GOD’S KINGDOM IS HERE AND NOW: WHERE ARE YOU?

Russell Minick 0 Comments

This is an introduction to the call to mature in righteousness aimed at 13 year old young men:

The Man you could be (Mat 3:13-17)
Jesus was the Son in whom the Father was well pleased. Each of us, whether we like to admit it or not, very much want our own father to be pleased with us, and for us to know it by receiving his blessing. The heavenly Father, Jesus’ literal father, blessed his son Jesus during his baptism by John. By publicly declaring his blessing, God the father enabled Jesus to engage in the toughest challenges of life with a strength that would not yield. By observing what Jesus went through, and how he succeeded, we will be invited into a way of life. It begins with a blessing, ideally from your earthly father and certainly from your heavenly Father.

Since childhood, Jesus had lived well, but now he was entering into a whole new level of service. Jesus was driven by the Holy Spirit out into the wilderness. The Adversary waited until Jesus was worn down. For more than a month Jesus had not eaten anything he had not been around anyone and had not “accomplished anything”,. He was empty: physically, socially and spiritually[1]. The Enemy made his approach and tested each area of Jesus’ strength.

The battle over body, friends, dreams (Mat 4:1-11) (cf 1 John 2:16)
Physical Needs
Physically we are each tempted to obey our own body regardless. If it wants, we deliver. It should not be that way. Our bodies are good, but they are not lord! Jesus was tempted to use his power to make bread for his body. His response was to make clear that God is the source of life, not things (including bread). Getting one’s body to submit to our spirit, instead of our will caving into our body’s cravings, is a tough and persistent battle.

Relational Needs
Socially we are each tempted to do things to prove ourselves to other people. Satan took Jesus to the top of the most important place, the temple. If Jesus were to jump and miraculously be rescued, people would see him and say he was special. Jesus rejected the temptation to use God to impress other people.

Spiritual Needs
Spiritually we are each tempted to compromise in order to be significant in this world. This is more than impressing other people, this is actually accomplishing something that gives us a sense of power and self-justification. Jesus was not moved from his right understanding that every thing of value is found in God and that the Devil has nothing in this world to offer that is better than what God has to offer.

The strong make others strong (Mat 4:12-25)
After the prince of fallen angels had been dismissed by Jesus, holy angels came to minister to the man who had withstood suffering and subtlety. What Jesus did next is important. He went and gathered other men and began to train them. His message was that people should change their thinking (repent) and realize that God is in charge (His Kingdom) here and now (at hand) Mt 4:17.

The power of a man walking with God included extraordinary abilities. People came from other countries as Jesus healed sick people, delivered demonized people and taught everyone with questions. What we will now look at is what Jesus taught to his trainees. Similar to squires training to be knights, Jesus’ disciples needed to learn what he knew and do what Jesus did in order to overcome Satan and the temptations of this world like their teacher. We will study the same message with confidence that if we learn and actually live out these teachings, we can successfully join in the battle as fellow Knights of the Kingdom of God, overcoming darkness with light.

A righteous life is a blessed life (Mat 5:1-10)
The fundamental message of Jesus is that there is a life that is blessed and that we can enter into it. Jesus was blessed by God the Father, and we can be as well. In what have become called the beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-10, Jesus uses the phrase “blessed are” eight times. Each time he says it, the impact of the promise grows. For most of those listening, they were familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures (Christians nowadays call them the Old Testament). The book of Psalms starts with an image of a blessed life. It is the picture of a tree that is growing by a stream. The tree is strong, its leaves are fresh and it produces good and plentiful fruit. This is an image of a righteous man and the blessed life that comes from living out God’s truth and wisdom. His way leads us to be strong, fresh and productive.

[Just so we are clear, being God’s child is like being your father’s son. We are a son before we learn, or fail to learn, the best ideals our father passes on to us. The blessed life is about living out what God offers his kids. It is not a way to become his child. Becoming his child, for us, is by adoption. When we acknowledge Jesus as the true son of God and the true way man ought to live and die (from and to God the Father) then we can be adopted. That is what Jesus’ student John wrote for us in his account of Jesus’ teaching:

He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
(Joh 1:10-13)

What Jesus gives us in the Sermon on the Mount is a vision of what receiving him and following him could and should look like if done well.]

