Answering the Kingdom Call

Answering the Kingdom call

In November 2012, Ashley and Jane Evans left the security and comfort of leading the largest church in Adelaide, Influencers (formerly Assemblies of God) to move to Atlanta Georgia, USA to start an Influencers church there.  They left family behind in SA to answer the Kingdom call of God. They began with themselves in the rented home lounge.  Now he runs a church of 1100 people now. He answered the kingdom call of God and the rest is history.

The Kingdom call first began with Jesus.  Luke tells that Jesus’ first sermon was in the Synagogue in Nazareth. The people were initially amazed but then they heard the sting in the tail and were not impressed. They kicked Jesus out and so Jesus heads off to Capernaum.

Mark tells us that Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of God after his wilderness experience.

Matthew has Jesus returning from his time in the wilderness, hearing that John the Baptist was in prison and then leaving Nazareth for Capernaum according to the prophet Isaiah: The land of Zebulun and Naphtali toward the sea, across the Jordan, the Galilee of the Gentiles”

While Mark is quite pointed about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Matthew and Luke give us a fuller account that makes sense to this period of Jesus’ early ministry.

Jesus’s ministry was not appreciated in Nazareth, his home town.  They saw Jesus as the local lad, Joe’s boy,  trying to make good.  But his inflammatory comments in the synagogue just reinforced their perceptions of him: just a local upstart.  His later visit recorded by Mark (ch 6) proved to be of not much use.

Jesus went to live in Capernaum. Galilee is a strange place for a Messiah to work. There is no early rabbinic reference to the Messiah’s appearing or working in Galilee. Galilee was not just geographically far from Jerusalem; it was considered spiritually and politically far, too. Galilee was the most pagan of the Jewish provinces, located as it was at the northernmost tier of Palestine.

This distance from Zion was not only geographic; Galileans were considered by Judaeans to sit rather loosely to the law and to be less biblically pure than those in or near Jerusalem. Finally, Galilee was notorious for being the nest of revolution and the haunt of Zealot revolutionary movements. Just a few years before Jesus’ birth, Sephoris, capital city of Galilee, had been led in revolt by Judas of Galilee against the Roman government and had brought Galilee into defeat and many of the people of God into shame

He would have visited and spoken in the local Synagogue which was 50m from Peter’s house. He would have walked around the town and people would have got to know him. He may have started to do some carpentry jobs to help him live. The point being is that he would have become well known in that fishing community and so when he approached Peter, James and John while they were cleaning their nets, they would have known of him and the message that he preached.

And Jesus would also have heard about the fisherman and their businesses and there standing in the community. He would have made an assessment of their personalities and abilities including leadership qualities. Yes there were a few rough edges but there was great potential.

So unlike Mark’s gospel account, Jesus’ call to the fisherman was not totally unannounced but rather more pre-meditated. Jesus had done his homework on these fishermen and ascertained whether they may be suitable for God’s purposes. He would have asked His heavenly father about them and god’s opinion of them.

The Kingdom call by God is to people he knows about and done some homework on.  His discernment of people is different to most job interviews though He seems to have made some unlikely choices according to most job criteria: eg Matthew the tax collector; Simon the Zealot; Judas Iscariot and Paul of Tarsus.

One can safely assume that God has done some homework on you and me to assess what kingdom call can be given to us.  Do not assume that this kingdom call is only given to people in their 20’s and 30’s!

Let us unpack this Kingdom call.

The Kingdom Message

Mark states that the message of Jesus was “The time is fulfilled. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.

Matthew has shortened this message to Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.

The message of the Kingdom was a message of Repentance. While repentance is mainly linked with sin in the last 100 years, repentance was more about change: change your thinking; change your direction in life. It was about a brand new life with a new direction, new possibilities and new approach to life and self.

This new direction was made possible because the Kingdom was at hand ie within one’s reach and had the power to effect the change. In other words the person’s proximity to Jesus facilitated this change.

For the people in Jesus’ day and for us, the ability to make a change depended upon the proximity and belief in Jesus.

The message of the Kingdom is about changing one’s life for the better and the power to do this was found in Jesus and in Him alone.

This message was not just for those who wanted a change from their pagan existence but for us who are steeped in Christianity and discovering that you are living in a rut. It is about taking a radical step in a different direction in which you are travelling. It is about being open to and embracing change: the six letter word that meets most resistance.

It is about realizing that repeating the same thing year after year will not get the outcome that you are hoping for.

What is the direction of your life? What are you willing to change? In what ways are you prepared to go in a different direction.  For the individual and each congregation, we want to grow but we don’t want to change the direction that we are in. We want changes but we don’t  want to change. We want someone else to!

But the message of the Kingdom is simply: Change your direction in life and your attitude and belief in God because you are going in the wrong direction.

This leads me to the next radical part of the Kingdom call.

It is the Kingdom Method.

As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he said to Peter and Andrew who were casting a new into the sea: Follow me

The radical method of the Kingdom was not some complicated recipe that was hard to comprehend but a simple formula Follow me.

Yet it has been the hardest thing to do for many people.  Follow me is about walking in the footprints of Jesus where you are only one or two steps behind. It is about keeping your eyes upon him and Him alone and not being distracted by the sights and sounds that are on either side of you.

