Sermon for Sunday, March 11, 2007
Title: What is the Kingdom of God and What Does It Mean to Be a Kingdom Person?
Text: Matthew 6:33 (HCSB) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
Reading: Do You Not Know? Done by Rod & Judi Jung, Lisa Fong
A few years back, actually more like a lot of years back, if you asked me the question “What is the Kingdom of God and what does it mean to be a kingdom person?” I probably would have answered, “Well, I guess that it’s where we all go as Christians when we die – it’s heaven.” And I think that a lot of Christians still think that way. We really don’t know exactly what the kingdom of God is. Actually, I think that most Christians think that it’s a great topic to have a spiritual conversation with someone.
But about 2 ½ years ago, while I was going through seminary, God showed me how wrong I was. And God began to change the way that I view what the kingdom of God is and He also began to give me a passion for the kingdom of God and growing it here and now.
Ken Hemphill says, “In the kingdom of God, I have found something far superior to personal fulfillment. I have found the heart of God. I have found my reason for being here.” And I think that it’s the same for me. Over the last 5 years, since I’ve stepped out in obedience to God’s call – and a lot of that meant that I had to do a lot of changing inside of me, in what I thought, in what I did, and it also meant a lot of moving around – I have seen God at work not only in my life, but also in the world around me. And from that, I now believe this: that the kingdom’s sheer immensity removes all limits on what God can do through us.
Think about what I just said, “the kingdom’s sheer immensity removes all limits on what God can do through us.” That means that God’s kingdom has absolutely no boundaries. That means that the kingdom of God is big and broad and beyond our wildest imaginations. Its fullness can never be attained. It resources are never depleted. Its season is never over. When you are living in the kingdom of God, you never get the feeling you’ve seen all this before.
That’s what I would like for each of you to experience, because knowing what truly ignites the heart of God is something we desperately need to understand, yet we have such a hard time defining it. But I do have to warn you, that anytime we as believers open ourselves up to a new way of thinking that can lead us closer to Christ and deeper into our life’s purpose, the enemy always moves in to counteract our zeal for discovery, to weaken our hunger for change. I’ve been attacked like that many times over the last few months that I have been preparing for this.
God wants you to come as you are to this exciting adventure. Maybe you’re feeling too empty right now in your life to give God much to work with. That’s OK. God’s kingdom finds growth in the hearts of those who are tired and spent. The Bible is filled with examples of men and women God met at their thirstiest – and led them to streams of living water. Maybe you’re feeling disillusioned and frustrated by nothing happening. Do you know what’s neat? It’s never too late to begin seeking afresh the kingdom of God. And there could be many other reasons that the enemy can tell you, each matching your particular situation.
But I want you to know, that whatever your situation is right now, however you feel that your relationship with God is like right now – NOW is the time to ask the Lord what it would mean for you to be a kingdom person. If you want to do that, ask God right now, “Lord, what does it mean for me to be a kingdom person?” Say that with me. And get ready for the adventure of a lifetime! That’s why we’re taking this journey of Empowering Kingdom Growth, so that we can know what truly ignites the heart of God.
I. Why is the Kingdom of God Important?
The kingdom is the theme of the New Testament. The first sermon in the New Testament was from John the Baptist, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt. 3:2).
The beginning of the ministry of Jesus was characterized by preaching this message. “From then on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!’” (Matt. 4:17). And it ended the same way. “After He had suffered, He also presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
Paul continued this emphasis, “Then he entered the synagogue and spoke boldly over a period of three months, engaging in discussion and trying to persuade them about the things related to the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8).
James said, “Listen, my dear brothers: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5).
John spoke of it in the Gospel and concluded Revelation with this emphasis, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15). And again, “The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have now come, because the accuser of our brothers has been thrown out: the one who accuses them before our God day and night” (Rev. 12:10).
This was the central theme of the ministry of the Lord Jesus.
“ ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs’ ” (Matt. 5:3).
“ ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness’ ” (Matt. 6:33).
You can find a lot more verses on how Jesus taught about the kingdom of God.
“ ‘If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you’ ” (Matt. 12:28).
“ ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God’ ” (Matt. 19:24).
“The secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know, but it has not been given to them” (Matt. 13:11).
“ ‘I assure you: I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in a new way in the kingdom of God’ ” (Mark 14:25).
“When the crowds tried to keep Jesus from going to other cities, He said to them, ‘I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose’ ” (Luke 4:43).
“When He sent the 70 out, twice he told them to declare that “the kingdom of God has come near you” (Luke 10:9,11).
And it’s not just the New Testament. The kingdom of God is also the central teaching of the Old Testament.
Zechariah 14:9 (HCSB) On that day Yahweh will become king over all the earth—Yahweh alone, and His name alone.
Obadiah 1:21 (HCSB) Saviors will ascend Mount Zion to rule over the hill country of Esau, but the kingdom will be the Lord’s.
