The Kingdom of God: A Blog Series

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This fall, The Gospel Project for Adults and Students have been on a journey through the story line of Scripture once again, this time looking at the theme of God’s kingdom. With every study we run a corresponding blog series as an additional resource for churches and groups using The Gospel Project. Here are the posts focused on the kingdom of God, and its implications for everyday life.

Every week, we pray for people studying the Bible and using The Gospel Project. This fall, we are praying God reveals the hidden idols of our hearts, magnifies the greatness of King Jesus, and transforms us into heralds of the returning King. May God make us a people who live under the lordship of Christ and speak of His excellency to those around us who have not yet bent the knee. The King has a mission, and we are His messengers.

The Long Awaited King

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We All Long for a True King

Most of us have not experienced what it is like to live in a kingdom, under the true reign of a king. We are familiar with kingdom language. Michael Jackson once reigned as the “king of pop.” Budweiser notoriously declares in their advertisements that they are “the king of beers.” Even LeBron James refers to himself as “King James” and supposedly rules the hardwood. But in reality, this language is devoid of any lasting meaning, missing the essence of true kingship.

Why does this matter? In every society, there is the structure for leadership, a particular person or a body of people to reign over its citizens. Human society needs the structure of justice to deliver its people from the cruelty of the sinful acts of men. Human civilization needs to provide protection over its people to promote what is good and guard peace in the land. We all want someone to look to, to lead the way, to make the difficult calls in order to seek our welfare. However, as history has shown, we have never seen that perfect king-like leader. We have never experienced the perfect and pure rule of a king. Even our best leaders are flawed, and our worst leaders can be tyrants.

However, while the human experience leaves us longing for the perfect rule of a perfect king, the Bible provides us with a more meaningful, hope-filled understanding of true kingdom reign. In the Bible, kings are to reign over every domain of life in their land; they are to have real authority to be used for the good of the people. And while God rules sovereignly over the universe, in the Bible, kings are called to mediate God’s justice to the people. In other words, the kings of earth are to rule as God’s vice-regents, His under-kings. Nevertheless, even the promising kings of the Old Testament left the people longing for a greater king.

The Kings of the Bible

While Adam did not have the title of king, he was called to rule as a king on the earth. Before the fall in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve were appointed by God to rule as His vice-regents to govern the earth and everything in it on His behalf. They were not only called to represent God’s sovereign rule by subduing creation but also to spread His dominion throughout the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). Eden was established as God’s kingdom on earth – the place where God’s people would dwell in God’s place, under God’s rule. However, in Genesis 3 we see that Adam attempted to dethrone God and forfeit his under-king status by siding with the enemy. And Eden was lost.

Later on, once God had established Israel as His covenant people and brought them to the promised land, He appointed judges as rulers over them. In a sense, the judges represented God’s rule in the lives of God’s people by delivering them from the folly of their sin (Judg. 2:14-23). The judges came, they delivered, but with no lasting blessing or security. There was some relief but no lasting solution. The people of Israel then cried out for a king to bring security and to lead them in faithfulness to God. And partially, they received what they asked for.

The reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon gave Israel a glimpse of hope. With each new king, Israel yearned anew. However, with great hope came also great disappointment. Saul turns out to be corrupt and downright crazy (1 Sam. 15). While David was a man after God’s own heart, his adultery with Bathsheba and his crime of murder revealed that he was not the perfect king (2 Sam.11). David’s son Solomon may have ruled in wisdom and with great riches, but while Solomon’s reign began with such hope, it ended in horror (1 Kings 11:1-4).

As the king went, so did the people. One of the lessons we learn from the Old Testament is that unless there is a good king, no aspect of life will be as it should be. The Old Testament leaves us longing. Along with the people of Israel we cry out, “There must be someone better than this!” There must be someone better than these men.

The True and Greater King

“Kingdom” is one of the primary themes of the Bible’s storyline, and this storyline finds its climax in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Our hopes for a greater king are fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel accounts alone, there are more than one hundred references to the kingdom of God (or “kingdom of heaven,” as in Matthew). In John, Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God as His kingdom (3:3,5; 18:36). Moreover, the New Testament writers indicate that the kingdom of Christ is the same thing as the kingdom of God (Eph. 5:5; Rev. 11:15; 12:10). According to Jesus, He is the true King for whom all of humanity has longed.

