The Kingdom of God – Part I – August 3, 2014
INTRODUCTION – John the Baptist – the one man that the living God of the Universe chose – out of all the people on the planet – to pave the way for the ministry of His Son – Jesus Christ. This man that Jesus Himself ascribed greatness to – – began his ministry and his first sermon with these words, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It’s very likely that this was the focus of his preaching from then on.
Jesus Christ – the one and only Son of God – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords – when He began His ministry – and began to preach – – first uttered these exact same words, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What is it about the presence of the kingdom of heaven (or the kingdom of God – in scripture they are synonymous) What is it about this kingdom that demands repentance and inner transformation of any and every person who encounters it? And why couldn’t Jesus be original when He started His ministry? Why couldn’t He improve on what John the Baptist preached?
Do you understand, and can you explain to someone else from your own experience how entering and seeking the kingdom of God has caused you to lead a lifestyle of repentance or has caused you to change and turn from unrighteous attitudes and unrighteous behavior?
When Jesus Christ gave His disciples a model prayer – – or the foundational basics of an effective and God pleasing prayer life – – typically alluded to as “The Lord’s Prayer” and the forth line says, “Your Kingdom come…” …….what would it look like if that prayer were answered? Do you pray that prayer? If not, why not? If you do pray it, do you know what you are asking for? How would you know if it was answered?
Jesus Christ spoke of the great value of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 13, by speaking these words, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it” end of quote – why do you think He gave it such value or importance? Do you value the kingdom of God to the point where you would gladly sell everything you have, or die to every right you have to obtain it? Is it your greatest pursuit and passion? If not, shouldn’t it be? And if it was our greatest passion, what would that look like in the every day life of a postal worker or a banker or a contractor or an engineer or a middle or high school student or a homemaker or a waitress …… or a pastor?
When Jesus Christ was visited late one night by a very well known and respected Jewish leader and teacher – – and was greatly affirmed and complimented on the front end by this guy – – and Jesus abruptly changed the subject – and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Why was he willing to potentially lose an opportunity of having a captive audience with a major influencer of Jewish society by immediately confronting him with his need to be born again – to even be able to see, much less enter the kingdom of God?? Wouldn’t a short time of small talk – maybe even returning a compliment to Nicodemus have been more appropriate? Why was it so urgent to immediately go for the jugular in this discussion? And by the way, have you been born again? Have you experienced the life and attitude and perspective and priorities sea change – – that radical inner transformation that comes when a man or woman or young person or child – face to face with Jesus Christ – admits he is a sinner in great need of a Savior – and cries out to that Savior for mercy and forgiveness, and for the desperately needed overhaul of the soul and spirit and mind that only He can give – a transformation that the Bible calls salvation?
Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:14 said, “This gospel (or good news) of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Do you understand this gospel of the Kingdom? If you were invited to a party – perhaps a work party or a block party – and at some point in the evening 15 or 20 of you are all seated in a room – – and someone asked you to explain for the next hour – the kingdom of God and its relevance to 21st century society – could you do it?
Dr. Luke – a medical doctor and careful historian – and the author of the book of Acts – tells us in ch. 1 vs. 3 – that after Jesus Christ rose from the dead – but before He ascended to heaven – for those 40 days He would appear to His disciples – evidently day after day – for one express purpose – – and that purpose was to speak to them of (and I quote)“the things concerning the kingdom of God” (end of quote). The primary thing Jesus sought to further instruct and ground His disciples in – in those 40 days before He would ascend to sit at the right hand of the Father – was the kingdom of God. The primary thing Jesus felt His disciples needed to know and understand to be able to continue His ministry and establish His church throughout the known world was the kingdom of God. Why? Why of all things was His primary passion and concern for them to see and enter and understand and be able to proclaim and help establish the kingdom of God?
