Entering the Kingdom, or Going to Heaven 3

What Jesus said to the rich young ruler (Luke 18:22, Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21) was, “Sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow me.”

What He said about the rich young ruler was, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25)

People who were not able to discern the difference between entering the Kingdom and going to Heaven invented explanations for Jesus’ theology. One is that there is a small gate somewhere in Jerusalem called the “eye of the needle” that He was talking about. There isn’t one, though. Another is that there was a miscopy by a scribe and a similar word to Greek for “camel” is one that means “rope.” No improvement there…

Another misinterpretation is that God hates His people being rich, so being rich means you can’t go to heaven. Since He wasn’t talking about going to Heaven (He didn’t invite the young man to Heaven, but to the Kingdom…) this one is irrelevant.

The “Spirit Filled Life Bible” says that “The Jew saw wealth as a mark of God’s favor and thought it inconceivable that riches would be a hindrance to kingdom life. Jesus shows the fallacy of such a view and uses it to teach through exaggeration that it is impossible for one who trusts in riches to enter heaven. Human achievement cannot attain salvation; only God has the power to bestow it.” Same mistake…

The young man wanted eternal life. Jesus offered him immediate life. If Jesus had been answering the question as it was asked, instead of the question that should have been asked, He would not have given the answer, “If you want to go to heaven, give away all your stuff and you will be saved.”

Just as Jesus directed Nicodemus when he came to Him in the time recorded by John 3, He answers us with what we need to be asking when we approach Him. His response to the ruler was to confirm to him that the law came with a blessing of life, but now the Kingdom is available to you as a higher calling. Keep your treasure for later by giving it away, and don’t value anything more than obeying me as a King.

 

Entering the Kingdom, or Going to Heaven 2

“But what do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘My son, go, work in the vineyard today.’

“He answered, ‘I don’t want to!’ Yet later he changed his mind and went. Then the man went to the other and said the same thing.

“‘I will, sir,’ he answered. But he didn’t go.

“Which of the two did his father’s will?”

“The first,” they said.

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you!
(Matthew 21:28-31from Holman Christian Standard Bible® © 2005 by Holman Bible Publishers)

The parable Jesus told was about obedience. His instruction to the chief priests and elders in verse 31 was based on their correct answer to His question in verse 31: “Which son did His father’s will?”

He informed them that it was by their obedience to God that prostitutes and treasonists were entering the Kingdom of Heaven. He was not talking about going to Heaven when they died. That access had not been purchased with His blood yet, and when that did happen, was the only access.

As He informed some people who called the Holy Spirit “Beelzebub” in Luke 11, the Kingdom had already come to them (vs. 20). Entering it was possible through hearts that were surrendered to the will of God.

 

Entering the Kingdom, or Going to Heaven

Being confused about the nature and of the manifestations of the Kingdom of Heaven, many have effectively closed the doors of the Kingdom to those who want to enter it. By not having knowledge that could open the doors, they have left them closed and hidden.

Jesus promised a curse of woes to lawyers who were doing this in Luke 11:52.

Issues related to the future include whether I will live eternally in the blessing of Jesus’ presence, whether I will receive reward or judgement for the manner of life I have lived in the earth, whether I will be involved in the business of ruling in the Kingdom of Heaven with Jesus, what my work with regard to building the Church produces when it is tested by fire, and whether my mission as a servant of God in my time on the earth earns a “Well done” from my King.

Some of these are related to identity and life, and some are related to work. Learn the keys to these truths so that you are unlocking doors to people around you.

The answers are in the Book. Its an open-Book test.

The Congregation in the Real World

Disciplines, or, as John Wesley would call them, “means of grace,” are activities (or refrains from action in some cases) that can put us in a position or a condition in which the Holy Spirit can work in us and/or for us more easily or more deeply. They can help us focus or communicate (both speaking and listening) by insulating us or preparing us for an exchange with God.

