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James 2:5
Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith,
and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

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KINGDOM LIVING ~ COMMUNITY

     It is strange indeed that we Christians seldom talk about the thing Jesus talked about most. That, of course, is the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, as it is also called. John the Baptist announced this kingdom in Matthew 3:1-2. Jesus later came into Galilee proclaiming it (Mk. 1:15). Much of Jesus’ teaching dealt with the Kingdom of God, and most all of his parables pictured it (Mark 4:30-33). The message of the kingdom was still the message of Jesus after his resurrection (Acts 1:3). It was also the message of the early apostles (Acts 8:12; 19:8).
     In Matthew 24:14, Jesus makes plain that the gospel of the kingdom will again be preached to the whole world in the days just preceding the end of the age. Apparently we have lost this aspect of the gospel in our modern church. We might well wonder if it is the absence of this gospel that is causing such difficulty, failure and discouragement in much of the today’s Christian world.
     Jesus expects his servants to exercise his authority and influence. In short, he expects them to be priests and kings on his behalf. In 1 Peter 2:9 we read: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

A DESPERATELY NEEDED MESSAGE

      How desperately this message of the kingdom is needed today! We live in a time when multiplied millions of people are overcome and ruled by wicked spirits and by the earthly things around them. Unfortunately, it seems that many of these are Christians.
     God’s plan is that man through Christ should exercise rule and authority over the earth and everything in it (Gen. 1:26, 28). Of course, the devil is greatly opposed to this plan and tries to frustrate it in every conceivable way. For instance, we all probably know Christians who are ruled by a little weed called tobacco; or by the grape, which is turned into wine; or by the poppy flower and the marijuana plant which are made into hallucinogenic drugs. There are hundreds of other earthly things that can rule over us.
     Proverbs 25:28 tells us: "Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls" (NKJV). This seems to be the lot of so many today. The Bible tells us that we absolutely must learn to rule with Christ and exercise his authority over the earthly things around us. It is high time for the church to take seriously the teaching of the Kingdom of God and how this kingdom can be worked out in our everyday lives.

 REIGNING WITH CHRIST

      As we have seen, in the beginning of the ages God created man and decreed that man would rule over all his creation. The devil, that ancient adversary, began immediately to work against this divine plan. Through his sorcery he beguiled Adam and Eve and they fell from their God-given position. Since that time, there has been a reversal of God’s plan, with the world and creation often ruling over humankind as we have seen. This dismal situation went on century after century until God’s solution was provided. At last, in the fullness of time, the Lord sent his Messiah to deal decisively with this problem. We Christians do not always realize it but Jesus came to reverse the effects of the fall and to lift fallen humanity once again to the place God intended.
     That is what the Kingdom of God is all about. It is God calling, saving and sanctifying a people who will rule on his behalf, just as he planned. Of course, all this is only possible through Jesus and our belief in him. He came to the earth as the model man. He was not defeated by Satan and by all the latter’s tactics. In his great temptation in the wilderness, Jesus did not heed the devil’s suggestions for a moment but he skillfully used the word of God as a weapon against this deceiver (Matt. 4:1-11). In all his life as a man, living in this defiled earth, Jesus never sinned once (Heb. 4:15). Still on our behalf he suffered the death of the ungodly, and for our salvation he was gloriously raised by the power of God. Now Jesus sits at the right hand of God to intercede and help fallen humanity. As he lives in us through his Holy Spirit and as we live in him, we too can now taste the victory over Satan in our everyday lives.
     So we see that it is God’s purpose for Satan’s work to be defeated and reversed. It is God’s purpose that we Christians should now rule for him in our everyday lives. This is what Christianity is supposed to be about. In Romans 5:17 we read: "For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ." So we see that our calling is to reign through Jesus and exercise his authority and influence everywhere.

 CHRISTIANS AND KINGDOM POWER AND AUTHORITY

Christ gave all His followers FIRST the FRUIT of the Spirit:
Galatians 5:13 - 26 and admonished us to ABIDE in the VINE!

