It is Time For a Revolution…

Revolution, offensive, breaking out with force, taking over, and battling the forces of evil. These words and phrases are so super-charged that they could be easily taken the wrong way by a variety of people, even those who are good and well-intentioned. As I discussed before, depending on the influences and biases that a person has or the lens through which a person views the world, it is possible for two people to view the same exact situation or scenario in a variety of ways.

One person could very easily read the words and teachings of Jesus and understand correctly that the best and highest way for the Kingdom of God to move forward is through a humble and submissive love that lays its life down for friend and enemy alike. Another could selectively read the words and teachings of Jesus and again, depending on the lens through which that person views the world, may believe that the best way for the Kingdom of God to move forward is through governments, politics, and maybe even force or violence.

Unfortunately we have seen this kind of gross misinterpretation throughout history and the damage it has done for the cause of Christ in the world. Groups of people have mobilized, supposedly in the name of Jesus, ready to take the Kingdom of God to the nations by physical force, or by making it the national religion, or by politicizing it among the populace, while completely missing the point of the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Again, the Kingdom that Jesus preached and lived out through His life was that of humility and a love that lays its life down for friend and enemy alike. The Kingdom of God only moves forward when it looks exactly like Jesus Christ. And, Jesus never lorded over people, but always came up from below people in service and love.

Political Kingdom?

Even the people sitting on a hillside two-thousand years ago listening to Jesus initially thought he was rallying the people for a physical and violent revolution. In fact, they very well may have thought they were joining the greatest military and political revolution in history! One can only imagine what it was like to be in the crowd that day. The pressure and tension had been building up from the bottom and was beginning to break through the surface. Energy and excitement must have been moving and pulsating throughout the crowd. The whispers and anticipation were palpable and flowing from person to person. Everyone wondered if it was really true that Jesus was announcing an overthrow of the Roman government.

Thousands of years of being pushed to the very bottom by kingdom after kingdom, ruler after ruler, and finally the time for upheaval and revolt had come. The One who God promised would deliver the people from the evil, pagan forces had come, and the time was approaching when the people would join Him and prepare to take up arms. If they were to establish their kingdom and overthrow the enemy, they believed it would be bloody. It would be violent. It would be the greatest struggle of which they had ever been a part.

And then Jesus actually began to preach about those who will join Him in His Kingdom struggle and how everything would be turned upside-down. The Kingdom message he delivered sounded like a great role-reversal. Those at the bottom of this world would be lifted up, and those at the top would be brought down. The people at the top who had been hard-hearted and tight-fisted would finally be put in their place. The people who had been crushed by the system and who had been oppressed for so long would be liberated.

The language of Jesus may have initially sounded like fighting words to the crowd that day. Jesus was drawing a line in the sand between the haves and have nots. The order of the world needed to change and Jesus was announcing that change was imminent. In modern political speak, it sounded as if Jesus was giving the crowd some red meat, or a message against the enemy that the crowd would want to hear so as to get them fired up.

Can you imagine sitting in that crowd and hearing these words of Jesus? If the world values accumulating, amassing, and hoarding possessions and great wealth while others are struggling to live a sustainable life, then they have already received their comfortable life and what they have will be taken away. If the world has more food than what it needs and is well-fed and over-indulgent while others are hungry, then their satisfaction and prosperity will be taken away. If the world is laughing, celebrating, and partying without giving any attention to those who are sad and mourning because of their affliction and plight, then their celebrating will turn to mourning for turning a blind eye to the brother and sister in their low position. If the world stands tall to receive the praise of men for their power, wealth, and accomplishment while those who are following the way of Jesus are insulted and rejected, then the world will experience sorrow for valuing those things that don’t last and for rejecting those things that are full of life right now. The words of Jesus smacked at the powerful and wealthy oppressors, while the poor, oppressed, mournful, and beat-down crowd that day could not get enough.

Jesus said that a person is blessed, or has received divine approval, for not imitating the way of the pagan world but by living righteously on earth. The blessed live in a way that does not make sense to the systems of the world. Those in the Kingdom of God are blessed for not having much, living simply, sharing their food and possessions with each other, trusting God for their provision, and celebrating the goodness and faithfulness of God. A Kingdom life looks like following the way of Jesus in every aspect of living.

The crowds must have loved what they were hearing. If there wasn’t shouting and cheering, then at least we can imagine thunderous applause. Jesus was beginning to turn the world upside-down! Those at the bottom of this world would be lifted up, and those at the top would be brought down. He was judging the enslaving and oppressive forces that had crushed and neglected the people for far too long. It was becoming more apparent each moment…the time was right for an uprising. The time was right for a revolt. The time was right for an overthrow of the pagan forces! The time was right to evict the Roman forces from their Promised Land! God’s governmental and political Kingdom would be finally and completely established!

The people believed they were being mobilized and energized to follow behind their Messiah to push back the occupying forces and to finally establish God’s political rule in the world.   Isn’t this what the prophets had prophesied about so long ago? God vindicating His chosen people? God crushing and defeating the pagan enemy forces? God re-establishing His Kingdom in Israel? The time was never better to retaliate and fight back against the enemy. And then, Jesus drops a massive bomb on the crowd.

But I say to you who hear:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. Luke 6: 27-38 ESV

The World Upside-Down

All of a sudden, the message of Jesus did not sound so much like someone leading a violent revolution or overthrowing the occupying forces. It didn’t even sound like the retaliatory eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth message that the crowd may have expected to hear. In fact, it probably sounded like a good way to continue being enslaved and crushed by the enemy. It sounded almost like a good way to stay in the same position they had been in for hundreds and hundreds of years. One wonders if some of the crowd that day would have slowly started making their way to the exits after hearing that. “Wait one second! We aren’t signing up for this mushy, good-for-nothing peacemaker stuff! We want justice! We want blood! We want revenge! We are ready to fight back and we thought you were going to lead the charge on this thing!”

