Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Are you bringing heaven on earth?

"Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:9,10

The kingdom of God is a present reality

The prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray is embedded in His teaching on how to live life on earth according to the kingdom of God (see Matthew 5:1-7:29). Jesus came as an ambassador of the kingdom to teach mankind about the reality of the kingdom of God as well as to reveal the kingdom of God as it is in heaven. Jesus manifested the reality of God's rule and reign in heaven on earth. In Matthew 12:28, Jesus says, "And if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."

The kingdom of God is a mystery revealed to those who believe

Jesus told His disciples that, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them" Matthew 13:11. Through faith in Jesus the believer is born from above or born of the Spirit, enabling him or her to see the kingdom and to enter the kingdom of God (see John 3:1-8). Once the believer has received the Holy Spirit, s/he is able to discern the things of the kingdom. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 2:14, "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned."

The born again believer is a son of the kingdom

In Jesus' parable of the weeds in the field in Matthew 13:36-43, He explains that, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil." Those who are born again and have received the Holy Spirit belong to the kingdom of God for they have been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Col. 1:13). 

As sons of the kingdom we are to produce the fruit of the kingdom of God, the manifestation of heaven on earth!

The fruit of the kingdom is produced by those who hear the word of God and understand it. They produce a crop yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown (see Matthew 13:23). Those who believe God's word and apply it to their lives will produce an abundant harvest - the fruit of the kingdom.

How does one produce the fruit of the kingdom?

In order to realise the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven we are to live kingdom lives just as Jesus did. Those who belong to Christ's kingdom will walk as Jesus did and be like Him as He is in heaven (see 1 John 2:6; 4:17). When asked to show them the Father, Jesus simply replied, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father....Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves" (John 14:9-11). Jesus manifested the Father's nature, spoke the Father's words, did the works of the Father and lived in the authority and power of the Father. In other words, Jesus represented the King of heaven and by being His ambassador, Jesus released the King's dominion on earth as it is in heaven.

By revealing the nature of the Father, Jesus manifested the culture of the kingdom of heaven. For example, Jesus came full of grace and truth (John 1:14). We see the realisation of the kingdom of heaven on earth when Jesus forgave the woman caught in the act of adultery (grace) but warned her to leave her life of sin (truth) John 8:1-11. Jesus revealed the King's compassion and holiness, bringing heaven on earth. Likewise, the believer is to imitate God and be holy as He is holy (see Eph 5:1; 1 Peter 1:15,16).

By speaking the words of the Father, Jesus manifested the wisdom of the kingdom of heaven. Everyone was amazed at the wisdom with which Jesus spoke (see Mark 6:2). When we speak God's Word we release heaven on earth. James puts it like this, "The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness" (James 3:17,18). In other words, when we apply kingdom culture to our lives by revealing God's nature and speaking His words, we bring heaven on earth!

By doing the will of the Father, Jesus manifested the culture of heaven on earth (see John 4:34). Without His complete obedience to the Father, Jesus would not have realised God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Likewise, the believer must find out what the Lord's will is and obey it if s/he is to bring heaven on earth! Obedience releases God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven!

By doing the works of the Father, Jesus manifested His dominion on earth as it is in heaven. The healing of the sick and the driving out of demons was always done in the context of preaching the good news of the kingdom (see Luke 9:1,2; Matthew 4:23).

By walking under and in the authority of the Father and in the power of His name, Jesus overcame the kingdom of darkness to establish God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. The same authority and power is given to the believer. Jesus, after explaining that He is the Father's representative, tells His disciples that "anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it" (John 14:12-14). To ask the Father in the name of Jesus is to act as His representative on earth as He is in heaven. The believer is called to continue Christ's work of bringing heaven on earth as a kingdom ambassador "for our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12).

Are you bringing heaven on earth?

I believe as sons of the kingdom of God, we are to produce the fruit of God's kingdom by manifesting heaven on earth as we live the kingdom life that Jesus lived. We are not of this world. We are of God. Let us live as kingdom ambassadors revealing the nature, the words, the will, the works, the authority and power of our King on earth as it is in heaven!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Will All Israel Be Saved?

"Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved." Rom. 10:1

The apostle Paul had a passion for his people, the people of Israel. He was so concerned for the Jewish people that just like Moses was prepared to die for his people (see Exodus 32:32), so Paul writes,

"I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel." Rom. 9:2-4

Paul carried the Father's passion to see man reconciled to God. It was the love of Christ that compelled Paul to reach those separated from God and mobilise a people who would do the same (see 2 Cor. 5:11-21).

