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Entries in Kingdom (6)

Tuesday
Sep052017

The Unshakable Kingdom

Hebrews 12:25-29.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 03, 2017.

Today we will finish this chapter as we look at the importance of believers in Jesus living each day by faith in Him.  Last week we were reminded of the heavenly city in which we have citizenship.  In this last passage, the Holy Spirit reminds us that we are receiving an unshakable kingdom.  As we close out this section, I pray that you are able to see both the wonderful grace of God that we have been given, and the amazing responsibility we have to keep trusting Jesus, no matter what we may face in this life.

Don’t refuse the voice of the Father

By itself, vs. 25 begs the question, “What voice is being referenced?”  However, as you move back through the passage it is clear that the voice of God is what we are talking about.  If we tie the Old Testament allusions to the earlier references that God disciplines us as a Heaven Father, then it becomes clear that Christians are being told not to ignore the voice of God.  Even today, we can be guilty of ignoring or refusing to obey the voice of God.  But, before we get into what that can look like, let’s first deal with this exhortation to obey God’s voice.

We are reminded of those who rejected God’s voice under the Old Covenant and how they did not escape His judgment.  They did hear an audible voice while they were at Mt. Sinai.  However, the majority of God’s Word was given to them by the prophet Moses and confirmed by the amazing signs and wonders that God did among them.  That first generation that came out of Egypt heard the voice of God and even embraced it by agreeing to a covenant with God at Sinai.  Yet, they did not follow God through the desert in faith.  Most of them perished in the wilderness, not because they lost faith one time or in an instance, but because they continually refused to trust God all along the way.  His judgment was sometimes a quick and instantaneous thing such as when Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were swallowed up in an earthquake’s rift, or the many that died from the fiery serpents, or those who perished in the deception of the Moabites.  The testimony of Scripture is that most of them did not walk by faith and complained with unbelief.  The majority perished by simply growing old and dying in their unbelief.  Later generations of Israel who were not at Sinai to hear “The Voice” had to make a choice.  Were they going to listen to the Word of God’s voice that had been recorded or were they going to refuse to listen to it?  We are in the same position.  Though we are not under the Law of Moses, we have heard the record of the New Covenant that God has made clear through His Son Jesus.  Jesus was the Voice of God and He guaranteed that His Holy Spirit would speak through His Apostles to direct His Church.  This has all been recorded faithfully for us.  We have a choice to make.  We either believe it, or refuse and go on in our disbelief.  All generations are accountable to the record of the God’s voice.  On top of all this, if we walk in faith and trust God’s Word, He speaks to our hearts by His Holy Spirit and leads us through the wilderness of this world.  So the point is clear.  Be like Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, rather than like those who refused to believe and perished.  Physically hearing God’s Word is not enough to save us.  We need to put our faith in what it says.

Verse 26 then reminds us that God is shaking the heavens and the earth with His New Covenant through Jesus.  Just as the voice of God shook Mt. Sinai, so the earth would be shaken by the Gospel.  But, more than that, God was also shaking the heavens.  The devil and his angels were being told that they would be cast down into the Lake of Fire, and the Church would be raised up in their place and even higher.  Now this part about shaking the heavens and the earth is a quote from Haggai 2:6.  Its point is that God would shake things to remove that which can be shaken and replace it with something that would be permanent.  It would be easy to see this shaking as something that started and ended in that first year as the disciples went out into the world.  However, when we think through what the Scriptures say about the removal of the old order, on earth and in the heavens, then we can recognize that the shaking started in the first century and will continue until Jesus comes back and concludes removing the old.  Yes, the Law of Moses and the nation of Israel passed away in that first century and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church were set up.  But, this shaking is not over.  Throughout the New Testament we are given a sense that all that God has promised is both now, and not completely yet.  God has much more to do in this shaking that even involves the restored state of Israel and the Jewish people.  The key to this point is to recognize that in Jesus we are a part of what is going to remain.  Why would you try to go back to that which will not remain, the Law of Moses or the world, and refuse that which will remain?  The shaking has begun to knock down the shakable things of this world and that which cannot be shaken has begun to take its place, but it is not yet completed.

