The Kingdom of God 9 – No more tears

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on the promise of God’s reign.

Scripture

Revelation 21:1-5

1  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  2  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  3  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  4  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  5  And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Observation and reflection

  1. According to this vision of John, what is the new creation like which God shall create?
  2. Note how God will relate to people in this New Creation in verse 3. What do you understand in these three phrases?
    1. “he will dwell with them”
    2. “they will be his people”
    3. “God himself will be with them as their God”
  3. In verse 4 John describes how God will comfort and console his people in the New Creation.
    1. What shall be no more?
    2. What does this suggest of the nature and character of God?
    3. What are the “former things” which “have passed away?”
    4. Why were there “death”, “mourning”, “crying”, and “pain” in the previous creation?
    5. Why have they “passed away”? In other words, what would cause them to pass away when God makes all things new?

Personal reflection and prayer

When the Lord returns to reign in his kingdom, there will be no more death, suffering, sickness or pain.  He promises to make all things new!

  1. If God rebuilds city structures, making it new, would it take away “death”, “mourning”, “crying”, and “pain”? Why not?  Would replacing a government, or renewing an education system, or better health system, or rejuvenated the economy bring an end to “death”, “mourning”, “crying”, and “pain”?  Why not?
  2. What must God “make new” to eradicate “death”, “mourning”, “crying”, and “pain”. [hint: how did these things enter into the first creation?  And what did Jesus came to make new? (2 Corinthians 5:17)]
  3. Which behavioral patterns do you notice in you which causes “pain” in people who cross your path daily – especially those closest to you? Confess that to God and ask him to renew your heart, that his Kingdom may come into that area of your life!

 

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The Kingdom of God 8 – Good News

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on the essence of the Gospel and its promise of liberation.

Scripture

Isaiah 52:1-9

1  Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean.  2  Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.  3  For thus says the LORD: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.”  4  For thus says the Lord GOD: “My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing.  5  Now therefore what have I here,” declares the LORD, “seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail,” declares the LORD, “and continually all the day my name is despised.  6  Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am.”  7  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”  8  The voice of your watchmen–they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion.  9  Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem.

Mark 1:14-15

14  After John had been put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee and preached the Good News from God.  15  “The right time has come,” he said, “and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the Good News!”

Observation and reflection

Consider Isaiah 52:1-9 quoted above:

  1. Summarize the message of the prophet shortly.
  2. What seems to be the context into which Isaiah prophesies? (v1-5)
  3. What is the “good news”?
  4. What is implied in the “good news”? (v9c) [hint: consider the context from (b) above]
  5. What is the response to the “good news”? (v7-9)

Consider Mark 1:14-15 quoted above:

  1. According to this text, what was the core of Jesus’ message?
  2. According to Jesus, how would such a person access the Kingdom of God?
  3. What similarities do you notice between Jesus’ message and Isaiah’s message quoted above?
  4. How do you understand the flow in the message of Jesus? In other words how do the phrases “Good News” + “Kingdom of God is at hand” + “repent and believe” relate to each other?  Rewrite Jesus’ message in your own words.

Application and prayer

The Kingdom of God is always Good News, because in the reign of God always liberates the oppressed and results in righteousness, peace and joy for all!

Consider the deteriorating life of a drug addict, or bulimic, or perfectionist, or procrastinator, or gambler.

  1. In which ways are this person enslaved by his or her own passions?
  2. In which ways do this person’s life correspond to the Jews oppressed by the Egyptians or Assyrians as noted in Isaiah’s prophesy (quoted above)?
  3. How would the Kingdom of God be good news for such a person?
  4. Do you know such a person? Pray to God that this person would have faith and grace for repentance.
  5. Which aspect of your life is enslaving you, or in danger of enslaving you? Repent of it, and ask for faith that God would reign over this aspect of your life.

The Kingdom of God 8 – Good News

The aim of this devotional study is to reflect on the essence of the Gospel and its promise.

