Posts Tagged ‘John’

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The Kingdom of God is: Greater than its Current Appearance…

April 8, 2013

msHe put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
(Matthew 13:31-33 ESV)

As believers we live life in light of a promise.  A promise found in the very beginning of time and recorded in the very beginning of the Bible which speaks to the inevitable rise of God’s kingdom on earth. Genesis 3:17 is known to some as the protoevangelium, or “first gospel.” In this verse The Lord God speaks to the serpent and foretells the demise of the serpent’s reign over the surface of the earth.  The offspring of the woman Eve would be at odds with the offspring of the serpent.  The seed or offspring of the serpent would bruise the heel of the woman’s seed; and the woman’s offspring would crush the head of the serpent. This tiny phrase contains within it a promise of One who would come and be the One, bruised and beaten, but One who would crush death and defeat the serpent by His death and resurrection through the power of God. This promise had come to those fallen in the garden, but to them, it was not yet fully realized. This promise courses through the entire scripture all the way to Matthew 13, and like leaven lifts the entire word of God.  It’s truth of the kingdom’s rise and evil’s demise is declared in the garden, finished at the cross, and yet evil is still prevalent.  What are we to make of this reality that has already occurred but is somehow not yet completed?

This passage in Matthew is ripe with meaning and nuance.  One of the greatest mysteries surrounding the kingdom of God is that it has appeared with Christ, and yet it is not fully here.  Apologetically this is a huge conundrum; If Christ the King has come, and He has proclaimed that the kingdom has arrived then where is it?  Is he talking about a mere heavenly reality or a true earthly dominion.  The disciples themselves asked this same question to the risen Christ in Acts chapter 1.  As they stood on the mount called Olivet, their minds awash with thoughts of the kingdom they asked, “is now the time the kingdom will be restored?”

Many of us, as we read this passage in Matthew, are prompted to question its meaning.  We are prompted by general biblical curiosity to be sure, but also something by deeper.  The paradox of tiny seeds and mighty kingdoms, minute yeast and massive loaves speaks to a larger discontinuity we all face.  We are citizens of Christ’s kingdom but residents of Satan’s world.  So we ask, If the kingdom is here then why is there still suffering, injustice, sin and tumult?  Like the disciples, each new generation of believers face the risen Lord and ask “is now the time?”

The answer to these reasonable questions is found in this passage in Matthew.

The kingdom is already present, though not yet fully consummated. The technical term for this is inaugurated eschatology, the kingdom has been inaugurated, but not yet fully consummated.  Jesus alludes to this truth in both of the examples he provides in verses 31-33.

The mustard seed, while the smallest known seed at the time, contains within in it all the potential for a mustard tree.  In essence, it is already a mustard tree, but not yet fully developed.  It is greater than its physical appearance.  It is teaming with potential, give it the right conditions and it will blossom beyond every tree in the garden.

The yeast speaks to the same metaphor.  It is tiny, almost insignificant, and yet it activates and causes growth and increase. Yeast is alive, and has an impact greater than its physical appearance.

God’s kingdom is found on earth in the form of his followers, in the body of believers known as his church.  In every captive heart, and in every renewed mind, there resides the measure of kingdom impact.  We experience love, family, fellowship, and loss through the experience of this kingdom community.  To those who undergoes this divine naturalization, the reality and the presence of God’s kingdom on earth is overwhelming.  And yet there is something lacking, something not yet present.  Think of all the good the church accomplishes, think of all the love that you experience in the fellowship of believers, think of all the service done on the part of the church attempting to make the world right; now consider the following: The millions of believers across the globe, and the love of the believers across this country, are but a minute expression of the kingdom that is to come.

So what are we to do with this truth? I believe the answer comes from Acts 3:19-21.  Peter and John are speaking to a crowd on the Temple Mount, following the miraculous healing of a lame man at the gate called beautiful.  This instance is a perfect example of kingdom living, through the proclamation of God’s love and the power of His Spirit, the lame are made whole and the Word is proclaimed.  Immediately after this, Peter and John proclaim the following to the crowd of witnesses:

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that the time of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Acts 3:19-21

Peter and John acknowledge the arrival of the kingdom through their actions, but they also call on the listeners to hope in the kingdom that is to come.  Our response to the signs and proclamation of God’s kingdom is to repent, turn from sin, receive Christ and wait until the time that he will return and restore all things.  Christ has come, He has come in power, He has deployed His Spirit that we may proclaim the kingdom of Heaven.  While some are restored in the present, He will restore all things at a future time.  So we preach.  So we act in love to a hurting world.  And we relish the joy of His calling on our lives, knowing full well that as great as that joy is, it will pale in comparison to what is to come.

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Hope and Fear Revealed…

May 4, 2010

Revelation 19-22.

Out of all the chapters in the Bible these three are, for me, the most awe inspiring and frightening.  My fright does not come from any fear of abandonment or uncertainty quite the opposite.  These passages inspire a fear of God, a healthy fear, one we are far too reticent to embrace today.  There is so much packed into these passages, theologically speaking, that it is safe to say no two groups have found agreement on their total meaning.  And I must be honest in saying that my speculation as to “the end” spelled out in these chapters is just that, speculation, marred by a fallen mind.  So I leave these chapters with two primary thoughts; one fear and one hope.

My fear.  The pervasive all encompassing nature of God’s Holy Glory.  Throughout these chapters, verse by verse, we are confronted with God’s un-yielding holiness.  We know the song that we will sing eternally, from previous chapters and from Isaiah “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”(Rev 4:8)  This song is made manifest in God’s actions throughout 19-22; God will judge completely the whole of heaven and earth and the armies of Heaven WILL bring recompense against the wicked.  The birds will gorge on the flesh of the wicked, on the beast and the false prophet, and Satan himself will be cast into everlasting seperation from all that is good.  Those who are not chosen, separated out and made holy by Christ, finding their names absent in the book of life; WILL be cast into the lake of fire.  These ends and these judgments are certain, they WILL happen and they should inspire us to warn others of what will come.  We must tell others that while God’s judgement is certain, so too is His grace to save all who call on His name.

My Hope.  One of the most touching verses in all of Scripture is found in Revelation 21:5, “and he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’”  Thanks be to God that this phrase is true; that it has been true throughout history; and that it will be true for all of eternity.  Where would I be if not a new creation in Christ?  What hope is found in the truth that He who made the world; who will judge the world to utter destruction; shall once again remake the world, heavens and earth to and for his glory.  And from that glory this new creation shall never pass.  Darkness will perish and night shall be no more, God will be the light and all of us found in Him shall reign with Him forever.  I and all of this creation yearn for that which will be made new for His glory; that I may enjoy Him forever and sing Hallelujah to Him who called me out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

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Some Meditations to Receive and Replenish…From the well that never runs dry.

April 6, 2010

This week I will publish three short meditations on passages of Scripture. May they provide encouragement not only in their content but in the indispensable value of their subject and source.