I remember struggling with the thought of starting KINGDOM101. Deep within me, I knew that it would not be easy at all. [Read: Expository Preaching: What was I thinking?] Yet, the prompting was strong from the Lord, convicting me of the need to teach about the kingdom of God – not just for the general body of Christ but specifically to Archippuses, because those who desire to be on kingdom assignment must be grounded with the right foundation of the kingdom.
And so, in obedience, not really knowing how it would turn out, we planned for KINGDOM101. On 4 Feb, we held a Special Introductory Session to introduce and explain what KINGDOM101 would be, inviting all to join us on this expository journey. I was personally encouraged when 101 turned up for this session.
3-fold Objective of KINGDOM101 – To know the King – To embrace His kingdom – To receive our assignments
Phase Ikicked off on 18 Mar and every Wednesday following. Across the weeks, the attendance settled at an average of 50, comprising regulars and visitors from different local churches. Phase I ended on 27 May, after 9 teaching sessions, coinciding with the book commissioning of Say To Archippus. With that, KINGDOM101 took its first break over the June holidays. Phase II resumed on 8 July. This second phase covered another 15 teaching sessions, bringing us to Matthew 5:1. The 24th and last teaching of the year, Multus Discipulus, took place on 11 Nov. The next week, we had our very first guest speaker (ever) with IN THE LAST DAYS‘ speaker, Bill Muehlenberg, sharing about “Capturing the Culture”. On 25 Nov, we came together to celebrate the end of Phase II, giving thanks and praise to the Lord for His grace and enablement.
To serve those who are unable to come on Wednesday nights, weekly teachings are uploaded onto our Archippus Awakening Channel on SoundCloud. As at the time of posting this update, our channel has drawn 4,400+ plays, not just in Singapore but also beyond our shores. More recently, after listening to the teachings, a sister wrote in from USA to purchase copies of Say To Archippus! We are so thankful that the Lord is extending our reach through the internet. Who knows how Archippus Awakening will grow as a movement in the days ahead!
Looking back, I stand amazed at how we have travelled thus far. Week after week, I must admit that it has been quite a stretch for me to prepare fresh messages for KINGDOM101, over and above other ministry engagements and family commitments. Even so, that demonstrates what an assignment is and how important it is to know one’s assignment. No matter how difficult it is or how tired I am, my desire is to be faithful to what the Lord has assigned to me and to do it well for His glory and for the benefit of the body of Christ.
Along the way, the journey can seem extremely lonely. Each week, I never know who is coming or how many will turn up (especially after a break!). Pastorally, after teaching, I often wonder how many will move on what has been shared that these do not remain hearers of the word, deceiving themselves, but will go on to become truly Archippuses, awakened, aligned and assigned! It’s hard to know because often, fruit is not readily evident. For a teacher and preacher, this can be terribly discouraging. And yet, because this is what I have been tasked to do, I will keep plugging away and will keep sowing and sowing, trusting that the Lord will water every teaching and heart with the rain of His Holy Spirit.
Over the next weeks, KINGDOM101 will take another long break before resuming with PHASE III on 13 Jan 2016. I won’t have much time to wonder who or if any will return in the new year. My schedule is already filled with church camps and other speaking engagements, not to mention the need to pray and plan for the forward initiatives of Archippus Awakening.
All I know is that my God who has seen us through Phase I and Phase II will continue to see us through Phase III and beyond. Amen!
JOIN US FOR KINGDOM101 when we resume with Phase III on 13 Jan 2016. Open to all. Anyone can join this expository journey at any point in time. No registration required. No fees to pay.
After months of planning, preparation and prayer, KINGDOM101 blasted off to an encouraging start last night (Wed 18 March 2015).
