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The Kingdom of Heaven

Scripture: Matthew 3:1, Matthew 4:17, Matthew 10:7
Date: 04/14/2007 
There is a revolution simmering in this world. Many people are longing for a new regime. John the Baptist announced a new kingdom. You are born into this kingdom. You should be willing to obey the King of God's kingdom. You are temporarily citizens of this world until Jesus comes.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Morning. You know sometimes as I sit up front and I look out at the people, I know some of you better than others, and I think to myself, “Why are they here?” I’m not trying to discourage you from coming. I think you should be here, but I say that because I know there may be some of you who are here because you believe there is a biblical mandate to keep the Sabbath to gather together before the Lord and to worship Him. That’s good. That’s good enough. You should be here, and whether you like it or not, you come because you are a committed person, but I’m hoping you’ll like it. Some are here because of obligation. Some are here because you’ve got a parent or a spouse that sort of drags you, but I hope you enjoy it. I’m glad you’re here. Some of you are here because you’ve got friends here and this is the social encouragement, the fellowship that you yearn for all week long. Some of you may have been driving by and just wondered what’s going on and you wandered in curious. But whatever the reason I’d like to think the Lord brought you here today even if it’s for the thousandth time or the first time I want to welcome you.

We’re going to talk today about the kingdom of heaven. This is, I think, one of the most important subjects that we could discuss. Back in 1992 (I hope I’m getting this right, dear) we went to Russia. Must be, Stephen wasn’t born yet. Communism in that country fell overnight. There was a change of government and policy that just absolutely left the world astounded because it happened really without firing a shot. The only way that could be achieved so quickly is because there were so many people in that country that really felt like they wanted to be part of a different government so that when the opportunity came they seized it. They said, “We don’t want to be part of this communistic regime anymore that was the very antithesis of what they’ve promised.” I don’t know if some of you had ever read a book by George Orwell called Animal Farm. It was required reading in many secular schools. Do any of you remember that book? There’s this one statement in that book that’s about these animals and it’s really talking about the Bolshevik revolution and it says, “We’re all equal.” That was the idea of communism where everybody is equal. But then there later was a sign painted on the barn that said, “But some are more equal than others.” That’s the way communism ended up. They advertised to the people we’re all going to be equal. It sounded really good, but in practice it didn’t work out that way, and there was a lot of starvation, a lot of oppression, nobody had ownership and they were so dissatisfied that when the opportunity came it switched to a different government just like that because in the hearts of the people they identified with something else. That’s going to happen again in the world. There is a revolution simmering in the world.

There are a lot of people who are not satisfied with the kingdoms of this world and we are longing for a different regime. Notice how the priority is placed in the Bible on this message I’m sharing this morning. By the way, some of the gospels use the phrase the kingdom of heaven. Some use the phrase the kingdom of God. It’s mentioned hundreds of times especially in the New Testament. Matthew 3:1 John the Baptist begins his ministry with these words, “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Talking about this new kingdom. Now that would probably make the Romans a little nervous to have this wild-eyed, hairy prophet down there by the Jordan River saying there’s another kingdom that’s imminent. They probably thought there was some fermenting insurrection about to happen. Listen, Jesus when He began echoes the words of John the Baptist, Matthew 4:17 “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Almost word for word what John the Baptist said. The message of Christ is about this other kingdom, but He doesn’t say it’ll come someday in two thousand years when I return. He said, “It’s at hand.” It was at hand. It’s available two thousand years ago. To reinforce this then Jesus sends out the apostles preaching and what do you think they said? Matthew 10:7 “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Now they leave out the word repent here in Matthew 10, but when you go to Mark it says Jesus sent them out preaching that the people should repent. So obviously they were saying the same thing that John the Baptist and Jesus said. I haven’t heard too many preachers stand up and say, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Well, I want to go on record today of being a Bible preacher. Here you go. Repent because the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Now in more ways than one back when they said it, the spiritual kingdom was available. The literal kingdom was coming when Christ comes. When I say it to you today it’s twice as important because both are imminent. The inner kingdom is available today. You can reach out; it’s at hand, but the literal kingdom of Christ is also imminent today. That’s why we are, here in this church, Adventist. We believe in the imminent, the soon, advent coming of Jesus. So you’ve got every reason to repent and be part of that kingdom now both for the inside and the outside. Amen? So this is a very prominent message. This is a central message in the Bible that we are told by the Lord to proclaim. This is the central message. We are told by the Lord to go forth and proclaim that the kingdom of God is available to people and that they should repent and that’s how we prepare our hearts to receive citizenship in that kingdom. Before I go too far it’s always good to define words and so let’s define kingdom. I’ve spent other messages talking about repentance. What is a kingdom? According to the American Heritage Dictionary a kingdom is “a. a political or territorial unit ruled by a sovereign; b. the realm of this sovereignty; c. a realm or sphere in which one thing is dominant.” Now I want you to especially underline that last part of the definition. A kingdom is, notice that, “c. a realm or sphere in which one thing is dominant.” If you have received the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven in your heart, that is the dominant sphere; it is the realm of another king than the one in this world. I’ll hopefully build on that thought as we go. Now I’ve got so many points I just was mystified about how to arrange them in a sequential order that would make some sense so I’m going to take a stab at it.

