Category: Spiritual Growth Written by Jim Denison
Jesus began his public ministry by issuing this proclamation: "The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mk 1:15; cf. Mt 4:17). He ended his ministry with the same theme and priority: "He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God" (Ac 1:3). The kingdom of God was Jesus' focus and passion. So, what is the "kingdom of God"?
Our Lord gave us its best definition when he taught us to pray: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Mt 6:10). God's Kingdom comes whenever and wherever his will is done. When we make God our King and ourselves his subjects, we enter his Kingdom. When we lead others to do the same, we build his Kingdom.
Our purpose on earth is to serve this King and lead others into his Kingdom. This is why the church exists, and why you and I are here. Jesus had a passion for the Kingdom of God—for bringing the light of the gospel to all the world, to make as many subjects of the King as possible. Do you?
A passion by itself is not enough. We must also have a philosophy—a strategy and a plan; and then a program for carrying it out. What was Jesus' philosophy? His last words before returning to heaven disclose his answer: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Ac 1:8).
Here we find our power to make disciples in the Holy Spirit. We cannot convict of sin or save souls. We must work in the strength and power of the Spirit. Here are the people to be empowered: "you will be my witnesses." The word is plural, engaging every one of us. We are to refuse the clergy/laity division, to become a mighty movement together.
Here is the purpose which empowered people fulfill: "you will be my witnesses." A witness tells the truth to those who need to hear it. In the same way, we take Christ's love to people wherever we find them, and wait for our chance to help them to Jesus.
And here is the priority by which the empowered people fulfill their purpose: "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." They were standing outside Jerusalem when they received these words. You are living in your Jerusalem today. Start there, with the people you know who do not know Jesus.
How do we implement this philosophy and fulfill this passion? Acts 3 tells the story. Peter and John are on their way to the Temple for afternoon prayer. Here they meet a man born lame who begs daily from those who are on their way to worship.
Of all the people in the crowd who could help this man, these disciples would be the least likely benefactors. They have no money to give him—"Silver and gold I do not have," Peter admits (v. 6). They have no medical expertise to offer him. But it turns out they have something better. Something every Christian can offer the crippled and hurting people who surround us today.
"Peter looked straight at him, as did John" (v. 4). The Greek word means to stare with intense purpose. Others looked, but Peter and John noticed; others heard, but these men listened; others rushed by, but these followers of Jesus stopped. Why? Because they saw the need. This is where all ministry begins. No seminary degrees are required. No special gifts or abilities are needed. No sin or failures in our lives exempt us. Every one of us can do this.
Next, they trusted the name: "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk" (v. 6). Not in their name—they have no power to help him. Not in the name of the Temple, for it cannot heal; not in the name of religion, for it cannot restore; not in the name of their faith, for it is not his. In the name, person, and authority of Jesus Christ, and in no other, for no other can help. They know that Jesus can heal this man, that he can meet any need and solve any crisis. Do you know that?
Finally, they touched the hurt. Many in their day believed wrongly that people with physical handicaps were somehow under the judgment of God. They knew better: "Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up" (v. 7). Peter actually "grabbed" the man, the Greek says. He got involved personally. Again, no special skills, training, or background are needed. Any one of us can who will.
Here's the result: the man is instantly healed physically. And spiritually: "he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God" (v. 8). All because two disciples saw his need, spoke the name of Jesus, and shared his love in theirs.
Who in your Jerusalem needs your Lord? Find a need in their lives which you can meet in love. Then explain your love by telling the story of your own encounter with the love of Jesus. Get involved personally, showing that God's grace is real through yours. Ken Medema was right: don't tell them they have a friend in Jesus until you show them they have a friend in you.
Do you share Jesus' passion for building God's Kingdom on earth? Are you his witness in your Jerusalem? Will you meet needs and touch lives with his truth and love? God is waiting to empower your obedience. And someone you know is waiting for you to be the presence of Christ to them. There is no greater privilege.