They include fasting, prayer, quietness, fellowship, reading the Bible, studying the Bible, memorizing the Bible, prophesying the Bible, meditating on the Bible, serving people, and much more. One discipline is becoming connected to a congregation.

Being a “member” of a congregation is not a requirement for pleasing God. Being an effective “member” of the Body of Christ could be a very different position to be in, though. Having my name on the roll of a local congregation doesn’t change anything about my eternal future. Having my name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life does.

Discovering your calling, identifying your Spiritual gift, and being in strong, committed relationship with people with whom you accomplish your ministry is very important. Not just for your own spiritual health, but so that you are in position to add your ministry to the Body. It is by every part (member) doing its part that the Body is built up in love (Ephesians 4:15,16).

Thinking only at congregational level is usually the environment that creates self-centeredness with regard to resources, and control of lives. That doesn’t mean being part of a congregation is bad. Having your thoughts, plans, values, influences and commitments limited to that arena is likely to stunt your growth and effectiveness.

Thinking of the Body and thinking of the future and thinking of birthing new ministries and congregations is a big enough mindset to keep us from becoming pitiful little clubs that control their members and live off them with little effect in the earth. Thinking at a Kingdom of Heaven invading the earth level will help the Body find her purposes in each place where she manifests.

The Body is the Family, and the Kingdom is the Family Business.

Who Are You Mad At?

A woman was in my office this week who was dependent on county-funded, chartered transportation. She was brought from a nursing home in a van, and the van driver left to go deliver others elsewhere.

When she called for a pickup service to take her back to the home, she was not satisfied with the van that was sent, so she refused to accept the ride. She spent the next 2 hours trying to get other customers or employees to give her a ride back to the facility where she lives.

She was angry with the van company for sending the wrong service, but she was abusing everyone within reach with curses and demands that they serve her.

Paul said that our warfare is with powers, principalities, and the rulers over the world. James said that we are fighting with each other. We are still fighting with each other, because we can’t agree on who our enemies are or what they look like. The emergence of a common enemy has frequently caused feuding factions to be welded into a victorious force that eliminates the enemy.

Deep darkness is coming on the earth. As it grows, the Spirit of the Lord will become a Spirit of unity and love among us in ways that cause us to recognize the works of our enemies and to lay down our lives for the sake of the cross and the Lord.

Isaiah 60:1-7    – The Glory of the House

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord shines over you.
For look, darkness covers the earth,
and total darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will shine over you,
and His glory will appear over you.

Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your radiance.
Raise your eyes and look around:
they all gather and come to you;
your sons will come from far away,
and your daughters will be carried on the hip.
Then you will see and be radiant,
and your heart will tremble and rejoice,
because the riches of the sea will become yours,
and the wealth of the nations will come to you.

Caravans of camels will cover your land—
young camels of Midian and Ephah—
all of them will come from Sheba.
They will carry gold and frankincense
and proclaim the praises of the Lord.
All the flocks of Kedar will be gathered to you;
the rams of Nebaioth will serve you
and go up on My altar as an acceptable sacrifice.
I will glorify My beautiful house.

(from Holman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © Holman Bible Publishers.)

The Strength to Obey

You can’t become a disciple of Jesus without being disciplined. If that seems too harsh, or too inconsiderate of possibilities, change the format to the one James used: “Show me your faith without works.”; show me a disciple who found themselves in the position of being one by some path other than discipline.

Discipline and disciple are forms of the same idea. Discipline has many meanings, though. It is used to describe self-control, imposed control, punishment, a system of thought, a process for making a student or follower more mature in a fellowship or other order, and more.

If you want to be a mature disciple of Jesus, He is leading you through a process of becoming. The process includes powerful influences – both those that enable and change you into His likeness, and those that resist pain and work and change and surrender.

Learn what your weaknesses are and find how He wants to use or eliminate them. It could be either… Learn what His strengths are, and which He wants to work in you, and which He wants to leave you dependent on His presence to provide. It could be either…

The dangerous environments of trusting Him completely, surrendering your future and your possessions to Him completely, and being frequently led to obey without complete revelation of the costs or details are the absolutely best places to find His discipline, and His power to obey Him and to  be changed into His likeness.

