The Message of Jesus

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17 King James Version

“From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Matthew 4:17 New International Version

“From that time onward Jesus began to preach this message: Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come close to realization.”

Matthew 4:17 MacDonald Idiomatic Translation

kingdom at hand

It would seem from reading the accounts of Jesus in the Gospel narratives that Jesus really only preached one message: The Kingdom of God! He talked about the Kingdom of God, he preached about the Kingdom of God, most of his parables were illustrations to show what the Kingdom of God was like! Yet, it has been until only very recent that modern Christianity has paid much attention to the Kingdom of God.

What was Jesus talking about when he referred to the Kingdom of God? Well, there has been much ink spilled attempting to answer that question, but one thing can be certain; most of the time Jesus was NOT talking about a place called Heaven! When he taught his disciples to pray, he didn’t teach them to pray that they would “go” to the Kingdom; he taught them to pray: “Thy Kingdom come!” So apparently, in that instance at least, Jesus was not talking about a place, but rather a state of being or situation. Perhaps a hint of what he meant is found in the next statement that is in the appositive position: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” In the mind of Jesus, the Kingdom of God is present or realized whenever and wherever God’s will is being done on earth in the same manner that it is done in Heaven. Well, how is God’s will done in Heaven? It is done perfectly! It is done without any resistance from any other will! It is done completely! So apparently, the realization of the Kingdom of God is connected to the will of God.

In doing some research on the subject, I discovered the term “kingdom of heaven/God” as it is used in the Synoptic Gospels by Jesus, does not refer primarily to a place (although sometimes it does). Most of the time, Jesus was NOT talking about “going to Heaven!” Note this entry from the Louw-Nida Greek Lexicon of the New Testament: “It is generally a serious mistake to translate the phrase ‘the kingdom of God’ as referring to a particular area in which God rules. The meaning of this phrase in the NT involves not a particular place or special period of time but the fact of ruling. An expression such as ‘to enter the kingdom of God’ thus does not refer to ‘going to heaven’ but should be understood as ‘accepting God’s rule’ or ‘welcoming God to rule over.” Wow! Do you see that? We’ve been preaching, teaching, sweating and snorting, trying to prepare people to “go to the Kingdom” and all the while, the primary message of Jesus was and is about the Kingdom coming to us!

Now in order for us to properly process this, we must do what Jesus said in the text, we must repent! However, we must also understand that in the text, the word “repent” doesn’t mean what we have traditionally thought it to mean! In this text, the word “repent” means “to change one’s mind, or to change the way you think.” We must quit thinking of the Kingdom of God as only being a place called Heaven that we will inhabit one day in the future. The Kingdom of God is “now and later!” It is present and not yet! It is a place, but it is also a state of being! It is God’s country where the streets are paved with gold, but it is also God’s rule and authority in our lives right now!

I shall be posting a series of messages to investigate this further, but I want to end this post with this observation. For many years, it seemed to me that the Old Testament and the New Testament were two different stories until I got some understanding about the Kingdom of God. The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is really just a story about a kingdom lost and a kingdom re-gained! The message of Jesus was and is, “I’ve got good news for you! What Adam lost is now regained! The Kingdom of God is at hand!’

A Tribute to Dr. Myles Munroe

Dr MunroeI was greatly saddened over the sudden and tragic loss of Dr. Myles Munroe, his wife Ruth, and members of his ministry team in a recent plane crash on November 9, 2014. Although I did not know Dr. Munroe personally, through reading his books and listening to many of his lectures and sermons, I considered him a mentor.

For years, I had been wrestling with the concept of the Kingdom of God as it relates to the present-day-reality of the Christian life. I had some ideas, but I didn’t think they were really valid until I was introduced to the writings of Dr. Myles Munroe. The Lord used Dr. Munroe, along with Dr. Tony Evans and others to verify, solidify and expand some of the ideas I had formulated about the present-day-reality of the Kingdom of God.

I heard someone mention a quote from Dr. Munroe that suggested the key measurement of the value of a person’s life is not the duration but the donation! I thank God for the donation Dr. Myles Munroe made to my life and to the Body of Christ in this generation in regard to the Kingdom of God, leadership and purpose!

In closing, I am reminded of a passage in Acts 13:36 that I think is truly applicable to the life of Dr. Myles Munroe. The English Standard Version (ESV) renders it this way: “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep. . .” I also like the New King James Translation (NKJV) which puts it (Greek scholars maintain the Greek allows for both translations to be equally valid): “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God fell asleep. . .” Thank you Dr. Munroe for your faithful service! Take your rest now, till the morning comes!

Happiness or Holiness?

Holiness signI have a preacher-friend who sends me and several other preacher-pastors words of encouragement every Sunday morning. This past Sunday, he sent this message: “If you want to be popular, preach happiness; if you want to be unpopular, preach holiness.” As I read his message, I thought of the seriousness of the subject matter. Indeed, we live in a time wherein the most popular preachers and preaching advocate man’s happiness as the ultimate spiritual goal. But what does the Bible say about the subjects of happiness and holiness?

I must admit that I didn’t do an intensive study on the subjects before I wrote this post, but from what I have read, it would seem that the most important theme in the Bible is not happiness, but rather holiness! Just for the sake of clarity, we’re not using the term “holiness” just in the context of perfection or being without sin, but also in the context of being separate and set apart. God calls his people to be “in the world” but not “of the world!” There ought to be an undeniable difference between the world and the people of God. God has a standard of conduct that has been revealed in the Scriptures. The fact that we might not agree with those standards does not give us the right to change them.

From what I am hearing, it seems that the main pursuit of the world is happiness! All common sense and oftentimes human decency is being sacrificed upon the altar of human happiness! Today people are calling “right” what God has labelled as wrong simply because they want to be happy in their wrong-doing! So instead of allowing God to change them so that they might be holy, they seek to change God so that they might be happy! In many cases, instead of attempting to rise to God’s standards, men seek to lower God to their own standards.

They seem to be diametrically opposing standards at first, but when you really think about it, true happiness can only be found in true holiness! The happiness the world advocates is seasonal, temporary and conditional. But real happiness; the real joy that comes only from God, comes from adhering to and being obedient to God’s standards of holiness! When we are being and doing what God wants us to be and do; it is only then that we find real happiness! The happiness that the world offers apart from obedience to God’s standard of holiness is not really happiness at all. Happiness or holiness? You really don’t have to make a choice between the two because one leads to the other! It’s just a matter of getting them in the right order!