The Kingdom of god 3: The Kingdom of god is within you and is founded on love
So far our study of the Kingdom of God has had a particular quality to it. Both of the first two sessions established that The Kingdom was Not one thing But rather It was another.- • In the first case the Kingdom was not temporal but eternal. • In the second It was not Geographical but everywhere. This duality is a helpful way of dealing with understanding the Kingdom of God and is a method used by the Holy Spirit as a thread throughout the bible e.g. Light against dark, swords into ploughshares. In the first session Keith Brockbank helped us to explore the eternal nature of the Kingdom and how that helps us to put every circumstance we face into that eternal perspective. Keith drew us in the end to a passage in Revelation 4: which says “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty; who was and is and is to come”
Who was- We have testimony to help us value who God Has been
Who is We have faith to Trust Him for the now and
Who is to Come We have Hope for a Future that will be full of His blessing
We believe then that God’s Sovereign Dynamic rule (His Kingdom) extends through all time and I would add outside of time. In the Second Session, not long before Christmas, we explored together the Geographical extent of god’s Kingdom and discovered that God had a clear plan for a Kingdom and NOT an empire- that God’s rule extended by consent and submission not by command or conquest. We saw too that this Kingdom expanded as far as we can see to the extent that it expanded in you and in me. We finished by noting that the whole of creation is groaning as it waits for us to submit to the kingdom rule of God. So having agreed together that the Kingdom rule of God is destined to fill all of time and all of space we perhaps have identified a small challenge.
You and Me!
Having had the reminder, Can you list two or three things that were a help or revelation to you from the first two sessions? Can you identify again an area in your life where you need the Kingdom of God to extend.
1. That Pharisee
This was the challenge that Jesus came into the world to address. Others had attempted to deal with the problem of you and me. In fact there were some amazing efforts made by the Jewish people to live up to the laws that Moses had written down. By the time Jesus showed up this was best shown by a particular group of Jews known as the Pharisees. Now Pharisees get a bad name because Jesus was pretty hard on them. But they were not all bad- Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimethea, and Gamaliel were all Pharisees. The name Pharisee means “separated.” It’s come to mean the very opposite these days it tends to be used to describe a hypocrite but they believed that by living separate lives away from the world they could bring into being a Godly Kingdom. Many lived very Godly lives. But in the end Jesus laid down the challenge in Matthew 5 that summed up the problem of you and me- We just can’t do it. Jesus said this Mt 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Mt 5:18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Mt 5:19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Mt 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. The Pharisees had set the bar so high that no-one else in all Israel or anywhere else could hope to reach it. What did Jesus do- he comes along and sets it even higher!
What other opposition did Jesus have to His teaching? What opposition do you face to your faith? How can we support you in prayer against this opposition?
This got one Pharisee thinking real hard Please turn to John Chapter 3 We are going to look at the conversation that one Pharisee called Nicodemus had with Jesus that turned His thinking and everyone else’s ever since UPSIDE DOWN! Specifically about how do we bring God’s Kingdom rule to being in our lives? But before we go there lets just look at John’s description of Jesus’ behaviour the day before Nicodemus turned up. Jn 2:23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. Jn 2:24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. Jn 2:25 He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.
He knew what was in a man.
Jesus Christ had made his diagnosis of the problem of man long before He even began His ministry. I am clear in my own mind that Jesus knew from a very early age
Who he was and
2. What he had come to achieve.
I believe too that the Spiritual forces in the world also knew and the forces of darkness sought to deter him Lets read John 3 1-21 a long passage familiar in the extreme but fundamental to our understanding of the Kingdom of God. Not just for those who do not believe but also for those who do. Here are some questions from the passage. 1. Who was Nicodemus? 2. He came at night- He was at risk to do so- a genuine enquiry Jesus respected and gave Him time. How do we know about this conversation? 3. He uses ‘truly I tell you’ one of those things Jesus does. Why? 4. no-one can see the kingdom of heaven… a lovely expression all embracing no-one can see What does this mean? 5. This was a fantastic honest and deeply helpful exchange- Nicodemus unlike the disciples so often just nodding their heads not understanding a word of it. But Nicodemus straight in there like Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight. 6. Jesus is so good with Him gives Him an answer he can relate to and He Nicodemus still loses the plot. What was Jesus trying to explain? Nicodemus you have seen the miracles and heard the testimonies this is the practical stuff and come on you haven’t really believed that so how can you possibly grasp the spiritual principles that are behind them. But He did not condemn Nicodemus but entrusted him with one of the most amazing spiritual deposits in the history of the world.