So we are told that believers in Jesus are receiving an unshakable kingdom.  By faith in Jesus we have a part in that kingdom that cannot be taken from us.  As Joshua and Caleb led the next generation into the Promised Land, so we can rejoice at the 2nd Coming of Christ and the inheritance that will be made manifest at that time.  When all the nations of this world have fallen, the Kingdom of Jesus will remain.  We should not be arrogant at such words because we stand by faith in God and by His grace, not by our own power.  So the unshakable kingdom is here, at least in our hearts, but not complete.  The book of Revelation is about the completing of the Kingdom of God.  Just as Israel could not survive its continual refusal to listen to God’s voice, the nations of the world today (America included) cannot survive their refusal.  Think about it.  Is there any nation on the earth today whose government makes every decision based upon what will please Jesus Christ and God the Father, based upon God’s Word?  None do so, not even the United States of America.  So I fear for our country as I watch the federal government, state governments, and local continuing to reject the leadership of Jesus and going their own way.

Let us walk in grace

Surrounded by this sea of unbelief, it would be easy to doubt God’s Word and seek compromises with the world and our own flesh.  The whole point of this chapter has been to strengthen our faith so that we can continue to walk in the grace of God (vs. 28).  It is called grace because we cannot obtain it by obeying a list of outward commands.  It truly is a gift of God to those who repent of their sins, and put their faith in Jesus.  It is also called grace because we give to others what God has given us, love, forgiveness, and the offer of salvation.

To those first century Jewish believers (the book is called Hebrews for a reason) the temptation was to quit following the grace of Jesus and go back under the Law of Moses.  However, there was no going back in God’s eyes.  The Old Covenant was fulfilled and had served its purpose.  It was time for the New Covenant and the faithful would hear the voice of God and leave the spiritual Egypt behind in order to follow Jesus, who is greater than Moses in every way.  Today many Jews continue to cling to the Old Covenant hoping to find salvation in it.  But salvation can only be found in God.  For most Christians the problem is not trying to go back to the Law of Moses, although some do struggle with this.  Instead we are often tempted to create a kind of Christian Law, by which we attempt to justify ourselves through outward conformity, rather than through inward transformation.  The point is not so much what you turn back towards, but what you are leaving behind in order to do so.  If God is going east and you turn back and go west, then you are headed away from life.  Don’t turn your back on God and His amazing grace.  Other Christians turn towards a kind of intellectual trick that says we can live anyway we want because we are under grace.  They turn grace into a license for immorality.  This too is a refusal to follow God.  The New Covenant has not removed the need for living out the righteousness of God.  Rather, it has provided a safe platform on which we can become more and more like Jesus as His Word transforms us from the inside to the outside.

Thus verse 28 mentions acceptable service.  Though some versions use the word “worship” it intends worship in the sense of everything we do to show God’s worth.  What makes our life acceptable?  I believe the Holy Spirit’s continual reminder in these passages of those who didn’t believe under the Old Covenant reveals it to us.  Acceptable worship is to do what God says to do.  It is to obey and to do so from a heart broken over its sin and overflowing with thanksgiving to God for His mercy.  Acceptable worship is to walk by faith in Jesus and trusting His Word.  No, not just the parts that we think He said.  Jesus guaranteed that the Holy Spirit would guide the Apostles into all truth.  They faithfully recorded what Jesus taught and what the Spirit taught them.  We are accountable to those words. 

It is also acceptable because it is done in reverence and godly fear.  Why does passage end with such a fierce verse?  “Our God is a consuming fire.”  At Mt. Sinai, Israel was instilled with the fear of a slave towards a master.  But at the cross we are instilled with the respect and healthy fear that a child should have towards their father.  We should always be aware that no matter how close God draws us to His side and no matter how much He loves us, He will not put up with rebellion, unbelief, and refusal to obey.  His very nature of being a consuming fire requires us to approach with understanding.  In fact, it is worth contemplating that the same fire that is able to burn up all our sin and make us a refined product that is 100% pure, can also consume us in judgment.  Faith is what makes the difference.  So let’s fully follow Jesus.  And let’s not do so as we imagine him or want him to be.  Let us hear the word of the Lord and say, “Yes, Father.  I hear and want to follow you!”  Let's not trade an unshakable kingdom for that which cannot last, and a heavenly birthright for the temporary pleasures of sin.