Daniel 7:14 (HCSB) He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.
And there are many more verses. As God established Israel as a nation and as He called them back to a relationship with Him, His concern was His kingdom.
So, what is the kingdom of God? That’s a good question, and that’s why we need to be:
II. Understanding the kingdom of God
If we are subjects in the kingdom of God, then God is the ruler of our lives – He is our King and the kingdom of God is in the world now. If we are to understand the kingdom of God, we must know what the kingdom of God is. Here are a few statements that tell us what the kingdom of God is.
· It has come and it is coming. It is shown today in the life of the church and will be perfectly expressed and experienced in the second coming of Christ when He establishes His kingdom rule on the earth.
· It describes obedience to the will of God in the individual and in the corporate body of the church.
· It is a reality, when obedience to God’s Word and will, is a reality.
· It is the opposite of selfishness, arrogance, and human manipulation.
· It is seen when the revelation of God through His Word is obeyed and the presence of God through the Holy Spirit is realized.
· There are no limits geographically, politically, culturally, or socially.
· We are to be instruments God can use to extend His kingdom everywhere and all the time.
· Simply put, a kingdom enterprise is where the power of God is evident, the presence of God is experienced, and the purposes of God are realized.
· But the best thing about all of this is: The kingdom of God is God’s gift to us.
For us and everyone else, as self-sufficient adults to have to receive the most necessary thing in life as a gift is humbling. Think about it, we would rather secure our own lives by building our own little kingdoms. The things that are important to us, more than anything else are our careers, our homes, our families, our comfort. Then we discover the thing we need most is the reign of God and that we can only sit back as helpless recipients while He gives it to us. That’s why the Gospel Message is so offensive to people. They don’t want to be put under the reign of a King. They want to see life in their own ways and approach life on their own terms. And if God won’t have things their way, then they don’t want any thing to do with a God like that.
But, at the doorstep of glory stands the pleading figure of all the ages, the Lord Jesus Christ. In His hands is His kingdom, which He is handing out as a gift. From CEOs to janitors, soldiers to civilians, PhDs to dropouts, black or white, East or West, dictators or democrats, He, and He alone, offers His kingdom as a gift. It is our only hope for living with meaning.
That’s what the kingdom of God is all about. It’s about Jesus, giving us His kingdom as a gift so that we can live a life that has true meaning, a life that makes a difference, a life that works for the King to spread the Good News of what Jesus has done for us.
III. Communicating the Kingdom of God.
A. This kingdom must be communicated. Jesus spent a lot of time proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and teaching his disciples to do the same. Telling others about the kingdom of God was very important to Him. Luke 8:1 (HCSB) Soon afterwards He was traveling from one town and village to another, preaching and telling the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with Him, When Jesus began His ministry, that’s what He did. He took over from John the Baptist and began to preach Matthew 4:17 (HCSB) “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” Like I said before, Jesus began His ministry proclaiming the kingdom of God and ended His ministry proclaiming the kingdom of God. Jesus knew the importance of communicating the kingdom and if we want to have our hearts ignited by the same thing that ignites the heart of God, then we, too, will want to communicate the kingdom to others. And we would want to make the kingdom of God as important in our lives as it is to Jesus. Matthew 24:14 (HCSB) says This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations.
In what way do you communicate the kingdom to others? Do people around you know that you are a kingdom person?
B. This kingdom requires commitment, obedience and preparation.
Jesus tells a parable of the ten bridesmaids. They all went out with their lamps to wait for the groom. But He tells us that five of the bridesmaids were foolish and five of them were sensible. The five that were sensible were well prepared, they brought extra oil so that they would not run out. The foolish ones didn’t. When the groom was delayed, the foolish bridesmaids had to go out and buy some more oil because their lamps were going out and it was the middle of the night. But the sensible bridesmaids were ready and when the groom showed up, only the ones that were prepared for him, went with him.
Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is like this. All of us need to be sensible and prepared for God’s kingdom. We need to be telling others about the kingdom of God, and that requires commitment, obedience and preparation.
The kingdom is reserved for those who hear and prepare and commit. The kingdom as God’s gift to us must not make us in any sense passive. The greatness of the gift calls for a life of the most strenuous vigilance, effort, and radical obedience. It is the ultimate gift given to us, and so, we must give the ultimate allegiance to God’s kingdom.
Are you prepared to obey God’s command to proclaim the kingdom of God to the world? Are you all out committed to the kingdom of God?
C. This kingdom is costly.
Matthew 13:44 (HCSB) 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.
Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field. And there was this man, that found this treasure and then reburied it. Then with all joy and excitement, he went and sold everything that he had to buy that field. What an investment he made. He was willing to sell everything that he had in order to get a treasure worth more than anything else.
When you entered the kingdom of God, did you view it that way? When you received Jesus into your heart and made Him Lord of your life, did you give up everything to serve Him?
