:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

While people at that time were trying to bring them under the law of circumcision, I would suggest that a great number of things are attempting to enslave us today!

He continues, Galatians 5:13-26:
You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”   If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;  idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. NIV

The Thread of Freedom runs through the entire bible, beginning in Genesis
The great struggle against slavery is depicted in Exodus, with Moses leading his people to freedom
The freedom won by Moses was difficult to maintain, as the people were often unfaithful to God
Jesus came to win the final victory over the source of bondage — sin!
In the New Covenant we are free by the grace of God working from the inside out.

We are called to stand in His freedom by living and walking in the Spirit of God, bearing His fruits!

So hear we are, living, growing and learning of Him, being encouraged by these words of Paul:

Romans 12:1-2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.  NIV
This is Kingdom life, this is true freedom!

And yet, there is one more point on standing fast in the Freedom that Christ has won for us: I personally have found that my freedom is related to the freedom of others. One of the best proofs we are truly living and walking in the Spirit is found in our concern for the freedom of others.
True freedom is experienced as we share the love of God with others!

The Young Church In Action!

From the preface of J.B. Phillips translation of Acts, “The Young Church In Action:”
 
“It is impossible to spend several months in close study of the remarkable short book, conventionally known as the Acts of the Apostles, without being profoundly stirred and to be honest, disturbed. The reader is stirred because he is seeing Christianity, the real thing, in action for the first time in human history. The newborn Church, as vulnerable as any human child, having neither money, influence nor power in any ordinary sense, is setting forth joyfully  and courageously to win the pagan world for God through Christ. The young Church, like all young creatures, is appealing in its simplicity and its singleheartedness. Here we are seeing the Church in its first youth, valiant and unspoiled — a body of ordinary men and women joined in an unconquerable fellowship never before seen on this earth.
 
“Yet we cannot help feeling disturbed as well as moved, for this is surely the Church as it was meant to be. It is vigorous and flexible, for these are the days before it  . . . .  became fat and short of breath through prosperity, or muscle bound by over organization. These men did not make ‘acts of faith’ they believed. They did not ‘say their prayers,’ they really prayed.  They did hold conferences on psychosomatic medicine, they simply healed the sick. But if they were uncomplicated and naive by modern standards, we have ruefully to admit that they were open on the God-ward side in a way that is almost unknown today.”

Kingdom Power

First the Kingdom Part 23: Kingdom Power

There was a man sent from God whose name is John. In fact his mission was determined before he was born. He was filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mothers womb. Instead of following in his fathers path as a priest of the levitical order, he would be the prophet to herald the coming of the Messiah of Israel.

The people who heard his message were called to repent of their sins because the Kingdom of God was near. Then they followed him into the Jordan River to be ceremonially cleansed as a part of their repentance. He would not permit his disciples to put their faith in him. He said another would come after he had baptized them in the water. John did not even feel worthy to take off the shoes of this one to wash His feet. He told them this this one would baptize them in the Holy Spirit and fire.

When Jesus came to be baptized by his cousin John, John refused. He would rather be baptized by Jesus. But Jesus insisted. When Jesus came up out of the water the heavens opened unto Him, a voice then came saying, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” Then the Holy Spirit came and landed upon Him like a dove. From that time on, Jesus began demonstrating the power of God, the power of the Kingdom through the working of healings, miracles and delivering people from demon possession.

Both John and Jesus placed strong emphasis on Holy, godly living. They both respected the law of Moses which stood at the heart of the nation of Israel but they were also quick to point out that there was a wrong and a right way to observe the law. As other prophets of Israel they scolded the people who outwardly kept the law, while their hearts were far from loving the God Who graciously saved them from slavery.

Neither John nor Jesus left the people with heavy moral demands and no hope for fulfilling them. John told of the Holy Spirit and fire to come, and Jesus proved what the Holy Spirit could do to heal the minds, hearts and bodies of those who cried out to God for help. We must keep in mind that all of this is consistent with the history of Israel. Abraham and Sarah by faith received the miracle of a child in their old age, Jacob encountered God at Bethel and later received His blessing. Joseph had the help of the Spirit to interpret dreams for Pharaoh, and Moses was empowered by God to work miracles before Pharaoh and Israel. After that judges like Samson were empowered by the Holy Spirit with special abilities to serve the nation. David was anointed by the Spirit of God and was blessed to lead the armies and the nation. Solomon received supernatural wisdom, and prophets like Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Daniel served the people as the Holy Spirit spoke the Word of God through them.