Pastor Yoy opened the meeting with a segment of praise and worship, supported by David on the keyboards. Setting the tone for KINGDOM101 sessions, Henson (founder of ArchippusAwakening), encouraged all from Luke 12:31-32 to not just come for yet another bible study but to determine to seek the Kingdom, resting in the promise that it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. To bring it into application and activation, we prayed for one another that each would receive a fresh revelation of Jesus and His Kingdom. As there were many that came from different local congregations, we then took the opportunity to declare blessings over one another’s churches, praying for all pastors and leaders that they too will see the Kingdom of God in new light.
“But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:31-32
After a short break, Henson jumped straight into the very first KINGDOM101 teaching, entitled MEET MATT. An overview of the gospel of Matthew was provided so that hearts will be prepared for the expository teachings to come in the following weeks. How wonderful to know that God’s Word was fulfilled in Jesus Christ and continues to be fulfilled as we see world events unfold. This should compel us to respond in the right manner, seeking to be ready for Jesus’ return, faithfully going about the assignments He has prepared for us.
We want to invite you on this exciting expository journey of KINGDOM101. The dates for Phase I of KINGDOM101 are 25 Mar, 1, 8, 15 Apr and 29 Apr, 6, 13, 20, 27 May (please note that there will be a break on 22 Apr). Phase II dates will be provided soon. Join us each Wednesday, 7:30pm at #11-11 CT Hub, 2 Kallang Avenue, Singapore 339407.
Have you ever had one of those moments when an idea pops into your head and it really excites you? You think to yourself, “Whoa, man! What an idea! This must be divine inspiration!” Without any hesitation, you dash out to announce it – prophetically declare, in Christian speak – to the whole world (well, almost), everyone says “AMEN!”, you feel totally affirmed, and then … you realise the exclamation of the word brings with it the execution of the work. The first part is easy; the next requires a lot more effort.
Not that I didn’t see it coming but I am realising the magnitude of the task that awaits me as I prepare towards the commencement of KINGDOM101 on 18 March. Make no mistake: I am fully convinced and convicted that there is a lack of expository preaching that has contributed to the level of biblical literacy in the Body of Christ. Given that Archippus Awakening is to be a Kingdom initiative, I am challenged to re-visit and re-discover the fundamentals of the Kingdom through the gospel of Matthew. I sincerely believe that as we declare the Word of the Kingdom, we will be re-introduced to Jesus the King all over again, have a fresh revelation of His Kingdom, from which we will receive our bearings and our God-given Kingdom assignments.
After the Introductory Session of KINGDOM101 on 4 Feb, I have been gathering my thoughts and preparing the material. And it’s tough! Honestly, what was I thinking? This expository journey through the book of Matthew is not going to be a walk through the park! Without doubt, it will challenge me to the core.
Here are some challenges I expect to encounter along the way…
I don’t get to pick the topic or the text. This is really tough for preachers! It’s much easier to decide on a topic and then pick a passage to support it. In expository preaching, the text directs and determines the topic. I simply submit and obey.
I will be forced to tackle difficult and obscure passages. I don’t get to determine what I want or don’t want to preach. When I get to a certain passage, that is it! I have to preach it, however difficult it might be, or however irrelevant it might appear to be. Eunuchs? Ewwww….
I have to consider everything in its proper context. Often, we tend to lift off verses and passages out of its context to make or support a point. But not so with expository preaching. Although each message must be taken as a stand-alone, its immediate context cannot be ignored and must be carefully considered. What I preach each week will affect the messages before and after.
I must study the text diligently and consistently. Is this becoming rather obvious? Whilst I have commentaries to help me, it must be Scripture that must be studied first and foremost. There are no shortcuts to this process.
I cannot repeat my favourite or pet phrases. All preachers are guilty of this. And it is made even more obvious if we only preach around topics we are familiar with. Expository preaching, however, forces us to preach things we might not have ever preached nor considered before. That really takes us out of our comfort zone! Can I hear a loud amen?
I cannot make the text say something it doesn’t say. I am all for being led by the Spirit. However, that cannot be a convenient excuse for not studying the Word or delivering a mis-interpretation of Scriptures. The Spirit is there to confirm and bring illumination of the Word; not to endorse a lazy preacher regardless his or her own personal charisma.
