Tag Archives: kingdom

Using The Gospel Tool

I always enjoy watching professionals work. The experienced and accomplished craftsman is poetry in motion. And my appreciation for their fine-tuned abilities is amplified when I try to use the same tools!

Most tools take time and effort to master. The right tool in the right hands is sweet harmony. As Christians laboring to carry out God’s mission in this age, we must be accomplished at using the right tools. Our primary tool is the gospel. We must work to be experts at using the gospel.

The final mention of the gospel in the New Testament is in the Book of Revelation (14:6). The Apostle John sees an angel flying in the sky and proclaiming the eternal gospel to those on earth, to every nation, tribe, tongue and people. In other words, this is the one true gospel for all peoples, everywhere and always.

The words spoken by this angel may come as a surprise. In a loud voice he says, “Fear God and give him glory, for the hour of his judgment has come; and worship the one who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and the springs of waters.”

When we hear the term “gospel,” we expect the story of Jesus’ death on the cross to forgive our sins and his resurrection from the grave to be our Lord. The angel’s eternal gospel sounds different. It consists of three commands: Fear God, give him glory, and worship him.

Is this a different gospel? No. The Bible assures us that there is only one gospel. But we should distinguish between the gospel and the plan of salvation. The plan of salvation is for God to give eternal life to all who exercise saving faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

The gospel (the word means “good news”) is something bigger than the plan of salvation. When Jesus began preaching, his subject was the good news of God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is every person submitted to God’s rule in their lives. It is true that God rules over everyone, even those who oppose him. But anyone who persists in rejecting him will not enter and enjoy the blessings of his eternal kingdom.

Is the angel’s call for actions other than faith a call to “works salvation”? In other words, if we must do these things to get saved, then salvation is not truly from faith alone, right? But the angel is not denying that salvation is by faith. The angel with the eternal gospel is reminding us of the rest of the story. Once saved, we live saved.

So the plan of salvation is saving faith in Jesus, which is the entryway into God’s kingdom. Once in, what do we do? We fear God, give him glory, and worship him. Anyone who does not want to fear God, give him glory, and worship him does not want to be saved.

To proclaim the plan of salvation without explaining the purposes of salvation would be misleading. Our mission is to share the good news about being saved and living saved. God saves us completely so that we can serve him joyfully.

May God’s Spirit enable us to be faithful in proclaiming his gospel,

Brother Richard Foster

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Why Be Optimistic About the Future of the Gospel?

Our culture’s attitude toward Bible-believing Christians seems to be increasingly intolerant. The ancient beliefs handed down for generations of God’s people are being met with disapproval from the society in which we live.

The Bible still asserts, the Holy Spirit still affirms, and we still avow that faith in Jesus is the only way to peace with God and eternal life, that apart from Christ we are condemned to eternal hell, that God’s design for marriage and family is one man and one woman fully and freely committed to one another for life, raising their kids together and enjoying their grandkids, that life is precious and should not be taken from babies still in their mothers’ wombs, and that God made us in his image: male and female.

I could give additional examples but this is more than enough to start a good fight nowadays. At times it seems as if the whole world is rejecting Christianity. Why be optimistic about the future of the gospel in such a negative environment?

Jesus’ disciples probably asked a similar question. They watched as Jesus faced stiff opposition from the leaders of their culture. They must have wondered about the future of his mission and message. Jesus addressed their concerns with a parable.

A man sowed seed, some on hard ground and birds snatched it up, some in rocky soil and it sprang up but dried out, some among thorns where it was choked, and some on good soil. Only the good soil bore fruit.

Jesus’ disciples asked him what this parable means. Jesus said that the seed represents God’s word and the soils are people’s hearts. Some people have hard hearts. When they hear God’s word Satan comes and snatches away the message that is ‘sown’ in their hearts.

Some people are shallow. They give up on God’s kingdom message when things get tough. Still others are distracted. They are pulled away by wealth or worries.

But some people have hearts that are ready to receive God’s kingdom message. Like the good soil that receives the seed and bears fruit, these people receive God’s word and bear spiritual fruit for God’s kingdom.

What is Jesus telling us? First of all, he is letting us know that many people, perhaps most people, will reject God’s message of salvation. For those who must always be in the mainstream of popular culture, this is a problem. Jesus’ followers are typically a minority.

Jesus never promises us majority status in this age. Quite the contrary, when talking about his Second Coming, Jesus even asks if he will find faith on the earth when he returns.

Jesus seems to paint a rather bleak picture! Why follow him and endure so much rejection? Why promote a message that Jesus himself predicts will be so unpopular?

Jesus’ parable gives the answer. Some hearts will receive the ‘seed’ of God’s kingdom message and bear fruit. God always has his remnant. Our efforts for the gospel will bear fruit despite the resistance.

In addition, bearing fruit points to the harvest. In the Bible harvest is a symbol for that great day of celebration at the end of this age. It is a day when we will see God face to face. Like farmers enjoying the crops for which they labored so hard, we will share in the joy of God’s kingdom victory.

Jesus is optimistic about the future of the gospel. We can and should be, too.

May God give us hearts that bear fruit for his kingdom,

Brother Richard

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The First Word of the Greatest Sermon Ever

Early in Jesus’ ministry, when he saw great crowds following him, he went up to the mountain. And when he sat down, his disciples approached him. Then he opened his mouth and began teaching them. What did he say?

Matthew records Jesus’ words on the mountain that day in his Gospel (Matthew 5-7). Most students of Scripture call this the Sermon on the Mount. It is surely the best sermon ever preached and the most famous sermon of all time.

One of the great things about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is the very first word that he speaks: “Blessed. . . .” Jesus began this monumental message with an affirmation that God wants people to be blessed. What great news!

Jesus has much to say about who is blessed and how. Who is blessed? “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he states. It is certainly true that God has a heart for those who struggle with poverty in this world. In fact, the Lord instructs us to be especially mindful of the needs of poor folks.

But Jesus is not saying that it is a blessing to be without money, food, clothing, housing, and so forth. Poverty can be body-breaking and soul-crushing. No, Jesus says blessed are those who are poor in spirit.

Spiritual poverty is different from physical poverty. Those who are spiritually poor are aware of their great spiritual need. That awareness inspires them to be humble. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

What is the blessing that God gives to those who are poor in spirit? “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus continues. These people who are poor in spirit, who are aware of their real need, they have ownership in something called the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom of heaven is a vital part of Jesus’ teaching. He and John the Baptist both warned their listeners to repent because the kingdom of heaven has drawn near (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). To repent means to turn away from anything that distracts us from God, but also to turn to God by worshiping and obeying him whole-heartedly. But what is the kingdom of heaven?

By using the word “kingdom” Jesus is not referring to a particular geographical location. He is not saying that the poor in spirit have a deed on file that guarantees them ownership in a specific plot of ground somewhere. By “kingdom” Jesus means “rule,” the active reign of a king.

God is the King and his desire is to rule in our lives so that we can enjoy his love and abundance, so that we can be blessed. Those who refuse to allow God to rule in their lives are choosing to make God their adversary. They place themselves in opposition to God’s rule, thus trading his blessings for a curse.

Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs his followers to pray that God’s kingdom may come, that his will may be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). The kingdom of heaven is God’s will in action. And God’s will is to bless those who humbly and obediently follow Jesus.

Notice that Jesus says “theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” not will be or might be or could be. Those who are poor in spirit have ownership in the kingdom of heaven now. It is true that God has a marvelous eternal future for his people. But he also provides the blessing of his benevolent rule in the here and now.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us and will bless us again,

Brother Richard Foster

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