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

Tag: transformation

Kingdom Principles

Around 4,000 years ago, Moses, who was called by God to lead the descendants of Israel out of Egypt, came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments, written from the Finger of God. From this foundation a nation was built of citizens who were to be known as the chosen people of God.

Almost 2,000 years later the Messiah, of whom Moses and other prophets after him foretold, appeared to this same nation. Both He and His forerunner, John the Baptist, began by announcing great and wonderful news. This good news was of the nearness of the Kingdom of God. Those who responded to His call for repentance were then called to follow His teachings concerning this heavenly kingdom.

Like Moses, Jesus would spend many hours alone with God on a mountain. As Moses revealed the Holiness of God to his people and gave His message from the mountain, Jesus would lead His disciples up a mountain to lay the foundation for a greater, higher way of life. The result was to be a community of people over whom and through whom God would establish His kingdom on the earth.

His series of teachings in Matthew chapters 5 through 7 and Luke 6:20-49 are commonly known under the title of the Sermon on the Mount. While the 10 Commandments and the other laws given by God through Moses might seem by some to be focused on external behavior, the Words of Jesus went deeper. To Him, adultery and murder could be committed in the heart, and were just as sinful in the eyes of God.

Even the disciples of Jesus where troubled by this high standard. They even doubted that anyone could be saved! The answer came from Jesus: with men this standard is impossible, but with God all things are possible! He challenged them to follow Him. He challenges us to do the same today! His followers would gradually begin to understand just how God would empower them to live this impossible standard from the heart. First, they were given the privilege of observing Him every day. They saw not only His love, mercy and power revealed toward those in need, they also observed His perfect character.

Ultimately they saw Him allow Himself to be offered up for our sins, and to be raised from the grave for our victory! Before returning to heaven He announced that all authority was given to Him in heaven and in earth. In turn He authorized them to disciple all people, to teach them His ways, His principles as He had discipled them.

Then came the final piece of puzzle that had confused them earlier. They were to gather together and wait in Jerusalem for another great miracle. They had heard many things from Jesus which they had stored up in their hearts. Soon the promise of the Holy Spirit would come to them in power. He would bring the Words of Jesus to their minds with the correct understanding. They would be given the power to live up to this glorious high calling to love as he loved, give as He gave, sacrifice as He sacrificed, and lift up others as he had done!

The first generation of believers in Christ famously answered His call. It was even the testimony of their enemies that they turned the world upside down!

That energy and enthusiasm eventually began to wane, even as the New Testament was being written. Jude, a half brother of Jesus, wrote a letter urging the churches to “contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” In the book of Revelation, Christ rebuked the Ephesian church for leaving their first love. It cannot be certain exactly what happened and how things began to change. At the same time, we do know that many of these early believers and their leaders gave their lives for Christ.

Some information can be gathered from the records of their writings and from secular history. It appears that false teachers began to mix the Gospel with other religions of that day. This pressed Christian leaders to answer with clarifications concerning the doctrines of what the true church believed. One of the earliest statements of faith is traditionally known as the Apostles Creed, which most churches acknowledge today. After that even more statements were written to deal with the controversies of each generation.

Because some were denying the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, the crucifixion and the resurrection, the true believers needed to stand for these truths and confess them openly. However, the supernatural life of Christ in His church was becoming less and less evident. True, we need to confess all the foundational truths of the Bible and prevent doctrinal error from destroying the faith. Certainly the apostles would approve of this diligent effort, but these simple fishermen, tax collectors, and revolutionaries also knew that only faith IN, trust IN, the person of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit to live out His words could save the church from its enemies!

His sermon on the mount was the foundation of the Kingdom community that he was building, but it has been all but forgotten in the minds of many. Where in the great creeds do we find anything about holy love, holy forgiveness, holy righteousness? Where in the creeds are we urged to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus? Perhaps these things are to be assumed. We are not saved by our good works, but by faith. But is that the same thing as simply believing things about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit?

Have we forgotten the simple and potent power of God’s Word? The Sermon on the Mount and the other sayings of Jesus are not like the words of men. His words are transformative! We can be “born again” by the power of His Words! Our motives and attitudes can be changed so that we can spontaneously fulfill the law as we love God and our neighbors as ourselves! My hope is that we can learn to treasure all of Christ’s words, letting them abide in us deeply. They can play a powerful part in bringing us into a deeper relationship with Him, transforming us into His image for His glory!

