Equipped for Mission 2011: Ed Stetzer, Session 2

Thursday, September 29, 2011



How the Kingdom of God is Breaking Forth Through Its Agents in the World
Matthew 4:12-17

Verse 17 is a key verse in this context because of its beginning: "From then on..." From then on, Jesus began to preach the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God has come because the King has come. And His message in verse 17 is a summary of all future messages about the kingdom. "Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near" (NLT).

Jesus mentions the Kingdom some 80+ times. He uses present tense force in 4:17. "Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near." Geography is the issue here, not chronology. It is not an issue that the kingdom is about to come, but that it is already here. This a passage about kingdom insurgency.

For years history has promised a King who would come and set things right, as they ought to be. The OT unfolds the meaning of this kingdom and how it will come to pass. In 2 Sam. 7 (the Davidic Covenant) God speaks to David about his own history as the background for the promise to come. "I will raise up after you a descendant who will come from your body..." speaking of Christ.

But the people of Jesus' day wanted a kingdom of overthrowing, directed toward the hated Romans. This would establish God's harmony and peace throughout the land. But Jesus was saying, "I'll demonstrate what the kingdom of God looks like," and He did it through healing, deliverance from demons, and preaching. When the kingdom fully comes, that's what life will look like: pain-free, demon-free, etc.

However, the message of the kingdom is repentance. And Jesus says, "Repent, because..."

1. The Reign of God. This is all about a kingdom and a King.

a. God. The reign of God has ALWAYS been real! "Come, everyone! Clap your hands! Shout to God with joyful praise! For the Lord Most High is awesome. He is the great King of all the earth" (Psalm 47:1,2). "Sing praises to God, sing priases; sing priases to our King, sing praises! For God is the King over all the earth" (vv. 6, 7).

b. The World. In Ephesians 2, Paul writes that we were dead in our sins, walking according to the one who is the prince of the power of the air. God has always ruled His universe from His throne. But we were DEAD men and women walking according to the ruler of the unseen world. Yes God was ruling, and is now. But those who are dead are ignorant to that rulership.

The world has fallen and is in rebellion, illegitimately so, to the will of a sovereign and loving God. There is a leader in that rebellion, Satan. And there are followers in that rebellion, the walking dead.

c. Christians. If God is sovereign over the whole world, but the world is in rebellion toward His sovereignty, then what about us? Colossians 1 says that God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His dear Son! (v. 13, 14). When Jesus says the Kingdom of God has come near, the eternal, universal reign of God has been brought to earth so that He is now resurrecting walking dead men and transferring them into HIS kingdom. This makes us slaves of Christ, citizens of HIS kingdom.

In short, just because a city, region, or nation seems to appear as if it is in decline, God is still the ruler, and King.

2. The Already and the Not-Yet. God is still good, but you may not be happy all the time.

The world is broken. Pain and suffering is real. So what does it mean when Jesus says the Kingdom is here, and yet stuff appears as if a King is not really ruling. It appears as if the enemy is still in power, as if the evil still prosper. John the Baptist himself wondered if Jesus was the Messiah, who then responded with facts about His life and ministry. Just because the judgment is not yet happening doesn't mean the kingdom isn't here. But it's still future. It's both here, but not yet here.

Theologians call this inaugurated eschatology. The inauguration is the beginning. The Kingdom has already begun. It's already. But it's also not-yet here. It's a present reality, but a future blessing. George Eldon Ladd's book The Presence of the Future wrote toward this with great explanation and help.

Isaiah 9:6 tells us clearly that the government of this earth will be on the shoulders of Jesus. But it just doesn't seem that the government is being run with the kind of efficiency one would expect from the Messiah! It doesn't seem that "His government and its peace will never end," cause it doesn't seem they're here. But that's because we live in between the times. And the Bible is clear that the end is coming, but that it will get worse before it gets better. Getting worse is a sign that it will get better, because the enemy strengthens his resolve in his last hours.

This is greatly illustrated in WW2. D-Day was the beginning of the end, and everyone knew it. Yet more people died in the last year of WW2 than at any other time in the war. Things got worse, yet it was clear it was the end. On D-Day the end of the end of the war was inaugurated, but on VE day, it was consummated, and the war was actually over.

The kingdom of God was inaugurated when Jesus appeared on earth in the flesh. But there is still work to be done, death to be experienced, in view of a real end. Philip Yancy said it's saturday on planet earth...and Sunday's coming.

3. The Present Kingdom. Let's talk now about the fact that this kingdom is here and now.

When was the last time you announced that the kingdom of heaven has come near? As creepy as that would sound and feel, that's what Jesus told His followers to say...because that's what HE said. It's a matter of announcing the truth of the Kingdom's presence, and simply asking people to submit to it. Christians are the rebellion against the rebellion. The world rebels against God. We rebel against the world.

Idols are the localized expressions of the world's rebellion. 1 John 5 teaches us to keep ourselves from idols. Why? Because the world's in rebellion, and it is constantly tempting us with how attractive its rebellion looks. We should not be surprised that those who'v joined an illegal rebellion against God would do whatever they can to tempt us back to their side. Idols are their tools.

Conclusion

The church is a sign and instrument of the kingdom of God. They are localized expressions of the kingdom of God's presence on earth. Churches are juxtaposed to idols, each one a localized expression of what effort they are a part of. Churches are instruments of God to rescue people from idolatry and rebellion.

4. Repentance. It is part of how God redeems us. Repentance is the most appropriate response to the message of the kingdom. When we hear that the kingdom is near and that we have rebelled, the most appropriate response is to stop rebelling and start living in God's kingdom, under His rulership and sovereignty.

Change your mind about your participation in the rebellion, and live like you believe in God's rulership and sovereignty. That's what repentance means. That's the message we preach. This means living so distinctly different, that they see a radical difference in them which truly shows they have repented from the rebellion, and are now living as ambassadors of God's kingdom.




Stetzer is President of LifeWay Research, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources and LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence. For five years before that, Stetzer served as Director of Research and Missiologist-In-Residence for the North American Mission Board.- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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