"...and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom..." (Luke 22:29)
"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (Rev 1:5-6)
In the tenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus sent the twelve disciples out to heal the sick and preach that the kingdom of heaven is "at hand." That is still our commission today. As Christians, as disciples of Jesus, we are to heal the sick and tell everyone we meet that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The kingdom of heaven is not in the sweet by and by; it is not where we will find ourselves only after death. The kingdom of heaven is now.
KINGDOM PRINCIPLE #1: GOD IS THE CENTER OF ALL LIFE IN HIS REALM
The kingdom of heaven is the realm of the Eternal One; it is the realm of God. In that realm, God, the Father is Elohim, the self existent one, the one who keeps covenant. (Gen 1:1; Deut7:9). He is life and health to His children. He is peace and righteousness to His family. He is provider and teacher to His flock. He is comforter, defender, and deliverer to those who rely on Him. His kingdom is characterized by selfless mercy, forgiveness, generosity, longsuffering, and love. These are the characteristics of the Father himself, and they are the characteristics which the Holy Spirit is at work to bring about in us, His children, through the Word of God. The entire universe is up held by the power of His Word, Jesus. (Heb. 1:3) In His kingdom, the Father God is the beginning, the end, and the center of all life (Rev 1:8). God is life, and all honor, glory and praise belong to Him.
KINGDOM PRINCIPLE #2: BEHAVIOR WHICH EMULATES THE RULER OF THIS WORLD, SATAN, WILL ULTIMATELY BE PUNISHED
Existing simultaneously, however, is the parallel kingdom of the world. From the fall of Adam to the resurrection of Jesus, the kingdom of this world has been ruled by Satan. He and his followers are self-serving and are bound by the "pride of life, the lust of the eye and the lust of the flesh" (1 John 2:16) They are motivated by the love of money (1 Tim 6:10) which in turn buys power and position (the pride of life), endless possessions (the lust of the eye), and control of people (the lust of the flesh). Jesus felt it was important to know the characteristics of the adversary, his followers, and his kingdom. In John 8:43-47 Jesus identifies Satan and his followers as murders and liars, in Revelation 21:8 they are further defined as adulterers, sorcerers, idolaters, and faithless individuals. They are controlled by fear, doubt and greed; their actions are marked by disregard for others and destruction. (Deut. 28:66; Rom 14:23; 2 Peter 2:13-16; John 10:10). Satan’s realm offers a counterfeit for everything within the kingdom of heaven. It offers temporary peace, joy, and deliverance with promise of instant gratification. Relief from the weight of life in this world’s kingdom is so desired and sought after that few recognize that the worldly path they have chosen leads to destruction. And because the kingdom of God is not perceived to be now, is not understood to apply to anything but life after death, few experience in this life the victorious life that the Father God has provided for His children today.
It is important to see that there are no fuzzy lines between Satan’s realm and the realm of the Father God. It is important to see that it is not possible to participate in both realms at the same time. In Matt. 13:24-30 Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a field sown with both good seed and weeds. He knew the nature of the old man and knew that men are easily moved by the deeds of their friends. ("Harry is a member of the First Church; if he’s doing it, it must be OK") Throughout scripture leaven refers to sin. We are repeatedly warned to beware of the leaven of sin; put it out from among us. "A little leavens the whole loaf.........For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would." (Galatian 5:9-17). In other words, if we do not know how God feels about a subject, we will either seek council from the world or emulate what we see in the world. We are affected by our surroundings. On one occasion, however, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to leaven. He said, "To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened". In other words, we, the children of God, should be the affecting (or infecting) force in the world. We should be changing the world, drawing the unsaved out of the kingdom of this world to a loving Father and the kingdom of heaven. So, the parable of the good seed and the weeds comes both as an encouragement and a warning to believers. They are to stand fast in producing the good fruit of the kingdom of God, but they are to be warned that behavior which emulates the ruler of this world, Satan, will ultimately be punished. Jesus said, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me (does not add to the kingdom) scatters." (Matt13:30).