Several years ago – on a Sunday morning – I preached a sermon wherein I – for the first time – by God’s grace – was able to explain and describe our peculiar or unique identity as a fellowship or congregation – – to the point where most everyone who heard it – responded – – Yes! That’s who we are! Or Yes! That’s who He has called us to be. It had nothing to do with us being better or more special or more important than anyone else. It just finally brought clarity to who He has called us to be, and what He has called us to pursue as the Los Osos Christian Fellowship. Do you remember it? I presented six aspects to our identity or six aspects of who God has called us to be – – – the first thing was something we were just to accept and recognize. The other five were things we were aggressively to pursue.
First I stated that we were young, and thus in need of patience and perseverance. We as a congregation are just a little bit over 33 years old. Far younger than the Methodist, or Nazarene or Baptist or Baywood Park Community or the Assemblies of God – renamed Ocean Pacific. Far younger than most of the churches in Morro Bay and Cayucos.
Then I stated that we were called to bring about unity in the body of Christ in our region and beyond. Which by His grace we have been used to some extent to accomplish.
Third, We are called to aggressively pursue the fullness of the Holy Spirit and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit; signs and wonders and miracles; and to be a naturally supernatural people in everything we do.
Fourth, We are called to be a kingdom focused and seeking Church.
Fifth, We are called to be a righteousness pursuing church.
And finally we are called to be a revival/great awakening posturing church.
For those of you who are members of this fellowship – – can you explain to people why we believe we are to be a kingdom focused/seeking church? What does that actually mean in day to day tangible terms? Isn’t that true of every congregation? Why did we feel we had to single that out as part of our identity and calling?
Some years ago – our association of churches changed its name from the Fellowship of Christian Leaders to Kingdom Ministries International. Can you explain why we felt led to make that change?
In my bulletin note for today, I said towards the end, “I suppose at this point my chief fundraiser verse and principle for funding Christ’s church is Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Out of all the verses in the Bible that speak to funding Christ’s church and work on the earth, why would this be our chief one? And how can we know if we are abiding by it? Does it apply to individual congregations?
Another question…..: For those of us here who have been a Christian for many years and have been a part of some local church for many of those years – – how many of you – like me – heard sermons and teachings for years that never expounded and proclaimed the kingdom of God, and never really answered most of the questions I have just raised? If the kingdom of God was so central to the ministries of John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ, and the early church – – how could so much of the church for so many years mostly neglect it? How could we have missed this?
And when you see in books like Matthew that Jesus was constantly proclaiming and teaching about the kingdom of God; and that the word church only appears twice in the 28 chapters of Matthew unlike the word kingdom which appears 55 x’s; and when you see how the kingdom is so central to the message of the early church in the book of Acts – – how can you explain that some seminaries and bible schools that had some wonderful strengths – never talked about the kingdom of God except in eschatological terms – – that is they didn’t see any relevance in the here and now – – only in the future milennial kingdom.
Is it possible that Satan and his demons understand better than many in the church how utterly life and family and community and even nation transforming the kingdom of God is, and thus they have used every trick in the book to distract us from it and to distort its true meaning and intent?
Well we think it is very possible, and so for the next however many weeks – Joshua and I are going to revisit for your sakes and for ours – the kingdom of God.
The book of Acts starts with a statement that I alluded to earlier that the primary thing Jesus Christ discussed with His disciples day after day for 40 days before He ascended to be with the Father was the kingdom of God. The very last verse of the last chapter of the book of Acts (28:31) tells us that the apostle Paul spent his last two years (and I quote) “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.”
We dare not continue in this series through the book of acts and not understand one of if not the primary theme that ties it together.
I want to ask Jim & Monica and Rob and Talitha to come down now and I’ll join Bev. I believe without being too simplistic – – that the kingdom of God is the answer for most every challenge our world is facing today. But if the church for much of its existence has not been able to see that, much less walk it out in real every day terms, we would be foolish to think we are going to pull it off without significant resistance and struggle.
It may be this morning that you sense a need for greater understanding of this topic; it may be that you need more boldness to proclaim it; it may be you are not sure if you are born again and don’t really have a clue what the kingdom of God is all about; you may need physical healing or emotional or mental healing. Whatever your need – the King and His kingdom is in our midst – – and we believe He wants to make that more real to all of us – starting right now.