Sunday, December 16, 2012



Nestled in Luke 17:20-21 is a most profound statement regarding the kingdom of God. Jesus has been saying that the Kingdom is near and the kingdom is here, and now He is saying that the kingdom is much more than that:

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is in your midst." 

When Jesus is asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He makes it clear that the kingdom is not a visible, physical, political kingdom that can be observed, but it is invisible. It's invisible because the kingdom of God is among you. Some translate this phrase within you.

There are three primary observations here worth noting. FIRST-Jesus is not speaking to His disciples, but to the Pharisees. This alone blows my mind. How can Jesus make this statement that the kingdom of God is among them?

SECOND-The kingdom of God cannot be seen. It is something invisible rather than visible. You won't be able to point to it at some location.

THIRD-The kingdom of God is among y'all right here and now. It is in your midst. It is right here for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see.
Here's how I am able to tie all three of these observations together to make sense out of this encounter:

I take this back to our understanding that Jesus created all things and holds everything together. He is the glue that holds each cell together and without Him we would split apart. Since Jesus created our cells and holds them together, then He is the rightful authority over our tissues and cells. He is the king of kings. He is the ruler over all of us. We now have a choice. We can acknowledge that Jesus is the king and bow to His Kingship and Kingdom or we can ignore it and live our lives as if He isn't king at all.

Therefore, when Jesus says that the kingdom of God is among y'all, He is laying claim on His kingdom IF WE WILL ONLY ACKNOWLEDGE HIM AS KING. So, thinking in this way, even the Pharisees could respond to His original creation and His present work of holding us together. If they were to bow to Him as King, then they would enter into the kingdom of God and His presence immediately.

Just this morning we met with a couple whose hearts have been captured by the needs of a family in Africa. They are following their hearts and doing everything they can think of to support this young family of seven. In the process of moving in compassion toward meeting the needs of this dear impoverished family, they are ministering to Jesus personally. You know, when He said, "When you feed the poorest of the poor, you are feeding Me." Now, as this non-churched couple moves according to the principles of the kingdom of God, God is bringing all sorts of connections with just the right person to open the next door or to solve the next problem. It is absolutely amazing to watch. You see, when you step out and follow the kingdom principles, you will be led directly to Jesus, Himself. To hear them acknowledge God's assistance and miracles they are experiencing was a wonderful thing.

As they follow their hearts in this effort to do good toward the poorest of the poor, they are going to continually encounter Jesus. And, soon they will be able to see Jesus has orchestrated the entire plan, just so He could bring them to Himself.

Yes, the Kingdom of God is near, it is here and it is among us right now. What Jesus wants is for us to walk in the kingdom lifestyle right where we are. And, He will show Himself to us as we progress along this journey.

You see, we haven't rejected the kingdom of God, but we tend to reduce it. We reduce it to a future place and time. We reduce it to a mystical kingdom concept that we can't define or experience. We reduce it to our local church. Or, we reduce it to a social welfare project in an area of need.

The kingdom of God is all-consuming. The kingdom is wherever the king is and wherever He reigns. And, as we learn to practice the presence of Jesus in our lives, no matter what we're doing, we are living in the kingdom of God right now. There is nothing more magical-nothing more joyous and nothing that offers more freedom that living our lives according to the kingdom of God. It's here! Submit your life to the king and learn to enjoy the kingdom lifestyle for yourself.



We are moving through the Gospel of Luke and we have come to the place where Jesus heals 10 lepers. This is not a parable; this is a real life story. In this case, you might call it an enacted parable.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.  
Jesus and His disciples are slowly making their way toward Jerusalem. This particular story occurs on the border between Samaria and Galilee among a racially-mixed group of lepers. Leprosy is no respecter of persons.

Leprosy back then was a skin disease that slowly rotted away the skin, destroying the nerves as it moved through a person's body. It was considered incurable and very contagious. Therefore lepers were banned from normal society and lived together as a group, whenever possible. According to Leviticus a person with any kind of infectious disease was to wear torn clothes, unkempt hair, covering the lower part of his face and was to cry out, "Unclean! Unclean!" whenever he came near others. They were not only socially unclean, but they were viewed as ritually unclean as well.

They were allowed to attend synagogue but must be huddled in a separate area by themselves. They were the first to arrive and the last to leave the service, so not to contaminate anyone else. Leprosy was a dreaded disease and was viewed as a death sentence. Only two people by name in the Bible were cured of leprosy-Miriam and Naaman. Up to this time it had been over 700 years since anyone was cured of leprosy. This is why it was said that "When the Messiah comes, He will be able to heal a person of leprosy." This was to be one of three miracles that "only the Messiah could do" and therefore became a clear sign of discovering the genuine Messiah.

NOTE Jesus encountered these ten lepers outside the village. They stood at the proper distance away from Him and called out loudly, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" It's not clear that they were asking for healing, but for some act of compassion on them in their isolated poverty. Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest, because only the priest was able to declare a person healed of leprosy.

