The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to decay and death into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:21
Our online dictionary includes this definition for the word “Hebrew”:
ORIGIN: from Old French Ebreu, via Latin from late Greek Hebraios, from Aramaic ‛i b ray, based on Hebrew ‛i b rî — understood to mean ‘one from the other side (of the river).’
Abraham’s descendants’ escaping from Egypt and, with divine Providence, rushing across the “parted” Red Sea certainly do come to mind. Hebrew = one from the other side — or, as this is sometimes expressed, “one who crossed over.” The Red Sea is a long, narrow, land-locked sea; in some ways it is more like a river. Further, Joshua would much later lead the Israelis into the Land by crossing the Jordan River near Jericho.
When we visited Israel a couple of years back, we learned that “Bethlehem” means in Hebrew “house of bread.” He who has been referred to as “Panis Angelicus,” Bread of Angels, the ultimate “manna,” the one who illustrated His “body, broken for you” with bread — was born in the House of Bread!
Yeshua’s kind of “bread” differs from the ordinary kind, however. When we eat ordinary bread, it becomes us, so to speak. But when we appropriate Christ, we become increasingly like Him through the new birth.
Jesus spoke of the importance of being “born again” to Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and had come to Him at night in the hope of not being seen by his own colleagues. When we think about the definition of “Hebrew” meaning essentially “one who crossed over,” the word itself seems to speak of this new birth — in addition to Israel’s exodus. Consider Abraham, Rahab, and Ruth. They left their very different former lives to become Israelis — to “cross over” to a new and unknown life; they somehow summoned the faith to move toward this new life in preference to what was familiar. They sensed something better; they crossed over.
In Isaiah we find the stirring words, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; can you not perceive it?” We find a paraphrase of the first part of this statement in Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.”
Astrophysicists tell us that more than 200 finely-tuned characteristics of Earth reveal that the universal stage was set in advance for us — for billions of years. And that Earth is in a unique place and time parameter that enables us to observe these exquisite elements of design. A personal Creator had you and me in mind.
Scientists who have also studied Scripture recognize in it a setting forth in several texts — not only in those in Genesis 1 — of the astonishingly-unique process of setting the stage for our world for the very purpose of creating — not suns, but sons.
When He was physically present with us, Jesus often referred to Himself as “the Son of man.” He is described this way in the fiery-furnace story in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament as well. But after the resurrection His description, in the epistles for example, consistently becomes “the Son of God.”
“Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He really is. And all who have this hope will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2,3)
The goal that Jesus put before Nicodemus is the same one He puts before you and me — to become citizens of the newer creation that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard.” The one in which weapons will have been transformed into garden tools that facilitate life. In which there will be no more killing or evil or death. No animal predation. No sickness or sorrow or night. The perfect creation — as God would design it.
“You must be born again,” Jesus told Nicodemus, the apparently wise, older man.
“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness — without it no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
God’s love and mercy are freely extended to all. He waits as long as He can. His desire is that as many as possible will enter the Kingdom of all things new.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, bridegroom, children, Christ, creation, daniel, death, egypt, evil, Exodus, freedom, God, Hebrew, holiness, hope, Jesus, Jordan, Kingdom, life, Old Testament, Red Sea, resurrection, Revelation, Scripture, Son of God, yeshua
“…. the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple….” -Mal. 3.1a
A friend and teacher of mine once gave a remarkable definition of man-made traditions with regard to spirituality:
Religion is man’s attempt at making God something he can manage.
This has long been the egotistical disposition of mankind: seeking to create God in an image we prefer, rather than receiving and loving Him as He is.
The prophets of Israel were commissioned by the Lord to shake His complacent and sleepy-hearted people away from their preconceived notions and traditions, and to usher them into a revelation of God’s true nature and purpose.
The false prophets of Judah in Jeremiah’s day, for instance, leaned hard on age-old traditions, and used them as a blanket of false security. They claimed that judgement could not befall Jerusalem, for the tradition declares that God Himself is in the land and that it is therefore protected and covered. The moral conduct of the priests and prophets, the lifestyles of the people in the land, and the nature of Judah’s political activities were not to be discussed. Israel was protected because of Abraham’s faithfulness, and no trouble could overtake them. Or so they assumed.
Tradition says that Yahweh lives in the midst of the people. This is interpreted as Israel’s great security against all danger. In contrast to this, the prophet discerns the freedom of Yahweh in His coming. Yahweh cannot be domesticated by knowledge oriented toward the past, nor can He be attached, like some predictable element, to a pious view of existence. Rather, He shatters the fixed conception that Israel developed in her tradition, and in this, His new and terrifying coming, He proves Himself to be Yahweh….
…. the name of Yahweh cannot in its true content be considered neutrally as tradition. It is the suggestive appellation of the One who, for all that is said about Him, remains a personal subject and decides Himself, in His freedom, what He will do when He comes. And as certainly as He once came to Israel, as tradition tells of Him in Israel’s worship and apart from this, He is never at the disposal of humans like earthly property.
(The Fiery Throne: The Prophets and OT Theology, Walther Zimmerli; Fortress Press, 2003; p. 4)
He never contradicts His own character, but He does obliterate our definitions and categories, especially when we are seeking to utilize Him for our own purposes. “He is never at the disposal of humans like earthly property.”
His radical mercy will shatter our self-righteous assumptions and ideas. His fierce wrath will burn up our moral lightness and our loose views toward sin. He cannot be confined to our tidy theological definitions and traditions. The prophets remind us that we cannot fit the Lord into our schedules, plans, and dreams. If we would have anything to do with Him, we’ve got to cast our lives- lock, stock and barrel- into His Kingdom. After all, by nature, only God Himself is free.
