The kingdom and personal evangelism

How do we present “the good news of the kingdom”?

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I grew up in a church were we didn’t talk much about the kingdom of God. If we did, we thought of it as something internal, like putting Jesus on the throne of my heart. We asked individuals to make that decision, to pray the sinner’s prayer by which they would be born again. Isn’t that how someone enters the kingdom? Continue reading “The kingdom and personal evangelism”

The kingdom and prophetic engagement: speaking truth to power?

Does being the kingdom of God mean speaking out against abuses of power in the current political system?

Quick: give me a Bible verse on social justice. What comes to mind?

Continue reading “The kingdom and prophetic engagement: speaking truth to power?”

So what is the kingdom?

How does the kingdom of God translate into twenty-first century Western democratic life?

Open 1 John 4:7-12.

Search the internet and you’ll find kingdom of God used for whatever a speaker wants it to mean, e.g.:

  • social justice: action to set right the injustices of the world
  • personal evangelism: convincing people to put Jesus on the throne of their heart
  • personal  victory: I’m ruling and reigning with Christ, more than a conqueror
  • spiritual warfare: taking a stand to rail against spiritual forces of evil
  • political activism: lobbying / influencing human governments
  • prophetic engagement: delivering God’s message to leaders; speaking truth to power
  • the millennium: the reign of Christ for 1,000 years
  • the church: the community that recognizes and implements Christ’s authority.

The kingdom of God contains a wide spectrum of activities and ideas, but none of these on its own is the kingdom.

White light consists of the whole spectrum: red, green, blue, and in-between colours. If you think white light is red, you’re wrong: you’re wearing filters that stop you from seeing the green and blue. The problem is that most of us do wear filters that stop us seeing the multi-faceted nature of the kingdom of God. We fail to grasp the breadth of its spectrum.

So what is the kingdom of God? Continue reading “So what is the kingdom?”

KINGDOM SUMMARY: Matthew 1–10

How central is the kingdom of God to Matthew’s message?

Open Matthew.

The Good News according to Matthew is that Jesus is restoring heaven’s reign on the earth. His opening sentence is bursting with good news, “Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1). He’s arrived: the divinely appointed ruler (Messiah) from Israel’s royal family (son of David) who restores the blessing of divine rule to the nations (the Abrahamic family commission).

What a revolutionary story! By confronting the powers with self-sacrificial love on behalf of earth’s oppressed people, this king brings God’s two realms back together in himself. Via a staggering trajectory, he receives all authority in heaven and on earth, and commissions his agents to bring all nations under his command, promising his regal presence until it’s done (28:18-20).

Every chapter of Matthew’s Good News tells this story. He wants us to recognize Jesus as our divinely appointed king, the one who implements heaven’s reign (the kingdom of heaven) on earth.

Continue reading “KINGDOM SUMMARY: Matthew 1–10”

Should Christians use the divine name?

The most frequent name for God in the OT is YHWH. Should Christians use that name?

Should Christians pray to YHWH?

Exodus 3:15 (ESV)
God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord (YHWH), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

The word Lord in small caps translates the Hebrew letters YHWH (the tetragrammaton). The name is probably connected to the verb to be, the unchanging I AM who was and is and is to come. It’s the name by which God revealed himself to Moses at Mount Sinai. In ancient Hebrew there were no vowels: cn y rd txt wtht vwls? Vowels were added later, but no vowels were added to the divine name. They did not want others pronouncing it. The name was so holy that even today when Rabbis read the text aloud they substitute ha shem (literally, “the name”). Israel was warned not to take the name of YHWH in vain (Exodus 20:7).

So should Christians use this name?

Continue reading “Should Christians use the divine name?”

Righteous people? (Matthew 10:40-42)

How can Matthew talk about righteous people? I thought there weren’t any.

Open Matthew 10:40-42.

In the grounds of the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem is the Garden of the Righteous. It honours gentiles who protected Jews under Nazi threat, people like Shindler or Corrie Ten Boom. They’re considered righteous because they did the right thing by the people of God, even though they themselves were not descendants of Jacob. The way you treat God’s people is the way you treat God.

That’s how the word righteous (ṣǎd·dîq in Hebrew) functions in Jewish thought, but Christians tend to be horrified by this word. For the last 500 years, protestants have emphasized texts like Romans 3:10: “No one is righteous, not even one.”

Then we’re thoroughly confused when other texts talk about righteous people. The Gospels label several as righteous (dikaios in Greek):

  • Joseph (Matthew 1:19)
  • Abel (Matthew 23:35)
  • John the Baptist (Mark 6:20)
  • Elizabeth and Zechariah (Luke 1:6)
  • Simeon (Luke 2:25)

Jesus taught that God sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). He spoke of many righteous people (Matthew 13:17). He even expected Galileans to recognize his disciples as righteous people (Matthew 10:41).

What do you do when one part of the Bible doesn’t match other parts? Continue reading “Righteous people? (Matthew 10:40-42)”

How do you know God exists?

Where do you look to find God?

The world has changed. In just ten generations, we’ve moved from not even knowing many places existed to using a GPS with Google Street view. We’ve moved from hand-copied books to the Internet, from camels to Qantas, from saddles to satellites, from superstition to science.

Where does God fit in a world explained by cause and effect? Christians have failed to provide clear, consistent answers to this crucial question:

Continue reading “How do you know God exists?”

Where’s your allegiance? (Matthew 10:32-33)

What country do you belong to? It depends on who’s your leader.

Open Matthew 10:32-33.

If John Clarke was still with us, he’d be having a field day. How do you bring down a democratic government? Demonstrate that many sitting members weren’t eligible to stand.

Now, politics is a serious business. Our leaders must have unquestionable allegiance to our nation. If war broke out, which side would a dual citizen support?

I mean, you couldn’t trust Barnaby Joyce as deputy prime minister if he’s secretly a Kiwi. If New Zealand invaded us, the haka alone would probably see him siding with the enemy. Well, that’s what the high court ruled anyway: they declared him unfit to be a sitting member, so he has to stand again. Continue reading “Where’s your allegiance? (Matthew 10:32-33)”

The kingdom is God with his creatures (Matthew 10:29-31)

If a little bird falls in the forest, does anybody hear?

Open Matthew 10:29-31.

What was your first pet? A puppy? A kitten? A budgie? Remember its name? What did it mean to you?

How deeply we feel responsibility for a creature in our care! It’s beyond commercial value: even if you paid for it with pocket money, its precious life depends on you. Where does this sense of responsibility come from?

Jesus believed this tenderness is a glimpse of something beyond, an echo of God’s heartbeat for the creatures in his care: Continue reading “The kingdom is God with his creatures (Matthew 10:29-31)”