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How does one live in God’s kingdom? What does that look like?
If you read Matthew 19: 13-15 you’ll see how Jesus responded to his disciples’ rebuke to parents who wanted Jesus to bless their children. Children had no status in those days. The people of respect were the adults, especially the old men. That was the Jewish culture. But Jesus turned that upside down by insisting that his kingdom was for children.
Really? Children are needy and helpless. They frighten easily. They need protection and care. And they’re messy!
God’s kingdom is precisely for those who are helpless and insignificant and marginalized.
The nobodies are more important than the somebodies. God’s kingdom is not for the movers and shakers.
The kingdom is right-side up while the world is upside down, so no matter what the world tells us is important, or who we should be, it’s probably not true. The disciples reacted as the culture of the day demanded, but Jesus reversed that.
So God’s handbook says, “Become like a little child.” We’re not important. We’re unworthy servants at best. We must look out for others first. Esteem them better than ourselves.
Christ showed us how. He was the king serving his subjects. The saint serving sinners.
We can’t to do it by the law. Knowledge is not enough. There’s something broken in all of us. We don’t need a better you. We’ve been promised a new you in the gospel.
Christ covered our sins by his blood. He’s our Passover. All our sins were imputed to him and he died for them on the cross. And all Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us. The grand exchange described in 2 Corinthians 5:21. We no longer carry the burden of sin and death on our shoulders. We can now skip and dance like little children in the playground of God’s kingdom.
Do you believe this?
If you’re not sure, receive Christ by faith today. It’s not about being smarter. Or stronger. It’s about feeling helpless like a little child and clinging to him for life.
Be helpless. It’s okay.
God’s kingdom is full of needy ones. Stay that way.
Talk to me.
In Matthew 13:53-58 we see Jesus in his home town of Nazareth. You’d think he’d be a hometown hero, like the Cubs returning from their World Series win. Instead, Jesus was pushed aside. It wasn’t that his miracles weren’t impressive or his preaching compelling. In fact, the people were blown away by both. But it lasted a nano second. What got them was he was unimpressive. They expected Messiah to be a conquering hero and a royal king. A man in authority that would delegate others to do his bidding. Jesus, on the other hand, didn’t put on airs. He wasn’t handsome or strapping. He looked, talked, and acted just like any other man in town. But in the people’s mind, Messiah could not be ordinary. He would fight their enemies, restore Israel, and set up shop as royalty on the throne. But the opposite happened. Jesus was ridiculed, rejected and ignored. Just like the prophets. Why? Because he got down and dirty with them. He was a man. He ate, slept, bathed, worked, probably changed diapers, cooked, swept the house. He did this in order to redeem us in all our weaknesses, including death.
Jesus is the only Savior God has sent. There is no other.
The longing for glory still awaits us. The impressive. The lavish. The aha. All of that is ours in the new heavens and the new earth.
Until then, as his followers, we get down and dirty like he did. In worshiping God and loving our neighbors.
Talk to me.
Are you addicted to love?
Not the paper-thin kind in a Hollywood movie, but the love found in God’s people, the flesh and bone kind.
Are we devoted to one another? Do we share a common life with others in the church or do we walk past them as vapors?
God is addicted to us. He pours out his love to us in Christ every day. Instead of loving others in the same way, if we’re honest, we’re more addicted to our own dreams and ambitions.
I’m guilty. I lose myself in my reading and my writing. Even this blog. I can go for days without leaving the house or talking to a neighbor. And when I go to church, very often I go home afterwards and return to my interests.
If we build our lives in him, it’s going to hurt. It will interrupt our habits. It will undermine our selfishness. It will change us.
God went to incredible lengths to have fellowship with us. He sent Christ because of it.
If we choose to live private, closed lives we’re living life lopsided.
Being a Christian and a member of God’s church means a level of transparency.
Jesus was put out of the camp so we could be brought in, not to live self-absorbed lives, but to be a blessing to others.
We come to church to be fed Christ in the sermon and at the communion table, and as a result we are built up in the faith, but not for our sake only, but for our neighbor sitting in the chair next to us.
How’s it going for you?
Talk to me.
You know the bible is real when you read verses 35-37 in Mark 10.
Jesus has just finished telling his disciples the horrible death that awaits him in Jerusalem, but instead of sympathy or concern, James and John ask for a promotion. They want the power seats in heaven. When the others find out what they’re up to, they become indignant because they didn’t think of it first most likely.
The focus is ripped away from Jesus’ death and lands on human ambition. It affords Jesus an opportunity to teach his disciples what it takes to live in his kingdom.
To be a bully, to seek your own status, and to be only interested in your own agenda is the world’s way.
As a disciple you seek to be nothing, a servant ready to help others. Just like Jesus. Why was he on his way to Jerusalem? So he could die in our place on the cross for our sins. The sins of James and John. The sins of all his people.
I’m amazed at Jesus’ patience with his own.
Thank God because I’m just like James and John.
I’m committed to me. My goals. My honor.
Every once in a while I catch myself serving others.
I wish it was the reverse.
That’s why I need a Savior.
And that’s why he’s given me his perfect record.
Because I need it!
Talk to me.
If you think the bible is about good people doing wonderful things for God, you ought to read it sometime!
The fact is, the bible is about a wonderful God doing good things for bad people.
The only good guys in the bible are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Everybody else is bad.
That includes you and me.
“There is none righteous, no not one.” – Romans 3:10
The truth is not a single soul can stand before God and say, “I’ve done my best.”
We haven’t done our best, not even on our good days.