KINGDOM PRINCIPLE #3: YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN AND RENEWED CONTINUALLY BY THE WORD OF GOD
At this point we must call to mind that we have been made in the likeness and image of God who is spirit. That means that the real man is a spirit. He lives in a body and makes decisions with his soul or mind with input (hopefully) from both the spirit realm and physical realm. (1 Thes 5:23; Heb. 4:12). But because we live everyday in the very physical world, we are saturated with input from the world’s system. In fact, from very early in life we learn how to function in the world’s system; and unless we are actively putting the Word of God into our heart and mind, by the time we are adults we are operating almost solely on input from the world’s system. That means that all our decisions are made from sense and reason. The ruler of this world loves to find an individual in this condition; because by default then, Satan has control. That is why Romans 8:5-8 says, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." That is why Jesus so lovingly explained to Nicodemus in John 3:3 "Unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Unless we begin again as a new born babe and learn how to live in the kingdom of God, we will never experience it. The fact that Jesus clearly understood the precarious nature of our existence here on the earth is demonstrated in John 17:14-19 as He prayed, "I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; thy Word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world." Because the child of God holds dual citizenship (we are in this world but we are not of this world. We live in this world, but we belong to the kingdom of God), we need the words and instruction of Jesus daily on handling life in this world. Why? David said it simply, "I have hid Thy word in my heart that I might not sin against Thee." (Psalms 119:11). Remember, in the kingdom of heaven, God is the center of all things, and His pleasure and His ways are the object of all that His children do.
In Luke 17:20-21 Jesus was speaking to His disciples and the Pharisees when He said, "The kingdom of God is in the midst of you." Although no one seemed to understand that Jesus was speaking of Himself (He was standing right there in the midst of them), He was actually telling the people how to enter into the kingdom of God. Jesus is the narrow entrance into the kingdom. " Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matt 7:13) "No man cometh unto the Father except by me." (John 14:6) Later in Matthew 13:45 Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it." Jesus is that one pearl of great value.
KINGDOM PRINCIPLE #4: WE ARE THE KINGDOM OF GOD HERE ON EARTH
Let’s go back for a moment to "the pearl of great price". Remember, Jesus is that pearl. Turn to Revelations 21:10-27. This is the breathtaking description of the holy city, the new Jerusalem. It is a description of the kingdom of God as we will finally be able to see it when Jesus returns. The sheer size and beauty are unimaginable, but look at verse 21, "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl........" We learned earlier in the passage that the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel will be inscribed on these pearls. These are the earthly heritage of Jesus, the one pearl of great price. Notice further that the twelve beautiful foundations of the city will bare the names of the twelve apostles. We begin to get the impression that these radiantly refined stones are living stones that have been forged together to build the glorious kingdom.
Now, turn to 1 Peter 2:1-10, "...............Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.........But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ......"
Jesus is the gate into the kingdom of God, but He is also the cornerstone of the kingdom. We are the living stones from which the kingdom is being built. When you acknowledged Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you moved into the kingdom of God. When you invited the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Eternal One, to dwell within you, the kingdom of God moved into you. You became the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 3:16-17; 1Cor 6:19-20; 2Cor 6:16} You were grafted into Him as a limb is grafted into a vine and hence forth receives all its life’s force from the vine. (John 15) Jesus is the vine; and it is in Him that you then live and move and have your being. (Acts 17:28) You are in Him; but His life force, His mind, His wisdom and power are now in you (1 Cor 2:14-16). Jesus is in the Father; the Father is in Jesus; Jesus is in you; you are in Jesus. (John 17; 1John 4:13-15) In Revelations 1:5-6, John says, "To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father , to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." In other words, as we live and move in Christ Jesus on this earth, we ARE the kingdom of God here on earth and we are becoming a part of that glorious holy city that is to come with Christ’s second appearing. (Rev 1:5b-6) The second chapter of 1 Peter describes that kingdom clearly. We are a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a chosen race, God’s own people. We are aliens to this world with the mission of declaring the wonderful deeds and provisions of a loving God to a corrupt and dying world.
