Today as I was having my “thinking time” I was pondering upon the phrase we often meet if we read the Gospels, namely “the Kingdom of God” or “the Kingdom of Heaven”. As I was thinking upon this phrase, I noticed that repentance was a part of Jesus’ proclamation that the Kingdom of God had come near.
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Today I know many Christians with a big focus on the Kingdom, but there are also many who concentrate a lot on repentance. It’s interesting to notice that many of those who focus much on repentance don’t talk a whole lot about the Kingdom of God and those who focus on the Kingdom of God usually don't have a big emphasis on repentance - originally both repentance and the Kingdom of God were a part of the same message.
I believe there is a very good reason for Jesus to connect repentance with the proclamation of the Kingdom of God having come near. Today we might not see it so easily because we don't always know what the different words mean.
According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “repentance” comes from “metanoeó”, which means “to change one's mind or purpose”.
So why did Jesus tell people to repent and believe the good news that the Kingdom of God had come near?
When Jesus appeared on the scene, the Jews had already been in big expectation. There had been prophecies about a coming Messiah who would restore the Kingdom, the Jews had been under oppression for a long time and now John had sparked a new hope that this Messiah was right around the corner.
The people were waiting for the Kingdom of God, but the concept they had of it was that Israel would be fully restored as a nation again.
There are such prophecies and in the future they will be fulfilled. It would take a whole lot of allegorical creativity to link all the prophecies about the restoration of Israel to the church. However, when Jesus appeared on the scene, this was not His agenda.
He came with a message that the Kingdom was already here, even though Israel had not been fully restored as a nation and the church had not been instituted. His presence brought the Kingdom of God near to the people who met Him because He carried the Kingdom with Him.
The Kingdom of God was near, but the people needed to repent, or in other words, they needed to change their thinking. If they did not do that, they would miss the kingdom.
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come. He answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with a visible display. People won't be saying, "Look! Here it is!' or "There it is!' because now the kingdom of God is among you."
What is the Kingdom of God?
I believe the Kingdom of God is His reign. It’s wherever God manifests His presence and His will becomes a reality.
When Jesus was walking on this earth, He was carrying the presence of God with Him and making God’s will a reality. Where there was sickness, He brought healing. Where there was oppression, He brought deliverance. He brought good news to the poor and sight to the blind (Luke 4:18-19).
When He sent out his disciples, the message of the Kingdom was what He asked them to preach, namely to confirm the message by applying God’s will to the situations they would face. Where they met sickness, they should bring healing and where they met oppression, they should bring deliverance (Luke 10:1.12 + Matthew 10:1-4).
Many are still looking for the Kingdom
I don’t believe God is finished with Israel, but I do believe that the Kingdom of God is already here and that it is our job to bring Heaven to earth wherever we go. Sometimes I also wonder if some Christians fall into the same thinking that the Jews had when Jesus was walking on this earth. They are so focused on the Kingdom of God, as Israel being fully restored, that they don’t notice that the Kingdom has already come. Maybe Jesus would also say to these: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”.
I have seen some Facebook posts where people write that they find it hard to relate to God who is alternately full of mercy and next minute an executioner who kills his children. That is why I will try to comment a little on that.
WHY ARE YOU AFRAID OF GOD AS AN EXECUTIONER? Don’t you think He has forgiven all your sins... or are you still living in conscious sin? If you have settled everything with God, you don’t have to be afraid of His punishment. If you live in conscious sin and therefore haven’t settled everything with God, it’s better to repent than to convince yourself that it’s going to be all right.
IN GOD THERE IS NO CHANGING SHADOW. God is not alternately full of mercy and next minute an angry executioner. The problem is that many people pull Him down to the human level and that’s why we can’t understand that He can be many things at the same time – the Trinity is, after all, a good example of that.
Try to consider this – God sees every individual on our globe! It means that at the same time as He gladly sees a person who is getting saved, He feels pain seeing the abuse of a little child. At the same time as He rejoices with someone who has been healed, He sees those who suffer from pain and sickness.
I think it is impossible for us to fully understand this because God is a million times bigger than what we can comprehend. He can be both loving and angry at the same time – if He couldn’t do that, He wouldn’t be able to relate well to everyone at the same time, but being God He can feel people’s joy and sorrow simultaneously.