The blessed life is a Kingdom life
The blessedness Jesus describes begins and ends with: …for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. A kingdom is where a king is in charge. The Kingdom of heaven is God’s Kingdom, where God is in charge. The blessed life you are invited to enter into and enjoy is the life where you are loyal to God as King. What we as men are inviting you into is an apprenticeship: a training on how not only to live in the Kingdom, but to valiantly serve the King and His Kingdom with honor. However, this is not a casual invitation. Christ the King is our example, and he gave his life in suffering, obedience and ultimately death. Faithfulness to the King and His Kingdom must be valued more than life itself.

Count the Cost of training and serving: is the Treasure worth it? (Mat 5:11-20)
Counting the cost is the first step in becoming a Knight of the Kingdom. The issue at hand is righteousness. Are you willing to be a man that has the “right” character, as defined by God? It will cost you. The world will hassle you and hurt you. Those who seek to live out God’s ways in this world will certainly suffer persecution. Not only will you face opposition from the outside, you will have to battle with yourself on the inside. Just like salt mixed with gunk is useless, your character must be pure character, not mixed. That is not an easy process. Assuming God leads you to make progress in that area, will you actually use it? The goal is not just to get trained; the goal is to engage in battle. You are being equipped to make a difference. There is no sense lighting a lantern and then covering it up. If you character is light, you will be called on to let it shine. You will use your character training to come in contact with and overcome darkness with light. It will be hard, but that is the calling. Many people are good in various ways. What we are saying, however, is goodness, the righteousness you were created for, is truly experienced as part of God’s Kingdom community and force only by actually living out this Way. Do you want it?

To Put On the Kingdom Way, you must Put Off your own ways (Mat 5:21-26)
When you enlist, you put off your personal rights. You are no longer your own, you belong to your Lord. When I joined the Marine Corps, I gave up my control of my time, my hair, my clothes, even where my eyes went. The Corps owned me because I submitted to their process. I wanted to be a Marine more than I wanted to keep controlling my own way of life. It was hard, but the change was worth it.

Being trained in Kingdom righteousness also requires putting off. This will show up first in our struggle with selfishness. A knight must be disciplined, not lazy. Surprisingly, the main way laziness shows up spiritually is in our thinking about others. The most common belief among worldly people is that other people are their main problem. Blaming others, ignoring others and general whining and complaining about everyone else has got to go. The Kingdom ideal is to love God and love people, something that will never go very far if one does not get past seeing people as the problem.

Knights in traing Put Off the wrong so the right can be Put On (Mat 5:27-37)
Even as training in putting off is still going on, putting on will commence. The goal here is integrity; solidness. Flabby, unreliable warriors are not who you want advancing a cause. Lean and focused, disciplined and solid is what you want. If you are dedicated to the cause of loving God and loving people for the King, then you will need to put on consistency. Purity, when talking about drinking water for example, simply means unmixed. For you as a squire in training, you will be challenged to have the same attitude in your heart as in your actions. Whether it is how you treat women or how you give your word, solidness of virtue, not hidden pockets of rot, is what we are aiming for.

This is not a drill! Live Out what you learn (Mat 5:38-47)
As you progress in putting off and putting on, you will increasingly be engaged in skirmishes for the Kingdom. Where injustice and hate attack you are to resist with justice and mercy. We are not to be lured into fighting the enemy’s battle for them. The system of darkness is to justify hating and hurting. When we are wronged, and we will be wronged, we intentionally choose to demonstrate strength that is beyond what this world knows. We will serve and sacrifice for the sake of justice and mercy, even on behalf of those who are unjust and unmerciful. This is war by crucifixion, the way of the cross. Too few have mastered this art of war, even though it is the way of our King. You will be called to be like Him, to grow up, to be complete, not lacking in anything, able to fight for righteousness, not sold out to the approval of others.

This is a brief overview of Matthew chapters 4 and 5, describing the training. Matthew 6 and 7 go into more detail about how this training is actually worked out through various practical spiritual disciplines. The invitation is given; Come and Follow!

[1] People are created to be productive. Work was part of God’s plan prior to the fall. When we are not accomplishing something we struggle. That is a spiritual drive.

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