Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Kingdom of God is Like This

Every living thing has its own unique genetic code known as DNA. These tiny, threadlike strands control how all plants, animals, and even bacteria are formed. DNA contains the tiny blueprints or instructions that create all living things - it is the thread between the past and the present. Our height, hair type, skin color, and other characteristics are encoded in these blue prints. Our genes give the cells of our body instructions how to build.

Since Jesus is the Life and His life is in the church, we could say that there is a type of spiritual DNA in the church. If we could understand the unique code of instructions contained at this cellular level of the church, we could better understand making disciples and church planting. In order to understand the DNA of the church, we should look at the words of Jesus that describe what the Kingdom of God is like.


Like a mustard seed 

He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES." (Mat 13:31-32; cf. Mar 4:30-32).

From this parable, we can see that the Kingdom of God begins small and grows until it reaches full maturity. He also referred to it as the Kingdom of heave, which is the same thing. It's much the same as when we plant seeds in the field. Though it begins small, when it reaches maturity, it is a place of refuge for many to come and make their home. It's a place where they can find rest.

Like a man who casts seed upon the soil
And He was saying, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows--how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself (automatically); first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come." (Mar 4:26-29)

Here again, Jesus likened the Kingdom of God to a seed cast upon the soil. He once again illustrated the growth that occurs from the very small seed level on to maturity. There are various stages it goes through, just as the grain first appears as a single blade, then you see a head come up. Later, there is a mature grain in the head.

Amazingly this all happens automatically. When Jesus said, "
soil produces crops by itself", it was recorded in the Bible using the Greek word automatos, which means self-moved, spontaneous, or automatically. So the Kingdom grows by itself!

If you study fields of "church planting," "church growth," and "discipleship," what you will often find is men trying to use human wisdom to figure out how to get the church to grow. Many intelligent people have sought to understand exactly how this happens. But we don't fully understand how the Kingdom of God grows any more than the man planting a seed knows how the seed he has planted sprouts and grows. As the apostle Paul said, "one waters, another reaps, but God causes it to grow." It's God's part to bring the growth. We can only plant, water and reap.

Yet reaping cannot occur until harvest time comes. Until then,
there is a period of waiting for the fruit.

Like a man who sowed good seed in his field
Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' The slaves said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn."' " (Mat 13:24-30)

Here again, the Lord compared the kingdom of heaven to seed that is planted in a field. It was good seed meant to bear good fruit. But an enemy planted bad seed in his field among the good seed. The bad seed was meant to bring forth weeds. This same phenomenon occurs in the Kingdom of God. While we are planting good seed, the enemy is busy planting bad seed.

Naturally, we would like to see the weeds pulled out. We would like to see what the devil has planted in God's Kingdom removed now. But the Lord is wise. He knows that doing so now would also do harm to the good seed growing in His Kingdom. So he patiently waits until harvest time.

At harvest time, and only then, the Lord will reap the harvest. Both the wheat and the weeds will be taken up, which represents the righteous and the wicked. Only then will they be separated out from one another. Until then, there will be a mixture of wicked people among the righteous. This does not mean we tolerate wickedness in the Church. It means that there will be wicked people all around the righteous until the end. It means there will be people in the Church who are insincere and are actually weeds. But when the Lord separates them at harvest time, He will bundle the weeds together and burn them up. The wheat, or righteous ones, He will keep for Himself.

Like yeast that a woman mixed
He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened." (Mat 13:33; cf. Luk 13:20-21).

Hopefully you can see by now that these parables all illustrate how God's Kingdom always begins at the micro level with small things and progresses gradually but steadily to the macro level of large things. When a woman puts yeast into a large amount of flour, it eventually permeates every part of the flour and when it is bakes in the oven it will rise.

In the Kingdom of God, men often seek to begin at the macro level and proceed to the micro level. They often begin with trying to establish a church by collecting people into a building, holding large group meetings, in the hopes that later they will develop leaders from within the group, and then eventually see individual disciples start to grow. This is backwards. In God's Kingdom, it always begins first with the micro and proceeds to the macro.