We experience the glorious freedom of love, righteousness, peace, and truth only as we sink our souls into Him.
Bryan Purtle is the founder of the Antioch Prayer Society in Kansas City, MO.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, Bryan Purtle, false prophets, freedom, jeremiah, Jerusalem, judgement, Kingdom, prophets of israel, Revelation, Walther Zimmerli
“You can’t patch up your prayer life when you get to the judgment seat”
“You can delegate many things, but prayer is not one of them.”
“Yesterdays praying will not suffice for today.”
~E. M. Bounds
“This period we are in now is a dressing room for eternity, that is all it is.”
“In everything by prayer.”
I intend to write to you on the subject of the significance of a life of prayer. This word can be taken as one of three things: an encouragement, a challenge, or an offense. It has little significance to me, for “if you have the smile of God what does it matter if you have the frown of men (Ravenhill).”I write to you in obedience to God. If you take it as a challenge, you can potentially lift the quality of your life above what it is now, as you rapidly move in time to that great day of accountability. If you take it as an encouragement, than most likely you are living for and in the means of prayer, affecting your circle of influence and empowering your pursuit of Christ’s kingdom in an honest and fruitful way. If you take this word as an offense, it will profit you nothing but merely add to your hardness of heart storing up for yourself more to give an account for on that great day of judgment. As I stated, all is well with me, for my heart is not to write for the profit of any other than he who desires to reach the heart of God and stand before Him unashamed and confident in the day of reckoning.
The sorrowful truth that such a spiritual employment is largely neglected has negative effects upon more than just our personal standing with God. It dampens what could have otherwise thrived in fire before the Lord. As intercessory prayer remains that which it has always been, we have been tremendously privileged to the ear of God having been justified, encouraged and empowered by His grace to live an obedient life.
The obedient life alone has access to God’s ear (Psalm34:17; Prov. 15:8; James 4:2, 3). Scripture in no uncertain terms, vastly teaches us the power, significance and details of a prayer life that God acknowledges. “All our libraries and studies are mere emptiness compared with our prayer closets”(E.M. Bounds).
King David overflowed with prayer in the Psalms he penned throughout his earthly life, seeing not only its privilege but also its importance by praying morning, noon and night (Psalm 55:17). He saw the connection between the enlightenment of the word of God and intimate pleading for the same (Psalm 119; 18, 19). The apostle Paul was moved by the same spirit encouraging us to pray “in everything” (Phil. 4:6). This would entail all our dealings in life, family, money, ministry, study and the like. This great privilege and importance wasn’t something to be active infrequent but rather “at all times”(1 Thess. 5:17). “All times” encompasses the positive, negative and mundane. Jesus encouraged us to not only pray, but to endure with persistence not giving up or “fainting” (Luke 18:1). Christ emphasized the importance of prayer by ignoring the potential of its absence in our life. He simply said, “When you pray” (Matt. 6:6). Christ also coupled enduring temptation with prayer (Luke 22:39-46). Scripture reveals to us the aid in our sufferings is prayer (James 5:13).
Our aid in worthy living is prayer (2 Thess 1:11). Our aid in wisdom is prayer (James 1:5). Oh how our lives would be of such a higher quality if we lived in persistent, fervent prayer when trying situations occur instead of aimlessly roaming about! What greater impact would our counsel, words and life have upon those weak hearted Christians who surround us, if our hearts overflowed with burdened persistent prayer for them instead of hidden gossip, jesting and squandering of time! Let us not take lightly that he who prays effectually has first lived effectually. In the words of E.M. Bounds, “He who prays must obey.”For the wonder of the availability of God’s ear to His people can be blocked by our living! (1 Peter 3:7; Psalm 66:18; 1 John 3:22). The effective prayer of the righteous man can effect much (James 5:16)! The availability of God’s ear is as glorious of a privilege, power and grace as it is a responsibility in our way of living and use of time.
Christ revealed that prayer for another can keep one “from the evil one.” Prayer can ignite a disciples life to be “separated by the word” (John 17:11, 15, 17, 21). This reveals that merely hearing or reading the word may need the service of divine assistance in prayer to effect such a sanctification of a disciple. As well as the great ability to “keep” one “in His name”, prayer can effect unity amongst disciples (John 17:11, 15, 17, 21).
Christ having complete understanding of God’s sovereignty continually imposed upon Himself isolation for the purpose of prayer (Mark 1:35). Do you recall how Christ spent a night in prayer before choosing His twelve disciples (Luke 6:12)? The disciples at Christ’s side were interested in learning, not how to teach or heal, but how to pray (Luke 11:2).
Once the potential of true prayer is understood a man can never return, in right heartedness, to a prayerless life. Samuel connected prayerlessness with sin (1 Samuel 12:23). God Himself is seen in scripture searching for a man to pray (Isa. 59:16). Where is the man who will stir himself to get a hold of God in prayer (Isa. 64:7)? “Oh, for determined men and women, who will rise early and really burn out for God” (Hodge). True prayer is not a light matter. Nor is it an exercise for the slothful. Christ Himself offered up prayers with loud crying and tears (Heb. 5:7). He burned in agony and fervency in Gethsemane (Luke 22:14). Christ taught us that prayer isn’t a weak hearted matter, nor an exercise for lazy knees. For the key to its effectiveness is importunity (Luke 11:5-13). Hezekiah’s prayers moved God to add fifteen years upon his life (Isa. 38:1-5). God hears. God listens, to the righteous (James 5:16; Psalm 66:18). He who has the ear of God and sincerely applies himself to such a divine employment has access to a fruitful ministry. The writer of Hebrews asked for prayer (Heb. 13:18). Paul asked for such a divine assistance to be added to his ministry (2 Thess. 3:1). Paul knew the power of true prayer could turn events in the spreading of the word of God (Phil. 1:19).