It has always been this principle, God resists the proud, but give grace unto the humble.

If this message accomplishes anything at all, I hope and pray that you will be encouraged to humble yourselves before Him. It does not matter how successful you are in this life or if you were raised in a Christian home and never strayed from the faith. We all need to be humble before God. There is often a serious lack of supernatural ability in Christians to overcome temptations, fears, addictions, bad attitudes etc. Could the reason for this be that we have failed to received the fullness of this baptism, this gift that God through Christ has offered us? Could it be that we have been too proud to admit our need?

In John 3:3-5 Jesus said that we must be born of the water and the Spirit to enter into the Kingdom of God. I doubt that anyone reading this or hearing this podcast would argue that anyone could come to Christ without the help of the Holy Spirit. If any change of heart ever comes we know it had to come from the intervention of God and His grace. I certainly hope that you do not credit yourself with becoming a new creation, or a better person!

Is the New Birth the one and only act of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer? Jesus had dozens of followers before Calvary. Some of them had even been given the authority to work miracles as well. But there was an even greater work of the Holy Spirit to come. Jesus said that rivers of living water would flow out from the innermost being of those who believed in Him. When John the apostle recorded this statement he explained that this would happen after Jesus would be glorified. After His resurrection, Jesus told them how the time for Kingdom power was very near.

Christians believe that the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ was a world-changing event. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not counting their sins against them. The only thing left is for us is to receive the benefit of this reconciling work. This is where the preaching of the Gospel comes in. How can people believe in someone they do not know? How can they know if they are not told? How can they be told if God does not send his messengers? So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.(Romans 10:13-17).

The Cross and Resurrection of Christ makes everything else possible, including the promised coming of the Holy Spirit in power. People need to also hear the good news that God has provided all the power we will ever need to live in His Kingdom now. That aspect of the Gospel must also be proclaimed and believed. For thousands of years this truth has been largely forgotten. Today it is being declared around the world that kingdom power is available to those who believe, but amidst great confusion and controversy.

However in the Bible we see no evidence of a controversy on this subject. John and Jesus foretold of an immersion in the Holy Spirit, Luke in Acts detailed exactly how that happened. Calvary was a one-time, once and for all time event. Then the Day of Pentecost, when Christ poured out His Spirit on all humanity was the fruit of that. Together these two world-changing events herald the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the beginning of God’s Kingdom reign upon this earth! However, are there many who have received the gift of forgiveness brought at Calvary, but not the infusion of power brought at Pentecost? How can they know since they have not heard?

In Acts chapter nineteen there where some people in Ephesis who had heard the Gospel of the Kingdom most likely from disciples of John the Baptist. Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed, to which they answered, “we did not even know there was a Holy Spirit!” These folks were sincere, humble and hungry for God. They immediately received the more complete Gospel from Paul, were baptized in the Name of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit, evidenced by the gifts of tongues and prophesy.

Since the early Twentieth Century, more people have become aware of the power that has been available to believers since the Day of Pentecost. In their zeal to encourage other believers to receive this power they have stirred up controversy and a division exists among us to this day. Not only that, but counterfeit demonstrations of power have added to the controversy. The lack of discernment among those of us who accept any strange phenomena as from the Holy Spirit is also a problem.

Once God called His people to “come, let us reason together.” Could it be that the time has come to reason together on controversial subjects like End-time prophecy, the sign gifts, and the supernatural manifestations of the Kingdom of God? Established teachings for many generations have accepted that the days of miracles were over near the end of the apostolic era. It is acknowledged that the inspired writings of that first generation of church leaders have secured the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” The foundation has been laid for the church of later generations, and the basic errors have all been addressed. Therefore some reason that miracles are no longer useful or needed.

Even the controversy we are discussing has already been addressed in the New Testament! Paul explained that love is the greatest gift of all, but that we should still desire spiritual gifts so that we could build up one another in love! Why is this important?

