Dec 31 2023 The Kingdom of God

I have been going over things our church has been growing in. This next one is one I think we've really excelled at...

I think that we are becoming a Jesus People. Not the 70s Jesus people – nor a superiority like Paul spoke of when he talked about being ‘of Apollos, or Paul, or Jesus’ – but that we, as a community, are learning to live out the traits of Jesus in the gospels.

I think every Christian is trying to do that at some level. But the reality is – a lot of Christians, that is not their primary focus – and for me, the first 20 years of my life and in ministry – I think my primary focus was becoming a Book of Acts and Paul kind of people. That is good, but it is not enough. Our focus has to be on the life and teaching of Jesus.

The Bible has many authors – but they all tell one unified story and it points to Jesus. I go back to what Gigi shared after church last week – meeting a postal clerk who was just learning and starting to read the Bible and was confused by Genesis – and Gigi pointed her to start in Luke

There is value in the Old Testament – but all of it points to and is fulfilled in the gospels in Jesus. And the New Testament – Acts, the Epistles, etc. – how the first disciples lived out the teaching of Jesus – and we have to center in on that.

Because of that – the next 3 weeks – we will look at the Central Message of Jesus in the gospels.

The Central. Not necessarily most important – but that which is central – that which He talks about the most.

We all know and agree that the core attribute of God is LOVE. The Bible says in 1 John – God is love.

And that is completely true – and He fully demonstrated that love for us on the cross – in His suffering and death.

But that is not the central message of Jesus. He does talk about it – the greatest commandment – the greatest thing to do – love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength – and love your neighbor as yourself – and that is a priority. He goes on to explain who your neighbor is.

Tomorrow – Jan. 1, 2024 – is the beginning of a presidential election year. It is going to be fun! Think about this through 2024 – Am I loving my neighbor as myself? Think what a different country this might be. And even that neighbor – who puts up banners and flags and is completely on the opposite side of the political spectrum as you? Yeah – love that one.

But I might see that person as my enemy! And Jesus says – Love your enemy!

Tim Mackie – A lot of what Jesus says doesn’t make sense. Love your enemy – pray for those who persecute you and want to take away your rights! It doesn’t come naturally.

What is this central message? The great reveal is coming!

In the gospels, 4 of them – there are 89 chapters. In those 89 chapters – Jesus proclaims and teaches this message 92 times! That is a lot of time to proclaim 1 message! Some of you probably feel that I do that!

Here it is – the first message to people – right after being tempted in the wilderness – so, yes, He has spoken before this – but the first time to the crowds:

Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Mat 4:17)

The Kingdom of God has come! Because Jesus is there.

If your kingdom is earthly, none of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount makes sense.

The term, Kingdom of God, has become very popular in the last 15 years. Not just among young people. I have a friend – Pastor Marv – He’s older than me! (by a few months) – and he is always talking to me about the kingdom of God – trying to connect Christians.

I have another friend Dave, known as Brunelle – always talking about Jesus being the King. It is one of his favorite things. He went into a deep discussion with me a few weeks ago.

It is popular – a lot of people really love that term – but others hold that term in suspicion – because of the way it is used.

There are two terms that cause people to be suspicious – one is Social Justice – connecting social justice with the Kingdom of God causes people to be suspicious.

The other term – dominion theology – the idea of Christianizing the nation – whatever nation that is – for those here, this nation – and those terms can be mild among themselves – but all that has happened, there is division.

Scot McKnight has written a lot about the Kingdom of God: “People use the word Kingdom for everything we like about the Christian faith. People use the word church for everything they dis-like about Christianity.”

You don’t have kingdom without church and you don’t have church without kingdom. They cannot be separated.

To be Jesus people – we need to proclaim and live out the kingdom of God – and to do that we must understand what the kingdom of God is. Then we need to know how to participate – to do kingdom work – kingdom stuff! To be engaged, actively, as people.

There are three perspectives we need to understand. People tend to silo themselves into these perspectives, but we don’t have to do that.

The first – those who believe it is gospel proclamation, discipleship, and evangelism. That is true, but it isn’t enough.

The second – doing works of good deeds – justice, relieving poverty. That is true. It is kingdom of God stuff – but it is not enough.

Others might define the kingdom – anytime people do good things for the common good in the public sector – but that is NOT the kingdom of God.

3rd – engaging in all the governmental systems – welfare, economics – and making them Christian to use them in a biblical way.

If we move to one side or another too far, we move out of the kingdom of God. We need all three.

Scot McKnight gives us a simple definition: A kingdom is a people ruled by a king.

It is hard for us to get what this is – there are four aspects of a kingdom in the Bible that scholars have agreed upon.

