Kingdom Citizenship

Matthew 25:31-46
This month most Americans are celebrating the founding of our country. Flags are flying, families are gathering, and fireworks fill the night sky. We do this to show appreciation for our American citizenship and to honor those who sacrificed to provide our freedoms. However, there is a citizenship that transcends all national boundaries. 

No matter where you live right now, if you believe in Christ, then you and I are fellow citizens of the kingdom of God. The word kingdom denotes royal power or dominion over a specific region or people. Therefore, the kingdom of God refers to the Lord’s complete rule and authority. While He certainly reigns in the hearts of His devoted followers here on earth, we must not forget the term also refers to His sovereignty in heaven.

Jesus is currently seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, but today’s passage points to a time when He will return to earth to sit on His glorious throne and reign over the entire world. He will vanquish all His enemies, remove the wicked from the earth, and welcome the righteous into His glorious kingdom. And as kingdom citizens, you and I will rule together with Him (Revelation 3:21).

Certainly nations and nationalities are important, but they are not eternal. All those who belong to Christ are first and foremost citizens of His kingdom. This means that all the geographical borders and barriers that separate us have been removed in Christ, and we are all one in Him. When we worship, we should see one another as fellow citizens in God’s realm.  

 



Not Of This World

2 Timothy 3:1-5

“What is going on in the world?”  You’ve probably heard people say this. And as Christians, we sometimes wonder how we are to live in a culture that seems to be on a downhill trajectory ethically. Since Jesus said of His disciples, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16), we can certainly conclude that our lives should look different from unbelievers’ lives.

The darker things become, the more pronounced should be the contrast between our way of life and the world’s. And one of the most obvious differences should be in the area of love. In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul warned that in the last days (a period just before Jesus’ return) mankind would be lovers of self, money, and pleasure rather than of God and others. Such misplaced affection results in arrogance, ungratefulness, unholiness, and all the other tragic descriptions found in this passage. When love becomes distorted, these vices inevitably follow. And today we see the evidence of this all around us, don’t we?

Even the technology that makes life easier is drawing us apart. Face-to-face conversations and phone calls are increasingly being replaced with emails and texts. Everywhere we turn, eyes are looking down at phones rather than seeing the people right in front of them.

The good news is that we can make a difference by intentionally living and loving differently from the world around us. As the Lord told us in Matthew 22:37-40, the way to fight the lovelessness all around us is by loving God and our neighbors.



With You All Along

“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’”

John 5:1-8

The pool at Bethesda was a place where people waited—and waited! People with diseases and disabilities would crawl, hobble, or be carried there every day, hoping to be healed in the waters. One paralyzed man had been lying there for thirty-eight years. Think of it! That would be like lying by the pool from 1981 to 2019. When Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well, he responded, “Sir…I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” His longing was fixed on a particular answer—someone who would carry him to the water. But the one He really needed was standing right in front of him—Jesus the Healer. It’s a reminder: When things look especially hopeless, remember who stands between you and your need—the very One who will make you whole.

Lord, I know that I have looked right past You many times in my life, hoping and longing for specific solutions to my problems. Sometimes I imagine some expert will have all the answers for me. But You have been with me all along. With the psalmist I say, “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you” (Psalm 39:7).



God’s Unfailing Love

Ephesians 2:1-7

Do you feel loved by God?  Let me ask the question a different way: Did you know that as a believer, it’s possible to mentally understand God loves you without actually sensing it? In fact, the reverse can be true as well—we may say we love God, all the while knowing that our feelings of affection for Him are limited.

There are a variety of reasons that a Christian might not sense love from God or affection for Him, some of which stem from childhood experiences. Perhaps love was absent in the home, or maybe it just wasn’t expressed verbally or demonstrated in practical ways. An individual’s personality could also be part of the equation—some people are naturally expressive while others are more reserved in their emotions.

