Trusting Our Father the King

When He taught, Jesus used the paradigm of the kingdom of God because the people who were gathered around Him understood monarchies. We have to try a little harder to form a kingdom mentality, but we can do it because it’s in our past and it’s in our movies. We can learn to trust that the King has made us His sons and daughters. We are princes and princesses of the realm.

We can learn to trust that when we represent Him in the world and need help, we can send word. He will help.

Still, it seems like it can be difficult to trust the King. Trust is hard. We have a lot of trust issues with our own government. Our representatives are making deals without regard to morality. They’ll actually sacrifice their own morals to make sure their agenda gets done. That’s what we have in government.

No wonder we don’t understand what it means to trust! Imagine living in the 11th century and the King says to you, “Come and be my son.” What do you think someone back then would have said? “I’m in!”

Now we hesitate. Now we say, “I don’t know, I kind of like living out here, outside the gates of the kingdom.” Why would we do that? It’s almost confusing to think that anyone would be wary of being adopted as God’s own child.

We are wary, though, and it’s because when we see government, we don’t see trust and we don’t get trust. So we don’t understand what it’s like to trust God the King.

We’ve lost so much trust that we love Jesus and thank Him for saving us but we still struggle to trust God. We don’t trust that He accepts us as His sons and daughters. We go out into the world but we don’t really believe that we’ll be allowed back into the Kingdom.

We think God will shut the gate behind us. We forget that we can trust the King!

We deal with this by getting into a works mentality. We get worried that we won’t be good enough for God or live up to His expectations. Using a works mentality, we start doing things so that He’ll smile on us.

The problem is that we’re not perfect. We sin. Sunk in a works mentality, we feel like we have to make up for the sin. “I judged somebody, so I have to read five psalms today.” Or, “I had a lustful thought, so I have to put in two extra hours at the food pantry.” Or, “I thought I was a better Christian than my neighbor, so I have to go to Nicaragua and help build a new school.”

When you start doing stuff to make yourself feel better because you sinned, then you have a works mentality. This is legalism. Now fulfilling the royal law becomes work. It shouldn’t be! The royal law is a natural outpouring of God’s love and grace!

If you do something in order to show people what you’ve done, you’ll be dissatisfied. You won’t feel very good when you’re done.

But if you do something to help a struggling neighbor simply because you love your neighbor, you’ll feel so good and fulfilled. Your heart will be right where it needs to be.

So trust the King! And when you struggle, send word to Him. Tell Him, “I need some help here.” Trust Him. Help will come.

God Will Always Provide

Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! — Matthew 7:9-11

God’s work is joyful work. Love your neighbor as yourself! I mean, that’s joy! It’s the royal law, the commandment of the Kingdom of God. The trumpets sound, and the King says, “Go and love.”

The Bible says we’re all royalty now, since we have heard and responded to Jesus. We are all holy and righteous. God says, “You are mine now.” You are His child, a prince or princess of the Kingdom. God’s precious child.

“Go and love.” That’s the warriors’ command from the King! The trumpets sound and Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself, and love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

So go and love your neighbor. That’s your war cry. Leave the Kingdom walls, figure out what is wrong with your neighbors, and love on them. Don’t worry about having the means to do it. Trust God for that! When you need help, send word to the King. Tell Him, “We’re filling a need here and we need more resources.” He’ll provide what He needs to provide.

Imagine this as if it were a movie about medieval Europe. The king’s forces have gone to war, and there’s a moment when the tide of battle seems to be turning against them. They realize, “We need more men!” What do they do? They send word to the king. What does the king do? He provides more men! When they run out of anything, they send a courier to the castle. “Tell the king we need more ammo.” Or, “Tell him we need more food.” The king sends food and ammo. The King sends whatever his forces need.

God will provide for you. Pray, and the Holy Spirit will go to the Father and speak some words. We don’t necessarily understand what the Spirit says, but we know it means something like, “Hey, your daughter needs something.” There’s no doubt in my mind that God replies, “Go and give it to her.” He says, “My child says we need more ammo, or food, or men, or tents? That’s my child! I’ll give him whatever he needs.”

This is what the Bible says. It’s the promise of our devoted King. God keeps His promises. So “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Does this mean that if you ask for a million dollars, He’s going to say yes? I don’t think so. He’ll ask, “Does my son need a million, or does he want a million?” Those are two different things! But whatever you need, God will give it to you.