Scripture

Isaiah 52:1-9

1  Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean.  2  Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.  3  For thus says the LORD: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.”  4  For thus says the Lord GOD: “My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing.  5  Now therefore what have I here,” declares the LORD, “seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail,” declares the LORD, “and continually all the day my name is despised.  6  Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am.”  7  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”  8  The voice of your watchmen–they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion.  9  Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem.

Mark 1:14-15

14  After John had been put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee and preached the Good News from God.  15  “The right time has come,” he said, “and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the Good News!”

 

Observation and reflection

Consider Isaiah 52:1-9 quoted above:

  1. Summarize the message of the prophet shortly.
  2. What seems to be the context into which Isaiah prophesies? (v1-5)
  3. What is the “good news”?
  4. What is implied in the “good news”? (v9c) [hint: consider the context from (b) above]
  5. What is the response to the “good news”? (v7-9)

Consider Mark 1:14-15 quoted above:

  1. According to this text, what was the core of Jesus’ message?
  2. According to Jesus, how would such a person access the Kingdom of God?
  3. What similarities do you notice between Jesus’ message and Isaiah’s message quoted above?
  4. How do you understand the flow in the message of Jesus? In other words how do the phrases “Good News” + “Kingdom of God is at hand” + “repent and believe” relate to each other?
    1. Rewrite Jesus’ message in your own words.

Application and prayer

The Kingdom of God is always Good News, because in the reign of God always liberates the oppressed and results in righteousness, peace and joy for all!

Consider the deteriorating life of a drug addict, or bulimic, or perfectionist, or procrastinator, or gambler.

  1. In which ways are this person enslaved by his or her own passions?
  2. In which ways do this person’s life correspond to the Jews oppressed by the Egyptians or Assyrians as noted in Isaiah’s prophesy (quoted above)?
  3. How would the Kingdom of God be good news for such a person?
  4. Do you know such a person? Pray to God that this person would have faith and grace for repentance.
  5. Which aspect of your life is enslaving you, or in danger of enslaving you? Repent of it, and ask for faith that God would reign over this aspect of your life.

 

The Kingdom of God 7 – righteousness and joy

The aim of this devotional Bible Study is to reflect on the anticipation and nature of the kingdom of God.

Scripture

Psalms 97:1-12

1  The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! 2  Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. 3  Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. 4  His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.

5  The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. 6  The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.

7  All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods!

8  Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O LORD. 9  For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. 10  O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. 11  Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. 12  Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!

Observation and reflection

  1. What is the tone or mood of this Psalm? [hint: note the emotive descriptors in verses 1, 8, 11, 12]
  2. What is the reason for this mood? (verses 1, 9)
  3. The Psalmist describes the LORD as a King approaching to rule words like “clouds and thick darkness”, “fire that consumes his enemies”, “lightnings”, “people tremble”, “mountains wax” and “glory”. (v2-6) Give two or three words that desribe what this King is like, as described in these verses.
  4. What is this King’s kingdom like? [hint: note verses 2, 6, 11, 12]
  5. The response to this awesome King’s reign is dived. What groups of people are mentioned, and how do they respond to God’s rule?
  6. In the kingdom of God “light” and “joy” “is sown for the righteous” (v11). What do you think the Psalmist means to say?

Personal relfection and prayer

God is an awesome King who rules in righteousness and justice; even in the Old Testament the coming of his kingdom was anticipated and celebrated.

  1. Reflect on your government and its political arena. Can you say of it that “righteousness and justice are the foundation” of this government?  Why/ why not?
    1. Pray for God’s kingdom to come – starting in your heart and home! Then pray for “righteousness and justice” in your land.
  2. Reflect on the society of today. Would you rather describe it as being “joyful” or “fearful”? Why/why not?
    1. Pray for God’s kingdom to come – starting in your heart and home! Pray that “Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets… And [that] the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.” (Zechariah 8:4-5)

The Kingdom of God 6 – simple trust

The aim of this devotional study is to remind yourself that God is in control and that he cares for his children.

