Are Christ’s original teachings about the coming Kingdom of God being faithfully taught in the church you attend?
If Jesus walked the earth today, which church would He attend? Would it be a church that opens its doors to people of all religions? Would it be a politically active church, trying to influence who is elected into public office? What kind of people would attend a church where Jesus attended? Would they be rich people all financially blessed by God? Or would they be poor people, because we know that Jesus said that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
If Jesus walked the earth today, would He attend your church?
We are witnessing a growing movement in the United States among conservative Christians to achieve political power as a way to stop the decay of biblical family values, immoral entertainment, abortion and the teaching of evolution in schools. Now one of the various factors in this movement is Dominion Theology. The agenda of Dominion Theology is for Christians to achieve dominion, or control, of the civil government, educational system, entertainment industry and wealthy corporations. Dominionists believe that when Christians gain political and economic influence, the United States will return to being a Christian nation. Some even think that Christian ascendancy will hasten Christ’s return to set up God’s Kingdom on earth.
The idea of the Kingdom of God being established through human government, it’s not a new one. In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church exercised enormous political power throughout Europe. During that time in European history, a monarch’s right to rule resided in papal authority. The mailed fist of a nation’s army could be used to enforce church teachings. Writing around 1300, Pope Boniface VIII explains how the church had two swords; one spiritual, the other physical.
Pope Boniface wrote: “Both are in the power of the church, the spiritual sword and the material. But the latter is to be used for the church; the former by her; the former by the priest, the latter” —which is the sword of military might— “by kings and captains but at the will and by the permission of the priest.”
The Protestant Reformation diffused papal power, but the history of Christianity since the Middle Ages has seen various religious movements trying to prepare the way for Christ’s return through human efforts to create God’s Kingdom here on the earth.
But as you’ll see, here in a few moments, Jesus is not guiding any modern political church movement. So would Jesus attend your church? Stay with me. We’re going to find out in a minute.
Now there is a very popular idea gaining steam today, but polar opposite of Dominion Theology. And it has made great inroads into Christian thinking.
It is the New Age concept that, Jesus accepts everyone as long as they have love in their hearts. In this interpretation of Jesus’ teachings, love is defined by subjective human emotions. Good and evil is based more on personal feelings than universal standards. There is little concept of God’s dominion or divine law.
The New Age Jesus makes no demands on how God is to be worshipped. Instead, human beings create personal interpretations of God based in manmade traditions. The definition of sin is ambiguous, because divine law, is made obsolete through “love.” Is this the kind of church Jesus would attend? Actually, the answer is no. So let’s discuss this further and work towards finding out the kind of church Jesus would attend.
Well, let’s take a second look at these two teachings about God’s dominion and the Kingdom of God in the light of what Jesus actually taught.
First, the idea that Christians are to use human government to establish dominion and hasten Christ’s return. When we explore the life of Jesus, as told here in the Gospels, we find a very different approach. Jesus never involved Himself in trying to control either the Jewish or Roman governments. Likewise, Jesus church today would not do this. When dragged before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36 John 18:36Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
American King James Version×).
Jesus told His disciples to be prepared to be persecuted by quote: “governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles”–or to the nations (Matthew 10:5-42 Matthew 10:5-42 5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter you not:
6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7 And as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely you have received, freely give.
9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses,
10 Nor money for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.
11 And into whatever city or town you shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till you go there.
12 And when you come into an house, salute it.
13 And if the house be worthy, let your peace come on it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you.
14 And whoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.
15 Truly I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.
16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the middle of wolves: be you therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will whip you in their synagogues;
18 And you shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what you shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what you shall speak.
20 For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaks in you.
21 And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.
22 And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endures to the end shall be saved.
23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee you into another: for truly I say to you, You shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
24 The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.
25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?
26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak you in light: and what you hear in the ear, that preach you on the housetops.
28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
31 Fear you not therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows.
32 Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
33 But whoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.
37 He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
38 And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me.
39 He that finds his life shall lose it: and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it.
40 He that receives you receives me, and he that receives me receives him that sent me.
41 He that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
42 And whoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, truly I say to you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.
American King James Version×). You know they were instructed to preach the gospel to every creature. Jesus never instructed His disciples to enforce the gospel on every creature.
The second idea, which permeates liberal Christianity, states that Jesus taught a non-judgmental acceptance of all religious beliefs. This interpretation doesn’t come from the teachings of Jesus, but from sort of a mishmash of secularism, multiculturalism and Far Eastern religions mixed with a few biblical concepts. It creates a multicultural Jesus who accepts the equality of all religions and moral ideas. Is more like a 1968 Age of Aquarius hippy, than the historical Jesus who lived in Judea while under the rule of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago.
