It was a normal day for me. I had been working all morning, and when lunch time rolled around, my wife and I drove to the Kroger near our office. It’s our go-to spot for lunch because they have an amazing deli and hot food section. Lately I had been getting some sort of soup or chili, but today I was craving some more substance, so I went to the counter to order my favorite: “I’ll have the brisket meal please.”
At that moment I was functioning on auto-pilot. The deli worker was cutting my brisket and I was staring at my phone. I don’t even remember what I was looking at, but most likely I was scrolling on a social media channel. But all of the sudden, I felt a nudge in my spirit. It was a gentle nudge, but it got my attention. I’ve been trying to practice being more aware of the presence of God all around me for about a year now, and the opportunities to be more tuned in to what He wants to do in each moment. More often than not, I slip back into auto-pilot and am usually in my own head thinking about my own life.
But this time, the Lord got my attention.
I was suddenly awakened to the reality that the deli worker in front of me was loved deeply by my Father. He was a child of God, whether he was walking in that reality yet or not. I put my phone away and became focused on the present moment at hand. I could sense that this deli worker was not having a great day, and he seemed down and out. Then I noticed his wrist watch. I love nice watches and used to collect them for a while. The Lord then spoke to me and said, “Compliment him on his watch.” At about this time the deli worker sealed my food container and nonchalantly said, “Have a nice day.”
I responded and said, “Thanks a lot. And by the way, I love your watch. That’s really sharp. I love watches and I’m always on the lookout for nice ones, and I really like yours.”
The Kingdom of God had just broken into this man’s world for a brief moment.
His demeanor changed instantly. A huge smile broke out on his face and I could sense confidence and joy come over him. He made eye contact with me for the first time and said, “thanks,” as he continued to smile and then walked away.
That was it. Nothing miraculous or extraordinary, but just a simple compliment brought joy into this man’s world and noticeably changed his demeanor. I went on my way and he continued on with his work, but for that brief moment, that deli worker got a little piece of knowing what the perfect King of Heaven is like. Jesus lives in me, and when I allowed myself to respond to His voice and become tuned in to what He wanted to do in that moment, I realized some beautiful truths:
- Jesus notices us and takes time to be present with us. He’s not distracted.
- He cares about the things that we care about, no matter how insignificant they may seem in the grand scheme of things.
- When we speak under His leading, it releases life and changes atmospheres.
It’s a beautiful thing when we can heighten our senses to God’s voice and begin to tune into His agenda for the world around us. If it hadn’t been for me noticing His nudge, then I would have missed this simple opportunity to bring joy to this deli worker who was having a rough day. But because I was responsive and flowed with Him, the King was able to speak through me, and therefore minister His Kingdom in that moment.
How aware are you of God’s presence in your day-to-day moments? When you’re out and about, are you tuned in to His agenda, or are you lost in your own? I know I’m usually the latter, but I’m getting better every day. Ask the Lord to begin opening your eyes to the opportunities all around you to reflect His love and kindness to others. It’s an amazing thing when you begin to see with His eyes and move as He moves.
I encourage you to give a compliment or encouraging word to one stranger you come in contact with this week. Because for all you know, it may be the only time they hear one.
Written by: Nate Ebel
Last year I preached a series at my church called “Kingdom Come.” Throughout the series, we took an in-depth look at what the Kingdom of God looks. Prior to Jesus announcing that the Kingdom of God was at hand, there came a strange man with wild hair and a very peculiar diet from a desert community who also announced that the time of the Kingdom was about to be fulfilled. His name was John the Baptist.
In one of the passages about John, he comes into contact with a group of Pharisees and Sadducees who had gone out to the wilderness to see if the claims about John were true. His interaction with them is quite alarming as well as entertaining. In Matthew 3:7-10, it says: “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’”
For John the Baptist, the Kingdom of God was an announcement that the Messianic Age had come with both salvation and judgement. There was salvation offered to those who would turn from their ways and allow the Kingdom rule and reign of God to govern their lives. For those who would rely on their man-made, religious systems and ideologies (Pharisees & Sadducees), there would be judgement.
