Sermon for Sunday, March 18, 2007 – EKG Sermon #2
Title: When You Become a Kingdom Person, You Belong to God
Text: Exodus 19:4-6 (HCSB) 4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me. 5 Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine, 6 and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation. These are the words that you are to say to the Israelites.”
When I was in high school, I was in the ROTC at Lowell High School in San Francisco. In the ROTC, we had a drill team, which I was in. So, for many months, a group of about six of us practiced almost everyday after school, drilling and practicing our routine. We were practicing to be in one of the parades in San Francisco, I think that it was the St. Patrick’s Day parade. We would spin some M1 rifles around and throw them up in the air, catching them and then spinning them around some more. But there were only six of us, because there were only a few of us that wanted to be in the ROTC. This was the time of the Vietnam War, which was not a popular war.
Our drill sergeant and some of the senior ROTC leaders were always encouraging us and helping us learn our routine so that we could become better. But we knew that we didn’t have much of a chance to win anything because we were such a small group and we couldn’t really do any real fancy and intricate routines. We just did the basics.
But we were rev-ed up because we were going to perform in a parade in competition with some of the other high schools like Balboa High, our rival and Galileo High. But they had large and fancy teams and even though we didn’t have a chance, we were excited anyway just to be in the parade. Before the parade, we huddled together, put our hands in the center of the huddle and gave a shout. We were ready.
So, finally came the day of the parade. In front of us were all the high schools with the big team. Each of their teams had at least twenty students in it, and their uniforms were custom made with their school colors, and they wore berets. They were very impressive, and their routines were extremely intricate with a lot of flipping of their light show rifles along with wonderfully choreographed march steps. We had to watch them through the whole parade, while our meager group got only laughs because of the size of our group.
Then came the judges stand at the end of the parade. The other high schools really outdid themselves. We were a little heartbroken and discouraged when we saw them. The crowd loved the routine and gave them a great shout and applause afterwards. Then it was our turn. And we did our number the best that we could. No one messed up and our simple routine went through without a flaw. I could see some of the judges smiling at us after we finished and we even got a few claps from the crowd. They were just being polite.
Isn’t this true for a lot of us and for a lot of our churches? We are great in the huddle, and we encourage each other so much, building the Body of Christ within our church walls. But sometimes we feel that we are really too small to make any kind of significant impact. We look at the big churches around the country, and we say to ourselves, “The things that I do can never compare with what they are doing. We’re just too small.”
So because of this, we go into our holy huddle. We look good in our holy huddle and we do a good job of ministering to each other. We become comfortable. We have wonderful vision and mission statements of reaching the world for Christ, but we don’t see it happening. The challenge for us is to break out of the huddle, not just talking about doing great things for His kingdom, but actually doing these things. But how do we do great things for His kingdom? How do we get involved in empowering kingdom growth?
Sometimes we spend so much time being in the huddle that we’ve forgotten God called us for a kingdom cause bigger than us. I think we spend a lot of our time debating how big our salt shaker is and how much salt we have in it on Sunday morning rather than worrying about whether the salt is impacting the culture surrounding our church and the people in the pews of our church. We talk about the size of our sanctuary and how to give us more room. We talk about the attendance in Sunday School and worship on a Sunday morning, but no one is begging to ask the question, “Is it changing our community; is it impacting the kingdom of God.”
If I were to tell you that John the Baptist initiated the ministry of Jesus with the simple phrase, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” (Matt. 3:2). If I were to tell you that Jesus, in response to Satan’s last temptation, focused Himself, and began from that moment on to teach the kingdom of God. If I were to tell you that most of Jesus’ parables related to the kingdom. If I were to tell you that Acts 1 says that after His resurrection He spent that time teaching His disciples concerning the kingdom of God. If I were to tell you that in the last two verses in the Book of Acts the Apostle Paul in prison spent the time explaining the kingdom of God and preaching Jesus. If I were to tell you all those things, would you agree that this is a topic we ought to consider seriously?
I invite you to open your Bibles this morning to the beginning of the story. I want you to go back to Exodus 19 and read verses 4-6: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me. Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep my covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the people, although all the earth is Mine, and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.”
OPENING PRAYER: Father, this morning, we ask that the Spirit of God would apply the Word of God to the hearts of His people. Lord, You tell us it is good seed; it never returns void, but You do remind us that the receptivity of the heart can impact the fruitfulness of the Word. Lord, if there’s a hard heart, I pray that You will break through it. If there’s any disturbance caused by the thorns and thistles of schedules and agendas, Lord, that you would root them out. We pray that the seed this morning would land on fertile soil and bear much fruit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I. The foundation of kingdom activity is God’s REDEMPTION.
