So You Want To Be The Greatest In The Kingdom Of God

Human nature means that we want to be loved and feel appreciated, not just by God but by people everywhere. We want to be well thought of, respected and we desire that our voice is heard. We even go so far as to say, “I want to be great and well-known.” We are no different than those first disciples who asked Jesus, “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-6)

We can all identify with one or more of the disciples, and it is no different when we ask questions as they asked. However, the answer may surprise you. It surely surprised them, and it is contrary to the world’s thinking. When we think of great people, we think of famous leaders, inventors, authors, politicians, military leaders, and business people.

Those famous people may or may not have had what it took to be great in the Kingdom of God. Remember, it is the upside-down kingdom when compared to this world. So, that is one reason we need our minds renewed to have a heavenly perspective. Before we come into the kingdom, we think like the world.

Are You A Child?

So then, who can be great in the kingdom of heaven? In answering His disciples, Jesus called a child to come over and explained, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 3 MEV)

So, the question is, are we like children? Remember when you were born again? That childlike simplicity and joy we experienced. How we wanted just to obey and serve Jesus and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. That was our only desire. Our every desire was to please the Father, walk with Jesus, and be filled with the Spirit.

But, somewhere along the way, we let the world’s ways take us up, and if you are like me, you wanted to climb the ladder of success, even in the church. So, many want to be well-known in the church as great leaders, with degrees, accolades, and titles like Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, and Bishop, just to name a few.

Our job is to stay humble and be known as a servant. Where are the servants? Do you want to be great? The apostles were known as the scum, the off-scouring of the world. It doesn’t sound great, but they were humble servants. Paul often referred to himself as a bondservant of Christ. We are co-heirs, friends and we will marry the bridegroom, Jesus. But our position is still as sons and daughters, with child-like faith and humility.

My wife and I have worked with children for many years, and when it comes to teaching and really anything we do with them, we keep it simple. That’s how we want it. Children can tell if I’m genuine. They know our motives. They don’t want to be lied to or manipulated. Just tell them what to do, and they do it. Yes, there are those troubling kids that are difficult, but we seem to find a way.

Humble Yourself To Be The Greatest

Matthew 18:4 (MEV) “Therefore whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom.”

It doesn’t get any clearer than that. Humility is the opposite of pride. You can have great ideas and be used mightily by God, but you are the lowest in God’s kingdom without child-like simplicity. Humility is demonstrated a lot by Jesus. Consider who He ministered to and where He went. He often did work that was for slaves of the nations, like foot washing.

He put His hands in the mud and healed the blind or ate with ‘sinners,’ demonstrating this principle. Ultimately, He suffered the death penalty that was reserved for criminals, opponents of the Roman government. We say we want to be like Christ, but when was the last time we went to the lowest place, whether in our prayer closet, the soup kitchen, the slims, or where the homeless hang out. When was the last time we offered to clean the church, cut the grass or visit a widow?

We tend to think that all of that is for the hired people or the staff. We typically don’t see Church leaders walking in humility as described in these passages. That means we have to do better. Instead of raising the bar, we lower it. But, we should be lowering to the point of humbling ourselves as servants and then let Jesus raise us up. Jesus set the bar high to go low.

Receiving Jesus

“And Whoever receives one such child in my name, receives me.” (Matthew 18:5 MEV)

If you receive a child or anyone like a child would, then you have received Jesus. Children usually don’t have motives unless they are planted there by someone with false motives. Children just want to have fun and enjoy life. When they have a need, they expect mom or dad or the adult they approach to help them. So it is with the kingdom of God. When someone has a need, we approach as if it were Christ Himself. Giving that cup of cold water means it is as if Christ is drinking it.

So often, we shy away from the less desirable, the unlovable, those that look and act differently from us. But aren’t they the ones to whom Jesus went? James tells us that pure religion is to minister to the poor, widows, and needy.

Concerning the gifts, I just would like to mention that they are to be used to build up and edify. When the Holy Spirit uses us to prophecy, or heal, or any other gift, we become the servants, and we are the vessel. It is as if we are speaking to Jesus. One who prophecies, for example, becomes the mouthpiece of God at that moment. The prophets of the Old Testament saw themselves as servants.

Serve With Thankful and Humble Hearts

So, the challenge is to continue to serve and labor for Christ as little children. Develop a thankful heart and stay low and even when He raises you up and your name becomes famous among men, stay humble and serve Him and His body. The day will come when all of these things will be judged!

Enjoy life in the Kingdom!

