Tag Archives: kingdom

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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