Unshakable Kingdom audio

Tuesday
Feb242015

The Narrow Way

Today we will be looking at Luke 13:22-30.

In this passage a man in the crowd asks Jesus a question, “Are those being saved few?”  It is not clear if this was a subject of debate for that day, or whether the teachings of Jesus have stirred this question within him.  Regardless, the answer that Jesus gives is to the crowd.  Thus he uses the man’s question to launch into important teaching for all. 

However, Jesus does answer his question.  We ask questions typically for the sake of satisfying curiosity.  But Jesus always points us back to ourselves.   He teaches us to ensure we are right with God rather than speculate on others.  Jesus gives a short parable to answer the question; a parable about a narrow gate.

Strive To Enter The Narrow Gate

His answer begins in verse 24 with the instruction to strive to enter the “narrow gate.”  Clearly being used as a metaphor, we must ask to what the narrow gate corresponds.  In the passage he goes on to talk about the Master’s house, being shut out of it, and the Kingdom of God.  Thus the narrow gate is access to the Master’s house and the Kingdom of God.  God restricts access to the Kingdom and only those who satisfy His requirements are able to get through. 

This narrow gate shows up in the teaching of Jesus elsewhere.  In Matthew 7:12-14 the narrow gate leads to life and is contrasted with a wide gate that leads to destruction.  In that passage many go through the wide gate, but few go through the narrow gate.  Thus being a part of the Kingdom is equated with receiving life and not being a part of the Kingdom is equated with being destroyed.

In John 10 Jesus refers to himself as the door (or gate) that leads into the sheep pen.  The picture here is clearly being a part of the “flock of God” (i.e. God’s people).  Later on in chapter 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  With all of these verses we can see that the narrow gate is Jesus himself.  Jesus becomes the point of access to the Father, being a part of his people, being a part of His Kingdom, and having life.

It is the narrow nature of the gate through which few are able to enter that answers the man’s question.  Yes, in some ways few are being saved.  Many will attempt to enter, but in the end they will go through the wide gate instead.  Why?  Clearly it is easier to go through the wide gate.  The restrictive nature of the narrow gate is a tight fit.  They will, no doubt, have to leave some things behind in order to get through it.  Yet, too many will not pay such a price.  Instead they cling to the things of this world and find a wider gate.  This brings up an important point.  Few are being saved because of the difficulty, not because of a quota nor because the gate is hard to find.

In the midst of this we can see why Jesus doesn’t give a simple answer to the man.  In some times and in some places many people can be saved.  On the Day of Pentecost after Peter’s sermon 3,000 people came to know the Lord.  Yet, at other times precious few repent and believe.  The question is not are only a few being saved.  The real question is, “Am I pressing through the narrow gate?”  The more people who ask that question the more likely we will see many people coming to the Lord.  Even then, historically it is clear that the majority of the world will continue to go through the wide gate.  Ultimately a large number of believers will be brought together before the throne of God, but they got there by choosing to be a part of that small remnant that follow Jesus in spirit and in truth.

Thus seeking for God is not enough to surmount the obstacles you will incur.  Those who seek will find because God wants to be found.  Yet, then the challenge to enter through Jesus presents itself.  The call to pick up our cross and follow Jesus presents itself.  In Acts 17:30 we are told that, “truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.”  Also, in Acts 4:12 it says, “nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  Up to Jesus God had overlooked the sins of the nations.  But, now that His solution, His messiah, has shown up it is a new day.  He requires all men everywhere to repent of sin and believe on Jesus.  This is presented in the metaphor as going through a narrow gate.  Thus if you feel that this idea is to simplistic and too narrow-minded, you might pause at this point and recognize that even God says it is narrow.  Only those who will humble themselves and put their faith in Jesus can continue on into Life and this will require striving.  This word in the context of enemies would be translated as “fight.”  Thus we must recognize that I will run into resistance to going through the narrow gate.  This resistance will come from within me (flesh) and from my own past choices.  There will also be resistance from people around me, family, friends, and enemies.  A spiritual enemy also fights against us going through the narrow gate.  Through temptations and difficulties (trials) he seeks to discourage us and seduce us back to the wide gate that doesn’t require so much effort.