It is playing the children’s game “Follow the leader” with Jesus being the leader and we are following after him and doing what he is doing.

This is a radical method of living for you must forsake your way of thinking and doing and take on board the Jesus way. It is radical because you are consulting with Jesus each step of the way. It is radical because you do not turn either to the left of right unless Jesus says so.

For many of us, this is not our way of operating. Rather we would like to travel our way and if we do get into trouble, then and only then will we consider another option.

When we went to Holland to visit Liz’s relatives we visited cousin Barry. He took us to Medora dam with all the cities of Holland built in miniature.  We assumed that we were to go in his car but he suggested that need to take our hire car and follow Him. This was quite nerve wracking as we had never travelled along the roads and we had no idea where we were going. All we had was his small red car going ahead of us, darting in and out of traffic. We needed to keep our eyes on the small red car and follow closely so that we did not get lost.

It was a salutary reminder of what following Jesus was all about.  As we were in a strange land we were alert to follow. The trouble for most of us is that we are not in a strange land and the territory is quite familiar and we think we know the way and thus we do not need any help.

But that is the main ingredient for getting it all wrong.  The Kingdom method is ALWAYS ASK JESUS. ALWAYS FOLLOW JESUS.

Kingdom Mandate

Jesus said “and I will make you fishers of men”.

Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of Kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.

The Kingdom ministry is about bringing people into contact with Jesus; introducing them to the one who is able to save and heal their lives ie make a real difference to their lives.

As Jesus cast his eyes over the people, he saw that they were lost sheep needing a shepherd.  He saw them as damaged people that needed to know that God does care and that he can heal their broken lives.

It was about teaching and training people to continue the ministry of Jesus: preaching, teaching healing and delivering people.

It is about continuing the ministry of Jesus so that many will believe. It is about investing in this ministry as an individual and as a church. It is about recognizing that time is short and that people need to know the good news of Jesus. They need to be saved from their sins and their selves. They need to be shown a new direction in their life.

They need to hear the call to repent: change your life because you are heading in the wrong direction.

For all of us we have a sphere of influence where we can make a difference to people’s lives and allow the Kingdom to come fully through us into the lives of another.

It can be just a simple offer Can I pray for you?

But this ministry is not driven by you but by Jesus. He said to the disciples I will make you fishers of men. That power and ability has not changed. Jesus can do it through us but we must have a willing and obedient heart.

We must learn to follow Jesus and “walk across the room” and engage in a conversation with somebody that you normally do not converse with. It is about following Jesus and being obedient when he prompts you “go and talk with so and so. Pray for them”.

Jon Bosisto who visited us on New Years day tells of a kingdom Ministry opportunity.  The wife of a bowler in his club was very sick and had given up on life. His wife was very worried and concerned and asked Jon to visit. He did not know the man very well but after a number of promptings went and visited the man.

He was an ex Salvation Army person who had walked away from the church because of some hurts. He sat down with this man and talked with Him.  In his own way, Jon raised the question of faith and belief in God and found that this man still believed but …  Jon spoke about Jesus and his ability to heal and was the man interested in being healed. The man was and so Jon led him through a prayer to give to Jesus all that was troubling him.

Jon left the man in hospital. A couple of weeks later, his wife rang Jon and asked him what did he do!  Jon explained that he talked and prayed. The wife told Jon that her husband is out of hospital and very much better and has a complete change of heart and wanted to live.

Kingdom ministry is about talking and praying and helping people come into contact with Jesus so that Jesus can work his miracles.

In 2017 we face the challenge of just existing or living in the power of Jesus.

Last time I spoke, I said that each of us has a God given call and destiny.  For some of you it will be embracing the challenge of change by being led in a new way based on the gifts that God has given you but being taken into an entirely new direction with them.

The kingdom call is radical and it does take us out of our comfort zone. It has a message, a method and a mandate that turns people’s lives around in a very positive way.

The Kingdom is not about growing a church so that it continues or survives. The Kingdom is about people needing to meet Jesus.  That is our focus: people who need Jesus. When that becomes our focus, everything falls into line and the church can grow.

In our last year at the Tweed coast,  I was invited to Tallebudgera Uniting to speak at a healing service. I answered the call but wondered what I would find. I brought Liz and seven people along and there was about another 15-20 people.

In the back porch sat an elderly lady. At the end of the preaching I was about to invite people to come forward to be prayed for. This lady interrupted. She described her situation where she struggled to hear because of her hearing and could not see the screen because of her difficulty with her sight. She had been like that for years. That was why she was in the back porch.

She then went on to say that she now can see clearly the screen and has heard very word that I have said! God had healed her while I was preaching. We all gave thanks to God for this. We went home with our car a few feet off the road.

That night I learnt again a valuable lesson. People matter to God whether they belong to a church of thousands or  a church of thirty.  We go to continue the ministry of Jesus so that lives can be turned around and people hear that they matter to God. We go to where Jesus leads us:  to small country towns in Australia to small villages in India and Kenya.

We go where Jesus leads us. We answer the call of the Kingdom to tell people that they matter to God.

This is our Kingdom mandate. Where is Jesus leading you and this church in 2017? Amen

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