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Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Gospel of the kingdom 10: On Earth As It Is In Heaven

John the Baptist came preaching a baptism of repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). His message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). When some came who would only listen to what he said without any intention of changing, he boldly said, “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). This inspired the people to ask him for specific examples of what it means to respond to the kingdom of heaven. John’s answer was, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.” To some tax collectors he elaborated, “Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.” To some soldiers he said, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” Luke concludes this summary with the words, “So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people” (Luke 3:18). At another place the impact of the kingdom coming through the ministry of John resulted in the hearts of the fathers being turned back to their children. This is not just a nice Christian thought that results in warmer family reunions. If this sort of effect could come again to America, do you realize what consequences there would be?

Society is filled with problems, but trying to fix society one problem at a time is daunting and suffocating. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are some problems that are root causes of others. If we can identify and bring kingdom healing and restoration to those areas, scores of other problems will be resolved.

One such problem is the irresponsibility of men in our society, especially fathers. If the hearts of the fathers returned to their children, street violence would subside, drug and sexual abuse would decrease, theft would drop, schools would improve, illiteracy would decrease, and dependency upon the state’s welfare system would diminish—releasing more tax revenue to address other problems. Sexually transmitted diseases would die down quickly. Unwanted teen pregnancy rates would drop significantly. The AIDS crisis would end. The abortion issue, one of the most divisive issues of our day, would be resolved, not because of political lobbying and picket signs, but because the hearts of fathers would be turned back to their children. You may think that this is a grand oversimplification, and perhaps to an extent it is, but I am thoroughly convinced that if men’s hearts were changed and challenged to live bold and authentic lives for Jesus—as heroes—our whole society would be changed in a short time. These are but a fraction of the benefits to our society if only the men would stand up and take responsibility for their lives. And this is what happens when the kingdom of God comes to a place.

When true revival with the rule and reign of the Kingdom comes to a nation, all of society changes. Redemption touches all parts of life. Bars close down. Crime comes to a halt. Police are laid off because there is nothing for them to do. With the decrease in crime, prison populations begin to shrink, releasing more state revenue to address other needs. Manufacturing improves because the work-ethic of people improves. When the products improve, sales and exports improve, and the entire economy is raised to higher levels. Unemployment then drops to negligible rates. There is evidence in many places around the world that nature itself is healed. Droughts end and crops are restored. I have heard that with the coming of revival, the reefs in Fiji were reborn and fish returned, thus restoring the nations lost natural resource.

John is telling us that the good news of the kingdom will change the way we behave in all the little details of our lives. We will respond justly, with grace and kindness. We will not seek our own benefit but the benefit of others. This is what it means when the kingdom of God seizes the lives of a people.

In fact, according to John, the good news of the kingdom must bear appropriate fruit if it is received with repentance and belief. How can it be good news if it doesn’t change things for the better?

3 comments:

aaronsaufley said...

Neil,

Another killer post. Gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. It creates a tension--a longing for the time when the kingdom fully comes, and an urgency to become more of an agent for the kingdom (and that only by the grace of God).

Great post to open the new year.

Neil Cole said...

Thanks!

churchplantingnovice said...

Neil, thanks for responding to my request to explain how the gospel fits into our methods.I couldn't agree more that the gospel of the kingdom changes everything, including fathers and families, the social and cultural fabric of our neighborhoods, towns, and cities. The question that remains is how?

Does preaching a kingdom gospel change the hearts of men? Do they need to hear a personal gospel also? How can we explain the gospel in a way that deconstructs misperceptions and evangelical abberations, i.e. gospel=religion?

How can we explain the gospel in very practical ways that leads men to repentance, faith, and outward focus? Do we not graciously lead them to see their idolatries of acceptance, significance, self, and so on and reveal the gospel alternatives? I think Keller has helped us tremendously here by outlining the three perspectives of the gospel----doctrinal, personal, and social.