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Weekly Word

Entries in Prophets (4)

Tuesday
Dec092014

Faults of the Evil Generation III

Today we are in Luke 11:45-54.  We have been looking at a section where Jesus reveals several things that were problems in his day.  Yet, he classified his generation as an evil one.  Previously we looked at two things that Jesus rebuked them for: their spiritual eyesight had been damaged, and their sin had caused them to focus on their outward life to the expense of their inner life.

These two rebukes set up a situation in which a lawyer, who is offended at what Jesus said, receives 4 more rapid fire rebukes from our Lord.  In each of these rebukes we need to be faithful to compare ourselves to the actions described and ask God to reveal to us if we have similar things we are neglecting, or how we can deal with those things better.

Offended by Correction

Although Jesus does not say this, it is important to see that the lawyer begins at a place of being insulted by the rebukes of Jesus.  Now we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t bristle at correction.  No one likes to be told they are wrong and need to change.  This tendency rears its head early on in our lives and, if not dealt with, will continue to control our reactions on into our adult life.  Those who are given over to wickedness especially do not like correction.  Even God himself is unable to correct them without them getting their feelings hurt.  This is an important point.  No one loves you more than God.  If He corrects you, He does so with the best intentions and purest motivations.  He is trying to save you from the bad results of your choices.  If we should accept hard things from anyone then God should be at the top of the list.  In Christ, God Himself had come down to correct His people because they were destroying themselves individually and as a nation.

Yet, the leaders and the people as a whole were offended or insulted by Jesus.  The word “reproach” in verse 45 (NKJV) literally means an injury or public insult.  Our attachment to our sin will take what is intended to help us and is offered in sincere love as an insult.  In other words it is received as an action of hate.  Was Jesus a hater?  Of course not, but he is received so by those who hate what he has to say.  Yet, if you desire to put to death the wicked deeds of your heart (as true godly people desire) you will make good use of rebukes that even come from those of ill-will.  Think of David when he was fleeing Jerusalem because one of his sons was leading a coup against him.  David was the true king and it is truly evil for his son to usurp the throne from him.  However, David knew that he had his own sins too.  He had committed adultery with Bathsheba and created tensions between the families of his wives.  As he leaves Jerusalem there is a man named Shimei who was a relative of the previous King, Saul.  Shimei was running along the road cursing David and saying that God was paying David back for usurping the throne from Saul.  This, of course, was a pack of lies.  The man is speaking out of the bitterness and jealousy of his own heart.  Yet, David receives what he says and “spits out the bones.”  David knew that even though the man was not right in what he said, God really was rebuking David for his true sins.  Thus the wicked will receive rebukes from no one.  But a righteous man is able to hear the voice of the Lord even through the voice of the wicked.  Lord help us to be careful how we respond to rebuke.

Ultimately this man is trying to justify himself.  Thus, he deflects his own wickedness and accuses Jesus of wrong.  This technique is abundantly practiced in our society.  Whether in politics or religion, we use the failings and sins of the other person to justify ourselves.  We will even use the appearance of sin and accuse others of ulterior motives so that we can discount their message and promote our own.  The godly do not do such things.  The godly person trusts in God as their justifier.  They do not need to hide their faults, nor do they argue with others through character assassination.  Without arrogance and in repentance, we must stand before God and trust in his justification whether society accepts it or not.

They Enforce Duties Hypocritically

In verse 46 Jesus points out that the Lawyers were not as innocent as this man wanted to believe.  Now, there needs to be leaders and people who are able to instruct us in what our duties to society are.  But how this is done is critical.  These guys not only loaded up the people with a huge amount of regulations, but also enforced them hypocritically.  Now a heavy amount of duties is bad enough.  The picture here is like that of loading up a donkey or some such animal.  Each animal has a maximum that they can carry without detriment to the animal.  These lawyers tended to load up people with a heavy amount of laws and regulations.  Take note that God gave Israel laws.  But the rabbis and lawyers had added a great amount of added regulations.  Now it is bad enough to have a heavy load to carry.  But, it would be easier to take if the person who is doing the loading is also carrying the same size load.  Yet, these lawyers, when they made the case against others were very strict.  But when it comes to them, they don’t even lift up one finger to do the regulations.  This hypocrisy makes the heavy weight even heavier. 

