Midweek Fellowship – April 6, 2016
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
In Matthew 16, Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi and He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others said, Elijah but still others said, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” But Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
If you were like me, you would think, “Probably, Jesus did not fully understand what He had said,” Jesus probably grew into it. In the end of homilies, I have a signature ending, which is, “That is the way it is in the kingdom of God.” I do not fully realize God’s revelation. I have grown enough to understand these words are not really mine. This theme has been preached for 2000 years and it is not something that I can own. John the Baptist preached, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” This is not just a preference as a topic because it is basically Jesus’ instructions. When He sent out His disciples, He told them, “Preached that the kingdom of God is here.” This is good news because in the Creation story, we were banished in the kingdom of God, and now, it is open again.
I saw a Russian painting that is almost 200 years old entitled, “The Empty Tomb.” It is a picture of the women near the tomb and by the entrance was an angel with a flaming sword standing down. It was at rest. What does this signify? When Adam and Even were banished from the Garden, God stationed angels in the Garden and placed a flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the entrance. In the site of the resurrection of Jesus, the entrance is opened again. We sing, “Love’s redeeming work is done, fought the fight, the battle won. Death in vain forbids him rise, Christ has opened Paradise.” Christ opened Paradise by His resurrection.
In Genesis 3, when God banished Adam and Eve out of Eden, before He stationed the angel and then put the flaming sword, He said, “Man might stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” Man died when he ate of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. It is not about the fruit but his disobedience that he died. God said, “Lest he picked the fruit of the tree of life and live forever, we will guard the entrance.”
In John 6, when Jesus was talking about the bread of heaven, He said, “Who eats this bread will live forever.” Paradise is opened again; the tree of life is opened again. Jesus’ body, broken and offered, and then rose again. By offering His body and His rising again, Christ opened Paradise, and this is the good news of the Kingdom!
We must see prayer and everything else through the lens of the kingdom of God. When the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray,” Jesus said, “Pray in this manner. Say, “Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be Thy name….” Right after the salutation, the prayer says, “Thy kingdom come.” The exclusive theme of the Lord’s Prayer is the kingdom of God. “May Your kingdom come; may Your will be done.” May the fullness of the kingdom be a reality in us, on earth, again just like in Genesis. It has been initiated, but the fullness is yet to come. We still sin. We are still not perfect and we have not yet reached the stature of Christ which is our goal. We are getting there by the grace of God. As the citizens of the Kingdom, we honor our King through our filialty; through our faithfulness; through our vow that everything we do is toward the building of this Kingdom.
I remember applying a visa for the United Kingdom decades ago, and I asked a letter from my brother-in-law who lived in London at that time. He faxed me a copy of the letter that I was supposed to give to the embassy as a part of my requirements. The letter was standard, but what it says was, “This person applying for a visa is no threat to the crown of the Queen.” That was how important the kingdom is. That was how protective a leader of his kingdom is.
Some of you have applied for a job and had a job interview; and the basic question that you would be asked of is, “Why should we hire you?” Did you say, “I need money. I am getting married soon and I want a car, a house, and a bright future?” What anyone would say is, “Because I will be helpful to your company.” This is the idea of us contributing to the Kingdom. As citizens, we are supposed to be contributing toward the Kingdom.
We were introduced to the song, “Heart of Worship.” Like worship, we have made Christianity about us, and not about God’s kingdom or God’s glory. We have fashioned our God, we redefined His kingdom, and this affected our message of the gospel of the Kingdom. We have bordered on heresy. We have not preached the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom like it was 2000 years ago – the pristine message. We made Christianity a justification of what we want to do to – our lusts, our pleasures.
In Matthew 19, there was this discussion between Jesus and the religious leaders. They were asking Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Jesus said twice, “From the beginning, this was God’s design.” The religious leaders replied to Him, “Why did Moses command to issue a certificate of divorce?” Jesus said, “It is because of the hardness of your heart, but this is not so from the beginning.” What was from the beginning? It was God’s original design and intention before Adam fell. We have deviated from God’s will and we have conformed to the world, so now, even Christians would say in their heart, “I would like as much homosexuality.” There are Christians that preached that being gay is Biblical and they would give Scriptures. They would preach in churches and people receive them. They say that as much as homosexuality, as much promiscuity, as much abortion, as much drunkenness, as much materialism as they can get, and still get to heaven afterwards, this is what they want. We justify our lusts as much as we can get.
