Friday, September 16, 2016

"The Kingdom and the King ..."

Day #261

Scripture Reading:  Matthew 11 - 13 ...

Politicians and leaders all over the world make promises as they rule over the people in their nations.  They promise prosperity and all kinds of things that they have no way of guaranteeing.  Their power is limited and their ideas of prosperity have little to do with anything but the present and perhaps the immediate future.  Of course, their promises are attractive to people who want immediate gratification.  You know the saying, “I want it all, and I want it NOW!”   Jesus never made such promises to those who would follow Him (though some make those kinds of promises now in His name!).

John the Baptist had been thrown into prison and in spite of the testimony he had given concerning Jesus when he baptized Him in the Jordan River, as he faced death he began to have doubts.  He sent messengers to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (11:3).  Jesus pointed John to His miracles and to His message and said, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me” (11:6).  When facing trials and persecution some wonder if following Jesus is worth it.  That’s why it is important to hear and to understand what Jesus meant as He talked about His kingdom.

When Jesus talked about the kingdom of heaven, He talked about good news for the weary that goes beyond this life.  While He did heal the sick, and even raised a few people from the dead, that was not the purpose of His coming - just so people could live longer in this world.  He had more in mind.  He came to reveal the Father and His love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness.  "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him," Jesus said (11:27).  Then He said to the weary, "Come to me ... and you will find rest for your souls" (11:28-30).

So many people today fail to understand the “kingdom of heaven,” or “the kingdom of God.”  They talk about the church and claim to be Christians but miss the fact that the kingdom Jesus came to establish is not of this world.  We are spiritual beings and this world is temporary.  While knowing God and serving Him now is obviously important, it is the coming kingdom that should occupy our thinking and guide our living.  The Pharisees and most of the people of Judah failed to understand what Jesus was really offering them and why He had come in the first place, even though He told them repeatedly.

As the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by accusing Him of breaking the Sabbath (12:1-13) and casting out demons by the power of evil (12:25-32), those who saw their own need wondered, "Could this be the Son of David?" (12:23). Could this be the Messiah?  In their ignorance and blindness, the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus (12:14).  Can you imagine that?!!  He was challenging their understanding of God and their "religion."  They were counting on their own righteousness to get into the kingdom of heaven, and Jesus was making them uncomfortable by calling ordinary people to follow Him, to come to Him, to find forgiveness.

God had revealed through the giving of the law in the days of Moses that no one could ever be righteous in God’s sight by keeping the law.  We have seen that God requires perfection and none of us can give it.  The Apostle Paul explained to the Romans, “No one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:20).  And he writes to the Galatians, “The law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified (declared righteous) by faith” (Galatians 3:24).

While the Pharisees tried to accuse Jesus of breaking God’s law, He revealed that God looks not only at outward obedience, but at the heart.  Jesus talked about bringing forth good fruit and then told the Parable of the Sower. People can fool others and they can even fool themselves, but God always knows those who are His - not because they are trying hard to be good, but because they are responding to His love and desiring to live lives pleasing to Him out of love for the God they have come to know.  To these Jesus says, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them" (13:11).  "Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear" (13:16).

In His parables of the kingdom of God in Chapter 13, Jesus taught those who were given ears to hear the value of God’s kingdom when compared to anything else in this world.  And as He did so He pointed out the two destinations for eternity and what would happen at the end of the age.  There is nothing more important than having your spiritual eyes opened by the grace of God so that you can see God’s kingdom and know how to enter it.

Have you seen and heard of God's kingdom?  Are you good seed that is bearing fruit?  We know that we are saved by grace, but the EVIDENCE of God's work in you will always be a heart in love with God, in tune with His Spirit and in pursuit of holiness.  There will finally be a separation between the wheat (the good seed) and the weeds (the bad seed).  The good seed is made good by God Himself.  It is in believing in Jesus that we find the assurance that God has made us His children by grace through faith.

The kingdom of heaven is a treasure worth giving everything to possess. Living for yourself or for the things of the world is, well ... "fruitless!"  It is worth NOTHING!!  The teachers of the law "took offense at Jesus" (13:57). But those of us who know WHO Jesus is and who rejoice and give thanks for His life, death, resurrection and ascension, look forward to the fulfillment of God's kingdom when Jesus returns.  There lies our hope and that is enough to give us strength to persevere, to endure and to overcome!!

May God give you ears to hear, a mind to understand, a heart to accept and then use your life to bring forth good fruit for His kingdom, for then, and only then, will you receive Jesus' promise:  "REST for your soul!"

"Heavenly Father, the message of the coming of Your kingdom inspires me to seek it above all else - to seek YOU above all else.  Take away my foolish desire for the things of this world and replace it with love for You and a heartfelt desire to seek first YOUR kingdom and YOUR righteousness.  May I bear fruit for Your kingdom daily as I live in obedience to Your Word and give the praise and glory to You, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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