Enter Before The Gate Is Shut

In verse 25 the parable shifts.  Now the gate has become a door to God’s house.  In fact this could be included with the previous inability to enter.  Once the door is shut no one will be able to enter.  Much like the door of the ark shutting, the judgment rain began to fall, but it was too late to get into the ark. God had shut the door.  We can wait too long to put our faith in Jesus.  We live in an Age of Grace, in which the door to God’s Kingdom is available to all.  Yes, you must strive and it won’t be easy.  But any one (whosoever) can go through the narrow gate if they want it more than this world.  In 2 Corinthians 6:2 we are told, “Now is the day of salvation.”  Like a spouse who doesn’t try to shape up until divorce papers are filed, we can be guilty of too little too late.  When Christ comes at his second coming, it will be too late to make things right.  The die has been cast and the time to pay the piper will be here.  Yet, this shutting of the door also has a personal application.  It is possible that we can cross a line of taking God’s grace for granted for too long.  We may ruin our own hearts ability to respond to the grace of God.  Ultimately we may do so right up to the day of our death.  Once we die, it will be too late to try to make amends with God.  Now is the day of salvation.  Then will be the day of judgment.  Either way, this time of grace is coming to an end.  We need to be pressing in now and encouraging others to do so rather than traveling the wide and easy path.

On that day that the door is shut no amount of pleading and crying will help us.  They will all be rejected.  In the parable the master tells those pleading to be let in that he doesn’t know them (vs.27).  Here the word is one of recognition.  “You do not look like mine.”  Also, he calls them workers of iniquity.  They may have heard his teachings and even attended his “churches.”  However, in the end they lived a life of working (doing) sin rather than pressing through the gate of Jesus.  Jesus truly is a litmus test of whether we love God or love our sin.  Not in the sense of an instantaneous test, but over the course of our life, Jesus forces us to choose.  Or, better yet, to follow Jesus forces us to choose.  Such people will weep and gnash their teeth as they watch others entering into the Kingdom and yet, they see themselves being shut out.

Not All Is As It Seems

Verse 30 ends this section with a warning.  We become so used to trusting our senses that we can forget that God deals with truth not imagery.  God makes decisions based upon the Truth of the matter, not upon what a person looked like.  Thus not everything is as it seems and not everyone is as they seem.  There are some who are great in the Church in this world.  They have high positions of authority, or people think highly of them.  The first of this life will not necessarily be first in the Age to come.  In fact many great people will not make it into the Kingdom of God.  They will be shut out.  And some of those who do make it in will be the least in the Kingdom.   The opposite is also true.  Many who are nothing in this life will be the greats of that Kingdom.  Those who appear to greatly serve God and have a high place within the Church today may end up in the same place as the High Priest of Israel in the days of Jesus; shut out.  We must be careful of not letting such praise of our fellow man mislead us in any way.  We must also make sure that we do not let such great people mislead us from the narrow way, simply because we think they are close to God.  Jesus is the gate.  It is the revelation that He gave us through His Apostles that we are to believe upon and follow.  There is much deception, both intentionally and unintentionally, happening under the umbrella of the Church.

Yet, these things are not categorical.  What I mean is that it is not an automatic thing, that the greatest will be the least and vice versa.  Rather it is a warning to us about the reality of being judged by a holy God who is not affected by sinful desires.  It is not ours to worry about future greatness, but to ensure that we are striving to enter.  No, salvation is not up to our works, but salvation will be met with resistance from our flesh, the world, and the devil.  We are going to have to want Jesus more than this world.  Without such a battle, there will be no place in God’s kingdom.  Thus we must take hold of the Faith that has been once and for all delivered unto those who believe God.  We must also stand fast in the Grace of Christ as we follow His teachings and grow to become more and more like him every day.  May God help us to press through the narrow gate and enter His Kingdom and the place that He has for us.

NarrowWay Audio

Wednesday
Jan072015

Why You Should Not Worry

Luke 12:22-34.  If an audio link exists it will be at the end of the post.

In today’s passage Jesus speaks to the issue of worry or anxiety.  We often let stress build up in our lives to the point that we can even make ourselves sick.  Here are some recent statistics on stress in America.  20% of Americans say they feel stressed out every day, 60% say they feel stressed out once a week.  Research clearly shows that “stress deteriorates our immune systems; people under constant high stress show lower T-cell counts, which are essential for immune response.”