I must be prepared to work hard, very hard. I’m starting to realise why there is so little expository preaching across the Body of Christ – haha! It’s hard work! And given the 1,001 other things pastors and ministers have to look into, is it any wonder that most opt for topical preaching or a more manageable 3 or 4 part series? Discipline is key as I am reminded of Acts 6:4 to give myself “continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Having shared my heart and concerns, I invite you to pray with and for me. Every once in a while, I still ask myself, “What were you thinking, Henson?!” That said, I do believe KINGDOM101 to be divine inspiration, the leading of the Lord. To this end, what He has directed, I believe He will also enable.
KINGDOM101 may be a study through a book in the bible, but it must not be just another bible study. If so, we would have missed the point entirely. As an initiative of ArchippusAwakening, it aims to lay the right biblical foundation of the Word of the Kingdom in the hearts of believers. I am praying for the Holy Spirit to awaken us through this journey that many will be aligned with Jesus the King and be duly assigned with the purposes of His Kingdom!
Yes, it’s going to be quite a journey over the next two years (at least). But it’s going to be a sowing into hearts made ready for Jesus and I am willing to make the sacrifice in expectation of a bountiful harvest, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Matt 13:8 & 23).
Thank for your prayers and support! See you at KINGDOM101, starting 18 March.
In Matt 13:44-46, Jesus uses another pair of parables to illustrate yet another aspect of the kingdom. One might suppose that it is for added emphasis that two parables are used instead of one. However, in examining the elements in each of the parables, it makes for a rather interesting observation. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:44–46
Note the contrasts. We have a man who labours in a field and another who trades in the marketplace. One is a common, average worker and the other is a well-travelled merchant or businessman. The treasure that was found was buried and hidden while the pearl was possibly openly displayed on a shelf or table. For the man in the field, it was something he stumbled upon. Yet, for the merchant, it was the result of a conscious, deliberate search. In terms of gender association, the discovery of treasure at work would most likely resonate with the men just as the pearl of great price would have caught the attention of the women in the audience. Yet, regardless the contrasts, both items were deemed to be of great value. And more critically, each yielded the same response by the one who discovered it – they were willing have it at all cost!
There is a very beautiful truth that Jesus is making here. Simply, the kingdom of God is available to everyone, regardless status or position in life, man or woman, rich or poor, chanced upon or sought after, seemingly hidden or openly displayed. It is for one and all! And to everyone who discovers the kingdom, it is of great and infinite value, one that is not defined by nor subject to personal preference, taste, market forces or trend. Everyone should be willing to give up everything for the sake of the kingdom of God! Yes, the response should be the same across the board. But is it?
Jesus uses the picture of the treasure and a pearl of great price. To begin with, can we even put a price tag on the kingdom of God? We can save up for eternity and it still will not be enough. We can be on our best behaviour and still not qualify for the kingdom. We could try to bribe our way into the kingdom and that wouldn’t work. It is only by faith in Jesus Christ that we are born again and transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God, redeemed with His precious blood, no less! It might have come free to us, but it cost the Son of God dearly. The kingdom of God is not just of great value; it is priceless!
But do we value the kingdom as readily as we shout, “Amen!” Do we value the work and sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross? Do we value the power and authority of the kingdom in and through the name of Jesus? Do we value the rule and reign of the King? Do we value the freedom in the kingdom by His Spirit? Do we value the certainty, stability and absolute rule of the kingdom? Do we value the eternity of the kingdom over the temporal offerings of this life?
If the answer is “yes” then we are now ready to consider the worth of the kingdom. Is the kingdom worth it? Is it worth my full and undivided devotion and allegiance to the King? Is it worth the priorities that must be shifted, the sacrifices that must be made, the inconveniences that must be experienced? It is worth my time, effort, resources and money? Is it worth the trials we go through, the scorn and ridicule we might receive, the rejection we might face, the persecutions we must endure? Is the kingdom worth living for? Dying for? Is it worth the risk of losing friends and family members or the risk of job loss for righteousness’ sake?
