THE KINGDOM OF GOD

I have recently been wondering about the kingdom of God. The many complex teachings on the subject have left me a little confused, but I have often felt that the idea is not really that complicated.  My basic thought is that the kingdom of God is simply the kingdom over which God rules, and if you think about it, that is everywhere, for all time, in both the physical and the spiritual realms.   God created it all, and he is, therefore, sovereign over it all.

When I shared this with my pastor, he recommended the below referenced book by George Eldon Ladd*.  This in-depth analysis of the kingdom of God expanded my thoughts and broadened my perspective.  I will be sharing insights in future posts as I study this book.

For today, I want to share this introductory thought.  I believe the kingdom of God is present right here among us, and Jesus gave us access when he went to the cross. Through his death and resurrection, those who receive him as their savior are then ushered into God’s kingdom.  We, the redeemed, now exist in the eternal kingdom of God.  We still exist in this world but, we are in this world not of this world.  Our eternal life has already begun.

 

*The Gospel of the Kingdom of God, George Eldon Ladd, Martino Publishing 2011

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Controlling the Future

I like science fiction.  I don’t know what that says about me, but I do.  The idea of projecting where scientific discovery might take us fascinates me.  I like the adventure and the jolt to my imagination.  Fantasizing future worlds, even alien worlds, has occupies a fair portion of my personal time.

Yet the science fiction stories, where man goes back in time to reshape the future, point to the complexity of manipulating the intricate details of the progression of time.  Change one little occurrence and the entire future of man is impacted.  We can predict, but there are too many factors for us to have complete control over the outcome.

Now, imagine someone able to create a universe, create humans to live in this universe, and set the ball rolling toward a planned outcome.  To add to the complexity of the task, he gives the humans freedom of choice.  During the unfolding of his plan, he intervenes occasionally knowing exactly how this will affect the outcome.  Remember, his interventions usually involve humans who are continually deciding about their actions and reactions to their situation. 

The greatest intervention this creator makes is sending his son to live among humans with the plan to redeem them.  They need redemption because they have violated the prime directive to act in love and, within their freedom of choice, have chosen to injure their fellow humans. They have also turned their back to the creator and denied his very existence.  He accomplishes his redemption plan right on schedule and continues on to his planned outcome. 

The outcome he plans is for all those who receive his redemption to live forever in eternity with him.  Not all of his humans will accept the offer, but every one of them has the choice to receive redemption.  The only one who could put together such an elaborate and complex plan is the all-powerful, all-knowing, creator God.

Read: Genesis 1-3, Job 38 – 41, & Revelation 21 & 22

FAITH AND DOUBT

Are you convinced that Christianity is true? Do you ever doubt your belief? Does God really exist? Is my belief in vain? Do these questions of doubt haunt you at times? They do me. During these times of doubt I have two processes that I follow, reason and experience. Reason alone cannot restore faith, but it can help.   Walking back through my life and remembering my experiences with God seals the breach in my faith, and I am restored.

These nagging questions that challenge my faith cause me to return to the process of reasoning. I start with the basic question of where did I and all I know come from. There are only two possible answers. It all came about by some accidental occurrence of events over millions and billions of years, or an intelligent force designed it. The complexity of the universe and the existence of life itself lead me to believe that an intelligent force designed it. And if this is so, what do I know about this intelligent force. I have concluded that the Bible is the most reliable source of information about this intelligent force. This process, to remind myself of the logic of my belief, gets me started. But the most interesting truth about this reasoning process is that it all came about after I believed. My belief in God is therefore founded in something other than reason.

I next reminisce on my experiences with God. God has spoken to me at key moments in my life, and he drew me to himself. He answered prayers and provided miracles all to build a relationship of trust. My faith is rooted in a relationship with God that he has built over many years. Then I remember, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Ah, my faith is based not on my ability to reason, but on my relationship with God. Experience trumps reason. The questioning of my faith is entrenched in my reasoning skills. My reasoning is faulty, but my experience is sound. There is no argument against what I have experienced.

I feel that faith is even more deeply based on a spiritual foundation. When I first believed reason played a small part, experience barely existed, yet I was drawn to God. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him …” (John 6:44). My reason and my experience came because God drew me. I simply said yes to him. I believe because I was predestined to believe. God is sovereign over all his creation, even me.

The Elect

Many brilliant minds over the ages have developed doctrines about the elect and predestination.  The elect are those who will during the course of time accept Jesus as their savior.  Predestination refers to the idea that God already knows who the elect are. My endeavoring to add to or distract from the many works on this subject would be arrogant presumption.  But, I would like to throw in a few thoughts on the subject anyway.  You decide.  I know I’m treading on dangerous ground.

The apostles Paul and Peter both wrote about God’s foreknowledge of the ones who would become his children.  In Romans 8:29 Paul writes,

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

In 1 Peter 1:1 Peter writes,

            Peter an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood.

In the past, when I read these passages, I would get lost in all the doctrinal issues they have spurred.  Now they just make me feel wanted.  God wants me.  He pursued me and patiently waited for me.  Perhaps you have inkling that you’re being perused by God.  I can, without reservation, recommend that you surrender to him.  Entrust yourself to his foreknowledge.