Face to Face!

First the Kingdom Part 30: Face to Face

Luke’s record in the “Acts of the Apostles” gives us an exciting portrait of the faith of the earliest Christians. Among the many characteristics of these ordinary people and their extraordinary faith, there is one thing that the apostles in Acts had in common: They had all been with Jesus!

The significance of this cannot be overstated. In fact this entire series on the Kingdom of God ultimately centers on the truth that the Kingdom of God appeared on the earth in the presence of Jesus Himself! No one could come into His presence and not be changed in one way or the other. Those who received Him as their Lord and Messiah were given citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven and an entrance into the family of God!

He began with 12 ordinary men from various walks of life. They lived with Him, listened to Him, watched Him and learned from Him what it meant to be the people of God. His time with them equipped them and educated them more effectively than we could possibly imagine.

The apostle John wonderfully captured this thought in a letter to his fellow believers:

In 1 John 1:1-4 he writes:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life ;  (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

And these things we write unto you, that your joy may be full. (KJV)

Yes, the apostles and others in Acts had this one thing in common, they had been with Jesus. Peter, James and John had an additional experience in common, together they saw his glory on the Mount of Transfiguration.

John referred to this when he wrote “we beheld His glory,” and Peter in one of his letters wrote:

For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. (NKJV)

(John 1:14-15, 2 Peter 1:16-18)

While Adam hid his face from God, others, like Jabez, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and the prophets, sought his face and were changed.

It might seem that such a meeting with the Creator and Lord of the universe is reserved for a chosen few. However, God has actually revealed through these special messengers that He desires that special relationship with many more!

Abraham is known as the Father of the faithful today. His son Isaac, His grandson Jacob, and Jacob’s 12 sons were all given the special privilege of inheriting the promises given to Abraham. The 12 sons became 12 tribes and greatly increased in number, but God’s desire to bless them had not diminished. After delivering them from slavery in Egypt he called them to Mount Sinai to hear from Him and to become a kingdom of priests. Even though their fears hindered them from responding, He gave these words for those who did accept the priestly calling to speak over them.

Numbers 6:22-27:

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:

“The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”‘

“So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”  (NKJV)

When I was very young I noticed how it seemed so normal in the Bible for God to speak with Adam and Eve as we talk to each other today. Even after sin entered into the picture and paradise was lost, God still spoke to Noah, then Abraham, then Moses and many others in what seemed to be an audible voice. As time when on, this experience became very rare. It was not because of God’s inability to speak, or in the inability of the people to hear sound.

The distance between God and His people was in their hearts. Their hearts and minds became increasingly darkened by deception, fear, rebellion and disobedience. All they had left were the words written down by Moses and the special messages from the holy prophets which would later be committed to writing. Today we thank God that he has spoken and still speaks to us through these sacred writings. But have we forgotten how to listen to His Voice in the midst?

Jesus came to clear away the haze and confusion, and even to destroy the barrier between God and humanity. His message, His teaching, His patience and love, His miracles all expressed His desire for a face-to-face encounter with us! The grand climax in His suffering on the Cross for our sins, and His marvelous victory over death was the final proof of the great lengths our Lord and Savior would go for a relationship with us.

All that is left is for us to trust and believe in Him and receive the great gift He is offering to us – His very Self!

But alas! Even though every lie that Satan has pressed upon the world has been exposed, the human race continues so often in the same pattern of self-reliance and self-deception. These are the days of gallant battle and overcoming for those who have believed and do know Him. They are constantly tested by the unyielding rejection from the world around them and even from those they dearly love.

That is why John and Peter so firmly testified of what they had seen and heard. That is why they and countless others over the centuries gave their lives as evidence of a faith that could not be destroyed. That is also why Paul prayed for every believer to have a face-to-face encounter with the risen Christ even as he had!

No we are not talking about identical experiences like the transfiguration that Peter, James and John witnessed, or the vision that Paul received on the road to Damascas. But we are talking about the revelation of Jesus Christ!

In Ephesians 1:17-20 Paul prayed:

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, (KJV)

It was Paul’s prayer that the believers in Ephesis would know Christ and His work on our behalf more deeply. He knew when their eyes were opened to greater insight into His wisdom that they too would be changed from the inside out! Later, in that same letter he added this prayer:

Ephesians 3:14-19:

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (NKJV)

In another letter, Paul wrote of Moses and his face-to-face encounter with God on Mount Sinai. This encounter actually caused his face to glow to the extent the people were afraid to come near him. So he wore a veil over his face for their sake.