Ultimately, the New Age Jesus isn’t concerned with solving the horrible consequences of breaking God’s law and defining God’s dominion or Kingdom, but in allowing each person the moral freedom to decide for himself the differences between good and evil.
Jesus would not attend this kind of church either. So, where would Jesus attend?
A story in Matthew’s Gospel helps us understand the teachings of the real Jesus. A young man came to Jesus asking, “Good Teacher, what good things shall I do that I may have eternal life.”
Jesus responded, “…if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” You see the real Jesus was very concerned with God’s dominion, God’s rule and the rule of law. This is a teaching that’s quite foreign to the New Age Jesus.
Now the young man inquired about these commandments, which ones, and Jesus said well, “ ‘You shall not [commit] murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and (your)mother,’ and ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The man recognized these commandments. They were the last six of the Ten Commandments summarized by the instruction to love your neighbor. He told Jesus, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’” You see he had grown up in a strict Jewish community trying to submit to God’s commandments.
And Jesus now told him, “If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give [it] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come [and] follow Me.”
The young man turned and walked away from the Son of God because he was very rich and could not envision a life of sacrifice for God and neighbor (Matthew 19:16-22 Matthew 19:16-22 16 And, behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He said to him, Which? Jesus said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,
19 Honor your father and your mother: and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
20 The young man said to him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21 Jesus said to him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
American King James Version×). He could not attend the kind of church Jesus outlined. He couldn’t accept that Jesus didn’t seem concerned with what he thought would give him a sense of self-fulfillment. You see Jesus Christ was concerned with God’s dominion and the fulfillment of God’s desires in the lives of His followers.
The Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John give us snapshots of Jesus’ life. We know that He spent His early manhood as a carpenter. He interacted with Jewish society by observing the Ten Commandments and actually many other Old Testament laws. He also made a claim that either makes Him a madman or the greatest human being to ever walk the earth. Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, declared that He was the prophesied Messiah who is the Son of God.
Jesus said that His mission was to save humanity, and just as the Old Testament prophets foretold, to rule the earth. He told His disciples that He was going to return to heaven and then come back to set up God’s Kingdom. And it will be God’s Kingdom. He isn’t returning to simply receive an already established kingdom based on some kind of humanly designed political system. Jesus Christ is returning to establish a radically new government where He alone is the ruling monarch.
When Jesus returns, His mission isn’t to promote the New Age concept either. You know everyone just get along by not judging one another. Jesus told His disciples that when He sets up God’s Kingdom on this earth, now I want you to listen to the words of Jesus Christ, “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42 Matthew 13:41-42 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
American King James Version×).
These are the very words of Jesus Christ Himself. He is not returning to build a Kingdom with the message “You know, I’m okay, you’re okay,” because the truth is, we’re not okay. He’s coming to teach all humanity a new way of life, and you can have Christ teach you that way of life right now.
Now to truly understand who Christ was—and is—and what He came here to do, you’re going to need to look into the pages of your own Bible. Now we’ve prepared a Bible study aid that is going to help you do just that. This booklet is called, Jesus Christ: The Real Story . It will walk you page by page through the life of Jesus Christ as explained in your Bible; His life, His miracles, His purpose, explaining the words that Jesus spoke, the things that He did in the light of all of God’s Word.
And you can get your free copy of this booklet by calling the toll free number: 1-888-886-8632 or you can go online to visit us at BeyondToday.tv . So call: 1-888-886-8632 or go online to BeyondToday.tv for your free copy of this booklet.
Now let me also mention that the United Church of God is holding free Bible seminars in cities across the United States and around the world. Now you won’t want to miss these seminars where you’ll learn more about the Kingdom of God. So go to BeyondToday.tv and look for the “Kingdom of God Bible Seminars ” link to register. Now these live events are absolutely free.
The hope of the Kingdom of God is what you need to hear. Go to BeyondToday.tv and click on the “Kingdom of God Bible Seminars” link.
Should Christian churches struggle to gain political and economic dominion in order to promote the Kingdom of God on earth? Or should Christians be unconcerned with God’s dominion because well, things like kingdom, and divine law, the rule of God, are just sort of harsh concepts and all Jesus requires is we be motivated by good feelings towards each other?
Are either of these beliefs, that we’ve been looking at today, based in the teachings of the Jesus that we discover in the Gospels? To find the answer, there are two questions that we must approach. One, what is the vision of the Kingdom taught by Jesus Christ? Now why we must have that vision and the second question, how can you experience God’s Kingdom, or dominion, or rule in your life right now?
To really understand what God wants to do in your life, you must have both a vision of the future Kingdom and a life-encompassing mission to follow the Creator’s direction in your daily life. Now this is the kind of disciple Jesus wants filling the seats in the church where He would attend. What about you?
