UNLEASHING THE KINGDOM (Part Two)
In part one we began to look at the scripture that says: “And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” We discovered that it is more than just the Gospel of Salvation. It is the Gospel of the Kingdom and it is to be preached for a witness. We then saw where Jesus said the Kingdom of God was within us and it will grow if we give it the right conditions. We also found that the Kingdom is the realm of the King and the citizens of the Kingdom manifest the culture and nature of the Kingdom.
BASIS FOR UNLEASHING
This culture and nature of the Kingdom is the basis from which we unleash the purpose and plan of the King, or simply put, we unleash the Kingdom of God with all its power and authority upon this earth. While speaking to Israel about their return from Babylon, the Lord said: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29:11) We can take hold of this promise for ourselves as we come out of our “Babylon” captivity (former way of life) and begin to return to the way of life that God originally intended for us. It is a way of life that reveals the Kingdom of God here on earth. This way of life is based upon the nature of the King and the nature of the Kingdom that we are about to unleash is the nature of Jesus, our King. John 1:1-2 & 14 says that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. Matthew 13:31-32 is the parable of a grain of mustard seed being planted and growing to tree that brings rest. This is what the nature of Jesus is like for us. It is like that mustard seed that grows into a tree bringing rest and peace to others. It is the nature of Jesus becoming flesh within us. We begin to live as He did and reveal the Kingdom of God on this earth. The Word of God is being made flesh again, this time within us. This means we will manifest His character as well as the power and authority of Christ.
CHARACTER OF GOD
The first characteristic we need to realize and apprehend for ourselves is found in First John 4:8, “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” John goes on to say that if a person says he loves God but hates his brother, how can he truly love God? This means that if we don’t tell others about Jesus how can we say that we really love God? If we are too ashamed or intimidated to witness to others then we don’t really love God. The character of love is seen in Jesus giving of Himself for our sins, to cleanse us and to renew our relationship with the Father. Too often we keep this for ourselves instead of realizing it is for the world. Or we declare it is for the world, but forget about the world we live in, the neighborhood, city, or state. The love of God is for all people and is seen in all the other characteristics that we will look at so we won’t dwell on it here.
RIGHTEOUSNESS, PEACE, JOY
Many people look at the Kingdom of God as that which will be a reality when they die and go to heaven, or after the Lord appears. They talk about it being here on earth such as when they pray the Lord’s Prayer, but in reality they don’t expect to see or experience it until then. The Kingdom of God is when they will be in heaven and eat and drink with Jesus at the supper of the Lamb. Or, it is when they prosper and have all they need to eat and drink and live life comfortably. However, Romans 14:17 says that “the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” So the Kingdom of God is not because we are prospering, or have all we need and begin to take life comfortably. The Kingdom of God is the character of God and this verse of scripture gives us three of the characteristics that we are to exhibit as we unleash the Kingdom of God here on earth. It is righteousness, the righteousness that enabled Him to live above sin. Though He was tempted, yet, He overcame all sin because of the righteousness of God that was within Him. There are those who say we are only human and will sin at least occasionally. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit we can overcome sin. We can overcome our propensity to sin, and live a righteous life even as Jesus did. Paul said that he was dead and the life he now lived was by the faith of the Son of God who lived within him. It isn’t because we are righteous on our own. It is by the Spirit of God which dwells within that we can overcome sin and live righteously. In the book of Revelation, John tells us there are rewards for those who overcome. That isn’t overcoming because we are now in heaven, but because of the Spirit of Christ within that enables us to overcome. The characteristic of righteousness begins to grow like that mustard seed and produce a sinless life within and through us.
The Kingdom of God is the expression of the peace that Jesus talked about in John 14:27 when He said that He was leaving them the same peace that He had. It wasn’t the peace as the world describes it, which is the absence of war, but the peace that could endure all things, including the cross. It was the peace of God that enabled Him to forgive those who were persecuting and rejecting Him. It was the peace of God that enabled Him to walk through the midst of them as they tried to stone Him or to throw Him off a cliff. It is that peace of God that comes within us to help us overcome unwarranted persecution. It is that peace which helps us to overcome lies that are spoken against us and to forgive those who hurt us whether intentionally or not. It is the peace within that helps to give us guidance when we question what we should do. The characteristic of peace will help us in all that we do and it will become that which will draw others to want to know about the God we serve.
The Kingdom of God manifests the same joy of the Spirit that Jesus experienced as He looked at the end result of what the cross would accomplish (Hebrews 12:2). He didn’t look at the pain or the sin that He would take upon Himself for us. He saw something that far exceeded the pain and suffering, the death that He, the Son of God, would taste for us. We deserve to die because of the nature of sin within. Yet, Jesus looked ahead of the suffering that He would endure and saw people coming into the same relationship that He had with the Father and that brought Him joy. This joy coupled with the righteousness and peace of God is what will carry us through each and every trial we face. Most of us will never face an excruciating death as Jesus did, though some in foreign lands today are facing the reality of that type of death. Most of us will face hardships and the death of loved ones or personal tragedy of some sort. It isn’t drugs that will carry us through those times. It is the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit that gives life and reason to live. It is the joy of the Lord that will draw others to Christ, not a somber, depressed appearance of righteousness, which is just self-righteousness. True righteousness, peace, and joy is what the world is looking for and wanting to receive. They are looking for reality and only Christians that walk in the truth of Christ and His Spirit have that hope and can give it to others. Only those who allow the Holy Spirit to dwell within and to produce the character of Christ have what the world is looking for and even fighting for.