If then as God’s children, we are living in the kingdom of God- we are the kingdom of God, we should be able to experience all the blessings of God in our life right now. We should be able to walk in Divine health, receive instruction for our daily provision from the Father and live the abundant life that Jesus spoke of in John 10:10. For the kingdom of God to be manifest in the earth and to reconcile a lost world to the Father God, it must first be manifest in His children.
KINGDOM PRINCIPLE #5: THE ECONOMY OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS BASED ON FAITH
The problem for the early church as well as for us today is understanding exactly how to live victoriously in the kingdom of heaven once we have entered. Knowing how crucial this understanding is, Jesus went to great lengths to explain the kingdom to His disciples.
To begin to understand Jesus’ explanations of kingdom life we must begin with our entry into the kingdom. It was not by flesh and blood that you inherited the kingdom. (1Cor 15:50) You did not enter in because you were born into a Christian household; because your parents were Christians you are not automatically entitled to enter the kingdom of God. You could not buy or force your way into the kingdom (Acts8:18-24); but rather, you entered into the kingdom through a conscious, a very deliberate, decision to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, who died for the forgiveness of your sins. (Romans 10:9) Sense and reason could not explain it. But you came as children in simple faith (Matt 19:13-15) believing that God is and that He is a rewarder of those who are searching for Him. (Heb 11:6) You came believing with child like faith (Luke 18:17) that Jesus is the only way to reach the Father and His abundant life and provision. (John 14:6) You came by faith believing that your past was truly behind you and that you were entering into a new life. (Heb 9:9) You came because the love of God so overwhelmed you (1John 4:19) and filled the emptiness within you that you experienced unspeakable peace and joy. (John 14:27; John 15:11; John 16:33; John 17:13) In truth, you came with hope for the future; and your spirit man was born again. (John 3:3; 1Peter 1:23) You left behind the kingdom of this world and the ruler of this world, Satan, (John 8:23-24) and entered into the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Entrance into the kingdom of God was through an act of faith; you simply believed without question what God said about being saved, and you were saved. Living within the kingdom of God and experiencing the abundant life of that kingdom is also accomplished by faith. If God has said it; you believe it and act upon it. Just as the economy of this world is based on money, the economy of the kingdom of God is based on faith. (1John 5:4-5; Galatians 2:20; Heb 10:38; 1 Tim.1:3-4) Life within the kingdom is appropriated by faith.
All things belong to God, but the Father has freely given them ALL to His children. He has given life, Divine health, daily provision, and defense to His family; and since He has given freely, we, His children, have but to act on His Word (His promises) in faith, to receive any request made within His will. (1John 5:13-15) The Father’s storehouse is accessed through faith (Hab. 2:4; Matt 17:20-21; Matt21:21-22) just as provisions are purchased from a store with money in the world’s economy.
KINGDOM PRINCIPLE #6: WE MUST LIVE WITH THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE WORDS OF OUR MOUTH
In the beginning the Father God spoke into existence all creation. He spoke, and the Holy Spirit moved upon His words to manifest them. We have been created in the likeness of God. Our words have power; they put into motion the spiritual force which brings them to pass. When we speak the words of God, the Holy Spirit moves upon them to manifest them. (Isaiah 55:10-11) When we speak destructive, faithless words, the spirits of this world move upon them to manifest them. Proverbs 18:20-21 says, "From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits."
Jesus was so concerned with instructing us in this principle that he said, "Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil: For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matt 12:36-37)
When the Pharisees publicly chastised Jesus for not strictly adhering to the Mosaic rituals for hand washing, Jesus responded by telling them that it was not what went into a man’s mouth that defiled him; but rather, a man was defiled by the words that came out of his mouth. (Matt 15:11) When a man speaks faithless, hurtful or fear-filled words, a destructive course is set in motion. For example, if you tell a child he is stupid, you will have planted that seed, that idea, and the child will believe that he is not able to do well in school. He will not do well in school. When a "born again" man speaks the Word of God, when he speaks faith-filled words, words that edify, the creative force of the Holy Spirit is set in motion and miracles happen. Rev. 12:11 tells us that those who were victorious over Satan overcame, "By the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony." The words of our mouth are usually the first expression of any faith action. Even our Salvation, our entrance into new life must begin with the words of our mouth. Romans 10:9-10 says, "if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in you heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved."