Now this story illustrates the importance of vision and why I keep talking about the vision of the Kingdom. For me, an unforgettable image of the 21-mile boat ride to Catalina Island off the California coast is the sharks. The last time I took that trip there were plenty of sharks following the boat’s wake. I had no desire to get into the water I can tell you that.
That makes Florence Chadwick’s attempt to swim the Catalina Channel, back on July 4 in 1952, even more amazing. At 34 years old, Chadwick had already conquered the English Channel. She was in great condition. The day she faced the Catalina Channel was extremely foggy. In addition, the water was icy cold, and not long after she got in she was suffering from numbness. Several times her crew had to drive off sharks with gun fire. She strained to see the coast, but the fog made it impossible.
After nearly 16 hours, struggling with the feeling that the distance was too great, she gave up and climbed into a boat. It was heart breaking to discover that the shoreline was only half a mile away.
Chadwick told reporters that it was the fog that caused her to become disheartened. She could handle the fatigue, the cold, the threat of sharks, but not being able to see her destination was overwhelming. Now two months later Florence Chadwick set out again to swim the Catalina Channel. She confronted all the same conditions including the fog, but she visualized her goal and completed the swim beating the men’s record by two hours.
You see many times it isn’t the troubles of life that defeat us. It’s the fog. The ability to visualize beyond the uncertainty of life’s fog is called mental vision. To experience God’s dominion, God’s rule in your life, right now, you must have a spiritual vision of His promised future.
Now our vision of the Kingdom of God must spring from the teachings of Jesus Christ and the descriptions given by the Old Testament prophets. It’s this vision that will determine how much you submit to God’s direction in your life right now. It depends, it will determine which church you attend right now.
Jesus gave these instructions to His disciples. Listen to this: “…do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and (all) these things shall be added to you” (Luke 12:29-31 Luke 12:29-31 29 And seek not you what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, neither be you of doubtful mind.
30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knows that you have need of these things.
31 But rather seek you the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added to you.
American King James Version×).
In parable after parable, Jesus told His disciples about a bridegroom, or a wealthy merchant, who would leave his servants and return to them to give them rewards or punishment. The famous Olivet Prophecy was delivered in response to the question, “…what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”
In one well-quoted passage Jesus told His disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3 John 14:1-3 1 Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
American King James Version×, NIV).
Jesus taught that His followers shouldn’t just wait for this future event, but they should seek and anticipate its reality. When you seek and anticipate the return of Jesus Christ to establish God’s Kingdom, you will experience major changes in how you live as a Christian. And, your whole church experience will take on a new meaning. What are some of those changes?
Well first, you will begin to seek God’s desires and goals in your life right now. You know all too often we approach God as if we had rule, dominion over Him. He’s like an “errand boy” who is supposed to fulfill all of our desires and goals. If you really want your life to change, do this: Every morning get up and ask God to fulfill His desires and goals in your life. When we seek His future, we in turn accept His direction to that future.
Second, you will begin to change your priorities. Now what do I mean by that? Well first, how do you spend your time? Time is the greatest gift God has given to each of us. When we allow God to set our priorities, the drive for money and things is replaced with a drive to produce Christ-like spiritual character. The need for status is replaced with the need to love others. The search for self-determination is replaced with seeking God’s determination for your life. The desire for constant entertainment and immediate gratification is replaced with a peaceful understanding of what is really valuable in life—family, how we treat others and worshipping God in a way that is pleasing to Him.
You also begin to have a change in how you spend your mental and emotional energy. You know we waste so much of our lives in resentment, selfishness, envy and other destructive thoughts and emotions. God wants to produce in your life, now here’s a list that the apostle Paul gave of what He wants to do in your life: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
American King James Version×).
You know this can only happen when you acknowledge that you need God’s rule in your life and accept your absolute inability to satisfy your spiritual hunger by ruling your life yourself. Where you attend church becomes very important! Is it where Jesus would attend? Is your church truly following biblical teachings in all its aspects?
One of the things that happens when you let God begin to have dominion in your life, is you begin to want to obey God’s commandments now. You must accept the right of the Creator of life to have dominion over His creation. Just as there are physical laws like gravity that govern the universe, there are divine laws that govern our relationship with God and our relationships with each other.
Isaiah, one of the most eloquent of the Old Testament prophets, was inspired to write many prophecies about the future Messianic Kingdom. In one passage he describes the rule of Christ this way, “ ‘He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of [the] LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 4:3 Isaiah 4:3And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remains in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem:
American King James Version×).
Jesus Christ isn’t coming to create anarchy by doing away with all law. His Kingdom will be founded on the law of God. So here’s the important question: Are you accepting God’s dominion in your life by obeying His commandments?