Yet what the crowd heard was that Jesus wasn’t interested in creating another political or violent revolution to overthrow the occupying forces. That sort of thing had been done too many times by the earthly kingdoms and other self-proclaimed “messiahs,” and it never seemed to stop the cycle of violence. In fact, every violent revolution and every act of retaliation had always been met with more violence and more retaliation.

Allegiance

Jesus was calling His followers to adopt a new way of living that did not operate like the way the kingdoms of the world had always operated. He was calling them presently into a new Kingdom of complete transformation from the inside-out that would change the way they see, the way they think, and the way they would live their lives. He was calling them into a Kingdom in which the whole, healing, restorative ways of God would begin to piece back together the broken fragments of their lives and then work through them for the healing and restoration of others. Jesus was subverting and completely undercutting the political, retaliatory, eye-for-an-eye, tit-for-tat system the world had always known in order to establish God’s way of peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy, blessing, submission, and sacrificial love on earth. That is what He was calling His followers into- the Kingdom of God- right here, right now. And that is precisely what He is calling us into today.

But the way of Jesus, the way of the Kingdom of God, is lost and left untried by many of us within the Church. Instead we operate by and give our allegiance to the way of the kingdoms of the world in this matter instead of one King and one Kingdom. The truth is that whenever we do not understand the Kingdom that Jesus preached, the Kingdom that Jesus lived out, and the Kingdom that He continues to call His followers into, we are easily swayed by and give our allegiance to political ideologies, captivating leaders, celebrities, popular icons, and nationalistic kingdoms of the world. And when this happens, we operate and are governed by lesser value systems that compromise and undercut the value system of the Kingdom of God.

We live in a time when the allegiance to any kingdom of the world by the follower of Christ must change, and it is something that is long overdue. We have willingly been sucked into the political, nationalistic, and cultural games of our day without any hesitation. In doing so, we have compromised the very allegiance and identity we are to have only in Jesus Christ and His Kingdom by giving our allegiance to political ideologies and the interests of nation-states, and then assuming their identity, their values, and their character.

We have given our allegiance to man-made ideas and man-made governments that are as sturdy as sand. We fight, argue, defend, and spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and effort investing in those things to which we have given our allegiance. As a result, the profoundly sad and tragic truth is that we are significantly quicker to defend and fight for our life and liberty as citizens of our countries in the kingdoms of the world than we are to stand firm in our allegiance to Jesus Christ without compromising our identity in His Kingdom. Do you see the problem? We are the people sitting in the crowd that day listening to Jesus talk about the way we ought to live in the Kingdom of God, but instead of giving Him our full allegiance and following the way He calls us into, we scratch our heads and make our way to the exits. We believe it is too hard, or that it is good for Jesus but not us. All the while, the Kingdom way continues to be ignored and neglected. And being left untried, our allegiances remain mixed and our lives compromised. It continues to be a lonely pathway of the few, rather than the sacrificial pathway of the many.

The great tragedy of the Christian is that we want to have two lovers in the same bed at the same time, but there is only room for one. We want to chase, pursue, and work hard for one lover while the other lover jealously waits for our full fidelity. We consistently compromise our marriage vows to our faithful spouse while we rampantly pursue and seductively try to charm and tame the untamable whore. She cannot be tamed, and we are mistaken if we believe otherwise.

The Christian ought not to have allegiance to or affinity toward any ideological, political, or governmental system in the kingdoms of the world. The Scriptures state that there is great satanic power that works in the kingdoms of the world to oppress and destroy humanity and has been working to this end from the beginning of time. Any system in the world may fall prey to this destructive power. That does not mean we should not pray for our leaders or our governments to exemplify God’s justice and mercy in the world, but it does mean that we ought to be vigilant and stand guard against giving our allegiance to it. Our allegiance is to Lord Jesus and His Kingdom that extends the love, righteousness, justice, and mercies of God to the world. There is no other kingdom than can do that.

If history teaches us anything, it is that we ought to learn from our past so as to not make the same mistakes again. As such, history ought to give caution and pause to Christians who put their hope, faith, and trust in any ideological, political, or governmental system. The late Art Katz recounted the relationship and affinity German Jews had to the cultural, scientific, and economic development of Germany:

[We] were so deeply ensconced as Germans with a 2000-year tenure in Germany, though we were Jews…the fact of the matter was that we were more German than we were Jewish. And though the dark clouds gathered, we could not believe what they indicated. And we said, in that human way that does not want to recognize painful things, “This too shall pass.” The tragic thing was…it didn’t.

And who could have imagined that the land of Beethoven, Hegel, Nitsche, Schopenhauer, Gerda, and Schiller could be the land of the systematic annihilation of the Jewish people. It was inconceivable. And because the Jews were so taken up with the virtue of German civilization, they became its victim. They themselves had participated in the creation of the monster…and were instrumental in creating the very civilization that destroyed them.[i]

I do not want to insinuate that the situation of the Christian is in any way like the plight or suffering of the Jewish Holocaust victims. But this recounting should be a very appropriate caution and lesson for the Christian who has been instrumental and influential in the development of his or her country. It should further give us pause to the fact that, while we ought to only have one allegiance to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom, any time we give our allegiance to any kingdom of the world it could very well devour us, even if we were an instrumental part in its development. Do we not see that putting our faith in any political movement or governmental entity or any kingdom of the world, rather than the Kingdom of God, is ultimately a dead-end road?

We are told not to put our faith in those things of earth that can be shaken. Rather, we are called to put our complete trust in that which will never be shaken.[ii] So let us only give our allegiance to the King and the Kingdom that will never be shaken, and let us learn the secret of being content in any and all situations while demonstrating the love, justice, and mercies of God to the world.