If God is going to save us and use us and make something of us, He’s going to have to do it in spite of ourselves. Not because we read the bible every day; not because we give thanks before every meal; not because we never miss church; and not because we try to be good parents, friends and neighbors.
We are promise breakers, we’re not people of integrity, and we don’t measure up to our own standards let alone God’s.
We need a God for failures.
And that’s exactly what we have.
Jesus Christ joined the human race so he could become our substitute.
He lived the life we should have lived, obeying every one of God’s commands from the heart.
That means he won God’s favor and secured a place in heaven for us.
His righteousness was charged to our accounts, so that we with all our sins and failures are declared righteous.
What happened to our sin?
God charged it to Jesus’s account, he absorbed the penalty, and died in our place on the cross.
It’s all paid for.
We stand forgiven and accepted because of the work of our Savior.
Talk to me.
Sanctification is like being brought up again but this time in Christ. God is your Father, Jesus is your elder brother who has blazed the trail for you, and the Holy Spirit draws you deeper into your new identity in Christ.
You are born again but living inside an old house. Don’t get focused on the rusty hinges, the peeling paint, and the overgrown lawn. Keep your attention focused on the architect and builder of the new house you’ll be living in.
Meanwhile, refuse to participate in the conspiracy of silence. You continue to be a wretched sinner even as a Christian. You have great examples of confession from the apostles. Paul called himself the chief of sinners. So can you. There’s no shame in that.
It is the job of the Holy Spirit to make you more humble and dependent on the Lord, more grateful for his sacrifice, and more adoring of him as a wonderful Savior.
Don’t be surprised at your trials then, Peter said. They’re meant to make your faith like gold. And faith attaches itself to Jesus who was meek and lowly and won salvation for you.
Joy here and now is your birthright and inheritance even when you sin miserably as a Christian.
Talk to me.
Witnessing for Christ can be a romantic notion for the uninitiated, but it’s a painful reality for those who do it.
If you witness for Christ, you will also suffer for Christ.
I was so excited about finding Christ that I naively believed all I had to do was mail everyone the same book that God used to lead me to faith. So I ordered 80 copies and mailed them to every family member, friend, and neighbor I could think of. To my dismay instead of having people appreciate me, and thank me for my thoughtfulness, I got their anger. Lots of it. To this day there are some family members that won’t stay in the same room with me if we are alone for fear I might bring up the subject of Jesus.
At a recent family reunion where 120 people were present, there was only one family of four that were Christians. I had been praying for these people for more than 30 years! I expected a lot more to know the Lord.
Then in church on Sunday I was reminded of Noah. Only 8 people were saved and the rest of mankind drowned in the flood.
Clearly God isn’t in the numbers.
Peter makes it clear in his first epistle that if you witness then accept suffering as part of the package because you’re living in a world that wants nothing to do with Jesus. Hatred and persecution are the norm. Noah was ridiculed for 100 years while he preached and built the ark. He was the only preacher in his day. Imagine how he felt. Ultimately Noah and his family were vindicated. They were the only ones saved through the flood.
So while I hate suffering and loathe being ignored and avoided by anyone, I know I’m in good company with Jesus and his apostles and host of other saints down through the centuries who have been faithful to stand for God.
What about you? What’s been your experience in witnessing for Christ?
Talk to me.
Contrary to every thing you hear in the media, your life is not your personal possession to do with as you please.
If you’re a Christian, you belong to Jesus. You we were bought with a price – his blood – to no longer serve yourself, but him.
How are you doing with this?
I’d rather continue being addicted to myself. It’s easy. It’s comfortable. I’ve been doing it all my life.
I also like burrowing into my world of entertainment – my favorite TV shows, sports, painting, writing and photography. None of those things are sin in and of themselves, but when they push out Jesus in favor of them, then I have a problem.
And I push out Jesus a lot.
I can spend a whole day without thinking about him or talking to him.
I don’t do that with the people I love, but I do it with him.
I don’t keep short accounts of my sins with him either. I tend to bunch them all together at the end of the day, if I remember, and then confess them. When I think about it, that’s pretty stupid and laughable. What I’m doing is just discharging a duty without any heart work, and I know it and so does Jesus.
I’m reminded in the gospels, Jesus was not autonomous. He could have been. He didn’t need help from anybody, he knew who he was and where he was going. And yet he was 100% dependent on his Father, from what to say to people to what to do for them. “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.'” – John 5: 19
That dependency led him to the cross to die for me and you.
And I’m pierced through the heart.
I admit I fail miserably to live a dependent life. It’s foreign to me. But I don’t despair because I have hope. First, God makes me aware of my sin and depravity and I getting better at talking to him about it. Second, I don’t want to be like that any more and I tell him so. And third, in Christ I am becoming more like him. He’s doing the work he promised to do even if I don’t see it. “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” -Philippians 1:6. And for that I rejoice!
Where are you on this road? Talk to me.
Jesus is my Sabbath rest. I have ceased from my own works to gain God’s acceptance. (Hebrews 4)
Since he accomplished this when I wasn’t even aware of my desperate need, how much more do I need to stop accepting burdens that only he can carry.
My burdens are my anxieties about my children and family members and their future, illnesses of friends, my own calling and vocation, and so on. These are burdens that disturb my rest in Christ.
They also point to pride in my life.
I think I can carry these cares!
The truth is I can’t. They weigh me down, they make me into a person who rarely has a lightness of heart over anything.
What to do about them? Pray as often as the Spirit leads me to, but then leave the care with him.