KINGDOM PRINCIPLE #7: GIVE AND IT SHALL BE GIVEN TO YOU; TITHE AND YOU WILL BE BLESSED
Many people have noted that Jesus spoke more frequently about money and its use than He did about prayer. On the one hand, the parables of Jesus concerning money directly relate to operating by faith in the kingdom of God; however, on the other hand, they also point out the impossibility of operating in the world’s economy and living in God’s kingdom at the same time. We need to know what Jesus had to say about handling the moving force of this world - money.
In the kingdom of heaven the Father says "Give and it will be given to you" (Luke 6:32-38 ) Proverbs 11:24-25 says, "One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. A liberal man will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered." (Psalms 37:21; Prov 21:26; Prov 28:27) Well, that certainly is the exact opposite of the world’s way of looking at things. The world’s system says: 1) Never give money, but rather lend at interest. You might as well be making some money off of someone else’s hardship. 2) Never give anything without a provision, something that will cause the borrower to feel very indebted. You never know when you will have to "call in a marker."
When you give (no strings attached - no interest charged) you accurately represent the Father God to a needy world. A human need is met and God fulfills His promise to you. You are prospered. Who will prosper you? Why the Father himself through fellow believers, or the unrighteous world. It makes no difference which it is; God can prosper you by any means. 2 Cor 9:6-13 says, "He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. ...... He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness." You are in the kingdom; you are obeying the Father’s commands for kingdom living. God will keep His promise and bless you; He cannot lie; He has promised. He has promised that He will not only meet your need, but He will supply enough for you to give more away. "What then shall we say to this? If God be for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?" (Romans 8:31-34) God will bless us because we have been faithful to proclaim His glory and because we have planted the seeds of the kingdom in another life. That is what Jesus meant when he said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and its righteousness and all these things will be added unto you."
So, what about tithing? It is mentioned only seven times in the New Testament and four of those times are in the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews, the Holy Spirit is explaining the position of Jesus as high priest of the New Covenant and speaks of the tithe which Levi paid to the high priest Melchizedek . The remaining three New Testament references to tithing were made by Jesus. In each case he was referring to the hypocritical attitude of the Pharisees toward giving. They gave for public show to receive worldly praise. In Luke 18:9-14 the Pharisee said, "I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get." Notice, however, it was not tithing that Jesus was condemning, but rather the self-righteous, hypocritical attitude of the Pharisee. The tithe was established by God in Leviticus 27:30. It is God’s rightful portion from the increase of His property. He owns it all. Everything you own is His. He has cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalms 50:10) It is HE who has taught you to profit, (Isaiah 48:17) and one tenth of it all is to be returned to Him.
The tithe is used for the provision of the priest and the upkeep of the house of God. How would it look to the world if God’s priest had to dress in rags or had no house to live in? If God cannot provide for His ministers and church how could He provide for His people? Psalms 35:27 tells us that God delights in prospering his children; therefore you should delight in prospering the minister of your church. Now, look at Num 18:25-26 . God is so serious about the tithe that He very carefully instructed the priest to tithe off the tithe. Yes, the minister must tithe, too. And not the minister only, but the church also. God is serious about the tithe, but He wants it to be paid with joy and thanksgiving. He wants it to be paid because you love Him and want to obey and please Him above all others.