Jesus is the perfect King who rules with justice. Jesus not only seeks but is able to bring lasting welfare for the people. So, even with their flaws, the good aspects of the Old Testament kings give us a glimpse of what was to come. In other words, all of the biblical accounts of earlier kings cast King Jesus’ shadow. Jesus is the last Adam who will reign and exercise dominion over the restored Eden (Rev. 22:1-5). Jesus is the true Judge and King who reigns in His unshakable kingdom (Heb. 12:22-24,28). Jesus is both the son of David and the Son of God, the king from the line of David whose throne and dominion is everlasting (Luke 1:32-33).

With the coming of Jesus, the kingdom is present (Luke 17:20-22; Rev. 1:9). Yet, the kingdom is also future (Rev. 11:15). As Christians, we know that the full reality of His rule awaits His second coming (Matt. 13:30,39,47-50; 25:1-13; 2 Tim. 4:1). We also know that in Him, all of our hopes are fulfilled. Jesus is the true and greater King we have all been waiting for. Therefore, let us bow before the true King. He is worthy of our adoration and allegiance. Jesus’ rule extends to every aspect of our lives and therefore we serve him as under-kings in every realm of life (e.g., work, school, parenting, household chores, recreation, etc.).

And let us longingly wait for His return, when all things will be as they should. Eden may have been lost by the failures of the first king Adam, and no other human king has been able to restore it. But one day, Jesus will return, and with His return, His kingdom will be consummated and a greater Eden be restored.

Gospel Centered Teaching Conference: Stone Mountain, GA

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On January 24th, several members of The Gospel Project team will be teaching at the Gospel Centered Teaching Conference at Mountain Park First Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, GA.

Register for the Gospel Centered Teaching Conference

  • Trevin Wax, the managing editor of The Gospel Project, will teach on “Why We Need to Get Back to the Basics” and “Telling the Story of God’s Mission with an Overflowing Passion”.
  • Karen Jones, a content editor for Kids Ministry at LifeWay, will teach on “Giving the Gospel to Kids”. Children need the Gospel! Learn how to point your kids to Christ in every session while keeping the Gospel at the center of your teaching.
  • Andy Mclean, the editor for The Gospel Project for Students, will teach a session on “Giving the Gospel to Students”. Andy will provide a brief exploration to the student ministry landscape of our culture, and how a refocusing on the Gospel is the key that leads to the lasting heart change we desperately desire to see within the lives of our students.
  • And I will lead a session on “Giving the Gospel to Adults”. I will explore the importance of applying the Bible through a Gospel-centered lens in teaching, and show how the Gospel is not just for our conversion, but is for the ongoing transformation of our heads, hearts, and hands.

For more information on this one day conference, see the registration site.

Show Them Jesus!

ShowJesusJack Klumpenhower is a Bible teacher and a kids ministry curriculum writer with more than thirty years of experience. He has created Bible lessons and taught children about Jesus at churches, camps, clubs, conferences, and Christian schools all over the world.

Klumpenhower recently wrote a book titled “Show Them Jesus“, which challenges the culture of low-stakes, low-expectations teaching and invites teachers to do nothing less than teach and treasure the good news of Jesus in every lesson.

Much of what Klumpenhower says in the book reaches beyond kids ministry and applies to teaching the Bible in general. Consider these questions…

  • Would this lesson still work if Jesus had never come and died for our sin?
    Without the cross, would the main point and the application I leave with the listener still hold together? Is it valid if there’s no atonement?
  • Would this lesson still work if Jesus had never risen from the dead?
    If our Savior were a corpse and we too had no expectation of eternal life, would the basic argument I’m making still be good? Could I make a case for the listener to keep listening?
  • Would this lesson still work if Jesus were not the reigning King who’ll return to judge the world?
    Would the things I’m urging the listener to do still sound sensible and wise? Even without the future hope we have, would this lesson be worthwhile?