Jesus Christ is the vine and we are the Branches, as we abide in the vine, He gives us the POWER and AUTHORITY to move under the unction of the Holy Spirit in the GIFTS of the Spirit:
1 Corinthians 12:1 - 31
Luke 10:13 - 22
Mat 28:18 - 20

 OVERCOMERS AND THE END DAY

      We saw earlier how that in the last days of history the gospel of the Kingdom will be rediscovered and preached once more. This is very obvious in the Book of Revelation, for it is a book about reigning with Christ; about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is really the major theme of Revelation, so we can see that the book is very faithful to the teaching of Jesus. In fact, the Bible would not be complete without Revelation.
     It is obvious in the last days of human history, as the devil’s final attack upon humanity begins, God will have some overcomers. These overcomers will reign with Christ upon this earth. The Book of Revelation tells us a great deal about them. It tells us that many of these saints will give themselves in martyrdom for his cause, rather than deny him or fail him (Rev. 6:9).
     It tells us that these overcomers will be made up of the faithful remnant of Christianity and Judaism (Rev. 7:4-10, 14; 14:1-2). They will indeed be the "new man" that God has created out of the two (Eph. 2:14-17; 3:6). We learn that they will be sealed in their foreheads with the name of God and of Jesus (Rev. 14:1). We learn that they will "...obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus." We see also that they will follow the Lamb wherever he goes; that there will be no guile found in their mouths; and that they will be totally pure and undefiled (Rev. 14:4-5).
     Finally we see this group of overcomers standing on Mt. Zion with the Messiah. They appear ready to fight with him against the devil and all the forces of evil in this depraved world. Indeed it is said of them in Revelation 12:11: "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." The reward for these faithful ones is that they will reign upon this earth with Christ and even sit upon his throne with him (Rev. 3:21).
     It is truly amazing that God allows fallen man to rise to such heights in Christ. Yet there is surely much more about this that we do not understand. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 we read: "However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God."
     Revelation, that final book of the Bible, tells us how it will all end. It tells us that Satan, his workers and his work will all be destroyed. The evil that he has done in man and in the earth will be reversed and healed. Revelation echoes the words of Psalm 91:13, in telling us that man in Christ will "...tread upon the lion and the cobra..." that he "... will trample the great lion and the serpent." Indeed Paul speaks prophetically about this on one occasion to the Christians in Rome: "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet..." (Rom. 16:20).
     In the past, some have taken many of these important verses and have gone into heresy with them by overly magnifying man. We must remember that all this is no credit to man whatsoever, but only to Jesus who has himself gained the victory and by his grace has chosen to share that victory with humankind
     So often, heresy contains a grain of biblical truth. Unfortunately, the heretics take this grain of biblical truth to the extreme, ignoring most other biblical truths. We want to hold fast to these Bible gems but we also want to keep these truths in balance with the rest of scripture. Someone once said, "If the devil can’t stop us, he will take us too far."
     We also must be ever careful to guard our hearts against pride. It is Jesus alone who has worked this wonderful salvation for us. All praise and glory belong to him. If Jesus gives us a crown on that last day, there is only one place for it to go. It must go at the feet of our Lord and Savior (Rev. 4:10). He alone is worthy.
     The Book of Revelation ends with renewed and victorious man in a renewed earth and garden. It ends with the Kingdom of God finally coming to earth and with the tree of life being restored. The darkness of Satan will then be gone forever. It is said of God’s chosen ones in Revelation 22:5: "There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever."

What is the Kingdom of God?

If you were asked the question “what is the Kingdom of God?” what answer would you give? If I had been asked this question during my first 30 years as a Christian I would not have been able to give a good answer. It is the message Christians are to spread to the whole world! Before we can do that we need to know what it is (Luke 9:2)?

Not long ago God laid it on my heart to seek what the kingdom of God is? I was rather disturbed to realize in all my years of attending church and listening to thousands of sermons I don’t recall hearing much about what the kingdom of God is? Like most people I heard the occasional reading in scripture or a story with the words in it but it was not enough to make much of an impact on me. Considering the Kingdom of God is the very heart of Jesus teaching (Matt 9:35) and the message he asked us to preach to the whole world (Matt 24:14) doesn’t it seem a bit strange many if not most Christians don’t know what it is? If you think I am crazy ask people “what is the kingdom of God”? Pastors ask your saints! Saints ask your Pastor or Deacon or theologian, anyone claiming to be a Christian! The most common answer seems to be “the church” or “I don’t really know”!