Two simple parables that communicate a powerful truth about the kingdom. And yet, the appropriation and the living out of that truth is anything but simple. It will challenge the very core of our being and what we truly believe. The apostles and the disciples had to reckon with it, as did the early church fathers. Many demonstrated with their lives what they declared with their lips. To them, the kingdom is truly of great value and most certainly worth the giving up of everything.
Back in July, in preparing for a message about the advancement of the Kingdom of God, I wanted a photo to illustrate a point. ISIS had just made the news when they entered Syria. Over the internet and the main media, they revealed plans of establishing a caliphate across the entire Middle East in five years. This was the picture I selected and used:
When I shared that just over a month ago, little did I know that ISIS would become the biggest threat to Christians in that region; and the world! Since then, churches have been closed, thousands have been forced to evacuate; many have been killed and beheaded, both men and children; and women have reportedly been abused, raped or trafficked as sex slaves 🙁 And ISIS is not stopping there. More recently, they announced intentions to take over America and the West that they may Raise the Flag of Allah at the White House. Asia is not spared either as ISIS eyes Malaysia and Indonesia, stepping up their recruitment exercise amongst the radicals there.
What was the point I was trying to make with the picture? Simply, that these guys understand what it means to advance a kingdom albeit a very different one. Say what you like but you have got to admit that they have vision, strategy, conviction and resolve. Indeed, they have a totally different motivation and one might even go as far as to say that this agenda is beyond political but spiritual and demonic. Still, let us not miss the main point: they believe in something and they sure act and move like they really believe in it!
What about us, Christians? Please do not misunderstand for I am in no way suggesting that we become militant and mount another crusade. Jesus set the tone very clearly when He declared to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36, NKJV) That said, does this mean that we just sit back and relax? On this note, it really irks me when I hear some spout Christian arm-chair rhetoric so readily and spiritually, “Oh, we must remember that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, that our battle is in the spiritual realm.” In other words, let’s utter a short prayer and get on with church. Have these forgotten that when one part of the body is injured, the whole body hurts and suffers too?
Interestingly, when the picture was flashed on the screen, more than half responded with blank looks. They didn’t even know what was happening to our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. Closer to home, in my interactions with believers, many cannot even explain what the kingdom of God is, much less live, or die, for it. In today’s dominion-type language, we only understand the kingdom of God as prosperity, success and breakthroughs … in my life, my bank account, my career, my own kingdom, amen! But to advance the kingdom of God?; to participate in what God is doing in these times and seasons? Sorry, no comprehendo. By the way, can you please pray for me to close this really big deal that would secure my retirement?
Do we believe in the kingdom of God and the battles that must be fought, even if these are largely spiritual? Have we even begun living for the kingdom and its purposes? How much do we value or treasure the kingdom of God? Would we give up everything for the kingdom’s sake? What if such an eventuality is forced upon us, like it suddenly descended upon the believers in Syria and Iraq? Would that be the only thing that would shake and awaken the church out of its slumber? Would that be what it takes to test the genuineness of our faith, to refine us as pure gold?
Oh Lord, have mercy! Let Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
After two parables about sowers, seeds and fields, Jesus continues with the same imagery for the third parable; and then extends the idea through the fourth. The Parables of the Mustard Seed (Matt 13:31-32) and Leaven (Matt 13:33), communicate one truth: the impact of the Kingdom and how it starts. Let us be reminded that it is not about Christendom nor Church-dom, but Kingdom. More importantly, it is directed at the individual.
Here are the parables, reproduced hereunder for easy reference:
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.’ Another parable He spoke to them: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.'” Matthew 13:31–33
Using both male and female tasks of the day, the message is clearly directed at both men and women whether in the workplace or at home. For this reason, I believe that these parables should be duly appropriated by the individual with personal and practical application rather than the familiar broad statements about how God’s kingdom will start small and grow exponentially and impact nations. That is of course true, but it must first begin with the individual, every man and every woman.
