Friday, April 22, 2011

Suffering and the Kingdom (1)

Many Christians believe that the Kingdom of God will be established when Jesus returns with violent power and destroys all those who oppose him. This view is a distortion of the gospel. Jesus was adamant that his kingdom will not be established by force and coercion.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).
Evil will not be overcome by greater evil. Evil must be overcome by good.

Paul explains the reason for not retaliating.
Beloved, do not retaliate for yourselves, but rather leave room for the wrath of God (Rom 12:19).
If we retaliate against those who harm us, we leave “no room” for God. This is one reason the Kingdom has been slow to come.

Service Releases the Spirit. The Kingdom of God is established by service and suffering. The reason is simple. The Holy Spirit loves service. When Christians serve others, he is there with them, touching the hearts of those they serve. Serving destroys the powers of darkness. When Judas had betrayed Jesus, the political powers gained a victory. Jesus washed Judas’s feet to nullify the power of their victory (John 13:1-30).

The Holy Spirit really goes to work when Christian suffer as they are serving. In a passage on suffering, Peter gives this promise.
If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (1 Peter 4:14).
Peter is referring back to the Shekinah Glory of God. When we suffer for Jesus, the Holy Spirit rests on us, and flows out to touch those who are persecuting us. When Christians respond with agape love to those who intend them harm, the Holy Spirit has freedom to work in of those doing the harm.

When people watch a Christian suffering, they open up to the Holy Spirit. He is able to convict them of sin and reveal Jesus. A good example is the centurion who crucified Jesus.
When the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous man!” (Luke 23:47).
This centurion would have crucified hundreds of people doing his career. He was a battle-hardened killing machine. Yet after watching Jesus die, this man glorified God and declared that Jesus was a righteous man. Jesus suffering had released the Holy Spirit to work in his heart.

This full series is at Suffering and the Kingdom.

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