In Exodus 19, three months after Israelites had left Egypt, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They camped in the wilderness in front of the mountain. The Lord had a word for Moses and His people.
God said I want you to remember how I redeemed you. God reminded them that not only had He redeemed them and brought them out of slavery, but He brought them into a dynamic relationship with Himself.
Verse 4 says, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I carried you on eagles’ wings,” but it goes beyond that. He said, “I brought you to Me.” Here is a reminder that God has not only redeemed His people, but He was the One that came to them and brought them to Him.
But many of the people sitting in our churches every Sunday do not have a kingdom vision because they do not have a kingdom relationship. You cannot have a kingdom vision if you don’t know the King. If in your life there is not a point in time where kingdom redemption activity took place and you know that you were brought out of the bondage of the slavery of sin and into the light of relationship with Him, you don’t know the King. But once that transformation has occurred, once that redemption has been accomplished, a transformation of heart and mind puts us onto a different agenda and it is not our agenda but the King’s agenda.
This is what EKG is all about. It’s about remembering how you were brought out of slavery of sin and how Jesus brought you into a relationship with a Holy God, the King. Ask yourself this question, “Do I really believe that I was in the bondage of slavery of sin before I was saved, or do I believe that I was basically good, but had not yet received Jesus into my heart?” “Do I truly know what Jesus had to do to redeem me and choose me as one of His own?”
Just as God redeemed the people of Israel out of the bondage of slavery from Egypt, so too, for those of us that received Jesus, did He redeem us out of the bondage of slavery from sin.
II. The results of our redemption is OBEDIENCE.
Redemption and obedience go together hand in hand. A nation has been redeemed, and because of their redemption, they are committed to serving the King who has redeemed them.
God clearly outlines what He expects from those in covenant relationship with Him: “If you will listen to Me and carefully keep my covenant.” Please note that the “if” clause is not related to their redemption. Their redemption had already occurred. They couldn’t go back through the Red Sea. They could not enter back into the bondage of slavery. They could not lose their redemption. That’s the same for us; the “if” clause is not related to our redemption. If you received Jesus into your heart, you can no longer go back into the bondage of son. You cannot lose your redemption.
So we are God’s own possession. Some translations have “unique possession” or maybe “peculiar treasure.” The Hebrew word for peculiar means “movable possession.”
At this point, people typically had only two possessions: either real estate—that is land or property—or jewelry—gold, silver, precious stones. Many preferred jewelry because they could sew it into the lining of their clothes and take it with them. God wants a people that will be His movable possession.
God has placed you where you are with a kingdom purpose at stake. We have to be salt and light wherever we are and see ourselves as God’s movable possession. Sitting in that dentist office may be because of an appointment that God has orchestrated in the waiting room. In your job God may have a kingdom career for you. Kingdom activity is taking place in every area, and that’s why God put you where He did. You are one of God’s unique, movable possessions.
Let’s look a moment at this sense of calling. The first phrase that should catch your attention, if you go back to Exodus 19, is the phrase that says, “you will be My own possession out of all the peoples, although all the earth is Mine” As we look at Israel’s history, you will find that they interpreted that phrase “out of all the peoples” as having to do with their uniqueness. They may have thought that God had chosen them among all the peoples of the earth because of who they were. But the text doesn’t say that. It is not so much that they are different from all the peoples of the earth, but they are different because they were placed among all the peoples of the earth as a representative of a holy God. Their uniqueness has nothing to do with them. They were not a significant people. This was not a mighty tribe. This was not a numerous people. Their significance has only to do with their relationship with the King of the universe who is the Creator of everything that exists. All the earth owes their very existence to Him, and they are being sent among the peoples as His representative.
Let’s be clear about this concept of unique possession. The uniqueness is not in Israel; the uniqueness is in the God who has called them and to whom they are accountable in obedience. Their uniqueness is to set them among the nations as a light to the nations. You see, Israel came to be the people of God by God’s choice, by His covenant, and through His redemptive work. He says, “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people” (Lev. 26:12). The same is true for us. We were chosen by God to be unique among the peoples so that God could set us down among the peoples and be a light to them.
As redeemed people, Israel was called to obey. Partial obedience is total disobedience. Delayed obedience is present tense disobedience. To be effective in His kingdom, we’ve got to fall so deeply in love with the God who redeemed us that partial obedience is not an option for us. The issue for redeemed people is effective service to the Redeemer King. In that obedience we both reflect His character and complete His mission.