Paul used this story as an analogy to describe the situation of his day. He realized that many were reading the words of God in the Bible as it were behind a veil. People were still afraid to meet God in His word because their hearts were stubborn and hardened. Jesus explained that the pure and humble of heart were blessed, for they could truly see God!

Therefor there was hope for one whose heart turns to Jesus Christ. In Him that veil is removed from the mind and Christ can now be seen as the true message of the Bible!

To this day I cannot say that I have heard an audible voice from God, and yet He does speak to me as often as I am willing to listen. He has found my attention often through unpleasant circumstances which caused me to see how foolish I have been at times. He has also reached out to me through the kindness of others. It was always the work of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that Paul believed could open the understanding of his people. Others prayed for me also, and when I was finally willing to humble myself before Christ, He removed that veil that kept me in darkness for so long.

We today can have face-to-face encounters with God in many ways. We can meet Him in quiet moments of prayer and meditation. So often I can see His face as I gather with others who know and love Him. When we gather in His Name, He is in our midst!

The Bible is truly a wonderful place to find His presence, His nature, His power and His wisdom for every day life. This is what Paul meant when he wrote:

2 Corinthian 3:12-18:

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (NIV)

The Hidden Kingdom

The Hidden Kingdom; First the Kingdom, Part 26

Matthew 13:33:
He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened.” 
NASB

Matthew 13:44-45:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. 
NASB

Luke 8:9-10:
And His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable might be. And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, in order that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
NASB

Jesus told His disciples that the kingdom of heaven was a mystery to those who were outside of their intimate community. Many other places in the bible mention the privacy that exists between God and those who love and obey Him.

(Deuteronomy 29:29, Isaiah 25:14, Psalm 91:1, Amos 3:7).

That should be easy for us to understand. Most of us want friendship that goes deeper than a casual relationship. We want the freedom to talk openly to someone with whom we can discuss our joys, concerns, and plans.

Believe it or not, God wants that kind of fellowship with you! He wants to hear what is on your heart and mind, and He wants to share His secrets with you! He loves his entire creation and is always reaching out to all of us so that we might let go of our old, sinful ways and come into the light of His wonderful Kingdom!

It is true that he withholds some things from the outside, unbelieving world for His own reasons, but He also promises that everything will eventually be made known.

All I can say to my audience is that He is after your heart. If you hunger for this kind of fellowship with God, surrender your heart to Him. If you have already done so, open your spiritual eyes and ears to see and hear from Him of the wonders of His Kingdom!

If you are like me, it is easy for you to become distracted by the events of this world, our nation and our neighborhoods. I personally do not see as many people honoring and worshipping God as I would like. In fact, according to the news media, it looks like evil is winning on every hand. Thankfully, I can look to Jesus. I can focus upon Him and continue to run the race that is set before me.

Not only that, but I can receive revelation from His word that enables me to see His Hand at work in the world! Often the Kingdom of God is hidden from plain site, all the while it is working and affecting change all around. Jesus is no longer walking the dusty roads of Judea and sharing His secrets with His select disciples, and yet He has never stopped teaching! His voice is heard in of course the scriptures as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. His voice is also heard in His creation, all around us telling of the glory of God!

Yet one of His most important means of communication is in His people, His body, the Church!

When in fellowshp with others who love Jesus, I actually hear His Voice! Some of that fellowship comes from teachers, writers who expound upon the Bible, but much of it comes from time spent in prayer and communication with ordinary believers who all recognize their need for Him. When I am in their presence I can actually see the leaven of the Kingdom at work, slowly and gradually changing us all into the the very image of Christ!

Together we can explore that hidden treasure that each of us has found in Christ! Together we can continue to encourage one another to hold its greater value! Together we can exhort one another to let every distraction go in order to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness! Then the things that distract us, that worry us are out of the way so God can then supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory!

The important thing is for us to see Christ’s victory in this world. No matter how things look on the outside, we know. we have inside information! His Kingdom may at times be hidden from the world, but not for long! Praise God!

Coming in Power!

First the Kingdom part 17, Coming in Power.