I encorage you to journey with me and "seek the kingdom of God"!

What is the Kingdom of God? The Lord’s Prayer will give us the short answer;
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10).

“Your kingdom come, your will be done” are our focus words. Those who live in God’s kingdom live under his rule and seek to do his will! His kingdom is not visible it is within us (Luke 17:20-21). Jesus said “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), his kingdom is spiritual; it is the realm of God’s will (Matt 26:39, John 5:30, 6:38)!

A kingdom has a King and in his kingdom he has absolute power! A king who has the best interest of his people provides protection and a way for them to meet their needs. He maintains order and those who live in his kingdom are subject to his laws.

Jesus said some who were standing with him would not taste of death until they saw him coming in his kingdom (Matt 16:28).

Journey to the kingdom of God - Upon conversion we are not prepared to live in the kingdom of God we must go through a transformation!

“It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

The kingdom of God is spiritual it resides within us! We need an understanding of the journey to the kingdom of God in our heart! God provided a way for us to get a glimpse of this spiritual journey by relating it to an actual journey his people took in the Old Testament.

Before we look at this story in the Old Testament let’s take a look at the importance of the Old Testament and its spiritual significance to the New Testament. When God created Adam and Eve he resided in their heart teaching them his ways and he grew within them! When they rebelled against his command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he had to leave his place in their heart which broke communion with them. This is why he said “where are you Adam”? He knew their physical location what he lost was the intimate communion he had with them in their heart. God would now have to deal with man from the outside inward until the time of the messiah “Jesus Christ”. This limited God to the union he could have with man as there are limitations to teaching us his ways from the outside inward. The laws, feasts and sacrifices of the Old Testament are spiritual representations of what God wants to do in our heart. God knew we would better understand spiritual things by seeing physical representations. Apostle Paul tells us these things were for our example (Hebrews 8:5).

God’s laws in the New Testament take on a deeper meaning because he can now write his laws in our heart from within (Hebrews 8:10). Jesus said I did not come to do away with the law I came to fulfill it. The law of God will also be fulfilled in us as we come to know Jesus!

The Promise Land represents the kingdom of God! The story of God opening the red sea allowing the children of Israel to escape Pharaoh and his army is one of the most popular stories in the Old Testament. It serves as a wonderful example of the spiritual journey God wants to take his children on. The Apostle Paul admonishes us to let this journey serve as an example of the good news of the gospel (Hebrews 4:2, 11).

Just for a moment visualize God delivering his people out of Egypt and leading them to the promise land as transpiring in your heart! The apostle Paul informs us the “good news” (gospel) was preached to them as it is to us (Hebrews 4:2). The “good news” is what Jesus preached:
“Jesus was going all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23).

The “good news” the children of Israel received was a place of “rest” promised to them in the land of Canaan. It is symbolic of the “good news” we now have in the kingdom of God the true rest! The journey begins with separation from the world - Egypt is illustrative of the world and Pharaoh illustrates Satan keeping us in spiritual bondage. Before we are converted our minds are darkened to the truth and enslaved to corruption. Our mind is set on earthly temporal things and our spirit is held in bondage not free to unite with God and his will. Jesus said,
“Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34).

The first step towards the kingdom of God is separation from the world. Our mind must be set free to think on things above and not on the world (Col 3:2). The aspirations of God’s children are to do his will and not love the world or the things of the world (1John 2:15).

The journey through the Wilderness to the kingdom of God - I will never forget the day I was baptized in water and received the Holy Spirit! It was like a starting point my conscience was clean! Not long after celebrating my new conversion I realized my sinful nature was still raising its ugly head! I summonsed all of my willpower to overcome sinful thoughts and actions but to no avail. Many years later I received a revelation from God I cannot overcome sin by my own willpower!

I realized God led me into the wilderness! The wilderness is a proving ground for God to humble us and to know what is in our heart (Deut 8:2). The wilderness is also a burial ground for our independent “self will” nature. As long as we rely on ourselves we cannot enter the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is the realm of his will and relies on his power not ours. The New Testament speaks of three aspects of our quest for the kingdom of God: “See” the kingdom of God (John 3:3), “enter” the kingdom of God (Matt 18:3) and “inherit” the kingdom of God (1Cor 6:9). We can see the parallel of these three with Moses and Joshua: Moses “Saw” the promise land (Deut 34:4), Joshua “entered” the promise land (Josh 1:11), and Joshua gave it as an “inheritance” to Israel” (Joshua 11:23).

