Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Entrance into the Kingdom of God

.....Continuation of "What is the kingdom of God or kingdom of Heaven?"


We have seen that the kingdom of God has been already established and its an invisible kingdom now. The kingdom of God will be completely established at the second coming of Christ. We have also seen, Jesus explained the nature and characteristics of this kingdom through parables. Let's see the first parable in the Matt 13.

Parable of the sower
This parable talks about how the kingdom of God is established and how the world respond to the invitation to the kingdom of God.

Mt 13: 3- 9: Parable of the sower
Mt 13:18-23: Explanation of the parable

Invitation to God’s kingdom: When you hear the gospel. (v19)
Establishment of Gods kingdom: By preaching the word of God (v3)

Invitation to God's Kingdom: By hearing (v19)


The invitation to the kingdom of God is received when you hear the gospel or the message about his kingdom. (V19) It all depends on how we hear it. In the parallel passage in Mark 4, after explaining the parable Jesus said like this.

Mk 4:23 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
Mk 4:24 And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.

All that matters for entering into this kingdom is how you hear, ie how you accept the word of the kingdom or how you respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This parable talks about 4 kinds of hearers. Bible predicts that, even though people receive this invitation to His kingdom, not all will respond to it in the correct manner. This parable talks about 4 kinds of responses to the invitation to kingdom of God.

These are the 4 different kinds of responses.

      a) V19 : Hearing and not understanding it ( Wayside)
This category of people hears about the word of the kingdom (or gospel) and they don’t understand it. The word of the kingdom does not make any sense to them. As 1 Co 1 mentions, these are the wise people of the world. Their wisdom will not allow them to accept the seemingly simple gospel message. What happens to these people? The wicked one comes and snatches it away. Devil will come and put another philosophy there and they will gladly accept that and follow it.

b) V20: Hearing at the surface level (Stony grounds)
These people hear it and immediately accept it, without trying to understand deeply. They have a shallow understanding of the word of God. We can see these kinds of people around us. They hear things at the surface level but don’t think over it or try to understand deeper. Because they don’t want that, if they do that they will have to make Jesus as their Lord over everything. These are the people who see God as their helper or as a blesser. They basically wants a blesser and not someone who becomes their Lord. They want to fit God in their kingdom. They don't want to enter the kingdom of God and get subjected to the king. What happens to these people? When persecutions and problems come, they will fall because what they have heard has not gone deep into them or dint help them.

      c) V22: Sharing the lordship with many other things (thorny ground)
This category of the people is the most miserable among the group. Because they are the people who gets choked most because lordship is shared between many other things. They are not willing to make Jesus as their sole Lord but they will share lord ship. To some of them, money will be their primary lord, some of them, career will be their primary lord, for some of them, if they have unbelieving family members or parents or friends, they will be their lord. What happens to these people? As they grow, their other passions and seeds also grow with time and finally the other passions will choke this.  And he becomes unfruitful or he will give way to their other lords. When we live in this world, it’s very easy that along with the seed of the word of God other seeds also can grow. But we need to make sure the other things are pruned at the correct level.

d) V23: Those who accept it and produce fruits
These are the people who receive the word of the kingdom correctly. The seed gets nurtured in this soil. Adequate nutrients and water is provided for the growth of this seed allowing it go more deeply. Growth will be externally manifested by the production of fruits. First sign: It grows, secondly it produces many fruits.

Lk 8:15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

These are the four tests to check whether you have responded to the word of the kingdom or whether you have received the word of the kingdom in the correct manner. Only time will tell how we have received this word of the kingdom? This is the reason why we see many Christians are remaining unfruitful and many are leaving faith. Either they’ve heard it shallowly or they are sharing the lordship which is choking the seed.

Establishment of the kingdom of God

God's kingdom is established in the world by spreading the gospel (scattering of the seed). This seems so strange to us. It’s not at all like the establishment of kingdoms that we see around. Alexander didn’t try to establish his kingdom by preaching. It was by force. All the kingdoms in world are established by force. But here we see one kingdom established by preaching the gospel. 

Seed is being sown.(v19) What is the seed? Seed is the word of the kingdom. Seed is not blessings, or healing ministry. Today that’s the seed which many people are sowing. The seed that they are sowing is not the word of the kingdom or word of God or gospel but it is this healing ministry. Let me say, the seed to establish the kingdom of God is the word of God or word of the kingdom or gospel alone. Nothing else. Those who are scattering the wrong seed are not adding people to God’s kingdom but to their kingdom.

Act of sowing: Started by Jesus Christ and he handed over this ministry to his disciples now it’s carried out through believers.

Role of believers in establishing Gods kingdom: Mt 10:5:- Jesus entrusts the duty of preaching the word of the kingdom to his disciples. This is the task of the disciples to preach about the kingdom. What does great commission says – Go and make disciples. Make people who preach the kingdom of God. That’s how the kingdom of God is extended. Immediately after explaining this parable in the Luke, Jesus further explains it using the example of Lamp being lit.

Luke 8:16:  “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.”

Our first priority: Jesus says: Mt 6:33: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God”. This is the first priority for those who are in His kingdom, and don't worry about other necessities because God will take care of it. 

Role of church in establishing Gods kingdom:  Rom 10:17: Faith comes by hearing, Hearing comes from preaching. Preaching comes from the people who are sent. Today it’s the duty of the church to send people, to preach the word of the kingdom, so that others can hear about the word of the Kingdom. This is the role of church in expanding the kingdom of God.

 Conclusion


Let us understand that we are in the kingdom of God. Let us examine how have we heard the word of the kingdom – shallowly, or the seed is being choked in us or are we keeping it and bearing the fruits? Are we doing our role individually and as a church to establish God’s kingdom?

