“The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.
(Luke 16:16 NIV)
Mathew 11:12 (KJV) puts the above scripture thus; “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” This means that before John the Baptist’s fiery message of repent and be baptized for the kingdom of God is at hand. The Law and the Prophets was mainly on Do’s and Don’ts intertwined with sacrificial offerings and rituals to make amends with Jehovah God. The appearance of John marked the beginning of a new era, a new message complete with new methods of doing things. It marked the beginning of the New Testament and Christianity. As any American would put it; this was a new ball game. The appearance of Christ on the scene with his disciples did not make matters any better for the ‘oldies’. The era of evangelism had come and with it all the teething problems that mark any new transition. For success to be realized, sustained effort and resistance to the old ways had to be employed in order for many to see, accept and indeed walk in the new dispensation of Christ.
OUR OWN EXAMPLE.
In the Journal 2003-01 Change. I dealt with the issue of transition that had just taken place in Kenya when President Moi handed over the reigns of power to President Mwai. In the article I pointed out that for any meaningful change to be realized it must first begin with the individual so that every Kenyan can enter into the brilliant promises made by the incoming president. All must work towards his vision by changing our usual ways of doing things. An example is the case of corruption, we must stop giving and accepting bribes, avoid taking shortcuts in business etc.
But looking back now after 18 months in power; we are hearing of new scandals, downright lies and deception right from the lower echelons to the highest offices in the land. What must it take for those of us who are Kenyans to enter into the ‘kingdom of economic revival’ as painted in the eloquent and poetic speech of the new president as he took over power? A simple answer would be a focused effort to cast away the old ways and consciously walk into the new while battling all the way every temptation to fall back into the old ways. That includes a concerted effort by all stakeholders and none is better placed to partake in this than you and me at the individual level. Otherwise disillusionment is certain to set in and we start hearing such tunes as yote yawezakana bila Mwai (all is possible without Mwai) which sadly to say, is a corruption of a favorite Christian chorus that was used during the last elections to indicate that all was possible without the then outgoing (President) Moi. Now some are already using the same tune but with the current president’s name and they are finding out that the two names actually rhyme. This is indicative of one very important fact; that Kenyans are not happy with the scorecard that they hold as seen against the governments’ poor deliverance on the promises made during and immediately after elections; and now they are pressing into their demands. However, how many are in the present move to pressurize the government to do right, are in it for the common good? I am afraid quite a number are indeed in it for self gratification. Let me leave that for another day…
THE CHRISTIAN OF TODAY
Likewise the Christian believers are faced with ever growing challenges both from within and without the church, family and work places. Paul writing to Timothy had this to say; For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Tim 4:3-5 NIV).
Paul cut out a clear point of reference for Timothy. The world was changing and even those in the kingdom were adapting new fads. Timothy was being told to remain steadfast despite of the hardships and continue to pursue his calling. Every one of us has a call, ministry or vocation or whatever you may wish to call it. If we do not remain steadfast in it as Paul points out here to Timothy, know that the time has already come where people are itching to hear what they want not what they need! Already many have departed from truth and are pursuing completely repugnant doctrines! Keep your head in ALL situations! Some situations may present themselves as good and proper yet tinged with poison. Adam and Eve listened to the ‘new’ doctrine of the serpent of ‘Did God really say’ and see where the world ended. But again all new things are not necessarily bad or evil. An example is the gospel of Jesus when it came; it superceded the Mosaic Law and greatly lightened the burden of the Jews from having to continuously offer blood sacrifices. The transition from the old to the new is still ongoing even now and this calls for sustained pressing into the new while ‘violently’ casting away the ‘old. This is more so for the new converts where the pull of the world is still strong and the new road of salvation seems to be fraught with lots of uncertainties. It is easier for one to say; better the devil you know than the angel you don’t.
APPLY THE BEREAN SPIRIT
The bible states clearly that we ought to test all spirits and like the Bereans, search all scriptures quoted (including the ones in this journal) to see if indeed it really is so! Let your hear test the words that you hear from other people just as your tongue tastes food! Remember that not every proposition, teaching or preaching is yes and amen. Sometimes you must say NO! Be Spirit lead always and you shall never go wrong. To use the Kenyan example again; many of us were led by our excited politicians in 2002 to an equally excited changeover of government and now we are looking back and saying maybe we should have done it differently. Christians, let us not allow change to change us and cause us to deviate from the truth. We must press on to the high calling of God through Christ Jesus our King and Lord of all. This will demand spirituals warfare- The Kings James bible puts it well. The violent take it (kingdom) by force.