What a beautiful picture of our journey and inheritance of the kingdom of God! We “see” his kingdom as our mind is enlightened through his word by his Spirit, we “enter” his kingdom as we come to understand it is by his power and not ours, we “inherit” his kingdom when all of our enemies have been defeated in accordance to what God brought us to!

It may also be said this journey illustrates baptism in its fullest meaning!

“Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in the new way of life” (Roman 6:4)

As we go down into the water “the Red Sea” we die symbolically to sin (Romans 6:11), in the “Wilderness” we bury our independent (self will) nature, as we come out of the “Jordan” (spiritually speaking) we walk in the new way of life!

The number 40 – The children of Israel wondered in the wilderness for 40 years! The number 40 is a significant number in scripture it is a period of testing and transformation after which a new birth occurs!

“The Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands” (Deut 8:2).

In the wilderness God finds out if we are in this journey for the right reason.

Notice the connection with Jesus and his baptism;
Jesus was baptized he then went into the wilderness 40 days to be tempted and came out preaching the kingdom of God (Mark 1:9-15).

Here are some interesting facts about the number 40:

The expected time between conception and labor of a newborn baby is 40 weeks (new birth)!

The Queen Alexandra's Birdwing is the largest butterfly in the world. It typically stays in its cocoon 40 days “transforming” from a caterpillar to a butterfly. As a caterpillar it independently moves about on its legs, after transformation it is carried about by the wind (John 3:8).

We must go through the wilderness and prove to God we want to live in his kingdom under his loving rule.

We cannot merit our way into His kingdom - We are helpless without the power of God. No matter how hard we try human initiation is not enough to enter the kingdom of God. We must enter by faith! Living by faith does not mean we don’t do anything, it means what we do according to God’s command is accompanied with faith! Works combined with faith is not meritorious because the basis of the work is not self-reliant (James 2: 17-26).

An example of this is seen on two occasions when the children of Israel went to war. They went into both battles in the name of God! God told them not to go up against the Amorites because He would not be with them but they did not listen. They thought this battle would be easy so they put on their weapons went into battle and were defeated (Deut 1:41-43)! They fought in the name of God but he was not with them. This battle was “their works” not God’s!

In the other battle God told them to go to battle with Amalek. As long as Moses’ hand was up Israel prevailed but when his hand lowered Amalek prevailed. Amalek represents our Independent self-will nature. Moses hand raised signifies our reliance on God, when lowered it signifies our reliance on ourselves. God was teaching them to put their trust in him and not themselves! As long as we rely on God’s power we will be victorious when we rely on our own power we will be defeated. Israel went on to win the battle! It was God’s work not theirs however they still had to fight (Exodus 17:11-12)!

The lesson learned in the wilderness we cannot reach the place God wants to take us by relying on our own power or independence. It is the normal course for new converts to try which is why Apostle Paul said;
“For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience” (Hebrews 4: 10-11).

Notice he said “For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works”! Those who diligently seek God will come to understand it is his works that save us not ours however we come to this understanding by making “every effort” to seek him which brings us to the end of “our works” and enter his rest!

We enter the kingdom of God by “Believing” - Paul warns us to consider the children of Israel as an example of those who did not enter the promise land because of unbelief (Hebrews 4:1-3)!

They saw the Red Sea open, they saw the Pillar of Fire by night and the Cloud by day, they sang songs to the Lord (Exodus 15:1), they said they would do all that God commanded (Exodus 19:8), they stripped themselves of Jewelry (Exodus 33:6), they gave more than what was asked of them (Exodus 36:5), they died in the wilderness from unbelief!

(Adam Clarks Commentary estimate about 1 million died)

What does it really mean to believe? Believing God is more than a mental accent of his existence and an acceptance of what he has prepared for us. We can see from our example of unbelief, believing God means following him and trust he has our best interest in mind (Deut 1:36). He leads us as we are able to bear the transference from Satan’s kingdom to the kingdom of God. It is not because it is too difficult that we do not stay the course it is because we do not believe God even under his most gentle care. His plan is to bring us into his kingdom “believing him” will get us there!