Scripture

Matthew 18:1-5

1  At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  2  Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3  and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. 4  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5  Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.  6  Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Observations and reflections

Context: In Matthew’s gospel the phrase “kingdom of heaven(s)” is used as a euphemism to the Jewish hearers (or readers) who reverently wish not to use the implied “kingdom of God” in public.

  1. Summarize Jesus’ answer to the question “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
  2. Knowing the disciples, what was the motive in their question posed to Jesus? (v1)
  3. In the world today, who is typically regarded as the greatest?
    1. How is a child NOT like that?
    2. What are the typical characteristics of a little child? Name at least 6.
  4. Why would Jesus say that one would need to be “converted” to become like a little child before they “enter the kingdom of heaven”?
    1. What did Jesus imply in his answer to his disciples?
  5. Jesus highlights two characteristics of children. What are they? [hint: v4, 6]

Personal reflection

Little children are generally joyful, simple-minded, innocent, unassuming, unpretentious, and trusting.  Jesus said we have to become like this and gain access to the kingdom of God.

  1. Little children are simple-minded, unassuming, and unpretentious. In which way have you grown in humility during this year? How do you measure your growth in humility?
  2. Children are typically trusting and obedient. In which way have you grown in obedience and trust of God during this year?  What prevents you from trusting obedience of God?
  3. Are you more/less joyful now than a year ago? How do you know it?

Prayer

Reflecting on one of the three questions above, pray that God would create in you’re a simple, joyful, trusting childlikeness.  in honesty share your thoughts and motives to God.

 

The Kingdom of God 5 – the King’s Grace and King’s judgment

The aim of this devotional study is to consider grace and judgment in the Kingdom of God.

Scripture

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, 47-50

24  Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25  but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26  But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27  So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28  He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29  But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘ ”

36  Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37  He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38  The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39  The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40  Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.41  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, 42  and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43  Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

47  “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48  which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49  So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50  and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

Observations and reflections

In today’s study we shall reflect on two very similar parables (v24-30 and v47-50), the first one having been explained Jesus (36-43).

  1. The beginning of the first parable tells of good seeds and then bad seeds sown by an enemy. What is Jesus referring to? [hint: the serpent…]
  2. What explanation does Jesus give for both parables? (v40, v49) [hint “so it will be…”]
  3. What are the function of the angels given in both parables? (v41, v49)
  4. What are the lot of the wicked described in both parables? (v42, v50)
  5. What are the lot of the “wheat” and “good fish”?
  6. In the first parable there is reference to God’s Kingdom in two instances: the tares are gathered “out of His [God’s] kingdom” (v40), and there is what Jesus calls “Kingdom of my Father [God]”(43) at the time of the judgment, “at the end of this age”.
    1. What is meant by God’s kingdom today?
    2. What is meant by God’s kingdom “at the end of this age”, at or after the judgment?
    3. Is it another kingdom or the same kingdom? [hint: is it the same king…?]
    4. How will you explain the “kingdom of God is now” and “the kingdom of God is at the end of this age” to someone who asks you? How is the parable of the wheat and tares useful to understand this?

Personal reflection and prayer

  1. Considering these two parables, how will you explain God’s grace and God’s justice (judgment) to someone?
  2. The first parable refers to the righteous and the wicked, as well as their lot at the end of this age.
    1. In your own words, what are the lot of the “righteous” and the “wicked”?
    2. If the King would to judge today, would he find you “righteous” or “wicked”? Why?
    3. What makes someone “wicked” or “righteousness” in the eyes of the King? [hint: what did Jesus came to do? See the series on Salvation]
    4. In light of this, are you fearful or optimistic about the judgment of the King? Pray to God about your anticipation of his judgment.  Plainly tell him what you think and feel, and ask him for grace.  And pray for your friends and neigbours in light of this coming judgment.

 

The Kingdom of God 4 – Priority

The aim of this devotional study is to consider one’s own attachments and priorities in light of God’s value system.

Scripture

Matthew 13:44-46

44  “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45  “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46  who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Observation and reflections

Jesus told these stories (parables) to explain abstract truths about the Kingdom of God to his audience.

