Disillusioned with Jesus? (Matthew 11:1-6)

When God doesn’t do what you expect.

Open Matthew 11:1-6.

Matthew 11:2-3 (my translation)
2 In prison, John heard what the Messiah was doing and sent his followers 3 to ask him, “Are you the one to come, or do we wait for another?”

Last year I was in a Masters-level class on the kingdom of God. Dr Tidball asked us, “So why did John the Baptist doubt if Jesus was the Messiah?” How could the greatest of all prophets — the one privileged to announce the arrival of the Messiah — doubt if Jesus was the Messiah? Continue reading “Disillusioned with Jesus? (Matthew 11:1-6)”

The key posts of 2016/2017

Want a summary of what we’ve said on the kingdom of God? Here are the links to the key posts. (Links open in a new window/tab.)

Douglas Adams was right. 42 might be the answer to life, the universe, and everything, but it makes no sense if you don’t know the question.

After decades of following Jesus, I was shocked to realize I didn’t understand Jesus in the way he understood himself and his mission. His identity was son of man. His work was kingdom of God. Son of man, doing kingdom of God stuff? Have you any idea what he meant?

I think the most important question in life is who Jesus was and what he was doing. That’s why I’m devoting my life to this question:

What difference would it make to understand Jesus in the terms he used to describe himself (his identity and mission)?

According to Jesus, seeking the kingdom is top priority (Matthew 6:33). It’s why we launched this blog. Does it inspire you? Continue reading “The key posts of 2016/2017”

The good shepherd (John 10:1-18)

Jesus is the good shepherd? What does that mean?

Open John 9:40 – 10:18.

In our culture, religion is an optional religious experience for those who like that kind of thing. It’s good clean fun, time with friends, decent music, more inspiring than Ted Talks. Australia views church as a recreational activity, a time of being refreshed after the work and political struggles of the week, a bit like binging on Netflix except you have to dress up and go out.

So when we read Jesus talking about the kingdom of God, we can’t make any sense of it. We copy the Psalms and sing, “God reigns,” but we don’t think of ourselves as a kingdom.

Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), but we don’t understand what that meant to Israel. A shepherd was a ruler, one who led the herd. In Jesus’ day, the Sanhedrin had that responsibility. So if he claimed to be the good shepherd, what was he implying about Israel’s other shepherds? Continue reading “The good shepherd (John 10:1-18)”

God’s kingdom and salvation

How does the kingdom of God relate to the message of salvation?

In my student days, I stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon. It’s embarrassing, but I remember saying, “That’s not a canyon; that’s a huge cliff.” I expected to see another cliff on the other side of the canyon. Eventually, somebody pointed it out: “See over there, 18 miles in the distance, that’s the other side.” I had totally failed to understand the scale of the canyon.

Salvation can be a bit like that. It’s so much more than we take in at first. For 500 years, we’ve stressed that it’s all of grace, nothing of human merit: by grace alone, by faith alone. We know it so well:

Ephesians 2:8–9 (NIV)
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.

How does salvation relate to the kingdom? That’s an important question if we are to understand the gospel Jesus preached, i.e. the good news of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Mark 1:15; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 16:16). Continue reading “God’s kingdom and salvation”

God’s kingdom and Israel today

How does the kingdom of God relate to the nation of Israel today?

Israel did not exist as an independent nation for more than 2,500 years (586 BC – AD 1947). What is the significance of Israel’s rebirth 70 years ago?

For many Jews, it means coming home to the home they never had. Some see it as the fulfilment (or re-fulfilment) of God’s promise to resurrect their nation (Ezekiel 37:14).

Some Christians also see Israel’s return as a significant fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy in our time. Is this so? To answer that question, we need to review the crucial role Israel played in the kingdom of God narrative. Continue reading “God’s kingdom and Israel today”

God’s kingdom and social justice

Social justice isn’t an angry fist; it’s a cross, bearing the injustice away.

Imagine a world without gender conflict, where males and females value each other as persons. Imagine a world where no one no one dies of preventable diseases, where no one starves while others horde wealth. Imagine a world without racism or slavery or war, a world where no leader forces themselves on people. Imagine a world where people shun violence and retribution, calling on God to bring justice instead.

Lofty ideals? It’s our future. This is the world we will know when it runs as our heavenly sovereign intends — as the kingdom of God. The big question is how do we get there?

Continue reading “God’s kingdom and social justice”