If we can answer yes to any of those questions, we need to get back to the drawing board. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).”

Free Resources for Church Planters

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Currently, a significant trend in the U.S. and around the world is a renewed emphasis on starting new churches. More than 4,000 new churches are launched in the U.S. each year alone, each one representing the potential to reach new people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

However, new churches commonly struggle with limited resources, a lack of trained volunteers and few tools to support their work. Even more, these limitations can often be the most detrimental to churches in their very first years.

But LifeWay is committed to help.

For churches in their first two years of operation, LifeWay has a variety of free offerings to help get a few of the foundational aspects of ministry in place. This includes helps for:

  • Bible Study Groups (6 months of digital curriculum for all age groups)
  • Church Website: twenty:28 (Free website design and 1 year of hosting)
  • Leadership Development (1 year access to Ministry Grid, LifeWay’s new web-based training platform)
  • Plus, $500 in free printed LifeWay resources of the church’s choosing

To qualify to receive the free offers above, simply complete the form on this page. Churches who qualify will receive a response from a LifeWay representative with instructions on how to redeem.

A Gospel Project Story

As part of The Gospel Project team, I often hear stories of how God is using this Christ-centered curriculum in churches all over the country. I recently worshiped with Eternal Church in South Carolina, where I was told the story of Evan.

Evan’s parents were new in their faith when they started visiting the church. One Sunday after a church service, one of the kids leaders saw Evan with his mom in the hallway—stopped them—and told his mom how well Evan was doing in class.

At that point, Evan turned to his mom and began telling her the story of God’s covenant with Abraham, how his offspring would be as many as the stars, and how his seed would be a blessing to all nations.

The mom, a new believer in Christ Jesus, began to cry. With tears streaming down her face, she said to the kids ministry teacher, “I am beginning to learn all these things. And when we talk at night about the Bible with Evan, he is teaching us the story of redemption.”

Here is the awesome part of the story. While Evan is learning Bible stories, he is also learning the Bible Story, the story of redemption through Jesus Christ. This is what The Gospel Project is all about. Helping people understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, and helping them see that—from Genesis to Revelation—Jesus isn’t just part of the Bible story, He is the point of the story.

 

Salvation and the Mission of God: Ed Stetzer, Trevin Wax, David Platt, and Frank Page

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On June 10th, 2014, at The Southern Baptist Convention, Ed Stetzer, Frank Page, David Platt, and Trevin Wax discussed the topics of salvation and the mission of God.

  • Does one’s belief on the extent of the atonement affect their understanding of mission and the offer of the gospel?
  • Can two Christians disagree on soteriology and partner in ministry?
  • Does the order of salvation affect how one does evangelism?
  • When it comes to the theological particulars of salvation, what is the difference between compromise and cooperation?

We hope you are encouraged and challenged by the audio of this important discussion. Below are Ed and Trevin’s reflections on the discussion.

The Ten Commandments

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I have enjoyed The Gospel Project’s summer study – God’s Way: A Journey Through the Ten CommandmentsWith every study we run a corresponding blog series as an additional resource for churches and groups using The Gospel Project. Here is the series on the Ten Commandments.

  1. Daniel Davis – Do not have other gods besides me
  2. Aaron Armstrong – Do not make an idol for yourself
  3. Micah Fries – Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God
  4. Mark Rooker – Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
  5. Jani Ortlund – Honor your father and your mother
  6. Mary Jo Sharp – Do not murder
  7. Jeremy Pierre – Do not commit adultery
  8. David Jones – Do not steal
  9. Jason Duesing – Do not give false testimony against your neighbor
  10. Tim Brister – Do not covet

I also wrote one post on Jesus and the Ten Commandments for this series. Enjoy.

27 Blog Posts on The Atonement

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With the release of The Gospel Project’s study on the atonement titled “Atonement Thread“, I organized a series of blog posts centered around the same theme theme. In total, 27 blog posts on the importance of the atonement.

The atonement, as taught in the Bible, calls to mind the unfathomable love of God to send His Son to take away our sins. The atonement proclaims the amazing grace of God to cover over our sins with the precious and perfect blood sacrifice of the Lamb of God. Whether you realize it or not, the doctrine of the atonement has very practical implications for your day to day Christian life.