God is both merciful and righteous
The fact that God is love doesn’t mean that He sees through the fingers at criminals who don’t want to repent – that would be terrible. Yes, when people repent, confess their sins and make Jesus their boss, there is forgiveness. Then they will fully experience God’s grace and forgiveness. If, however, they don’t want to repent, it’s not God’s mercy they are going to receive.
John 3:36 says that “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”
It doesn’t mean that God isn’t merciful, but those people didn’t want His grace – they wanted to manage on their own.
God is merciful, but He doesn’t force His mercy on anyone. His love is available for everyone, but only those who want to receive it will experience it. That is why it’s absolutely wrong to say to people who don’t want to have anything to do with God that He will be merciful and loving towards them.
Today there are a lot of prophecies when it comes to the end of the world and the conspiracy theories are frantically trying to reveal what's happening behind close doors. There might be some truth to some of their claims and at one point we will for sure come to the end of this age. But what is the heart of God in all of this?
GOD IS SLOW TO ANGER, GRACIOUS AND FULL OF COMPASSION
First of all, God never brings judgment because He enjoys punishing. Even in the Old Testament we see that God is a God who is gracious and full of compassion.
The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.
One of the big "buzz-words" the latest years has been the word "grace", and I would like to state right from the start that I am VERY PRO-GRACE; actually I would be utterly and completely lost without it.
However, there have been some preachers claiming to preach grace, who, in an attempt to make grace amazing, end up distorting it, turning people from a diligent pursue of God to an lukewarm Christianity. They might seem on fire but I would rather say it's fervent lukewarmness.
Grace does not mean that you don't have to put any effort into your spiritual growth; it means that you are getting something you were not able to attain by your own strength. Grace is getting something you don't deserve because you are not worthy.
WHO SAID YOU DID NOT HAVE TO DO ANYTHING?
Some might say: "Well, did Paul not say that we are saved by grace and not by the works of the law?" Yes, Paul was preaching salvation by grace and not by the works of the law, but he was in no way promoting a lazy attitude towards living the Christian life.
Some days ago I posted a post here on FaceBook regarding fellowship between Catholics and Protestants and somebody replied to my post by sending me a link to Kris Vallotton's blog, where he talks about his meeting with the Pope. So I read the link and want to give a more extended reply.
First of all I try to form my own opinions and not just believe what other preachers say I should believe. That does not mean that I don't listen to other preachers or only like the preachers I fully agree with. I believe true fellowship is not based upon agreeing about theology but love for Jesus.
Some will maybe get provoked that I don't join his admiration for the pope, but for myself I chose not to only be friends with those who believe as I do.
Why should I admire the Pope?
I would like to answer this like Jesus often answered people asking him questions; by asking you a question.
Would you admire him if it was not for his title? If so, what would be the things you admired him for?
Or I might ask you another question.
I found an interesting article in The Telegraph about how the attentions span have dropped since the year 2000 (around the time the mobile revolution began), and here is a short quote from the article:
Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms. The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to 8 seconds. Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of 9 seconds.
This made me think about how this probably have affected the average Christians devotional life; and when our devotional life crumbles our spiritual life suffers.
As long as I remember I have heard that the key to revival is prayer; and I believe that is true. However, it’s funny (or maybe sad) to see Christian leaders still talk about how prayer is the key to both church growth and revival. Why is this funny (or sad)? Because still so many Christians would rather spend hours on FaceBook than in prayer.
Yes, of course we look at inspirational things, but in-between all the inspirational stuff there are Facebook post about gossip, immorality, profanity, and so on. So we mix in all kinds of thoughts as we seek inspiration.
I am writing just as much to my self, because the last year I have more and more started to have a conscious attitude to how much time and how I use social media. I feel God is calling His people back to a simple devotion to Him; a devotion where all the noise is filtered out.
The challenge is that when peoples attention span is reduced to that of a Goldfish, it becomes hard to filter out the noise. It just feels so strange to just sit and be with God. Not needing to have music in the background. Not needing to check your Facebook or Twitter account. Putting away your phone and just spend some quality time with your Heavenly Father.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2). Don’t let the devil use modern technology to destroy your ability to have quality time with God. After all, quality time is all about giving someone your undivided attention.