Growing up, I always associated the Pharisaical spirit as being connected to legalism. Whenever someone was being judgmental and legalistic, I have to confess that I was quick to pull the “Brood of Vipers” card and call that person out for being what I believed to be Pharisaical. However, as I began to thoroughly study the Gospels, I realized that the Pharisaical spirit isn’t so much connected with legalism, but has much more to do with self-righteousness and antagonism toward anything that looks or sounds different than its own view or perspective. Legalism just happens to be one of its manifestations.
With this understanding in mind, I’ve come to realize how often I too have been Pharisaical. I think all of us can identify with a self-righteous attitude, and we often allow ourselves to become antagonistic toward differing views and perspectives. This tendency is most evident in our current society that does most of its interactions via social media where everyone feels they have a platform to express just how right they are and how wrong everyone else is. Unfortunately, it’s often Christians who scream the loudest through their rapid finger-typing rebukes, setting the world and the Church straight… for the glory of God, of course.
I’ve surprisingly found Pharisees in just about every theological corner, ready to defend their so-called ‘right interpretation’ of things, and antagonize and harass all those who may see or interpret through a different lens. I’ve met people who are emphatic about the grace message and liberation, and yet have a Pharisaical spirit. I’ve met Pharisees who adhere to pacifism and the Kingdom message. During last year’s election season the Pharisaical spirit was rampant in both those that adhere to conservative policies and those who adhere to liberal policies.
My hope is that we as Christians can soon realize that unity does not mean uniformity nor conformity… and we will learn that we can love, appreciate, and journey in life with people who think, interpret, vote, and perceive things differently than us. We don’t have to cower on our positions, but we also don’t have to be self-righteous and antagonistic toward those who differ from us.
The Apostle Paul had to deal with this issue in Romans. Many so-called Christ followers were getting bent out of shape about what people were eating and drinking. His words in Romans 14:17-19 would do us well in the 21st Century – “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up building.”
I believe the greatest thing we can do for the sake of our witness in the world is not to venomously contend for what we stand for and what we stand against, but rather to be defined as a people who walk humbly and seek peace in all situations. Stand strong in your convictions, but realize that standing strong in your convictions doesn’t mean attacking those with different convictions.
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Written by: Tim Woodcock
It’s impossible to scroll through Facebook today without seeing some passionately written, sometimes angry posts. These posts can take on a variety of different flavors. It could be the classic political rant, a religious rant, or any other number of rants that are always anti-something or someone. With the current political climate and division that we’re seeing throughout the US, it got me thinking about a teaching I heard years ago that is more relevant now than ever before.
In his book “The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind,” Bill Johnson has a chapter where he talks about the leavens of the mind. Leaven is defined as a substance, typically yeast, that is added to make dough rise. It can also refer to a pervasive influence that modifies something or transforms it. In the natural realm, when activated by heat, leaven causes dough to rise. In the spiritual realm, when activated by “the fire of difficulty” or trials, whatever leaven is influencing your mind will rise to the surface and be exposed. It is in this context that Jesus used the word leaven when speaking to his disciples.
Right after Jesus miraculously fed the four thousand, the Pharisees came to him and questioned him, testing him and demanding a sign from heaven (as if feeding 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread wasn’t a sign from heaven!). Jesus sighed and refused to give them the sign they so desperately wanted, knowing that they would still reject him no matter what. After his interaction with the Pharisees, Jesus addressed his disciples: “Be careful. Watch out for the yeast (or leaven) of the Pharisees and that of Herod” (Mark 8:15).
We see from the life and teachings of Jesus that there are three types of leaven:
- The leaven of Herod
- The leaven of the Pharisees
- The leaven of the Kingdom
These leavens, or mindsets, are alive and active today and they greatly affect how we think and live. They are a picture of influence on our minds and will influence our thoughts, decisions, and frame of reference.
The Leaven of Herod
The leaven of Herod is an atheistic influence based on the strength of man and man-based systems, like politics, popular will, and persuasion. Herod’s leaven excludes God entirely. This belief represents a big problem in the Church: practical atheism, or a disbelief in an active God. As believers, how often do we face situations on a daily basis where we don’t bring God into the picture? We are professing Christians, but are we living any differently that our atheist neighbors when we face a problem? Is our first response to seek God’s counsel and invite Him to intervene?