God did not do this.  In fact, in Christ, God comes down and carries the burden for us and even takes upon himself most of the burden.  To the point that he could say, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest…My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  We see this same dynamic among our own leaders.  They pass all manner of laws to lay upon the citizens, but don’t have to lift a finger to carry the same burden.  They use all manner of loopholes, justifications, and flat out exemptions only for themselves.  This hypocritical enforcement causes the nation as a whole to groan under the weight of such heavy regulations.  If they break the law there is generally much mercy and grace.  But if an average person breaks the law, they are legalistically and harshly penalized.

Of course this is used as a means of control and manipulation by those in power.  When people are harassed and fearful of punishment, they are more easily subdued to tasks they did not ask for and directions in which they do not want to go.  God’s purpose in giving mankind commands and knowledge about life is not to imprison and control.  Rather, He only gives commands that will set us free from the prison of our own sinful flesh, and the tyranny of our own sinful desires.

They Reject the Prophets God Sends

In verses 47-51 Jesus points out their rejection of the prophets.  This is not just a problem that Israel had.  It has been a problem throughout every generation that we tend to hate those whom God uses to call us to account.  The majority rejects the narrow path of God’s Way and embraces the wide path of destruction.  Sure in some nations at some points in time a majority may choose God.  But these times are few and far between when compared to all the other nations and points in time.

Jesus points out that their tendency to make great shrines to the prophets was itself evidence that they rejected them.  How?  The problem is not so much the graves.  But think of it this way.  The only prophets they honored were dead ones.  Do you see the hypocrisy in that?  A dead prophet is not around to point out your sin and neither can he point out your twisting of his words.  Thus it is always safe to honor a prophet after he is dead.  But their fathers put those prophets to death, they hated them so bad.  Why turn the grave into a shrine?  They would honor a prophet by dressing up his tomb and yet not give honor to the message he stood for by living out its corrections.  Even now they were rejecting Jesus who was the Prophet of prophets, and the exact image of God.  His message was without error and the perfect brilliance of God’s Truth.  There could be no excuse to reject Him and still claim it was for God’s sake.  In fact all the prophets who were killed before were pointing to Jesus.  Thus the tombs themselves become a hypocritical cover and self-justification.

Yet, Jesus states that God will call their bluff.  They claim to love the prophets, yet God will send them prophets and apostles.  They will not only reject Jesus, but also the apostles and prophets that are sent to them by Jesus.  It is a mercy of God that He always calls our bluff.  He loves us too much to let us deceive ourselves and not call us out.  Just as God called their bluff, so he will call ours.  If we refuse to receive the Truth when it comes then the very thing that was sent to help us will become irrefutable evidence against us.  Thus we demonstrate what side we are on (the godly or the wicked) by our actions.

There is an ancient tradition of those who stand for God’s ways and those who rebel against them.  Even in the first family we find Cain being filled with hatred for his brother simply because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not his.  Cain kills Abel.  Jesus uses this first jealous murder and the death of the prophet Zechariah as book-ends to a long history of godly men being put to death by wicked ones.  This Zechariah seems to be the prophet referred to in 2 Chronicles 24.  Joash had become king at a young age.  So the High Priest Jehoida had taken him under his wing and taught him all the ways of God.  The Bible says that Joash was a good king all the days of Jehoida.  But then one day Jehoida died.  Then Joash’s heart was turned away from the ways of God and idol worship became prevalent in the land once again.  Zechariah was the son of Jehoida.  He stood up and confronted the king and the people with their sin.  Joash commanded the son of his mentor to be put to death.  How tragic for a man to be so good for so long and then in the end choose the side of wickedness.  We might ask ourselves which side we are on?  God has been faithful to send his prophets and ministers throughout the land.  Where you attend church says a lot about which side you are on.  The prophets were always killed by self-righteous religious people and that will be true in the future as well.  Be careful how quick you are to reject those who come in the name of the Lord.  Take time to compare it to what the Bible says.  Pray for God to cleanse your heart and reveal those things you need to deal with.

They Obstruct the Way of God

In verses 52-54, Jesus points out their tendency to block people from the truth.  It is bad enough to refuse the truth of God.  However, such people often attempt to obstruct those who are trying to follow God.  Thus Jesus uses the picture of a key.  A key is necessary to open a locked door.  Now there are two ways to take this word picture.  First, Jesus could be talking about the key that opens our ability to receive knowledge or enter into it.  According to Solomon, the fear of the Lord is the beginning (key) of wisdom.  Without it we will never enter into God’s wisdom and knowledge.  Humility, repentance, and a desire to change will open for us the door to wisdom and knowledge from God.  When I know that, on my own, I am the fool and God is the wise sage, I am then enabled to hear Him.