VIOLENCE IN CHRISTIANITY
Is there something like violence in Christianity? When we look at some Old Testament war scenarios, we see a great deal of violence, blood and death. Some stories in the OT can be described as genocide and ethnic cleansing though ordained by God. Indeed in some instances God is depicted in terms of wrath, consuming fire, devouring etc. These are terms that easily fit a violent situation. However, in the context of the lead scripture this month, it calls for us who have believed in God to continuously apply spiritual warfare, faith and action in order to press into the kingdom of God. There is no point to speak in tongues during warfare prayer only to rise up and indulge in sin. In the past, a Jew who fell short of the Mosaic Law was expected to be dealt with according to law. Stoning to death was perhaps the severest form of punishment then. In other cases, a cow lamb, goat or some turtle dove was killed in order to atone for sin and that was it. But in the New Testament, it is repent and follow the Lamb of God, who is Jesus Christ our Lord and King.
Repentance is the easy part; it is the following that has every Christian having to do continuous battle with all that is against them in the present world. The spirit is willing but the flesh keeps seeking to be gratified with the goodies on offer from the world. This calls for violence in terms of one having to battle the will of the world in order to enter into the will of God. Somebody said that the road to heaven is so narrow that it is enough for one person to go through it at any one time. But the highway to hell is wide enough for a crowd to enter at once. I wish it was the other way round. I mean crowds entering heaven instead. Jesus said; “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Mat 7:13-14 NIV). To give you a picture of this scenario, just look at the number passing through the doors of Church daily and those passing through the gates of bars, discos, pornography, prostitution, robbery etc and you will appreciate what the Lord is saying. Indeed the highway to hell is so wide, stay off it and stick to the straight and narrow road to heaven.
WE MUST FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT.
Peer pressure is killing us, especially our youth. Lack of good and proper role models in society is pushing our young people on the wide and fast lane of pleasure and the good times. Meanwhile those in the faith are being hard pressed from all sides to stay afloat and keep their faith. Paul in his ministry had to continuously fight and labor to keep his cool. He had to contend with philosophers, kings and even false brethren. I heard of a very sad story where someone went to church and ‘accepted’ Christ but with the sole intention of winning a Christian girl and as soon they had gotten married, the fellow went back to hell’s kingdom. How much must we battle to keep alive in the faith? The answer is; continuously and without losing hope in order to obtain the final prize. Paul has this to say in his case; I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Tim 4:7-8 NIV). You want to be among the rewarded finishers? Never give up your Christ-like ideal nor give in to the world around you.
Somebody may be facing a very tempting offer, but something inside of you seems to hesitate or is telling you no. Could that be God saying wait? Another one may already be on the wide highway to destruction. My advice to you is; obey the stop and exit signs that are flashing at you and pull over from the fast lane before you crash. The crowds on this wide lane are not your kind of crowd. Last month I read in the papers of some testimonies of some young people who are currently battling to get out of serious drug addiction. Yes, some of them are from good Christian homes with solid foundation and proper upbringing, but have gotten hooked to the lures of a life of pleasure along the way. This week again we read of how riotous the Kenya Schools Music festival has been. Students carrying bottled water and soft drinks laced with whisky into the venue! The result was indiscipline that has never before been witnessed in this otherwise excellent annual event.
We all must fight the good fight and keep the faith. Resist the devil and he will surely flee! But fight we must if we are to enter or press into the marvelous kingdom of God. It is not easy, it is never easy. The Kingdom of God is always near to everyone who desires to enter, but remember that there is a kingdom of darkness also that is opposing those who wish to enter into God’s kingdom. This calls for violent methods to be employed in order to gain entry. It will require constant violence and staying alert in order to keep the darkness out of our acquired kingdom. It is not enough to press into the kingdom only to loose citizenship; you must remain in it for all time. And the only way is by abiding in Christ.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I pray in your name to the Father to uphold each and every one of us as we continue to press into your kingdom. Help us to believe, retain and walk in your marvelous grace. Without your guidance and protection, we are lost. Let your fullness and glory be our cover in this turbulent times. Bring hope to any one who is losing it Lord. Grand wise counsel to those under negative peer pressure and restore anyone reading this journal that has already lost citizenship in your kingdom. Above all else be our role model and may your Spirit do a perfect work in us. AMEN.