1 – a kingdom has a king. Jesus came and announced the kingdom of God – he was inaugurating the kingdom of God – the King has come. Jesus is what it looks like when God becomes king! That is exactly what it looks like

A king has to have a Reign – Jesus is what it looks like when God reigns – not of coercion, or an authoritarian reign – but one of redemption and reconciliation. That is the goal of the kingdom – to redeem and reconcile. Not to force it into some mold.

2 – A kingdom needs a people. – We might use the term subjects. Wel, years ago. But a king needs a citizenship. In the Kingdom of God – the citizens are disciples. Those who have pledged their allegiance to the king.

Followers of Jesus pledge their allegiance to Jesus and all other allegiances step aside, and it is fully to Him we pledge ourselves We have a new loyalty and citizenship – and everything else must operate in the background.

Our earthly citizenships and loyalties must operate in the background.

3rd - a realm. A territory. A nation. Do you know what the nation of the kingdom of God is? The Church! The followers of Jesus are the realm of the kingdom of God. That is the nation that we are devoted and loyal to. That nation is made up out of Christians gathering together throughout every nation in the world – and wherever Christians gather – and go out of proclaiming the kingdom – that is God’s nation.

4th – a Law. In the Old Testament – it was the Torah. For the church – the Law is a new one – love one another as I have loved you. That is our new law.

The sermon on the mount is a Kingdom sermon. And right in the center of this:

'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

(Matthew 6:9-10)

Kingdom – the kingdom of God begins with the worship of God. Without the worship of God, there is no kingdom of God.

That is really important.

Cindy and I were talking – there are a lot of people – atheists – who have rejected God who do good things in this world – and that should be honored and appreciated. But without the worship of God – you are not participating in the kingdom of God – because He is the king. A kingdom has a king and He is to be worshiped.

God’s kingdom is revealed when His will is done. Not our will. Not the will of some group – but God’s will.

When Jesus goes about proclaiming this message – what happens when people encounter Jesus?

In Matthew 4:17 – repent – the kingdom of God is at hand.

Then Jesus goes out and meets Peter and Andrew – mending their nets – that was their job – career – family business – and Jesus tuns to them and says – Follow Me – and what do they do? They leave the boats and nets and follow Him! That is a lot. When Jesus comes – it radically changes lives. You know how the UPS/Amazon/FedEx truck blocks the lane? What if they never came back? That’s kind of what it is like.

Then He goes down the beach…

21 And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 And they immediately left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

John tells us that this is not the first time Jesus has spent time with these guys.

We cannot understand – in our culture – how radical this is. This was their identity – and when the king calls – you drop everything.

Really, their entire identity is focused on their family, occupation – etc. That is what the James/John/Zebedees have been for generation – and the King comes and their allegiances change.

When God reveals Himself as King (first in Exodus, after the Red Sea) – He is calling a new people together to live in His kingdom. So, when Jesus does that – He is calling new people with a new identity – separate from the world -and we have been called separate from our world. We live in the world – but we are distinct – we are different. We are a peculiar people. And we should be! Not in weird ways – but in the way Jesus teaches ways.

One final thing – Matthew 12:28 - But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you.

Look at that! And this is – He was casting out demons! It is all over, here, now! It is all going on! Right in your presence! The kingdom of God. Part of this Kingdom of God work is engaging in the spiritual battle against the spiritual forces of darkness. And we need to be careful to NOT think that these worldly organizations are these powers. Our struggles are not against flesh and blood. What about bad flesh and blood? That is not our battle! We need to make the spiritual forces of darkness our battle-ground. In my day, it was talked about – but maybe not emphasized the way it should have been.

We need to engage in that spiritual battle. In 2024 – engaging in the spiritual battle against these powers as it relates to helping people

We engage in the spiritual battle by helping people trust and believe in Jesus. That is a great spiritual weapon! It is deathblows to the enemy! We do this by living as Jesus lived – and proclaiming the message that Jesus proclaimed.

Second – we engage in this battle by helping people overcome the influences of the devil. Hatred, anger, animosity – hold people. Satan has a grip – and when you hear it – know that Satan has a grip on those folks who are spewing it out. Insulting and wanting evil on other people. We need to engage and help people overcome that stuff.

Then – third – we need to help people overcome things like addictions – Chemical, sexual, materialistic addictions – those have psychological and even genetic components – but they also have a spiritual component! We need to see the spiritual component. Things like depression and despair – yes, they have physical components that need to be addressed – but we also need to address the spiritual side as well.



Yes, there are governmental issues – but there are also spiritual issues.

We need to live in Jesus’ kingdom – and human – walking on this planet – but we cannot lay aside the spiritual impact we can have in this world.

The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. (1John 3:8)

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