Although this discrepancy between knowledge and experience can be distressing, there is hope. Meditating on all the ways God has demonstrated His love for you—and asking Him to help you perceive it—can begin to move that truth from your head to your heart. Remember that love is God’s very nature (1 John 4:8), not something conditioned on your performance. And if you’ve been adopted into His family through faith in His Son, God has chosen to lavish kindness on you in Christ. 

Believing and accepting that you are loved by the Father will in turn affect your feelings for Him. Commit to knowing Him more intimately and accurately through His Word, and your affection for Him will begin to grow. As you spend time with Him in Scripture and prayer, you’ll discover that the saying “to know him is to love him” is certainly true of God. 



Scattered Saints

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.”

1 Peter 1:1-2

In today’s Scripture, Peter addresses his letter “to God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces.” The apostle sent out his encouragement to believers who had been dispersed throughout the Roman world by violent persecution. But you don’t have to face persecution to feel like one of the “scattered saints.” Maybe you find yourself in a small apartment in a big city. You feel like a stranger in your own community—perhaps even distanced from other believers. You’re out of the flow, jobless, single, maybe divorced, isolated. You may be in a lonely season right now, but read these verses again. You have been chosen by the Father, set apart by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ. The entire Trinity—Father, Son, and Spirit—is actively involved in your life. And that, my friend, puts you in the mainstream of the main stream. You are deeply loved and treasured by your Creator.

Please give me peripheral vision today, Lord, to notice sisters and brothers who feel isolated and lonely, out of touch and out of the flow of life. Give me the grace and wisdom to encourage someone who feels unimportant to You and others right now. This is a lie of the enemy, Lord, and I need Spirit-empowered words to defeat this hurt and deception.



The Touch That Transforms

Matthew 8:1-4

Seven times in the book of Matthew, Jesus encountered people with sickness or infirmities and healed them with a touch. Although He had the power to simply speak a word or command illness to leave, He often chose a more hands-on approach. In the case of the leper in today’s passage, Jesus’ personal touch must have been something the man rarely experienced, since he was considered untouchable. In fact, that may be why Jesus chose this avenue of healing.

The need for a touch from a fellow human being has not disappeared in the 2,000 years since Jesus walked the earth. Yet in a world dominated by social media and technology, we are now more isolated than ever before. Physical contact is being replaced with “likes” on Facebook. And when we do think of touch, it’s often associated with scandal, impropriety, or immorality. How did this wonderful word become so maligned?

As Christians, we have the opportunity to “touch” people in a variety of ways, including by our words—for example, the proclamation of salvation through Jesus Christ can transform a person’s life and eternal destiny. However, ministry is also accomplished with our hands through service, compassion, and the encouragement of a hug or loving pat on the shoulder.

Our heart, mouth, and hands must be cooperating in order to fully minister in Jesus’ name. And whether alone or gathered with others, we have the privilege of touching lives through prayer. Jesus touched people both physically and spiritually, and as His followers, we must do likewise. Look for opportunities in which God might use you for His glory. 



Unshakeable Foundation

2 Peter 3:10-13

With each passing year, the instability in the world seems more and more apparent. Natural and man-made catastrophes claim lives; political balance shifts; wealth and status come and go. It all causes us to ask, Is anything unshakeable?

As overwhelming as these things seem, let me give you an even bigger example. In today’s passage, we read that the heavens and earth will be shaken. It will all be destroyed—burned, to be exact. Thankfully, we have the promise that God will create new heavens and a new earth, but in the meantime our world will undergo great turmoil.

Instability can create feelings of insecurity and fear unless we latch onto the truths God has given us. The Bible refers to Jesus as a rock and firm foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10-11; Eph. 2:20). And we know that God is unchangeable and sovereign; nothing can undermine or move Him. His Word is truth, and it will last forever.

As Christians, we know that our eternal relationship with God is secure. We’ve been adopted as His children, and nothing can rob us of this position. What’s more, believers are assured of an eternal home with Him. Though we may at times feel unsettled by our circumstances, we can rejoice when trials bring us humbly to the cross of Jesus, where we will find peace and safety.