Drawing from the Parable of the Soils and as explained in A Heart for the Kingdom, it begins with the right heart and posture, one that is deeply desirous of The Mysteries of the Kingdom. The seed that is sown, as we have already established, is “the word of the kingdom” (Matt 13:19), not just some inspirational or motivational message that is prevalent in churches these days.
Now, here’s the big idea:
Regardless the message, with the right heart and attitude, all it takes is one little word, one small point, one short line – the size of a mustard seed – and the seed of the word of the kingdom of God is lodged in the heart! And if this diligent one would duly tend the ground of his heart, to remove stones and thorns, that little seed of the kingdom will begin to grow, to impact his life, to change his mind, and to influence his decisions. Over time. he will grow into a mighty tree in the kingdom, an oak of righteousness, the planting of the Lord (Isaiah 61:3). But don’t stop there for the verse goes on to declare – “that He may be glorified!” How? Read the next verse: “And they shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.” (Isaiah 61:4) In other words, when “birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matt 13:32). It is when individuals are first personally impacted by the word of the kingdom that they will rise up and take their rightful positions in their spheres of influence to establish the kingdom of God. That’s when societies and nations will be reformed and transformed! And God is glorified!
And so it is too with leaven. Here, the emphasis is on the hiddenness of this baking ingredient. Stay-at-home mothers would understand and appreciate this best. Their toils and tears are often hidden, unseen and unappreciated. Kingdom impact is not always about the big things or the bright lights. Once again, all it requires is a ready heart to receive the word of the kingdom, allowing it time and process. Soon, the aroma of fresh bread fills the room and then hungry appetites are satisfied. Those who bake will understand that you don’t need a lot of leaven to bake bread. As it is with the mustard seed, all it takes in one little word of the kingdom to make a great difference for it will take root, grow and begin to impact your marriage, your family and your home and these will smell and taste the kingdom in you! No glitz. No glamour. Just hiddenness. But what an impact! Let it be emphasised again that although what you do at home or in hiddenness may seem meaningless and unproductive at times, with the right heart, it can grow into a great and positive kingdom contribution!
It is a very simple kingdom principle that Jesus is sharing. And yet, I fear that we might have focussed too much on what the end result could be and totally missed the place where it starts – a heart that is ready to receive the word of the kingdom. If we would do our part, God will more than do His.
Stop looking for new and great revelations. Start with that little mustard seed, that little bit of leaven of the word of the kingdom of God! Begin with smallness and hiddenness and see how God can grow the word in and through you to bring about a mighty impact of the kingdom around you.
Immediately after the Parable of the Soils (Sower), Jesus shares another parable (Matt 13:24-30) involving a sower and seeds again. The two parables may have contained similar elements but the focus and interpretation is totally different. Thankfully, when His disciples came to Him, Jesus explained the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares very plainly and clearly (Matt 13:36-43).
