Introduction: Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). The apostle Peter preached that the resurrected Son of God “is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). The Book of Revelation calls Christ “the Lord of lords and King of kings” (17:14 and 19:16). Paul writes that Christian believers are in “the kingdom of the Son” (Colossians 1:13).
The New Testament uses a number of phrases for this kingdom: “the kingdom of God … the kingdom of heaven … the kingdom of their Father … His kingdom [God’s] … the kingdom of the Son … the kingdom of Christ … His kingdom [Christ’s] … my kingdom [Christ’s] … the kingdom of light … the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ … the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah … or simply ‘the kingdom.’ ” These are not a bunch of different kingdoms. No, rather, they all refer to God’s rule and reign in human affairs in the person of His son Jesus Christ.
My good friend and Christian scholar, George T. Kurian, in Nelson’s New Christian Dictionary, points out that we are talking of “the dominion of Christ as distinct from the kingdoms of the world.” How then can we be involved in the growth of this great, Christ-centered kingdom? Let’s look at seven biblical strategies for our participation in its expansion on earth.
1. Preach repentance, not “feel-good” Christianity.
Matthew 3:1-2 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Matthew 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
• Repentance! How often — or, sadly, how seldom — do ministers in pulpits today exhort people to repent! Yet from the very beginning, this has been one of God’s strong commands. The word occurs about two dozen times in the Old Testament, and many dozens in the New Testament. When synonyms are counted, the concept of repentance is seen literally hundreds of times in the Bible.
• In our churches today, too often biblical truths are spoken — “God loves you” … “you can have a relationship with Jesus Christ,” and other encouraging facts — but without the necessary exhortation to repent of our sins in order to come into a saving relationship with Jesus. The Lord Himself said, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3, 5).
• Our desire is to see the kingdom grow, not just to shuffle existing Christians back and forth among the churches. This growth takes repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ to move people out of the devil’s kingdom (Luke 11:18) and into the kingdom of God.
2. Pray for and expect the demonstration of the power of God to save, heal, deliver, and change lives.
Matthew 4:23-24 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.
1 Corinthians 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.
• “The kingdom of God is … a matter … of power.” Paul and the other apostles understood this. Like Jesus, they preached and taught God's word, but they also healed the sick, cast out demons, and in many ways demonstrated the remarkable power of God that characterizes the kingdom of God.
• We are in a spiritual warfare for souls. Satan, the enemy of our souls, is not defeated by words only, but also by power (1 Thessalonians 1:5). From the beginning of the Church Age, the preaching of the Gospel has been accompanied by the manifestation of Holy Spirit power (1 Corinthians 2:4). Kingdom growth is intended to come from word-and-power ministry, not by word alone.
3. Make the kingdom of God a high priority in your life.
Matthew 13:44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
• Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom…” (Matthew 6:33). The kingdom of God/Christ should be a very high priority for us. This requires watchfulness and continual self-discipline on our part, lest we lose sight of this magnificent goal. The kingdom is “like treasure” and is well worth our committing all that we have to its pursuit.
• In Jesus’ time of fasting in the wilderness, the devil offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, if Jesus would simply bow to Satan and worship him (Matthew 4:8-10). But Jesus’ focus was properly on the kingdom of God, not of the world. So He resisted the devil’s temptations and rebuked Him with a verse of the Scriptures. Jesus practiced what He preached — seek first the kingdom of God. That was His high priority.
4. Press in to the kingdom of God. Don’t be passive.
Luke 16:16, KJV The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
• “Pressing in” — you don’t often hear this phrase today. Vine’s Greek dictionary suggests the meaning of “forceful endeavor.” Biblical scholars vary widely in their interpretation of this verse and its parallel in Matthew 11:12. So I will not push this phrase too far. However, I believe that a positive understanding of “pressing in” is consistent with much of Scripture that speaks of our taking an aggressive approach to the things of God. If we remain passive, we become merely spectators.
5. Develop a worldwide vision for the kingdom, like yeast, to permeate the whole batch of “dough.”
Matthew 13:31-33 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.
• Don’t be discouraged by what may seem to be “small” results. Remember the mustard seed. At its sowing, Jesus said it was the smallest of seeds. But it grew and became a large plant. So it is with God’s kingdom on earth. It starts small, but grows large! Your church, or your personal ministry, to you might seem insignificant. But continue doing faithfully whatever God gives you to do, remembering that it is “God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7, KJV).
• Likewise with the yeast in Jesus’ kingdom parable. It takes only a small dose of yeast to permeate completely the dough made from about “sixty pounds of flour.” The task (the “dough”) may seem large and daunting. But the yeast, representing the kingdom, is fully capable of permeating this entire world with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Keep your vision strong. God’s kingdom has irresistible power to grow and to penetrate every dark stronghold on this earth.
6. Cast your net so as to catch every fish you can.
Matthew 13:47-48 Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.
• Cast your soul-winning net broadly. Look upon every acquaintance, every co-worker, every friend, every family member, as a candidate for salvation. Be encouraged — you are a member of a kingdom whose net is capable of catching “all kinds” of fish — even bullheads!
• Some 40+ years ago I shared my faith on several occasions with a man who listened, but still seemed irreversibly set in his non-Christian beliefs. I reached a point of almost giving up on him. But then one Sunday, to my surprise, I saw him come into our church service. And at the end of the service he responded to the altar call and got wonderfully saved! Lesson learned? — the kingdom’s net is capable of catching all fish, even those who seem most unlikely.
7. Don’t let your vision drift backwards. Don’t hold on to the old life. Look at the present and the future. What is the Lord doing now to advance His kingdom?
Luke 9:61-62 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
• A worker ploughing furrows for God’s kingdom needs to keep his eyes ahead. If he is continually glancing backwards, perhaps hearkening to or even gripped by the things of his past, he will plow a crooked furrow. Much of our past is what we needed to be saved from!
• Also in a spiritual sense we can miss the mark by looking back. For example, some of us took part in the great Holy Spirit move of the 1970s. Former hippies by the thousands became “Jesus people.” Great numbers of denominational Christians received the mighty baptism with the Holy Spirit. Christian coffee houses sprang up like mushrooms. Churches open to the Holy Spirit saw amazing growth. It was a joyous time.
• But that was four decades ago. Yes, the truths of Scripture remain the same. But how is God, like yeast, penetrating the world of the year 2014 and beyond with His timeless truths? The moves of God in the past are inspiring, but may not resemble today’s move. For example, tent meetings draw very small crowds today, but were very effective in some past revivals. The question is: What is God doing today?
• For example, if I had limited myself to what God did in that great move of the 1970s, I would have missed His call in 2004 to start this Pentecostal sermon website. But through a word from God to my wife that year, I received a rhema from God to start this website, using technology that was unknown just 40 years ago. And now, ten years later, I can say joyfully — and with 100% of the credit going to the Lord — that some 11 million visitors have come to this site to read the word of God. I mention that illustration in closing to reinforce Jesus’ charge, whether in the natural or the spiritual, that we look forward. Don't live in the past. What is God doing today and in the foreseeable future? Dedicate yourself and your efforts to that kingdom work.
Summary: Seven Strategies for Kingdom Growth
1. Preach repentance.
2. Seek and expect the manifestation of God’s power to save, heal, and deliver.
3. Make the kingdom a very high priority in your life.
4. Press in to it. Don’t take a passive approach.
5. Envision the kingdom as irresistibly growing and penetrating our world at every level.
6. Cast your net broadly, expecting it to catch fish of all kinds.
7. Don’t be captured by the past; look forward to what God is presently doing on this earth and in your life to advance His kingdom now and in the days ahead.