“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17: 16 – 19 NIV)
Sanctify – 1. Holiness of life and character; saintliness. 2. Sacredness; inviolability, religious binding force; as, the sanctity of an oath; pl., sacred obligations, rites, etc.
I am by-passing definitions based on Roman practices in this article. I am basing what I am saying in this article directly on the concepts put forth by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that we have mentioned the Roman practice of invading a territory, occupying that territory, and transforming that territory into a semblance of Rome. The leader of that expedition was called an apostle; by definition, a sent one. We want to define this process more closely to bring it out of the context of Roman conquest of territory to what Jesus meant in His teaching and life example.
As quoted from the prayer of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John; Jesus was not of this world. Before we take that thought too far and revert to Gnostic thinking that Jesus did not have material existence but was a spirit among us; we must make it perfectly clear that Jesus had bodily form, physical form, just like you and I. When Jesus says that He was not of the world He is referring to the system of the world run under the authority of the “prince of the world,” Satan. Jesus was not of the worldly kingdom and we, His followers, are not of the worldly kingdom.
We are of a different Spirit. We are of the Holy Spirit. We have a different Father. Jesus made reference to the fact that the “hypocrites and Pharisees” were of their “father” the devil:
“Jesus said to them, `If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8: 42 – 47 NIV)
We are a privileged people. We are the ones Jesus prayed for at the end; before He went to the cross. He sanctified himself for that task so that we, too, could be truly sanctified to the task He won for us. We are cleansed by His words. We are washed clean by the words He has given us. We were sinful. We now can stand with Jesus in the above quote as, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” We have been sanctified by the words of Jesus. We have been made holy and set aside for His use.
What is that use? We are set aside and made holy so that Jesus could send us into the world just as He was sent into the world. We are to occupy the world of the enemy and transform it into the kingdom of Jesus, Son of God. We are sent!
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One prominent Psalmist was Asaph. Although David wrote many of the Psalms he was not the only writer. Psalm 73 begins with a complaint as Asaph questions the prosperity of the wicked around him and the result of his observations in his own life. Are not these observations very real to us today as we observe the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer?
“Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalm 73: 1 – 3 NIV)
When we take our eyes off the Good Shepherd who is leading us we are prone to become envious of those around us who appear to prosper in spite of their wickedness and arrogance. Our footing become precarious in the spiritual sense when we contemplate the world rather than the ways of Christ.
Asaph goes on to describe the easy life of the wicked and arrogant:
“They have not struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, `How could God know? Does the Most High know anything?’ This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.” (Psalm 73: 4 – 12 NIV)
Asaph considers all of this and begins to apply it to his personal life until he recognizes the destruction to himself and those around him involved:
“Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.
“If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
As Asaph pauses in God’s sanctuary, the light of understanding comes and he begins to understand the true picture:
“Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.” (Psalm 73: 18 – 20 NIV)
Asaph realizes the personal destruction such contemplation of evil can bring:
“When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. (Psalm 73: 21, 22 NIV)
Finally, Asaph concludes the Psalm with recognition of our place in God and the final result of trusting in God:
“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
“Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” (Psalm 73: 23 – 28 NIV)
It is good to contemplate the Psalms from time to time and make applications to our own lives.Write comment (0 Comments)
Remain, Abide, Stand
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has not one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15: 9 – 17 NIV)
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6: 10, 11 NIV)
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. `He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND
LORD OF LORD.”
(Revelation 19: 11 – 16 NIV)
These three passages of scripture may seem to not tell a story that is consistent. However, I believe that this is exactly what is happening today. The armies of heaven are being led forth by our Lord and Savior. We are being led forth loving each other. We are able to stand against the wiles of the devil and defeat the nations because we are clothed with the whole armor of God. We wear the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the shoes of the gospel of peace, and we carry the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. We are fully prepared to ride forth behind our King and our Lord and slay the nations.
But be aware what “slay the nations” means. When a “sinner is slain” she or he is converted to follow after our Lord and King. A “sinner slain” is a person who has repented of their sin and become a new believer. This happens by the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Words are spirit and life. With words the gospel is proclaimed and those who opposed us join us because they see that we love each other.
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Message of the Kingdom
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time man will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24: 9 – 14 NIV)
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24: 32 – 35 NIV)
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master find him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” (Matthew 24: 45 – 47 NIV)
I have quoted here from Matthew 24 because the words of Jesus, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come,” are included here. These same warnings and teachings about the end are also included in Mark 13 and Luke 21. Generally speaking the scene involves the disciples expressing to Jesus their awe over the temple and Jesus’ reaction that not one stone will be left upon another. While sitting later on the Mount of Olives the disciples asked Jesus about when all these things should happen. These discourses about the end are recorded in these three places in the gospel narrative with slightly different emphases. For this article I used the quote from Matthew because I want to make the emphasis that our current job as followers of Jesus is to continue to preach the gospel of the kingdom until He returns.
Part of the reason I make this emphasis is that I have just finished reading a biography of Bonhoeffer. As you might know Dietrich Bonhoeffer came of age during the time between the World War 1 and World War 2 during the rise to power of the Third Reich led by Adolph Hitler. Bonhoeffer was a brilliant rising theologian greatly influenced by Karl Barth but with outstanding independent thinking which led him to the conclusion that we are to actively live according to the teachings of Jesus; especially as those teachings were expressed in the Sermon on the Mount. The practical outcome of my reading of Bonhoeffer’s life and of my personal study of Scripture and of my contemplations brings me to the conclusion that we are actively engaged in living and preaching the kingdom of God or we are not living according to what Jesus taught.
Let me not be mistaken in what I am saying. There have been many attempts to bring about some semblance of an earthly, physical kingdom of God in the form of community living or political dominance. By political dominance I mean that from time to time those in power have sought to bring about a physical kingdom of God by doing the opposite of what Jesus actually taught, lording it over others and forcing others to submit to their vision of what should be.
There was a teaching popular for a time from the period of the enlightenment that was based on the belief that the world would get better and better, the kingdom of God would become more and more dominant and obvious, and then Jesus would come to rule and reign in this earthly kingdom of God. This way of thinking was spoiled by two world wars, the Cold War, and a continual series of conflicts around the world ever since.
Yet, at the same time, the kingdom of God is preached, hearts are individually changed, and the kingdom of God does what Jesus said it would do, continually, invisibly expands. What I believe God is directing me to do is take this message to Kissi, Kenya, Africa, and establish a Bible School there to equip the saints to go forth with the message of the kingdom. I believe this is the fulfillment of the words of Jesus, at least for me, as He talked with His disciples on the Mount of Olives.
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