Coming out of Jordan into the Promise land - Joshua led the children of Israel through the Jordan into the promise land!

It is interesting to note “Joshua” and “Jesus” have the same Hebrew name “Yhowshua”. That is why “Joshua” who led the children of Israel to the promise land is translated “Jesus” twice in the New Testament (Heb 4:8, Acts 7:45 “KJV”).

How do we know when we have entered the promise land? Apostle Paul said we know we have entered in when “we have ceased from our own works” (Hebrews 4:10). The works we do after we cross the Jordan are now from above we have died to our “own works” and the life we now live is the life of Christ (Gal 2:20).

The battle within to inherit his kingdom! – God wants us to love him with our “whole” heart!

Joshua took entire cities, destroyed kings and toppled idols each representing various things in our heart which must be destroyed before we can inherit the kingdom of God (Eph 5:3-6), (Gal 5:19-21), (1 Cor 6:9-10)!

Our enemies will melt with fear knowing God is with us (Joshua 2:11)! Joshua took all the land as God had said to Moses and gave it as an inheritance to the Children of Israel.

Our Joshua “Jesus” leads us to all the enemies of God that reside in our heart. We must confront idols, lustful thoughts, slander, gluttony, anger, covetousness, lying, steeling and all that is offensive to God. When we confront our enemies we do not look to ourselves we look immediately to Jesus knowing it is the power of God that delivers us. What God looks for in our heart is a desire to defeat the enemies he hates and believe him to destroy them all.

The kingdom of God begins small in our heart with each victory gaining more ground! When all of our enemies have been defeated we inherit the kingdom of God and he regains what he lost in the Garden of Eden. His throne sets in the inner court of our heart we are completely his united to him and living in his will!

Not being deceived! - Jesus said; “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (John 7:17-18).

Anyone who does the will of God will not be deceived! There will be many who claim Jesus is their Lord however Jesus himself said;
“why do you call me Lord Lord and don’t do the things that I say” (Luke 6:46). Only those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 7:21).

Growing the kingdom and the end of time! - As pictured by Jesus’ parable of the seed, people respond differently to the message of the kingdom of God (Luke 8: 5-15). When God’s word is planted in our heart and we respond favorably it begins to grow. If we follow his leading it will take dominion over our entire heart. The kingdom of God is spiritual it is also corporal and unites many in the kingdom. It has been given Jesus to reign in the kingdom of God until the time of the end when he will hand it over to God the Father (1Cor 15:24-28).

Satan and the kingdom of God - Satan said five times in his heart “I will” (Isaiah 14:12-14) which was the beginning of his downfall as he claimed his independence from God. As a result he was cast out of heaven along with many other angels who sided with him which are destined for eternal damnation! No one can live eternally in the kingdom of God who does not do the will of God. It is our choice to do God’s will and his power that enables us to fulfill our choice.

Adam and Eve and the kingdom of God – Adam and Eve lived in perfect obedience to God’s will until the day Eve was deceived and ate from the one tree God commanded them not to eat. She in turn gave to Adam causing them both to be cast out of the Garden of Eden. It has never been nor will it ever be ok to willfully live in disobedience to God. God knows the thoughts and intentions of our heart he knows if we want to do his will.

Preaching the kingdom of God – About 2000 years have passed since Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom of God. It is a message of deliverance from Satan, sin and the world and translation into the kingdom of his son (Colossians 1:13). It is a message of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). It is “the” message he gave his disciples to preach to the entire world. This message is now but a flicker needing to be reignited! Satan’s primary goal is to keep this message from being preached especially by those who have entered the kingdom of God and live by example. We can have all knowledge of the bible and expend great effort promoting the name of God and even speak in tongues what advantage does it give us if we do not inherit the kingdom of God? God’s plan for man has changed since he created Adam, what has not changed is doing his will! Our life is but a vapor on earth, here one moment and gone the next.

We are born with the opportunity to do God’s will, if we choose to do his will he will grant us eternal life!

“Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the Kingdom of heaven, only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven…(Matt 7:21).

Book recommendation:
“Out of Egypt into Canaan”... by Martin Wells Knapp printed in 1888.

This book can be download at: http://openlibrary.org/works/OL7795135W/Out_of_Egypt_into_Canaan