The Continual First Step of Receiving God’s Kingdom Part 1

One of the great spiritual fathers that helped a group of churches I was joined to back in
the 90s was Dow Robinson.  He was an amazing man with a father’s heart who had a PH.D. in Linguistics and began his ministry as a Wycliffe Bible Translators.  He had fascinating stories that occurred among the Aztec people of eastern Mexico as he was working to translate the New Testament into their language in the 1950’s, ’60’s, and ’70’s.   God moved and did miraculous things during his time there.  He was totally unprepared for it as he had come from a Presbyterian background and had little experience moving in the supernatural power of God.  All of that changed as he participated in a move of God causing him to become Charismatic.

He told a very impactive story about attempting to translate the word and phrase “Kingdom of God.”  Translators look for words and phrases in the native language that best expresses the word or phrase in the Bible.  The word “Kingdom” or “Kingdom of God”  means God’s active ruler-ship.  His Kingdom isn’t just a thing, it is an active thing, His current active ruler-ship.

When he and the natives helping him found something in the language that expressed “Kingdom of God” it was a eureka moment.  Light bulbs began to go off. Things began to shift radically.  Like Jesus said to Peter, “flesh and blood didn’t reveal this to you…you are not far from My Kingdom.”

With the idea of the “Kingdom of God” in their language the parables and Jesus commands about the Kingdom began to change their lives and environments.   The meager huts where they lived began to change.  They began to keep them cleaner and take care of repairs.  The plots of ground where they raised crops began to fare better than those belonging to non-Christians.  They began to take seriously the Kingdom stewardship parables knowing they would give an account of what they were given to care for (Mt 13, 25).  There was also the supernatural element of God answering Kingdom prayers over their crops, lives, and families. Their relationships became better as God began to govern them with His Kingdom.

Jesus isn’t looking for people to casually believe in Him, join an organization, or attend a meeting. He is looking for people who receive Him as the loving Lord of their life. He wants imitators not admirers, followers not consumers, fellow family members not casual meeting attenders.  He seeks people who receive His rule in every area of their lives.

Little Emphasis of the Kingdom Today

Unfortunately there is little emphasis of the Kingdom of God among His people today.  Either they don’t understand it or don’t emphasize it.  In contrast to this Jesus, the early church, and the New Testament emphasized the Kingdom as a priority.  Consider the facts.

  • John the baptist’s first message was about the Kingdom. (Mt 3:2)
  • Jesus’ first message, and His continued messages were about the Kingdom. (Mark 1:15 15, Mat 4:17,23 9:35, Mat 24:14, Luk 16:16).
  • He talked about how to enter it.  (Jn 3, Mt 5:20; 7:21)
  • His parables illustrated truths of the Kingdom and how it worked. (Matthew 13, 25 etc.)
  • His mighty works proved the Kingdom was here. Matthew 12:28 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
  • Jesus wanted the Kingdom to be our first priority (Mt 6:33), and the first thing we pray about (Mt 6:10).
  • The book of Acts begins with Jesus spending 40 days after His resurrection “speaking of the things concerning the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3)
  • The book of Acts ends with Paul in prison preaching the Kingdom for 2 years (Acts 28:30-31).
  • Our salvation is tied to the the Kingdom of God in spite of contemporary ideas that one can be saved but not under the loving rulership (Kingdom) of God. Colossians 1:13 For He… transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.
God's Kingdom is His active rulership. Click To Tweet

When we understand that His Kingdom is His active rule in our lives “right now” it should radically alter our perspective on Christianity.  Instead of considering if someone is a “Christian” or “Saved,” how about considering whether or not there is any real evidence (fruit) that Jesus is actively ruling in their life.  In every area of our lives such as relationships, finances, our workplace, the marketplace, our marriages, and homes is Jesus ruling?  In our everyday living when facing challenges, our own desires, or responding to people around us, are we following Jesus’ rulership? Jesus is our Savior (a word used 37 times in the Bible), but He is also to be our Lord (a word used over 7000 times).  His rulership and Kingdom is the emphasis of the Bible.

“The truth is this: Pride must die in you or nothing of heaven can live in you.” Andrew Murray

When there is little fruit of His Kingdom in our lives sometimes it is because we miss the first most important step of His Kingdom coming.  It is like trying to wear a button down shirt but you missalign the first button.  You can go ahead and button the shirt, but it won’t fit right.

What is the first button? What is the first step of His Kingdom coming into any area of our lives? It was the first thing Jesus taught about His Kingdom when He said, “blessed are the poor in spirit because they will receive the Kingdom of God” Mt 5:3. Poverty of spirit is the first step, and the continual first step of His Kingdom coming into any area of our lives.  I will address more about poverty of spirit next time.

