Four Ways God Transforms Cities and Nations
Mark 1:14-15 – Jesus began his public ministry by announcing the arrival of the Kingdom of God. He taught more about the Kingdom than any other topic. It was his main theological framework. If we don’t understand the Kingdom, we don’t understand the teachings of Jesus. And if we misunderstand the Kingdom, we are susceptible to any number of heresies and false teachings.
It helps me to remember that the Kingdom of God is....
√ God’s kingdom is an upside down kingdom – Jesus came as a servant king to sin the hearts of people – but someday he will return as the absolute king of every kingdom and nation.
√ God’s kingdom is a grassroots kingdom – Jesus came for every man and every woman, the poor, the broken, and least and the lost of society
√ God’s kingdom is a salt and light kingdom – Jesus preserves goodness in society through the lives of members of His Kingdom
√ God’s kingdom is an incarnational kingdom – Just as Jesus lived among people, so members of the Kingdom of God live among people, speak their language and live as their neighbors and friends
√ God’s kingdom is a transformational kingdom – Jesus has come to transform the world back to how he intended it to be
√ God’s kingdom is made up of true followers of Jesus Christ, the of everyday, ordinary people
√ God’s kingdom is a discipleship kingdom – Jesus’ Kingdom if for fully devoted, obedient followers of Jesus Christ
Four Ways the Change Takes Place
There are several hundred “disciple making movements” in the world today. These are movements where followers of Jesus Christ are powerfully impacting the lives of other people in such powerful ways that whole neighborhoods, even entire villages, cities and some nations are being profoundly transformed by the presence of Kingdom men and women.
Earth will not become utopia, free of evil, pain and all sickness – until Jesus returns! There is not going to be a world free of sin and evil until Jesus returns a second time and fully establishes his Kingdom on earth. When that happens, the earth and all those who remain will be transformed fully, and heaven the redeemed earth.
Meanwhile, we who are in the kingdom now seek to bring a taste of heaven to earth, to push back the forces of evil to give every human being an opportunity to freely embrace the King of the kingdom of God, Jesus Christ.
How do we do that? Four ways the Kingdom of God changes nations:
1. ENGAGE. Engage individuals. We engage in people’s lives by sharing the good news of Jesus. We engage their lives first by praying fervently for them. We engage by praying for the city and nation we live in. But we do not just appeal to God for people, we also appeal to people for God. One without the other is half the truth God wants us to obey. We engage our communities, our culture, and people personally. It starts with neighbors, family members, people at work, and spreads to every one in our sphere of influence. To engage a person is to pray for them and to share with them the good news of who Jesus is and what he has done for them by dying for their sins.
2. ESTABLISH. Establish small discovery groups that establish foundations in people’s lives. The goal of these small groups is to establish foundations of freedom from sin, being part of a spiritual family, experiencing the Father’s love, and each member learning how to tell others about Jesus and disciple them to grow in their faith. The best way to establish people is through both one-on-one intentional discipleship relationships and in a small groups of like minded people, what we call “discovery Bible studies’.
3. EQUIP. Equip people to hear God for themselves in the Bible. Equip people to engage others and to repeat the process of engage, establish, and equip, then empower. To equip is to gather a few people in discovery Bible studies focused on:
– Self-discovery in God’s word together with a few others
– Facilitate group members to intentionally engage others who don’t know Jesus
– Obey what one learns through self-discovery in the group and accountability to the group about what is learned and obeyed
– Serve as “outsiders” to raise up “insiders” in other groups to do the same thing and to keep on repeating the process over and over again
– Focus on a few to reach many
4. EMPOWER. Empower the people in the small discovery groups to grow into small simple churches, that in turn reproduce other simple churches. Empowered people change nations by learning to take responsibility for their own lives. Empowered people break the cycles of passivity and dependence of “big leaders” Empowered people to learn that everyone has a role in the church. Simple church experience is an empowering porcess.
God’s design for empowerment is simple but profound: engage the lost, establish foundations in their lives, equip them to do the same thing by starting other small, discovery groups, empower those small groups to become disciple making, transformation simple churches, that in turn, start more churches. These church churches can grow to be big churches, or they can multiply to become networks of small churches – but the main thing is not the size but that they become powerful channels of kingdom transformation in society.
God will never bypass the church as his main way of changing the world. The church is the hope of the world. Families of churches banding together are powerful forces for transformation in society.
