LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 2

Romans 12:3   I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

[Grace: a capacity to tolerate, accommodate, or forgive people (Encarta Dictionary)]

According to this verse, and as the above definition would indicate, we are all living under God’s capacity to tolerate us, accommodate us, and forgive us. This seems to be an accurate assessment, but we have this place with God because he loves us. Yes, ours is a humble place, yet also a place of freedom and comfort. It’s not about what we do for God, but about what he does for us. He shoulders the burden for us, and we say, “Thank you Jesus!”

Next week we’ll continue to explore the treasures of Romans chapter 12.

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.

THE RESTORATION OF THE KINGDOM

To conclude what I‘ve been writing about the Kingdom of God I’ve written a short story. Here is the first part.

 

In the beginning, the Great Ruler established a new kingdom within his realm. He loved this new kingdom and enjoyed visiting with his new subjects. He saw to it that they had everything needed for a blissful life. However, one of his other subjects rebelled against his rule and decided to take over this new kingdom.

Through deception and lies, he convinced the inhabitants of the new kingdom to join his rebellion. The new kingdom then came under a curse of death and destruction. It became a dark place full of evil. The rebel leader delighted in this for he himself had become evil.

His rule over the new kingdom went on for many years. Finally, the Great Ruler had enough. From the very beginning, he had a plan to regain his new kingdom. It was now time to implement his plan. His plan was kept secret, and he caught the rebel leader by surprise.

The great Ruler sent his Son to the new kingdom, but he came not as a ruler but in the likeness of the humble people. Later, the son began to announce that the Great Ruler’s kingdom had come. This disturbed the rebel leader, so he began to figure out how to stop this challenge to his rule.

The Son showed the power of the Great Ruler’s kingdom with many signs and wonders. The people began to follow the Son because they were intrigued by his teaching and the miracles he did for them. They were also drawn to him because he had power over the rebel leader’s soldiers.

Many of the people desired to enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom, but there was a problem. All of them had indulged in the evil of the rebel leader. They could not enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom without first being cleansed. The rebel leader knew this so he was confident that he would keep his subjects. He thought, “I’ll get my subjects to kill the Son then I’ll for sure have the victory.”

Next week the conclusion

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 is now 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 a 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

LOVE OVERCOMES FEAR

1 John 4:17-19 (The Message)

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way love has the run of the house, becomes at home and matures in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgement Day – our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgement – is one not yet fully formed in love. We though, are going to love – love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

I have come to the conclusion that maturing as a Christian is synonymous with maturing in love. Learning to love is nurtured by our grasping of the reality that God loves us.

Love begets love. Fear opposes love. As the above scripture points out: “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.”

There is natural fear. I don’t get too close to the edge of a cliff, and I keep my distance from poisonous snakes. However, the unfounded fear of impending doom opposes love. When we embrace God’s love for us, we put aside fear; for we know, he cares for us. Death and judgement are taken care of.

John 3:16 (The Message)

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

The freedom we gain through salvation in Jesus Christ allows us to walk through life without fear. His love conquers the fear in us. The less we fear, the more his love passes from us to others. Isn’t it the goal of Christians to love one another?

A prayer: Help us Father to more fully grasp the love you have for us that we might grow in love for each other.

FREEDOM IN JESUS

In Romans Chapter 6, Paul gives us a detailed explanation of the freedom we have as believers in Christ Jesus. As I read through this chapter, it reminded me of what life was like before I surrendered to Jesus. I was in control, and nothing seemed to be going right. When I surrendered to Jesus, I gave him control. It was very freeing. I realized that, though I thought I was in control, I had been under the control of my sinful nature.

The challenge of living in this freedom is founded in who’s in control. When I am truly surrendered to Jesus, I’m free to humbly respond to daily life with love and forgiveness. When I take back control, I’m living in my sinful nature. The lie is that when I’m in control, I can make things right; but no, sin takes over. The mess I create leaves me in pain, stressed out, and filled with regret.

Jesus has set me free from sins control. Only in Jesus can I live freely.