“He answered and said to them: ‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.'” Matthew 13:37–39
Just to ensure that no one mis-reads it, here it is in simplified form:
Sower = Jesus
Good Seeds = the sons of the kingdom
Field = the world
The sower of tares = the devil
Tares = the sons of the wicked one
Harvest = the end of age
Reapers = angels
As I pondered the significance of each of these points, it challenged my every impression I had of this parable and what I had heard others say or teach about it. For example, I have often heard this parable applied to the mix of real and false believers in the church. But Jesus said that the field represented the world, not the church! At first glance, most would readily assume that the sons of the kingdom referred to the people of God (or believers) and so did I. But is that an accurate assumption? Let’s just say that I wasn’t prepared for what the Lord showed me. Please read on as we consider some key observations about this parable. Firstly, in the same way the sower sows the good seed in the field, Jesus scatters and sends the sons of the kingdom into the world (once more, for emphasis, not into church). The implication is extremely straightforward, if you ask me: Every son and daughter of the kingdom will be sent by Jesus into the world. In the language of ArchippusAwakening, every Archippus has a kingdom assignment in the Lord that he has to know and fulfil. Where? In the world. Secondly, we are told that the grain sprouted and produced a crop (Matt 13:26). Children of the kingdom are expected to be faithful and fruitful.Wherever Jesus sends us, and whatever we are called to accomplish, we must not only be found faithful to the task but that we are also fruitful in all we do. Don’t miss the point that the counter measures of the enemy are deceptively fruitful and productive too. Thirdly – and this is what really challenged and provoked me – the people of God are not necessarily the sons of the kingdom. Whoa!? Yes, I know; this point jolted me too. But the Spirit showed me that we can be members of the church and yet not be sons of the kingdom. In its simplest definition, the sons of the kingdom are those who hear, understand, obey, grow into and reveal the characteristics of the kingdom. For sure, every child (teknon) of God has that potential to become a son (huios) of the kingdom. But as we have already observed, not everyone has a heart for the kingdom and thus, not everyone who is numbered amongst the people of God is necessarily a son of the kingdom who would faithfully complete his kingdom assignment.
What is even more painful to realise is that some of God’s people might well be considered “sons of the wicked one”. That was what Jesus called the Jews, presumably God’s people, when He said, “You do the deeds of your father.” (John 8:41) and as such, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.” (John 8:43) Why did Jesus label them as such? Because they preferred to believe a lie more than accept the truth. And when confronted by Jesus who is Truth, their true identity was revealed. No wonder that bought Jesus a one-way ticket to the cross.
In the words of Jesus, a son will do the works of the father. “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.” (John 8:39) As the Son of God Himself, Jesus knew to be about the Father’s business. Similarly, sons of the kingdom will do the work of the kingdom. Conversely, if one does not do the work of the kingdom, can he be considered a son of the kingdom?
“So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.” Matthew 13:27–29
Fourthly, Jesus made it very clear that it will not be easy to identify the wheat from the tares. Both look similar and the difference will not be apparent until much later. Today, much of what the world does through its rights and social cause movements look pretty much like what Christians desire to do through our various church activities. At the same time, it is also easy to confuse the activities of the church for the assignments of the kingdom.
What makes it dangerous to separate is that the root systems of both wheat and tares are too closely intertwined and infused. Removing one will hurt the another. Although foundations may be built on Judeo-Christian principles, this does not mean that a nation’s or a church’s agenda is necessarily that of the kingdom. It is one thing to enjoy the blessings of kingdom principles; it is totally another to embrace the advancement of kingdom purposes. That is also what we are facing today. Is it not true that most religions appear to teach the same, good morals? Even humanists and atheists know to do good and act nice; some even surpassing Christians. We may use the same words but mean totally different things. In the end, it is still wheat and tares!
“Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:40–42
It will only be at the end of this age when the angels will separate the sons of the kingdom from the sons of the wicked one, broadly manifested through “all things that offend and those who practice lawlessness”. Concerning these, a more diligent study is recommended. In describing the last days, Jesus said, “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matt 24:10-13) That really describes our world today, doesn’t it? And interestingly, it is against this backdrop that “the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt 24:14) By whom? The sons of the kingdom!
“Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Matthew 13:43
Finally, there is a promise for the righteous. Let it be clearly understood that the gift of imputed righteousness is only the starting point, not the end. This position of righteousness with God in Christ brings us into kingdom alignment which in turn qualifies and enables us for kingdom assignments in the world. Keeping in context, the righteous would thus refer to the sons of the kingdom who, while faithfully carrying out their assignments, have practised righteousness in their own lives (1 John 3:7), borne the fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:11) and have displayed works of righteousness that they may be so arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:8)!