How do you gain citizenship in this kingdom? Now with some kingdoms you can apply for immigration and you can get in sometimes by marriage but in this kingdom the only way is you’ve got to be born into it. You are naturalized into this kingdom by virtue of a birth. I’ll give you some scriptures for that. John 3:3 Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” If Jesus’ words are clear, please say amen. Now I know some people who have dual citizenship because their parents were citizens of one country but they were born overseas and so they managed to get dual citizenship. Anyone here have citizenship in two countries? Yeah, several people. I do. I’m a citizen in California and New York City. So I’ve got… they’re two countries, aren’t they? I’ve got dual citizenship. Some of you remember Dave and Cindy Boatwright. Their kids were born in Honduras, but they also had American citizenship and so they had dual citizenship. There are many others like that, but they get it by virtue of birth. We all know stories of people who try to become citizens. They marry somebody.

They really appreciate living in America and so they think well, you know, maybe if I can marry an American I can get out of this country where there is so little opportunity or there’s so much oppression or there’s so much poverty and… Have you all heard stories of the mail-order or email-order brides and they’ll marry just about anyone that will slow down just so they can become citizens of another country. Come on. Have you heard of this? It’s so important to them and once they get their citizenship they… their spouse. They just married to get in. We’ve probably heard these stories before because being a citizen of that new country was so important. Well, in one sense it’s not only a new birth, but it is a marriage. Baptism is like our marriage to Christ, but there needs to be a new birth on the inside. It’s not enough that you’ve been born in the church. I worry about that. I meet people all the time that think they’ve got some kind of special advantage because “I’m a forth generation,” or “I’m a fifth generation.” It doesn’t do you any good if you’re not born personally, if you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. It’s nice to have history; it’s nice to have heritage. Those are good things in the church, but will that save you? Does that give you your citizenship? You must be born again. That’s what the Bible says. Let me give you more.

John 1:12 and 13, Jesus said, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God,” members of that new kingdom, “even to them that believe on his name:” through faith “Which were born, not of blood,” it’s not your heritage whether you’re a Jew or you’ve got a Christian family “nor the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” They’re born of God; they’re born of the Spirit. That’s what gives them permission to be citizens of this kingdom. Mother Teresa, that sweet little nun, she said, “By blood and origin I’m Albanian. My citizenship is Indian.” She was an Indian citizen. “By denomination I’m a Catholic. As to my calling, I belong to the whole world. As to my heart I belong entirely to Jesus.” I think that’s a good quote. I wanted to share that with you. Now as with many governments, I know in the US if you want to become naturalized… Some people get into a country and maybe they’re visiting, but they’d like to find asylum, they want to become citizens, ultimately they’re supposed to take some kind of exam where they’re naturalized sometimes it’s done in mass ceremonies, but during that time they are to swear allegiance to the laws of the country or the king. Isn’t that right? I mean, who here wants citizens that don’t want to follow the laws of the land. I understand in Australia (and this is a sensitive subject so I’ll try to be careful how I say it) there are some imams of the Islamic religion that are saying, “We are trying to change the government of Australia so it is the government of Islam.”

