A Taste of the Kingdom Hope Now

Tuesday

Matthew 24 14

Yesterday we learned about the future hope of the Kingdom of God. A time when God’s just rule and reign will cloak the earth, His son Jesus will reign as king, and you and I will live in a completely restored relationship with God and Jesus on a revitalized earth. But that time has not come yet; still though, God’s presence and rulership can be felt in the present. This is the present aspect of the kingdom of God.

Have you ever wondered what was the point of the miracles Jesus performed? The miracles were great but they were to point to something greater, namely two things: one, they provided evidence that Jesus was who he said he was (John. 5.36), and two, they pointed to the fact that God’s power and rulership were breaking into the present now (Lk. 4.18-19). In the Old Testament there are passages that describe God’s redemptive power and Jesus in his ministry fulfilled those. In Luke 4, Jesus stands in a synagogue and begins to read:

“The spirit of the LORD is upon me, because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives , and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD. And he began to say to them, ‘Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’”

The time of God’s healing and restoration, Jesus fulfilled in his ministry. The miracle healings were a taste of the future reality. However, there is another way in which God’s kingdom power and influence can be brought into the present. And that is by obedience to Jesus.

There’s a purpose as to why we should obey Jesus. One purpose in particular is that when we obey Jesus and live as he says to live, we are actually manifesting the kingdom power and influence into the present. When you forgive someone who wronged you, you manifest the kingdom. When you evangelize you bring the kingdom into the present. When you love selflessly, when you obey and honor authority, when you confront sin and wrong doing, when you see people and situations the way God sees them you bring the eternal into the temporal, the kingdom into the present. The life Jesus calls you to live is not a good lifestyle, but a kingdom lifestyle. A life that embodies the ethics and practices of God.

So yes the full realization of God’s kingdom is not here yet, but the effects can be felt and seen in the now through your obedience to Jesus. We looked at the future hope and present reality of the kingdom, and this for Jesus, was the gospel he preached. Here are other verses about Jesus sharing the gospel of the kingdom of God:

Matthew 4.23; 9:35; 24.14 and Luke 16.16

When you share the gospel with someone, sharing the kingdom is essential and yet so many gospels tracks and presentations say nothing about it. Preach and live by the gospel Jesus taught. The gospel of the kingdom of God.

-Jacob Rohrer

A Rule that’s NOT of this World

Monday

Matthew 4 17

Proverbs. You probably wouldn’t think that Proverbs would have anything to do with the topic for our devotion this week, the gospel. However, there’s a small nugget of wisdom in the 13th chapter of Proverbs in verse 12a:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick”

A heart void of hope makes the heart sick and sad. So many people go through life with no hope or if they do have a hope it’s wrongly placed and are disappointed when it doesn’t satisfy their deepest longings. Hope is crucial to a life of joy and contentedness and with our look at the second component of the gospel, God has provided a hope to all who want to follow him. This hope is the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God is the foundation of Jesus’ ministry. If you don’t understand the kingdom, you won’t understand Jesus. Now there are two aspects to the kingdom of God, a present reality and the future hope (or the eschatological kingdom for the technical term). Today, we look at the future hope. But in order to understand the future, we have to first understand the past. Let’s start in Genesis.

God created the cosmos and everything in it, including a tiny blue marble we call earth. God intended humans to be his vice-regents on the earth, humans were to reign and rule over all that he had created on earth:

“Then God said, ‘let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and over the cattle over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’…God blessed them and said to them ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it and rule over the fish of the sea and the over the birds of the air and the every living thing that moves on the earth” – Gen. 1.26,28

However, the perfect union that God and man had together was short-lived. Sin came into the picture and with it, death, evil, oppression, and injustice have reigned to this day. But God decided he wanted to save his creation, humans and the world, thus began God plan’s on reconciling everything back to himself. We’re going to look at two passages from the Old Testament that provide the pillars to the New Testament and Jesus.

In Genesis 12, God makes a covenant or a faithful promise with Abram:

“Now Yahweh said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country…to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation…and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” – Gen. 12.1-3

God promises three things to Abram:

  1. Land that Abram will possess
  2. He will be made a great nation
  3. The entire earth will be blessed through him

 

Jumping ahead to I Chronicles 17, God makes a covenant with David:

“When your days are fulfilled that you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up one of your descendants after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build for me a house, and I will establish his throne forever…I will settle him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever” – I Chronicles 17.11-14

God promises that there will be one who comes after him, from his line, and his throne will be established forever. Remember God promised Abraham land and during David’s time God’s people had the land, then God promises the king of that land that there will be one after him whose throne will rule forever and ever over that land and kingdom.

Let’s take a look at what Luke 1 says about Jesus:

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end” – Lk. 1.31-33

Jesus is the king over the promised kingdom of God. Thus when Jesus proclaims his inaugural statement in Matt. 4.17 and Mark 1.15, it’s the king announcing the arrival of the kingdom. This kingdom and it’s king reverses the effect that sin has ravaged on the earth, because Jesus himself has overcome the grave.

