Many years ago I served a church in St. Louis. One day I received a call from Governor Ashcroft’s office inviting me and our staff to attend a speech that was to be given by President George H.W. Bush on NAFTA. I said that I’d take 10 tickets and our staff put the date on the calendar. I had never attended a speech by a US President, and was very excited to see what all was involved. We pulled up to the venue in the church van and were directed to parking. We walked through the metal detectors and were directed to seating. For several minutes we watched as the Secret Service men dressed in dark suits and sunglasses surveyed the room, speaking into their lapels. They brought out a podium, and affixed the presidential seal. The room went silent and the announcement came: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States.”
The Jesus declared was that the Kingdom of God was breaking into history. His first and ongoing message was “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17, NLT). Jesus made that announcement at the height of Messianic expectation. The citizens of Israel were tired of those pagan Romans running their government and were longing for the day that Messiah would come and restore Israel to her former glory. Jesus ongoing message was that the Kingdom of God had arrived. But he did not come to fulfill the Messianic expectation that Israel as a geo-political state would be re-established to its former greatness under David and Solomon. Jesus focus was not the Kingdom of Israel, but something bigger. His concern was the Kingdom of God.
As I’ve said in previous posts, the Kingdom of God is the effectual range of God’s will where his will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
The Kingdom of God was breaking into human history and yes, had arrived through Christ. Jesus declared himself as the Lord of the new Kingdom, demonstrating the power of God’s reign (Luke 7:22-23). His miracles were displayed in order to demonstrate all that had been lost in the fall.
The Gospel of Jesus recognizes that each of us live in the kingdom of “me,” where our will is done and our desires are met. In order for us to inter into the Kingdom of God we have to step out of our Kingdom where we rule and reign and step into God’s Kingdom where He rules and reigns. It’s not just about getting our sins forgiven so we can go to heaven when we die. It’s a change of direction, turning away from ourselves and our kingdoms and turning to God and His Kingdom where He reigns and where His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
This Sunday I’ll finish up this two part sermon. Check in next week for more!