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Archive for the tag “Kingdom of God is Near”

Urgent News

Have you ever had a time when everything you hear has a theme? Me too. My discipleship group is in the Book of Revelation; my Sunday School Class is reading in the Book of Daniel and even my Pastor is teaching about the Kingdom from Luke’s Gospel. It doesn’t help to see the things we’re seeing in the world today driving home an urgency to get the Good News out. We need to be active in spreading the Good News.

The urgency that I am feeling isn’t about the virus or about the economic downturn. Revelation teaches us that one day this world that we know will come to an end. Jesus spoke often about His Kingdom coming – but it wasn’t what the Jews had in mind. They thought He was coming to bring an end to the occupation of the Roman government. But the first coming of Jesus wasn’t about ending occupation, but bringing salvation to those who were lost.

Last year, I sat in a training session to teach us how to share the Gospel message – the Good News of Jesus. I have heard of many ways to share what I know about Jesus – about His life, His death and then His resurrection – the Good News. But this time it was about the three circles. Let me give you a snippet of what I learned, just in case you haven’t heard.

The first circle represents God. In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. Genesis 1:31

God made everything perfectly. But then sin was introduced into His perfect world. “Lostness” is brokenness brought on by our sinful conditional. We are all broken with this sin problem. The problem isn’t really our brokenness in itself, but it has broken the relationship God wants to have with us. God cannot look upon sin. He is holy. When men have gotten a glimpse into heaven, they fall on their faces before Him – terrified because they know they are unworthy to be in God’s presence.

When Jesus was with Peter at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He performed a miracle in front of Peter by filling his nets with so many fish, the net began to break. Peter recognized he was in the presence of Someone amazing. Luke 5 gives the reaction of Peter:  When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” This should be our reaction in front of our Holy God. This is our lostness, our brokenness. This is the second circle.

Romans 3:23 tells us for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. No one is exempt from sin. If anyone has told a lie, it’s a sin. Any wrong doing in the eyes of God is sin. But brokenness, how is that defined? I read in a devotional this definition: “a growing awareness that no matter how hard we try, our ability to make life work gets worse instead of better. It’s a recognition of our need for God and His intervention in our lives.”

Everything we do to get our lives “right” or to fill that void or hole we are experiencing will just fall flat. There are many ways to fill up the hole: alcohol to numb the emptiness, a life of “sex, drugs and rock n roll” or just buying stuff to make oneself feel better. Nothing will satisfy that brokenness, unless we bring it to Jesus.

Finally, the last circle, as you can guess is Jesus. He is the Good News. We don’t have to live in that state of brokenness. God sent His Son to us. But that’s not the Good News… the Good News is that He came not to live but to die.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). But not only to die, but to be raised to life. In the Gospel of Luke (9:22), we are told this: And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

This is Good News. Death was defeated because of Jesus. Yes, we still die a physical death. But with Jesus we are given a new life – a spiritual birth by believing Jesus is who He says He is – God’s Son; we believe He did what He said He would do – die for our sins; and believe He was raised to life giving us a new life through Him.

With this recognition of Jesus’ Good News, we also, have to repent of our sins, which means we turn away from those things that lead to our brokenness. We agree with God that our brokenness keeps us from a relationship with Him and turn to Him for forgiveness. If we do this simple act of believing and repenting, we are given a new life in Him and we recover our relationship with God through Jesus.

I heard this analogy of what Jesus did for us in His death and resurrection: Jesus took off His clean, brilliantly white coat and put on our filthy, dirty rags and we put on His righteousness (brilliant, white coat) in exchange for our sins (rags). That’s a very uneven exchange, but He gladly did it for everyone ever born and would be born no matter what.

When I was reading through Revelation and the foreshadow that we witness in this season we’re in, I feel the urgency to point people to Jesus. The times will probably not get better. The labor pains have started to grow stronger. This is getting really real. I never believed I would see the things I am seeing today.

Revelation seemed like it was far into the future. I don’t think that anymore. Too much has happened on a global stage and the Pandora box has been opened to never close again. This is not a dooms day message, but a message of hope. God made a way for all people to have a relationship with Him. He sent His Son to earth to bring the Kingdom to us. One day Jesus will return and His followers will be with Him for eternity. Are you counted in that number? Do you know people who will not be with you in heaven? The urgency is real. Let’s enlarge heaven with everyone we know.

From Here to Eternity

The question asked in our small group on Tuesday night was “Do you think about eternity?” Actually, I have to say “yes” especially this week. This is the twenty-third anniversary of a friend’s death. On that morning, she woke up in good spirits with excitement to do something she enjoyed doing. She loved to parachute and on that day she jumped into eternity. Her tragedy became one of my turning points in my life. Because of my friend’s death, I began the journey to find Jesus and make my life secure in Him.

About fifteen years ago, I struggled with thoughts of my death. When I would lie down at night, I would wrestle with the thoughts of heaven and hell. Well, more like be terrified with the thoughts of hell. I don’t remember what else was going on in my life at that time. I don’t know why Satan was tormenting me about those things. Eventually, I was reassured of my security in Jesus and hell was not going to be my eternal dwelling place. Jesus said He was going to make a place for me where He is (John 14:1-2), and I believed His Word to be true.

As I was contemplating this topic this week, a conversation with a college friend came to mind. Back on that day, I was questioning her involvement in church. She went to church but she was not a Christian. She said she knew she was going to hell, and she had already bought her air conditioner. Her comment unnerved me. How could she joke about something like that? I knew that was the place I didn’t want to spend my eternity. I had heard enough about hell that I didn’t want to end up there.

