Posts Tagged ‘Kingdom of God’

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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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The Kingdom of God is…

April 2, 2013

XPISTOSThere has been much written in recent years about the Kingdom of God. However, with all its recent attention, there remains much left to be understood concerning the topic. The Kingdom, both as a doctrine and as a reality, is pregnant with intellectual tension and real life application. Consider these truths: The Kingdom has arrived in Christ, and yet we are to pray for it to come on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10) As Christians we are citizens of the Kingdom, and yet we are still living in a world gripped by evil. (1 John 5:19) We are to seek the Kingdom above all else, only then will our earthly needs be met. (Matthew 6:33) The Kingdom will come with much prayer, the Kingdom will come with great certainty, and it will be gifted to those who suffer persecution for the sake of righteousness. (Matthew 5:10) Many of the above statements seem contradictory and yet they are all accurate, as believers how do we make sense of these truths?

As a matter of introduction, we are going to briefly examine the scope of understanding concerning the Kingdom of God. Like many of the systematic doctrines of the church, the Kingdom of God does not lend itself to easy definition. Furthermore I am under no illusions that I will be capable to give any newer definition to the topic that what has already been given.

Over the next several posts we are going to examine the Kingdom of God, or as gospel writer Matthew refers to it, the Kingdom of Heaven. This series will be brief and is meant to spur thought and further study. Were the sky parchment and the oceans ink there would not be enough room to expand upon this topic to its conclusion. Our effort will be to examine four texts in the gospel of Matthew and ask, What does this passage say about the Kingdom of God/Heaven? And how is this truth applicable to our faith?

 

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

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Welcome to the Party: When Christians Put the Caucus Before the King…

November 5, 2012

 

Photo Credit: Here

Have you ever been to a thanksgiving or Christmas dinner that has erupted into shouting or anger looks over politics and political parties?  You would think that being in the presence of family these differences would subside.  And yet they often intensify.  It is not difficult to look across the political arena and see Christians at party conventions fighting and acting very un-Christian-like when it come to the party platform.  Should this be the case?  I would argue no.

If you are a Christian you are a citizen of God’s Kingdom, and your allegiance to that kingdom and your membership in that family should supersede any partisan differences that may exist between you and another person.  What you find with individuals who get caught up in political anger is that they have lost perspective and have come to primarily identify with their political party.  So when you attack that party and its stances, they interpret it as an attack on their very being.  For non-believers political stances may be all they have, and that may be their identity; but for believers we must locate and root our identity in Christ and our allegiance to His kingdom.  As Kingdom citizens, when our positions are attacked we should not return in- kind, in anger or in rage.  Rather we should respond with grace, humility, and honor, confident that our Kingdom is not of this world and our self-worth is not identified with a caucus but with a King who has reigned and will reign forever over the kingdoms of this world.

In his recent book How Christians Should Vote?, Tony Evans answers two questions regarding Christians and political parties, both of which are helpful as we navigate the desire to identify our political ideologies with our faith.

Q: In your book, you says Christians should be like NFL referees when it comes to politics in that they should represent a kingdom perspective rather than identifying primarily with a political party. How can we really know what God’s will is on issues like health care or immigration law?

A: “I believe that there are biblical positions on every issue, but no party fully represents all God’s views consistently on all God’s issues. Christians are going to vote differently because they will prioritize issues differently. My concern is that we’ve so aligned ourselves with the parties of this world that we’re missing the kingdom of God. The proof of that is that we’ve let political parties divide the kingdom of God. My illustration regarding referees is simply to say that while they sometimes vote for one team and sometimes vote for another team, they’re obligated ultimately to neither team, because they belong to another kingdom called the NFL. So, we should never let the party divisions interfere with the unity of the church, causing the church to lose its influence in the culture.”

Q: And yet, white evangelicals are very much identified with the Republican party and black Christians are often identified with the Democratic party. How do they come to such different perspectives on issues?

A: “It’s more priority of issues. For example, the white evangelical community will emphasize right to life in the womb. The black Christian community will emphasize justice to the tomb. For me, those both are one issue, whole life, not term. Since that is one issue with two different locations, Christians can agree on the whole life issue even though they vote differently, and come out with a whole-life perspective that if we were unified both parties would have to interface with and take seriously. Because they can split us up along party lines, we do not have a single voice on the issues that represent the kingdom of God.”

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A Tale of Two Kingdoms…

April 15, 2011

We are constantly surrounded by problems and concerns.  The news fills our TV’s and computer screens with images and stories of devastation and war, injustice and crime.  In addition to these external concerns we have personal worries that take up our minds.  We worry about our jobs, about being able to provide for our families, the clothes we will wear, the food we will eat.  This worry and anxiety are part of the kingdom of fear, a kingdom of man, whose ruler roams about seeking those whom he can devour.  When we focus on these worries and concentrate on these concerns we find that instead of making them better, we often make them worse.  When we search for solutions in the same source of our fears we rarely find relief.

In the kingdom of man, man is the end all and be all, the solution to the problems, we seek to provide for ourselves, and anticipate every problem.  All too soon, the stress of such self reliance begins to wear on us and we are overcome with anxiety.  Do you every feel this way?

Thankfully God, in His limitless love has shown us that this worldly kingdom is not all there is, there is another kingdom we are to pray for, another kingdom we are to seek.  This is the Kingdom of Faith, the Kingdom of God.  In God’s kingdom, worry subsides and fear is ended as we realize that He knows what we need, and meets our needs daily when we seek His face.  This is His kingdom, and whoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.  For those who believe, He calls His children, and for His children He will faithfully equip them for every good work.  When we look at the world He has created and see how He cares for His creation, we see that the needs of His smallest creatures are met, birds have food and flowers are adorned in beauty.

When we seek His kingdom, and set our sights on His righteousness, all our needs are met in Him, and our worry subsides.  So how do we seek this Kingdom?  How do we escape the kingdom of fear?  Jesus instructs us to pray for the Father’s Kingdom to come, for His will to be done on earth as it is already done in Heaven.  The Kingdom comes when we seek Him before we seek our needs.  When we seek Him: He meets our needs, we receive forgiveness and give it to others, and we cease our attempts to deliver ourselves.  And the anxiety which once plagued our hearts is replaced by the assurance that “all these things will be added unto [us].”  So we worry not for tomorrow, for tomorrow, with God’s help, will take care of itself.