They’re saying that very openly. England has been tolerating that kind of language (which I personally think is outrageous), but Australia has said, “While we are connected with England, we’re not going for that. If you think that we ought to be a different form of government then you’re out of here.” They said, “If you’re not going to obey the laws of the land, if you’re thinking that everybody is supposed to obey the laws of Islam in our country then you’d better go somewhere else because we’re not doing that here.” They’ve got a right to say that, don’t they? If you’re in this country, you’re going to obey the laws of this land. If you don’t want to obey the laws of this land, then you should go to another land. The Lord says, “If you want to be citizens of My country, of My kingdom you should be willing to obey the King.” Does that make sense? What does Jesus say about that? Obeying the King is very important. Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does” or obeys you might say, “the will of My Father in heaven.” Obedience is part and parcel with having citizenship in this new kingdom.

John Stott, that famous theologian and preacher, said, “Greatness in the kingdom of God is measured in terms of obedience.” How does Jesus identify the great? Those who are the most surrendered to do His will. John Robert Ashcroft said, “All of heaven is waiting to help those who will discover the will of God and do it. It’s not just knowing it, it’s those who are willing to do it. You know sometimes we use theology and spirituality and fellowship and all these touchy-feely spiritual religious overtones as a diversionary tactic from very simple obedience. Do you remember how Christ separates the wise man and the fool? You say, yeah, one built on sand and one built on the rock. Well, what does He say about that? He said, “The wise man is he who hears these words of Mine and does them.” He is building on the rock. “The fool hears these words of Mine and does not do them.” Let me break that down. The foolish man doesn’t obey. The wise man obeys. Isn’t that what Christ is saying? And if you want to be part of that kingdom that is coming we need to learn by His grace how to be doers of His word. Not just saying, “Lord, Lord.” It’s being willing to do.

Keep in mind it is unreasonable for any government to make a law the citizens are not capable of obeying. So we in America we’re thinking, “Why don’t they raise the speed limit? We just can’t drive that slow!” Right? I mean, isn’t there usually a stirring or some kind of outrage if a government mandates its citizens to obey a law it’s impossible to obey? I’ve got to be so careful because I know that other people see these things, but they’ve got these laws now. What is it, dear, they’re making some new law that you’re not allowed to spank your child. We’re going to be like Sweden? Then you’re going to have to find some way to threaten your child not to tell that you spanked them. I mean, isn’t that what it boils down to? Oh, boy. I tell you we’re going, Russia became democratic and we’re becoming communist. Willingness to obey.

The foundational laws of God’s kingdom, when you really think about it, are so different from the laws of the world the philosophy. It’s a radically different way of thinking and if you’re part of God’s kingdom you’ve got to be so unusual because… let me give you some examples. For instance, it says in Matthew 18:4 “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” How opposite can you be? In our world it’s those who make a name for themselves, those who climb to the top of the mountain, they’re the ones who are great. If you don’t do it, no one else will do it. If you’re too slow, if you snooze you lose. You’ve got to fight, you’ve got to be great, you’ve got to be strong. And Jesus, what He says about His kingdom, it’s so opposite. It’s not the proud and the mighty. It’s the little and the humble that are the greatest.

What a radically different philosophy from the kingdoms of the world. Matthew 23:12 “…whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” In God’s kingdom it’s meekness instead of pride that’s of great value. Just look at some of the teachings of Jesus that are so different, that are the foundations of His kingdom and His philosophy. Loving and forgiving enemies instead of revenge, is that normal? Is it natural to ask God to forgive those who are driving nails in your hands or making fun of you? To pray for those who are despitefully using you and persecuting? I haven’t got it down yet, do you? That’s not easy, but that’s the law of God’s kingdom.

It’s a whole different spirit, it’s a whole different mind, it’s a whole different attitude, and so when you are invited to be part of God’s kingdom you’re being invited to be an alien. The word takes on new meaning when I say it like that, right? It’s like you’re from outer space kind of alien. I’m not talking about someone who just doesn’t have legal papers. When you’re a real Christian and you’re citizens of this other kingdom your behavior is out of this world, isn’t it? The idea that you’ll tell the truth even if it kills you, I mean, is that really the philosophy of our generation? We’ve got all different kinds of excuses for “white lies” and lies that you don’t want to hurt people and just “bending the truth a little bit” and the “gray areas”, but not for the Christian. It’s the truth is the truth.