GOD IS GOOD
There is a saying that many Christians use which goes like this. One person will say “God is good.” Then others will respond with “all the time.” Then they will turn it around. However, how many really believe that God is good? We question His goodness when difficult things happen or tragedy strikes. We wonder where He is when we struggle to pay our bills or pray for a sick child or friend and nothing seems to happen. Does any of this change God? No of course not. When Moses was on the mount talking to God, he asked to see His glory, (Ex.33:18). God’s response was that He would hide Moses in a cleft of a rock as His glory passed by and the Lord would make all His goodness pass before Moses, (EX.33:19-22). As the Lord passes by He proclaims that He is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” Notice all the positive adjectives that are used to describe the Lord. He is merciful, gracious, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. As the Lord proclaimed these things Moses fell prostrate before Him. Why do so many people consider Him to be mean, just waiting to do us harm? God is good!
In the parable of the householder in Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus teaches us about the goodness of God. In the parable a man goes out and hires men to harvest his field and agrees to pay them a certain amount. Throughout the day he hires others and tells them he will pay them what is right. At the end of the day he pays everyone the same amount. Those who had labored all day long are disgruntled and murmured against the householder. His response is that he has the right to do as he wishes with what is his as he declares he is good. How often do we question God about when He does something for someone and not for us? Do we question His goodness at that time? Or do we recognize the many things that He does for us and not for others? God is good and we need to not only accept that as fact but begin to allow the Holy Spirit to build that same goodness within us. As we do for others, give to others without expecting anything in return, we begin to express the goodness of God. Jesus said to not let our right hand know what our left hand was doing. What He meant by that was to do things in secret, not with fanfare, letting others know how much good we do. Let the goodness of God manifest itself within us. It is a characteristic of God that the Body of Christ needs to develop.
In Exodus 34:6-7 where God is declaring His nature to Moses, the last part of those verses He said He would not clear the guilty but would visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation. Many people have looked at this more than the first part of what God says He is, thus justifying their opinion of God as harsh. What this is saying is that God is holy and will not clear the guilty without some satisfaction to His justice and necessary vindication of His honor. He will not be angry for ever but there needs to be some satisfaction, vindication of His honor when we sin. Praise God that happens when we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. His honor is vindicated, His justice is satisfied and we receive the goodness of God instead of the judgment of God.
This parable of the householder also shows us the characteristic of being just and generous. The householder gave what he said he would give to the first men he hired. He did not tell the others what he would pay them, only that he would give them “whatever was right.” It also shows the lack of integrity of the first laborers and the bitterness in their own heart toward others. How often we find when God does something good for one person that another person will begin to feel left out or even bitter, either toward that person or even toward God. God is just and generous and we need to develop a heart that rejoices when others are blessed. We also need to be ones that are used by God to bless others and to stand for truth and justice for others.
As we serve the Lord, are we doing it for what we can get out of it as the first laborers were? Or are we generous and kind, just and merciful, toward others; always working with no set expectation as to what we should receive? God is just and generous and as we allow those characteristics to be developed within us we will find that the Lord will always give us “what is right.” He will always give us more than we deserve and more than we expected. If we have certain expectations as to what we should receive, then if we do receive it we should rejoice. If someone else receives more of the blessing of God, we should still rejoice as we received exactly what we expected. If we don’t receive what we expected, perhaps we were looking to receive more than what the Lord said as in the parable. Or could it be that there is still something within our heart and life that needs to change to become more like Him? These are questions only God can answer for us. Yet, we need to examine our heart to be sure we are serving Him for Who He is, not for what we think we can receive. He will always give more than we need.
There are always things in our life that needs to be removed; expectations, hurts, bitterness, etc. This is seen in a parable of Jesus in Matthew 13:47-50. Here Jesus speaks of a net being cast into the sea and bringing forth all manner of fish. Then He says they gather the good into vessels and cast the bad away. This is the goodness of God, gathering the righteous and casting the evil away. Many look at this as being the final judgment where the righteous are gathered into heaven and the evil is sent to hell and that certainly applies. However, let us look at this in a more personal way. There is both good and evil within mankind, within each one of us. God in His mercy and goodness is casting a net to gather the good things within us and cast away the evil. He is separating those things from our life that are not of Him and bringing forth those things that are of Him. The Holy Spirit is constantly revealing what He has “caught” in our lives on a daily basis. He is exalting those things that are of Him and helping us to cast away or to remove those things that are not like Him. This is a part of the goodness of God.
As we continue to grow in the Lord, He will change us and renew our lives and ministries. It is the character of Jesus Christ that God is developing within us so He can unleash His Kingdom on this earth. There is more to be said about this, but it will have to wait until the next chapter.