He saw the aid to his ministry was none other than true prayer (2 Cor. 1:11). Prayer can open doors for uttering the word of God (Col.4:3-4). What a responsibility that will, without question, be one of many things we give an account for before the Judgment seat!
The recorded lesson from the apostolic Church was that dedication of one’s self should be given to the word of God but equally to prayer (Acts 6:4). Just as Elijah in the Old testament prayed for eyes to be opened to see, Paul prayed for the enlightening of the eyes of our heart that we may see (2 Kings 6:17;Ephesians 1:19). Ignore not the radiant evidence of a praying life. It may well open and enlighten a man’s heart to see what he couldn’t by study alone. The hope revealed in the scriptures is the anchor of our soul (Heb. 6:19). It must be the center of our life if we are to live a life pleasing to the Lord (Heb. 11:6; 10:39). At times and in many cases, we, dull of hearing, slow of heart people need the grace of prayer to quicken us with grace to walk out that which is currently in our mouths (Col. 1:9-11;Eph1:16-19;3:14-20). The great protection to prayerless praying (a disease rampant amongst the unstudied) is first of all, the honest, humble and correct study of the scriptures. For nothing else is a lamp unto our feet as we tread down the dark path of a deceptive world and religion (Psalm 119:105). Paul prayed according to God’s working (Eph 1:19; 3:20). Christ eclipsed His will with God’s (Matt. 26:39).
“Prayerless praying, how popular! Yet, useless”(E.M. Bounds). The Pharisees prayed to be heard, seen and recognized with many words and a prideful disposition for the good they have done (Marr. 6:5; Luke 18:10-14). Leonard Ravenhill said, “the secret of prayer is praying in secret (Matt. 6:6).” As the culmination of man’s day draws to a close, the sobriety of our secret place will be our secret to preparation (1 Peter 4:7). We must soberly strive in prayer and allow the Spirit of God to move us in intercession and personal longing for Him so as to sweeten the bitter areas of our lives and the lives of those that God has given us, knowing, at times only the Spirit will know the will of God (Rom. 15:30-31;8;8:26).
A burden is a revelation of a tremendous spiritual need, able to be satisfied by God alone, having no avenue where by it can be expressed, save, groanings which cannot be uttered, explained or understood. “Prayers that cannot be uttered are often prayersthat cannot be refused (Spurgeon).” Leonard Ravenhill challenges, “No man is greater than his prayer life…let me live with a man a while and share his prayer life and then I will tell you how tall I think he is or how majestic I think he is in God…You may impress others but you can’t impress God. You can show off on the platform, singing, preaching and doing your stuff, but not in prayer…Praying men stop sinning and sinning men stop praying. A man first collapses in the prayer closet…Can he share His sorrow with you? Can you remember the last time you couldn’t go to bed because men were dying without Christ?
When was the last time you pushed the plate away and said, “No, I need more time with God?” God looks for a man, not a seraphim, not a cherubim, not a half man and half deity. God looks for men, not money, not methods, not machinery, not movements…Men! We need to say, “Lord I’m concerned, I am speeding up to judgment, look at my ministry, look at the secrets of my life, look at my fruitlessness, look at my dry eyes, look at my poor spirit that has no ache in it, look at me!” The great day of accountability alone will reveal all that could have been effected through a selfless management of your time to invest in prayer. Beware to stand not ashamed. You cannot return to live the way you should have. Dr. Michael L. Brown urged us, “Are you spending your time, energy and efforts on things that are just going to burn?”I tell you after a diligent study of God’s word you will find this common thread, that an obedient life lived in humble intercession avails greatly in the eyes of God. A.W. Tozer at the end of his life said this challenging statement, “I don’t think that I will be ashamed of the things that I have done in my life, but rather what I could have done.” Samuel Chadwick at the end of his life said this sobering statement, “I have spent two thirds of my life in bible study and one third of my life in prayer. If I had the chance to do it all over again, I would spend two thirds of my life in prayer and one third of my life in bible study.” The word of God should never be neglected or despised (thought little of), for without its direction, one will more often than not, spend his time amiss.
They together constitute the whole of God’s assistance toward us.
Let us sincerely ask ourselves, in the light of Him who sees through the outward actions and into the motives and intents, (Rev. 2:23; Hebrews 4:12.) What does it matter if we boldly dance in the assembly, pray with eloquence and volume, shamelessly raise our hands amongst others or even speak the depths of the scriptures if we are bankrupt before God in the quiet place. “The true test of a man’s soul is when he is alone” (Jeremy Taylor). Have you come to the face of others from the face of God (figuratively)? To truly know God is to truly share, in our small degree, His feelings, revealed to us in His word, experienced by us in prayer. To share not God’s burden is to share not in His heart and He who is most dear to God is he who lays his head upon His breast (John 13:23, 25).
“Nothing will so test and stimulate the Christian life as the honest attempt to pray for others”(Andrew Murray). “The men who have done mighty things for God have always been mighty in prayer, have well understood the possibilities of prayer, and have made the most of these opportunities… Men who know how to pray are the greatest boon God can give the earth-they are the richest gift earth can offer heaven.”(E.M. Bounds).
A disciple who will give himself to the divine preparation and work of constant receiving God’s word and obeying God’s word, soaked in personal and intercessory prayer, will be more confident at the judgment. Knowing that he not only fed his spirit with the truth of God’s word but he opened his spirit to share God’s heart. A disciple who will give himself to the divine work of pure ministry of the word and prayer for others will effect greatly the course and pattern of living of these to whom he ministers (Col. 4:12). Of what greater significance can prayer be than that ministry which makes effective all else? The reward for a correct, sincere and fervent life of prayer will, more so than all others, be most significant in that great day. “There is no alternative to prayer and obedience” (Ravenhill).