The fact is that confidence in the bible is at an all-time low in our day, even among some who claim to be Christians! The same power of God that worked miracles to validate the message of the kingdom that the apostles brought is needed today. While we recognize that the Holy Spirit Himself has always validated the Word of God in the hearts of hearers throughout the ages, there is no indication in the Bible that God has stopped performing miracles for this same purpose.

While Jesus chastised those who clamor after signs alone, He continued to shock His generation with infallible proofs of His calling and message. Like Peter, who stepped out of the boat to meet Jesus on the water, may we focus on Jesus, His beauty, glory, power and love, step out in faith when He bids us, and trust in Him to support us when we fail. That risk is always possible, but the greatest failure might be to not step out at all!

The Kingdom Perspective

First the Kingdom, Part 12, The Kingdom Perspective

With all this talk about the Kingdom of God, some might wonder “what’s the big deal?” Does it really matter that we think in terms of how our actions are involved in this grand plan that seems to be taking a very long time to complete? Besides that, the majority report does not even agree with the things I have been saying. Who are we to question the more famous Biblical scholars in our day?

Today I will be taking the opportunity to address these questions. First of all, I hope that you will not be simply persuaded by my exhortations but by the Holy Spirit Himself, and through your own thorough studies of the scriptures. I am convinced that given that investment, you will at least see that the Good News of the Kingdom of God was important to Jesus. If understanding, loving and serving Him is important to you, this should become a priority in your life. He instructed His followers to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. He also told His disciples to pray that the Kingdom would come, and that God’s will would be done in earth as in heaven. Finally He told His followers to repeat everything he told them to the nations as they were being discipled! That in itself is a very big deal.

There is the fact that the Christian faith is advancing God’s will in the earth already, even among people who are not consciously thinking in these terms. God is always at work within us to fulfill His good pleasure, even when we do not fully know His plan. However, there are advantages to understanding His plan. And I think I have the backing of the apostles, prophets and even Jesus in that statement. There is the matter of having light on our path, a vision that we might not lose direction, and the wisdom that understanding brings.

Is it possible that believers in Christ could be more effective in spreading His Gospel than they already are? While I am encouraged by every sincere effort, some of the mistakes we make can easily undermine our efforts. Take for instance the competition that exists among churches. Is it possible that we have embarrassed ourselves in front of the watching world as we compete with one another over already converted souls? Would it not be much better to have a Kingdom perspective? Does Christ really receive the glory due His name when we are more concerned with pleasing people than Him? Why do we feel the need to constantly change our style of worship to keep up with the latest fad? Why do we fear losing members over trivial disagreements? why do we think so much about numbers and the church budget — things Jesus never talked about?

Is it because our vision is too small? Is it because we fail to present a victorious Savior who has no competition? Does a bigger, more luxurious building really serve to advance the Kingdom of God more than a small group praying in someone’s home? These are all things I have struggled with, and in which a greater perspective of the Kingdom has brought liberation.

While the Gospel is about meeting our need for deliverance from sin and death, it is also about satisfying the Father’s great desire for us! The Kingdom perspective is God’s perspective. It is the bigger picture. It is greater than our individual church groups. If all we are building is for our own church family, then maybe we are more interested in our own little kingdoms than God’s glorious eternal Kingdom that cannot be shaken or moved!

Here is a liberating thought: Everything is here for a purpose. Even after the fall due to Adam and Eve’s sin, there exists evidence of harmony in the universe. Life on earth depends up the balance between plant and animal life. Plants need carbon dioxide which animals generate, and animals need oxygen, which plants generate. The sun, moon and the planets move about in perfect order.

The only thing that is out of order is humanity.

The imperative, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” is the call for a “paradigm shift.” This is a change in perspective that works. It is a return to the balance and harmony that existed in the beginning. Paul the apostle put it this way, The Kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17) In this chapter, he was dealing with specific rules of conduct like the Jews had in their dietary laws. He was fine with those who continued to avoid certain foods according to their own consciences. It is just that the Kingdom of God is something else, on an entirely different plane. The paradigm shift is a shift in focus to this higher realm in God.

The shift in perspective that Jesus brought was to reorder our thinking to God’s thinking. He created each of us with a purpose. When we resist that purpose we are in fact resisting His righteousness, peace and joy.