One day Jesus is coming back to establish the full reality of the kingdom and its influence here on the earth. We have a taste of it now (which we’ll get into tomorrow) but we hope and long for the return of Jesus. Because of his return this ravaged broken down system will be set right, and the true king with a just and righteous rule will govern the earth and we will reign and rule just as it was in the beginning. This was gospel for Jesus and this is gospel and hope to us.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope, without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” – Hebrews 10.23

-Jacob Rohrer

 

 

 

Turn Away and Live

Sunday

Acts 3-19

No matter who you are, everyone has a cause or topic that they are passionate about, whether it be about social concerns, politics, or sports teams. I too am zealous for a particular topic: the gospel. For many years I thought I knew about the gospel, until I attended Atlanta Bible College, where for the first time in my life I read for myself how the New Testament described the message that is central to the Christian faith. However, I soon realized that many professing Christians were confused or ignorant about the gospel that our New Testament teaches. This is the inspiration behind this week’s devotions.

The components to the gospel message are: repentance, the kingdom of God, the cross, the resurrection, and obedience. Nobody, including yourself, has to possess a full scholarly understanding of each topic, but some knowledge of each is essential. The first component we’ll look at today is repentance.

Repentance is a word not used commonly today; however, it is widespread in the Bible. To repent is turn away from an aspect of your life that is not godly and pursue God’s way. Repentance is not a feeling and it’s not something you say. Repentance is action. The very first word of Jesus’ public ministry was “repent”:

 

“From that time Jesus began to preach and say “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” – Matt. 4.17

 

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” – Mk. 1.15

 

Jesus speaks of repentance elsewhere in the gospels:

 

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” – Lk. 5.32

 

“I tell you in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” – Lk. 15.7

 

“I tell you no, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” – Lk. 13.3

 

The desire of Jesus, is for those who hear his words to repent of their sin and turn to God. Repentance is intimately tied with the kingdom of God, which we’ll look at tomorrow. The reason a person should repent is because the kingdom is coming. An event when all evil will end and evil doers will be done away with (Rev. 21.8).

 

 

Forgiveness and repentance are sometimes confused as being the same thing, however they’re not. Take for example two sermons Peter preaches in the book of Acts:

 

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy spirit” – Acts 2.38

 

“Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” – Acts 3.19

 

In other words, forgiveness is predicated on repentance. Or to say another way, without repentance there can be no forgiveness. Forgiveness is something we can say and ask God for, while repentance is our action in response to God’s forgiveness in Christ. We can ask for forgiveness many times, but do our actions reflect the plea we make to God?

What is in your life that you need to repent from? Porn, lying, seeking validation from other people, not honoring authority, selfishness, gossip, manipulation? Pray and ask God to bring things to mind that you need turn from. God strengthens you through his spirit to turn from these things and offers forgiveness and mercy when you fail. Repentance must be a part of the gospel message that you present to someone.

-Jacob Rohrer

Boldly Be His

Saturday –

Boldly Be His & Who He Made YOU to Be!

Let’s recap who you are.

You are a new creation in Christ, created with a purpose.

You are God’s masterpiece, His poem.

You are an overcomer!

Once we begin to see who God had in mind when He created us, and we agree with Him to lean in to that (as opposed to running from it), we are then able to start living boldly for Him.

One of the dominant themes of the book of Acts is the boldness of the believers.

A short aside here:  Boldness does not mean crazy, irrational, illogical, or rude behavior.

Boldness is when we truly know something and our actions are determined by that belief.  The Greek word translated as ‘boldness’ in Acts is “parrhesia” and it conveys the idea of confidence, assurance, courage and acting without fear.

Remember Peter, who we talked about the other day.  The early Peter was characterized by bold intentions followed by timid actions.  (Example, “Hey Jesus, everyone else may abandon you but not this guy, not me.”…..Proceeds to deny knowing Jesus repeatedly).  Yeah, that guy.

BUT, not long after that, Peter preached one of the boldest messages in history and said things like, “You are a corrupt generation.  Turn from your sin, repent and get baptized!”  (Acts 3-4)

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

The word that’s translated ‘ordinary’ is the Greek word “idiotas.”

Any guesses what that means?

Yup, Peter and John were idiots.  Idiots for Christ.  So we could give the book of Acts the subtitle, “The Idiots Guide to Boldness.”

When’s the last time someone was amazed at your boldness?

I think we often put the cart before the horse when it comes to boldness.  We want so badly to be used by God, to serve, to be bold…that we run ahead.  The key is that boldness that accomplishes something, boldness that matters, comes from knowing who we were created to be.  It comes from everything we’ve been talking about this week.

Your boldness won’t mean anything if you don’t know who you are…or should I say, whose you are.

And if I can offer one bit of advice from someone a bit further down the road…this process is not quick.  As we seek Him, God reveals bits to us.  It’s a lifelong pursuit, not an assignment to check off of our to-do list.

But that’s also kind of cool.  That there’s always more to know, more ways to grow.

Praying for you to see yourself through His eyes.

-Susan Landry

 

Note:  These lessons this week were drawn from Craig Groeschel’s book, “Altar Ego”.  If you’re looking to read more on the subject, I highly recommend it.

