Publication: Pastoral Letter, July 2011
Dear Friend in Christ:
I pray all is well with you thus far this summer! This is the third and final letter in the series “Foundations for the Future”. Previously, I have written to you about God’s Covenants and the Glorious Church. This month, we will look together at His Unshakable Kingdom.
I don’t have to tell you that we are in unstable times; times that cause us to examine ourselves and our foundations for life. The economy, politics, strife among nations and within relationships all contribute to the shaking that is occurring. The greatest factor in this instability is the departure from God’s life sustaining Word. There is hope, of course, if our hope is established in His covenant faithfulness, in His unshakeable Kingdom, and if we find ourselves among a truly committed spiritual family. We can take courage in His promises: He is with us and will not forsake us, and He has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.
Jesus lived on Earth in very unstable times. The generation that followed His tenure on Earth would see great devastation. He offered His Kingdom as the foundation for their future. Much of the New Testament was written prior to that destruction and it also urges those who have heard the message of His Kingdom to turn to Jesus – the Lord and King – for confidence. Now we also are in a great shaking. “Thy Kingdom Come” is now more than a mere formal prayer; it is our salvation as it comes into our lives, personally.
We can only describe the kingdom of God but never define it. The Kingdom, like all of the mysteries of God, is not completely comprehensible to our natural minds. But He did promise to reveal it as we hear Him and obey. Now would be a good time to do that!
Since the kingdom of God was Jesus’ primary message, and that of the entire Bible as well, it is vital that we try to understand as much as He will tell us…and He is speaking.
Jesus Himself used metaphors and parables. “The Kingdom is like….” He would say. Mark 4 and Matthew 13 are good chapters to study in that regard.
The Jewish rulers did not understand the Kingdom; the story of Nicodemus in John 3 is an example. Jesus told him that one must be “born from above” in order to see the Kingdom of God and enter it. Natural eyes and minds could not; it was spiritual and operating in the heart, not through politics. The disciples, prior to the Cross, also thought it was political. The Cross destroyed all of that thinking. The Kingdom is in the Holy Spirit (see Romans 14:17). The righteousness, peace, and joy of His reign are in the Holy Spirit. It is time to take the Holy Spirit seriously.
The most direct and simple thing that we can say about His Kingdom is, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” It is Heaven’s government being carried out on Earth. It is the choice between His way that brings life, righteousness, joy, and peace, or our way that brings the instability and uncertainty that we see. Our ways are the ways of death (see Isaiah 53; Proverbs 14:12). So, His Kingdom is the Holy Spirit telling us what we must do in order to carry out His will on Earth and be established. Remember, He sees the end from the beginning (see Isaiah 46:10).
History is like a map laid out before the “Map Maker”; He sees it all at once and tells us, if we listen, where history has been, where it is, and where it is going. What a gift! Given the truth of the statement, we should value history and its wisdom to better understand where we are and the future ahead. The Bible is a divine roadmap and gift to us.
Isaiah 9:6-7 tell us that the government is on His shoulders to establish His Kingdom with judgment and justice forever. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of His peace; His zeal will perform it. So, you can see why the Kingdom is our best investment, “the pearl of great price” (see Matthew 13:45-46). Even as I write, many are giving their lives for it. (I highly recommend the book Inside the Revolution by Joel Rosenberg, in that regard.)
We are definitely moving toward the harvest, whether it is very soon or later. The harvest is God’s summation of history, both “wheat and tares” (see Matthew 13:24-30; James 5:7-11). The kingdom of God – and history itself – is linear, not circular. We are “marching on”. God’s creation and history have purpose and we are moving toward that purpose in the earth. He is patient but purposeful. He knows where He is going, and we must know and look to Him for guidance.
Mark 4:21-32 tells us that He reveals His Kingdom progressively as we hear and obey. It also tells us that the Kingdom is like a seed that progresses through stages of life: seed, blade, ear, and full grain. The purpose of Kingdom life is to multiply the original seed_the life of Jesus in individuals.
Jesus is the seed that was buried in the ground (see John 12:23-25). His intention was to produce many other seeds that would be like Him in character, and in willingness to die so that others would be produced. And so it was; the Kingdom progressed, and it has been made available to us. Those who gave their lives, and do so even now, have understood its value. We are being called back to understand the priceless nature of His will on Earth.