  1. Reading both these parables, what is the main lesson Jesus meant to teach about the kingdom of God and our relation to it?
  2. What type of man (in terms of his vocation, social status, education, and wealth) would typically be digging in a field he does not own?
  3. In Jesus’ day pearls were a rare and very expensive commodity. What type of person (in terms of his social status, education, and wealth) would be trading in it?
  4. Compare the two parables and fill in the missing words
Parable Treasure in the field Pearl of great price
Who found it? Common worker
How did he find it? Accidentally
What was his response?
How did he obtain it?
  1. Jesus told two very similar parables, which Matthew recorded next to each other. Why?
  1. Considering the differences and similarities between the two parables
    1. Both a common worker and a trained businessman discovered more they ever dreamed of. What did Jesus mean to say about the kingdom of God and (i) education or intellect?
    2. A worker accidentally discovered it while a seeking merchant found it. What did Jesus mean to teach about the kingdom of God?
    3. Both could obtain these precious discoveries. What did Jesus mean to say about the kingdom of God?
    4. The worker found it while he was alone a field; the merchant found it while engaging with people trading and comparing pearls. What did Jesus mean to say about the kingdom of God?
    5. Both sold all they had to obtain the treasure. What did Jesus mean to say about the kingdom of God?

 

Personal reflection and prayer

A common worked dug and discovered it, a rich pearl merchant travelled far and wide to obtain it.  Both sold all they had and thereby could possess it.  What does that teach you about the Kingdom of God?

  1. Both the worker and the merchant “sold all that he had to obtain” the kingdom of God. How does that challenge your priorities and preoccupation with material things today?
  2. Pray that God would see his worth and his reward.
  3. Pray that God would grace you to “seek first the kingdom of God” today.

Kingdom of God 3 – Small beginnings

The aim of this devotional study is to consider the growth and impact of the reign of God in a person or community’s life.

Scripture

Mark 4:26-32

26  And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27  and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28  For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29  But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

30  Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? 31  It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; 32  but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”

Observations and reflections

  1. Identify the two parables of Jesus in the Text above, and retell it in your own words.
  2. Consider the first parable quoted above (v26-29):
    1. Recall to memory the more well-known sower-parable with the four soil-types (Mark 4:3-20). What are the big differences between the two parable?
    2. What is the emphasis of the sower-parable quoted above (v26-29)? [hint: what does the sower not know?]
    3. What does the sower desire from his act of sowing?
    4. In this parable, what is the seed, the ground, the grain and the harvest?
  3. Consider the second parable quoted above (v30-32):
    1. What is the emphasis of this parable?
    2. In this parable, what is the seed, the other plants, and the birds?
  4. Compare the two parables:
    1. What are the big differences between the two parables and what do we learn about the Kingdom of God from it?
    2. What are the similarities between the two parables and what do we learn about the Kingdom of God from it?

Personal reflections and application

Jesus frequently compared the Kingdom of God to a seed being sown, producing a big harvest or big tree for shelter.  Without the sower scattering the seed to the ground, there will be no harvest, yet the sower does not have the power to cause the growth itself.

  1. “Without the sower there will be no big harvest, no big tree.”
    1. With whom have you recently shared the Gospel of Christ? What was their response?
    2. How does this parable challenge your habit of sharing the “Gospel of the Kingdom” with people?
  2. Consider a picture of “a big Kingdom-mustard tree” from Paul and Silas’ first visit to Thessalonica.

Acts 17:6-7 But when they did not find [Paul and Silas], they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king–Jesus.”

  1. Think about the words “they have turned the world upside-down… acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king – Jesus”. What can the Gospel of Jesus do in your neighborhood, city or nation? Dream a bit.
  2. Pray for revival, and for boldness to share Jesus today.

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus trialed as King – “no threat” – yet his kingdom toppled the Roman empire.

 

The Kingdom of God 2 – starts inside

The aim of this devotional Bible study is to prayerfully reflect on the reign of God within human hearts.