We use the term stress in two very different ways.  First, we use stress to refer to the person, thing, or situation that is the “stressor.”  This use focuses on the external thing that presents a challenge to us in some way.  However, the second use of this word refers to an inner response to that challenge.  Thus someone is “stressed out.”  It is to this inner aspect that the words “worry” or “anxiety” refer.  Now in some ways people can stress out about some of the silliest things.  I don’t say that to put them down because I do it myself from time to time.  That said, there is much in this world today about which we could reasonably worry.  In fact, the Bible describes the last days as, “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth,” Luke 21:26 (NKJV).

In our passage today we see that God intends His people to have peace in their hearts about the things in their lives, especially when the world is falling apart.  Paul describes the Christian life in Romans 14:17 this way, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  Worry is one of the main ways that we miss out on the peace and joy that God wants us to experience.   In fact, verse 22 starts out with the Lord’s command to not worry about things in our life.  So let’s look at eight reasons why we should not worry as followers of Christ.

Your Life Is More Than Food And Clothing

Look at verses 22-23. The word “life” here refers both to the living force within us (staying alive) and the internal soul and its will, emotions, desires, etc.  Whether the concern is physical survival or simply the desires of our heart, we fear the things that can affect both.  Here Jesus uses the issues of food and clothing.  In Matthew’s account of this sermon he adds shelter.  Notice that all three of these issues can be issues of survival or simply issues of what we desire.  I want better food or even yummier food! Or, I want nicer clothes!  Perhaps I want the best clothes so that I will be noticed?  Most people shoot way past survival when it comes to picking out shelter.  In fact, no one calls a house their “shelter.”  So we could add to this list that Jesus starts: entertainments, wealth, investments, vacations, holidays, boyfriends and girlfriends, spouses, and the list goes on and on.  Jesus is not discounting the necessity that exists within these things.  However, he tells us that our life is greater than those things.  The things that make four our being physically alive and our soul prospering are not fulfilled by such things alone.  In fact, the case could be made that they play the smaller part.  “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Father.”  Thus if I have bread, but not the Father, I am in severe trouble.  Yet, if I have no bread, but have the care of the Father, then I have nothing to worry about.  And, that is the problem with worry, it shrinks our life down into small trivial things and we become a small trivial person swimming in a sea of problems.

You Are Valuable To God

In verse 24 Jesus turns to the birds and teaches us a lesson.  The raven is a bird of little value.  He doesn’t use the peacock or some other rare, expensive bird, but simply a raven.  He reminds us that God cares for them.  In fact, they don’t build barns and plant crops.  They simply live off of what is provided for them every day.  How much more will God carry us through who are more valuable to Him than a raven?  This rhetorical question is clearly intended to be answered with a resounding, “much more!”  But it is purposefully left hanging for us to meditate and chew on.

When we think about how God did not spare His own Son, but asked Him to come down to earth and become a man, and then to be put to death on a cross for a mankind that had rebelled against him, we ought to be amazed at the price God has paid for us.  When we think about the Son, without coercion, agreeing whole-heartedly to such a plan, we ought to be amazed at the value he places on us.  The value of each person is more to God than perhaps we can imagine.  Many times at the root of our worry is the fear that God cares for others, but not for us.  Some may challenge this premise that the birds owe their thanks for food to God.  But, they would be those who are not in relationship with God.  If He is your Father, then can you not see that He has made provision for you as well?

Worry Will Not Help Your Situation

In verses 25-26 Jesus points out the futility of worry.  Whether it is a foot to your stature or a million dollars to your bank account, worrying doesn’t do anything to help.  In fact, it does quite the opposite.  Worrying will always make the situation worse.  It ruins our attitude and hampers the response that we can make.  It can affect the people around us.  Like the Peanuts character “Pigpen” our attitude of fear and worry surrounds us like a cloud and sends those around us either fleeing or catches them up in our cloud.  Worry blurs the lines between what we can change and what we can’t.  It has negative affects upon us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  In fact, I don’t believe that anyone worries because they think it will help.  They worry because they think they have no choice and no power over their situation.  Now let’s be clear.  Analyzing a problem and choosing a response is not equivalent to worrying.  It is a proper response to any stress to figure out if there is anything we can do to mitigate it.  However, we often run into situations where there is little we can do.  It is at this point that we can slide into anxiety and worry.  We cycle around and around about a problem with no solution and underline our powerlessness in our mind, until we are paralyzed and depressed.  It can become habitual like a rut in the road that, no matter how many times you pop out of it, it quickly sucks you back down into itself.  Worrying really is a foolish response when we think about it this way.  Why would I want to make a bad situation worse?  I know that no one does it for that reason.  But perhaps we can stop for that reason?