Malachi 3:6-12 says, "For I the Lord do not change; (He still has not changed His mind about the tithe) ......... You have turned aside from my statues........ Return to me, and I will return to you (I haven’t prospered you because you have forgotten me)..... "How shall we return?" Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How are we robbing thee?’ In your tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse for you are robbing me.......Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing............" The prophet Malachi lived thousands of years ago, but this sounds like a dialogue from today. Haven’t you heard people say, "I can never make ends meet; we’re in debt way over our head" God says that is happening because you are not paying the full tithe. "Well, we tithe after taxes. God couldn’t mean for us to tithe on the whole thing." Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s." (Matt 22:21) Notice also, that God invites us to test Him on this matter. "Try it and see if I won’t bless you" he says.
When you cheat God, you have missed a huge blessing (2 Cor 9:6-13); and interestingly enough, you will probably lose the exact amount that you held back to miscellaneous hardships - unexpected sickness, pesky fender bender, or any number of other things that you know all too well. It is far better to give and stand in that great cloud of witness who God has blessed for their obedience: Joseph (Gen39:3), Joshua (Joshua 1:7) , Daniel (Daniel 6:28), Jehoshaphat (2 Chr.20:20-22)
That is what Jesus meant as He talked about the lilies of the field and the birds of the air in Luke 12:22-34. You are a part of God’s kingdom; the Father takes care of it all. But you are His children and if you are representing Him in the world, you are working to promote the kingdom and snatch lives from the grip of Satan, the Father will automatically meet your needs.. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things (needs) will be added unto you." ( Mark 6:33) In other words, all your needs will be taken care of as you lift Jesus up before the world. That doesn’t even take into account what you may ask the Father for in faith. No wonder Jesus told His disciples with such confidence in Luke 10 not to worry about food, clothing or shelter as they ministered.
None of this is to say that God wants us to quit our jobs. Oh no! It is through our jobs that the Lord most frequently blesses us through promotions, bonuses and new opportunities. Look at Joseph and Daniel. The Lord prospered them both right on the job. He took the money and system of the world and blessed His people. Not only were Joseph and Daniel blessed, but everyone who came under their supervision and direction. Gen. 30:25-20 tells us that others are blessed because God blesses His anointed.
KINGDOM PRINCIPLE #8: FORGIVE
The first parable of the talents that Jesus told is found in Matt 18:15-35 and points out two important principles of the kingdom. Jesus had been talking to His disciples about forgiveness when He told the parable of the "king who wished to settle accounts". You will remember that in the parable, the king called His servant to him and wished to collect a debt which was owed. The man could not pay, but the king was moved by his pleading and forgave the debt. That same man left the king’s presence and tried to collect a debt which was owed him. The debtor was a fellow servant and he could not repay the money he had borrowed. The forgiven servant dealt very harshly with the man who owed him money and had him thrown into jail. When news of this reached the king, he was furious with the man. While he had received mercy, he had not extended mercy. The king threw the unrighteous servant into jail also.
The very basis of our entering into the kingdom of God is forgiveness. Therefore, if we are to manifest the kingdom of God and the Father in this world, we must forgive others just as the Father forgave us. In fact our own sins cannot be forgiven if we do not forgive others (Matt 6:15; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:37). Jesus used the parable of the talents to express this point because it is the nature of people in this world to feel that money owed is money owed. (A person wronged never forgets.) The world’s way is to apply the pressure of added penalty to collect the money. (A person takes vengeance to repay a wrong) This means the debtor is under the control of the lender. (Prov 22:7) He is bound to the lender until the debt is paid; he is bound to the lender until all interest is paid. Before the borrower is free, he may have endured great hardship at the hands of the lender. The world’s system always brings suffering and destruction. (John 10:10)
KINGDOM PRINCIPLE #9: WHERE THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS THERE IS FREEDOM
Let’s go back to the parable of the talents (Matt 18:15-35) and think about the effect of forgiving a debt of money. Have you ever had someone forgive a debt? If not, imagine how liberating that could be. Remember that we are the kingdom of God here on earth. As we are gradually being changed into His likeness, our behavior reflects the nature of the Father himself. 2 Cor 3:17 says, "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom." The Holy Spirit within us is able to set people free from the bondage of debt - from the bondage of any sin through forgiveness. In Luke 5:24 Jesus said, "That you may know that the son of man has the power to forgive sin..........." Jesus was operating as a man on this earth; He was setting the example for us to follow. Part of His ministry and ours is to set the captive free (Luke 4:18-19). As we forgive, we loose the bonds that bind people; we liberate them as on the Old Testament day of Jubilee. There is glorious freedom for the children of God in the kingdom of God. As you forgive a brother in Christ you can be assured that the Father is smiling knowing all the while that unity among believers produces strength in the kingdom; but as you forgive an unbeliever, you are actually presenting the Father’s nature to the world. And you have a wonderful opportunity to share Salvation through the love and forgiveness of the Father God. What an opportunity to proclaim the glorious liberty of the Sons of God.