Wielding The Keys of The Kingdom

When it comes to teaching on the Kingdom of God, one area that has been overlooked or improperly taught is the ‘Keys’ to the kingdom. The kingdom of God is governmental, and it offers its citizens the same rights as any earthly kingdom or government. However, because the Kingdom of God has not fully manifested in the earth, there is a continual battle between the kingdom of darkness as to which kingdom will prevail.

Jesus has won the victory, but we are in a battle to advance the Kingdom until He returns and establishes in full in Jerusalem for millennia. After that, heaven will come to earth in the form of the New Jerusalem or heavenly Zion. In the meantime, Jesus gave His disciples ‘keys’ to the government and operation of His Kingdom in the earth to be used now.

The Keys Received By Faith

Jesus mentions these keys in Matthew 16:19 “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

In the preceding verses, Jesus asks a question to the disciples ‘ Who do you say I am? Peter answered, stating that He was the Christ or Messiah. This was the answer to a long-sought question: when will the Messiah come, and what will His kingdom be like. They were looking for an earthly government to overthrow the kingdoms over them.

Peter’s statement required faith. Faith is necessary to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus made a startling proclamation to Peter when he said in verse 18, “thou art Peter and upon this rock, I will build my kingdom.” What is the rock Jesus spoke of? Was it Peter the rock, whose name was Cephas meaning ‘rock?’ That is what many early believers taught. They also taught that Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, which became the Papacy’s office.

They see Peter as Christ’s successor on the earth. But is that what Jesus was teaching? The rock that Jesus’ kingdom is built upon is the rock of faith that Jesus is the Messiah or Christ. That bedrock confession gains entrance into the Kingdom. But there is more. Jesus asked the question to all of the disciples, and Peter answered. Jesus answers Peter and all of the disciples by explaining that He will give them the ‘keys of the Kingdom. It was their belief and later ours that allows us to receive these keys.

The Keys and Authority

Keys allow the holder to gain access to something that has been locked. It also allows the holder to close or shut out certain things or people. Keys give someone authority. The Catholic church teaches that the pope alone has these keys since he is Peter’s successor and Peter alone the keys. As I have already stated, that is not proper exegesis, and there are numerous scriptures relating to keys and believers’ authority.

Ephesians 2: 19-22 tells us that Jesus is the chief cornerstone and the disciples, not just Peter, are the foundation upon which the church is built. 1 Peter 2:9 explains that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a chosen people to proclaim the excellencies of Christ. Jesus is the rock upon which the kingdom is established and built, not Peter, the Pope, any denomination, or other leaders.

Luke 9:1 “Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. 2- And He sent them to preach the Kingdom of God and heal the sick. 3- He said to them, “ Take nothing for your journey: no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, and do not take two tunics.” (MEV)

Jesus sent them out to preach the gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons. Matthew’s account in chapter ten tells them to raise the dead and cleanse lepers. Then we have the Great Commission, given in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-18. Here He tells them to disciple the nations and that all authority is provided to them through Him. They again preach the kingdom, and Mark talks about power over serpents and scorpions and deadly things. I believe this is the authority over demons and the kingdom of darkness.

We Have Received The Keys To Use Them

If we believe that faith in Christ gives us these keys, then why are we not using them? He tells us what doors they unlock. Healing, salvation, eternal life, joy, peace, deliverance, cleansing, and protection are benefits of the Kingdom. There are many other benefits. We have been given authority, all authority in heaven. Jesus holds the keys, and He gives them to those who believe. We are saved by grace through faith, and that faith allows us to receive the keys. Then we have authority over sickness, demons, and worldly influence. But, we must learn how to use these keys.

It’s like a policeman or doctor who has been given authority to represent the courts or healing. They had to learn the rules and how to apply them. When a king sends His ambassador, He has the same authority as if the king was standing there. 2 Corinthians 5:20 tells us that we are ambassadors for Christ. We are representatives of Him and His kingdom.

Someone once asked how can we be seated in heavenly places? (see Ephesians 2:6) I explained that we are spiritually connected to Christ through the Holy Spirit while we are here on earth. It is like a policeman who represents the laws of a city or state. They have the same authority as the mayor, governor, or a king. When we show up, it is as if Christ was there since He lives through us by the Holy Spirit.

Now we have been given all authority, so why do we not use it? We have free healthcare-physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. We must take the time to sit with the one who gives that authority and develop our relationship and understand how His kingdom functions. This is one of the main things not taught today. The Kingdom of God is life-changing, bringing joy, peace, and complete freedom.

