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February 2017

God's Kingdom is Not of this World

In John Chapter 18 Jesus said to Pilate, "36 . . . My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

What does it mean when he says "my kingdom is not of this world?" There is a lot going on in this verse. For me, one of the things it means is that the kingdom of God is beyond the laws and politics of this world. That doesn't mean that we are unaffected by the laws and politics around us, we are definitely affected by laws and politics. But God's kingdom is beyond laws and politics and that is the focus of this post. Sometimes we lose spiritually when we try to "protect" God's kingdom through laws and politics.

The Pharisees wanted Jesus dead. They were jealous of him, angry at him, and wanted to get rid of him. Plus, they feared that the Romans would destroy Israel if the people followed Jesus.

John 11:48-50
48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

Caiaphas did not realize that he was prophesying Jesus' death. In his mind he was making a political decision necessary to save Israel, to keep Jews free to worship and follow God's laws, and to remain in power. But the result was to turn away from Jesus, their Messiah, and have him crucified.

The same thing can happen in us when we try to use politics to "protect" God's church. We can become so concerned about maintaining the freedom to worship in a way we are used to, and staying in power, that we forget much of what Jesus taught. 

We often pray "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." When Jesus was crucified and his blood was shed God's will was being done on earth as it is in heaven.

Matthew 5:10-12
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Hebrews 13:11-14
11 The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. 12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

If the laws and politics are such that Christians can worship and serve God freely then we are blessed. If the laws and politics are such that we are persecuted and fellowship with Jesus in his sufferings then we are blessed. In either case God's will is being done on earth as it is in heaven. In either case the Kingdom of God is being expressed in power. 

Revelation 12:11
They triumphed over 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.

Do not think that if the laws or politics of a country turn against Christianity that the enemy is winning. If the kingdom was of this world then the servants of Jesus would fight to protect him and his kingdom. But we don't have to fight to protect him or his kingdom because in all things we are already triumphant. 

1 Corinthians 3:21-23
All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

Do not fear. There is no law that can stop a word of healing or a word of deliverance. God's kingdom is everlasting and we can pray with confidence and full assurance that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Being Highly Favored

What would it be like to be highly favored by God? Imagine God thinking to himself, "I really like those people. I'm going to pour out my favor on them." What would life be like for those people?

Mary was highly favored, so I'm going to use her life to draw some examples of what we can expect in our own lives when God favors us. Really favors us.

Luke 1:26-33
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

The number one thing that will happen in the life of someone who God highly favors is this; Jesus will be birthed in them. The Lord who sits on the throne of David, who reigns over Jacob's descendants forever, whose kingdom will never end, will live in the person God favors. This is the heritage of the saints of God, the Church; those who have this incredible life in them to share with the world.

Ephesians 4:11-13
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

This is God's desire for all of us. This is our path through life. That we reach the fullness of Christ.

Luke 4:16-21
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to set the oppressed free,
19  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

This scripture is also fulfilled today (everyday) in the lives of those God favors. Jesus of Nazareth, with his anointing, his message, his ministry, and his proclamation of the Lord's favor, will live in you if God favors you. And the amazing and glorious thing is that God has made this incredible favor available to all the world; to every sinner, to every "saint", to all of us. Jesus can live in us.