Monday, October 01, 2007

Kingdom Living III: The Invitation

“In terms of his personality, the gospels present a man who had such charisma that people would sit 3 days straight without food just to hear his riveting words. He loved to praise other people. He had near inexhaustible patience with individuals. He quickly established intimacy with the people he met; after a few brief lines of conversation people revealed their innermost secrets to Jesus even though they tended to keep rabbis at a respectful distance.

Jesus drew out a hunger so deep that people crowded around him just to touch his clothes. He accepted almost anybody’s invitation to dinner and had a diverse list of friends ranging from common people to Romans centurions and tax collectors, prostitutes and leprosy victims. People liked being with Jesus. Once he ate with a leper, on 2 occasions during a meal, a disreputable woman poured expensive perfume on him; twice he went to eat with tax collectors.

Where he was, joy was. Pharisees believed that touching an unclean person polluted the one who touched; but when Jesus touched a person with leprosy, he did not become soiled — they became clean. The contagion of holiness had overcome the contagion of uncleanness. He commended a troubling tax collector over a God fearing Pharisee.

The first person to whom he revealed himself as messiah was a Samaritan woman who had a history of five failed marriages and was currently living with yet another man. With his dying death he pardoned a thief who would have no opportunity for spiritual growth. Yet he himself was not a sinner. We are amazed at this uncompromising blend of grace towards sinners and hostility toward sin.” Phil Yancey

Matthew 4:17
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

Matthew 4:23-25
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

Those that had need came searching for him. That still goes for today. The kingdom is there for those who admit need.

James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (Proverbs 3:34)

Mark 1:14-15
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

Repent. The Kingdom of God is near, available, accessible. The Kingdom is near and you’re not in it. Then let’s just put “yet”, because the invitation is repent so that you can get in. That’s how simple that message was. You say what about the cross, what about the atoning work of Jesus? That is all anticipated because that is the way Jesus is going to open the door to the Kingdom. Let me tell you something. As important as the cross is, as central as the cross is to the Christian message, the Kingdom was the heart of the message of Jesus. The cross is the shape of the door into the Kingdom.

We have to be careful that we don’t make more of the door than we do of what it is the door to. Now you’ll never hear me, in any way, ever minimize the cross. I absolutely love the cross because it is the ultrasound of the heart of Jesus and the heart of God. It tells us what our God is like as well as what He’s willing to do on our behalf.

What image comes to you as you hear the word ‘repent’?

Psalm 51 is the context to hear.

A broken and contrite heart

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

God wants to be known as God and allowed to lead. So when Jesus says the Kingdom of God is here, it feels threatening to us. It always has, it always will - it always does. When God comes near, when God comes down, when God is available, when God confronts your life, it always feels like God!

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Jesus was at the house of a proud person in Luke 14.

Luke 14:12-24
Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God."

Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.'

"But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.'

"Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'

"Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.

"The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'

" 'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.'
"Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'

Jesus had, still has this strange kind of holiness that was profoundly attractive to nonreligious people and offensive to religious ones. How do you think this little story went over at the prominent, proud Pharisees house?

The Kingdom of God is like a party and Jesus consistently portrayed it that way. Tony Campolo wrote a great book by that very title. It’s a good place to be- the very best actually.

Let the Holy Spirit puncture your image that He is not a God who laughs or has fun. He is planning a future in His Kingdom that is the most incredible fulfillment for human beings possible.

In one episode of The Ultimate Fighter, Matt Hughes asks the guys to read a Bible story about inspiration. The other team leader Matt Sera says, “He’s trying to make them Christians! I can’t wait to fight him.”

They cut to a scene of a fighter who’s lost his fight and has to leave the show, & he talks about how hard the house is to live in. They can’t really party like he’s used to, and he’s away from his girl. He’s concerned his girl won’t be faithful. “Six weeks is a long time,” he says.

Does that sound like a life-giving reality to live in?

What’s your definition of a good party?

We are invited into the kingdom of God! It’s a great place to be. The price of admission? Everything!

Luke 14:25-35
"Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can't be my disciple. "Salt is excellent. But if the salt goes flat, it's useless, good for nothing. Are you listening to this? Really listening?"

What images, messages or thoughts drive you to avoid God’s invitation?

Do you see a ‘Scary Jesus’? Or ‘Jesus the sadomasochist?’

What images, messages or thoughts inspire you to accept God’s invitation?

Right where you are God is moving to draw and connect people in the depth risk and reality of knowing Christ.

Try this next week becoming more conscious of Jesus and His invitation to the Kingdom. Some people have found the idea of ‘breath prayer’ as an aid in doing this. As you go about your day whisper a phrase such as ‘Lord Jesus have mercy on me’, or ‘your love endures forever’; or ‘Our God Reigns’. Repeat the phrase under your breath as you go through your daily tasks.


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