THE RESTORATION OF THE KINGDOM Part 2

Here is part 2 of the story I started last week.

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What the rebel leader failed to realize is that because the son never joined his rebellion he was innocent.  The rebel leader could kill his subjects, but he could not kill one who was not his subject.  If he did he would forfeit his right to rule.  When he was able to have the Son killed his victory dance was immediately cut short.  Imagine the moment that he realized by having the Son killed he lost his authority over the new kingdom.

Since the son was innocent he could cleanse the people of the New Kingdom by taking their evil burden upon himself.  He took on himself the curse of death and allowed his innocent blood to be shed as a cleansing for the people. Once cleansed the people could now enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom.  As a sign to all, the Great Ruler raised his Son from the dead in victory. 

Thus began the Great Ruler’s restoration of his rule in the new kingdom.  Many of the inhabitants chose to enter his kingdom right away.  In his kingdom were eternal life and love and goodness.  The rebel leader prowled around trying to stop the growth of the Great Ruler’s kingdom, but he could not.

The son returned to his place in his Father’s realm with the promise to return and completely end the rule of the evil rebel leader.  Until then the people could enjoy the cleansing sacrifice he gave to them. Even though they still lived with evil all around them, the joy of their new life sustained them.

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In John 16:33 (The Message) Jesus said to his Disciples, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakeable and assured, deeply at peace.  In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties.  But take heart!  I’ve conquered the world.”

So, Take heart! He has won the victory for us.  We have eternal life and the blessing of living in God’s Kingdom.  Our whole future is bright for we will live in a kingdom of love forever under the rule of a gracious and loving king. 

I’d like to leave you with this thought.  It is not about the place in which you live, but under whose rule you live.  Two choices exist.  You can live under the authority of the defeated ruler of this world whose job is to steal, kill and destroy, or under the rule of the God of the universe who has these two guiding rules, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.  I think the choice is that simple.

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LIVING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD NOW

Over the last two weeks I’ve shared these thoughts:

When Jesus came to earth, he brought the Kingdom of God with him. 

Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, he gave us access to the Kingdom of God.

To enter the Kingdom of God, we must surrender our will to God’s will and receive Jesus as our savior.

As soon as we enter the Kingdom of God, we gain eternal life.

 

Before we entered God’s Kingdom, we were simply dissipating life.  One of the blessings of living in God’s Kingdom is his will now guides our lives.  God’s will can be explained by these two commands.  Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.”  God’s will is to help us step beyond our self-centeredness and live a life of purpose. 

What I have observed, over the years of living in God’s kingdom, is that every one of God’s children has a unique and specific purpose to fulfill.  Bonnie calls this our passion.  For her and me the passion has been for children in need.  Our lives together have always been directed toward serving children.  The seed of this passion was planted very early in our lives and satisfied as we walked with the Lord.  What is your passion?

The Kingdom of God is a glorious place, even now, for those who love him.  We look forward to Jesus’ return and the final defeat of evil, but for now, we have a purpose to fulfill.  “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).”

DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY

In his book Eldon Ladd points out that God’s kingdom is not a place, but is simply his right to rule, his divine sovereignty.  God’s kingdom exists right now.  We enter god’s kingdom when we surrender our will and except his will.  His will being foremost that we receive the gift of his son’s redeeming work.  Receiving God’s salvation births us into his kingdom.   We are new creation in Christ (2Corinthians 5:17) with an existence in God’s eternal kingdom.

Though we who have received salvation in Jesus are now part of his eternal kingdom, we also exist here in the temporal world.  How does our new status affect our physical presence here?  Eldon Ladd states the answer very nicely, “The kingdom of God is, then, the realization of God’s will and the enjoyment of the accompanying blessings” (*Ladd, page 24). 

In my personal experience of realizing God’s will in my life, I have found comfort, protection, maturity, physical and emotional strength, and an overall exciting challenging life.   The accompanying blessings are manifest in my family and friends and a meaningful existence.  God treats each of his children individually, according to who he created us to be, yet we all benefit from his will and the accompanying blessings.

If you have received Jesus as your savior, you have eternal life in God’s kingdom.  You now exist in the realm of God’s divine sovereignty.  We will someday leave our existence in the temporal world, but we will continue to live forever with God our Father.   

Next week let’s look further into our presence in this world as God’s children.