Another way to take this picture is to see knowledge itself as the key.  In Matthew 25 Jesus accuses the Lawyers of shutting up the way to heaven.  Thus the knowledge which God gives opens the door to heaven (dwelling with God).  Yet, the rabbis and lawyers had corrupted the knowledge of God by misrepresenting it and misinterpreting it to the people.  They had twisted the key of knowledge so badly that it people were hampered in getting close to God.  In fact, most people will abandon a key that does not fit or turn a lock anymore.  Our own sins lock us out of relationship with God.  But in His Word He has given us the knowledge to unlock that barrier.  Ultimately Jesus and what he has done is the key that removes that barrier.  Yet, we must believe on him and can only do that through understanding all God said to point us to Jesus.

The religious leaders had become like a mad dog that stands on the porch and won’t let anyone go through the door.  They wouldn’t go in and stood in the way of others getting in.  Yet in his mercy God sent prophets and lastly Jesus so that those who were being blocked could get around such dogs.  Well the last verses point out that the lawyers could not receive these rebukes either.  They are angered and began to verbally attack Jesus and when the opportune time had come they physically attacked him and killed him; offended by correction.  God help us to not follow such outwardly religious and inwardly wicked people.  Take care how you listen and to whom you give most of your time.  You will be accountable before God for the choices you make.  For even though wicked men may have stood in your way, God in His mercy has been faithful to offer you the Truth in many irrefutable ways.  So get into God’s Word for yourself and honestly seek what He is saying.

Tuesday
Jun252013

A Heavy Word to a Loved One

We are going to begin a verse by verse walk through the book of Malachi.  This is the last book of the Old Testament and the end of the section that is called the “Minor Prophets.”  They are called minor because their written prophecies are very small compared to the “Major Prophets” like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.  Malachi literally means “my messenger.”  So there is some dispute as to whether the prophet’s name is Malachi or it is a reference to his prophetic role.  Note that there is no reference to a father ( e.g. Zechariah, son of Berechiah, son of Iddo; or Haggai the son of Shealtiel).

The prophecy is given to Israel during the period after their exile into Babylon and subsequent return.  So let’s begin to look at what God had to say to these people who had been judged by God and now were back in the land rebuilding.

God Reminds Us Of His Love For Us

Verse one begins by calling the Word of the Lord a burden or heavy load.  It is a picture of a camel or donkey that has been weighed down with something to carry.  Malachi received a “Word” from God that was very heavy.  Love can be a fun and light thing, but it can also be very heavy.  God and Israel had been through some very stormy waters.  And, now, the people of Israel had come to a place where they doubted God’s love for them.  Often the myopia of our own circumstances can cause us to think we have it so bad when, in reality, we have it far better than others.  Such is the case with Israel.

Malachi employs a technique where God makes a statement and then points out how Israel is questioning this.  Thus, God says, “I have loved you.”   Whether they were saying it out loud or only in their hearts, God could hear their response, “In what way have you loved us?”

As a Father, God had judged Israel’s actions as wrong.  He had disciplined them and now was restoring them.  What child doesn’t sometimes feel like their parent doesn’t love them?  All of us feel this.

We can grow insensitive to God’s love for us because we want things to be different.  We don’t have the bigger view that a parent would have, much less God.  The present realities of now cloud our ability to see God’s love.  Remember, God is not content for us just to be happy.  He wants us to be like Him.  Thus we chafe under the discipline it takes to become like God.

Next God reminds them of the difference between their nation and the nation of Edom.  As Israel was the descendants of Jacob, so Edom was the descendants of Esau.  It is not surprising to hear God say that he had loved Israel.  But it is surprising to hear God say that he has hated Esau.  What?  There are two points to make about this statement. 