“For it is a great honor to speak to men on behalf of God, but an even greater honor to speak to God on behalf of men” (E.M. Bounds). Let us not know the guilt of a life that chose to avoid the power, importance, privilege and responsibility of the availability of God’s ear.
Let us not forget that even He who was the Word made flesh lived a life of fervent Prayer. Let us plead for divine assistance for ourselves and others as we pursue the offered Kingdom through conformity to the image of God’s Son through nothing other than interaction with His Spirit!
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
Posted in Featured Articles, Revival & Prayer Tagged with: Apostolic Church, burn, Christian, depth, Kingdom, power, prayer, spiritual
“Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.”
The word “preserve” here has to do with “keeping something in its original state.” The fact that David is reaching out for another to preserve him implies that he recognizes that he cannot preserve himself. Our original state in God is purity, holy and undefiled from this world. God has taken us out of the mud and washed us as squeaky clean as His very own Son by the blood of His very own Son. David is acknowledging his inability and helplessness to stay clean, remain undefiled or be preserved in purity. The Psalmist often cried, “save me” (Psalm 3.7;6.4;7.1;22.21;31.2). But this cry is different. It is not a cry to be rescued; it is a cry to remain in the rescued state. Not to be made pure, but to remain pure.
I extend to you the God revealed route to a sustained purity and preserving in God, “…for in thee do I put my trust.” All victory begins with this heart, “I can’t do it!” When man reaches the end of himself, there and nowhere else, does he find the beginning of God. Our hearts must cry, “I cannot preserve myself, so I look to you.” A.W. Tozer in the famous book, “The Pursuit of God” said, “faith is the inward gaze of the soul unto God.” Jesus, talking of the salvation that is impossible with men and only possible with God (Matt.19.26), made a parallel with the serpent lifted up in Old Testament (John 3.14). The only path of salvation from the snake poison in the body of the Israelites was to lift their eyes to the golden serpent to be healed. So, when a man simply looks in surrender to Jesus, not only once to be saved, but consistently to be preserved, he finds his glorious rescue and union with God (John 15.5).
None of us did anything to attain our salvation (Eph. 2.8,9). We simply recognized that we could not save ourselves and we cried from a dark pit, the helpless cry of a condemned sinner, “God save me!” God in His mercy reached down and saved us from such a state and doom (John 3.16-17; Romans 8.1; Ephesians 2.1-2). God is not waiting for you to reach a certain point of desperation before He rushes in to preserve or save, He is waiting for you to empty your inward poison by looking away from yourself and unto Him. It is not that He refuses to come to man until, but that man will not respond to His having come to us. Jesus simply summed up all of Christianity in one phrase, “Come to me…(Matt. 11.28).” That isn’t when He saves you, that coming to Him IS your saving.
I submit to you today, that the same utter dependency, total reliance and absolute surrender to God that your soul reached to God with to be born again, is the same cry that must be lived in for the sustained victorious spiritual life. David Ravenhill said, “we never graduate from dependency.” That is the secret. That is the most mature perspective in God that there is. I CANNOT DO IT! I need you, oh, I need you, every hour, I need you.
Jesus said, “the son can do nothing of Himself; I do nothing on my own initiative (John 5.19;8.28).” Oh struggling brother, tired Christian and weak-willed complacent distant follower of Christ, you cannot maintain yourself. As long as you try to maintain yourself, you are already in failure. For no amount of Adamic resolve could ever enter a man into the Spiritual power released only by dependency. Resolve will always dissolve. But by surrender we will never cease to enter. Why is it this way? It is because God Himself is our Salvation (Psalm 38.22). He saved us from a life that doesn’t look to Him. Have you a sensitivity to see that our own life is something so evil, no matter how “good” it seems, that we must be saved from it? A life without the Lordship of Christ requires saving! Leonard Ravenhill said, “the greatest sin in the world…is ‘I can manage my life without God.'” A life still in our own hands is dead. Paul talked about people being, “dead even while they live.”
Jesus told us that only the children enter the Kingdom (Mark 10.14), the poor posses the Kingdom (Matt. 5.3) and the infants have revelation of the Kingdom (Matt. 11.25). Everything in God must hinge upon God. This is why Paul said so boldly, that to lean on any addition to dependency severs you from Christ (Galatians 5.4). There is no other way to have the rule of God truly ruling our lives than for us to declare “my soul says, ‘You are my Lord.'” If He is to be Lord, He can only ascend to the throne in your life by the bankrupt recognition and surrender of total reliance… utter dependency and absolute surrender is required.
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism.
Posted in Featured Articles, Revival & Prayer Tagged with: A.W. Tozer, children, david ravenhill, dependency, Kingdom, Leonard Ravenhill, lord, poison, prayer, Psalmist, purity, pursuit of god, reliance, Revival, self, snake, spiritual
He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables (Mark 4: 11)
I often ask myself: Is there any point of praying for revival if Spirit-movements are doomed to peak, then stall and become mere relics of past glories? Or do we believe that God is always restoring truth and adding something further to His people each time the Spirit comes with power? Spiritual giant, Arthur Wallis, once gave this illustration:
‘A Snail climbing a six foot wall, covered two feet each day and slipped back one foot each night. How long did it take to climb the wall? I fell for the catch and said: “Six days.” I had failed to recognize that on the fifth and last day there was advance, but no slipping back.’
In other words, God’s work in reformation, revival and awakening is always ultimately restorative and will accomplish what it sets out to do even with all the interference of men! Even if it is seemingly cut short, there is enough of the Lord at work to ensure that seeds sown will always bring forth fruit!