 

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

CRYING OUT TO GOD

Psalm 34:17&18

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

I have prayed and ask the Lord for many things.  I have sought his wisdom and direction.  Still there have been times of despair when I was emotionally distraught, and I have cried out to the Lord.

In my recollection, every time I’ve reached the point of crying out God has immediately answered, and the answer has always brought me comfort.  Often the answer does not resolve the difficulty or even bring a positive outcome, but there was always a warm comforting touch from my Father.

I believe God answered my cry because in my crying out there was surrender and recognition of my need for him.  I went to him in my time of trouble since I needed him, and only he would do.

When I come to the end of myself, and I’m at the place of despair, unpretentiously I stand before the Lord.   Then my words flow from a humbled heart, and he draws near to me.  He hears and he answers.

When you come to the point of despair, God will be there to hear you.  He will answer.

THE BRAVEST ACT

Bravery is a desirable trait.  Most of us find it so.  The Encarta Dictionary defines bravery as: courage in the face of danger, difficulty, or pain.  Throughout the annals of history there have been innumerable acts of bravery.  Usually when being brave, a person puts aside self-concern and moves onward.  They have the hope of a good outcome, but they are willing to face the possibility of a bad one.

Matthew records in chapter 26 of his gospel the story of Jesus’ final hours before he was arrested.  Jesus knew he was facing a brutal death.  There was no chance of a different outcome because what he was facing had been planned from the beginning of time.  In the garden of Gethsemane he said to Peter, James, and John, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”  Then he went a little ways away to pray.   He prayed three times, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus also said to his disciples, as Peter raised a sword to defend him, “Do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”  Jesus had the power to remove himself from this terrible situation at any time.  Instead, he bravely faced a certain horrible death.  He was compelled by obedience to his Father ‘s will and a deep love for you and me.  This is surely the bravest act.

 

Two thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer: 

Pray it every day; because, it is a daily prayer.

When you pray alone, you should personalize it.  In the garden, Jesus prayed, “My Father.”

LOVE = RESTRAINT

Last week I wrote about restraint.  Continuing to contemplate this topic I have found an interesting connection.  Restraint is a companion to love.  If I love my neighbor as myself it stands to reason that I will restrain myself and defer to my neighbor’s wants and needs.  If I do not love then why restrain myself.  I will simply pursue whatever I want without regard for others.  Therefore love provides a motivation for restraint.

When love motivates us to restrain ourselves we find those virtues rising up in us like the ones Paul writes about in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7,

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love produces restraint.  In love I restrain myself and become a better person, more God like.  I feel better about myself when I am patient and kind.  I feel bad when I trample over others because I’m in a hurry.  The people I push past and disregard don’t feel very well either.  Wouldn’t it be great if I restrained myself because I love others as myself?  Help me Lord!

God loves us.  He restrains himself from judging us because he loves us.  As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago God loves us all (see Another Perspective).  Every human is God’s creation and he desires the best for us.  The all-powerful God of the universe restrains himself because he loves.

Jesus could have called down a legion of angels to protect him from the humiliation, the brutal beating, and the horrible death of the cross?  He restrained himself because he loves us.  He carried through the Father’s plan for our salvation because he loves.

WE ARE ALL WINNERS

The idea of winners and losers comes about because we humans operate in pride and self-preservation.  Pride and self-preservation put us at odds with each other.  Whether it’s a friendly game or an all-out war, we oppose our fellows.  The end result is a selection of winners and losers.  There is only one force that moves us beyond the pride and self-preservation mode.  That force produces all winners.

Now ask yourself, what would motivate me to lay down my pride and self-preservation?  What would get me to the place where I didn’t care about what I had to do or about what others thought?  What would cause me to give my life away?  Wouldn’t you agree that the answer is love?  I would throw myself in front of a bus to save my wife, or my children, or my grandchildren.  I believe I would even do the same for my students.  Why, because I love them.

Guess where we find the greatest demonstration of giving up your pride and laying down your life for others.  Yes, Jesus on the cross is the answer. When the one through whom all things were created humbled himself and gave up his life, everybody became winners.  Everyone is offered eternal life.  He saved us all because he loves us.

The challenge of the cross is before us.  Will we surrender our pride and lay down our lives for others?  Will we choose to love?  Will we help others to know the good news that they are winners?