We can trust the King of Kings because we are His children. We are members of His family. We can say, “I am a part of God’s Kingdom, so I am going to go forth to fulfill the royal law. I’m going to get on my horse and go out of the gate and into the world. I’m going to love my neighbor, and when I do that, I’m going to represent the Kingdom of God.”

Go out even if you don’t have any money. Go out even if you don’t have the resources lined up. Just send word to God. Pray. Tell Him, “I need a way to get more ammo so that I can love on my neighbors. They are in need, God!” He will give you the ammo you need. Jobs will open up. Maybe a donor will come along and offer to help you. Maybe you will experience a miracle! How awesome would that be?

God will provide. Trust Him in this.

Heirs of the Kingdom

Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well…James 2:5, 8

When Jesus described the kingdom of God, the people listening to Him understood the paradigm. Kingdoms were very common in their day, so they understood the mentality. Rule by kings continued in Europe until the 20th century in some places, and some parts of the world continue to have monarchies today. Americans had a revolution in the 18th century, so it’s a little harder for us to understand the paradigm. But we can do it since it’s in our history. We can understand how kingdoms work.

If you use a kingdom mentality to understand the royal law, you will realize that when you accept Christ, you are no longer a pauper. You are royalty, rich in faith and an heir of His kingdom. Think about that! The King is going out and looking over the land, saying, “Whoever wants to be part my kingdom, I’m adopting you. Now you are my son. Now you are my daughter. You are now a prince. You are now a princess.”

That is a really good way to live! You were poor before. You were lost! Now you’re found.

When Jesus died, He rose again. Because of what He did, the gate to the kingdom is unlocked for everyone. Because of what He did, anyone who wants to come to the King can come. The drawbridge never closes. You want to come in, come in.

And when God adopts you, you don’t have to stay in the castle. You can come and go as you please.

When you go, understand that you are holy and righteous. That is your identity. No matter where you came from, no matter who you were, you are no longer a pauper. Where you came from is gone. That life is past. God gives you a new life in His kingdom, and you leave His kingdom as His son or daughter. You are a prince or princess of the realm.

People are going to ask you, “What did you have to do to become a member of His family?” You can tell them, “It’s simple. I know what His son did for me. I believe it. And I love that He’s my savior. I love that there are no strings attached. I gave my life over to Him and said, ‘Jesus, thank you.’ Now, because of that, the drawbridge is open. I walked right in. I went in before the King and I said, ‘I’d like to be your royal child.’ And He said, ‘Come on in!’”

As His royal child, you represent God to the world. You represent His kingdom to the world. So go, and invite people in. Love on them. Encourage them. Tell them, “You can trust the King. He wants you with Him. He’s not going to destroy you. He’s not going to execute you. He’s not going to put you in prison. He’s not going to treat you as a traitor or a spy. He’s going to love you! Simply love you!”

This is freedom!

Send the Devil Packing

Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already in—insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin. If it’s an initiation ritual you’re after, you’ve already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets. (Colossians 2:11-15, The Message Bible)

Satan has no power or authority over you, so he uses a works mentality to capture you in a cycle of shame.

What happens when you do good works out of shame? If you do justice to make yourself appear worthy, you’re going to be disappointed in how you feel. If you feed hungry families or help put in a well in so that you can get your picture in the paper, you’re not going to feel as good when you’d hoped.

Your cries will be answered and your yearnings fulfilled when you do justice because of the love you share in Christ. Doing justice out of love feels great! Once you know the joy of doing Jesus in the world, you can’t get enough. Satan will try to attack you, but he has no power. You can send him away.

Jesus showed us how to talk to Satan. Remember what happened after He fasted for forty days and forty nights? He was hungry, man! Jesus was hungry. Satan tempted Him. He kept trying to see if Jesus would choose sin.

But Jesus said, “You don’t understand. I’m holy and righteous. You can tempt me all you want, but your tricks won’t work. You have no shot with me! Whatever comes out of my mouth is from my Father.” That’s scripture.

Satan even tried to offer what he thought was a huge bribe. He said to Jesus, “I’ll give you control of the Earth and everything in it!” Jesus must have laughed out loud when He said, “My God is not of this world. This world here, this little planet, don’t you know that we’re smaller than the stars? This world can’t even compare!”

