Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Kingdom & The Violent

And from the time John the Baptist began preaching and baptizing until now, the kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people attack it. Matthew 11:12 [NLT]

Tomorrow is Black Friday, and all across America there are anxious people preparing for that day. It is a day that has grown in popularity over the years as a day in which retailers have bombarded the media with sales advertisements that get the public stirred into a buying frenzy. The response has been long lines crowded with consumers that gather on Thanksgiving night waiting to attack the stores in the early morning. The rush of consumers into their targeted stores has become so intense that last year a Wal Mart employee lost his life amongst many reported injured. Black Friday is a vivid illustration of the kingdom of heaven and those who are entering in.

The kingdom of Heaven is advertising through signs and wonders. “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.”(Matt 11:5). This is still happening today. Many people are coming to Christ through the power of the Gospel. As a worker in the Healing Rooms in Phoenix, I get to see this happen every week. We see the power of God come upon people and bring healing, deliverance, salvation, and baptism in the Holy Spirit. And when people encounter the kingdom and get the revelation of God’s love and mercy, they are eager to grab hold of it.

Now back to our illustration:

The kingdom is advancing, but not everyone is experiencing the kingdom. Matt 11:12 tells us it is the “violent” that lay hold of it. There is an excitement and dedication of those who take hold of it. Just like Black Friday shoppers, it is not enough to hear about the offer. Not everyone who shows up will get the advertised deals. Many will go back disappointed. What is required is action stirred by desire. The ones who obtain the kingdom are forceful. They are not concerned about comfort. They are willing to suffer a long night (season) in order to obtain the reward in the morning. They are focused. They know what is offered and come to God with specific requests. And Jesus says, they get what they come for.

So how do we become violent? We must first look at the advertisements, the promises in the Bible. By keeping them before our eyes, we get the revelation of what we have in Christ. Along with reading the Word we supplement it with prayer. Prayer is the vehicle God has chosen for us to approach Him who has brought the kingdom to earth. And if we pray, we must do it in the attitude of faith. In the first chapter of the book of James, we are told that we should not expect anything if we ask without faith. Faith is the expectation of receiving what you hope for, (Hebrews 11:1).

A final word of encouragement:

Matthew 11 begins with a scene of John the Baptist in prison. He hears about how others are entering the kingdom, but he himself is not enjoying the breakthrough. Therefore, he sends his disciples to confront Jesus, (Matt 11:3-4). Jesus’ responds, “Go back to John and tell him about what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. God blesses those who are not offended by me”. (Matt 11:4-6). Jesus did not condemn him, but offered him evidence of what his natural senses couldn’t see. Once John’s disciples leave, Jesus testifies of John before the crowds, “He is more than a prophet. I assure you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist.” (Matt 11:9b, 11a). The Lord doesn’t judge us according to our current circumstances. Your faith may be under attack because of this current economic recession. You may feel cut off from the blessings and may be battling offenses. Rejoice! The kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing. And the Lord has not forgotten you. You may feel like the least but the Lord says to you “that even the most insignificant person in the kingdom of heaven is greater than (John the Baptist)”. (Matt 11:11b). Therefore, take heart and draw near to God with a heart full of faith. Become violent and resolve in your heart that you are going to apprehend that which you are also apprehended of Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:12).

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