Monday, March 20, 2006

Thoughts About the Kingdom of the World and the Kingdom of God

God's rule does not begin in heaven. That may seem like an obvious statement. But reflect on it for a moment: God does not begin ruling when we get to heaven. He is already ruling. Are we willingly--indeed JOYfully--under his rule? God ruling over us doesn't begin when we get to heaven; he rules over us now... IF we will have him as our Ruler. We don't begin to follow his lead in heaven, we follow his lead now. We are currently the subjects in his kingdom... if we will have him as our King.

Satan is currently opposing God's rule and trying to usurp His authority so that he (the devil) can reign instead. The devil has the "whole world" under his control (1 John 5:19). That's what the Bible says--the WHOLE world! What is Satan trying to use the whole world to accomplish? He wants to make God's ways look undesirable. He wants to make God's ways seem "burdensome". He wants other things to seem more "fun" than walking in harmony with our Creator. Satan wants us distracted so that the distraction becomes a sort of false reality.

But we--the Church, those who hold to the testimony of Jesus--have another mission, handed to us by God Himself. It is our mission to make God's wisdom known (Eph. 3:10)--to make Him look good, to make His Ways appear as they really are: wonderful, peaceful, joyful, full of goodness, lovely, etc, etc, etc. This is why we are hear.

It is OUR job to break down Satan's distractions, to destroy everything that sets itself up against the TRUTH--we don't want people to buy into Satan's false reality any longer. We are to demolish any argument, reveal any deception, and shed light on all darkness. See 1 Cor. 10:1-5. We don't want people to fall for the devil's lies. The devil has sold millions of people a false hope--a LIE. God's ways actually do bring peace, love, joy, and hope. Walking according to the ways of "the world", which the devil controls, will only bring misery--it would mean walking against everything that we were created to be. A creature trying to go against that for which he is created is most miserable.

And so, we NOW find ourselves right in the middle of a great struggle. The struggle is invisible to most, but it is as REAL as any war that is being fought on the face of the planet today. We must take a step back and recognize the battle. If we don't, we will buy into the lie. We cannot walk around carelessly in the world--the world which is under the control of the devil. We cannot lightly tread in this place. That's why the Bible tells us so often to be sober, to be vigilant, to be careful, to walk circumspectly, to be alert, to be self-controlled, etc. For our enemy the devil currently walks around like a lion seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

But what a wonderful salvation we have! Jesus came so that the blind may SEE! Oh, if you are blind to much of what I have written, pray that you may have eyes to see, and ears to hear! Jesus opens prisons doors and sets captives free. Our salvation has come. He has delivered us and he will continue to deliver us.

A huge part of Salvation is this: being brought out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light--the kingdom of the Son (Col. 1:13). Salvation does not only concern "sins forgiven", "hell avoided", or "heaven promised". Salvation includes these things, but even more. What are we saved from RIGHT NOW? Have you been saved from the kingdom of Satan and brought into God's Kingdom? Are you demolishing the deceptions of the devil and making God's ways look wise and loving and good? How sad if we wear a name tag that says "kingdom of God" and yet we relish in the things of the world! How hypocritical!

When our time comes and our lives end, we will continue existing in the kingdom of which we are now a part. If we are belong God's Kingdom NOW, we will be in God's Kingdom in heaven too. If we belong to the world now, we will later be in the kingdom of the one who manipulates the world--the devil. Let us war against the world. We must choose sides now. The world or God--you can't follow both. Do not be conformed to this world; rather be TRANSFORMED (Romans 12:1-2). Let us not be a part of this kingdom. Rather, let us give up all this world, to attain that which is True. "He who seeks to save his life will lose it; he who loses his life for my sake will keep it for eternal life" (Matt. 16:25).

John 15:19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

Galatians 4:3 So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.

Galatians 6:14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 4:4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Praise God for such a wonderful Salvation! He saves us from an empty way of life NOW. He has delivered us from a wandering existence and filled us with eternal purposes! What a wonderful God we have. May he receive glory. Use us, O Lord, to gain the attention you are due; may all creation praise your holy name.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

We Must Go Deeper

A recent survey of American pastors reveals that the average pastor believes that 70% of the congregation consider their faith in God as their number one priority. However, the same survey reveals that only 23% of church goers consider God their number one priority. Why the discrepancy????

The discrepancy exists in part because of how the pastors measure the spirituality of the congregations. If a lot of people volunteer, if church attendance is good, if the people SAY they have had a religious experience then the pastor is likely to think that they value God more than anything else. ALL of these measures are very superficial.

We must go deeper than this. How do we know when our brothers and sisters are "doing well". It cannot be based on attendance. It cannot be based on claims that "everything is fine" or "I've been doing well". The Bible tells us that each of us is responsible to "see to it" that "none" has a sinful, unbelieving heart in departing from God (Hebrews 3:12-13).

Let's take this seriously! Let's not live in a dream world where we think everything is fine with the church but in reality we don't know, we haven't CARED enough to find out, and we haven't been vulnerable enough to really open our lives up to each other. Let's CARE!

Well, that's all for now... the study I referred to earlier can be found at the following link. It's quite interesting and may be worth the read:

Thursday, March 09, 2006

You Have Mustard On Your Cheek

The other day a few people (not from our church) asked me, "what do you do if your wife picks out some clothes that you don't really like?" I said, "I'll tell her." They hardly believed me. In fact, some of them scolded me and said that would be unkind. Since when is it unkind to speak the truth? After lunch, if you see someone who has a streak of mustard on his cheek, don't you tell him so that he can get it off? That's an uncomfortable feeling. We don't like to say something that may potentially embarass someone else. But what if we don't speak up?!?! Someone will be walking around with mustard on his face... and it will be YOUR fault if you didn't tell him!

The Life we are seeking as a Body in Christ is much more than merely having a church where we know each other really well. We do want to merely "know one another well". We want to help each other conform to Christ--to become all that he wants us to be. Part of that is being willing to speak up when we see something in our brother or sister's life that appears to be un-Christlike.

We need to be willing to obey God and "speak the truth in love" when necessary, even taking along with us two or three others when a person displays an unopen attitude, or a prideful, rebellious attitude in not wanting to hear.

What I have just written about hardly ever happens in most "churches". Let's break the mold. Let's be willing to not let our brothers and sisters walk around with "mustard" on their faces.