America is permeated by the leaven of Herod. We applaud those who are “self-made” and relied on their own strengths and abilities to rise to success. Sometimes the Church falls into this deception as well. We falsely think that whatever we can accomplish on our own strength has been directed or honored by God. We may accomplish our goals and reach what the world calls “success,” but that doesn’t always mean that God is involved in our efforts.
The Leaven of the Pharisees
The leaven of the Pharisees represents the religious system. This mindset embraces God in theory, but not in practice or experience. For those under this influence, the concept of God is essential, but the experience of God is completely removed. Bill Johnson said it beautifully when he wrote, “Pharisees provide explanations, but not solutions.”
Under this influence, we can “know” Jesus the wrong way, just as the people of Nazareth did – they knew him in form, but not in relationship or demonstration. We see in the American church today many people who are totally satisfied with the Pharisee leaven. They are content with being a churchgoer, but yet entirely unplugged from an active, invasive, ever-present God. Many Christians with this mindset find “explanations” for problems such as physical illness, broken relationships, or financial lack. They are confident in their ability to explain away any problem, but they are powerless to provide any solution.
I love how Jesus refused to give the Pharisees the sign they demanded from him. He was so focused on solutions that He didn’t even entertain their debate. The Church would do well to follow this example today.
The Leaven of the Kingdom
When we’re influenced by the leaven of the Kingdom, we’re able to live out the Lord’s cry that “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” and know that anything is possible at any time. This leaven is activated in our minds when we surrender to the Lord and the ways of his kingdom. Every time we read about a miracle that Jesus performed, or experience a miracle in our own lives today, its purpose is to teach us a new revelation of God that we can build our thought lives upon. God wants every testimony in our life and the lives of others to have its full effect on the way we think – renewing our minds to be kingdom-focused.
It’s easy to be kingdom-minded when things are going well in our lives, but the real test comes when we face trials – your car breaks down, a relationship ends, you lose a job, face a physical sickness, etc. It is in these moments that we must refuse to bow to the reality of our circumstances and instead proclaim the greater reality of King Jesus and his kingdom reign. When we keep our minds fixed upon him, we know that there is always a solution to any problem we will ever face. We know that he will heal our hearts and restore broken relationships. We know that he will provide above and beyond what we need and desires for us to be prosperous. We know that it’s his will to heal every sickness and disease, just as he healed all those who came to him.
Does your thought life begin with what you lack, or does it start with the revelation of Jesus and his kingdom provision? Are you worrying over something that Jesus has provided for you time and time again in the past? Don’t get stuck in tradition or be deceived by the leaven of Herod and the leaven of the Pharisees. Remember, kingdom thinking knows that anything is possible at any time. Every testimony we have in our lives should become the new standard from which we think in the future.
I encourage you to reflect upon your thought life and take an inventory of what leavens you’re being influenced by. When the impossible begins to seem possible, then you’ll know your mind is being renewed.
Written by: Nate Ebel
I grew up in the Pentecostal/Charismatic church world and we were taught a lot about going to Heaven and what we had to “do” to get there. Many of our songs were about going to Heaven and it seemed like all of the joy and fun was “over yonder” or somewhere in the “sweet bye and bye.” I do not remember hearing about the Kingdom of God being within us or that the apostles in the book of Acts preached around 18 or so sermons and not one of them was about the afterlife or going to Heaven or hell. Now, that does not mean there is not an afterlife or a place called Heaven and one called hell, but just that it was NOT their message.
As a matter of fact, Paul tells us in Acts 20:26-27,” I testify to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men, for I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” The interesting thing about this statement is that in all of Paul’s writings we have no mention of hell and only one or two of Heaven, because that was NOT their message. Paul’s message is seen in Acts 28:31, “Paul boldly proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught things pertaining to Jesus Christ, with all openness, no man hindering him.” Paul’s main message was the gospel of the Kingdom and how it pertains to Jesus Christ and this is what he was sharing at the end of his life, and what someone tells you at the end tells you what they have deemed as the most important.