Jesus said, “Time out! I was there when everything was created. You’re offering me the Earth? It’s like handing me a pebble of sand and saying, ‘Here, control this.’ Beat it, Satan. I already have that. I control stars! What makes you think I need to control just one planet? I’m holy and righteous!”

It’s almost like Jesus just looked at Satan and said, “You’re an idiot.”

That’s what holy and righteous people do. We learn the Devil’s tricks and we tell him, “You’re an idiot.”

The Bible says we are maturing every day to get into the glory of God. Every day, God is molding us to make us more mature. He is molding us so that we can become like Jesus.

I’m not saying that we’ll get to the point where we are perfect. That won’t happen until Jesus comes. But He’s maturing me and maturing you, and every day He is bringing us closer to His perfection. It’s going to get easier and easier to look at Satan and say, “You idiot. You actually think that’s going to work with me? I’m holy. I’m righteous. That’s my identity. You don’t have any control over me here.”

I believe my holy and righteous identity in Christ will eventually mature to a point where I rarely give in. I won’t even give a vote to sin anymore. I’ll say to Satan, “You don’t have a voice here. Beat it!”

A Painful Cycle of Shame

A works mentality can really tie you up in knots. You start performing for God because you think a good performance can win His approval. You focus on doing good deeds in order to be saved. I think we’ve got that wrong. Salvation is not about doing good deeds. Salvation is from God, and He gives it to us for free.

Satan runs rampant over us when we get caught in a works mentality. He wants us to do good deeds. He uses that mentality to mess with us. “Go ahead, man, work to make yourself feel good.” Suppose you host a fundraising event, and you help a local charity. Or you fund one of your church’s mission projects. You feel so good!

But then you sin. You can’t help it. You live in your flesh. Maybe you have an envious thought, maybe you look at a woman with lust in your heart, or maybe you judge your neighbor. Satan has been waiting for this moment. “Oh man,” he says. “Oh, man! Now you’ve done it. See that? You messed up big time. Better hold another fundraiser, because you need to make up for that. Don’t you want to feel good again, like you did before?”

That is shame. Satan shames you. His goal is to get you into a cycle of shame. When you feel shame, you feel bad about yourself, and when you feel bad about yourself, you start trying to convince yourself that you’re not bad. So you do another good deed. You do it to feel better, but you also do it to prove to God that you aren’t a bad person. Now you’re in a works mentality.

Shame is where Satan gets to work. He doesn’t have to make terrible things happen. All he has to do is use what’s in your head to destroy you. And when you live in shame and guilt, you go further and further away from God, until finally, you stop trusting Him.

It’s a cycle and it kills you. You die, because you don’t trust God.

But God never leaves you. He is right there with you, helping you and advising you. God tells you what to say. “Hey, Satan, I’m holy and righteous, so you are not guilting me into anything. I’m going to hold a fundraiser because I love my neighbor as myself. It’s got nothing to do with how I messed up. I already know I messed up, because I’m in my flesh and my flesh is always going to mess up.”

This is the wisdom that God gives us to fight Satan. Believe and know that you are holy and righteous in God’s eyes! Tell Satan, “My flesh is the only thing you control. And you know what? My flesh sucks. So congratulations. You have control over something that sucks.”

Your flesh has nothing to do with who you are. Never forget what God sees when He sees you. He sees His very own child, beloved by Him, a prince or princess of His kingdom.

Never forget! You are holy and righteous in His eyes.

No Shame in Christ

I think churches need to recognize that men are made of flesh and so they sin. It’s also true that women sin. Women are just as capable of having affairs or getting divorced. Women are made of flesh too.

People in the congregations act surprised or even scandalized when a woman cheats or gets divorced. “Oh my gosh! She got a divorce?” Well, how is that a surprise? 53% of Christians get divorced. It happens! Women can make mistakes. Women can forget to protect their marriages.

When you condemn a woman who hasn’t succeeded in protecting her marriage, you’ve judged her. I’m waiting for Jesus to come and write in the sand, because you’re acting like a Pharisee. Jesus will say, “I’m going to write in the sand. I’ll write everything that you do wrong, and then you can tell me why you think you’re better than her.”

What would you do then? Don’t you think you’d just walk off?