Consequently, our prayers have been according to this fleshly paradigm and direction. Sometimes, we don’t know it but yet, the real model of our prayer should be the Lord’s Prayer whose exclusive theme is the kingdom of God. We should see prayer through the lens of the kingdom of God.
The creation gives a picture of God’s very good design, His original intention. Are we thankful that Jesus opened Paradise again so that we can go back there again? What is our response? Our response in thankfulness and excitement should be a desire for its full restoration. Actually, our prayers don’t add to or take away from the development of the Kingdom. The kingdom of God, like it was prophesied, will always increase. I have straightforward news for you: the Kingdom will increase with or without us. God is God and He is independent and self-sufficient. He is gracious enough to offer us participation in the growth and in the glory of His kingdom. When we become participants, not spectators, then, this shapes our attitudes and we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” and we shape our attitude toward the fullness of the Kingdom and God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
In John 15, Jesus said, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” It is not a matter of a reward after satisfying Jesus’ requirement. We are not supposed to think that if we want a house and in order to get the answer, we need to abide in Jesus and obey His words. If we do and when we do abide in Him and His words abides in us, we would not be praying for something that is for our sake. We will think about Kingdom. We will be conformed to His image and we will have His attitude in us. Jesus is what God intended man to be so if we walk the way He walks, then, we would have His heart and His zeal for God’s house to consume Him.
Years ago, the computer system did not have hard discs and everything was floppy discs. Sometimes, the computer doesn’t perform as it should and it has to be rebooted or restarted using the Perfect Operating System. Jesus is this system for us. We deviated from the right way and Jesus directed our trajectory back on the right track. We abide in Him and we operate in the way we should be. We would be asking for the sake of the Kingdom just as He would. If we would abide in Him, we would be praying the way He does. Our attitudes and our emotions, which are expressions of prayer will be conformed to God’s heart.
One time, the disciples wanted to just rest because they have been on a mission and Jesus told them, “Go away to a lonely place by yourselves and take some rest.” But they were faced with a multitude of people whom Jesus saw as sheep without a shepherd. What did Jesus have for them? Compassion. Jesus’ zeal and advocacy for God’s kingdom consumed Him. Instead of resting, Jesus instead prayed for them, healed the sick and fed them.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may prove what the will of God is.” It is not our ideal God or what our will is, but it is God’s and His will. Our prayer should be about the fulfilment of the furtherance of the Kingdom and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
In the last Patriarch’s Council meeting, they heard from God and the message and the call for the whole CEC was for everyone to be intense prayer. I want to say that our intensity in our prayer is proportional to the extent of the reality of the Kingdom in our hearts. I say, “Be conformed by the renewing of your mind so that you just think Kingdom and God’s will and His concerns.” It is a process of transformation. The intensity of our prayers and what kind of prayers we pray will depend on the reality of this in our hearts and in our lives.
The world has come to mean grabbing the hands of fallen man because his desire is for himself to satisfy self. The foolishness of this is that he will never, never be satisfied by grabbing. It is not good for him. Only God can satisfy. Drug addicts have a diminishing satisfaction. The more they use drugs, the less high they get from it. From my teenage years, I had a friend who was immune to the effect of marijuana. He had to have something more powerful and more potent, but his body system got used to marijuana and it is not a good thing. There is no more high for him; there is no more satisfaction derived from it. This is what the world is- all a lie; it is deception. As King Solomon would say, “It is chasing after the wind.”
Only God can satisfy. The will of God is good, acceptable, well-pleasing, and perfect. It is only in God’s will can man be fulfilled. In John15, Jesus concluded His instructions to His disciples, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” The complete, real joy can only be from God, not as the world gives.
Jesus’ instructions and challenge to us is for us to abide in Him, and His words abide in us, so that our prayers also will line up accordingly, and we would pray His concern, His will, and His kingdom. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” His will is not exactly for everyone to have the latest cellphone. He may want that for you, but the concern of the Kingdom is heal the sick; preach the gospel to the poor for this is the way it is in the kingdom of God.