What is the Gospel of The Kingdom? Well, first of all it was the Gospel that Jesus preached. Nearly all of His parables and analogies were about the Kingdom of God, “the Kingdom of God is like a man, like a seed, like leaven,” etc. His main message, focus, and prayers were about the Kingdom being “at hand” or a very present reality right in front of them for the King was now here. What has confused the Church for many years is that in Matthew’s gospel it is called the Kingdom of Heaven and in the rest of the New Testament it is called the Kingdom of God, even though these terms are interchangeable and have the same meaning. The reason for that is because Matthew’s message was aimed at reaching the Jewish people and they could not say the name God, which is why you will see them even write g*d for it was forbidden to say. This has caused people to think that Jesus was talking about how to go to Heaven when that was not His point. He was talking about a new King and a new government that was manifested through love and service and not like the Kingdoms of this world whose genesis was fear, violence, domination, and control.
For Jesus taught us all about the Kingdom of God, but never actually told us what it was. Jesus did tell His disciples,” I have a lot more for you that you are not yet ready for, but when the Spirit of Truth comes He will lead you into all truth. So Jesus let them know that more understanding of what He taught was coming once the Holy Spirit was indwelling them. There is no verse in the Bible that says go to Heaven, but there are many that talk of receiving eternal life and entering and inheriting the Kingdom. It is the Apostle Paul that tells us “what” the Kingdom of God actually is in Romans 14:17, “The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” So, the day I realized that, I started putting righteousness, peace, and joy everywhere I saw the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven and it finally became clear. We are to seek first, righteousness, peace, and joy in every area of our lives, and righteousness, peace, and joy by the Holy Spirit is within us.
The Kingdom of God (Greek=basileia) is God’s rule, authority, Kingship, and foundation of power within us by the Holy Spirit. This is a present reality and not something off in some millennium, for it is within and all around us, and Jesus prayed that Heaven would be on Earth and not that Earth would be in Heaven. This does not mean that when we physically die we do not go there, but that the gospel of the Kingdom is about bringing “there” here right now. I believe that what has confused us are the verses that say things like, “they that do these things will not inherit the Kingdom of God, such as liars, fornicators, thieves, perverse, wrong doers, fearful, heretics,” etc. The problem is that our behavior is not what got us in Heaven as citizens, but Jesus’s behavior. We cannot save ourselves by good works and we cannot disqualify ourselves by bad works. It is by grace through faith we are saved and NOT by works, period. So we do not get ourselves “THERE,” that is Jesus’s work alone – all we do is agree with it by faith.
If we interpret the Kingdom as just going to Heaven by doing or not doing certain things then it disqualifies most people from ever going, but when we understand that you do NOT get an inheritance after you die, but while you are still living because someone else died, then that changes everything. Inheriting the Kingdom is a present reality right now and not an afterlife perk. Now our behavior is still important but not to get us “THERE,” since Jesus took care of that in His finished work for those who are reconciled, but our behavior does determine how much of “THERE” flows through us here, which is what “inheriting” the Kingdom looks like. An example would be that God wants to flow through me to my neighbor to bring the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy to his life, but I have stolen from him and lied to him and fornicated with his sister. This behavior would disqualify me from inheriting righteousness, peace, and joy in those areas of my own life and that would affect what I can release to him because it would disqualify me in his eyes also.
The Gospel, or good news, of the Kingdom encompasses all of the other things called the Gospel. There are several things referred to as the gospel in the new testament, such as the gospel of God, of the Son, of grace, of Paul, and of Jesus Christ. These are all a part of the Kingdom of God and all of them are good news, but the main message of Jesus and the apostles was the good news of the Kingdom of God. Many teach that the Kingdom of God is something that is only manifested after a World wide war and preceded by a mass exodus of the righteous from the planet. Yet Jesus taught that their generation would see the coming of the Kingdom age clearly in Matthew 16:28, “Truly I tell you that there are some of you standing here that will not taste death till you see the Son of man coming in His Kingdom.” This could NOT be speaking of anyone 2,000 years in the future unless you believe that there are some 2,000 year old people walking around on the planet, which sounds more like the “Highlander” or “Underworld” movies and you believe in vampires, werewolves, and immortals. This already happened for Jesus rose from the dead and went to Heaven and poured His blood on the mercy seat and then “came back” and breathed the Kingdom into His disciples in the person of the Holy Spirit. They saw Him come to them and establish His Kingdom in their hearts for His Kingdom is not from this world but it is for this world.