From the beginning of our discussions concerning the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven, We have tried to bring a back a balance which constitutes a major change in perspective for some. For many years I was taught that the Kingdom of God only belonged to the future. For the most part I heard about the experience believers would have in heaven with Christ after they die. In other times I was told about His eminent return to judge the world and to set up His Kingdom then. I was told nothing about the presence of the Kingdom of God in the earth now.

Please do not misunderstand me. While I have made a serious effort to show from the scriptures that Jesus Christ has already begun His reign in many, we do not discount the many passages in scripture which point to a grand and glorious future in the Kingdom. In both the old and new testaments we find many places that speak of indescribable power, glory, peace and joy to be experienced here on earth as well as in eternity. To claim all such events as in the past or present is to weaken the very force of the language and weaken the very hope that God has placed within our hearts! It is even difficult for me to understand how anyone who has truly spent any time in the presence of Christ could possibly be satisfied with the present state of humanity! We of all people must know that He would not be satisfied!

Let me tell you now that while all of the encouragement and joy I have in the present comes only from the presence of Christ in my life, much of that comes from what He has revealed to me by His Spirit about our future in the Kingdom of God! The difference in how I have come to understand it all today is that you and I have a part now in the Kingdom as that future unfolds!

Christ has come in power already many times. First He demonstrated His power over sickness, disease, and even nature. Finally He submitted to the judgment of evil men for the glory of God and to atone for our sins. In glorious power He returned from death in a resurrected body, and gathered his followers to confirm His Lordship in them.

After that He promised that they would receive power after the Holy Spirit had come upon them, and that by His power they would witness of Him throughout the world! In Luke’s record in Acts, we see that promised power in action, bringing thousands into the Kingdom of God.

The Holy Spirit has always been with us since that time, and has often expressed that same power through His church in marvelous ways throughout history. Those of us who truly know our own weaknesses also know how dependent we are upon His sweet presence and mighty power to live as effective witnesses for Him!

Like immortal words of the great entertainer, Al Jolson, who said “You ain’t heard nothing yet!” concerning the glory of Christ we can say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

The Spirit of God in His prophets have given us a few small snapshots of what is in store for those who love Him. From these and the witness of the Holy Spirit in us we can actually be “caught up,” as the apostles Paul and John were to see the future even clearer!

1 Corinthians 2:9-10:

But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
NKJV

Perhaps you have seen some strange things coming from people who believe the Holy Spirit is leading them. I hope that does not cause you to shrink back from considering what the Spirit of God might teach you as it lines up with the apostles and prophets of Christ when He was certainly leading them! Consider the more abundant life that Christ said He came to give you! That is one with victory in your life today and even hope for untold millions of others on this planet! God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance!

There is a great and wondrous mystery surrounding the future coming of Christ to the world. In all honesty I cannot comprehend it! There are aspects that in the Bible seem absolutely terrifying! And yet every true believer and lover of Christ has this tremendous longing for His full and final appearing. Even today we recognize that He has appeared to us in some form, and that very appearance has changed us. From the Word of God we know that our transformation is ongoing and that we can continue to experience Him progressively. However from the Word we also know that there is a change coming that will eclipse anything that anyone in the history of the world has ever seen.

It thrills me to think about it! It also thrills me to know that we are not simply waiting for some great event in the future. We are tasting the powers of the age to come now, and we get to participate it it today! Eventually I want to talk more in detail about that participation. For now I hope we can simply revel in the knowledge that the Creator and master of every single atom and molecule in this entire universe has a wonderful purpose and destiny in mind for us all. The vision of that purpose can become brighter and brighter each day as we move toward it with each step.

At the end of the journey our Lord Jesus Christ awaits for a meeting with each of us face to face. At the end of history every eye shall see Him! His reward to those who love Him and faithfully serve Him is that final transformation. When we see Him as He is, we become like Him! When He finally and fully appears, we get to appear with Him in glory! Then the groaning of the physical creation will end. When God’s sons and daughters come to the measure of the stature of His fullness, when they are fully conformed to His image and are finally revealed, then the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of death and corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God!

My hope is that our hearts and minds can be filled with the vision of His glory today, but also that such a vision will empower us to fulfill His will for us. Yes there is a future ahead that is beyond words to describe it. That future begins now, as we continue to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We may not even understand all of what that means to us at the moment, but He will reveal all in His time.

For now we can cry out with our brother John in the Revelation, “Even so come Lord Jesus!”