The Kingdom of God

The Kingdom that Jesus preached and established was one that operated by a new set of values, a new way of thinking, a new way of being human. This Kingdom of God was like nothing the world had ever known or seen before. As such, Jesus was not preoccupied with fighting violently against the kingdoms of the world or the prevailing governmental or political order. Jesus wasn’t even preoccupied with trying to reform them. In fact, maybe to the shock of many in the audience that day, and maybe to you as well, He was not even preoccupied with trying to establish a new or different political or governmental system. He was certainly not trying to build up a bricks and mortar palace where He would rule from the top-down.

The Kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim would be established much differently than the kingdoms of the world, and it would not look like anything the world had ever seen because the people in this Kingdom would do everything opposite from the ways and workings of the world. It would be a grassroots, organic movement that changes the world from the bottom-up and from the inside-out, defying every bit of worldly wisdom in the process.

When the world hits you, do not retaliate but give the other cheek. When the world is weighing you down with heavy requests, don’t just go one mile with the request but go two miles. When the world takes everything you have, even the coat off of your back, don’t just give your coat but go even further by offering your shirt. When the way of the world harbors anger and holds grudges, be one who forgives your friends and your enemies alike. Don’t just forgive once, but forgive and forgive and forgive.

When the world is quick to respond and rip a person to shreds, be one who controls your anger and the words that come from your mouth. When the world devalues relationships and marriages, be one who looks to the interest of others, honors commitments, and always remains selfless. When the world looks out for and protects its own pursuits and interests to the detriment of others, be one who treats others as you would want to be treated yourself. When the world casts the stone of judgment at the sinner, be one who loves and stands beside every single person without judgment. When the world shuns the outcast and pushes him to the edges of society, be one who befriends the outcast and welcomes him back into loving and healing community.

When the world lords over you with power and authority, be one who serves with the utmost humility. When the world takes the seat of honor so it can be seen and noticed by everyone, be one who takes the seat of low-position in the back of the room. When the world puts on a show of being pure and good but is corrupt at the very core, be one who is pure from the inside and let it work out through your life. When the world continues in the ways of injustice and is merciless to the least in society, be one who stands for the least and for those who cannot defend themselves by demanding justice and mercy.

When the world fights and wars among themselves, be one who always stands on the side of peace no matter the situation and no matter the circumstance. When the world insults, ridicules, and curses you, be one who blesses in return. When the evil of the world assaults you, be the one who does not resist the evil. And when the world beats you, spits upon you, and is preparing to crucify you, continue on the way of forgiveness and self-sacrificial love.

That is the Kingdom of God! That is the treasure of great riches that the world so desperately needs. That is the pearl of great value for which we sell everything we have in order to attain it. That is what will spread like an infection, a mustard seed, yeast in the dough if the world would ever hear it and see it put into practice by a transformed people. That is the in-breaking of heaven into the house that has been held hostage for far too long. That is the occupation, proclamation, task, and obsession of the follower of Christ in the vineyard of the world!

The Kingdom of God is the full-on reign of God in the hearts and minds of those who believe in the way, life, and teachings of Jesus. The Kingdom of God is embodied by those who have died to the old, tired, and worn-out ways of the world, and who have been made new by the working and empowering of the Spirit of God in order to bring heaven on earth, while awaiting and anticipating the return of Christ as Lord at the renewal of all things!!!

The Kingdom of God is what a life looks like when God reigns in and through a person here on earth in every single thought, action, attitude, situation, or scenario. It looks like an invasion from heaven into the strongholds of a person’s life, a cleaning out of the house, a light breaking through into the darkness, and a constant and continual in-breaking of heaven through one’s life into the world. It is a Kingdom that reigns in the hearts and minds of people, not through the political, governmental, bureaucratic, religious, institutional brick and mortar systems of the world. The Kingdom of God will never come through those systems because they will all pass away one day.

That is why Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is not something that can be seen or observed. It is not visible with the eye. In fact, people will not be able to say, “Here it is,” or “There it is,” because the Kingdom of God is within the hearts and minds of those who follow the way, life, and teachings of Jesus.[iii] In this way, the Kingdom of God can not be conquered, destroyed, or defeated, but it continues to grow larger and to spread from person to person all throughout the world.   There is not a savage, a soldier, a maniac, a terrorist, or a world army on the face of this planet that can pin it down or extinguish it because it is growing, it is spreading and it is all consuming. The Kingdom of God is breaking into our world like an infection to displace the kingdoms of the world and to establish the reign of God, through and through, in the hearts, minds, and lives of people who are like Jesus in everything we do. And, it is this Kingdom to which we are being called right now.

Revolution of Love

The offensive that the follower of Jesus undertakes is one of revolutionary love. It is the kind of love that looks like Jesus Christ in every situation, good and bad, even to the point that it may cost us our lives. Yes, you read that correctly, even to the point of costing your life! Let me be clear again, the Kingdom of God never moves forward violently, but only through selfless, sacrificial love. It is love put on display in such a selfless and radical way that it lays itself down for friends and enemies alike.

If one hundred Christians were asked if they agree with the teaching of Jesus to love their enemies, each one of them would agree with it. Yet when it comes to actually loving their enemies in real life, far fewer agree. I sent a good friend of mine a text message recently that read, “It is only when one has decided he can lay down his life for his enemy that he can be called a Christian. Consequently, there are few Christians in our churches.” In response my friend texted, “Lay down their lives for their enemies? Most ‘Christians’ would not lay down their sandwich.” This kind of poignant truth is disheartening.