The Kingdom is like candy, it is now and later, for the Kingdom has to be now for it is within us, and yet it is also later for when the King returns at the resurrection, there will be the full manifestation of Heaven on Earth. This has always been God’s desire from the garden of Eden and now we get to be a co-laborer in the universe’s greatest renovation project, for Jesus is the Savior of the world and not from the world. The Jews believe that when their Messiah comes to the Earth, which He did by the way, that He would transform the Earth in what they call the “tikkun olam.” This is what we are here for, to be agents of change and to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is here and has come among you. So I want to encourage all who read this blog to spend time studying the Kingdom of God and to make up your mind to be an active participant in our Father’s World and realize that you are here to make a difference and release the life and essence of the Kingdom everywhere you go.
Written by: Jamie Englehart
What did the disciples of Jesus preach in the early church? What was the good news they were sent out to spread to all nations? Isn’t that the message we should be spreading to our family members, friends, co-workers, and others we meet? Would it surprise you if the gospel that is preached by most people today is not what was preached in the bible? That’s what we are going to explore.
If you were to ask most Christians in the United States today what the Gospel is, in its simplest form they would most likely say “People are sinners and therefore will go to hell when they die. Jesus died for their sins. If they pray, and ask Jesus into their hearts and accept Him as savior, they’ll be saved and go to heaven.”
This concept of being saved by saying a prayer came into existence back in the mid 1950’s when Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ released a pamphlet that contained what has come to be known as the “sinner’s prayer.” This pamphlet was very successful, and some form of it is still being distributed on street corners today.
Over time, different groups have come up with their own version of the prayer. This is Billy Graham’s:
“Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen.”
Many church organizations have adopted their own version. This one is common:
“God, I know that I have sinned against you and deserve punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness – the gift of eternal life! Amen!”
One thing these prayers have in common is that they are focused on the death of Jesus.
Jesus’ Death Does Not Save Us
The “sinner’s prayer” focuses on the death of Jesus, but Jesus’s death does not save us. That may sound dangerously heretical to some, but let’s look at a few passages of scripture that show this.
Romans 5:10: “For if, while we were enemies we were reconciled to God, through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved through His life.” (NASB)
According to this passage, the death of Jesus does one thing, the life of Jesus does something else. The death of Jesus reconciles us to God so that we can have right relationship with Him, but we are saved by His resurrection life.
The definition of reconciliation is the restoration of friendly and peaceful relations. Reconciliation opens the door and makes it possible to have right relationship with God, but It’s because Jesus was raised from the dead and now lives, that we can walk through that door.
In this next passage, we again see the effects of the cross as reconciliation, not salvation.
Colossians 1:19,20: “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross…” (NASB)
In this passage we discover that not just people, but ALL things have been reconciled to God through the blood of the cross.
Let’s look at one more passage, this one showing again that the resurrection of Jesus is what saves us.
Romans 6:8, 9: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.” (NASB)
According to this passage we now live with Him because Jesus overcame death, never to die again. We will live with Him forever because He Resurrected, not because He died.
The Living King and the Gospel of the Kingdom
The primary message preached in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John was “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”, not “Jesus died on the cross for your sins.” The expressions “the kingdom of heaven” or “the kingdom of God” (they are interchangeable) are used 99 times in the new testament. There is something that doesn’t align when our message is “Jesus died on the cross, you accept Him as savior, and then you’re saved,” when their message was, “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
The Gospel of the Cross is not wrong. We do know that we are sinners, Jesus died on the cross for us, and without His death we could never be saved, but there is a more profound truth in what was preached in the New Testament. The gospel message preached in the new testament was the kingdom of heaven is here among us, right now and is within our reach.
These are the primary elements of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
- 2000 years ago, Jesus died
- He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven
- He now sits at the right hand of the Father and has established a kingdom that will never end.
- He is now King and Lord of that kingdom and everything that’s under His authority is now part of His kingdom.
- Everyone who bows to the King, becomes a citizen of His kingdom
In the Gospel of the Cross, the resurrection and enthronement are not taken as foundational to the gospel and are seen essentially as “add-ons.” He resurrected to prove that His death was valuable, and that He was God. He ascended into heaven and sat on the throne as a reward for dying on the cross.