The Paradigm Shift


First the Kingdom part 16, The Paradigm Shift

The title of this podcast is a fancy word phrase used in science that is definitely not found in the bible. I find that sometimes biblical words become so worn out over time that a modern term can actually refresh their true meaning. Repentance, for example is not a word often used today in modern conversation. It is common today to think more in terms of regret or being sorrowful for our actions.

Repentance can include those emotions, but the original meaning has more to do with a change in our thinking. I like paradigm shift because it describes a major change in how we think because the very framework from which we reason has changed. A good example is in what is called the Copernican Revolution. In the sixteenth century scientists believed in the Ptolemaic system which placed the earth at the center of the universe, with the sun, moon, planets and stars revolving around it. What we know now as planets were thought to be “wandering stars” because their perceived orbit around the earth was irregular.

Then Copernicus challenged this theory and proposed that the earth was not the center, but one of several bodies that revolved around our sun. After many years his theory was accepted and everything changed about the way the universe was understood.

When Jesus came preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven, he came with a challenge to change the way we think, the way we feel, and ultimately how we live. He did not just tell everyone what to do, but He introduced the real reason for doing right. It is time to recognize the kingdom or reign of God over us all. He is the only reason we are here, and the only purpose we have for being! And that IS good news! Why? Because since we began to make up our own reasons and plans, there has been nothing but turmoil in this world. Only those who hear the Word of God and live under His authority find their true place among the sun, moon, planets and stars that He created!

Everything about this series of teachings is because of the paradigm shift, or change in our thinking that God intends for our good. From the beginning it was His plan for us to reflect His character and to rule the earth in His right ways. He has not given up on that plan, in spite of how things might look. Too often in Christianity we only look back at the fall, and then to the Cross where the sins of the fall are forgiven. It is hard for us to remember the purpose that God had before the fall, and to look for the time when that purpose is fulfilled in us and in this earth. It is of course about our need to be redeemed from the fall, but more importantly it is about satisfying God’s desire for us! He still wants to have people to bear His image and fully reflect His nature and character!

While the problem of sin should not be minimized, the solution that God provided in Jesus Christ has more than eclipsed that problem! There is a paradigm that seems to see the problem of sin and rebellion as almost too great for God to solve. Even in popular culture the outlook is becoming so pessimistic that total annihilation seems inevitable. Will God scrap His original plan and start over with a few as He did in Noah’s day? Scripture in some places seem to be saying that, but in each case the context must be considered.

One reason for my optimism is that after over 2,000 years, the Gospel continues to change lives. Jesus is no longer with us in person as a man, but He continues to melt the hardest of hearts. Faith and courage are everywhere, and even more so when resistance is met. The most powerful reason however comes from the living Word of God. His Word has burned into my heart and mind a view of His power, goodness, lordship and love that will not allow me to give up on His purpose! Once my eyes were opened, the evidence became overwhelming!

For the past 200 years a dark, depressing, pessimistic view of the future has prevailed in many churches. I believe it is more born of great and terrible events like 2 world wars, the Great Depression, and the atomic age, than from the Bible. The Bible gives us the true picture of our desperate situation, of course. It also is honest about the things we as humans bring upon ourselves. At the same time it tells of a God and Savior Who sees past the failures of humanity, and Who has sufficient love, grace and power to perform His good will towards us.

Isn’t it terrific that the universe does not revolve around me, my faults, my virtues, my abilities? Isn’t it a relief that fate of the world does not rest upon my shoulders or your shoulders? In fact the universe and the history of the world begins and ends with God who is pure and perfect love, and always sufficient in every situation.

It is my hope that the prevailing paradigm of doom and despair will be replaced with a new paradigm of hope, not only for me and my little circle of family and friends. Christ died for us all. In this hopeful view we are empowered to do great things by the power of God! Jesus Himself said that we could do even greater works than He did 2,000 years ago! Let us hear what the Holy Spirit of God is saying to us today. Let us cast aside the dark future that Satan has in mind and press forward against all odds because in Christ we are more than conquerors through Him and His love!

Listen to the words of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

(Romans 11:33-12:2 NASB)

My belief is that the Holy Spirit of God is in the process of drawing us nearer to Him, convincing us to offer ourselves more completely to His purpose. In this way we are empowered to be different from the unbelieving world, having minds that are renewed by His living Word! We are becoming literally transformed into His very image, to demonstrate the Kingdom of heaven here on earth, proving His good, acceptable and perfect will to all!

 

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 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).

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