Today, I believe that a new move of God’s Spirit is coming to the nations of the world. The hallmarks of a new love of Jesus, repentance, pure living, prayer and the fire of God will and should always be evident. But this time I hope and pray for an added impetus of God’s Spirit for something more than we have seen in living memory, good though those previous moves were. I believe that this ‘something’ more will demonstrate a closeness to the days of the flesh of the Lord Jesus. It will bring the ‘Kingdom of God’ but with it will also come a ‘revelation of the King’. How He moves, how He thinks, ministers and acts.
In Mark’s Gospel, chapters 4 & 5, there is a very unique couple of days in the life and ministry of the Lord where a two-fold aspect of the Kingdom in the life of Christ is shown. Both are essential dynamics of the ministry of King Jesus. Let’s look at what Mark is seeking to portray of Christ in these chapters:
1. Firstly, the Secret of the Kingdom must be taught.
Jesus first tells The parable of the sower – Mark 4: 1 – 9 & 13 – 20. Here, the farmer sows the word of the Kingdom on four types of ground (heart):
The path – where seed is left exposed to birds of the air (satan’s powers)
Rocky ground – where there is an initial response to the word of the Kingdom but no depth of root, and thus trouble causes them to fall away
Thorny ground – where the worldly cares & desires of this life cause a choking of the word and strangle its life
Good soil – the only one ground that bears lasting fruit. It produces a multiplied harvest.
So, this parable is not so much about how the Kingdom moves but rather how hearts respond to it. It has been taught first by Jesus, to prepare the way for the next parables of the Kingdom, which are telling of how the Kingdom works, rather than the kind of hearts that receive or reject the message.
Then, there is The parable of the lamp on a stand – Mark 4: 21 – 25
- The lamp of the Kingdom is Jesus Himself, and He is in fact revealing the presence of the Kingdom in His person.
- He is also calling His followers to reveal the secrets of the Kingdom.
- This is a parable concerning the revelation of the Kingdom in the person of Jesus and His people.
Next, we have The parable of the growing seed – Mark 4: 26 – 29
- The man is faithful in the scattering of the seed but that is all he does.
- He watches how the seed sprouts and grows over days and nights, even during sleep!
- It will bear fruit because there is invisible dimension of life causing it to grow.
- Then after the Kingdom has moved, reap the harvest.
- This is a parable about how the Kingdom works invisibly and is active at all times. Man alone cannot contribute to the Life of the seed, that is the work of the Kingdom alone.
Finally, we are told The parable of the Mustard Seed – Mark 4: 30 – 34
- This parable simply is to illustrate the way the Kingdom works.
- A small mustard seed is planted, it then becomes a large tree.
- It is so large that the birds of the air can find refuge in its branches.
- The Kingdom then, is the dynamic activity of God, manifest in His Son, and known by the Spirit. It can appear in history in the most insignificant ways, but because the Kingdom law and life is at work – it will grow and manifest itself in advancement, enlargement and dominion.
So, to summarize, we have these lessons (secrets) of the Kingdom set before us:
- Jesus is looking for hearts to receive a revelation of His Kingdom
- Jesus is Himself – the Kingdom in its manifestation. Before people, He stands and ministers as King!
- The Kingdom works in the invisible realm, but is real. Its power is supernatural, even though unseen at times.
- The way the Kingdom works starts small, but always achieves its task, and will have ultimate victory.
2. Secondly, the Secret of the Kingdom must be made known.
Here, Mark moves onto an account of Jesus and His disciples in a boat and the storm – Mark 4: 35 – 41. A brief summary of events is this :
In V35, Mark notes that it is ‘that same day‘ that Jesus says – ‘let’s go over to the other side’. Jesus is now about to demonstrate to the disciples what He has just taught in the previous teachings! His secret has been revealed to willing hearts; now they are to see it in action!
Now all in a boat, with other boats, they progress to the other side of the lake. Next, a furious storm breaks out. The disciples are full of fear because the boat is about to go under, but as experienced fishermen surely they are used to such storms. They are gripped with unnatural fear. They have not yet fully understood that the Kingdom is present in the boat! To add to that, the Lord is asleep! Jesus is not just asleep because He is Lord over creation, though that is true. But there is something more incisive at work here. Remember He is demonstrating something of what He has taught on the way the Kingdom works! He is the presence of the Kingdom, with them; advancing His rule in enemy territory. And yet, perfectly at rest in the fight.
Then, in V39 – Jesus rebukes the storm. The Lord’s rebuke – ‘be muzzled’, is a word only used for rebuking evil spirits. NT Scholar William Lane conveys an interesting thought in his commentary:
‘The cosmic overtones in the Gospel account must not be missed. Mark has underlined them by careful choice of terminology which recalls Jesus’ encounter with the demons: Jesus rebuked the wind, the sea is enjoined to obey with the command, “Silence, be muzzled”; the wind subsides and the sea obeys with the result that great calmness ensues. Jesus addressed the raging storm as a force threatening Him and his disciples. The force… was muzzled as Jesus subdued it with His authority’
Finally, the sea is calm and peaceful, and now the fear of the storm turns to a fear of this Man who commands obedience to the elements and the forces behind them. The disciples saw a storm and Man asleep, but in the invisible realm, there was a stronghold that needed removing, and the Lord of Glory on a mission!
As if things weren’t intense enough, Jesus is about to unveil the secret of His teachings further. Jesus enters Decapolis region – Mark 5: 1 – 20
This is a Gentile region predominantly. As Jesus gets out of the boat, it is no coincidence that the demon possessed man is apparently waiting for Jesus at the shore. The man is so captive to satan’s kingdom that no one can stop him. He rules, and has never been threatened. He has the whole region in fear and no one can stop him. Yet now he runs to Jesus and knows His name! The spirit begs Jesus not to send him ‘out of the region’ THIS IS IMPORTANT. Here we must remember the previous parables and the recent opposition through a storm at the lake. Christ is now confronted with a power that not only possesses a poor man, but holds an idolatrous region under its power. It does not want Jesus and His kingdom in that region to take rule. Yet Christ will plant a Seed of the Kingdom in that region that will produce glorious effects.