Scriptures

Luke 17:20-21  20  Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21  nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Matthew 23:27-28  27  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.  28  So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Mark 7:21-22  21  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22  coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.

Observation and reflection

Context: The Jews oppressed by the Roman Empire in Jesus’ day were longing for liberation from their political and militant conquerors, and were seeking for an independent Israel with its God-appointed ruler.

  1. Reflect on Luke 17:20-21.
    1. Considering the context, what did the Pharisees probably mean when they asked Jesus about the “Kingdom of God”?   And what were they really longing for in “the Kingdom of God”?
    2. What did Jesus imply with his answer regarding God’s reign? And why is this ironic?
  2. Considering “the Kingdom of God… [coming] within”, how does God’s reign within transform the individual? Answer this question reflecting on
    1. Matthew 23:27-28
    2. Mark 7:21-22
  3. Why is God’s reign so foreign to man’s natural orientation? [hint: what is reigning in fallen mankind, and why?]

Application and prayer

In Jesus’ day the Jews were longing for a messiah to come and liberate them from Roman rule, to establish “the Kingdom of God” as they were looking for independence.  Ironically, Jesus preached the Kingdom of God as God’s rule not merely over a civil state, but over each individual’s will, thoughts and emotions – amidst human oppression.

  1. When you reflect on the reign of God over your thoughts, which habitual thoughts or attitudes are you aware of that must still come under his reign?
    1. Pray as David did that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD” (Psalm 19:14), with specific reference to your own thoughts.
    2. Do a study and find Scriptures by which you can be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
  2. In which area do you find that your will does not want to submit to God?
    1. Patiently pray as Jesus did “not my will but Yours be done!” (Luke 22:42)
  3. Which Christian friend can you confide in about these personal struggles in heart and mind? Text him/her now for an appointment!

The Kingdom of God – not in religious observance

The Kingdom of God is a central theme in the Bible, especially the teachings of Jesus. The aim of this devotional series is to prayerfully reflect on the Kingdom of God and its manifestation in and through my life.

Scripture

Romans 14:14-21

14  I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.  15  For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.  16  So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil.

17  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

18  Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.  19  So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.  20  Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.  21  It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.

Observation and reflection

Context: The congregation(s) in Rome were divided in their understanding of which holy days were to be observed and which foods were religiously acceptable.

Focus on verse 17.

  1. Rephrase the sentence “the reign of King Henry VI extended throughout the British Isles”.
    1. What is meant by “The Kingdom of God” in verse 17?
  2. Why (in this context) does Paul say “The Kingdom of God is not in eating and drinking
    1. Why is this an important distinction even today?
  3. Replace the following words with short phrases to describe what it means or implies in relation to “the Kingdom of God”:
    1. Eating and drinking
    2. Righteousness
    3. Peace
    4. Joy
  4. What does Paul mean by the qualifying phrase “…in the Holy Spirit”? [hint: where else does Paul write about “Holy Spirit… peace… joy”?]
  5. According to this verse:
    1. What is God’s reign like?
    2. Where does God reign?
    3. How is God’s reign extended in practice?

Application and prayer

Jesus did not come to enforce ceremonial religious observances.  He came to bring righteousness, peace and joy in our hearts and relationships.  Do you experience that?

Jesus taught us to pray God “Let Your kingdom come!”  (Matthew 6:10).

  1. In which relationship of yours do you not experience “righteousness, peace and joy”?
    1. Pray that God will work in your hearts to establish his “righteousness, peace and joy”.
    2. Make an appointment to discuss this with the other person so that there might be God’s reign may be evident in your relationship.
  2. Is there an aspect of your life that does not correspond to God’s “righteous” reign?
    1. Confess that to God and pray to God who is ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
    2. Bring that area of your life to God in prayer, asking him to create his righteousness in your heart.
  3. Is there something about your nation or neighborhood or world which upsets you (i.e. violence, corruption, perversion, poverty, etc)?  Pray for God’s Kingdom to come in “righteousness, peace and joy!”