All through the history of mankind, God has revealed His passion for His creation and His desire to walk in fellowship with what He makes. God chose the people of Israel to be His people. A people devoted to God who demonstrate their love for the Lord by being a seperate people, (not worshipping idols, not intermarrying other nations, not following the customs of other nations etc). This exclusive group of people called Israel was chosen for a purpose. Their purpose was to walk in fellowship with God, to obey Him and to reveal His holiness and glory. However, because of their sin nature, they consistently disobeyed God and went their own way. Nevertheless, the history of Israel reveals a God who consistently  loves His people and holds out His hands to them despite their being a "disobedient and obstinate people" (Rom. 10:21).Over and over again, the Father sent His messengers, the prophets of Israel, to call His people back to fellowship and obedience to Him. Tragically, Israel consistently rejected God's messengers and so the Father sent His Son (see Heb.1:1 and Matthew 21:33-46). 

Jesus was sent from heaven to redeem the people of Israel. He is the deliverer from Zion, sent te reconcile Israel to God (Rom. 11:26; Acts 3:26). However, even God's very own Son was rejected by Israel! Consequently, God chose to bring near those who are far away (Eph. 2:13, the Gentiles) so that through faith in Christ, anyone can be reconciled to the Father. The mystery that Paul talks about in Eph. 3 is that "through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 3:6). God's plan of salvation to reconcile Israel to Himself has made salvation available to every creature under heaven. God is so passionate about Israel that He has chosen to make His chosen people envious of those who are living in fellowship with, and obedience to the Father because of their faith in His Son. Paul writes,

"Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them" (Rom. 11:13,14).

Paul's insight into the mystery of God's redemptive plan shows us that God wants to save all Israel. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said to the rulers, elders and teachers of the law in Jerusalem that "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Clearly not all Israel will be saved but only those who trust in the Capstone. So why does Paul say in Romans 11:26 that "all Israel will be saved"? Is Paul saying that when Jesus comes again that all Jewish people will be saved? Clearly not. The context of Paul's statement in Rom. 11 is important. The sentence reads,

"Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved as it is written: 'The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.'" (Rom. 11:25-27)

Paul is saying that all Israel will be saved through faith in the Deliverer from Zion and not through the Law (see Rom. 10:3,4). There is no exception. Every Jew and every Gentile can only be saved through God's Son. "All Israel will be saved as it is written" and as God has planned it in Christ.

"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." Eph. 3:10,11

May the Church carry the same burden as the apostle Paul to see both Jew and Gentile saved according to God's salvation purposes in Christ.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Faith working through love

"The only thing that counts is faith working through love." Galatians 5:6


The essence of living the Kingdom life as a follower of Jesus Christ is "faith working through love." Faith is the conviction that God exists and that He rewards those who seek Him (see Hebrew 11:1,6). However, faith without action is dead (James 2:26). True conviction or faith is always accompanied by action for without action a conviction is only an opinion. True faith looks like something and that something is love.

The believer's faith is demonstrated in three essential ways - love for God's presence, love for His people and love for His salvation purposes. Every disciple of Christ will demonstrate all three aspects of this love that the apostle Paul is addressing. All three loves look like something!

Love God's Presence

Those who love God's presence by faith, seek His face. They spend time in His presence in prayer, worship and reading the Bible. They are devoted to having fellowship with God and seek to grow in their knowledge and experience of Him. This agape love is an unconditional commitment to God that is not dependent on feelings, circumstances or knowledge. It is a simple child-like trust in God that learns to enjoy His presence. The very presence of God becomes the disciple's greatest reward (see Gen. 15:1). As believers grow in their love for God, they grow in their love for what is on God's heart. "We love because he first loved us" 1 John 4:19. Love for God is therefore expressed in the believer's love for what God loves. 

Love God's People

God's people are those who belong to Him through faith in Jesus Christ (see Eph. 2:11-22). Loving God's people is expressed by a life devoted to serving the Body of Christ. In the letter to the Hebrews we read, "God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them" (Heb. 6:10). Love for the Church is demonstrated very practically. Believers who love the Church are devoted to the local church and the greater Church by spending time with other believers and seeking to help others grow in their relationship with God and supporting any physical needs others may have. The early Church demonstrated this agape love as they shared their lives and their possessions with one another and were committed to fellowshipping with one another (see Acts 2:42-47)

Love God's Purposes

Those who through faith in Jesus Christ become members of His Body, the Church, are created in Christ to do good works (Eph. 2:10). The believer is therefore included in Christ for a purpose - God's salvation purposes - God's passion to see everyone reconciled to Him. Just as Jesus fulfilled the Father's purposes to seek and save the lost, so the Body of Christ is called to love the lost and seek to reconcile them to the Father's love. Those who have genuine faith will love God's purposes and seek to share the love of God with those who are separated from God.

Faith is therefore expressed through love for God's presence, God's people and God's salvation purposes. All three loves are the manifestation of true faith that is seen in the believer's actions as s/he reponds to God, to the Church and to the lost.