Praising the poor for their sacrifice. In the world everyone gives the glory to the rich. Jesus ignored all the rich and He said, “See that widow there? I’m really impressed with what she gave.” Because it wasn’t the amount of money, it was the amount of heart that was in the gift. In the world everyone notices and they’ll name a building after you if you give a large amount, but do they ever name a building after the poorest member of the church that gave the biggest percentage? It’s different in the world, isn’t it? The philosophy of Christ is, it’s out of this world.

You’re praised for being a servant. Hey I’ve got good news! What’s that? I got a promotion. Yeah? Now I am the servant of our whole corporation. Is that how we act in our world? No, in our world the promotion is you’ve got all these people serving you and you’ve really reached the top of the ladder. You’ve reached the final rung when you’re at the top and everyone else is serving you, but in God’s economy and God’s kingdom that’s backwards. Jesus was His highest just before the cross when He knelt the lowest. He washed the disciples’ feet, He prayed on His face in the garden. That’s when He was the greatest. That’s so different from the world. In the world you show success by being at the top of everybody else. In God’s kingdom you show the success by being willing to serve the least. It’s so different. In the world you’re supposed to do everything to try to make yourself comfortable. In God’s kingdom you’re willing to suffer privation and discomfort and be content if you’re serving God irrespective of your ease and comfort. That’s when you’re supposed to have the greatest peace. You could be in the midst of a storm in God’s kingdom and be at peace.

You could be facing death and be at peace in God’s kingdom and your circumstances just don’t dictate it. You see, for those who are citizens of God’s kingdom there’s a different mindset. It’s called the Holy Spirit. I was reading something this last week that sort of embraces the thought. A lot of us are controlled by our environment, our circumstances. Let’s face it, you go to work and people aren’t being nice around you, it’s depressing, you get discouraged, you might complain, you might be frustrated. Or the weather is rainy as it is today and so you feel gloomy because of the environmental conditions of the rain. Or you get an unexpected bill in the mail and it sends you spiraling down because you don’t know where you’re going to get the two cents to make it all pay.

Or you’ve got physical pain and your body, your friends, your environment, your bills; all these things are determining how you feel. You know a happy person takes their weather with them wherever they go. They determine what their weather is going to be, and they just take it with them. Nobody else around them by gossip or circumstances around them can control how they feel because they’re living in a different dimension. They’re sort of detached from the devil’s reality and they’re living in God’s reality and they’re happy based on that. Because you know that all things work together for the good of those that love God and I’ve met these people. They’re really strange. I want to be one of them. These people who no matter what’s happening to them, they’ve got the joy of the Lord because they take their weather with them wherever they go, and they’re living in another dimension. They’re part of God’s kingdom. They’re part of the kingdom of heaven.

They’re always thinking with that mindset, and so they’re happy. They’ve got this peace that passes understanding. It doesn’t matter what’s going on around them. How many of you would like to have that kind of peace? Well, that’s what it means to be part of the kingdom of heaven. That’s why it says “the kingdom of heaven is within you.” It’s something the devil can’t take away. He can torture your body, but he can’t touch your soul. Christians, when you really think about it, are ambassadors from another world. We are here in this world, once you are initiated in God’s kingdom by that new birth, you become citizens of His kingdom but we’re still here for the meantime. So you’re like an alien resident, right? As alien residents we are ambassadors of another kingdom.

There are people who are representatives, they are emissaries, they are ambassadors, they are diplomats from other countries and other worlds; they’re legally in America, but they are here representing their country in some official capacity. That’s what you are as a Christian. I’ll tell you, you’ve heard of diplomatic immunity? I read an article in Readers Digest that’s called “That’s Outrageous”, it’s a column. The only time I ever read that, when I’m on an airplane because it’s a small book so I take them with me sometimes. It had this article about diplomatic immunity and sometimes your diplomats they park wherever they want, they get a ticket, they never have to pay. Some of them have been abusive to people and done all kinds of things that would land any other citizen in jail, but because they’re diplomats they’re immune and it’s really outrageous what they get away with. How many of you have heard some of these horror stories of just the bad behavior. Because they know “I’m immune, I’m not accountable” and they do things that none of us would dare to do as citizens. They bring reproach on their countries and eventually enough complaints they’re brought home and they’re never allowed to go back again. You know what the greatest dent, the greatest harm, the most toxic advertising for the Christian religion is?

