BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it” (Matthew 11:12 New Living Translation).
The Kingdom of God, as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John put it, was the focus of Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, or the Kingdom of Heaven, as the book of Matthew alone, in addition, puts it.
Generally, “the Kingdom of Heaven” and “the Kingdom of God” are used interchangeably as synonyms but some Christians try to differentiate between the two. Nevertheless, there are present and future dimensions of the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God (Matthew 12:28; 13:41-43; 25:34). The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are also the same as the “kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians. 5:5), and the “everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:11).
Jesus told many parables to illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:24-30, 31-32, 33, 44, 45-46; 47-52; 18:23-35; 20:1-16; 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 14-29) and the Kingdom of God (Mark 4:3-20, 26-29, 30-32; Luke 8:5-15; 13:18-19, 20-21). Jesus also told His disciples to preach that the Kingdom of Heaven was near (Matthew 10:5-7). Even after His resurrection, He still preached the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). The Bible, in the New King James Version, records the use of the word “church” by Jesus Christ only on two occasions. The word appears three times in just two verses in Matthew (Matthew 16:18; 18:17). The use of the word “church” is not credited to either Jesus or any other person in the other gospels – Mark, Luke, and John. However, the word “church” is used many times in the other books of the New Testament.
The Kingdom of God was very important to Jesus while He was on earth, and it should be to you, too. In Luke 17, when the Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come, He answered them, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21 New King James Version). He said the Kingdom of God was already in their midst because of His presence. Jesus was referring to the immediate manifestation of the Kingdom. In Matthew 12:28, Jesus said, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (New King James Version).
But there is also the future aspect of the Kingdom of God, which will be realized at the second coming of Christ. Jesus taught the disciples to pray, “Your Kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10 New King James Version). The present Kingdom of God is a preparation for the coming Kingdom, and anyone who is not part of the present Kingdom can’t be part of the future Kingdom.
Be part of the Kingdom of God now and look forward to the future enthronement of the Kingdom. Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33 New King James Version).
Everyone should not only enter the Kingdom of God but should also be involved in advancing it. Matthew 11:12 says, “And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it” (New Living Translation).
How can you advance the Kingdom of God?
1. Be born again. Give your life to Jesus to see the Kingdom. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:3 New King James Version). Jesus also said in verse 7, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (New King James Version).
Receive the message of the Kingdom with the simplicity and humility of a little child. This is how to enter the Kingdom. “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Mark 10:15 New King James Version). Only those who are in the Kingdom can advance it. You must first be in the Kingdom of God to be able to advance it.
2. Preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God as Jesus did. Jesus preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God, including speaking parables of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:42-43). The early apostles also preached the Kingdom of God (Acts 8:12; 14:22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23; 28:30-31; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 15:50, Galatians 5:20-21; Ephesians 5:5).
Advancing the Kingdom of God is different from advancing the interests of a denomination. To advance the Kingdom of God means to expand the sphere and influence of the Kingdom on earth by taking the message of the Kingdom to more people and places thereby making more people come in. This is soul-winning (Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:19-20). Preaching the gospel also includes demonstrating the power of God – healing, casting out devils, and signs and wonders (1 Corinthians 4:20; Mark 16:17-20).
3. Represent the Kingdom of God well. Be a good ambassador of Christ. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Jesus says in verse 14 that those who believe in Him are the light of the world and a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
There must be a difference between the sons of light and the sons of darkness. The Apostle Paul says, “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5 New King James Version). Also, the Apostle Peter says, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12 New International Version). To advance the Kingdom of God on earth, believers must live as children of light; they must represent Jesus well as His ambassadors. Paul was an ambassador of Christ, and every believer is and should be (2 Corinthians 5:20).
4. Join the defence of the faith. You must defend the truth of the Good News. You must fight against false doctrine by preaching or teaching sound doctrine. The Apostle Jude wrote: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3 New King James Version). Similarly, Paul told Timothy, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13 New King James Version).
5. Pray for the Kingdom of God. Pray for the Kingdom to come and for more workers into the harvest field (Matthew 6:10; 9:37-38). Pray for the ministers of the gospel and other workers in the Kingdom. Pray for more grace, utterance, boldness, open doors, favour, protection, etc. (1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2; Hebrews 13:18-19).
6. Join the Kingdom workforce. Don’t be a bystander or an onlooker in the Kingdom of God. Don’t be idle but serve. Be a worker for the Kingdom of God (Colossians 4:11). Put your hand to the plow and don’t look back. “But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:62 New King James Version). Paul says to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Use your spiritual gifts and talents for the Kingdom of God. “God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings. Are you called to preach? Then preach as though God himself were speaking through you. Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies so that God will be glorified through Jesus Christ-to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:10-11 The Living Bible). God gave spiritual gifts to each Christian for the profit of all (1 Corinthians 12:7).
7. Use your God-given position for the benefit of the Kingdom of God. See yourself as a servant of God in any position you occupy whether in church or outside the church. The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein (Psalm 24:1).
Cyrus, a heathen king, understood that God put him on the throne and used his position to allow the Jews in exile to return to Jerusalem. “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2-4 New King James Version).
Some people use their positions only for their selfish personal enjoyment not to benefit the Kingdom of God. In Nehemiah 2:4-6, both Nehemiah and King Artaxerxes used their positions well, which enabled Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its wall that had broken down. Nehemiah was concerned about the state of Jerusalem and didn’t just sit in the palace enjoying his position as the king’s cupbearer. The king also granted his request to be allowed to go and rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and other requests concerning his mission.
Use your God-given position to advance the Kingdom of God. Joseph of Arimathea used his access to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus and, together with Nicodemus, gave him a decent burial (John 19:38-42). How is the Kingdom of God benefitting from your position? Advancing the Kingdom of God is not for Pastors alone. It is for every child of God.
8. Support Kingdom projects with your money and other resources. Such projects include evangelism, missionary support, and ministry to the poor, orphans, and widows. Luke 8:2-3 talks about certain women who contributed their resources to support Jesus and His disciples. The early church also advanced the Kingdom of God with its resources (Acts 4:33-37). The early church was a giving church (Acts 11:28-30; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5; 11:8-9; Philippians 4:15-19). It is biblical to give your resources to advance the Kingdom of God. Believers in the early church were taught to give (2 Corinthians 9:6-13). God will reward you both here on earth and in heaven. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself (Proverbs 11:25).
Conclusion: Don’t be a spectator in the Kingdom of God; be a participant. Let the Kingdom of God advance in your hands. Join others to advance the Kingdom of God so that more souls will come in.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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