Like newborn babies,
thirst for the pure milk of the word
so that by it you may grow in your salvation.
Surely you have tasted that the Lord is good! 1 Peter 2:2,3
Jesus’ teaching on – The kingdom of Heaven
Jesus was declaring the establishment of a kingdom, not in a national or a civil sense, but as a spiritual kingdom.
We read of the end result in Revelation 11:15 – ‘..The kingdoms of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.’
It can be quite a mind boggling concept to grasp. Perhaps that is why Jesus taught about it so much in the form of parables, to illustrate in a multi faceted way the principles and concepts underlying the establishment of this kingdom.
The seed principle
Things in the Kingdom of God start off small, but end up big.
He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard see, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.’ Matt 13:31-32
A ‘spiritual’ tree (metephorically) grows in the life of a repentant believer – (Jesus also said ‘the kingdom of God is within you’ Luke 17:1) The growth of this tree depends on the condition of the soil (or in other words the heart).
As a christian you can expect there to be spiritual growth, of a spiritual Kingdom within you. You must however care for this ‘spiritual plant’, ‘watering it’ with the word of God, letting the light of God’s word shine on it and getting rid of the weeds (sin, wrong thought patterns)
When we are born again, it is by the seed of the word.
‘For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God’ 1 Peter 1:23
We know that seeds reproduce after their own kind. (ie an apple seed will always produce and apple tree) If Jesus is the Word, then if the Word is planted in our hearts we will grow to become like Christ.
What does it mean to be born again? Jesus spoke of this once in a conversation with a religous leader.
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked, ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:3-8
Like the origins of wind to a first century mind, there is an element of mystery in the whole concept of being born again.
Like the below verse states ‘though he does not know how. ‘
He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain – first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29
Rather than trying to formularise being born again, or making it a claim of ours that we are ‘born again Christians’, we are far better off focusing on hearing and obeying the teachings of Jesus and putting our faith in him. The born again part will be a natural ‘albeit mysterious’ part of our faith.
Kingdom principle – The kingdom will permeate throughout the whole earth bringing change.
He told them still another parable: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Matthew 13:33
The yeast is worked into the dough. We could see this as Christians bringing the kingdom of God through their lives, into the world until it is spread all the way through. There will be change and transformation (like the rising of the dough when making bread). This story puts it clear in our minds that our purpose is to bring the kingdom of God to the world, and that there will be tangible change when we do. When we are at work, or school, or playing sport, or where-ever we are – if we are living for Christ, and for his kingdom, then we will be bringing a change to the environment through our influence.
Jesus also used another picture in teaching this principle.
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. Matthew 5:13
In the days of Jesus, salt was also used in the preservation of foods. The salt penetrated the food to the point where it stopped the food from decaying. We are to be influencing the world, (which is a world tainted by sin and in a state of decay -wars, terrorism, poverty, sickness) and stopping the decay.
Kingdom principle – citizenship in the kingdom will cost us all that we have – but it is worth it.
When we make Jesus the Lord of our lives, we are surrendering all we are and have to him and for his Kingdom. While this may seem an impossibly hard thing for someone who has not seen the value of the treasure of Jesus, those who have seen a revelation of Jesus and his kingdom will be willing to give up all for his sake.
Kingdom Principle- Forgiveness – a condition of recieving the Grace of God.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked , ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. THe servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.’ Matthew 18:21-35
Kingdom principle – God’s goodness and grace is not based on the works we do.
It may not seem fair that an evil man who repents and puts his faith in Christ the day before he dies is granted eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. There may be many ‘good’ people who see themselves as more deserving of eternal life, than the evil man.
Jesus’s death on the cross was a sacrifice for all the sins of mankind. Even the most wicked of men can be forgiven by God, when then humble themselves, repent from their sins and put their faith in Jesus.
This is why Christains say ‘Salvation is not based on our works, but by the grace of God ‘
For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. he told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh he went out and found still others standing around. he asked them, ‘why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing? ‘ “Because no one has hired us,” they answered. He said to them ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them, ‘Friend I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last. Matthew 20:1-16
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10