Proof of this demon’s regional hold is further illustrated by the demon’s request to to go into pigs. Why? The man is not the only issue – the area IS! Hence, the cry comes, ‘Do not send us out of the region!’ Jesus gives permission, knowing that when this happens they will be driven out of that area anyway. Even after the demon leaves, the people are still thinking like their former master – ‘they beg Jesus to leave the region’ V17 (People become like the idols they worship) The formerly possessed man is now clothed in his right mind – His soul is now as still as the lake! The storm has been stilled.
It is vital that we understand why Jesus does not allow the man to come with Him but to stay and tell the family what the Lord has done. Again, we must remember Jesus’ parables earlier. He is planting a seed of the Kingdom in a new territory, by planting it firstly in a man’s heart. IT WILL GROW, and touch the region, because the Seed of the Kingdom must grow! We must never forget the vital importance and potential significance of winning a single soul to Christ.
Afterward, in V20 – The man tells the people of the ‘Decapolis’ region, how much Jesus had done for him. Later on in Mark 7: 31 – 37 – now the people know who He is. He heals them and does all things well.
So, as we started by saying: We must perceive the twofold call of Mark. We must learn how the Kingdom works by seeing and knowing the person, mission and teaching of Jesus. We must demonstrate how the Kingdom is to be experienced in a way faithful to Christ Jesus. Let’s remember the lessons both taught and demonstrated:
1. Jesus is looking for receptive hearts. Only those who have bowed their heart to His reign can receive it.
2. He is the Kingdom of God come in Person. That means we preach Him, and His rule, and the Spirit answers. When we ‘go’ to the place He chooses, He comes with us, even if the storm is furious and He remains quiet for a time. The light is still shining!
3. He is always moving, even when we are not aware by our sight or hearing. Trust the inherent power in the Seed of His Kingdom!
4. Though it start small in manifestation, believe and see what it will become, as God moves in the casting out of satan’s powers, and the establishing of His rule in the earth.
Do we believe in the power of the Gospel of the Kingdom?
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Glory, Holy Spirit, Jesus, key, Kingdom, Mark, Ministry, parables, power, presence, secret, stand, supernatural, William Lane
I have recently been renewed in my experience of following Jesus. With it has come a deeper clarity and appreciation for the Kingdom of God. With it has come a renewed longing for the personal presence of God, and what this means in terms of His Kingdom. So let’s look briefly at this Kingdom.
In the Old Testament, Jewish understanding of the ‘Kingdom’ or ‘Malkuth’ as it was termed, was a very powerful one. The OT people understood it in terms of ‘God’s rule and reign; His empire’. They would apply it to His rule over them specifically as a nation, and indeed generally over the nations, and the affairs of mankind, and how it would ultimately come at the end of time.
Whilst not having enough space here to cite all examples, one such Scripture is where King David says in 1 Chronicles 29: 11 – 13:
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendour,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
Wealth and honour come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.
To add to that there are numerous extra biblical quotations, all referring to a similar Judaistic understanding / viewpoint of God’s Kingdom. Nothing of course is wrong with that. This is thoroughly Biblical: God is indeed the exalted King over creation, over mankind, over the affairs of the nations, and indeed His people, and that presently, and this will be ultimately realised at the end of the age.
However, something wonderful happened at the advent of Jesus Christ. He took men from a Judaistic viewpoint of the Kingdom to a Christocentric view of the Kingdom. He came with a message of ‘Basilea’ (the Greek term the Gospel writers used) – ‘proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom’ or that ‘the Kingdom of God was at hand…’ He came with this dynamic fact: The Kingdom was personally present in the Man, Christ Jesus.
This Kingdom was not just present in His message or even His mission, though certainly that was the case! Nor was it even just a promise for a future time, to finally consummate history at the end of the age. He came proclaiming a new understanding of the Kingdom of God. Without doing away with the OT understanding, He came with a more powerful fulfilment: The Kingdom was in-fact present in His very person, and to remain by the outpoured Spirit.
Jesus said in Luke 17: 21:
…‘nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
He also said in Matthew 12: 28:
But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
And further promising its remaining presence in John 14: 16 – 20:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.
So if you like, God wants us to go from a ‘Malkuth’ understanding to a ‘Basilea’ understanding. (And for all you Biblical language experts, I know a change in language means nothing, nor does the fundamental meaning of the words differ, though there are some who could argue that point further.) Rather, it is our viewpoint of the Kingdom that God wants us to re-examine.
2000 years ago, in Jesus Christ, the Kingly rule of God had come. In fact, the King was present, and was promising His rule, His reign and His presence to those who were ‘poor in spirit’. All this not just as a future hope, but a present reality. Though His voluntary death and suffering was a stumbling block to many, it did not deny the fact, but actually proved it all the more, for those humble enough to receive it. The reality was that His sacrifice had opened up the Kingdom to all, and because of this, today we still can say, ‘the Kingdom has come.’
This Kingdom, as George Ladd puts it, was a present gift, given from ‘the seeking God…’ It had ‘broken into history…’, rather than appear at the end of history, as was formerly thought. It came through His Son to mankind. Thus Jesus called it a treasure to be sought now, here, as well as a future promise. It was so glorious and so present, that men were called to ‘forsake everything…’ for it.