Worry Lacks Faith In A Faithful God

In verses 27-28 Jesus draws from another nature analogy.  As ravens are to food, so flowers are compared to clothing.  You might think that Jesus is really stretching it for this analogy, but go with Him for a little bit.  Clothing can be about warmth, but in most cases we want to make a social statement with how we dress.  It is a big part of who we are.  Jesus says that the lily is clothed with greater spendor than King Solomon ever was.  Notice that a lily cannot lay claim to why it is so beautiful.  Of course we could point out many beautiful flowers throughout creation.  All of them have been given a unique beauty and glory from God.  Will not God so clothe you with unique beauty and glory?  Our problem is that we often look to clothes to do what they really cannot do.  Clothes can only impress the superficial.  The things that make for our true “social statement” are not our clothes.  Again Jesus hammers home the point of our value to God.  Flowers are frailer than even mankind.  Yet, Jesus asks how much more will God clothe us?  I won’t take time to go into it, but there appears to be an implication that reaches forward to the Resurrection, in which we will be “clothed with glory” and “this mortal will put on immortality.”

Now Jesus ends this with the phrase, “O you of little faith.”  Here he points us to our lack of faith in a God who has proven Himself faithful many times over.  God is asking His people to trust Him, not just in a blind faith.  He is faithful everyday to his creation.  He even causes it to rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  God’s provision is spread throughout the cosmos.  In fact, we might even call it wasteful as an immeasurable amount of energy, that we will never be able to harness, is cast into the void of space.  But it is not wasteful for God because He is infinite and it is He who has made provision for us.  How greatly do we trust God?  Many Christians have been stripped of their clothing, houses, lands, freedom, and even their lives.  They could have completely despaired God’s care and concern for them.  They could have “cursed God and died.”  Yet, they testified, over and over again, that God was faithful to them through it all.  Our life is greater than things that can be taken away from us in this life.  Jesus promises that anyone who loses anything for His sake will be paid back in this life and in the Age to come.  Imagine the great glory we will have in the Resurrection ruling in power with Jesus Himself when He returns.  The small losses of this life are trivial in light of the great glory that is coming to us.

Those Who Are Separated From God Worry

In verses 29 and 30 there are actually a couple of reasons not to worry.  The first is in the reference to the nations.  The Bible reveals that the nations of the world had walked away from God.  Thus they were separated from Him and in darkness to their true condition.  They had been given over to the “god” of this world.  However, Israel was a unique thing.  God created a nation who would not only belong to Him, but also be a light to the darkened gentiles.  In fact the term “nations” was a Jewish idiom for all other nations who were outside God's kingdom.  Jesus challenges his disciples with the recognition that we can be guilty of acting like the lost.  Now it makes sense for those who are lost and in darkness to worry.  God is not their Father and the “gods” (actually demons) that do rule over them are heavy taskmasters.  On top of this they are enemies of the One True God.  In that sense they have every reason to worry.  Such should not be for those who are the Children of God.  Why would His people worry?  Perhaps we are not confident in our relationship with Him.  In fact many trials test our ability to keep our confidence in God’s faithfulness.  Too often we let these small issues define whether God loves us or not.  However, when He was hanging on the cross, what did Jesus have that would enable Him to be confident in God’s promises to Him?  Everything that we could use to comfort ourselves was stripped from Him, except the very Word of God itself.  Thus He says to us, "pick up your cross and follow me."

God Knows About Your Needs

The second thing in verses 29 and 30 is the phrase, “Your Father in Heaven knows you need these things.”  It is not just that He knows, it is He who designed us with these needs in the first place.  Yes, our desires and wants often sprint on past our needs.  Still, it doesn’t change the fact that God knows exactly what our needs are, even better than ourselves.  Therein lies part of the problem.  God always provides but not always at the levels we desire and seek after.  God always meets our greatest needs, but His list and our list are generally not the same.  We often seek fulfillment in the things that should be at the bottom of the list at the expense of the things that should be at the top.  God loves us too much to satisfy our every wish.  He has greater plans for us.

