Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 29 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “The Kingdom of God.”
Today’s episode is Part VI of the six-part series, “Studies in Romans: Saved by Grace, Powered by Love.”
Last week I built on the central theme of our last few episodes:
Our bodies, Paul says, become a temple for God’s residence through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. This is one of the core concepts of his writing all through the New Testament. As a “temple” for God’s Spirit, we must choose—as Paul instructs—to “present our body as a living sacrifice,” and to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind.” (See Romans 12:1-2)
In his second general letter to all believers, the Apostle Peter underscores what Paul has said, then ends his epistle with these words:
“[Keep on] grow[ing] in grace and knowledge of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”2 Peter 3:18 NIV
Today we’ll explore some thoughts about growing in grace and what it means to be citizens of God’s holy people—a spiritual nation governed by the law of agápe love.
To listen to the audio podcast, click HERE.
As citizens of God’s Kingdom—transformed into the likeness of Christ—we move from being “shame-based” to “grace-based.”
Let’s look at that idea for a bit.
In Romans thus far, we’ve seen that all human beings are sinners by nature—Adam’s fallen nature—but all are also justified by God’s forgiveness and grace expressed through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul clearly teaches here in Romans that “the just shall live by faith,” and that “nothing can separate us from God’s love.” To enter into this saving, life-giving relationship with the Source of life and love, we willingly present our bodies and minds for the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. In our person, then, we serve as living temples for the glory of God—our Creator and King. With God’s residence in our heart as his temple, we continuously grow in grace, gaining victory power to overcome evil with good. Our spiritual base is changed from shame to grace.
We had no control or choice about our physical birth. We were all born into Adam’s flesh.
Pause for a moment and look at your hands. Consider their appearance and how they feel as you put them together. Then, realize that this flesh is Adam’s flesh. If we believe the biblical story of Creation—which I do—then we understand that through the miracles of procreation, generation after generation, Adam’s flesh—his nature—has been passed down across all the centuries to us.
Jesus told Nicodemus,
“I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.”John 3:5-8 NLT
When we are “born again” of the Spirit, we move from shame-based life to grace-based life. Since agápe love and grace are the hallmarks of God’s Kingdom—along with perfect justice—the entire orientation of living changes. Our very nature is changed by the Resident God!
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve God with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too.”Romans 14:17-18 NLT
And from the Gospel of Luke:
“When [Jesus] was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”Luke 17:20-21
From these verses we catch a hint that the Kingdom of God is entirely different than the kingdoms and governments of the world. Every worldly government from time immemorial has been about dominance, protectionism, human achievement, and economic prosperity gained at the expense of the weak.
In direct opposition to the nature and goals of the the world stands the Kingdom of God—a nation of priests, a kingdom of love and service, and a foundational philosophy of sacrificial giving.
In Matthew 6, Jesus is recorded as teaching,
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”Matthew 6:19-21
At the end of this passage, Jesus summarizes the lesson, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
Let’s go back for a moment to Paul’s statement I referenced a bit ago, found in Romans 14:17-18.
Paul describes the essence of God’s kingdom as being “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” He continues, declaring that a person who serves Christ in this way is “acceptable to God and approved by men.”
Paul then follows with this admonition: “Therefore, let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).
He continues in this vein through the concluding chapters of the book. Here are several examples:
Romans 15:5-6 — “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 15:13, 33 — “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. . . . Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”
And as a final benediction:
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began, but now made manifest, and by the prophetic scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God for obedience to the faith—to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Romans 16:25-27).
All this that we see in Romans is echoed in the writings of all the other New Testament writers. In the series, I’ve already referenced Peter, for example. Another is the Apostle John.
In his advanced years, John lived in Ephesus, the coastal town on the shores of the Aegean Sea in what is now modern-day Turkey. Around AD 85-90, John probably would have been very close to 80 years old then. In his elder years he was held in great esteem by all the Christian believers. He was, after all, probably the only living survivor of the 12 original disciples of Jesus. A full generation of new people had joined the church by then.
Many errant ideas had begun floating around among the body of believers, including speculative falsehoods about the nature of Jesus. Some said he was God, but not really a human being like everyone else. Others said he was just a man whose followers had elevated to the status of deity.
To counteract these heresies, John prepared a letter to send to all the churches. We have that letter preserved in our New Testament as “1 John.” It was followed later with a second, then a third letter from the ancient disciple.
(BTW, all three letters were written before John was exiled to the Isle of Patmos, where he received the vision of the Revelation.)
In 1 John, the author asserts his authority as an eye-witness to testify about Jesus, whom he personally knew, followed as a disciple, saw die on the cross of Calvary, and ate fish with him even after the resurrection. John’s message established that the kingdom of God was unlike any other kingdom on earth. Instead of being a kingdom of power and force, John described God’s kingdom being founded on light, love, and life.
In chapter 1, verse 7 he writes, “If we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.”
In chapter 4, verse 16, he says, “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”
And, in chapter 5, verses 11-12, we read, “This is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s son does not have life.”
The Holy Spirit invites us today to take our place as citizens of the heavenly kingdom. If we are followers/disciples of Christ, then our very life must be a testimony of his character—governed by the eternal principles of light, love, and life. The lesson couldn’t be any more clear: from the perspective of eternity, affairs of this life which sometimes threaten to overwhelm us, are, in fact, pretty unimportant. Instead of becoming embroiled in the controversies swirling around us on every side, God offers his “peace that passes all understanding.”
Trusting fully in God’s salvation, the new creation of our lives, agápe love, and his amazing grace, let us stand tall as witnesses for him, living sober, righteous, and godly lives for his honor and glory. Let us live in such a way that we really do glorify the deity that dwells within our body temple!
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed. I especially hope you have been blessed, encouraged, and perhaps even inspired by the thoughts I’ve shared on this little series of studies in the Book of Romans. I would really encourage you to find a New Living Translation of the New Testament and spend some serious study time going verse-by-verse through this letter from the Apostle Paul. It is his most important theological treatise, and is essentially the central core of New Testament doctrines. I guarantee your faith will grow as you prayerfully consider the truths contained in this book.
I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’m going to take a look at the question “What was Nailed to the Cross?”
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