I pray that we will all grow to understand our authority and how to use the keys. Jesus said whatever we bind or loose here, it is as if we did it in heaven. That is the reality of the Kingdom of God being here now, even though it will fully manifest at His return.

Until then, use the authority you have received when you confessed and believed Jesus is Christ and made Him your Lord by surrendering to Him. It is quite humbling to have been given so much authority, and so we must stay humble because that is who we are, humble servants of the King.

The Gospel Of The Kingdom: Good News Not Fake News

In Matthew 24:14, Jesus told His disciples that ‘this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all of the nation’s and then the end will come.’ Unfortunately, that has not occurred, and even worse is the fact that what is often preached is not the gospel that Jesus preached. When He came, He brought the kingdom of God to the earth, and healings, deliverance, miracles, and the dead being raised were manifested results of His presence and authority.

Why did Jesus say this gospel had to be preached? Previously He told them that false Christ’s would appear and preach a different gospel. Missionaries and evangelists have spread the ‘good news’ but often, what they taught was that you get saved in you believe in Jesus and are ready to go to heaven. Discipleship includes learning kingdom values and surrendering your life to live out those values.

The Good News

The real gospel includes what Jesus taught and what He did. He taught the Sermon on the Mount, which takes the Ten Commandments and expanding them into New Covenant life. He taught that He was the fulfillment of the expected Messianic ruler. He was, in fact, to sit on David’s throne. The good news also meant that people would no longer live in bondage, or be sick. Healing and deliverance are manifestations of the kingdom of God.

The Good News was not fake news, but the religious leaders tried and eventually succeeded in quieting His preaching. But, it was short-lived as He defeated the grave and, after His resurrection, sent out His disciples to the nations while He returned home. Now the Good News would spread faster unless Satan entered to alter the message.

The Message Is Changed

The gospel’s message has actually never changed, but the messengers changed it or at least what they preached. They taught many heresies early on, including Gnosticism, but later the message alone was not enough. It became works-based, and many who thought they had received the gospel had heard a thimble full of truth. Thus, by the time of Martin Luther, the church wasn’t all that needed reforming. The message needed to be made clear and spoken clearly. The truth had to be made alive.

After a few centuries of advancing the kingdom to the uttermost part, we still have many people groups who have not even heard the name of Jesus. So it is ashamed that they haven’t heard of Jesus, and we have many preaching a different Jesus or a different gospel. Many teach about prosperity, amassing worldly wealth, and living for the world.

Repentance as a lifestyle is no longer preached, and worse, many are teaching a hyper-grace where you don’t even need to repent. That is almost worse than works-based and leads to more bondage. People are not receiving the truth, and they are too focused on filling their coffers or building their kingdoms. Thus the messages we often hear are focused on us and not Jesus.

The Cross: A Throne For A King

The kingdom of God is the complete opposite of the kingdoms of this world, and what kingdom exists where the king actually dies for His servants? Where else is there a kingdom where the king is enthroned and raised up at His own execution? At that moment, as Jesus suffered and was dying, He found His first new servant. The thief who asked to be remembered went right into the kingdom and experienced a new life.

After His resurrection, Jesus walked among men and sent twelve Israelites out to be a light to the nations, thus partially fulfilling Israel’s role. They took the real gospel as far as they could. It would be centuries and a scattered and regathered Israel before the real gospel would reach the uttermost parts. Since Jesus said this gospel had to go to the whole world before the end, it has taken this long, and soon the Good News will return to Israel, and there will be a remnant crying out, “Blessed Is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’

God’s throne is built upon justice and righteousness, and what better place to see that than at the cross. He made it possible for us to be right with the Father and be justified freely.

The End-Times is Part of the Gospel

One final aspect of the good news of the kingdom is that Jesus will return. You see, when we die, our spirit goes to be with Jesus, but that’s not the end. After receiving a resurrected body, we will return to the earth and rule and reign with Jesus for 1,000 years. Jesus promised to return, and He will land on the Mount of Olives and walk into Jerusalem through the eastern gate and set up His throne, and His kingdom and all of the nations will come and worship there, in Zion.

So without the end-times, there is no gospel. We know that Jesus told His disciples no one knows the hour of His return except the Father, but He told us what season and what signs to look for. He also told us which ones are just the birth pangs. He gave many parables explaining how some would be ready and some would not. He sent the Holy Spirit to prepare us as well as to comfort and teach us.