Questioning people’s salvation is not particularly popular, but in my opinion today it is actually an important question to ask. Why do I think so? It is because much of today’s preaching has a very superficial attitude towards repentance.
It is true that God loves the world, He has a fantastic plan for your life and He wants to give you a future and a hope. However, if these truths are built on a foundation where repentance is not central, you can quickly get a very egocentric faith.
Is it possible to preach the Gospel without focusing on God’s love? I am sure many will say no and refer to John 3:16, but what does the Bible itself say?
God is a loving God, full of mercy and slow to anger (Psalm 145:8) so my wish is not to present Him as somebody else. God is the same as the Bible depicts Him, and the same is true about the Gospel, the message we are called to preach.
If I choose to modify the message in order to make it more receptive, I have to be aware that it is God’s own message that I allow myself to change. Unfortunately today the message which is often presented as the Gospel is very different from the message the first Christians preached and from what the Bible says directly about the Gospel. What did Jesus ask the disciples to preach? At the end of the Gospels we see that Jesus is preparing His disciples for the fact that He will leave them and just before His ascension we can read in the Gospel of Luke that He explains to His disciples what they should preach.
He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
Some people are concerned that the rendering in the different gospels is not the same, but I do not think they are supposed to be the same; I think their purpose is to complement one another. Matthew focuses on how they should reach the world – by making disciples. Mark concentrates on the supernatural power they should get to do the task; it is the power to heal the sick, cast out demons and walk in supernatural protection. Luke focuses on the message they should preach, namely forgiveness of sins.
When Peter brings the Gospel to the heathens for the first time, we can read his direct rendering of what Jesus asked them to preach.
He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
Many are not aware of the enormous impact our everyday life has on our future. We divide our life into important events and days, and then we live our "everyday lives" just looking forward to the great events awaiting us in the future or thinking back on the great moments that have passed. However, the great moments of the past did not just happen, and the golden opportunities in the future will slip right by you if you are not prepared.
It is said that luck is when opportunity meets preparation, and I believe this to be very true. Often we look back at the great men in history who have achieved wonderful things, thinking that they must have been blessed with some special gift of greatness. However, truth be told, there are no special people; there are just ordinary ones. Some just try a little harder, endure a little longer, survive a few more failures, and when an opportunity arrives, they are ready.
Mountains can be climbed if you have the patience to climb them step by step, but if you sit at the bottom of the mountain, waiting for a magical moment that will enable you to get from the bottom to the top in one jump, you will have to wait for a long time.
Most people live from one day to another, not realizing that the only thing that separates them from their dream is just a little focused effort every day.
David is writing in one of his psalms: "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalms 90:12). Wisdom is learning to count every day as important and not just squander it on meaningless activities. Make a decision today to view every day and hour as important. Make sure that when opportunity knocks at your door, you are prepared.
Whether you like it or not you are in a spiritual battle, and though your enemies can not be seen with your physical eyes they are very real. But we don’t need to be afraid, because God has in His word provided us with what we need to withstand the attacks of the enemy. Paul calls it the armor of God, but it may not be as spiritual as you might think.
Because some minds are so focused on what they can see with their physical eyes they take no heed to the spiritual battle that is happening around them; needless to say that if you don’t pay attention in a war situation you are going to become a victim.
In Ephesian chapter six we see that Paul is telling us that God has actually provided us with His own armor; an armor that will make us able to withstand all the attacks of the enemy. But what is this armor? Well, Paul explains it very clearly.
Paul was not talking about putting on a physical armor, and often we make the armor of God more complicated than it is, because we “spiritualise” it. The concepts that Paul is referring to when using a roman armor as an illustration are:
When we walk in these things we have clothed us with the armor of God and can withstand all the attacks of the enemy. Seeking to walk in truth, righteousness, peace and so on, is to put on the armor.
God has trough His word revealed to us the areas where we need to make sure to bring focus to in our lives. Because these are the areas that will make us well protected, living in a world that is in a constant battle between good and evil.