First begin by planting seeds of the gospel in people's hearts, make disciples in small groups, then later you can develop leaders from among them. Only once you have multiplied disciples and developed leaders can you begin to plant churches. If you do it any other way, you will end up with a room full of believers that don't follow.

Like a treasure hidden in the field
"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Mat 13:44)

With this parable, Jesus illustrated the hidden nature of God's Kingdom. The treasure's of His Kingdom are extremely precious. They do not lie on the surface where all can see them with the naked eye. They are hidden beneath the surface for those who would search for them to find. And when a man finds the treasure's of God's Kingdom, he will part with all his earthly possessions to obtain these treasures. He knows that although others do not yet see it, he has found something worth more than all he owns. No price is too great for him to pay for it.

This doesn't men you can buy your way into heaven. It means that when you truly discover
God's Kingdom, you will be willing to give up all you have for the sake it, in order to obtain it's treasures. And the greatest Treasure of God's Kingdom of Jesus the Great King.

Yet so many churches are full of people who are not willing to part with what they possess. They have not discovered the treasure of God's Kingdom. These are people whom leaders have collected into a building. Which kind of church would you rather lead or belong to? I'd rather lead a church full of people who have discovered the treasure and sold out for Jesus!

Like a merchant seeking fine pearls
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it." (Mat 13:45-46)

Do you see here again the seeking, the searching that goes on prior to entering the Kingdom of God. In Jesus' day, it was not like today, when pearls can be produced artificially inside mollusks. Back then pearls were produced naturally in these mollusks, so they were quite rare. When a merchant found a pearl of great price, he would go and sell all he had to buy that one little pearl that was still hidden to the masses.

Yet how many churches are a gathering of great masses of people, most of whom have never given up their own lives. They've never truly discovered the Pearl of great price. You can gather people into buildings and into large groups all you like. But the Pearl of God's Kingdom is generally not discovered in mass as a group. It is discovered individually by those who are seeking it. So this again highlights for us the individual nature of the experience with God's Kingdom, and the decision making process that occurs.
 

Like a dragnet cast into the sea 
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Mat 13:47-50)

This parable illustrates the same thing as the parable of the wheat and weeds. At the end of the age, God will gather people of every kind, the righteous and the wicked. Only then will He separate them out from one another. Of course, He will throw the wicked into the furnace of fire like the fisherman does with bad fish. But the righteous He will take out and gather to Himself.

Like a landowner who went out early in the morning

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; and to those he said, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' And so they went."

"Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day long?' "They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.'"

"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.' When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. When those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.'"

"But he answered and said to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?' So the last shall be first, and the first last." (Mat 20:1-16)

Jesus illustrated with this parable that He is like a landowner who employs laborers to work in His vineyard. He employs them at different times. There are some who will not be employed until the end. But He will pay all his workers generously. In fact, some who enter His service last and spend less time working will be paid just as much as much as those who have served Him from the beginning.

Many times we see things the exact opposite from the way the Lord sees them. Consequently we operate quite opposite to the way He operates. When we are making disciples or planting churches, we must be sure we approach things God's way, not man's way. We will find that God's way of making disciples is quite different from man's methods.
 

Like a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves
"For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. "When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt."

"But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?' And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." (Mat 18:23-35)

Here Jesus illustrated that those who come to Him are in need of mercy. We can never repay the debt we owe Him due to our great sin. And when we cry out for mercy, the Merciful Judge grants it. But there will naturally be someone who also owes a debt to us that they could never repay. If they cry out for mercy and ask forgiveness but we refuse to give it, then we will find that the Judge will no longer forgive us the debt we owe.

So disciples are those who forgive each other from the heart, in light of the great mercy they have received from the Lord. Yet how many churches are filled with people who do not forgive one another. They have never become disciples at all, and they are preventing God from forgiving their own sin. This experience of finding personal forgiveness from the Lord and learning to forgive others is an individual one. It does not happen in mass.
 