It is God Who works in you both to want to do what He wants you to do, and to become able to do what He calls you to do. Your surrender to that work pleases Him and makes you fruitful (Philippians 2:12,13).

Discerning The Word of the Lord

The boy Samuel served the Lord in Eli’s presence. In those days the word of the Lord was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread.
1 Samuel 3:1

Now Samuel had not yet experienced the Lord, because the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
1 Samuel 3:7

Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let nothing he said prove false. All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear in Shiloh, because there He revealed Himself to Samuel by His word.  And Samuel’s words came to all Israel.
1 Samuel 3:19-4:1

Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: “I regret that I made Saul king, for he has turned away from following Me and has not carried out My instructions.” So Samuel became angry and cried out to the Lord all night.
1 Samuel 15:10,11

Then Samuel said: Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?

Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has rejected you as king.

Saul answered Samuel, “I have sinned. I have transgressed the Lord’s command and your words. Because I was afraid of the people, I obeyed them. Now therefore, please forgive my sin and return with me so I can worship the Lord.”

Samuel replied to Saul, “I will not return with you. Because you rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”
1 Samuel 15:22-26      (from Holman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © Holman Bible Publishers.)

The phrase “the word of the LORD” is used in these passages as if it is something of substance, that could be the power in a battery or some stuff in a box. The word, “word” (Strongs Hebrew #1697 is translated many different ways in the 1441 times it appears in the Old Testament. From “acts” to “words” to “things” to “questions” and more. It is “words” in 1 Samuel 4:1 regarding Samuel’s words, which were heard in all Israel.

When it spoke of the word of Yahweh, it became powerful and influential. It was rare, but it became revealed to Samuel. Yahweh Himself was revealed to Samuel by it. When Saul rejected it, He was rejected by it. When he was disconnected from it, Samuel was disconnected from him. Samuel never visited Saul again, until Saul used witchcraft to raise him from Sheol.

The word of Yahweh is available to us. It is at work to influence and empower us. It is in Scriptures. It is sometimes among the words of unbelievers (John 11:50-52). The Pharisees had His words memorized, but could not use them to recognize His Word when He stood before them and spoke to them. They rejected His Word.

His word holds your future. It makes you able to access the future that Yahweh desires for you. Don’t reject it.

Til Your Warfare is Accomplished

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
KJV

The prophecy through Isaiah that a time would come when it would be announced that Israel’s time of waiting for Messiah was over was described as her warfare being accomplished. That’s King James English. Other translations render it “time of servitude,” “time of service,” or that Jerusalem had “served her sentence.”

It maybe sounds like “saw-baw” in Hebrew, and is part of the much-used name “Yahweh-Sabaoth,” the Commander of the Hosts of Heaven. It frequently implies an army that is standing, waiting, or preparing for its purpose.

You are being prepared. You are standing on days, waiting for your purpose to be revealed, or realized. Some days you are in a furnace of preparation, wondering if you will ever be done being transformed into what He sees as the perfected you. James advises you to let Patience have her perfect work in you, so that you can be perfect, and complete, and not lacking in anything (James 1:2-8).

Don’t be influenced by the people who would say “never pray for patience.” Those who avoid the preparation also miss the completion of their warfare. They miss something of the Prize for which the battles are fought.

Seek every fruit of His Spirit – every facet of His character – to make it yours. Ask for it; knock on every door and event behind which it hides; seek it as if your destiny depended on finding it. Til your warfare is accomplished.

It Is Written

Jesus never quoted the New Testament.

Jesus Himself is, however, the Word of God. In that capacity, He is FAR more than the poems and letters and histories and prophecies that were written down and canonized (after much argument) into what we call the Holy Book (“bible”).

Paul said that all we need in order to become believers in Jesus is in the Old Testament: “…from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) He added in the next sentence: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” He did not have the New Testament in mind when he wrote that.

