Tag Archives: kingdom of God

Today’s Scripture – July 12, 2018

John 7:33-36 (NIV)
Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I go to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”
The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”

While the plot against Jesus was unfolding, Jesus simply continued to teach the people in the temple courts. Woven into that teaching was the warning that the people would not have an unlimited amount of time to listen to Him and to believe in Him; there was a finite window. At this point, in fact, Jesus’ time among the people was already approaching the halfway point.

Of course, even though Jesus was very clear about the circumstances of His departure, the people did not get it. “I go to the one who sent me” is actually very clear IF you are willing to receive the fact that He was sent from God’s throne to do the work He was involved in. He was simply letting them know that He would not be around forever, as popular Messianic theology portrayed. His time on earth among God’s people would soon draw to a close, and then He would return to heaven from whence He had been sent.

But the people had no clear frame of reference from which to correctly interpret His words. Enoch and Elijah had both been taken bodily to heaven when their time on earth was completed, but those were incredibly rare exceptions. Everyone else, when they said that they were leaving, or were returning to the one who had sent them, were signaling that they would be leaving for another city, or maybe even another country.

Jesus’ words were so strong that the people interpreted His meaning in the most drastic way that they could imagine. They opined that He probably meant that He would be leaving the country to preach and heal among the Jewish people who lived elsewhere in the Roman Empire among the Greek-speaking gentiles. Maybe He would even teach those gentiles about the true God and His kingdom.

All of that fit into their information set and their worldview. But, like nearly all human reasoning applied to God and His kingdom, it was dead wrong. But Jesus still had a way to go. He would be back to the city several more times before the final scenes of His mission were played out.

Father, You make a really good point. Human reasoning, no matter how heartfelt or educated, is no substitute for Your clear revelation. We will always get it wrong, limit Your plans in our minds to what we see as necessary and achievable, and thus shoot far, far too low. Help us, Lord, to simply receive Your word, Your instruction, and Your promises as given, so that we can live every day in them. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 3, 2018

Luke 24:44-49 (NIV)

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

The disciples had calmed down enough that Jesus was able to help them start to understand some of what was going on. They shock of seeing Him alive was starting to fade, and in its place was a sense of awe at what they were experiencing.

But Jesus wasn’t going to waste a lot of time on niceties and chitchat. Luke actually compresses the teachings that Jesus gave to His followers over the 40-day span between His resurrection and His ascension into heaven (Acts 11:3) into the last ten verses of his gospel, hitting all of the high points, and leaving the details to be illustrated by the lives and the sermons of the post-Pentecost apostles as shown in the book of Acts.

The first point Jesus made is that the events of the past several days were not happenstance. Instead, they were all part of the divine plan progressively revealed clear back in Genesis (beginning with verse 3:15), extending through the prophets, and even laced throughout the poetry of the Psalms. And the plan was still working itself out; it wasn’t completed by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Over every encounter that Jesus had with the disicples during the 40-day span before His departure, He retaught them what the Scriptures revealed of God’s plan. The sacrifice of the Messiah for sins and His resurrection were the central points to which everything prior pointed, and from which everything after derived its direction and meaning. The outflow of this plan would come when the walls of the Israelite people of God would be kicked out, making room for an expansion of God’s kingdom into all people groups (Revelation 7:9). This expansion of the kingdom through the message of repentance and forgiveness would start in Jerusalem, and then expand throughout Judea and Samaria, and from there to the ends of the world (Acts 1:8), becoming a mighty mountain that would grow to fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45a).

The disciples would be the ones through whom the message would go out and spread; they would be the initiators, the spark that would catch and spread far beyond the places that they themselves could go. But before they could accomplish that, they would have to be set on fire themselves. Excitement and joy would not be enough to see them through the challenges that they would face. So, God would be providing them divine power to move them forward. It would come to them in Jerusalem, and it would come soon.

Father, sometimes it is hard for us “New Testament Christians” to remember that there is no change of direction, no break in theology or philosophy between the Old Testament and the New. It is one story straight through. The New Testament is merely the ultimate revelation of who you are, the ultimate accomplishment of Your plan to redeem rebellious mankind that was set in motion during the first days of humanity’s existence. Every sermon that the disciples preached, and every letter that they wrote was chock-full of Scripture, Old Testament Scripture, and indeed, those are the Scriptures that Jesus opened the minds of the His followers to understand. Help us, as your people, to receive ALL that You have revealed to us of Your person and Your plan, so that we can help others to know about You as well. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 24, 2018

Luke 22:28-30 (NIV) “You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

The disciples, even at this late hour, were still consumed by self-interest and self-promotion, trying to get ahead by dint of their own efforts. But, again, that is not the way of the kingdom of God.

Instead, God’s kingdom is a kingdom of grace and favor. No one will ever be allowed to seize or usurp power by force or might, because in God’s kingdom God alone is king. But He also delegates power, authority, and recognition to those who humbly submit themselves to His authority.