The text then says, "In the act of going, they were cleansed." This is striking to me. As they simply obeyed Jesus, they found the greatest gift they could ever have imagined-full cleansing. Their faith was simple enough and had genuine action to it. I mean, what did they have to lose?

So as they were walking together toward the priest, they noticed that they were cleansed. It must have been an amazing experience-a dramatic feeling of shock and freedom.

Only one leper, when discovering his healing, returned to thank Jesus for what He did for him. In the same loud voice that he asked for pity from Jesus, now returns and gives him thanks loudly. Jesus takes care to point out once again that the only one who came back to give thanks for his healing was not a Jew, but a Samaritan.

Four observations come to mind here for me. FIRST-Jesus' healing and cleansing power-His salvation-is for everyone, no matter what the religious and cultural background.

SECOND-When Jesus says to do something, it pays to do it-even if it is such a simple step. The end result may be more than we asked or could have imagined. These lepers only asked for pity-a little help, but He fully cleansed them of their leprosy.

THIRD-Jesus expects gratitude from us as well as our requests for help and healing. Remember, God is always looking at the heart.

FOURTH-Jesus rewards gratitude toward Him. NOTE that He said, "Your faith has made you well." The others were now cleansed, too, so Jesus seems to be blessing this grateful leper with an even deeper healing-the healing of the soul.

You know what strikes me most in my life right now? Everyday is a day for gratitude and thanksgiving to God for His blessing. Don't be one of the nine who were so excited about their healing that they forgot the healer.

This is the most critical and pivotal point of all. We tend to drift away from acknowledging the blessing of God in our lives. We neglect giving thanks. This is precisely what Paul references in Romans 1 when he says, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."

This is always the beginning of the end-to neglect giving thanks to God for what He has done and what He is doing in your life.



As we continue in this study of Jesus and the kingdom in Luke we come to Luke 17. 

Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around your neck than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves. 

Things that cause people to stumble are inevitable. These are traps that are continually set in your path. However the worst trap or temptation is when one person causes another to stumble. Jesus mentions "little ones" here which could mean new believers or literally children. I believe He is speaking of the insignificant, those who don't stand out as leaders-the "little" and "powerless" people of our society.

The punishment is severe-to tie a millstone around your neck and be thrown into the sea. Each household had a small stone mill to grind grain into flower. Obviously, you would surely drown with this heavy millstone around your neck. NOTE He says that it would be better to be punished in this way (with a millstone around your neck). In other words, you deserve worse than this, if you cause the "little" ones to stumble.

Then Jesus turns the attention toward what happens when a person sins against you: "If a brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying 'I repent,' you must forgive them." 

Did you get that? When a brother or sister sins against you, call them on it. If they "repent" or have a change of heart, admitting that they were wrong, then you are to forgive them. BUT on top of that, if they sin against you seven times in one day, then you are to come back to them seven times and forgive them! The disciples' response is interesting:

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you." 

Wow, Jesus, if we are going to practice this kind of response toward those who sin against us then we need a large amount of faith. Jesus quickly points out to them that they only need faith as small as a mustard seed and you will be able to do miraculous things. I think this is because it isn't the amount of faith, but the object of the faith that matters. So, you have more than enough faith to be effective. Then Jesus goes into a story:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around your neck than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.

“If a brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
In these first 10 verses of Luke 17 it's as if Jesus is setting forth a list of spiritual qualities we are to embrace in the kingdom-a quality of spiritual life that doesn't cause others to stumble, a community that knows how to forgive and get along, a faith that is powerful and now, HUMILITY.

You see, we exist to serve God, and not vice-versa. It was inappropriate for slaves to feed themselves before they fed their master, no matter how hungry they were. God promises to meet our needs, but that's not the main point. We are not to view ourselves as God serving us-"What have you done for me lately, Lord?" But, we are to gratefully take on the responsibility of serving God. We don't work for God in an advisory capacity. He is God and we are not! We are not to be looking for God's praise or blessing because we serve Him. He is our God and we are to be His servants.

These four qualities are part of what makes up lifestyle in the kingdom of God as opposed to the kingdom of man. If you are a follower of Jesus, the King, then you must seek to embrace the kingdom lifestyle that goes along with it. This is not a system of do's and don'ts, but a lifestyle that you will discover is most meaningful and fulfilling.

I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 11, when He said, "All of you who are weary and burdened down, come to Me." Or, my favorite paraphrase of that same message is: "The Lord says, 'this is a special invitation to all of you who don't have all the answers. Who struggle with life. Who are tired. Who are burned out. Who are bruised. Who struggle with grief. Come to me I will teach you how to trust. I will teach you how to learn. Walk with me, work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn how to trust and live with joy and freedom.'"

That's the joy of embracing the lifestyle of the kingdom! Have you tasted of that yet?