It’s one thing to be righteous in church; it’s totally another to stand for righteousness in the world. Be prepared for the possibility of opposition and even persecution. Against this understanding, the words of Jesus bring great assurance and much comfort: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt 5:10-12) A promise for all Christians, you think?
I understand that if you are a typical church guy, this perspective might have shocked (and even upset) you. It’s neater to adopt a church-world, us-them, believer-nonbeliever approach. It’s easier and more palatable to simply spiritualise everything and make it fit our Christian church subculture. But dear friends, that is where the problem has been all these years. These are not parables of the church, but of the kingdom of God. And I’d rather provoke you out of your comfort zone than allow you to presume something and miss what the Lord has in store for you. You don’t have to agree with all I have shared but at least seek the Lord and ask for a fresh revelation of the kingdom. I believe it is His desire to share the mysteries of the kingdom with as many who are ready to receive. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
I believe everyone is familiar with the Parable of the Sower (Matt 13:3-9;18-23). Personally, I prefer to refer to it as the Parable of the Soils as it deals primarily with the four different types of grounds symbolic of the varying conditions of hearts. We will get to that in a while but first, let us clarify a very fundamental point: What were the seeds that the sower sowed?
Some say it is the good news, the message of salvation. And others say it is the Word of God. There are other variations on the theme but generally, it is agreed that the seed is what is proclaimed by the preacher. What does Jesus say? In Matt 13:19, He clearly and categorically states that it is “the word of the kingdom”. And that must always be our starting point: the kingdom of God. This “word of the kingdom” is made available to everyone; but unfortunately, not everyone responds to it in the same manner.
For the “seed on the wayside” people, Jesus says that they hear but do not understand what the kingdom is all about. Let it be said that most would understand Christian principles; it is adherence to these principles that we struggle with. But the things of the kingdom, the mysteries? Not everyone who hears, understands. In today’s context, we hear the word “kingdom” and we think it means “church”. Many simply do not understand the word of the kingdom! As such, it is quickly snatched away. The wicked one is happy for us to keep doing church as long as we do not understand the kingdom.
For the “seed on stony places” people, these are those who are excited at the revelation of the kingdom dimension. They say “yes” and “amen” on the surface but do not necessarily have a depth of conviction of the kingdom of God for they have “no root in himself”. In fairness to them, they try to implement kingdom principles but are soon opposed. Please note that Jesus warns that when anyone desires to walk in kingdom paradigms, there will be tribulations and even persecution “because of the word”. Lest we think this only refers to opposition from the outside, I challenge you to talk and walk kingdom in the church community and see how you will stick out like a sore thumb. Your desire to align with the kingdom will be subtly but promptly re-aligned back to the organisation of the church.
For the “seed among the thorns” people, these may agree notionally with the kingdom of God but are really distracted by their own kingdom and that of the world. They fail to see that kingdom living is almost always at odds with what we are accustomed to. These want to have the best of both worlds, so to speak, but fail to recognise that the kingdom of God cannot and will not co-exist with any other kingdom. To this end, the “cares of this world” choke out any desire they might have for the kingdom. The “deceitfulness of riches” will aggressively compete with the understanding of being lowly and last in the kingdom of God. Sadly, much of today’s preaching is centred on how you can achieve success and significance according to how the world defines it … with a few bible verses thrown in for good measure. It may appear Christian; but is it kingdom?
Thankfully, there is a final group of hearers and these are the “seed on good ground” people. These are those whose hearts are ready to receive the word of the kingdom. They not only hear the word but also understand it! In Mark 4:20, they hear and accept or take it into their hearts. In Luke 8:15, they hear and keep it – and that does not mean that they merely memorised it but that they obeyed and began to live the principles and paradigms of the kingdom. Fruitfulness – not busyness – was the outcome, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty”.