It is on the basis of that reality that Jesus could declare to His followers that they didn’t have to struggle and grapple with each other over the edges of the kingdom. Instead, as those who had stuck with Him through thick and thin, the power and authority of God’s kingdom was going to be graciously bestowed on them, not on the basis of merit or might, but on the basis of God’s grace.

This authority and power was symbolized by Jesus in His picture of the disciples eating at His table. That shows that the kingdom that they were to be given would not be their own, but would be a derivative kingdom. In a sense, they would serve as satraps, with authority to judge (not simply in the sense of a trial, but in the sense of ruling and leading, like the judges of ancient Israel), but ultimately subservient to the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords, Jesus Himself. Jesus, as the supreme ruler of God’s kingdom, retained authority to empower anyone He chose, and He was letting them know that they could relax about their future, because He was choosing them.

It wasn’t until after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, after the descent of the Holy Spirit on them, that they were finally able to understand what Jesus was telling them here. And it was only as they were filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit that they were able to successfully fulfill the roles that Jesus had called them to.

Father, this picture of authority and power was not just for those initial followers, but, through their ministry, it is for all of those who surrender to You, all who are filled by Your Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39). But we always must remember that our authority, and any power that we have, is not ours, but is derived through our relationship with Jesus, and therefore must be used to bear witness to Him, and to glorify His name. Help us to live out these realities today and every day. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 23, 2018

Luke 22:24-27 (NIV) Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

The disciples still didn’t get it. Jesus’ talk of the coming kingdom of God (verse 18) brought to mind their mistaken belief that the kingdom of God was to be a complete restoration of the state of Israel to its former glory, with the Messiah, Jesus, ensconced as king. And, of course, that meant that they, His closest followers, would become His highest-ranking officials.

This prompted a discussion of which of them would have the top spot in Jesus’ cabinet; which would be His second-in-command. Each of the disciples had their strengths, each had things that they could point to that they believed qualified them to be the one. And, before they realized it, the casual discussion had grown first serious, then loud.

Jesus put an end to the argument at once. Rather than trying to point out (again!) that God’s kingdom was not an earthly kingdom in the first place, He simply told them (again!) that the way that things operate in God’s kingdom are completely different than the way they operate in the kingdom of the world. In the world, there are hierarchies based on power structures, wealth, and strength, like the kings and emperors of the gentiles, who held their power by exerting authority and military might, and convincing those below them that it was in their best interests not to challenge that authority.

But the way of God’s kingdom is the mirror image of that. In God’s kingdom, humility and service rule the day, illustrated by none other than Jesus Himself. By their own reckoning, Jesus should have been a person who demanded that those around Him serve Him and cater to His every whim. He was, after all, the Messiah! Instead, Jesus cast Himself as one who serves. Even though Matthew did not include the narrative of Jesus’ washing the disciples feet before the meal began as John did (John 13:3-17), His statement, “I am among you as one who serves,” clearly reflects that very recent event.

Jesus message to His self-focused followers was clear: God’s kingdom is not at all like the kingdom of the world. To be at the top of God’s kingdom does not require ruthlessness, strength, power, or military might. It only requires a servant’s heart and love of the kind that Jesus continually demonstrated.

Father, it is still very easy for us to fall into two errors of the same kind as those the disciples fell into. Instead of seeing the kingdom of God as equivalent to any national kingdom or government, we often see it as equivalent to the organizational church. And then, we aim to exert influence or gain higher positions in the church structure, so that we can move things in the direction that we would have them to go. But although some, maybe even many, in the Church belong to the kingdom of God, neither the past or current iterations of the organizational church are identical to Your kingdom any more than the kingdom of Israel was. And positions of real influence in Your kingdom are still not based on power, strength, or military might, but on love and service – the same kind of love and service that Jesus Himself embodied. Lord, help me to love, to serve, to focus my energies and my priorities on YOUR agenda, and not worry about being great in the kingdom as people understand greatness, but focus on being great in the kingdom as You understand greatness. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 28, 2018

Luke 19:14 (NIV) “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’”

The people who hated this nobleman were not his servants (although one of the servants had a low opinion of his master – verse 21), but were the people who would be subject to him when he was granted the kingship. If the nobleman in the story represents Jesus, which is clearly the case, these people who rejected the nobleman and his claim to rule over them are the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, and the high priests. They continually refused to acknowledge Jesus’ authority to do what God had called Him to do, and their worst fear was that the people would elevate Him to the throne, and then they would have no choice but to acknowledge His authority.

But Jesus was far more than their deepest fears would even consider Him to be. Jesus had no desire for an earthly throne, even the throne of Israel. That would have been an infinite leap downward from the throne that was rightfully His: the throne of the kingdom of God.