And sometimes God does call you to be a movable person. I understand this. He may not have moved me physically to another location of the world, but He did move me from church to church over the last seven years. Each time, when I had a leading to move to another church, God not only blessed me because of my obedience, but He also blessed the church that Colleen and I were in. God moved us to each different church to build a new ministry, or to grow their people as leaders in the church, or to just revitalize them. We even had a few services in our home hoping to be able to plant a church. And He kept moving us until He finally called us here – the perfect place with the most perfect timing.
But it was hard too. Each time God called us to move, we had to step down from ministries that we had built. We had to leave people that we had become friends with. But each time God replaced those things that He asked us to give up with new ministries and new friends.
God wants people who embody His name, who embrace His mission, and who obey His word.
But also, We are a kingdom of priests. God said, “you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.” This is the first time God talks about His kingdom in the Bible. This royal priesthood not only speaks of the uniqueness but also of our position and our function.
Being His priest means that we are to be a mediator between a sinful people and a holy God. The Apostle Paul said it this way, “We are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20). He was saying that those of us who have been reconciled to God become the reconcilers.
1 Peter 2:5 says, “You yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” We are acceptable to God because of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul says that we are like living stones; we’re gold and silver and precious stones. God looks at you as the gold and silver and precious stones by which He is constructing His kingdom.
We are a holy nation. Because He is a holy God, only a holy people can represent Him. We are to reflect our Father with our attitudes, our behavior, and our lifestyle.
Ezekiel 36:23 says, “The nations will know that I am Yahweh ...when I demonstrate My holiness through you in their sight.” Our salt creates the world’s thirst for our light. Our behavior creates the field for our witness.
III. The extent of the kingdom is POTENTIAL
In Exodus 19:5, God said “for all the earth is Mine”. God is telling us that He is a missionary to the world. In the Old Testament God desired that Israel would reveal the Creator as holy so that all the nations would know Him. There was nothing about Israel that made them special. They were not mighty or numerous. God gave to them glory and honor so that all the nations of the earth might come to know Him. Instead, Israel consumed the blessings of God and failed to show the blessings of God.
God is looking for a people who will obey His words so that because of an obedience to His Word there would be holiness. 1 Peter 1:13-16 says, “Get your minds ready for action, being self-disciplined, and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance but, as the Holy One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct” (vv. 13-15). Why? Because God says, “Be holy, because I am Holy” (v. 16). God says “You’re Mine. You represent Me. You have My DNA in you. You’ve been born of My spirit. You are a holy people.”
Are you a person who will be His movable possession, at His constant disposal - wherever you are seven days a week, whether it seems convenient or inconvenient, whether it seems within your giftedness or not - that you say, “I’m a movable possession; You put me here; I’m Yours.” Will you function in this mediatory role as a witness to the nations? Will you live by the standards of God that require us to be holy as our God is holy? God is looking for a people in whom He can manifest His character, that He can trust with His mission, and that He can call to Himself as a possession.
What is God looking for? From Exodus to Revelation, God is looking for a people that would embody His name (that’s His character), embrace His mission to the nations, and obey His word. Let’s not be content to talk about it or to plan for it. Let’s get out of the huddle and be involved in doing great things for the kingdom.
One more thing before I close. Remember that story that I told way back at the beginning? Do you want to know where we placed in the competition for the parade? We came in first place! Yes, first place. Our small troop of drill cadets came in first. Want to know why? It’s because the other teams had unauthorized uniforms. They may have looked snazzy and impressive, but they weren’t true to the standards. Our team was the only team that used the uniforms issued by the US Army. Also, it was discovered that some of the team members weren’t even students at the high school. They were graduates helping to make the team look better.
When I talk about becoming a church that looks outward to show God’s blessings so that the nations will be attracted to His church, I am not saying that we need to water down the Gospel Message so that it won’t offend anyone. We need to be true to God’s Word and His Gospel Message. But we also need to realize that the Gospel Message is for all peoples and all nations. We need to learn to present the Gospel Message in new and creative ways that will reach the people around us, yet holding true to the tenets of our beliefs. We need to become flexible and allow creativity to be displayed so that we can make an impact in the world around us, and people will be drawn to God.
Father, our passion is to be such a people. Lord, my passion is to be that sort of husband, father, pastor, and representative of Your people. I pray for the people here that they would see their passion in their calling to reflect the character of God, to embody His mission, and to embrace His holiness. Father, I pray for these people wherever you may send them. Lord, we are your movable possession. You have us here at your disposal. Thank you for redeeming us. Thank you for bearing us on eagles’ wings. We bow before You as the King of the universe. We joyfully join in obeying Your Word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.