I want to reiterate, I’m not saying that the cross wasn’t important. It is critical to our salvation, and we wouldn’t be saved without it, but in the Gospel of the Kingdom, everything is part of the gospel. He died, yes, but He also conquered death and we now live with Him! He ascended into heaven and we ascended with Him! He sits on His throne and the Father has given Him all rule and authority so now we reign with Him!
THIS is the good news! It is life, healing, wholeness, joy, peace, reigning and overcoming. The gospel is not about Jesus’s death, it’s about Jesus overcoming death!
New Testament Evangelism
Peter’s evangelistic sermon in Acts 2 on Pentecost mentions Jesus’s death, but only in the context of His resurrection.
Acts 2: 23,24 “…this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” (NASB)
In the rest of Peter’s sermon, his primary message is that Jesus rose from the dead and is now king over His kingdom.
Acts 2:29-38 “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on His throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore, having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified. Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” (NASB)
What caused the Jews to be “pierced to the heart” and repent? The answer is found in verse 36:
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord (king) and Christ (savior) —this Jesus whom you crucified.” (text in parentheses added)
The Jews that heard Peter suddenly came to the horrifying realization that they had killed the king and savior that had been promised to them and prophesied about for over 1000 years! They came to understand that Jesus had established His promised kingdom by His resurrection, ascension, and enthronement. Realizing who Jesus was, 3,000 of them repented from rejecting Him, submitted fully to the king of the kingdom, and entered into eternal life with Him.
The Gospel of the Kingdom and Evangelism
What are the implications of this for evangelism today? In 21st century America, if you were to ask most people how they’re doing, their most likely, honest response would be, “tired.” People are busy almost to the breaking point. They are struggling and working every day, trying to make a life worth living. But deep in their hearts they know there’s something they are searching for that’s just out of reach. Almost anyone you ask will tell you that they know there must be more to life than what they’re experiencing. Everyone feels the weight of the chaos and disorder of their own lives. Everyone wants to “get off the merry-go-round.”
The simple reason for this is that, before we become Christians, each of us lives in a kingdom of our own making. The quality of our lives depends on the kind of kingdom we have built for ourselves. We sit on the throne and rule over a kingdom we have built using the natural skills and abilities we have gained through life. We also bring to that rulership our pain, shortcomings, and sinfulness. Ultimately, we all fail miserably as kings.
People don’t know it, but what they want is to step down off the throne. They want to be free of the burden of carrying the weight of trying to rule over a dysfunctional kingdom they built for themselves. A kingdom that they were never meant to rule over, and was never meant to be in the first place.
Your understanding of this will radically change your approach to evangelism. You don’t need to convince the guy sitting in the cube next to you who loves his wife and kids, has his elderly mother-in-law living in his home, and goes to a job every day to provide for them, that he’s a horrible sinner who needs to repent or he’s going to hell. What you can tell him is that he can give up trying to run his own life. Tell him there’s a different kingdom he can step into that’s all around him and freely available. A kingdom that’s full of life, and love, and hope, and joy, and peace. A kingdom that can be entered into simply by stepping down from his own throne, and bowing His knee to the TRUE King. And how much more effective that message will be if your life is a witness to those kingdom realities.
That’s it! No tears. No mea culpas. No beating of the breast, or making themselves feel bad enough to convince God, (and everyone else), that they really mean it. Just the simple act of taking a huge sigh of relief, asking Jesus to take His rightful place on His throne, and passing their burdens on to Him. There may be tears, but not because they feel bad about themselves. Rather, because they feel a relief they have never felt before.
If you still want a prayer, try this one:
Lord Jesus, I’m tired. I no longer want to rule over my own life. I’m weary from trying to carry the burdens of a life I was never meant to carry. I willingly give rulership of my life over to you. I am asking you to come and sit on the throne of my heart. Amen.
So, what can you, as a Christian, offer the people of the world? Offer them freedom. Offer them hope. Offer them LIFE. And they will come. Everyone is looking for it, and the Lord has given it to you to give away.