But what these leaders failed to recognize was that rejection of Jesus and His authority over the kingdom of God was rejection of God as well (Luke 10:16). By refusing to accept Jesus’ authority, they were rejecting the authority of God, since God had sent Jesus, and since Jesus did all things at His specific direction (John 5:19). By plotting to overthrow the one that God had sent in His name they were actively rebelling against God and against His authority.

But these leaders could not see these realities. They sincerely believed that their resistance to Jesus, their defiance of His claim to the throne, was upholding God’s holiness. They had blinded themselves by their own self-righteousness, and they couldn’t even see the doom that their rebellion was bringing on them.

Father, how many people are incurring the same doom by refusing to acknowledge Jesus’ sovereignty over their lives. They want so badly to keep their own self-sovereignty that they completely reject Jesus and all that He stands for. Lord, help me to see those around me who are standing in such peril, and to show them the great blessings of Your kingdom by my own life, so that they can see, turn, and be saved. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 27, 2018

Luke 19:11-13 (NIV) While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’”

The people looked for Jesus to usher in the earthly kingdom of God as soon as He arrived in Jerusalem later that afternoon. They expected that He would immediately proclaim Himself king, a move that they would gladly support, and kick the Romans out the country, setting them free, and setting the stage for the full restoration of Israel as a superpower.

The kingdom of God in that moment resided in Jesus. But it would come in power into His followers on the day of Pentecost, when all but one of those who had heard Jesus promise its arrival were still alive (Mark 9:1). However, when it came, it would not be at all the earthly kingdom that the majority of the Jewish people were expecting. It would be the start of an eternal spiritual kingdom that would profoundly impact the kingdoms of the world; not the restoration of the old Israel, but a breaking out of a new thing – a kingdom, in fact, that was not of this world at all (John 18:36).

There would come a day though, far in the future from the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, when Jesus would return and claim the throne of the kingdom on earth as well as in heaven. But before that day would come, He would have to go away, back to heaven, and then return.

In the meantime, while He was gone, He would leave the riches of the kingdom with His servants, His disciples, expecting them to put those riches to work in His absence so that His kingdom would be even larger and more grand when He returned to receive it.

Of course, Jesus has not yet returned. But the commission to His disicples, His followers, the people of the kingdom, is still in effect. We have all been entrusted with kingdom riches, and are expected to be putting them to work diligently until Jesus returns from His journey “to a distant country” to receive the kingdom back to Himself.

Father, this is a different view than many Christians have. Often our view is that we must simply wait for Jesus, or even just “hang on” while He delays. But there are blessings that we possess, gifts and graces and work to be done with them all the way until He returns. Help us to be faithful in this work, to keep using every good gift You have given us, so that Your agenda of powerful kingdom growth will continue to move forward until Jesus returns. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 19, 2018

Luke 18:24-27 (NIV) Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

These words were said to all of those gathered around Jesus, and hit most of them like a ton of bricks. In the worldview common at the time (and not that uncommon today), those who were wealthy were considered especially blessed by God. Even the Pharisees, who loved money and pursued wealth (Luke 16:14), believed that the wealthier they became, the greater God’s favor toward them was.

But now Jesus was torpedoing that whole notion. Instead, He claimed that it was virtually impossible for a wealthy person to even enter the kingdom of God! And, by the way, that was His intent based on His illustration. It is not difficult for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle; it is impossible! (Luke, a physician, appropriately used the word for a surgeon’s needle here.)

The reason for the impossibility of a rich person entering the kingdom of God is not difficult to see. For those who pursue wealth, that pursuit quickly becomes all-consuming, leaving no time or headspace for them to focus on God and His kingdom. And for those who attain great wealth, that wealth quickly becomes a god that must be served, protected, and increased, quickly taking that person’s focus off of all spiritual things, and cutting them off from communion with God.

Those who heard Jesus understood precisely not only what He said, but what He meant as well, and were stymied. If even the rich cannot be saved, if even those who have been shown such extraordinary kindness by God cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, then what hope is there for the ordinary, garden-variety person?

Jesus’ short, one-sentence response contains a whole volume of kingdom theology: What is impossible with men is possible with God. What this means is that salvation for anyone is actually impossible. Sin is too horrible, and the rift caused by it between sinful people and the holy God is too wide to ever be bridged by any amount of work or good deeds, or to be filled in by sacrificing any amount of money. But what is impossible for man to achieve by any means God is able to accomplish. His grace sent Jesus to the cross to open the doors of the kingdom to everyone by His suffering a death that would pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world. And that massive sacrifice even overcomes the obstacles that worldly riches throw up to block the path into the kingdom for the wealthy, if they are willing to repent and believe.

Father, Your ways are amazing, marvelous, and wondrous beyond description. No sooner is the problem identified than the solution is pointed out as well. Thank You for Your love, Your grace, and Your gift of Jesus’ sacrifice that opened the way for me, even me, into Your kingdom. Amen.

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