Now, I’m not saying that you have to sell everything and live like a hermit. You only need to do that if God is telling you to do that. What I’m asking you is what do you spend your time and money on the most. Do you spend all of your time at work so that you come home totally exhausted and put all kingdom ministry work on the back burner? Is doing kingdom activities way lower on your scale of things to do, and they’re only done if you’re not too tired or you have the time. Ask yourself, “What is most important to me? What do I spend most of my money on and most of my time on?” and see where the kingdom of God is in all of this. Is Jesus truly the Lord of your life and are you really a kingdom person?
Last Thursday, Rod, Judi, Colleen and I went to the opening dinner of the Asian American Staff Conference for InterVarsity. One of the things that the main speaker said was when her daughter came back from her first year in college, the mother asked her what she had learned. Her daughter replied that she wanted to do something to help save our world. The speaker’s reply to her daughter was one of encouragement and support. Then the speaker went on to challenge the IV staff workers to make a decision about joining IV staff after their graduation because of the importance of what they would be doing in spreading the Gospel Message to those coming to college.
The person sitting next to me, who was already an IV staff person, said that she had never heard anything like that from an Asian parent before, even from her own parents. All of her friends, when they went home and told their parents something like that were only met with discouragement. Their parents would tell them that they were going to college so that they could get a good job, make money and live comfortably. Saving the world was nice, but you needed a job first.
This man that found the hidden treasure, he had to make a decision like that. “Is this treasure that I found more valuable than the treasures that I have now in my possession?” And he decided that it was, so he sold everything that he had to buy the field and claim the treasure. Are you ready to pay the cost of what it means to be a kingdom person, because if you are, God will bless you so much, and give you more than you ever dreamed.
God’s kingdom is the only kingdom that will last forever. You can’t stop it from growing and you can’t make it grow. It is God’s kingdom, and it will grow. Everything that God has done – all the things that you learned in the Bible, all the blessings that God has bestowed on his people, everything that God has blessed you with – is intended to have a global and eternal impact. But it does mean that you have to change the way you think about what is truly important.
When the temple of God was built in the Old Testament, and it was offered up to God, Solomon prayed this prayer: 1 Kings 8:41-43 (HCSB) 41 Even for the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of Your name— 42 for they will hear of Your great name, mighty hand, and outstretched arm, and will come and pray toward this temple— 43 may You hear in heaven, Your dwelling place, and do according to all the foreigner asks You for. Then all the people on earth will know Your name, to fear You as Your people Israel do and know that this temple I have built is called by Your name. This charge made by Solomon is true for us today. That the things that we do will be heard even by the foreigners, so that all the people on earth will know God’s name and fear Him just as we do.
When we purchased this building and moved into it as our place of worship, did we have the foreigner in mind? I think that we did. Let me read you something from the Vision Statement in our By-Laws: Reaching - We envision a church body where all non-believers can be reached in an atmosphere without coercion and guilt, but with sharing of the practical truths in Scripture… That is one of the goals that our church started out with. Do we still have that goal in the things that we do?
Drawing the outsider is one of God’s specified purposes for the house where His Name dwells. That means that one of the purposes of our church, which is God’s house, should be to bring in people that don’t know Jesus so that they too can hear about the kingdom of God and become a part of this great kingdom.
I read you an excerpt from the book EKG – the Heartbeat of God:
This image of nations running to the people of God is almost too wonderful to imagine. It’s as though we’re a flower garden, and all who pass by wonder how these blooms contain such fire and color. “For as the earth brings forth its growth, and as a garden enables what is sown to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.” (Isa. 61.11)
A garden sprout doesn’t put forth any willful effort of its own in order to spring from the ground. God has simply designed it for this purpose. In the same way, God’s people have been designed to display his righteousness and praise, causing our Christian witness naturally to spring up from us. Now listen to this next paragraph…
This is God’s heart. This is God’s purpose for his kingdom people. God has placed in us his name, his nature, and his character. And his name looks best on us not only when we’re worshipping him in our Christian circles but also when we’re shining our light for those who wouldn’t necessarily come looking for him on their own.(repeat this)
I end with this challenge question: If all that your friends knew of God was what they had learned from you, if you are a Christian, what would they know of God and his name?
Does your life reflect Jesus Christ? Are you a kingdom person? If you want to become a kingdom person and find out all the exciting adventures that God had in store for you, I invite you to pray this prayer with me.
Dear Heavenly Father, I have to admit that there are times in my life that I don’t act like a kingdom person. I get so involved in life what what is happening to me, that they become what is most important to me. And because of that, I place these things on a higher priority than You and Your kingdom. Life is full of distractions that pull me away from You, and I let them do that.
But now, Lord, I want to learn what it means to be a kingdom person. I want to learn what ignites Your heart, and I want that same thing to ignite my heart. I want to know the purpose that You have for my life. I want to learn more about the kingdom of God that you have brought me into so that I can become a true committed follower of Jesus Christ. Show me what it takes to become a kingdom person. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.