But what does the parable of the talents (Matt 18:15-35) have to say if you are the one in need of financial help? Jesus clearly shows that the man who borrows is in bondage to or under the control of the man who lends. If the kingdom of God produces freedom, why would it be the Father’s will for His children to willingly enter into bondage? Remember that Proverbs 22:7 tells us that the borrower is the slave to the lender and Romans 13:8 clearly says, "Owe no man anything." When you borrow from another, you are looking to a man to supply your needs. That is not the way of the Father. He wants to be your source. He is to be the object of your praises and thanksgiving - not a man, not a bank. The Father wants to be the center of your life.
KINGDOM PRINCIPLE #10: UNITY
The night before His crucifixion Jesus prayed, "The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me." (John 17:22-23) That is how the world will recognize the Father - through our love for one another, through our unity. That means no squabbling, no back biting. We are to be of one mind and spirit so that when the prayer of faith is prayed, the earth will move, people will be healed, and circumstances will be changed. Jesus said, "if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt 18:19)
Living and working in unity is necessary to the kingdom of God being manifest on this earth. 1John 3:11-24;4-21 speaks solely of the love of God and its evidence in our lives. The Holy Spirit concludes that without love for our brothers and sisters in Christ we do not have the love of God in us. We are not in Him; He is not in us.
How else but through unity could the New Jerusalem , the holy city, the kingdom of God be built? Remember, we are living stones that are being shaped by the love and Word of God until we are fit together in a fashion that brings glory, honor and praise to the Father God.
KINGDOM PRINCIPLE #11: SERVE
In Matt 20:26-28 Jesus said, "....; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Jesus placed great emphasis on patient enduring service and obedience to the point of self-sacrifice. In so doing, He was calling for the death of the old selfish nature and elevating the position of servant to the top of the job ladder. The pride of life drives men to seek position and praise, however, unless your eyes are firmly fixed on Jesus and the Father God as your source, the adulation of men is a powerful force in controlling the actions of an individual. But notice what Jesus had to say about elevation of any individual by title or position in Matt 23:5-12. "They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Jesus is telling the disciples that they are all equal in God’s eyes; no one is greater. No one has earned more of God’s love; no one deserves the praises of men for all praise and glory and honor belong to the Father. But at the same time, Jesus is telling the disciples that the best behavior, the attitude that pleases the Father the most, is the attitude of a servant.
No one could question the selfless life that Jesus lived; yet, He dramatically demonstrated the servant’s heart when He knelt and washed the disciples dusty feet in John 13:5-16. "When He had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed His place, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you: You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you." When the Lord of the universe tells you directly, "I have given you an example; follow it.", can we do anything but obey? Once again in Galatians 6:10 the Holy Spirit spoke directly to this issue, "So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." Serve the brethren.