Kingdom of God

The kingdom of God is a term used in the Bible to represent the rule of God over His people. Its a rule with Jesus Christ as the king and people as its members. Jesus Christ came to this earth to initiate this kingdom and will come back for the second time for the complete establishment of His kingdom. At his first coming, he initiated this kingdom on earth, and is waiting for it to spread. At present, its an invisible kingdom, established in the hearts of the believers.

We see the term 'kingdom of heaven' or 'kingdom of God' 31 times in the gospel of Matthew and around 82 times in all the 4 gospels - almost 17 chapters out of 28 chapters of Matthew mentions about the Kingdom of heaven. So it’s a topic of importance.

What is this kingdom of heaven / God?
  • Starting with John the Baptist : “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Mt 3:1)
  • Then Jesus Christ : (Mt 4:17) – Jesus began to preach “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near”
  • Then the beatitudes (Mt 5) - What kind of people are blessed in the kingdom of heaven?
  •  Importance of the kingdom of God (Mat 6:33) : “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…”
  •  Jesus sends disciples to preach (Mt 10 : 5) “As you go, preach this message –Kingdom of heaven is near”. 
  • Beginning of the Kingdom of heaven, Prophets until John prophesied it (Mt 11:7): Begun at the time of John the Baptist (repentance phase started from him.)
  • Jesus changes the mode of preaching about Kingdom of heaven: From common language to parables. Intending that only those who want to hear should understand. (Mt 13) In this discourse he told them around 7 parables describing how to enter, nature and future programs about the kingdom of heaven.
  •  Jesus tells Peter that I will give you/disciples the keys of kingdom of heaven: (Mt 16:19) “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven…”
  •   Jesus continues to preach about the different aspects (present and future) of the kingdom of heaven through parables till chapter 25

It is the kingdom prophesied by the OT prophets, preached by the John the Baptist, established by Jesus Christ, continued by the disciples and by believers through the church. The complete fulfillment is at the time of second coming of Christ and will continue through the 1000 years reign and then eternally. 

Presently, we are in the kingdom of God. We can see this in Luke 17:20,21.

v20) Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed,
v21) nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

It's an invisible kingdom now, established in the hearts of the believers. The final culmination or establishment of the kingdom will be at the second coming of Christ. 

Currently, God's kingdom is spread and established through the church. God has established church in order to set this invisible kingdom of God on earth. In Matt 16:19, we see Jesus says to the disciples that "I will give you keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven". Later we see, it is the church which the apostles have established and strained for. 

Christ explains in Matt 13, what is the nature of this kingdom, how it is established, how it will be in this world, how it will grow, how its people influence others and when the members of his kingdom is cleansed. He is explaining the nature of the kingdom of God through parables. Each parable in the Matthew 13, talks some characteristic of the kingdom of God. In order to understand the nature of this kingdom, we need to dive deep into the parables. 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Devotion: The source of our eternal joy - Cross of Calvary

John 16: 16 - 24
16 Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”
19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has painbecause her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
This is a passage where Christ promises that your sorrows will be turned to joy. He started speaking directly about his coming death and departure. This is one of that discourse.

Your sorrow will be turned to Joy

V19,20 : Christ says that initially, there will be sorrow but that sorrow will be turned to joy.
The death of Christ was not meant to be ended as a disaster or sorrowful event. But it was leading to immeasurable joy.
V21, 22 : Talks how joyful they will become. We may tend to take this as the second coming of Jesus Christ. It’s true that we reach the climax of joy at the second coming of Christ but primarily seeing the resurrected Christ is the joy that Christ is mentioning about. At the death of Jesus Christ, the world rejoiced and disciples cried but it lasted only for 3 days. Within that time their sorrows turned into immeasurable joy. The risen Christ was the source of their joy.
The situation outside was not favorable to the disciples, but as Paul states 2 Co 6:10  “sorrowful yet rejoicing”.  The world’s joy is temporary but Christ gives his believers eternal joy through his death and resurrection. One of the commandments in the Bible is to rejoice or be joyful. Being joyful is the natural state of a Christian. However, we don’t always experience that joy.

Reason behind their joy

Knowing the meaning of the cross was the reason of their joy. That cross gave them forgiveness of their sins and the power to forgive others sins. They realized that their life is eternal. Is the cross of Christ the source of our real joy? Its possible that when we live in this world we can put our joy in the things of the world but that’s temporary. It can never satisfy us. Our possessions, career growth, friends cannot give these joy.
Seeing the resurrected Christ, gave them the realization that they were not following a human guru but they were following a person who had command over death and life. When we partake from this table it’s a reaffirmation of that fact. We should realize how much we are forgiven and the one whom we remember at this moment is not just a man but the one who name is above all names.His divinity was attested by his resurrection. Seeing the resurrected Christ was the only solid evidence for the disciples that they were following a God  all these years.
Acts 5:41

v22: Joy that none can take away

The specialty of the joy that Christ gives is none can take away that joy. They gathered everyday; they broke bread, feasted everyday. The persecutions during their time could not stop their joy. Wherever they were scattered they preached about Christ. Meeting together, spending time together, sharing gospel, suffering persecutions were joyful occasions.

Conclusion

Let us realize the depth and meaning of the cross. Let us once again reaffirm our minds that we are following the one who is risen and who has power over death and life.

Perhaps we may say that if we would have seen that risen Christ, we would also be like that. Peter writes to certain believers who are suffering in 1 Pet 1:8,9. Loving him, believing in him is the source of inexpressible joy.
May this help us to have that joy in us always. Let us not be joyful in the things of the world or what world gives.  As John Piper states “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”.

Christian Joy

Why is joy important for a Christian? We know a lot of verses in the Bible that commands us to rejoice or be happy or be joyful. Why is ...