First of all, in this context hate is more a comparison that God loved Israel more and didn’t choose Esau like he did them.  God’s blessings upon Israel were greater than Esau and Edom.  It is not so much about a intense dislike for someone as it is about the lack of a loving choice.  Think of it from the prospective of the jilted person.  Jacob thought he had married Rachel, but instead was given Leah.  Now Jacob did not have an intense hatred for Leah, but he wasn’t satisfied with her.  He worked another 7 years to get Rachel and then demonstrated that he “really” loved Rachel in countless ways in the decades ahead.  The Bible says that when God saw that Leah was unloved (same word translated hated here) he opened her womb.  Jacob may not have had an intense hatred of Leah like we think, but he didn’t “love” her like he did Rachel and that hurt Leah.  Similarly, God is saying that when Jacob and Esau were in the womb, God had chosen to bless Jacob above his brother.  Esau would not receive the same blessing, although he was blessed in many ways as well.  This choosing was not based on biology (same mother and father).  Nor was it based on birth order (the first would be less than the second).  Now we should be careful of confusing this with salvation.  The role and purpose that God was giving to Jacob played a part in salvation, but it was not an declaration that Esau could not be saved. 

Esau could have recognized God’s calling and chose to join with his brother, like Jonathan did.  When Saul was rejected and David chosen we see two very different spirits on display.  In refusing to accept this change, Saul pitted himself as an enemy against David and, even worse, against God.  It led to his eventual physical and spiritual destruction.  Now Jonathan on the other hand recognized the just nature of God’s judgment and chose to embrace David and thus embrace God.  Though Jonathan is killed because of Saul’s folly, no one would make the case that Jonathan was not “saved” or went into eternity with God’s mercy upon him.

Thus Esau and his descendants went on to go down the same path Saul chose,  that of a rebel and self-trust.  The emphasis here is not on what Edom had become, but on that original choosing.  Thus it might be better to see this as Jacob was loved, but (in comparison) Esau was unloved.  The calling is what is in view here.  We can fight against the calling of another or we can join with them and be blessed.

Because of their similar choices, both Edom and Israel had been defeated and destroyed.  Yet, God revealed that he would help Israel rebuild, but he would not help Edom.  In fact God states that he would pull down anything that Esau’s descendants tried to rebuild.  God was not going to bless their wickedness.

We might be quick to cry “foul” here, but recognize that in all of this the issue is not God giving one salvation and refusing to give it to another.  Both are equally able to be saved.  However, because of his calling God would restore Israel.  In fact we know that Israel would go on to a point of rebellion that would cause God to cast them out of the land again between 70 AD and 135 AD.  Both found that not matter what your calling is, only faith in God would bring salvation.

In verse 5 they are told that they would see God’s love for them and recognize that His greatness would overflow the boundaries of Israel, which it did in Jesus the Messiah.

Thus in these last days all nations have the same opportunity to hear the Heavy Word of the Lord and repent.  We, like Jonathan, can agree with God’s rejection of us and acceptance of Jesus.  We can secure for ourselves the favor of God by serving Jesus as Jonathan did David. 

Further Thoughts

It is never easy to deal with heavy things.  But they will never go away unless we face them.  God has given every individual the choice to enter into His love by following Jesus, or remain forever under His judgment.  Have you made that choice to believe on Jesus and follow him yet?  Believe me when I say that the day will come when those who have put their faith in Jesus will see his glory revealed over all the earth as he returns to take up the governance of the earth.  And, all those who have chosen against him will find themselves on the losing side of the battle.  God loves you.  Why would you die?  So, choose life today.

Heavy Word Audio

Tuesday
Sep112012

Our Present Joy

We are continuing our walk through the letter of 1st Peter.  As Peter laid out the truth of the believer’s new birth and secure inheritance, he then turns to recognize the affect that has had upon them.  The section we will look at today is 1 Peter 1:6-12.  The thrust of this section is this: Believers rejoice in their New Birth and Secure, Heavenly Inheritance.  It was a wonder-filled thing that they could claim to have been adopted by God and given a portion in his inheritance.  In truth, it would be considered hogwash if it wasn’t for the greatness of what Jesus taught and did.

We Rejoice Even Though We Have Various Trials

In verses 6 and 7 Peter recognizes that their great joy is despite various trials that they had gone through.  Whether it was the persecution back in Jerusalem that led to their scattering, or it was trials they went through in the new areas to which they had immigrated.  He recognizes that trials cause us to grieve.  Notice they are not berated.  They are not grieving as if they had no hope.  However, it is wrong-headed to berate people for grieving over trials and difficulties.  There is a process of feeling the weight of a trial, grieving over it, and finding peace in Christ through it.  This cannot be short-circuited by our knowledge of it.  Christians grieve and there is nothing wrong with that if we are looking to Christ for comfort and encouragement. 