It’s not our place to judge each other. It’s not our place to be shocked and it’s not our place to condemn each other. People seem to think that their brothers and sisters have to be held accountable, but who are we to do that? Instead, why don’t we help them through it? Let’s just love on them!

Grace is what we should be all about. 

Obviously, I’m passionate about this. Seeing Christians condemn each other makes me angry. But that’s because I’ve done it! I’ve read scripture and then didn’t apply it. We all do it. We pick out a few verses and the live by them, discarding a lot of the rest.

All of that stuff about the Pharisees is in the Bible and we shouldn’t discard it. We need to pay attention to it. Most of us are Pharisees! Most of today’s Christians that are pharisaical are law-abiding Christian citizens!  

But they are not grace-filled and free. They are legalistic and judgmental. That’s why so many people don’t like them. I know we don’t want to think we’re that way. I don’t want to think I’m that way! But we’re all vulnerable to legalistic thinking.

The answer is so pure. It’s simple and perfect. It’s grace. When we understand the identity of who Jesus is, holy and righteous, living in grace and love, we move away from legalism. Grace gets us away from legalism.  

People want to be around the free Christians, the ones filled with grace. They want to be around the Christians that share in the identity of Jesus. Think about it. Who hung around Jesus? Sinners! Why? Because He treated them like human beings!

Christians are popular when they are easy to be around. People tell me, “Maybe we don’t agree, but I don’t feel like you’re always condemning me.” When that happens, I say, “That’s Jesus.”

And then I tell them, “Hopefully, one day you’ll see that this love I have for you is the same love that Jesus has for you. Hopefully, you’ll want to be part of it. It’s so liberating! You don’t have to lie in bed at night wondering who you are. You won’t be scared because you don’t know who you are, or afraid that you’re not going to add up. Instead you’ll find out how much Jesus loves you.”

You are free! You have no shame! In His eyes, you already add up. Your imperfections are why He died. He doesn’t condemn you. He loves you! He loves you so much that He won your freedom on the cross.

Now you are free to love everyone just as He loves you, precious in His sight.

How to Succeed

But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.”

He said, “Bring them here to Me.” Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. Matthew 14:16-20

In the early years of my baseball career, I was not fulfilled. I was not fulfilled as long as I was just saying, “I’m a Christian,” and then going and playing baseball. I didn’t feel good. I didn’t understand my purpose for being here on this earth. I didn’t understand because my purpose was not to be a baseball player.

My only purpose for being on earth is to love my neighbor as myself. My purpose is to use any platform I am given to take that message and live it, and speak it into the world I know.

And then my purpose is to encourage you. I can encourage you to understand that your calling is not the same as your job. I can encourage you to combine your gifts with a mentality to love your neighbor as yourself.

When you do that, you’ll know your vocation.

You’ll also find success. When you respond to the call to love your neighbor as yourself and use your gifts to do it, you will find success. If you can have that kind of love for somebody in your workplace, you will feel successful.

I cannot love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength without loving my neighbor as myself. If I love God with my whole self, then I can’t ignore my neighbor’s needs. I can’t love God and go to my place of work without loving the people there. I can’t promote Jesus and ignore my neighbor.

I can’t say, “I’m a Christian,” and then accept the poverty of my neighbors or the injustice of their suffering. I can’t!

When Jesus walked the earth, He fought for justice. He fed well over five thousand men, women, and children that were hungry, and all He had was five loaves of bread and two fish. He said, “Hey, before I talk, we have to feed these people, man. They’re hungry.”

Think about that! Jesus thought about people’s hunger before He thought about their spiritual needs. Why? He knew that when people are hungry, they can’t focus on anything else.

You love your neighbors by learning their needs. You don’t just say, “Yeah, I love my neighbor.” You love them by helping them out!

Imagine the success you’ll feel when you can get the people in your workplace to be aware of what’s going on in the world of poverty. Imagine how it will feel to show people what it’s like to love on their neighbors who are poor and suffering.

You can help people discover how amazing it feels to love people that they don’t even know.

You will feel so successful! You’ll say to yourself, “Now the blessings of my gifts make sense! I’m blessed with these gifts so that I can help. It’s so I can be the hands and fingers of Jesus.”

The aroma of Christ will just flow off of you.

See you Thursday.