Our Life Is Found In Seeking The Kingdom Of God

In verses 31 and 32, Jesus points us towards what we should be seeking after, the Kingdom of God.  Worry focuses our life on exactly the wrong things.  So what does it mean to seek the Kingdom of God?  We seek to have Him ruling in our hearts and our life by reading His Word and prayerfully incorporating it into our life.  We seek to understand the reasons behind his commands and designs.  We seek to fulfill the commission that He has given us by sharing His act of love with those who are lost and in the dark to these things.  In short we choose His way over the top of our way, or even the way of the latest self-help guru we may admire.

Jesus uses a term “little flock.”  This term is intended to be an extremely tender term.  In fact the word flock is a diminutive form.  To coin a term it is like him calling them a “little flocklet,”- my apologies to the English language.  They are few and little, not even a full “flock.”  These are the very kind of things that cause us to worry.  Yet, here we see it is precisely what makes them dear to our Lord.  Have you ever thought that the very things you fret over are exactly what make you precious and dear to the heart of God?  The tenderness of Jesus here is the tenderness of the Father towards all who suffer things in this life for His sake.  Even in seeking His kingdom we must bear in mind that we receive it not because of our ability, but simply because it pleases Him to give it to those who are the “weak” and the “poor” of this life.  We are often guilty of striving to obtain in this life what we cannot at the expense of even greater things in the life to come.  As Jim Elliot wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  This was written by a man who would die at the hands of an unreached tribe in the jungles of Equador.   Was it a tragic loss?  On the natural plane it was.  But in the spiritual plane of the Kingdom of God it was a nuclear bomb that brought an entire village out of the Kingdom of Darkness and into the Kingdom of Jesus.

Worry Ties Our Heart To This World

In the last verse Jesus seals the deal.  Where is your heart?  Our worries and anxieties are like carbon cords tying us to the “stone” of this world.  This world and the cares of it are passing away.  If we allow our hearts to be lashed to the mast of a ship that is going down, then we will perish with it.  Thus, Jesus has brought his disciples full circle to the Rich Young Fool in verses “12-21.”  This man’s heart was tied to this world without thought for the things of God.  When his judgment came he was found lacking and judged as a fool.  Worry is a foolish thing because it jeopardizes our soul.  Yet, it is easy to give into it because of the frailty of our flesh.  Even though this is a clear command from Christ, it is given in a far more tender way.  This is not the command of a master, but the tender heart of a Father who doesn’t want to see us fret when He has pledged Himself to us.  May God help us this year to do much less worrying and much more trusting so that we can focus on what really matters in this life!

Why You Should Not Worry Audio

Tuesday
Aug072012

The Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, Part 3

We have seen how Matthew 16 and Matthew 18 demonstrate the Keys to the Kingdom that Jesus has given to his church.  First, the truth about God and His Son Jesus and, second, How believers and the church as a whole deal with sin.

There are no other passages that tie into the terminology of these passages to suggest other keys.  However, it is easy to see how many aspect become "key" to helping people into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Love and humility in all we do is Key.  Mercy and Grace are also Key.   But these things are the how to the above whats.  Today I want to tie together some concluding thoughts on this subject by starting in Luke 11.

The Old Testament Saints Had The Key of Knowledge

The key to the kingdom of heaven was not a new thing.  God had already given it to Israel in his Law and then reminded of it through his prophets.  The problem was that the religious leaders kept missing the point because of their sin.  In Luke 11 starting in verse 52, Jesus holds the religious "lawyers" accountable for taking away the Key of knowledge.

This knowledge that they had been given was about who the Creator was and how men could please him.  Clearly the Law was misunderstood.  The religious leaders who were responsible to interpret the law for the people improperly used the law to build up their own traditions or ideas.  They ignored the warnings and revelations of the prophets and instead fixated on a technical keeping of the law.  In fact they didn't even do that well.  It is important for us to understand that the Law that God gave Moses was to help us understand who He is and what He desires of us.  It is the very words and judgments of God.  Thus it is not something that we can twist and manipulate looking for loopholes and technicalities.  When we do this we are shaping God in our own image, our own thinking.  This is a political attitude that is not only found in courtrooms but also in the halls of government today.