These four steps outlined above are how God has designed the church to bring about transformation. It is a simple summary of a process we see over and over again in history, and in the first church in the book of Acts. If we ignore these four steps and the values found therein, we can still experience God’s revival presence, but it most likely won’t be conserved or have a wide and lasting impact.
The Signs of the Kingdom – When Disciple Making Movements Transform Cities and Nations
The Kingdom of God is the royal rule of God in people’s hearts and lives, and then through their lives, God impacts the world around them. The Kingdom of God has it’s beginning in the individual lives of His subjects and then extends beyond individuals to the rest of society.
We cannot overestimate the importance of the Kingdom. Jesus began His public ministry preaching the Kingdom, and everywhere he went to told people about the kingdom. He sent out his disciples to teach the kingdom, and He made it clear that no one could enter the kingdom unless they were born again (Mark 1:14-15, Matthew 9:35, 10:1 and following, John 3:3).
The mission of introducing the kingdom on earth has been given to the subjects of the Kingdom, those followers of Jesus called disciples. All those in the kingdom are to spread it around: at work, at home, with friends and family, through our work, and to the ends of the earth. Discipleship is intentional relationship.
But there is opposition to the Kingdom of God. The arrival of the Kingdom 2000 years ago provoked a response from the powers of darkness, from Satan and his minions. That warfare is still going on today. It is not a civil war between two equal forces, but a war fought by a deceived and fallen created being, a fallen angel named Satan. The final outcome has been decided at the cross when Jesus died and defeated Satan, where Jesus made the defeat of Satan an open and public triumph. But Satan still believes he can win the world – so the battle rages on.
Disciples of Jesus are busy doing the things Jesus did when he was on earth.
How do we know the Kingdom of God is at work among us? What kingdom work did Jesus do? What gives us hope that God is visiting us? We know the Kingdom is among us because God confirms the presence of His kingdom with kingdom “signs”. What are those signs? Here is what we can look for:
The Signs of the Kingdom
• Jesus is the First and Most Important Sign of the Kingdom of God (Luke 17:21, Matthew 18:20). We find Jesus working in people’s lives. They get saved. They get excited about Jesus. Jesus is talked about and loved and obeyed. He is the main sign of the Kingdom because he is the King of the Kingdom of God.
• The Preaching of Good News of the Kingdom takes place (Luke 4:18 -19). Kingdom people tell others about their king!
• Miracles, healing and deliverance from demons begins to happen(Luke 7:22). God confirms the breaking in of His Kingdom with miracles.
• Salvation of people through being born again (1 Thessalonians 1:9, Romans 1:16, Acts 26:18)
• Suffering by those who seek to advance the Kingdom of God (1 Peter 2:21, Philippians 1:27-29)
• Peacemaking, mercy to the lost and kindness to the poor are signs of the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 5:16)
• Kingdom communities are started and multiplied. Churches spring up. New churches are planted and old churches get revived. (1 Peter 2:9 -12)
The signs and good deeds of the Kingdom are a signal of something new in our midst. It is a taste of what it will be like when the Kingdom is fully here in all of God’s power and glory, when earth becomes heaven, and all of nature and human kind are freed from sin and evil to love and worship God forever.
The Sermon on the Mount
Before preaching the sermon on the mount, where Jesus outlines the character and goals of his kingdom, Satan tempts Jesus with another kingdom:
Matt. 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
After resisting the offer of worldly kingdoms, Jesus begins His public ministry, teaching about the Kingdom of God.
Matt. 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” 18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
It is interesting to note that Jesus was tempted with other kingdoms just as we are, yet without ever yielding to those temptations. When Jesus resisted Satan’s offer of false kingdoms, he could proclaim His father’s kingdom with authority, as one who said no to false rule, power and authority.
Jesus then set about to call his disciples and began his public ministry. Once he had called his disciples to follow him, Jesus began to do miracles, which resulted in large crowds following him. Though he had compassion for the crowds, he regularly drew away from the multitudes to teach his disciples about those things in life that were most important, more important than miracles and multitudes. Because his focus was his rule in the hearts of his disciples, he taught them about living life in the Kingdom, about how to walk out the lifestyle of submission to His rule. This is what Jesus taught about the kingdom lifestyle:
Matt. 5:1-12 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him,
2 and he began to teach them, saying:
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
After turning down the offer of earthly kingdoms from Satan, Jesus is anxious to make sure his disciples understand the implications of living under the rule of the heavenly kingdom. He carefully spells out what kingdom spirituality looks like, lived out on earth. He clarifies who it is that will possess the kingdom of God and on what terms.
