Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March 18, 2014 - Along the way ...

Last week, along the way ... I stumbled upon a verse in the Bible that absolutely blew me away!

"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John.  
Since that time the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, 
and everyone is forcing their way into it."  
(Luke 16:16; NIV)

This verse occurs in the midst of a number of parables and exhortations beginning at Luke 15 aimed at the Pharisees and teachers of the law, who grumble against Jesus.   Jesus highlights their inability to rejoice at the lost being found as an indicator that they, and not the tax collectors and sinners, have turned away from God.  

He continues by declaring the difference between kingdom values and the values of this world, especially the world's (and the Pharisees) value of money and things (mammon) over people.  Then Jesus states clearly that the Law and the Prophets are not replaced, but are fulfilled in the good news of the kingdom of God.   It's all very interesting, and I encourage you to read Luke 15 and 16 so that you can see what I mean.  

Nevertheless, for today I would simply like to focus on Luke 16:16.   What does it mean, and what are its implications for our life and faith as we journey together along the way ... ?

The first thing I notice is the similarity of the words "proclaimed" and "preached".   Proclamation and preaching are means by which God sends His word to His people.  So whenever these words are mentioned we should certainly sit up and take notice.  

The second thing I see is an abrupt ending point with John the Baptist.  "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John."  But what has ended?  Certainly the Law and the Prophets are not null and void meaning we no longer need to pay attention to them.   No.  What I think has ended is the religion mediated by the Law and the Prophets where personal behavior (obedience to the written code) was highlighted as the means to gain God's favor.   Jesus says those days are now gone.  

The third thing I see, and related to the second, is that something new has begun.  "Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached".   Note how Jesus distinctly describes His message as "good news" and the content of it is "the kingdom of God".   Jesus is the King, and as the King He brings the kingdom of God.

Finally, the fourth thing I see, is the urgency with which people are receiving the kingdom: "and everyone is forcing their way into it."  There is an urgency in those words.  People simply cannot wait to receive the kingdom.  Why?  Because it is good news!   The kingdom of God is the place where sinners are accepted and made new, welcomed as children rather than condemned as outsiders.  This is the place people simply cannot wait to go!

So this begs the question for us today.  Why are people not "forcing their way into it" anymore?  Around the globe we see folks hearing the good news and receiving the kingdom with urgency, but why not in the US?  Is there something about our proclamation; our preaching that is keeping them away?  I know salvation is God's work, but I also know that bringing Christ to people is our work.  
So are we bringing people a true picture of Jesus and His kingdom?   It's worth asking the question.  What do you think?  I invite you to share your thoughts as we journey together along the way ....

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