We have been given the greatest gift we could ever receive: That God would come and live inside of us and prepare us for the most significant moment in the History of the world. That is when Jesus returns and judges the whole earth and establishes righteousness.

Be careful and examine the scriptures like a good Berean and follow the teachings of Jesus and be ready for His return! That is not fake news.

Being Continuously Comforted In These Difficult Times

Truly the days we are living in are tumultuous ones. Everywhere we look, there is more opportunity than ever to want to withdraw and disengage from the world around us. Lawlessness, disease, political turmoil, natural disasters, pestilence, and the ongoing enigma associated with the pandemic known as COVID-19 continue to cause us increasing discomfort. The uproar continues as new variants form, and the debate to vaccinate continues.

There is enough misinformation without Christians camping out on their favorite Bible topics and beating each other up if you dare disagree. I am not talking about the non-negotiables such as the trinity or Godhead, Jesus-birth, death and resurrection, and His return to establish His kingdom. Original sin, Holy Spirit- gifts and fruits, baptism and Communion are also what I term non-negotiables. All followers of Christ must adhere to certain beliefs.

We may differ on the timing of specific end-time prophecies, worship styles, or how a local congregation is governed. Still, we agree on these ‘non-negotiables.’ So many focus on the bad, such as lawlessness and the rise of the Babylonian system, the one-world government, that they forget to focus on Jesus.

Comfort, Comfort My People

When John the Baptist came preaching, he declared the Kingdom of God. We seem to remember the fact that he called for repentance and changing of our minds and lifestyles. We see the Elijah aspect, and we tend to gravitate towards the negative. But John’s ministry is a ministry of comfort.

John 3:29 “He who has the bride is the bridegroom. But the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this Joy of mine is complete.” (MEV)

John was satisfied because the one whom He was waiting for was present, and He could now diminish. His work would be slowing down, and he was making room for the one he had been telling others about. Thus, John was comforted, and he offered comfort to those he ministered to. His joy was full, and he was complete and satisfied. As the days grow darker, we must carry joy wherever we go. How can we declare the kingdom and its king and His return if we are not full of His joy?

John understood his role and was full of joy because he stood intimately in the presence of the bridegroom, spiritually and physically. None of us have actually stood in the presence of Jesus unless we visited heaven, physically or He showed up physically. I have heard His voice, and I talk to Him, and I know He hears me. That alone is satisfying.

I hear all of the bad news, the politics, the vaccine discussions, murder, abortion, death, and all sorts of worldly stuff, and I keep myself in check through prayer, worship, and the Word. I am delighted when I am in His presence and His Word. That is the key to remaining at peace in these troublesome times.

The Promise of Tribulation

Jesus spoke a lot about suffering, trials, troubles, hardships, and even persecution to His disciples. Paul tells us not to let these things separate us from God’s love in Romans 8:35-39. Jesus has overcome the world according to John 16:33. That is enough to give us joy every day. We should wake up rejoicing and go to bed praising Him.

I am not there yet, but as we move along in our walk, we should learn to make rejoicing a lifestyle. Our security is in Jesus, His promises, His presence, and the victory He has already afforded us. If we believe that He died and arose and He has a place in His kingdom for us, then we must believe His promise to return and set up His kingdom and we will rule and reign with Him for 1,000 years and for eternity.

Rejoicing in suffering is difficult, especially when we are going through it. It seems like I have had a long string of trials. I never know how He will come through or what the end of that season will look like. My job is to rejoice and trust Him. That is how we turn it over to Him.

Comfort Comfort

Isaiah 40 begins with those two words: comfort, comfort. We should be comforting the world around us instead of joining in the discomfort that the world seems to offer up continuously. The rest of the verse says to tell Jerusalem that her warfare has ended. Wow! We are supposed to be pointing Israel and the nations to Jesus, but we seem to be engaged with the warfare.

Warfare can be physical and spiritual. For Jerusalem, it is both, and it is some of the hardest I have ever endured. The spiritual battleground around Jerusalem is so intense because that is the number one battleground on the earth. It is the spot where Jesus will return and set up His kingdom.

That is what comforts me. Knowing that He will rule and reign from that spot, and the enemy’s time is coming to an end. That is our blessed hope. That is such a liberating thought. We have the assurance that not only has He overcome the world, but He will physically return, and we will rule with Him.

In The Meantime

As the world grows darker, we, the body of Christ, must continue to rejoice and be the light in the darkness. The Holy Spirit is the comforter, and we welcome Him in every situation we go through, and in all of the turmoil in the world. It is truly the Father’s pleasure to see us rejoicing as we anticipate the return of the King to Zion.