I was at a business meeting recently in Chicago. One evening I went to a Mexican restaurant with some of my business colleagues. After a really good dinner and conversation we began our trek back to the hotel. My three colleagues were in deep conversation about guns and firing ranges. Since I didn’t have much to offer to the conversation I spaced out and started thinking about other things. That was until one of the men started talking about how he carries a concealed weapon to church service each week. He went on to say that his church recently implemented security measures for their church services. At any one time there are at least three people…with guns…at their church service! Can you imagine the early Church, during a time in which they suffered the greatest violence, abandoning the way of Christ by picking up arms for fear of their lives at their church service!? The main reason why we as Christian can demonstrate the self-sacrificial love of Christ to the world is because we do not have to fear death!   The cross that Christ would have us bear for each person in the world is love. It is a love that lays down its life for both friend and enemy.

But again, according to the so-called wisdom of the world and unfortunately many within our churches, the approach of non-retaliation and sacrificial love is a failed strategy. In the way that the world system operates, it does not work or make sense. Even further, you will not find one book in the world on fighting, modern warfare, or the art of war that would ever suggest such a ridiculous strategy for the defeat of an enemy. In the wisdom of the world, self-sacrificial love will always result in defeat.

The fact of the matter is, however, that this strategy has been tried at least one time, and it worked brilliantly. It is precisely and exactly that strategy and model to which Jesus has called each of us. The follower of Jesus should live such an uncompromising life in the Kingdom of God that not even the threat of death itself will shake this Kingdom. Love will always, always, always prevail in a Kingdom life, even and most especially when it is face to face with death itself. Love always wins. Love is always victorious. Love never fails. Preach it!

So why should it surprise the Christian that self-sacrificial love is exactly in line with the rest of this revolutionary, upside-down Kingdom that Jesus announced? The cross, representing the ugliest, most hateful, and barbaric form of human suffering and punishment was completely turned upside-down through the humble submission and self-sacrificial love of Jesus Christ to become the greatest symbol of humble submission and self-sacrificial love this world has ever witnessed! People do not wear the crucifix around their necks because it represents barbaric torture. They wear it because it has come to represent the greatest sacrifice of love ever demonstrated in a human life! It is the way of Jesus Christ. It is the way of the Kingdom of God. And, it is our way if we follow Jesus Christ and extends His Kingdom.

But the way of Jesus, once again, is left untried because it doesn’t make sense to us. From our limited human perspective, we have been convinced that it is good for Jesus but not for us, His followers. I have news for you: it is the only way that the forces of evil, hatred, and death can be undermined and defeated once and for all; it is through humble and self-sacrificial love demonstrated through our lives for the world to see. The same power that raised this Jesus to life is the same exact power we have been given to extend the Kingdom of God over and against the powers and principalities of evil! So what do we have to fear?

It is only through that kind of power and that kind of love that evil, hatred, violence, and even death will once and for all be completely exhausted. Self-sacrificial love cannot be extinguished, pressed down, crushed, or defeated, and the forces of evil will never find victory precisely because of that. For it was in the greatest moment of sacrificial love the world has ever seen that death prematurely proclaimed the greatest victory, and then met its greatest defeat. Death lost its sting when it was triumphed by resurrection! It is in the resurrection that those who put their faith in Jesus have the assurance that death is only a moment of sleep until we are resurrected to new life, receiving resurrection bodies that will never perish again. The Christian can move forward in confidence that death does not win, only love does. That is the reason we move forth only in love.

It is now that the salvation and power of the Kingdom of God through the authority of Jesus Christ has come! The great treasure of the Kingdom of God has been found, unearthed, and opened for all to see! The adversary who accuses the children of God both day and night, who has been hurled down, and he who has enslaved all of God’s good creation to sin and death has been defeated and is gasping for his final breath. The enemy is overcome by the blood of Jesus Christ and by the very testimony of the followers of Jesus, the new creation people, the Body of Christ! And we do not love our lives so much as to shrink away from death![iv] Praise God!

Peace…

Brandon

You just finished reading the eighth chapter of Unearthed: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World.

To read additional chapters:

Chapter 1- The Voice of God

Chapter 2- The Time Has Come

Chapter 3- This, My Friends, is Why the Church is Dying

Chapter 4- One Story That Will Change Your Mind About Faith

Chapter 5- A Better Narrative: How This Will Change You and Your Church

Chapter 6- Year of the Lord’s Favor

Chapter 7- The Movement That Will Change the World

If you are interested in receiving the accompanying study guide for Unearthed, put a request in the comment section below.

In celebrating 5 years since writing my first book, I will be posting a new chapter each week from Unearthed: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World.  You can still get the book for free on iTunes here or you can buy it on Amazon here.

 

[i]   Katz, Arthur. The Mystery of Israel and the Church. Used by permission Art Katz Ministries.

[ii]    Hebrews 12: 25-29.

[iii]   Luke 17: 20-21.

[iv]   This passage was influenced by Revelation 12: 10-11.

The Movement That Will Change the World…

It spreads like an infection or a virus. The smallest part can work its way through the entire system. It doesn’t happen by simple addition. It multiplies and multiplies and multiplies until it has fully, and finally, taken over. It is an invasion of something that breaks in from the outside and then completely takes over.

It may even be understood as a small seed that turns into an invasive plant. All it takes is for the seed to take root and then it grows into a large plant that is wild, spreading out of control. It starts off insignificant and unassuming, but then becomes extraordinarily invasive, taking over everything in its path. It towers upward and then spreads outward, growing profusely, replicating, and preventing anything else around it from taking root.[i]

Some may even understand it as yeast that is put into a batch of dough. All it takes is for the single-cell of yeast to be put in a moist environment and fed some sugar for it to begin multiplying rapidly. It doesn’t take long for this small amount of yeast to multiply and spread until it is completely worked through the dough.[ii]

These images capture the essence of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is an invasion. It is an infection. It is one small part breaking into the larger system, disrupting it, and taking it over. It is that which is with-out, breaking with-in our time/space reality and progressively and completely transforming it. It is heaven breaking into the created order and destroying the works of Satan until heaven and earth are finally joined together as one at the coming together, the consummation of all things at the return of Jesus Christ.