What assurance we have as God’s children! We can rest in peace and full confidence, knowing that our hearts are secure in Jesus Christ. As King David said in Psalm 16:8, “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”



Things That Cannot Be Shaken

Hebrews 12:25-29

In general, people like security. We seek what is comfortable. Yet the reality of our world is that much instability exists. For example, finances, health, and even a country’s ability to survive are not guaranteed.

When our foundation is shaken, we often feel overwhelmed. Sometimes Satan causes the difficulty—with God’s permission, of course. At other times, challenging circumstances are brought about by the Lord’s hand. Regardless of the source, we have the promise in Romans 8:28 that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” And in either case, the Almighty’s purpose remains: to glorify Himself in our world and in our lives.

There are different reasons that the Lord permits turmoil, but for now, let’s focus on one: He will not allow anything that enables man to seem self-sufficient in his own eyes. Therefore, God may lovingly allow enough trouble for us to realize our need of Him. Consider the trials the Israelites faced each time they turned away from the Lord to worship other gods. In many ways, we do the same thing today. Individually, in our churches, and as a nation, we often glorify “gods” like money or status. But the One who created us will not tolerate this.

In our pride, we tend to think we’re able to manage without God. But out of love, He may stir up our life to reveal our dependence upon Him. If you are basing your security on anything except Jesus Christ—even something as seemingly innocent as comfort—it will prove to be sinking sand.



Watch How You React

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:3-5

What do you really believe about God? Not what you say you believe or even ought to believe, but what do you actually hold to be true about Him. Here’s how you can know. The next time you run into a difficult, painful, or even heartbreaking situation, watch how you react. Nothing reveals the stuff of which your Christian beliefs are made than tough times. Maybe that’s why today’s Scripture urges us to “glory in our sufferings” and James counsels us to “welcome trials as friends” (James 1:2, PHILLIPS). In fact, these hardships will teach you—as nothing else can—the real quality of your faith.

God, of course, already knows what’s in your heart. He just wants you to know. Do you believe He is kind and good? In control of the details? Do you believe He is sovereign and has a purpose for your suffering? How you respond to your trial will make it plain to you.

Lord, I know how often my mouth gets ahead of the reality in my heart. I can say or write faith-filled messages by the dozen, but it all rings hollow if I don’t cling to You when I suffer. I’m really tired of just talking about it, Jesus. I want a faith that runs deep and carries me through anything.



Come To The Fountain of Life

Hiking the Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful experiences on earth. The views are unmatchable, and millions of people flock there every year to take them in. One thing in short supply when you hike it is water. If you don’t make proper preparations, you will be in big trouble not too far in. Several places along the trail you will find fountains that replenish your supply. The lines are often long with people desperate to hydrate. On our journey following Jesus, it is vital that we come to the fountain of life to replenish our dry and thirsty spirit.

‭‭John‬ ‭4:10

“Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.”

Object of Our Worship

The encounter at the well with the Samaritan woman was unique in Scripture, but it’s impact still resonates today. The questions she asked Jesus was where should she worship. Jesus turned the question on its head and said the place isn’t as important as the heart is. There was a debate raging between the Jews and Samaritans on which mountain was the right place to worship. Jesus shows us that the object of our worship what matters most.

Seek His Face

Churches get caught up in the buildings they build.  I understand how essential buildings are, but, I also have seen them turn into idols and money pits. If the presence of the Holy Spirit isn’t in the building during the services, it doesn’t matter how beautiful the structure is. As the Body of Christ, we need to seek the face of Jesus and let Him take care of the rest. He is the fountain of life that we need to go to daily.

Come to the Fountain of Life

When you come to the fountain of life, you tap into a source that is inexhaustible. We can drink from everything else this world has to offer, and we will always get thirsty again. Once we drink of the living water, Jesus offers, we will be filled with life that supersedes everything else. Don’t get caught up in the rituals or structures. Seek the face of Jesus. He will change you in ways you can’t imagine.