The message of "the Kingdom of God" is the constant theme of the message Jesus preached and the lessons He taught.
He came proclaiming the power and presence of the Kingdom as the "entry" of God's will and rule, here to impact every situation. He applied kingdom grace and power regarding every need or circumstance: health and healing, sin and forgiveness, human relationships, personal character, human failure, divine provision and His call for us to grow in faith. His message at every point was to give hope. He came to bring "life abundantly"—life at a new dimension— both present and future. And He offered the gift of a Kingdom to all who would accept it—a dual offer of salvation, to birth us into the Kingdom, and the gift of partnership, to enable us as "citizens" to extend His Kingdom into all the world. So when He stood on the shores of Galilee, or taught on the Temple grounds in Jerusalem, He proclaimed His message with a sin-shattering, life-transforming possibility.
Consider the implications of these three key phrases in which Jesus speaks, calling us—now and then—to hear, understand and act what "the Kingdom of God" is about, and how He wants us as His disciples to learn to draw on Kingdom power and apply its gracious works through prayer.
"The Kingdom of God has come upon you" (Luke 11:20). Jesus is saying that because He—the King—was/is present, His Kingdom's potential to penetrate whatever need exists with His personal grace, forgiveness, healing or peace is also present—that is, if and wherever hearing hearts welcome Him into their lives or situations. In short, He's saying, "My world (Kingdom) is ready to change your world if you are willing and will ask."
"Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Jesus' answer to Nicodemus' sincere question, despite the man's religious training and experience, introduces His call to new birth. He makes very clear that with His arrival as Messiah (i.e., God's anointed King-Savior-Deliverer), participation in the Kingdom requires "birth" into it. His message always confronted our most basic human need—forgiveness of sin, repentance and faith. Now we are invited to receive the Gospel of the Kingdom and thereby accept Him—receiving and welcoming the King's presence and rule in our lives.
"The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). The presence of the King is the point. Any place He's welcome, He will enter and work "the Father's will"—on earth (where you are) as it is in heaven, which is nearer "at hand" because God is not distant. Its blessing and transforming power, character and qualities are within the circle of the hearer's reach or access.
Our privilege of access is explained when Jesus begins to teach about His church, about how He will build and how He intends us, the same as His early disciples, to confront the workings of evil. He specifically expressed His will to give "access" to each of us who come to Him, saying, "I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 16:18-19).
This is the basic text at the heart of the idea of "spiritual warfare" and is foundational to our understanding of what He has called us to do in penetrating the darkness of our world. The Bible often refers to the struggle of life against death, God's right way (righteousness) against evil (sin and Satan's destructive ways), in terms of warfare, or spiritual conflict—of light against the darkness. So here, when Jesus first announces the place He calls each of us to participate (to "partner"), we need to grasp the depth of the importance in His words yet embrace the practical simplicity with which He describes our role as one of His own—as citizens born into His Kingdom.
Jack Hayford joins James and Betty this Monday on LIFE Today. Excerpted from Penetrating the Darkness by Jack Hayford. © 2011 Jack W. Hayford. Published by Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used with permission.