We must recognize the events of this world as the enemy making His greatest stand to try and prevent the return of the King. If He can keep us from being comforted or walking in victory, then He is winning. He will do anything to pull us down, including deception, fear, anxiety, and persecution. No matter what comes our way, be comforted and rejoice.

When Jesus said, ‘those that mourn will be comforted,’ another way to look at it is the lovesick for His return shall be comforted. We will fully be comforted when we see Him, but for now, let the Holy Spirit fill you with peace, comfort, and joy.

Living A Lifestyle Of Repentance

Growing up I was exposed to the words repent and repentance all of the time. I had this mental picture of someone always bowing before Jesus and never being able to do anything else. But the only time I heard anything about repentance was at church, so I thought that was just something we did on Sundays.

Today, we hardly hear any preachers or teachers talk about repentance and the good that goes with it. While it is wonderful to hear how much Jesus loves and enjoys us, we could experience more of that love by letting go of more and more of the junk in our lives that hinders us from going deeper into the things of God.

Many are now teaching a hyper-grace that says Jesus paid it all and you just come and accept what He did and that’s the end of it. Then there is the legalistic view that I grew up with where you come to Jesus, repent, and do some works like evangelism, ushering, feeding the poor, etc. Those things are needed but we should do it because we love Jesus.

Repentance That leads To Fruit

As John the Baptist comes on the scene we find him preaching ‘repent, the kingdom of God is at hand.’ In other words, since the Kingdom is near and the Messiah is near, at hand, the way to gain entrance is through repentance.

Later, he told the Pharisees to bear fruit that foes with a life of repentance.

They were the teachers of the Torah and the ones charged with instructing the people, but they had strayed away from the intent of the law and were bearing religious activities instead of fruit worthy of the kingdom of God.

As Christ-followers we are called to live a life worthy of the King. We represent Jesus everywhere we go. We encounter the stuff of the world daily so we need to come out of agreement with those things. Also, when we are saved, or enter the kingdom of God, we repent but our minds must continually be renewed.

In other words, we have to take every thought captive and pull down strongholds. When we don’t take thoughts captive we allow them to take hold in our spirit. Instead of thinking kingdom-minded, we think our thought or worldly thoughts. Regardless we must daily come out of agreement with old thoughts, old life choices, and past hurts, wounds, and where we have let our emotions rule our actions.

That is the power of repentance and as we move into maturity as kingdom-minded people we should be bearing fruit that reflects a life of repentance. What we did twenty years ago we should not be doing, and we shouldn’t let things affect us the same. Daily we are to come out of agreement or change our mind regarding choices, actions, and words.

New Creation

Since we are a new creation, then we should act like it. New creatures aren’t the same. So why do we not act and look like new creations to the world? The Holy Spirit is the one that convicts us of sin and helps us to come out of agreement and enter into agreement with the ways of God.

As new creations, we are like a snake shedding its skin on a daily basis. Or we are peeling our onion layers back daily. We enter the kingdom with a lot of baggage and ten or twenty years later we are still holding on to our favorite ones.

Christ died for our freedom and He is worthy of us letting go of all of our hurts, wounds, traditions, lusts, addictions, pride, jealousy, and rebellion. When we give Him those strongholds they are placed under the blood and then He puts up a no fishing sign. The enemy tries to get us or our family and friends to go fishing and bring it back again.

Deliverance and inner healing are really repentance and coming out of agreement with things like anger, wounds from rejection, and all of the other junk. Repentance is a good thing. We need repentance so that we can recognize how much He loves us and enjoys us. He wants to fellowship with us and we need more of Him.

Repentance, inner healing, and forgiving those that have wounded and hurt us opens the path for more of Him and to go deeper in His love.

Do you want to experience more of Jesus’ love and power? Do you want revival in your home, family, or church? Then live a life of daily repentance. But I caution you not to keep reminding God of the same thing day after day. If you repented of being rude at Walmart yesterday then that was the end of it.

So we need a healthy view of repentance. It is necessary, but it is not works. We need to repent of previously unconfessed or unrepented sins.

That is when repentance becomes burdensome. Like everything else in the Kingdom of God, we need balance. We need to live a repentant lifestyle birthed from a relationship with the Holy Spirit, and not just going through the motions. When it is truly led by the Spirit of God we will experience more of Him, more freedom, and we will bear fruit of repentance.

That is true freedom in Christ. Enjoy life in the Kingdom!!

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