The Atonement and the Christian Life

The Doctrine of the Atonement 

The Atonement in the Old Testament 

Jesus and the Ten Commandments

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This post origionally appeared at The Gospel Project blog in a series on the Ten Commandments. 

For too many Christians the Ten Commandments are impossible imperatives. While we would affirm that God’s commands are good, they seem to bring nothing more than a moral burden that crushes us under the weight of God’s holiness. Our difficulty with the Ten Commandments can be resolved by understanding the aim of God’s law in the context of redemptive history. Furthermore, when we fail to see the context in which the law was given, we tend to overlook the relationship of the law of God to the grace of God.

You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me…I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. –Exodus 19:4; 20:2 (HCSB)

These are the words of the God of Israel to Moses as he stood on Mount Sinai and looked back at what God had done for His people, how He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt. It is important to remember that when God gave the Israelites the law, their status as God’s people had already been established.

Since Israel was given a new life after God delivered them out of Egypt, the law functioned to show Israel what this new life was to look like. And the laws given at Sinai were not arbitrary but stemmed from the character of God and His original purpose for humankind in creation. The purpose of Israel’s obedience was to reflect God’s nature to the world around them as a concrete expression of their devotion to God. The same is true for Christians today; God’s law establishes a separate and unique identity for God’s people.

However, the history of Israel (and our own hearts) confirm that the ideals of God’s law cannot be achieved without God’s divine intervention. The Ten Commandments expose our sinful motives and behavior for what they are, namely, transgression of specific commands. And we know from experience that the Ten Commandments do not have the power to transform us or liberate us from the power of sin. So, the law is like a teacher who shows us God’s holiness, our sinfulness, and our need for salvation. And the needed divine intervention ultimately comes through Jesus Christ. This is the good news of the gospel.

By faith we receive the gift of Jesus’ law-keeping, which was perfectly achieved on our behalf, and in Him we become righteous. Therefore, we uphold the law by turning our backs on our own warped efforts to keep the law and by putting all our confidence and trust in the One who satisfied all the laws demands on our behalf (Romans 3:31). Thus, when one is saved through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ, they are released from the power of sin and the condemnation of the law. In salvation we are given new hearts to know and understand God’s order for creation. The spirit of rebellion against the authority and rule of God is replaced by a spirit of obedience. Gospel-driven internal motivation replaces external moral constraint (Jeremiah 31:31-33; Ezekiel 11:19-20, 36:26-27).

Therefore, God’s law is still authoritative and necessary for Christians today. Jesus did not so much replace the Old Testament law as make explicit its proper application to the heart and not just external behavior (Romans 6:14, 8:1-4). Jesus’ idea of obedience moves beyond religious observance, focusing not only on the things we do but on who we are (Matthew 5–7). Only the gospel changes the heart and can lead to lasting change in our lives.

You will remember that when asked by one of the religious leaders to identify the greatest commandment in all of the law, Jesus replied by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands. –Matthew 22:37-40 (HCSB)

In many ways, Jesus’ response summarized the heart of the Ten Commandments. The first four of the Ten Commandments have to do with our relationship to God, while Commandments six through ten addresses our relationship to one another. Jesus came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). Jesus is the true Israelite who perfectly loved God with all of His heart and perfectly loved His neighbors (Luke 22:42; John 15:13). The Old Testament law pointed to Jesus Christ and is only properly revealed in Him (Romans 8:3; 10:4; Galatians 3:24).

In fulfilling the law through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus enables us to attain righteousness greater than that of religious obedience. Jesus has delivered us from a slave master greater than Egypt—that of sin and death. Jesus was crushed under the weight of our sin so that we could be free to obey God’s commands. Our gospel-empowered desire to obey God’s commands creates a separate and unique identity for us as God’s holy people sent out in His name into the world. Those who love God will express their love for Him in obedience and missionally in their love for others.

In response to what Christ has done, knowing that our status as God’s people is secure, we submit to the words of Paul, who declared in Romans 12:1, “by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.”