The Kingdom of God comes to life in Jesus. It is Jesus breaking into the kingdoms of the world, disrupting them by embodying the Kingdom of God with His life, death, and resurrection so His followers, who look and act like Him in everything they do, can continue to spread this Kingdom infection through their words and actions. The sole purpose of this invasive and offensive action by Jesus is to displace the ways, workings, and conventions of the kingdoms of the world with the Kingdom of God. It is God’s plan through Jesus Christ and the working of His Spirit to renew, heal, mend, and restore that which is fractured and broken by the devastating effects of sin. It is an offensive action to turn the kingdoms of the world completely upside-down, turning hate to love, violence to peace, injustice to justice, weeping to joy, fear to faith, and self-centeredness to selfless sacrifice.

The invasion of the Kingdom of God in Jesus is a full-on assault and overthrow of Satan and the powers and principalities of evil in this world, so as to establish the Reign of God throughout the entire created order. This Kingdom invasion is a complete toppling and overthrow of a rogue, fly-by-night kingdom that has worn out its welcome. It is a new reality that has broken into the tired, old, worn-out, predictable ways of the world and is replacing them with a new and higher way that offers love, healing, hope, and life to the fullest.

Quite literally, it is heaven breaking into every dimension of our world like an infection, like an invasive plant that is taking over and growing wildly, like yeast that is multiplying and multiplying and multiplying until it has worked its way through the entire batch. It is the in-breaking and uniting of that which had been separated and fragmented. It is the great marriage, the great uniting, the great consummation of the two, heaven and earth becoming one. It began in Jesus Christ and continues in you.

Sheep Pens

Even further, the Kingdom of God can be understood as a shepherd who brings together his flock in a pasture and constructs an ancient sheep-pen made of large rocks that encircle the entire flock of sheep. When it is time to let the sheep out of the pen, the shepherd removes a few rocks and passes through the opening before the sheep.The sheep then begin rushing through the opening, violently breaking out of the pen through the small open space, anticipating their freedom. They cannot escape from the sheep pen fast enough. The sheep break forth out of the small opening running into the freedom that the Shepherd has given them. The Shepherd creates a breach for the sheep and the sheep break out with great force and power. That is what the Kingdom of God is like. The follower of Jesus is like a sheep that breaks through the barriers and limitations of the kingdoms of the world, and runs forcefully behind the way of Jesus the Shepherd, who created the breach, so as to advance the Kingdom of God.[iii]

A follower of Jesus is an invader of every nook and cranny, every pocket, every square inch of hell on earth, taking it over and reclaiming it for heaven and taking back what is rightfully God’s. And this invasion reminds us of the most simple prayer of Jesus, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Yes, on earth as it is in heaven. Let the two become one. Let us be the means through which heaven begins its invasion of the kingdoms of the world.

Offensive Action

The Kingdom of God is an invasion, a securing, and a reclaiming. It is not a defensive stance, but an offensive movement. It is not a group of people sitting around behind the walls of a church cowering in fear that the world is going to hell-in-a-hand-basket. It is not a bunch of people doubting or second-guessing what they ought to be doing in their lives or worrying about what other people think of their Kingdom lives. It is not a group of religious people sitting around a table voting whether or not God is in something or not, trying to determine if it makes logical or financial sense, or trying to hype something up for the amusement of their church. It is not a group of people satisfied with showing up at church on Sunday and then checking it off the list.

We do not realize the power of God that works through each of us as His people to destroy the works of Satan and extend His Kingdom. To make my point, if I asked you how Satan and the powers and principalities are defeated, you would quickly answer by saying, “By the blood of Jesus Christ through His death and the power of His resurrection.” If I suggested that there was more to it than that, you may call me a heretic. But look at what John writes in the twelfth chapter of Revelation:

Now have come the salvation and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. Revelation 12: 11

Can you imagine that! We join in on the offensive march against the Adversary and the oppressive forces of evil. Our testimonies of how Jesus Christ brought us out of slavery and captivity and into the glorious freedom of His Kingdom actually works to defeat the Accuser and to bring more people out of the kingdoms of the world and into His Kingdom. We are a group of people who have mobilized behind Jesus the Liberator, embodying and advancing the freedom of the Kingdom of God. We are those who are transformed by the redemptive work of God through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, and then who break out of captivity in power, invading the entire house and ransacking the kingdoms of the world for heaven. The gates of hell will not stand because these Kingdom people are on the offensive march and are bent on breaking down every stronghold and reclaiming what is rightfully God’s through our words, our lives, and our all.[iv]

Sent for the Kingdom

The preaching and living out of the Kingdom of God was the purpose for which Jesus was sent.   He said it himself. As he was traveling throughout Galilee healing people and driving out the many demons that were afflicting, enslaving, and oppressing the people, the crowds continued to follow him. But when he began to leave for another town, the crowds protested his leaving. To this Jesus responded, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”[v]

The purpose for which Jesus was sent into the world was to preach and live out the Kingdom of God! To announce that the invasion has been initiated and it looks like His way and His life in everything we do! To announce that the greatest revolt in history is underway and those who join the revolution look like their leader in every single thought, action, and deed. To announce that God’s Kingdom has broken into the kingdoms of the world and it is overthrowing and replacing them with a new and higher way. To announce that the powers and principalities of evil have been defeated and the Reign of God has been initiated. To announce that the blind will finally see, the enslaved will be free, the debt will be paid, and the land will be reclaimed. To announce that all who have faith in Him will be empowered to extend the Kingdom of God throughout the world. To announce that the so-called wisdom and ways of the kingdoms of the world have been turned completely upside-down and replaced with the wisdom and ways of God. And this Kingdom is not just staying in one place. It is on the move. It is on the march. It is growing. It is spreading. It is infecting every person in every city and town around the world, and there is not one person, one group of people, or any one government or institution that can stop it! And we are the means through which God is extending it in the world!   Praise God!