He pronounces blessings on those who live in the kingdom – who live the kingdom lifestyle:
Blessed are those who are broken in spirit
Blessed are the meek
Blessed are those who hunger for spiritual things
Blessed are those who are merciful
Blessed are the pure in heart
Blessed are peacemakers
Blessed are those persecuted and falsely accused
He then makes it very clear that Kingdom people are commissioned people:
Matt. 5:13 You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
The word ‘blessed’ or ‘blessing’, literally means “happy, fortunate, blissful.” Jesus is describing the present and future inheritance of citizens of the Kingdom of God. He is defining how that inheritance can be received, both now and in the future. The beatitudes demonstrate that the lifestyle of the Kingdom of God is antithetical to the kingdom of darkness. The kingdom of darkness of this present age presents a happiness that is found in riches, success, beauty, entertainment, comfort, freedom of personal choice, and ungodly tolerance for one another. The real truth is the very opposite. True happiness is found in obeying the truths of the Kingdom of God, those truths we call the beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit – The opposite of self-sufficiency. This speaks of the deep humility of recognizing one’s spiritual bankruptcy apart from the rule of God in one’s life. It speaks of the beauty of repentance as an attitude of life, of recognizing and confessing our lostness apart from God’s grace on a daily basis. Those who recognize their lostness apart from God are the ones who can inherit the kingdom.
Blessed are those who mourn – This speaks of mourning over sin, the godly sorrow that produces repentance leading to salvation and restored relationship with God and others. The comfort spoken of is the comfort of forgiveness and restored relationship. The bible teaches about the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow.
Blessed are the meek – Meekness is the opposite of weakness. Weakness is to give in to lust, greed, anger, bitterness, and self-protection. It is the sin of idol worship. To be weak is to find our comfort in false pleasures. To be weak is to be out of control. To be weak is to hide from God and others. Meekness is the opposite of weakness: it is the fruit of self-control that comes from being under the rule of God. It is surrender to the rule of king Jesus. It is strength under submission. It is passion refined and dedicated to our creator’s glory. The meek are the ones who truly enjoy the earth, not from a position of power but from unselfish delight in the world God has given us to enjoy.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – People hunger for many things in life when they don’t hunger for godly righteousness. That God-shaped void in the human heart is only truly satisfied when it settles on Jesus, true righteousness. The two main hungers of the human soul, beauty and adventure, or call it intimacy and purpose, are only fully satisfied in acknowledging and accepting Jesus as the king of our lives. That is the meaning of hungering and thirsting for righteousness. For some that hunger is unlocked in seeing a sunset, or surfing a wave, or stalking a dangerous animal in the Africa bush, or penning a poem of thanksgiving... but Jesus is the source of those longings; they are fulfilled in the ultimate expression of truth in the person of Jesus himself.
Blessed are the merciful – Kingdom people forgive – because God has forgiven them. They don’t hold grudges, or carry resentment in their hearts. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom characterized by the mercy of God for anyone who will welcome Jesus to be the king of their lives – and so, they give mercy to others as well.
Blessed are the pure in heart – God’s kingdom is not for perfect people, but members of the kingdom are taught and asked to keep their motives pure. In other words, they are to continually search their hearts and to regularly repent of the hidden sins of the heart, jealousy, lust, resentment, coveting, pride and so on. They resist pride of religion – that is, the temptation to look good to others while hiding secret sins of the heart. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom from the heart, from the inside out.
Blessed are the peacemakers – Kingdom people don’t seek war, but peace. They seek ways to reconcile enemies and races and families or other divided people. To be a peacemaker starts in our own hearts, but doesn’t stop there. Kingdom peacemakers seek peace between nations, such as Israel and Palestine, or between races, between Blacks and Whites.
Blessed are those who are persecuted and falsely accused – Those who live under the rule of King Jesus in the Kingdom of God will be persecuted by those who oppose the rule of Jesus. Their will be mockery, loss of jobs hatred and even in some countries, murder, torture and imprisonment. Jesus did not promise us that we would escape such difficulty, but that it is our privilege to follow in his footsteps as one who suffered and died for us.