I am not suggesting that we do not need what is written in the New Testament, nor that it isn’t a valuable gift from God. I am suggesting that if we had to choose between the Word Himself, revealed by His Spirit, and any book, including the Holy one, we would be wise to choose the Lord of the Book.

Some would argue that we don’t have to choose. On days, when we need answers that are not given in the Book, such as where to minister, with whom, whom to marry, which job to take, when to leave, etc, etc, etc, we will not do well without the Holy Breath of God. Depending on His leadership is dangerous. We could misunderstand, or not hear, or be afraid to stand or to move forward. We could make bad mistakes. That seems to be the design He likes having given us.

The Holy Spirit can lead us into all truth. Many believers (none of whom owned a New Testament and few of whom owned any parts of the Old Testament) turned their worlds upside down or around in the first few hundred years after the Holy Spirit was poured out in His people. I have met many people who have memorized the words of the Book, but do not yet seem to have met the Word of the Lord.

Be filled. Be awesome!

Unpardonable

Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and unable to speak was brought to Him. He healed him, so that the man could both speak and see. And all the crowds were astounded and said, “Perhaps this is the Son of David!”

When the Pharisees heard this, they said, “The man drives out demons only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.”

Knowing their thoughts, He told them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, who is it your sons drive them out by? For this reason they will be your judges. If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you. How can someone enter a strong man’s house and steal his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house. Anyone who is not with Me is against Me, and anyone who does not gather with Me scatters. Because of this, I tell you, people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the one to come.
Matthew 12:22-32 (from Holman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © Holman Bible Publishers.)

What could be more dangerous than doing something so wrong that I couldn’t be forgiven for it?

Jesus was brought a man who could not see or speak. His problems were caused by an unclean spirit that was abusing him. Matthew wrote of him that Jesus healed him. When Pharisees heard people wondering aloud if Jesus might be the “Son of David,” (Messiah), they answered, “The man drives out demons by Beelzebub – the ruler over the demons!” It seems that they could tell that a demon had been driven out of the man, facilitating the obvious healing.

Baal is a generic word that means something like “lord,” “master,” or in some cases, “husband.” Pretty sorry implication in some cases. In Phoenicia, it was used as a proper address for a god or gods, much like the Arabic word, “allah.” In Malaysia or Indonesia, believers rightly call Jesus or Yahweh “Allah.” Baal-Zebul was an insulting name for a god known in Ekron, a Philistine town, as the Lord of the Biting Flies.

Jesus responded to the insults of the Pharisees with information about how wrong it is to speak evil of the Holy Spirit. They could say anything against Jesus and be forgiven, but to speak blasphemy against the Holy Spirit isn’t forgivable. They were misidentifying a work that the Holy Spirit was doing as being done by an unclean spirit.

It is interesting that they chose that spirit to compare. Ahab (husband of the witch, Jezebel,) was succeeded as king by his son, who was named Ahaziah. He lasted for 2 years. Then, he was injured in a fall. He sent some of his servants with the command, “Go inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, if I will recover from this injury.”

The Holy Spirit sent Elijah to intercept the messengers with a message for Ahaziah: “‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?’ Therefore, this is what the Lord says: ‘You will not get up from your sickbed—you will certainly die.'” (2 Kings 1: the whole chapter is pretty awesome.)

Without revelation from the Holy Spirit about what He is doing, we are just not able to tell. Perhaps having the gift of discerning of spirits could help us, but even that is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Be very careful before looking at a worker of miracles, or a prophet, or any other supernatural manifestation, and presuming that it is simple and easy to decide what is happening. Even if God is using what we would call an unclean vessel to do a work or bring a word, to speak against Him falsely is exceedingly dangerous.

People speaking against certain styles of music, or dress, or works or words that they do not recognize or understand are frequently blaspheming the Holy One Who sent the worker or speaker. I don’t even want to know what the penalty for making that mistake is.