A Revolution

I am going to step on all of our toes here, including mine, but each one of us in the Church must understand that Jesus was not sent to create a cute little religion. He wasn’t sent to establish a group of “holier than thou” or self-righteous people. He wasn’t sent to start a country club with benefits for every member. He wasn’t sent to originate a fluffy, feel-good, superficial entertainment center that has to feed the world with sweet sugar puffs. He wasn’t sent for a group of people who say that they love Him but spend their time being lazy, apathetic, self-focused, and superficial. He wasn’t sent so that the religious argue, bicker, and divide over the exact interpretation of Scripture. He wasn’t even sent to fight culture wars against so-called “enemies.” All of that cheapens and waters down the central purpose of Jesus.

Jesus was sent to announce the greatest revolution in the history of the world and we have been invited to continue the revolution by following the charge of the leader! The people who are joining this revolution, who are spreading the infection, look, act, and behave like the one who is leading the charge.

Gone are the days of simply saying, “Yeah, well that is Jesus and we are not Jesus so we can’t be expected to live like him.” That is a lie straight from the pit of hell that we have believed for far too long. An idea like that is death. Yes, we are sinners saved by the grace of God, but we have been brought from slavery and into freedom by Jesus who paid the highest price for it. We have been renewed, transformed, and empowered by the very Holy Spirit of God to be the very Body of Jesus in the world today! The same God that created our entire existence from nothing and moves in the most mighty and miraculous ways ever known to mankind has given unspectacular YOU His power! We have been given the fresh breath of the Spirit and have been made into the new creation people who take up our crosses daily to follow the way of Christ in order to bring heaven on earth![vi]

We are the infected…spreading the Kingdom infection throughout the entire body of the world. We are the mustard seeds planted in the garden that are taking over the entire garden. We are the yeast working our way through the entire batch of dough…multiplying and expanding. So put away your cheap excuses, your tired arguments, and your helpless attitudes and join the KINGDOM REVOLUTION of those who are becoming the Body of Christ in the world today, destroying the works of Satan and bringing the Reign of God here and now in great anticipation of the fullness of the Kingdom of God at Christ’s return! And the Spirit cries out, “Rise, rise Body! Awaken from your sleep! Rise from the dead and come to Life!”

Peace…

Brandon

 

You just finished reading the seventh chapter of Unearthed: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World.

To read additional chapters:

Chapter 1- The Voice of God

Chapter 2- The Time Has Come

Chapter 3- This, My Friends, is Why the Church is Dying

Chapter 4- One Story That Will Change Your Mind About Faith

Chapter 5- A Better Narrative: How This Will Change You and Your Church

Chapter 6- Year of the Lord’s Favor

Chapter 8- It is Time For a Revolution

If you are interested in receiving the accompanying study guide for Unearthed, put a request in the comment section below.

In celebrating 5 years since writing my first book, I will be posting a new chapter each week from Unearthed: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World.  You can still get the book for free on iTunes here or you can buy it on Amazon here.

 

[i]   Luke 13: 18-19.

[ii]   Luke 13: 20.

[iii]   In his book Jesus the Jewish Theologian Brad Young contends that Matthew 11: 12 was rooted in the understanding of Micah 2: 12-13 and can be more accurately translated as, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of [God] breaks forth and those breaking forth are pursuing [seeking] it.” The imagery of the Kingdom breaking out like sheep in a sheep pen led by the King was rooted in the Micah 2 passage.

[iv]   The best translation of Matthew 16: 18 is from The Message which describes the Church as an offensive movement that is, “so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.” Gates are defensive structures not offensive weapons. The gates of hell will not stand because the Church is breaking down every strong hold.

[v]   Luke 4:43.

[vi]   2 Corinthians 5: 17.

Year of the Lord’s Favor…

Can you imagine running into your home, grabbing the thief, and then right before you get ready to tie him up he says, “I’ll tell ya what, here’s the deal. Even though I broke into your home and am having my way with it, I will let you have your home back. But there is a catch. I will run this house my way and you will have to serve me and operate by my rules.”

Tweaking our previous story a little, I am sure that we all can quickly agree that a scenario like that is just insane. It doesn’t make any sense. In fact, it is completely counter-intuitive to everything that we think and know. Why would your home now belong to a thug who just recently broke in, ransacked the place, and took your family captive? How ridiculous, audacious, and implausible would it be for the thug to offer to let you and your family still live there? Even more, how unbelievable would it be for the thug to have the nerve to suggest that you and your children need to serve him and operate by his rules! The house is still your home. Your children are still your children. The best thing that could happen is for you to evict the fool, set your children free, and get your home back in order.

Confrontation

If that story sounds familiar at all, it should. In a dramatic confrontation right before Jesus began his public ministry, the adversary approached Jesus at the end of his forty-day fast and tempted him.[i] In one of the more peculiar, and in our case insightful exchanges, Satan led Jesus to a very high place and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. And to Jesus he said, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I please. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” In other words, “If you serve me and follow my rules, I will let you have your house back.”