Part of our comfort is to recognize that these trials are temporary.  Peter’s phrase is “for a little while.”  Peter is not an inexperienced kid telling them this.  He has been through the wringer himself.  Peter has been grieved by the treatment of his own people and further crushed by his personal failures at the cross.  Peter knows what it is to grieve.  However, he reminds them that it will not last forever.  In fact, in light of eternity this present heavy thing will not only seem quick, but also light.  This is not intended to object to their grief but rather to soothe it.  We need to find the grace to look past our present grief to the coming inheritance that God has secured for us.  However, this is a process that will occur many times throughout our life.

Peter also reminds them of why God allows trials in our lives.  They serve to “prove” that our faith is genuine.  The picture here is one of a metal that has been melted down and had the impurities removed to demonstrate its purity.  The “heat” of the trials in our life makes our faith stronger by causing weaknesses to rise to the surface so we can deal with them by the help of the Holy Spirit.  This kind of faith is what will be praised, honored and glorified at the return of Jesus.  Yes, only Jesus deserves these things.  But don’t discount the fact that we have been given the grace of sharing in the praise, honor and glory of Jesus Christ.  God’s plan of salvation was precisely a choosing of believing faith.  In fact Peter says that this kind of believing faith is more precious than gold.  God is not looking for the wisest, strongest, most beautiful, etc.  He is looking for those who will simply believe even in the midst of heated times.

We Rejoice Because Faith Enables Us

In verse 8 Peter ties their joy to their believing in Jesus.  How does faith lead to joy?  Well first he mentions Jesus.  Jesus is the Foundation of their faith.  They are looking forward to something, but the thing that holds up those expectations is Jesus himself.  If it wasn’t for Jesus we would have no hope before us.  Thus they have received the testimony regarding Jesus and have trusted it.  To the degree we trust, we have an internal confidence that we are going to receive our hope.  Thus, faith in Jesus yields confidence in our future hope.  This enables us to rejoice even when temporary difficulties afflict us. 

Notice that Peter refers to it as an “inexpressible” joy.  First of all, it is inexpressible because we just don’t know the full reality of what God has in mind for us.  1 Corinthians 2:9 quotes the Old Testament, “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.”  Our joy is expanded by the knowledge that God has only given us a sneak peek at the joys ahead.  It is also indescribable in that we would not have enough time (or enough tongues) to express all the goodness of God.  2 Corinthians 3:18 points out that God is transforming us from one level of his glory to another level.  Little by little we are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit of Jesus.  This ever expanding blessing of God give us an ever increasing joy at his goodness that is present and future.

We Rejoice Because We Have Obtained Salvation

In verses 9-12 Peter reminds them that they have obtained the goal of their faith: salvation.  Yes, there are aspects to salvation that haven’t happened yet: Total Sanctification, Eradication of Sin, Resurrection, etc.  Yet, those who have trusted in Jesus and followed him do have salvation in hand.  It is a present possession.  We are no longer under the doom of the judgment of this world and our personal sin. 

This is the salvation that was promised by God through the prophets.  Now, Peter gives us an interesting look into the lives of the Old Testament prophets.  They spoke of the grace that was going to come to the believing remnant because of a process that led to God revealing to them his plan.

It starts with “indications of the Spirit.”  As they looked around them and saw the corruption of their society and the difficulty of weeding sin out of their own nature, the prophets began to sense indications from the Spirit that if the messiah came he would suffer.  If they had suffered for being faithful to God’s word then how much more would the messiah suffer who would be perfect in righteousness and faithfulness?  Yet, because they knew that no man could stop God’s plan to save mankind they recognized that he would overcome even this and bring mankind to the glories of salvation, but not because we deserve it.  These indications in their hearts drove them to prayer and searching the Scriptures.  It was in this environment of fervent and prayerful Bible study that God spoke of the things he would do.

It was also revealed to them that all the suffering, studying, searching, hearing and writing was not for their own benefit.  But, rather, it was for the benefit of those who would believe in the messiah because of their words.

The Apostles of Jesus not only had these words of the prophets, but they also listened to the One whom all prophecy points, Jesus.  They witnessed his teaching, love, death and resurrection.  Thus they passed on to us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the truth about God’s messiah.  Yes, he suffered and died for us.  However, he has obtained the grace of salvation for us.  What joy we not only have ahead of us, but also can have right now as we recognize the truth of what we have been given.

I love how Peter ends this with the quip that these are things that the angels strongly desire to look into.  Just as you and I may search Scripture to understand the end times, so angels are strongly curious about this work that God is doing among mankind, salvation.  Praise God!

Present Joy 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