2. Born again
So this Pharisee is challenged as we are with the invitation to believe. To begin the journey of faith. A journey that did something so profound in you and me that we will never be the same again. At that moment- yes at that moment- not gradually At that moment we stepped from one Kingdom to another. We passed from one reality to another. We became different people.
Now if you have never asked God to change your life like that we can do that right now. Set off on a journey that will mean you get to know Jesus more and more each day. Leaving the past with all it’s sin and all its hurts and all that unforgiveness, bitterness and guilt,
Those of us who may have prayed for this before can do so again renewing your commitment to follow Him.
God at this moment even with my knowledge of you as small as it is. I so long to follow you. So I turn my back on all that is past and ask you to forgive me for every sin and I ask you Jesus to come into my life To lead me and guide me By your Holy Spirit I commit to following you all the days of my life Amen.
If you have prayed that prayer for the first time ever then please do get in touch through the web site or through our office telephone number.
For all of us for whom this was a recommitment not to be lightly considered.
If you want to talk about any of the issues that you feel you had to turn from, then again contact the church or talk and pray with a Christian friend.
The Kingdom Rule of God is within you.
3. A Holy nation
You have passed from one Kingdom into another. Please turn to 1 Peter 2:9 We actually dipped into this last week but I was led there again. 1Pe 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1Pe 2:10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1Pe 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 1Pe 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us • A Chosen people • A Royal Priesthood • A Holy nation • A People belonging to God The expression that particularly grabbed me was a racial expression A Holy Nation A set apart race the word is ethnos describing us as a particular people. As a race we have a national identity- National dress- The national food – By all means we can still enjoy the national identity we have outside the Kingdom of God But we need to remember what our real passport says.
4. The language of the Kingdom
And what of Language what is the language of the kingdom of God Look at 1 Corinthians 13 with me and we’ll find the Oxford English to Christian Dictionary. 1Co 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1Co 13:2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 1Co 13:3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1Co 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1Co 13:5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1Co 13:6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 1Co 13:7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1Co 13:8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 1Co 13:9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 1Co 13:10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 1Co 13:11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 1Co 13:12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1Co 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
The language of the Kingdom is Love. With the kingdom of God within us, we are prompted to acts of Love. Love for God Love for One another Love for those still lost I’d like to show you a short two minute video that shows wonderfully how the language of love for one another is so powerful. Video Testimony from the Basildon Church
5. When the Love language stops
There is a danger that you may find the sound of this language of love to be lacking in strength. But this is no wishy washy, lovey dovey, namby pamby, language. It’s strength is threefold
1. Its like clear water- refreshing and honest
2. It builds up not presses down, it releases, encourages and affirms
3. Its inclusive, welcoming all NEVER excluding some
And when we fail to live up to that standard we have heard about what then? Well it’s very like the challenge of speaking to someone in a foreign language. We don’t understand we are confused and unable to communicate. • The first danger is we stop believing the best about each other • And then we stop understanding each other • And then we stop speaking to each other and then • We start speaking to other people about each other. Jesus provides us with help in his word One great example is in Matthew 18 Mt 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. Mt 18:16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ Mt 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Verse 15 deals with 99.9% of all known difficulties Verse 16 deals with almost all others. I have only rarely seen verse 17 used and I would remind you that Jesus still loved the pagan and the tax collector!
6. Wooing back the pagans
The example of the language of love and the Kingdom of God is what so often draws men and women towards Jesus.
I wanted to end with a final testimony about the kingdom of god and its amazing work in the hearts of men and women.
This testimony is the testimony of an atheist- Matthew Parris writing in the Times on December 27
“Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.
It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.
First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall. “
Since December 27 This has remained the most commented upon article with over 235 written responses.
The Kingdom of God is within us and boy does the world long for it too.
The Kingdom of God We are walking together to new ground where God will teach us His plan for a Kingdom people living Kingdom lives (Author: Keith Brockbank and Tim Blake)
The Kingdom of God 1: Eternal not Temporal We live in an instant society in which everything is wanted yesterday if not sooner, the eternal perspective of the Kingdom of God should change our view on these things so that we live our earthly lives in the context of eternity. (Author: Keith Brockbank)