It is also a change in allegiance. Whether we knew it or not, before the change in direction to follow Christ, we were actually in service to the enemy. Chaos is the devils friend. God’s order of righteousness, peace and joy is not easily seen from this lower, earthly plane of existence. That is why believers are called to seek those things which are above, and to be seated with Christ in heavenly places. Our enemy is in the business of distracting us, in order to keep our focus off of the Kingdom of God.

To seek first the Kingdom of God is to have a preoccupation with the person of Jesus Christ, His Lordship and His agenda in this world. If my traditions in the church begin to get in the way of His purpose, I have the freedom to let go of them. If my patterns of thinking are a hindrance, they can be cast aside as well. Sorry to say, some of this change has not been without an inner struggle. I have been so committed in the past to some beliefs and habits, that He had to literally tear them from me. And yet am I ever thankful that He did!

So here I am, reaching out to anyone who will listen, hoping others will receive what God has burned within my heart. The walls of traditional thinking have become so thick that my words often come bouncing back to me. Others who feel they have been freed from tradition can be equally hard to reach. The man-centered gospel has actually high-jacked Kingdom terminology to be grossly misused. It breaks my heart so see the greed, the pride, the arrogance of those who even see Christ as a means to getting the luxuries that they want in this world. It is even worse when this is identified with the Kingdom of God!

What will happen to these so-called “kingdom” people when the kingdoms of this world fail? Everything that can be shaken, will be shaken. If we are so tied to these worldly kingdoms, we too will fall. In Christ we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken, that will stand forever.

God is in the process of recruiting warriors who are willing to stand with Him. They see the bigger picture and are willing to deny themselves for a greater cause. If the cults and political activists can recruit their millions to support their vision of a perfect world, why is the church afraid to proclaim the true vision that God Himself has given to us? Jesus started with a small band of followers whose limited vision of the Kingdom enabled them to sacrifice their lives. How clear is your vision today? Will it sustain you through the times we are facing?

Our wonderful Lord encourages us with these words in Luke 12:32:

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
KJV

There must have been times when they trembled before the physical might of Rome. In Acts they gathered for prayer and God answered by filling them anew with the Holy Spirit and a greater boldness than before! What about us? Have we been intimidated by the recent flood of immorality in our modern world? Are we tempted to retreat into our Christian comfort zones? Or are we tempted to take up worldly weapons of anger, intimidation and the use of political power?

It amazes me that believers have so little interest in their history. We have so much to learn from the mistakes and the victories of the past. Those who had a direct connection with Jesus and His apostles were powerless in this world but oh so powerful in Christ! The more they were oppressed, the more victorious they became. Their total trust was in Christ, and not any worldly strategy.

Obedience to Jesus was their greatest weapon against the darkness.

Since we are 2,000 years removed from the experience of the early Christians, we tend to see things from our own perspective. And yet, we have the same Word of God and Spirit of God to help us recover the original intent of God, and how to apply the same simple and effective methods they used. I submit that their methods were effective primarily because of their Kingdom Perspective.

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 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 Armor of God

War and Peace

A great paradox as we live the life of faith in Jesus Christ is that of the existence of both war and peace. Because we have been forgiven and delivered from our past sinful lives we have peace with God and within ourselves. We have a wonderful sense of security and well-being in the knowledge of God’s love for us.

On the other hand, we are told that we have an enemy that would stop at nothing to destroy that peaceful relationship with God. He is very good at what he does, for he has been at it for quite a long time. He is sometimes called the devil or satan. The title devil comes from a Greek word that means slanderer, while satan is from a Hebrew word meaning opposer or adversary. Why our Lord permits this enemy to exist is known only to Him. It could be that we need the challenge for our spiritual growth. What ever the reason the fact remains, we have a powerful and cunning enemy.

As recipients of God’s love and grace we are given certain responsibilities to both protect ourselves and continue to bless and glorify our heavenly Father. We are warned by the apostles in their New Testament writings of the dangers our enemy presents and how to face them. The battle we face is commonly known as “spiritual warfare.”

In one sense we are already overcomers because the victory has already been won on our behalf by Christ. However, simple observation of Biblical history, church history, and present experience reveals that many sincere believers, whose salvation is secure in Christ, have fallen in their testimony for Christ.