2000 years ago, God set something in motion: God’s Kingdom had indeed broken into ‘our’ world! Coming with this Kingdom would be forgiveness, freedom from the rule the enemy, righteousness, healing, love, victory and hope, the Gift of the Holy Spirit, authority, including much, much more! All the promises of God had come in Christ, and been made possible through His death and resurrection. The Kingdom had drawn near, and would remain still very present. Now by the Spirit, Jesus is still exercising His dynamic rule and victory. He has set something in motion, and His Spirit carries on in like manner. Like a ‘small seed… growing into something large…’ or like ‘yeast’, the Kingdom is still moving, acting, growing, advancing among His people, and in this fallen world!
Of course, we must always remember that God’s Kingdom is coming in a definite and final way, when all the world will acknowledge that He indeed is King over all things. But let us not miss out on something equally as true and glorious; a glorious reality that is pivotal to the reason that Jesus came; to bring to men His present ‘basilea’, His glorious Kingdom, personally, on our part and on His! If this be so, then how transformed we and everything we come into contact with would be!
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: basilea, george ladd, Good News, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Kingdom, Kingdom of God
Zach knew that Jesus was there. But he couldn’t see Him. There were too many obstructions in the way. But his desire to see Jesus pushed him beyond his natural state of inability to see Jesus. It pushed him to a tree. He climbed the tree and saw Him. In seeing Jesus he was brought into His presence and he was moved not only to repentance, but to restitution. Salvation had come to his house.
Brother, wherever you are in your life, if you are having a hard time seeing Jesus; where He is, what He would have you do…or even if you are in a state of stagnation, I say to you, “climb the tree.” Make the decision that your natural inability to see Him is not satisfying. Make a change in your heart to climb higher. Set your heart to see Him. Determine that these obstructions in the way will no longer hold their distracting power. Set them all aside, put away the non-essentials and go after God. Seek Him and make yourself find him. What do I mean? Settle for nothing less than seeing Jesus, alive, today. His mercy and grace has placed a tree in your reach, no matter how blocked your vision of Jesus is. He has set it in front of you. Only those who choose to let their frustration of their current situation move them out of complacency and into an all out initiative to see Him, climb this tree.
It seems God has set up a principle to finding Him and this is the tree that He has set in your reach for you to climb into a fresh revelation Jesus. The principle will bring you into a seeing of what you could only feel before. It will bring you into His sight and He will call to you in your hunger and declare/manifest His saving power in your house. That principle to which I am referring, that tree set in your reach to climb is this, “in that day when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me (Jeremiah 29.13).”
Whatever your obstruction, be it sin, tribulations, bondage, pride, fear, unbelief, religion or any other thing that has eclipsed God in your life, just stop, look around and right within your reach is a tree. I promise, it is there, for He has divinely given it to you, I have found it many times myself; The ability to lay your life down at His feet. I believe that most, if not all issues in life can be pined on to a lack of surrender to Christ and His gospel. “The secret of an unsatisfied life lies too often in an unsurrendered will” (Hudson Taylor). Even in weakness and despair, you can choose to lay it all down at His feet. He will take you into His presence and bring deliverance with all its effects! Praise God for such a love. Christianity is not a change of life, but an exchange of life. You lay all the pieces of your heart down and then He will pick them all up with limitless power and strength to conquer through you.
Beloved reader…lay it all down. Resurrection life follows death alone.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Christian living, Jesus, Kingdom, life, Revelation, surrender
I want to just bring a brief word of exhortation at this time to all the readership of VOR. Whether you know the Lord or whether perhaps you are weighing up the cost of following Him. I am sensing at this time that even the best of us can be distracted from the key thing in the Kingdom of God. Life throws up so many issues, and there is an enemy out there seeking to violate the purposes of God. I hope the following helps deal a ‘death-blow’ to any of those things at this time.
As I sit writing this morning, my heart is stirred by the call of God, coming again to me with fresh clarity and intensity. My mind has gone back over the time when from a child God spoke to me and called me, and how in His faithfulness He kept coming back to me and back to me, again and again. He would come at times and remind me of HIs holy calling, and that His willingness to perform that concerning me was greater than my willingness to follow!
Today, I am reminded by the following things in this regard:
1. The Call of God costs.
I remember the voice of a prophet laying hands on me when 15 years old, and another when I was 18 years, declaring by the Spirit – “What I am going to call you into is going to cost you something. You have said in your heart ‘why can’t I be like other young men; why can’t I do what others are doing?’ You can not because I do not permit it, says the Lord… You are mine!’
To some of you this would seem hard or harsh. But I can tell you today that those words did something in my spirit that did me good! I did not feel condemned or hurt but I felt encouraged. I thought: ‘How amazing, that in this ruthless word from the Spirit of Christ, I was yet assured that I was His, and He was mine!’ This is the Spirit of Jesus in prophecy.
This is what the rich young ruler failed to grasp in the account of Mark 10 and Luke 18. All he heard from the Lord was the cost, ‘Give up all you have and give to the poor…’ yet he failed to hear the words, ‘then come follow me…’ If only he had grasped this! Grasping this alone would have been enough to have outweighed the carnal delights and its pull.
Some of you have felt the cost of the call of God upon your life, and may even sense it again now as you read this. Yet your heart is in a kind of spiritual negotiating with God. I have something to tell you from my own experience, and in line with the Scriptures: There is no negotiation! But there is a Treasure that far outweighs the cost! Jesus is all we need. Brothers and sisters there is only one response to the Call of God. Yield, give up your rights, do whatever He says… you will be satisfied.
2. The Call of God consecrates.
When I think of this, I think of surrender, but not just in terms of giving up something, rather in terms of giving oneself to something.