Those who say they are citizens of Jesus’ kingdom who have bad behavior. They don’t represent that kingdom. We’re not very good ambassadors sometimes. We say we’re Christians but we don’t talk like we’re Christians and we don’t act like we’re Christians. As Jesus’ representatives we want to do them right, don’t we? Because we take His name, we take the name of our King to this world so when you say you’re a Christian, you are an ambassador of another realm, and while I’m on the subject if you and I are ambassadors then what does that make the church? It’s an embassy, isn’t it? When you and I come together right now well, you’ve got a special protection. Did you know that? Not only because we pray. When our pastors get together on Friday we often pray that God will set a hedge of angels around this church and especially about each one of our families. We pray that God will bless your families. But even beyond the spiritual side, physically in this world churches are treated differently. You know there’s a gal, I think she’s from Central or Latin America, in Chicago, and they were going to deport her so she fled to a church.

She and her son have been holed up in that church for months now and they have sanctuary there based upon the laws of that government. Are you aware of that? Churches are actually treated as places of sanctuary in many governments. If people can get within the doors of the church, it dates all the way back in the Old Testament. That’s why Joab fled to the temple. They had immunity for a while, while they were there. Well, in one real sense, we’re in our embassy right now and when Americans are overseas and they’re in their embassy… I remember when I was in Cameroon, Africa I ran into a Marine in the elevator and we were talking and he was in dress uniform, and at that time our son Daniel was in the Marines so I struck up a conversation. He said, “We’re here with the American embassy and we’re having the Marine Ball, and when we’re in the embassy everybody speaks American. Though they might speak French in Cameroon, in the embassy they speak American. We obey American law there. We sing American songs there, we eat American food there.” That’s kind of like our church, isn’t it? The potlucks, the language, it’s like an embassy here. We’re part of a different kingdom.

It’s great. he felt when he went together and all those Marines that were scattered around that country, when they came to the embassy for the Marine Ball it was really nice to get together with everybody who understood America. You know what I’m talking about? When Karen and I first went to Russia to do our series of meetings we went before the doors had barely been opened and we were six weeks since Stavropol and we didn’t run into anybody speaking American. You realize American is not English. We met a few people who learned English out of books, but we hadn’t met anyone that spoke American and we were in this great big crowd and we heard someone else speaking American. Matter of fact, it might have been Californian which is a dialect of America. We just stopped what we were doing and went right over un-introduced and started talking to them and it was so nice to meet someone else from our kingdom. You start to yearn for that after a while. We didn’t even know what to say. Just to have met someone else who could understand what the differences were that we were dealing with in that country. Not that I minded being in Russia, but it’s different.

I don’t care for borscht. Sorry. The food is different, the language, the customs are different, you know, and you start yearning for home after a while. That’s what it’s like for the Christian. Are you getting comfortable here? Is this where you’re retiring? Or are you just doing the job of your King until you get to go home? Don’t be too comfortable here. This is not it. We’re supposed to be citizens of another kingdom. It’s a very different philosophy believing in something that you cannot see. Everybody in this world, it’s “seeing is believing.” Christ said, “Believing, faith, we live by faith.” It’s a whole different paradigm.

The words, and I talked a minute ago about the language. The words in God’s kingdom are different. We talk different. Matthew 5:37 Jesus said for the Christian you don’t need to swear by heaven and earth. “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” Colossians 4:6 Paul said, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Christians should talk different. When you’re surrounded in the office and maybe you work in a secular environment and everybody starts to engage in the juicy gossip of the day you ought not to engage. I hate gossip, unless it’s a subject I’m interested in, otherwise I just hate gossip. We ought to talk different, isn’t that right?