What was the key differentiating factor of the soils? I believe it is having a heart for the kingdom, a deep desire to see God’s kingdom, His rule and reign, manifest in their lives, on earth as it is in heaven. Not churchdom, mind you, but kingdom. How I wish I could presume that this constitutes 25% of all who hear, of all who sit in churches today, who call themselves Christians. But I fear that, like the people of God in Jesus’ day, many in the church may too have hearts that have grown dull, ears that are hard of hearing and eyes that are closed (cf Matt 13:15; Isa 6:9-10).
Think about it: If we do not possess a heart for the kingdom, how would we seek that first? And if we would not seek it, how shall we find it that we might live for it? And if we are not living for the kingdom, how would we ever be ready to die for it? O Lord, stir our hearts in these final days. Awaken Your people to the word of Your kingdom!
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Matt 13:9
Facebook Post, 19 April 2014: “It’s so easy to talk Christian and yet not live Kingdom.”
More recently, I have been declaring rather boldly that we must learn to discern between church and kingdom. That said, just because we agree with this statement, it does not necessarily mean we fully understand what it means or what it actually entails. To be sure, many of us have grown up in the tradition of the church and we have conveniently equated all that we know about church and church life as the kingdom. Not that this is altogether wrong, but I fear that this has led and caused many to miss the kingdom. If you don’t believe me, just try asking a believer to define the kingdom of God and you will find that most likely, he or she is unable to.
Well, if it’s any consolation, we are not the only ones. Even Israel, God’s chosen people to represent and show forth His kingdom, missed it big time. To be fair, the things of the kingdom of God are not quite as straightforward. That is why Jesus used the phrase “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” in Matt 13:11. And as if that is not challenging enough, Jesus chose to present these hidden truths of the kingdom in parables, or illustrative and symbolic stories. At first glance, it might appear that Jesus deliberately did not want the people to know anything about the kingdom, as if it was reserved for a select few. But I don’t believe that is the case at all. And it will become much clearer for us when we see the PROMISE as laid out by Jesus, and the corresponding PROBLEM as pointed out by Him.
“He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” Matthew 13:11–12, NKJV
Firstly, let’s recognise that the word of the kingdom is made available to all without exception. But not everyone receives it the same way. To the one who receives it rightly, it is given to him to know the mysteries. And that’s a promise! But that’s just the beginning. The more this person desires and craves for the things of the kingdom, even more will be given, to the point of abundance! In other words, there will be an unravelling of mysteries and a revelation of the kingdom dimension until it overflows to impact others. Who wouldn’t want such a promise! … until you realise the problem.
“Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull.Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’” Matthew 13:13–15, NKJV
Jesus presented the problem very plainly: there will be those who see but don’t see, hear but don’t hear, and hence, there is no understanding of what the kingdom is all about. The prophecy of Isaiah cuts to the chase and identifies the cause: “For the hearts of this people have grown dull.” Sadly, we have the same problem amongst Christians, God’s people, today. These could be regular in church, hear 52 sermons a year, actively serving in church and still miss the kingdom of God! And because church is regarded to be the same as kingdom, the agenda, structure and demands of the church organisation take precedence over the essentials of the kingdom. We preach and proclaim kingdom but what it is seen, heard and understood as is church. This has resulted in busy church members and even busier and burnt out full-time ministers, but not necessarily kingdom fruitfulness of thirty, sixty or a hundredfold. Why? I suggest to you that our calloused and distracted hearts have settled for the matters of the church but missed the mysteries of the kingdom.
To a large degree, this is the cry of ArchippusAwakening. It’s not just about doing something for God, where we can serve in church but to know how every assignment fits into the bigger kingdom picture. For sure, we are not here to merely raise people to fill positions in the church but to awaken Archippuses to fulfil the purposes of the kingdom! To accomplish this, we have no choice but to uncover and discover the mysteries of the kingdom with hungry and humbled hearts that we may hear what the Spirit is saying.
Indeed, this is not a journey for the faint-hearted. Along the way, there will be baggage to cast off and many things to unlearn. I’ve got my Indiana Jones hat on. Who’s going to join me on this adventure?