Samuel was called of God from a boy, and from a young age had to learn complete obedience to the voice of the Master. He also had to learn separation from the world and devotion to God’s presence. In this, God anointed His servant for holy and powerful purposes. The rest is history… Samuel was one of Israel’s greatest prophets and judges. He was a voice to a people and to a kingdom.
Again, I tell you from experience that the Call of God demands consecration to Him alone. There have been times when the enemy or the flesh has come to war against that in me, trying to revive the carnal man and his lusts for the world, pride and desires. But during those moments it is as if an inner whisper comes and reminds me: ‘You belong to Me… flee from it.’
He has bought us at a price! We are his for His own purpose. The need of the hour is for a total consecration to God and His purposes. This is a crucial moment for the Church. We need consecrated vessels to carry out God’s will. I pray daily much for a consecrated generation that will totally yield to the Lord, and do it on His terms, for His glory. It’s the only thing that will make a difference!
3. The Call of God keeps.
Think a moment about Peter, loved by God; called and chosen to be an apostle, and a leader among men. Yet somehow in the mysterious dealings of God, Peter goes through a season of testing, where satan incites him to deny the Lord. God knows more about the heart of man than we do about ourselves. God was not out to destroy Peter but He was allowing this attack of the enemy to make something of Peter. Some of the most wonderful words in Scripture are these: ‘But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.‘
May I say this: God’s call is more powerful to keep us than any of will ever realize! No, I am not an extreme Calvinist, neither am I an extreme Arminian. (I still cannot work God out!) But I know the God of the Bible. I have met Him in Jesus Christ, and know the Holy Spirit at work. (Not as much as I should, I add!)
I can say with confidence: His faithfulness is great and reaches to the skies! (Psalm 35: 5 & 6) and that His ability to keep me is far greater than may ability to remain faithful.
Also, we are assured by Scripture that God will not only keep us, but He is faithful to complete the work He has called us to. Our duty is by His grace to remain in Him! (John 15: 4 & 5)
My prayer this day is that as you read this you will be reminded of the Call of God on your life. It will cost until it is completed. It demands consecration to His ways and purposes. Yet He is faithful in His part to do that which we cannot do – bring it to pass.
May God do it in our day and generation!
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: apostle, consecration, faith, God, Jesus, Kingdom, Kingdom of God, prophecy, prophets, Scripture
The 56th thesis of Friedrich Nietzsche’s book “The Gay Science” (nothing to do with homosexuality of any kind) reads,
“When I think of the craving to do something, which continually tickles and spurs those millions of young Europeans who cannot endure their boredom and themselves, then I realise that they must have a craving to suffer and to find their suffering in a probable reason for action, for deeds. Neediness is needed.”
In a recent conversation, I was asked for my thoughts on what the main motivation for a cultural revolution amongst the young generation would be if it were to come, I explained that the driving force would be monotony.
Previously, generations have been marked by a passion to see a tearing down of restrictive cultural barriers. For example, the first modern revolution, The French Revolution, was caused by the tyrannical reign of the monarchy and the Catholic Church in France who imposed high taxes and unjust laws on the people. Cultural movements between then and the 1920s were fueled by the perceived need for less restrictive boundaries on moral issues (see the paintings and writing produced in America and Europe in those years.) In America, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of a revolution based upon this second ideal – his opus magnum being ‘The Great Gatsby,’ a novel about a generation gone to the dogs because of their rebellion. The 1960s produced the post-beatnik movement famous for cultural icons such as Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, The Beatles, Andy Warhol etc. The 60s revolution was a sexual and political one, rooted in civil disobedience and the civil rights movement.
We could continue in this strain.
Since the beginning of the French Revolution that we have just discussed, there has been a breakdown of what we could call the ‘social norm.’ That is to say, culture based upon morality.
I was born in the late 80s. My generation is a product of the lawless lifestyle of our ancestors. We no longer have taboos. If we desire to marry someone from the same-sex, it is legal in many places. If we want to sleep around, we are permitted to do so ‘as long as no-one gets hurt.’ But we have very little further to go on the road of ‘emancipation’ from moral values.
Let us consider a theoretical future revolution.
There is no point in denying the parallel course of artistic culture and revolutionary culture – where there is revolution, there is art of some form produced that is characteristic of revolution. So instead, let us briefly consider some possible courses our future revolution:
a) We go further in breaking down the ‘social norm’
If this were to be the case, then looking at the course of previous revolutions, and taking note of their sexual nature, we may surmise that the next revolutionary movements will aim for complete freedom of the right to marriage – homosexual, bestial, familial, paedophilic.
b) We go back towards purity
In the event that a revolutionary movement arises that is focused on a spiritual and moral restoration, we should see to it that a ‘Kingdom moral code’ is instituted as opposed to the authoritarian one that we saw previous to the French Revolution, where people lived in fear of free thought because of Church reprisals rather than living in a reverent fear of God.
In its current state, our society is primed for a change as a product of the boredom that Nietzsche described. We need a fascination – our generation is very much in need of a passion that surpasses the revolutionary spirit that was present in previous generations because our task is so much greater. Our goal is to go against the very nature of fallen man (which other revolutions did not seek), and to pursue the Heart of God for the establishment of His kingdom in the hearts of this Generation while He tarries.
We pray that our revolution would be based upon things which ‘cannot be shaken,’ so that it is never undone or equalled.
Let us close with a quote by the Christian revolutionary Rudi Dutschke,
“Jesus is risen. The decisive revolution in world history has happened – a revolution of all-conquering love. If people would fully receive this revealed love into their own existence, into the reality of the ‘now’, then the logic of insanity could no longer continue.”
Posted in Revolution & Justice Tagged with: catholic, cultural revolution, Europe, f scott fitzgerald, friedrich nietzsche, gay science, Kingdom, love, monotony, morality, opus magnum, revolution, social norm, young generation