A study was quoted on Sunday in my pastor’s message that around 75% of the (American) population believes there is a heaven, but only 40% believes there is a hell. My pastor said that what you believe about eternity shows how you will live your life. If you believe there is no hell, then there are no consequences to your wrongdoing (sins). However, the default for everyone’s eternity is hell. Since Adam and Eve made the mistake of believing Satan’s word over God’s, hell has been our destiny. Because of the original sin, from that point on our fellowship with God was broken; and we have no right to be in His presence.

I have heard it said “How can a loving God send people to hell?” However, it should be said “How can a loving God not provide a way out of hell!” He provided a way out by sending His Son Jesus to restore our relationship with God. Jesus exchanged our cloak of sinfulness for His cloak of righteousness. And by His righteousness, we are allowed into the presence of God Almighty – Holy and Righteous One. It’s not by our goodness, because we don’t have any; but the goodness of Jesus.

I know lots of “good” people in this world that say they are going to heaven because of their good deeds. But it’s not about being good but being holy. Why would a holy God allow unholy people in His presence? He wouldn’t. Through His grace and mercy, Jesus shows us a different standard. Yes, Jesus is good, but He is also holy and righteous and a perfect representation of God the Father. Through Jesus, we become holy and righteous and are given the right to join Him in the Kingdom of God.

One of the stories written in the Gospels (found in Matthew 8, Mark 5 and Luke 8) tells of Jesus healing a man (or two) from a legion of demons. The demons knew Jesus and they knew their fate. Yet, the demons begged Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs instead of going into their eternal torment (“Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”). In James 2:19, the passage mentions that the demons believe in the one true God and they shudder. We are told in Luke 12:5 Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell.

Our loving God wants us to spend eternity with Him. His desire is for all of us to be with Him in His Kingdom. Hell is total separation from Him. His desire is for all of us to walk with Him today – from here to eternity. Like He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, He has made a way for us to have that kind of relationship today. But this is our choice. While we are on this earth, we decide about eternity now. We will not be given an option after we die.

From what I understand, the death rate of all people is 100%. We are so concerned with our few years here on earth, but we should really be concerned with our eternity; and the eternity of our family and friends. There maybe someone you know that needs to know the Good News today because tomorrow they may be jumping straight into eternity. Do you think about eternity?

“The time promised by God has come at last!” (Jesus) announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” Mark 1:15 (NLT)

Still the Message

Repent! For the Kingdom of God is near!” John the Baptist was given this message before the ministry of Jesus began. He was the one who called from the wilderness to bring about the change of heart for those who would hear and heed the word. Jesus had the same message. It might have been stated a bit differently. He spoke of forgiveness of sin to those who came for healing. The sick and hurting came in large groups for healing. But Jesus always looked to their hearts first to find their true sickness. He offered forgiveness and told those who came to Him “Go and sin no more!” The same message of repentance – turn away from your sins, and you will receive the Kingdom of God. Overcome that thing that holds you back. For the one who overcame, many promises were given. When Jesus taught the large crowds He ended His teachings with this phrase: “For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.”

In Jesus’ time, the message was verbal. No one had ten copies of scrolls that they kept on their nightstand or coffee table to show those who entered their dwelling how “spiritual” they were. They went to the Temple to learn from the scholars. No one carried a scroll around to read while waiting for the next caravan to come around to take them to the mall to shop. It was all by the word of mouth that people were taught. So when Jesus said, “for those who have ears” He meant everyone that was listening to the sound of His voice. Pay attention – this is important to grasp the understanding you will need to enter the Kingdom. He said the way to the Kingdom is narrow and only a few would enter by the narrow gate.

I was listening to someone speak about the seven churches in Revelation on Sunday morning. I had a few thoughts that came to mind as they were speaking that I took note of and wrote them down. The first thought was: these letters were sent to churches – believers. I know it’s pretty obvious. Jesus wasn’t pointing out flaws or giving encouragement to non-believers. He had a message to give His followers. He had to get them back on track if there were going to fulfill His mission. Jesus gave every church a directive and a promise. Every church was called to repent of their deeds and for those who overcame their “issues” a promise was given. I have a red-letter Bible (meaning that the words that Jesus spoke are printed in red). Every word in this section of Revelation chapters two and three are in read letters. John wrote down what Jesus instructed to the seven churches. After Jesus gave the direction to each church, Jesus ended each letter “for those who have ears, let them hear.”

The message reminded me also when Peter, James and John went up the mountain with Jesus. Jesus was transfigured before them and they were overwhelmed with His glory. Peter being Peter started talking nonsense about building shelters for Moses and Elijah. God interrupted Peter telling them to listen to His Son (Matthew 17:5). Pay attention, boys! Jesus’ words were important to record. If they were important to write then they must be important to remember and obey. Listen! For the Kingdom of God is near.

Do we get that in this day and time? Are we so far removed from the message that we fail to hear the truth behind it? Would Jesus still give us this message today? The word today should still be repent for the kingdom of God is near. For believers today, the kingdom is already here – the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Even more today, we should pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us. For those who have ears to hear: Pay attention! Repent! Set ourselves apart from the worldly pursuits and pursue holiness! This is not a message we like to hear. But we’re all called to do just that. Our lives matter here on earth to bring glory to Jesus. But it takes a pure heart and a willing spirit and a renewed mind. It’s still the same message today. Pay attention to what the Lord is saying today.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:19-20

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