By: Steve Marusic
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with some dear friends who really needed some encouragement. Many years ago they went through a tragedy in the family, and ever since, they’ve been up and down – mostly down – and their focus has been mainly on the second coming of Jesus. I know, you might be wondering how that can become a focus for some Christians as a method of grieving, but to them, the second coming is the hope they hold onto as they wait for the day they can finally be reunited with their passed, loved one. They look forward to the moment when Jesus will appear in the clouds and take them to heaven, but while they wait, their hope in Christ – that’s supposed to bring freedom to their souls – only brings periodic torment and moments of confusion.
Now, I can understand why they might look forward to the second coming of the Lord as their source of hope, because it means all of the weight of grief they’re experiencing will be lifted and they will finally see the kingdom of God. But you see, even though I may understand why they think this future event of Jesus coming back with His kingdom is good and right to believe in, to be frank, I just don’t believe it myself. I can’t believe something in a way that brings confusion and torment to my heart. Yes, I believe Jesus is coming back, but if He’s returning because what He did the first time around wasn’t enough to set me free, and now I need Him to come back before I can live in freedom, then I must not understand what His first coming was all about – I must be missing something that happened in the past.
So, as I’m chatting with my friends about general stuff, I find an opportunity to share with them the freedom I’ve come to experience that simply came from understanding more about what Christ came to do during His first coming. You see, Jesus didn’t just come to be a lamb slaughtered during Easter in order to forgive us of our sins, and then rise again so He can leave us with just enough grace to last 2000 years until He returns with His whole kingdom in tow – no, He actually came as the King, born with parents whose lineage is royal, had His birth announced by the angelic servants of the kingdom He rules over, and He was given royal gifts by distinguished foreigners who were astrologers in the order of Daniel the prophet – the same prophet who interpreted a dream hundreds of years earlier, predicting the coming of Jesus the King and His kingdom.
What I wanted my friends to understand is that the kingdom came to earth when Jesus came the first time around – that they could experience the righteousness, the peace and the joy of the kingdom in the Holy Spirit of God now, even in the middle of their grief. We need to understand that the fullness of the kingdom and all of the glory of heaven has arrived on earth already and is totally accessible by anyone who choses to engage with its reality by faith. With people like my friends – who have been taught stuff about the second coming that undermine the achievements of Jesus during His first coming – when I bring up the dream of the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar that the prophet Daniel interpreted – you know, the one about the statue with a gold head and legs of iron – they will immediately recall the misguided teaching that says it prophesies of the future kingdom; the kingdom of God that’s yet to descend from heaven, and this is where we get confused and tormented about the hope we’re supposed to have in Christ.
As this is the last blog of the year this website will post before Christmas day, I want to share with you how that dream that King Neb had was not only a vision of the coming kingdom of God, but that it predicted its arrival to happen on Christmas day. To give a little historical context, approximately 595 years before before Christ, Babylon invaded Judah – the tribe of Israel who are known as the Jews – and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, taking captive many of the Jewish people. Of these Jews was a man named Daniel. During his time in Babylonian captivity, Daniel had the opportunity to minister as a prophet of God and in one instance, he interpreted the king’s dream of a huge statue that had a gold head, arms and chest of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron and ten-toed feet made partly of iron and partly of baked clay, with the dream ending with a rock cut out with no human hands, smashing all five parts of the statue to smithereens and then growing from a rock to a huge mountain filling the whole earth. After a quick reading of Daniel chapter 2 verses 36-45, you’ll find that the metal parts of the statue represent five earthly kingdoms, and then if you do a quick google search of the meaning to these verses, you’ll find a unanimous agreement as to the identity of the first four historical kingdoms – the gold was the Babylonian empire, the silver was the Medo-Persian empire, the bronze was Grecian empire and the iron was the Roman empire.
While I’m talking about this with my friends, they ask me about the fifth kingdom, and whether or not I believe the statue’s feet with ten toes represents a future globalist kingdom, that according to a lot of people, looks ready to emerge any year now. I suppose with the current conspiratorial threat of a new world order, theory or not, many Christians who don’t walk in the hope and reality of heaven on earth agree with the idea that things are getting worse and that this growing darkness is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. My friends are of that number of believers who have allowed this prophetic dream to be only part-fulfilled in their mind and are waiting for the scary emergence of a world-wide empire ruled by the Antichrist. The reason this belief causes their hope in Christ to be periodically put into confusion, is the part of the dream that follows the fifth kingdom. You see, during the fifth kingdom with ten toes representing ten kings of a divided empire, God will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed; a kingdom that obliterates all of the other kingdoms leaving their memory to blow away into nothing.