Now another thing, and this is real important. In order to really understand the vision of the Kingdom of God and the change that’s going to happen in your life right now, you’re going to have to begin to give up your need to control. This may be the most difficult thing for human beings to do. I mean all of us want to be masters of our own fate. We want to control our immediate environment and really control everyone else around us, why? So we can feel secure and happy. The foundation of faith is to give up control over your life and give it to God as a loving Father. You can give up the need to control only if you trust in God’s promised future, you have a vision of that future, and you accept His involvement in your life now. The two things we’ve been talking about.
So what does God want from you? Everything! He wants you to give up control and allow your Creator to have dominion over every thought and action.
So this is God’s challenge to you. Would Jesus attend a church where the pews are filled with people whose lives have the same goals, the same envy, the same greed, the same selfish priorities as secular society? Where praises are sung to God, but He has little real influence in their daily choices? Where Jesus is seen as Savior, but not as Master? Where God’s dominion and laws are replaced with the acceptance that every person determines what is right or wrong in his or her own life? Or, would Jesus be looking for a church where people are striving to submit to God’s dominion and seeking His Kingdom?
Would Jesus attend your church?
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Now I am joined by Darris McNeely and Steve Myers to further discuss this question of what we have been talking about today. Now we really only have time for one question today, so it’s very important. We’ve been talking about, what kind of church would Jesus attend? What would be some of the major, important aspects of a church Jesus would attend?
Well Gary I think that number one would be one that accepted Jesus Christ as the head of the Church.
The book of Ephesians very clearly lays out that Christ is the head of the Church. He uses the analogy of a marriage and all but he says Christ is the head of the Church and so, the idea of submitting ourselves under that rule would be one thing that obviously Christ would be looking for when you bring in all of the references, especially in the book of Revelation, when Christ stands in the midst of the Church, in the midst of the churches there. It’s got to be one that accepts Him as the head and looks to Him not to a man.
So it’d be accepting Him coming as the Son of God to die for our sins. Accepting His role now and accepting His role in the future too.
Yeah, you’ve got to know where to start. People can have all kinds of ideas on what their church should be like, but if they don’t start at the Bible, if they don’t start with the Word of God, you’re on the wrong foundation to begin with. So it’s got to be a biblically based church. You hear a lot about being based on the love of Jesus, and that’s not a bad thing as long as you know how you’re defining that.
What it means by that…
What’s the definition of that? Well if you look to the Bible, Christ said that, He inspired John to write the message from the beginning was love. Well what is love and how am I supposed to love? Well John also said that you know you love the brethren if you love God. And that tells us a little bit more but he defines that further by saying loving God is keeping His commandments. It’s obedience. It’s deferring to the One who has dominion over your life and that’s God. And if you’re not submissive to God and His way, you’re not keeping His commandments, how can you be attending the right church?
What we’re doing then is we have to understand that accepting Jesus and submitting to Jesus are two different things.
Oh absolutely. One can profess to know Christ but, and actually do some very good works in His name, but Christ did say that there would be occasions, there would be those circumstances where He may confront someone and say depart from me, I never knew you. And doing good works is important, but there has to be more than that. It does come down to a matter of truth.
I think, to turn your question of the program, the program title asks, which, would Jesus attend your church? I think any one of us needs to ask whether or not the church in which we find ourselves to be apart, is it a church that is looking to Jesus Christ? Not only as the head as I said, but also for the answers of this world, to solutions of the problems of this world, rather than trying to create those answers ourselves by our good works but recognizing our total dependence upon Jesus Christ and His promises to bring about the solutions that this world needs.
I guess the real question isn’t what church would Jesus attend, but are we attending the church where Jesus is?
That’s the real question.
To truly understand who Christ was and what He came here to do, you’re going to need to look into the pages of your own Bible. Which church would Jesus attend? Find out today, and take advantage of our free Bible study aid, Jesus Christ: The Real Story .
And don’t forget your subscription to The Good News magazine. This unique magazine will help you understand God’s purpose with all kinds of articles that are relevant to your life.
Remember, all of our publications are provided free of charge as an educational service in the public interest. You can call us at: 1-888-886-8632 or you can write us as well to request your free subscription.
So, what church would Jesus attend?
Now we see in the Gospels that Jesus taught religious people and prostitutes, rich and poor, powerful men and common folk. A church He attended would have members from all walks of life. He said that He was a physician, a spiritual physician—so it would be a hospital for the spiritually sick.
But, most importantly, the teachings would be founded on the Bible and be concerned with Jesus Christ’s first coming to save humanity and His second coming to establish God’s Kingdom here on the earth. It would be a church that emphasizes God’s love and His dominion. The Ten Commandments would be strongly taught as the foundation of divine law. The return of Christ would be a clear and powerful vision beyond the fog of uncertainty and anxiety.
Well, join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom of God. We also invite you to join us constantly in praying, “Your kingdom come.”
For Beyond Today , I’m Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.