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An Important Element in God’s Atmosphere of Discipleship

If I had only one sermon to preach it would be a sermon against pride.-GK Chesterton

How dare they bring that up? Who are they to point that out to me? I thought we were friends.  I bet I could come up with hundreds of things that they are doing wrong. As a matter of fact what about that issue we had to bring up with them a few months ago? Jesus wasn’t even in the picture of their life then. How about the continual things they struggle with?  They bring this up to me, no way!

All of us who live around the house of the Lord have probably had thoughts like this cross our minds or have heard them from others when we are challenged about something. This is especially true if you live around a church environment that is serious about spiritual maturity.

One of the things we know about God’s design for his house is that there should be an atmosphere of growth and maturity. None are perfect, but we are all in the same boat.  Jesus is working in us to bring about a mature bride (Eph 5:26-27).  Hebrews 13:20-21 God equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ..

A Family of Disciples

The church is God’s House and it is to have a family atmosphere, but we must not lose sight of another important aspect of that atmosphere.  We are a family of disciples.  The clear call of the Matthew 28 Great Commission is, “go and make disciples… teaching them to observe everything I’ve commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). Our calling is to both make, and be made disciples (followers are learning to obey Jesus).  If we are moving in that calling the church will have an environment of discipleship in the context of family.

We see this very clearly in the church at Antioch. Acts 11:26  And they were with the church there for a year, teaching the people; and the disciples were first given the name of Christians in AntiochThe church was a family of disciples who were given the name Christian.  God’s family is not just a family of Christians, it’s a family of disciples. If this is embraced as a important foundation, then an overriding characteristic among it’s members is a motivation grow up to please Jesus in every aspect of life.

The church should be known for discipleship in the context of family.  This has a wonderful side of it in which we are encouraged, affirmed, loved, and valued.  We have the wonderful security of a family that accepts us and loves us for who we are in spite of our many imperfections.

The other aspect, that is just as important, is that there are fellow family members who walk beside us and sometimes bring faithful challenges. This is what the Bible says Proverbs 27:6  Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.  Many great men and women of God in the Bible where the recipients of this side of God’s grace through fellow family members such as the 12 disciples from Jesus, David from Nathan, and Peter from Paul. 

Many times in my own life I have been challenged by the fellow family members in areas that I initially found unpleasant yet necessary.  Why does God choose to do it that way?  Why can’t it be just between me and Jesus?  After all I have a real personal relationship with God.  Why does someone else have to get involved? 

An Important Thing God is after in Relational Challenging

It was pride that changed angels into devils–Augustine

There is something very important that needs to get cemented in our mind that will help us be more open to embrace the challenges from friends.  One of the deadly traits that was created in the heart of Satan when he was part of God’s family was called “pride.”  Pride was the thing that caused him to be removed. “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezek. 28:15). This beautiful, powerful, intelligent, and gifted being fell from his perfect state when his heart was lifted up (aka pride) because of his own beauty and brightness (v. 17). No longer was he willing to be a servant to the Creator. Staggering pride in the heart (the propensity towards “I will”) was to blame for the tragedy in heaven. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! … For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne … I will sit also upon the mount … I will ascend above the heights…I will be like the most High” (Isa. 14:12-14).

Since that event he has tried to generate his nature of pride inside of everyone. This made angels into devils (Rev 12:3-9).  Pride is the root nature of the Satan, and the root nature of every sin.   It is the direct opposite of the root nature of God’s kingdom that Jesus says is humility.  “Blessed are the humble for theirs is the kingdom” (Mt 5:3).  This is why God clearly says He hates, and is opposed to pride in every form.

  • Proverbs 8:13  To fear the LORD is to hate evil. I hate pride, arrogance, evil behavior, and twisted speech.
  • Proverbs 6:16-17  Six things are hated by the Lord…  (17)  Eyes of pride
  • James 4:6  Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” (1 Pet 5:5).

When God sends his faithful challenge through fellow family members, besides the issue there is a corresponding challenge to any pride that has gotten inside of us. There is a degree of humility we have to embrace to receive the challenge and not react in a childish, self-centered, and prideful way. The nature of pride is self exalting competitiveness with others. In the faithful challenging of family members God is both correcting behavior and challenging pride.

In the faithful challenging of His family members God is both correcting behavior and challenging… Click To Tweet

Local churches are to live out a discipleship environment in the context of family.  It is a good thing to remember when you receive both the encouragement and the challenge of friends that God is not only correcting things, but also rooting out the nature of enemy, pride.  We are the body of Christ and as such we are to display the nature of Jesus through our lives.

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