KINGDOM PRINCIPLE #12: IF YOU DON’T USE WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN, YOU WILL LOSE IT
The second parable of the talents that Jesus told is found in Matthew 25:15-30. It is the parable of the man who called three servants to him and gave each a sum of money. To one he gave 5 talents, to another he gave 2, and to the other he gave one. Each man handled the money differently. The first two invested it with differing results. But the third hid his coin, in effect, doing nothing with it. When the master called for an accounting, he was pleased with the two who had invested their money even though their results differed. The master was very displeased with the servant who had done nothing. In fact, the master took back the coin and left the man with nothing. This parable is used over and over again in regard to stewardship of money, and it well can be used that way. However, Jesus was speaking in a much broader sense. We must remember that the kingdom of heaven operates on a faith economy, not money. It is easy for us to understand that you do not bury money and expect to make a profit. It is easy for us to understand that you do not sit still all day every day and expect to maintain physical fitness. Our muscles will atrophy away. To be a productive member of the kingdom of God, however, we must learn to exercise our faith. We don’t want to miss the "divine training that is in faith" (1Tim1:4); for that is the only way we will be able to access the full storehouse of God. That is the only way the Father God will be manifest before the world as He really is - El Shaddai. And unless we use the gifts that the Father has given us and behold His glory, we run the risk of growing weary of just hanging on. We run the risk of giving into the kingdom of this world and losing out completely on the kingdom of God.
"I am the Lord your God who brought you...... out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:2-3) When the rich young man came to Jesus and asked, "What good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" Jesus responded, "Why do you ask me about what is good? Only one is good (God)." Then Jesus told him to just keep the commandments, and the boy responded that he had kept them all. To that Jesus said, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me. When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions." (Matt 19:16-22) When Jesus heard that the young man had kept the commandments and was looking for another good work to do - a more significant work, He could have smiled thinking of the possibility of adding another disciple to His following. But notice that Jesus went right to the "heart" of the matter. What was the most important thing in the young man’s life - The Father God or possessions? In Matthew 6:19-21 "Jesus said where your treasure is, there will be your heart also." Just two verses later He said, "You cannot serve God and money." Which do you rely on to meet your needs - God? or money?
When people say that we have become such a materialistic society today, we have to look back at this rich young man and wonder. The picture is not much different. What the young man was really saying to Jesus was, "I want an insurance policy which will guarantee that I get into heaven. (One good deed) I do not expect to change my activities, give up any thing or hold any other being higher than myself." Doesn’t that sound a little familiar? People join the church everyday because they believe that is the way to ensure a place in heaven. They join the church on Sunday, but go back to the world’s system of behavior on Monday. The Father God is not the center of their life and His ways are low on the priority list for learning. The rich young man went away sad because he loved money (possessions) more than God. (1 Tim.6:10)
So, how then do we live? Jesus said give, give it all. In Mark 12:41-44 Jesus calls attention to the poor widow who gave money to the synagogue out of her need; He said she had given more than all the wealthy who had given out of their abundance. How is this possible? Well, Jesus is speaking of a heart attitude here. She gave all that she had out of love for the Father. She was not looking for an insurance policy as the rich young man; neither was she giving so all could see her gift and marvel at her generosity. Love and thanksgiving were her motivators; so her gift became a pure praise to the Father. Her attitude in giving demonstrated that she was not worried about her next meal; she was not concerned about how she would pay the rent. She knew that the two pennies she gave had been supplied by the Father. She no doubt was exercising faith in the Word of God, in Deut. 28, "The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your cattle, in the fruit of your ground.....the Lord will open to you his good treasury the heavens to give rain to your land and to bless all the work of your hands..... And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; and you shall tend upward only and not downward." By the time that poor widow finished remembering those covenant promises, she was no doubt dancing out of the temple giving a wave offering to the Lord as she went. God had promised; she knew it; He cannot lie; He is faithful to keep His promises and she gave cheerfully (2Cor 9:7).
The wonderful thing about that scene is that it is for us today. The third chapter of Galatians explains that we have been redeemed from the curse of the law; but, in Christ Jesus, we have received all of the blessings of that same law. There is one kicker, however. Deut 28:13-14 says, .... "if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God....... and do not turn aside to the right or to the left, to go after other gods." The Father must be first in your life.
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Smith Mountain Lake Virginia