I am sure that if you are like me you would have a few things to say to this trespasser, thief, kidnapper, and ransacker. I can think of a few hundred things that I might say, and some of them aren’t very nice! But despite this ridiculous offer, which was woven with the lie that it has all been given to Satan and he can give it to anyone he pleases, Jesus calmly responds, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”  It is as if Jesus, with such a short and simple response, knows something that the adversary doesn’t know. It is almost like He is thinking, “You are already defeated and you don’t even know it. You have been operating on borrowed time. I’m about ready to tie you up, turn this world upside down, release all of the prisoners and captives, and put this thing back in order! You have no idea what is coming. I am like the Trojan horse breaking into enemy-occupied territory and unleashing the most subversive counter-attack in the history of the world against you!” Don’t you love it?

Jesus doesn’t spend time arguing with him, which may be a great lesson for all of us, about whose home it really is or who was there first. He simply replies, “Worship God and serve Him only.” And it is with that one statement that the proverbial “line in the sand” was drawn. Either we worship you or we worship God. Either we serve you or we serve God. It is either your way or God’s way. We can either be citizens in your kingdom or in God’s Kingdom. There’s no straddlin’, no half-steppin’, and no dual allegiance in this place. We can’t have one foot in one kingdom and another foot in the Kingdom of God. The battle line has been drawn and it is now time to choose sides. In Jesus, the rescue operation was initiated. The enslaved created order that had been broken into and held hostage was being reclaimed and set free. The reign of Satan was being confronted and overthrown by the Reign of God. Every kingdom of the world was being confronted and overthrown by the Kingdom of God. The entire working order of the fallen world was about to be turned completely upside down by a new Kingdom.

Announcement

But how do you notify those around you that you are the long awaited Messiah, the Anointed One who is about to turn the world upside-down? I am just curious. How do you announce that you have been sent to set the captives free and to make the blind see, anyway? If you are going to make a big announcement like that, you may want to do it in the biggest way possible, you know, on a big day with a lot of important people around. At least that is my thinking.

Making a big announcement usually sends people buzzing and talking about it for quite some time. News cycles run big announcements over and over and over until they are sure they have covered every possible angle of a story. People talk about and debate big announcements at the water cooler at work and at the local pubs. In the United States we go into an absolute frenzy when a person simply announces his or her intention to run for president!   So you can imagine a Jewish man taking center stage in a Jewish synagogue, sitting in front of the respected Jewish religious leaders of the day, asking for a scroll and reading:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day.  Luke 4: 18-19, 21

If you had been sitting in the audience that day, as a good Jew, you would have understood the reading of those words much differently than you do now. As a Jew hearing that proclamation, you would have had a deep sense of expectation and excitement that Yahweh (God) was finally acting in history to liberate and vindicate your people, God’s holy and chosen people, against the foreign pagan oppressors and the idolatry that had been enslaving your people for so long.

No doubt you would have been sitting in the audience thinking about the faithfulness of Yahweh and everything that your ancestors had been through and what you and your family were currently going through. It had been a long and difficult journey, but could it be that Yahweh was finally sending the long-awaited Messiah to make things right, restore Israel, and bring justice throughout the land? Could it be that Yahweh was finally sending His Messiah to crush the foreign enemies that had been so heavy-handed toward your people? Could it be that Yahweh was finally acting decisively in history to rescue your people from their idolatrous ways so as to be their first and only love?

The announcement of Jesus would have sent your mind reeling, thinking back about Yahweh’s restoration plan through one faithful man, Abraham, and his family, who God said would outnumber the stars. You are a part of this family who was to be a blessing to all nations by being the image-bearers of God in the world, the bearers and extenders of God’s righteousness, mercy, and love. You are a part of a family who was given the task of putting the broken pieces of the world back together so as to restore the shalom (peace) of God among the nations and throughout the world. But your mind quickly shifts to think about how your people, the people of God’s promise, have suffered greatly at the hands of those who made God their enemy.

How terrible it was for our ancestors to be enslaved by the Egyptians, you think. But you also remember how Yahweh was faithful. Working through His servant Moses, Yahweh delivered the Israelites out of slavery, through the water, and into glorious freedom. And it was in that freedom that your people, the Israelites, received the law of God on Mount Sinai. It was the law given to your people to mold them and craft them into the likeness of Yahweh, in order to live out and extend God’s ways throughout the world.

Your mind quickly shifts to thinking about how many ups and downs your people had experienced in their faithfulness to Yahweh. The Israelites desperately wanted to have a king like the other nations, rather than having Yahweh as their only King. Despite a rocky start and their first king not working out so well, the great Golden Age in Israel was at its height during the reign of their second king, David, who obsessively chased after the very heart of Yahweh. All was good and right in the Kingdom of God under the kingship of David. The nation was strong, rich, and at peace.

If it wasn’t the ups and downs of your people continually turning from Yahweh, compromising righteousness and their holy identity while putting their trust in pagan idols, it was the continual enslavement to the foreign pagan oppressors. The Golden Age in Israel was a distant memory, and you could almost hear the haunting cries of your ancestors, “Yahweh, if we are your holy, chosen people who are to be a light among the nations then why are we continually enslaved and oppressed?” It was the recurring cry of a people under the weight of kingdom after kingdom: the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, and the Romans. The nation of Israel had been invaded, held captive, dispersed throughout many lands, and then returned to their land only to be under the weight of a new occupying force. The peace and prosperity that was once experienced for a short amount of time in their past was now a distant memory.

The past you know so well through the reading of Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, and the retelling of its stories does not seem so distant now. The ancient cries of your ancestors are the present cries of you and your people who are now under the tight fist of the Roman Empire. And, this empire is one of the most ruthless in history. Not only are the roads lined with dead bodies on crucifixes to remind you that Rome is in control, but nearly all of your income is taken from you in the form of tithe, tax, and tribute, leaving you and others frustratingly poor. You feel helplessly oppressed and enslaved. You hardly feel chosen. Maybe more like forgotten.