The lawyers showed their true self once they were rebuked by Jesus.  The Bible says, "Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you, rebuke a wiseman and he will love you."  Of course Jesus' job is to reveal the true self of these hypocritical posers.  Luke says that they began to assail him vehemently.  Not only at that time, but also from that time forward, they did not listen to what he said.  They only watch him like a hungry wolf for any point of weakness in which they might attack.  Doesn't that just about sum up politics and the courtroom here in America?  I am not judging everyone.  However, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that politics and justice in this country has become a bunch of posers who do not debate.  Rather they look for loopholes and leverage points in the law and the words of each other in order to better their position.  This will not work with God.  He will not be mocked by our psuedo sophistry, or our false wisdom.  We will be held accountable and believe me we know too much.

The attitude of the lawyers is that of a dog in the door.  I don't mean the lazy dog picture.  But rather the pit bull that stands in front of the door barking and foaming at the mouth.  They don't go in but rather stand at the door keeping everyone from getting in.  Their is a need for religious leaders, but not those who make a mockery of the Truth of God, not those who attack anyone who tries to really know God.

So the Old Testament saints had enough knowledge to enter the Kingdom. However, the religious leaders had so confused the issue that God had to send Jesus to clarify and give greater definition to the truth.

By Faith We Already Live in Christ's Kingdom

In Colossians chapter 1 verse 13 we have a powerful verse.  "He [God] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love."  This is a picture of a military incursion.  Although it is not a physical airlifting from one country to another, that is the picture spiritually.  We once were in a kingdom of darkness and ignorance to the Truth of God.  But now through the life, miracles and teaching of Jesus we have been airlifted into a kingdom of light that is ruled by the Son of God's love.  Yes we are physically in this world, but spiritually we are not of it.  We are of a heavenly kingdom.  That kingdom will one day physically come to earth.  But until then we spiritually participate in it now through our faith in Jesus.  Jesus told the pharisees of his day that they would not see the kingdom of heaven come.  Rather it would be in the hearts of people.  That is where we have been for nearly 2,000 years.  However, he is not saying that it will never "really" come, that it was only meant to be spiritual.  So we are to live today in the light of a future kingdom.

What does kingdom living look like?  In Galatians 5:6 it says, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love."  The first thing I would point out is that Kingdom living does not fixate on the technicalities of God's Law but rather looks to the spirit of what is being said.  That doesn't mean we don't obey it.  However, we don't stop there.  Rather, we realize that the rejection of sexual immorality speaks of a deeper rejection of spiritual harlotry, adultery and promiscuity. 

Instead of working on a list of do's and don'ts, our faith in Jesus expresses itself in loving actions towards God and our fellow man.  This is the life God has called us to.  A life that is lived with an ear to the Spirit of God who is the Spirit of Truth.  The previous method of technicalities and loopholes may look godly, but it is empty and powerless to accomplish anything spiritually.  However the life that is lived by faith expressing itself through loving actions, this life is the life that pleases God and transforms our life.  It is powerful because the Spirit of God is within it.

Here are some practical thoughts for Christians.  Make sure you have fully entered into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Challenge yourself by looking into the mirror of God's word.  Have I been a dog in the door towards others?  Have used technicalities and loopholes to my advantage and yet disadvantaged others with them?  Have I judged others strictly and yet hypocritically justify myself at every turn?  God is not pleased with such actions and calls us to repent and walk by faith in Jesus Christ and in the power of His Spirit.

Another challenge for us is to not trust the mind of man.  No matter how brilliant a theologian is, we must trust God's Word over the top of man's attempt to explain it.  The Rabbi's were very creative and brilliant in their analysis of the law and the creation of traditions.  However, they were completely off track.  They missed it.  Don't turn God's word into a document that you can twist and find technicalities in.  Don't look for loopholes and what you can get away with.  Instead see it as a glimpse into the heart of God.  God has revealed his heart and we need to respond in faith through the actions of love rather than looking for was around it.

Keys to the Kingdom P3 Audio