I should mention that as life moves through stages of development, former stages appear to die and become brittle. We cannot remain static without losing the invigorating life of Jesus. We can draw life from the past, but we cannot live there! Our foundation can be seen in the past obedience of forefathers, but our foundation – our stability – lies in continuing their obedience in the present. Otherwise, the Kingdom will be taken from us as it was Israel (see Matthew 21:43).
THE SOBER PROMISE
Hebrews chapter 12 is a critical chapter in studying the Kingdom of God. In verses 26-27, He promises to shake everything – heaven and earth – so that only the unshakable will remain. The reference is to Mount Sinai that shook from His voice and was a terrifying sight. It was trembling, fiery, and tempestuous. The people were extremely afraid and did not want God to speak to them anymore. “Moses, you talk with God!”
But now, it is not merely one mountain that will shake; it is not just the earth that will shake; it will be a total shaking and burning – heaven and earth. Where does this shaking originate? Terrorism? Economies? Wars? No, it comes from God who does all things well. Why? To reveal what will not shake.
Terrorism is not from God. Economic collapse is not from God. War is not from God. These things are the result of building on bad foundations – neglecting His Word. Note Matthew 7:24-28: Some build on sand, some build on His Word. Both face storms, but those built upon His Word will stand. Sand might be false ideas, cultural norms, popularity, or misplaced hope, such as political solutions (Israel is built on these). Much of our culture has been built upon the philosophies of Machiavelli, Hobbes, J.S. Mill, Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, Meade, and Dr. Spock_all sand! Storms might be economic collapse, terrorism, unexpected tragedy, or budget-draining wars. But the storm reveals the foundation.
Every shaking is an opportunity to check our foundation. If we become shaken and fearful, that is a good time to get closer to God and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit; to obey and get back into His Word.
Houses not only need to be well-built upon a good foundation, they need to be well-anchored to that foundation_tied down. We have seen that lately in the United States as terrible tornadoes have ripped houses away, leaving only their foundations. The tragedies are overwhelming to thousands of people.
When boats are in a storm, they need anchors that dig into the sea bottom and do not drag across it. If the anchor drags, the boat will drift sideways and turn over. Solid and reliable anchors are absolutely necessary.
Hebrews 6:17-20 tells us that Jesus is our anchor in heaven’s most holy place, and He gives us a steadfast hope and consolation. Our anchor is the King who upholds us “in every high and stormy gale” who gives us “a more sure word of prophecy” (see 2 Peter 1:19). His Word and His reign are indestructible, even in the face of loss or death.
The faith that we exhibit in Christ, the peace that we have in Christ, and the joy that we have in Him, make us lights in a darkened world. We become objects of confidence and hope for those who are shaking (see Philippians 2:12-18; Matthew 14-16; Romans 2:19).
“Let your light shine before men,” Jesus says (see Matthew 5:16). The shaking is in the world and that is where the light is needed. The great challenge for the Church is to realize that God’s Kingdom is to be found and demonstrated beyond the walls of the Church. It is “out there” in our daily lives that we can show the love of God, the mercy of God, the peace of God, the joy of the Lord, the power of God, and His attributes that overcome the forces of hell; those forces which seek to steal, kill, and destroy.
THE KINGDOM AT WORK
Jesus said, “If I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (see Luke 11:20). The Kingdom is God at work in the world, setting captives free through us. Do you believe that “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (see I John 4:4)? Do you believe that His Kingdom is unshakable? Is that where you are? I pray so for all of us.
I have read numerous stories lately about God’s Sovereign work in the Middle East. Muslims are coming to Jesus through dreams, visions, and personal relationships. It is inspiring and reminds me that Jesus is doing what He said He would do. His zeal is performing it.
While I rejoice in that, I do pray that our zeal for His Kingdom will increase and that those of us here in the West will yet see a greater revelation of His power and Glory. For His is the Kingdom, the power, the glory forever and ever, Amen!
P.S. Please continue to remember CSM in your prayers and in your giving during July and August. There are many ongoing ministry opportunities, needs, and activities, and we cannot afford a “Summer Slump” in our finances. We deeply appreciate your friendship and support! Also, please visit us on our online store for more information about how you can receive the complete audio Bible teaching series, “Foundations for the Future”.
Scripture Reference: Mark, Matthew, John, Isaiah, Proverbs, James, Hebrews, 2 Peter, Philippians, Romans, Luke, 1 John,