“Has Yahweh forgotten us? Will Yahweh ever give us a deliverer like Moses who will lead us out of captivity and into freedom once and for all? Will Yahweh ever again give us a king like King David who will once and for all defeat the pagan oppressors and restore the Kingdom of God? Will Yahweh ever send the Anointed One who has been spoken of through the prophets so long ago?”

All of these thoughts come together as you hear this Jesus, who had been spoken of as the Anointed One ever since his birth, now announcing that he is indeed the Anointed One. He is the one who will proclaim freedom to the enslaved and oppressed. He is the one who will lead the captives out from under the weight and strain of bondage. He is the one who will announce that there is good news for the poor. And, he is the one who is announcing the Year of the Lord’s favor.

There was certainly a buzz of excitement along with some cynicism and skepticism that day. Some people argued that Jesus was just another in a long line of freedom fighters who called themselves Messiahs and who tried to rally the troops against the mighty Roman Empire, only to be crushed and put on display for the people see. Others were not so dismissive, especially when Jesus read that he was announcing the Year of the Lord’s favor. That was something to get really excited about!

The Year of the Lord’s Favor

Everyone knew that the Year of the Lord’s favor referred to the Year of Jubilee. Within the law that God gave Moses and the Israelites was instruction to celebrate the Sabbath year. This meant that every seventh year the land, animals, and people were to be given a rest from work. It was a time for rejuvenation and replenishment. During the Sabbath year, Yahweh would care for the people and provide everything they needed. And then, after seven cycles of seven Sabbaths (forty-nine years) the people would celebrate the 50th year as a Jubilee year, or the Year of the Lord’s favor.[ii]

Like a normal Sabbath year, the land, animals, and people would be given rest from work during the Jubilee year. But what made the Jubilee year special was Yahweh’s instruction to the people to proclaim freedom throughout the land. All lands would be returned to their original owners. All debts incurred would be cancelled. The poor would no longer be oppressed or taken advantage of. The slaves would be set free. The Year of the Lord’s favor was a great reminder that since Yahweh brought the Israelites out of slavery and into freedom, they should continue the blessing by freeing the oppressed and enslaved brother or sister in their land.

That is why so many people were excited when they heard the announcement of the Year of the Lord’s Favor in Jesus’ reading. Could it be that the time of judgment, freedom, and vindication had finally come? Could Jesus be like Moses and lead God’s people out of slavery and bondage and into freedom once and for all? Could Jesus be like the great King David who had finally come to vindicate Israel from the foreign pagan oppressors and usher in another Golden Age in the Kingdom of God? Could Jesus be the one who would reclaim the land, cancel the debts, let the slaves go free, and proclaim the Year of the Lord’s favor? The excitement was certainly building.

Little did they know that the announcement of Jesus was bigger than anything they could even get their head around. Little did they know that Jesus wasn’t just coming like another Moses only to free the enslaved Israelites. He was coming to lead all of humanity out of slavery to sin through the waters of baptism and into the glorious freedom of God. Little did they know that Jesus wasn’t coming only to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom to the poor of Israel but to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to every person in the world. Little did they know that Jesus wasn’t coming only to reclaim the land of Israel that had been occupied by governmental forces but coming to reclaim the entire created order that had been occupied by the oppositional forces of evil. Little did they know that Jesus just wasn’t coming only to cancel the debts of the poor in Israel but of every single sinful person who was indebted to God. Little did they know that Jesus wasn’t coming just as another King David to vindicate Israel, defeat the pagan oppressors, and restore a bricks and mortar political kingdom but that he was coming to break into the kingdoms of the world, draw a line in the sand, vindicate humanity, and defeat the Adversary and the powers and principalities of evil in order to establish a new Kingdom in the hearts and minds of those who follow Him and who call Him Lord.

That is how you make an announcement full of power! An announcement with that much history and full of that much anticipation certainly got everyone’s attention. Jesus wasn’t interested in all talk and no show. He was interested in proclaiming the Kingdom of God and demonstrating the Kingdom of God. He was interested in teaching and training his disciples, not just with His words, but with His life. So much more than anyone had expected was at stake, and God was acting decisively and unexpectedly in history through Jesus Christ to proclaim the Year of the Lord’s Favor for all of creation, especially humanity.

The Kingdom of God was launched and established in Jesus Christ himself and this Kingdom began to grow and extend in the hearts and minds of those who turned away from the kingdoms of the world and gave their lives uncompromisingly to God. The blind would now see. The enslaved would now be free. The poor would now be made rich. The tables of history would now be turned completely upside down. The rogue kingdoms of the world would finally and decisively suffer defeat. The Kingdom of God was on the march. It was not a matter of talk, but of power. And in Jesus Christ was the life and power to overthrow the adversarial forces of evil, defeat sin and death, release captive humanity, reclaim that which is rightfully God’s, and initiate His Kingdom reign on earth as it is in heaven!

Peace…

Brandon

 

You just finished reading the sixth chapter of Unearthed: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World.

To read additional chapters:

Chapter 1- The Voice of God

Chapter 2- The Time Has Come

Chapter 3- This, My Friends, is Why the Church is Dying

Chapter 4- One Story That Will Change Your Mind About Faith

Chapter 5- A Better Narrative: How This Will Change You and Your Church

Chapter 7- The Movement That Will Change the World

Chapter 8- It is Time For a Revolution

If you are interested in receiving the accompanying study guide for Unearthed, put a request in the comment section below.

In celebrating 5 years since writing my first book, I will be posting a new chapter each week from Unearthed: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World.  You can still get the book for free on iTunes here or you can buy it on Amazon here.

 

[i]   Matthew 4: 1-11.

[ii]   Leviticus 25: 8-55.