Question: What is your understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew? Is it future or already present, but not yet?

An initial note should be stated: when you compare the parable messages from Mark 4; Luke 8 and Matthew 13, you’ll see that the terms Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are used interchangeably. So is the Kingdom of Heaven future rather than “already, but not yet”?

We first need to see that there are five facets of “kingdom” in Scripture. There terms “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven” both refer to God’s rule, although the uses of the term “kingdom” will reveal five different facets.

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Question: If someone is proud, what is the “put off” and “put on”?

God created the most beautiful world when He created the Garden of Eden. It remained incredible, until Adam sinned and God thrust him out of the Garden into a creation that now groans because of Adam’s sin, “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Rom. 8:22)

The basis of Adam’s sin was pride. He chose to choose independently of God’s will. He chose to act without asking God what he should do. He chose to rely upon his own sense rather than depend solely on the Lord. That is what pride is. It is the fundamental cause of all sins in life. Continue reading

Question: Why does a loving God allow suffering?

Why does a loving God allow suffering? I looked at one aspect of the question on an earlier post, “How can a loving God allow suffering?” which looked at one element of the question, namely, people don’t understand the character of God’s holiness and the offense of sin against holiness, which results in personal and corporate suffering. This article will focus on another aspect, Continue reading

Insights: Should you celebrate Halloween as a Christian?

Should you celebrate Halloween as a Christian? I have taken almost every position on what to do with Halloween.  I respect good brothers and sisters who want nothing to do with the day.  I have taught the position of Halloween as initiated by the evil spirits and Celtic traditions.  Continue reading

Question: Is a Faith a Work?

Recently, I was in a conversation with a person who held to a strict Calvinistic position. That is, he believed in the five point TULIP principles. During the conversation, we discussed Ephesians 2:8 and how the word “that” cannot refer to faith because of the Greek grammatical construction, but it must refer to “salvation,” which is elliptical (which means it is implied by the verb “saved”). As the discussion continued, I stated that faith was a non-meritorious decision.  There is no merit before God. Then he commented that a decision or faith is an action and salvation is not obtained by a work or an action. Continue reading

Why do bad things still happen?

When a person trusts in Jesus Christ, he becomes a child of God.  There is no greater blessing in life, than to be God’s child. When you trust in Jesus Christ, you become a part of the universal Church, you are identified with the family of God, you have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and you have an eternal destiny with the Lord in heaven. Yet, there are still bad things that happen. Why? Here are six reasons why there is so much trouble.

First, Jesus said bad things would happen. He could stop all bad things, but then he would have to remove every person from earth.  Inside every person, in fact in every Christian, is a sin nature. The sin nature is what continues to cause problems as Paul declared,

15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (Rom 7:15-17 NKJ)

Because of the sin nature, people still sin. Sin causes troubles.  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJ) The question is: Will you trust Jesus while you are in the trouble and learn patience, endurance and perseverance?  He still loves you and He will never forsake you (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5).

Secondly, the world is full of trouble because when Adam sinned, he gave up rulership of the world to Satan. Consequently, Satan is the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4) and he loves to make people miserable and blame God for their misery.  In fact, Satan blinds the minds of those under his influence. Paul wrote, “…whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (2 Cor. 4:4 NKJ) Satan’s blinding work prevents many from trusting the goodness of God and His good works, because they look for their hope in the world.

We know Satan is the god of this world, because he attempted to offer the kingdoms of the world to Jesus during the temptations of Jesus. Luke recorded the dialogue between Satan and Jesus,

5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 “Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”  8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, `You shall worship the LORD your God.” (Luke 4:5-8 NKJ)

There is no contest between God and Satan, because God could end the conflict at any time and wipe out Satan.  Why does God not destroy Satan? He will in His sovereign timing (Rev. 20:10).  In the meantime, God is showing that those who live under grace in dependency upon Him will be blessed and those who reject God will be miserable and find an empty future. Yet, even in trouble, there is hope in the Lord that eases the trouble and glorifies Him.

It is similar to when Jeremiah was sitting on the ash heap of Jerusalem’s destruction, he found hope in the Lord.  When God allowed Jerusalem to be destroyed in B.C. 586, because they had forsaken the Lord, Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations.  The city was destroyed.  Homes were ruined. The stench from dead bodies was repulsive. And yet, Jeremiah found his hope in the Lord,

21 This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. 22 Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him! (Lam 3:21-24 NKJ)

Thirdly, God allowed Satan to be a part of the testing process. Regarding testing, God allowed Satan to harm Job who was a blameless man, yet the testing showed that a blameless man would not curse God, but would trust God. When messengers reported that raiders came and stole his herds and another messenger said his ten children died in a huge windstorm, Job responded with trust in the Lord,

20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD. 22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. (Job 1:20-22 NKJ)

Even in the trouble, the bad things, though Satan was the instrument God used, Job trusted in the Lord.

Fourthly, God allows Satan to be a part of the divine discipline process. That can produce trouble for many people. When a young man was committing incest with his step-mother, the Corinthian church acted like they should just practice grace.  Paul rebuked the church and said,

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles– that a man has his father’s wife!  2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.  3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1 Cor. 5:1-5 NKJ)

In other words, Paul chastised them for not fearing the holiness of God. They should have put him out of the church, which would have been a discipline on the young man, because there were no other churches in Corinth. Because the young man was saved (1 Cor. 5:5), he would have been exposed to Satan’s wrath. Why? He would have been exposed, because Jesus Christ dwelt within the young man and Satan can’t stand anyone who is a Christian. Therefore the young man would have become a target of Satan. If you are associated with a person or people who are under-going divine discipline, you will experience their discipline by association.

Fifthly, bad things are a purifying process of helping us become more dependent on Him. We in America do everything we can to maintain comfort.  We avoid troubles at any cost.  However, trials and troubles are often God’s purifying process. Peter wrote,

12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Pet. 4:12-17 NKJ)

Peter also wrote,

10 But maythe God of all grace, who called usto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Pet. 5:10 NKJ)

The purpose of troubles is to “perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” You will become more dependent on the Lord in His sovereign actions. You will gain strength to face new trials and reveal your tremendous trust in Him.

And sixthly, after death, there are no more bad things. Once the Christian is in heaven, there are no more sorrows and no more tears as John wrote, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4 NKJ) One of the greatest blessings of being a Christian is knowing that there is an end to the troubles of life. Heaven will be a place of God’s peace.

Generally, people do not like bad things or troubles.  Yet the one who trusts in the Lord will accept troubles as a part of God’s purifying and growing process. God offers peace in the midst of trouble. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NKJ) You can have that peace today as you walk in and trust Him. Paul wrote, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7 NKJ)

God has a purpose for everything. God will richly reward those who trust Him, even when circumstances are bad.  He is worthy of hope.  He is worthy of your trust.