Like a king who gave a wedding feast
"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. Again he sent out other slaves saying, 'Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast."' But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them."

"But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.' Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests."

"But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen." (Mat 22:2-14)

Finally Jesus illustrated that He is the King who has invited guests to His wedding feast. Yet most of those who are invited ignore His invitation and thus insult the King. They all have excuses that they find to be quite valid. So they go on living life their own way. In fact, they often persecute the very messengers that God has sent to invite them to His wonderful wedding. Ultimately the Lord will punish them with fire for their evil behavior.

So He gives the command to His people to go the roadways and side streets, inviting everyone to the wedding feast. We are to invite all we meet to come. And many will indeed come to His wedding feast. But each individual who comes must personally put on the wedding garments. While the invitation goes to the masses, each individual must get dressed in the righteousness of God through their own personal experience at the cross.

Ultimately at the wedding He will hold in the end, the King will examine each person who comes. Then He will see who is wearing the white wedding garments He has provided. And those who are not will be bound and thrown into the outer darkness forever. So Jesus showed us that He wants His house full and the invitation goes out to the masses. But while many may be invited, only a few are chosen.

If we look at the methods of man to build churches, they seek to gather a large group together quickly and in their efforts to do so, they invite many. But when people come together for worship, some have not yet had their own personal experience with Jesus. They have never donned the garments of righteousness. It's possible they may do so eventually while attending the church. But what often happens is that they become comfortable and complacent attending the church. They blend in and the church grows through the addition of more people just like this.

Which kind of church would you rather be a part of or lead? I'd rather invite people to a personal decision for Christ, and teach them to invite others to a personal decision for Christ. Then the church will be grown from individuals who have multiplied and who each have dressed in the robes of righteousness.

Putting it All Together

  • Jesus had many things to say about what the kingdom of God is like.
  • From Him we learn what the church is like, because as is the Kingdom of God, so is the church.
  • He compared the kingdom to various seeds, and the organic principles associated with their slow and gradual growth.
  • But He also used these to teach that while the enemy may sow his own seed among the good ones, God will separate the bad from the good after they are full grown when it is time to harvest them.
  • And He used these to teach that the Kingdom produces growth automatically once the Word of God is sown into people’s lives. Even though we don’t understand how it grows, it does in fact grow automatically, even when we are not doing anything to help it.
  • Similarly he compared the Kingdom of God to yeast that a woman mixed into flour. In the yeast we find same principle of life growing from a very small beginning to full maturity.
  • Then He compared the Kingdom of God to two small things, which both showed the great value of it and the hidden nature of it as well. He said it is like a treasure hidden in the field and like a merchant seeking fine pearls. In both cases, He showed that while the Kingdom may seem small to the natural eye, it is worth more than all our earthly possessions.
  • He taught that He, the King of Kings, is not going to allow everyone into His kingdom. There are certain requirements that must be fulfilled, including treating others with mercy, love and forgiveness, as well as being robed in His righteousness. He taught that those who do not meet these requirements would face a painful, fiery, and torturous destruction in the end.
  • Likewise, He compared the Kingdom of God to a dragnet cast into the sea, in order to show that while there may be many people who seem to be candidates for God’s Kingdom, He is not going to keep everyone to dwell with Him. Instead, he is going to cast out of His presence those who are bad, and they will face the fiery furnace.
  • Finally, He compared His Kingdom to a landowner who hired some workers early in the day and others late in the day. He showed His fairness in rewarding alike all who are faithful to serve Him, and the seemingly upside-down or inside-out nature of how God operates.
  • The DNA of the church connects the past to the present. It’s the blueprint for building the church.
  • Based on the DNA of the church, what are the implications for making disciples and starting churches?
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. 

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the links in the side bar. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do you want to know Him?
If you want to know Jesus, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Him.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.



Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?" 
_________________________________________________



Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

1 comment:

  1. Announcing Doulos Training School, opening on September 1 for all who are interested in online distance education in discipleship! See link for details at http://writingforthemaster.blogspot.com/2015/07/doulos-training-school.html.

    ReplyDelete