Did you notice what some Christians believe? If the fifth kingdom in the dream is indeed in our future, and God sets up His kingdom after it arises, that means the kingdom of God isn’t here now and therefore we shouldn’t expect the nature of heaven to show up in our daily lives, let alone in the affairs of the nations. If this is the true meaning of the dream, that only after the evil empire of ten ruling houses arises, God will finally establish His kingdom on earth, then I can understand why the grief of loss became too much for my friends to overcome. To them, a theological misinterpretation of Daniel chapter 2 has added to the confusion in their minds concerning the nature of God and their purpose on earth. As Christians, we’re called to be the light of the world, in other words, we’re supposed to carry the reality of heaven in our spirit and release it on earth, advancing the kingdom of God forward.
Here’s the point: the ten toed kingdom isn’t in our future, it was in our past, and to be precise, it was in full swing when the first Christmas happened. You see, when you read in the bible about Jesus fulfilling the prophecy of being born in Bethlehem, the reason Mary and Joseph had to travel there while she was full-term in her pregnancy was because Caesar Augustus called for a national census and that was the town where Joseph hailed from. That particular Caesar is known historically to have split up the Roman empire into ten provinces in order to maintain order due to their widespread dominion. It was during the time of those provincial kings that God set up His kingdom. In the dream, the thing that brought down the statue was a rock cut out without hands. This earthly element formed by unseen, divine hands was a prophetic picture of Jesus, conceived by the Spirit and born in human flesh.
Once I had gone through all the details of the dream with my friends, it was this next point that I wanted them to understand the most, and that is, when God put on flesh in the form of a man – the very second He was born on Christmas Day – the kingdom came to earth. The kingdom was inside of Him and everything He did on earth was a manifestation of heaven. So when Jesus began His ministry and went about preaching the good news of the kingdom, healing the sick, casting out demons and raising people from the dead, this wasn’t just to prove He was God, it was to demonstrate what the kingdom is like, what it’s like to live in the domain of the king and to dwell under His rulership. In the kingdom of God, people aren’t sick, oppressed by evil spirits or dead, instead people are free, they’re healthy, of sound mind and alive. During the first coming of Jesus, He revealed the reality of heaven in a tangible way that was destined to be accessible by all who believe in Him by faith. You see, the bible says that although Jesus was 100% God, by choice He emptied Himself and operated on earth 100% as a human, fully relying on God as we are called to rely on God.
The point of His first coming was to show us how to live as normal human beings, fully connected to God in relationship, hosting the reality of heaven and sharing the treasures of His kingdom with everyone, every day of our lives. You see, I’m not waiting for Jesus to come back in the future with His kingdom following behind so that I can finally experience heaven, because I know I can live in His kingdom today. It’s the reality of heaven’s freedom that enables me to have supernatural hope, unwavering faith and to know the surpassing love of God. My friends wondered why they couldn’t see the kingdom as I could – they questioned how the kingdom could be here already while the world seems so dark. I told them that the kingdom is within us to begin with, and it’s up to us to see the kingdom in our hearts and minds, so that by faith we can make it a reality. I suppose if I thought the kingdom was only going to arrive after the world falls apart, I probably wouldn’t have much hope either.
So this Christmas, remember the first coming of Jesus and begin to see the reality He demonstrated as being the reality God wants us to release into the earth. Should we be celebrating the downfall of society as a sign of Jesus’ second coming, or should we be celebrating the increase of His kingdom that’s been growing for 2000 years so far? – the kingdom that will continue to grow with no end as more and more people of faith believe in a future where earth looks like heaven and by that same faith take action to make it a reality. To me, Christmas is about the birth of a kingdom as much as the birth of its King.
As I left my friends that night, they took in what I had told them. They said that what I shared made a lot of sense, because they really do believe in the kingdom and they walk in its supernatural power with God. However, the thing they told me that spoke to them the most about what I shared, wasn’t the information alone, but it was the fact that they could see the freedom of the kingdom in my life. I believe the grief they currently suffer is lifting off their life as they partner with the purpose of advancing the kingdom of God in their lives.
Written by: Drew Fraser