My question for us all is, are we satisfied to have an eternal destiny in heaven secured, but uncaring for the testimony we have for Him now in this life? Do we not love Him such that we care enough to bring glory and honor to Him in this life? Should not our love for Him also extend to the rest of humanity, where many desperately need to see His love demonstrated by our living witness?

Here we come to the plan and purpose of our enemy.  It is to hinder the plan and purpose God has for us.

God’s plan from the beginning was for us to bear His image, to take responsibility for His creation and to be fruitful and to multiply, thereby increasing His glory in the earth. We do this by loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and by loving our neighbor as ourselves.

The simplest, most basic description of the enemy’s goal is to prevent us from loving God and one another.  He has several methods, but this will always be his goal. When we fail in love, we fall short of bringing God the glory he desires, and fail to live in full victory.

One of his very successful tricks is to convince us that if we have few bad habits, attend church regularly, and perform the correct rituals, we are doing just great. Then we might give little attention to the condition of our hearts. We can secretly harbor bitterness, jealousy, resentfulness, and even hate, without realizing that the devil has had his way with us!

Jesus exposed this trick when He distilled all of God’s laws into one principle: love. Love is the litmus test for true spirituality.

So even if the devil appeals to our human weaknesses, and tempts us to lust after things that harm us and others, the end result is the loss of love. Can a person who is obsessed with power, money, possessions have time to truly love God with all of his or her heart? Can a person who lusts after another’s spouse have truly loving thoughts for them and their families? Can someone who steals from  or murders another be living in love? How about the one who ridicules another individual because of their shape, size or skin color?

If we look around, it is not difficult to find confessing believers in Christ who have become distracted from the love of God in Christ, and have chased after things that bring not glory but shame to the name of Jesus.

So we are here to answer the higher call of God in Christ! We not only want to receive eternal salvation but to bear His image before the world! We want to also enjoy the bliss of His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith and self control, and to share these blessings with others!

The first step is to understand the nature of the battle. The next step is to engage in the battle. In this our victory is assured, for God is on our side when we are on HIs side!

He has given us powerful weapons. (Ephesians 6:10-20) These weapons are not to be used against people, but against those spiritual forces that work against the love of God that is within us. Because our minds are under constant attack, we must be diligent in our search for God’s wisdom and understanding, and get our strength from the knowledge of His Word.

The belt that supports our armor is Truth. it was a lie in the beginning that caused the loss of paradise. It is always the lie. Why else would the enemy be called a slanderer and deceiver? So we can only stand in the truth. Every other foundation is doomed.

This is about the reality of our problem, and the solution the God granted in Christ.  Only a perfect sinless man could take upon Himself the debt we owe for our sins by His death on the Cross. This is the Truth that makes us free! We believe Him, and not the lie of the devil who accuses us and wants to keep us as slaves to sin! We have been set free by Christ’s death, ressurection and the Holy Spirit within us Who empowers us to live and love like Christ!

His Righteousness is our Breastplate over our hearts. Even though we might fail, we trust in His righteousness alone. When we succeed in loving we will not forget that it is always of Him, Who has saved us from ourselves.

It is equally important that we walk in the Good News of Christ and His Kingdom. Our feet are protected as we go forward in the battle telling the Good News to others. In this the devil is defeated because it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes!

Without the Shield of Faith we can become extremely vulnerable. The enemy will constantly challenge us to doubt the goodness and trustworthiness of our Heavenly Father. Our commitment to the fact that He has already proven His love for us will protect us from these accusations against the love of God.

The Helmet of Salvation keeps us from forgetting the wonderful Grace of God we have received. It keeps our minds filled with thoughts of love and gratitude instead of resentfulness and complaints.

By the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God we cut down falsehood and continue to live in the confidence of what He has done for us and in us. We are More Than Conquerors through Him! Even when we feel weak and our emotions begin to take us downward, the Word of God strikes down the thoughts of failure and disobedience. His Word we have hidden in our hearts so that we will NOT sin against Him!

The last weapon in Paul’s teaching is prayer in the Holy Spirit for ourselves and one another. We both build up ourselves through prayer in the Spirit and one another. After all, it is only by the power of the Spirit that we overcome the weaknesses of our flesh. Anyone who tells you that your fleshly weaknesses are greater than the Spirit’s power is wrong. We can do all things through Christ Who strengthens us!

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