 

Hupernikao!

Friday –

Romans 8-37

Confession time.  I hate running more than almost anything in the world. (Excel spreadsheets are also on that list)  That didn’t stop me, however, from trying to do a ‘couch to 5k’ running program a few years ago.  To motivate myself, I’d listen to inspiring music.

One afternoon, as I was trudging along, Mandisa’s song “Overcomer” came on.

As she sang to me, “You’re an overcomer!” I’d argue back, “No, Mandisa, I’m not.  I’m a quitter. A big quitting quitter.”

So I get feeling like giving up!  But here’s the thing, God doesn’t accept our lame excuses.  He keeps reminding us that we are indeed overcomers.

We read Romans 8:28 yesterday that said,

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

That verse comes in the middle of a passage about hardships and weakness and yet somehow strength and victory.  In all of the crap that we struggle with, there’s an amazing truth to take hold of today, found in verse 37.  Let’s look at a couple of different translations.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (NIV)

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. (NASB)

No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us.  (HCB)

There is a word in Greek that means “to win, to be victorious”.  That word is “nikao”. That is NOT the word that Paul chose to use in this passage.

The word he chose to use is “hupernikao”.  Hupernikao means “to vanquish beyond recognition, to conquer exceedingly, a decisive victory.”

Do you want to stand up and cheer a little at that definition?  Just me?

With God, you are able to vanquish beyond recognition anything that stands in your way!

You are able to claim a decisive victory over sin in your life (not a just-squeaked-by victory).  A decisive victory.

What would that kind of overcoming look like in your life today?  I’m praying for you to agree with God on a little hupernikao in your life.  No quitters here.

Sneak Peek at tomorrow’s devotion:  As we start to see who we are in God’s eyes, it enables us to live boldly.

-Susan Landry

 

A Change of Perspective

Thursday –

Romans 8-28

 

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  2 Peter 1:3

Repeat after me:

“I am the masterpiece of God.  I’m a new creation in Christ.  I already have everything I need to do everything God wants me to do.  (And God DOES have something for me to do).”

If you didn’t actually repeat after me, we’ll wait.  (No, I’m not kidding).  Say it.  Out loud.  If you really want to believe something, it can help to speak it out loud.  So let’s try it again:

“I am the masterpiece of God.  I’m a new creation in Christ.  I already have everything I need to do everything God wants me to do.  (And God DOES have something for me to do).”

I’ve never made a tapestry, or any major work of art, but I can understand that those who do need to repeatedly take a step back to look at the big picture.  Just looking at the little area where the artist is currently working doesn’t allow for seeing how that bit fits with the rest of the piece.

A change of perspective can make all the difference.

When Joseph was being sold into slavery, being accused of committing a crime he didn’t commit or serving time in prison (Genesis 37, 39-41) I’ll bet he wasn’t thinking, “Hey perfect!  Slavery!  This is the next logical step in accomplishing my leadership vision!”

Of course not.  But what Joseph did do was use the gifts God had given him even in his distress.

Joseph had taken hold of God’s purpose for his life.  He believed that God had a plan for him.  But he still had to walk through very difficult experiences (for years) to see those plans fulfilled.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

How many things?

How many?

And who are you?

“I am the masterpiece of God.  I’m a new creation in Christ.  I already have everything I need to do everything God wants me to do.  (And God DOES have something for me to do).”

Sneak Peek at tomorrow’s devotion:  God made us to be overcomers, even when we don’t feel like it.

-Susan Landry

God’s Handiwork

Wednesday –

Ephesians 2 10

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

The word ‘handiwork’ in other translations shows up as:

  • Workmanship
  • Masterpiece
  • Creation

The Greek word there is “Poiema”.  So it would literally be translated that “you are God’s poem.”

Any other poetry lovers out there?

Poems paint a picture with words.  Think about that for a minute.  God wanted to paint a picture for the world and so he made YOU.

Poetry, like art in general, is typically kind of useless.

Don’t get me wrong, I love art.  Art makes us think and brings beauty to our lives.  Art expresses emotion and is a way for us to express ourselves.

What I mean is that art doesn’t ‘do’ anything constructive.  It might make me feel good when I look at it, but it’s not fixing my dinner, if you know what I mean.  A knife chops, slices…it ‘does’ something.  Art doesn’t typically ‘do’ anything.

But not God’s art!

That verse in Ephesians tells us that we were created “for” good works (as opposed to “by” our good works).

We are God’s poem, God’s masterpiece—created for a purpose.

Unfortunately, as much as we want to believe that, it can be hard to truly own it. And when we do begin to grab hold of the fact that God created us for a purpose, then we get lost in frustration at trying to figure out what that purpose is.

Anyone else been there?

Well, what do we do (what should we do) when we don’t know how something works?  ASK!

If you are unsure of what God’s purpose is for you in this season of life.  Ask Him!  Ask the one who made you…who wrote the poem of your life, what His purpose is for you right here and now.  I’m praying that for you today, too.  Let’s seek Him together.

Sneak Peek at tomorrow’s devotion:  How do we gain confidence to walk in the purpose that God has for us?

-Susan Landry