Different kind of language, different kind of communication, different words because we’re from a different kingdom and people ought to know that. I remember I’ve met some people before and I’ve just wanted to stop them after listening a little while and say, “are you a Christian?” Just after listening maybe on a train or in the market line or something I’d hear them talk and I’d say, “They’ve got that accent of Christians.” Christian-eze. You could just detect it. There was this flavor in their words that seemed to have a sanctity about it and you just knew that they had that accent from another kingdom. Have you met those people before? Their speech is seasoned with grace. Christians ought to be that way.

If you are members of God’s kingdom you have different priorities. What should be the priority? What were the first words that Jesus said? “Repent for the kingdom of heaven…” John the Baptist, the kingdom of heaven. The apostles, the kingdom of heaven. What should be our priority with that kind of heritage? The kingdom of heaven should be our priority. What did Jesus say? Matthew 6:33, you know this, it’s a song. “seek ye first” what? What should be the first thing? “…the kingdom of God, and” in connection with that “his righteousness.” That’s why Christ said, “Except your righteousness exceeds a righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees you will by no means enter the kingdom of God.” Now that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to be like the Pharisees.

It means it’s a better quality of righteousness. It’s genuine where theirs was counterfeit. He said you need to have a different kind of righteousness than what they were professing if you want to be part of the kingdom of God. That seeking that righteousness should be our priority. See ye first! Show of hands. Be honest, please. I want everyone to participate. I don’t mean to embarrass you. Hopefully it won’t embarrass you, but show of hands, how many of you who are driving age have at some time run out of gas? That should have been almost everybody unless you just got your license and you just. It’s not as common today as it used to be. How come? They’ve got what they call “idiot lights.” I’m not trying to be derogatory, that’s what they call them. Or bells and you get down to your last eighth of a tank and something is flashing every time you turn the key and there’s lights and there’s bells going off and it’s saying you’d better get some gas!

It makes it a little easier to remember, right? It’s like one father was talking to his son. He was teaching him to drive. He’s telling him about the gauges and that’s back when you used to watch, people knew what an oil pressure gauge was. Your oil pressure is gone, you’d better turn the key off! If you watched that temperature gauge, it gets too hot, you better turn the key off, add some water. You’d better check it out. Some of these instruments are very important. The father said to the boy, “The fuel gauge? Don’t worry about it. You run out, you just get more.” Right? “Don’t worry about that gauge. You’ll find out when it needs attention.” But what if you’re a pilot? What kind of priority do you put on the fuel gauge if you’re a pilot? You don’t just pull over. You don’t just coast to the side of the road. Especially if you fly over the country that we fly over when we go to Covelo, it’s very mountainous terrain, and you can be sure that part of the checklist is fuel. Matter of fact, a good pilot not only looks at the gauge, he’ll get up and stick his finger in the tank, he’ll look visually.

You make sure there’s fuel and not only do you look at the gauge and you do a visual check, but then you go around and you put this little thing under the wing to make sure there’s no water in the fuel, that the fuel is pure, because for the pilot the fuel is a priority. Well, for the Christian the Holy Spirit is a priority. Seeking the kingdom first is a priority. That ought to be just the core of everything we do and yet in America, boy our priorities are kind of mixed up, if you don’t mind my saying so. Someone once said “Everybody wants the kingdom of God, but very few people want it first.” Seek ye first. Jesus said to someone who said, “I want to follow You, but first I’ve got to take care of some other things.” Christ said, “No one having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.” You look forward and you don’t even look back because it’s a priority and there’s no turning back or you end up like Lot’s wife.

Just to give you an idea of American priorities, 82% of people in an Ad Week poll said they’d rather be rich than thin in spite of the fact that you live a lot longer statistically if you’re thinner and riches do not make you live longer. But people said they prefer to have the riches than the better health. That’s interesting. On the same theme of mixed up priorities 34% of American preschool teachers, administrators, parents, and child development specialists said the most important thing for a child to learn in preschool is self-reliance and self-confidence. Now that’s opposed to the percentage who said the important thing is sympathy and empathy and concern for others. That was only five percent. The priority was put on self-control, self-reliance instead of love for others. Just tells you about the mixed up priorities that we’ve got in our world.

Every kingdom has a constitution. In America the final document of arbitration for law is what? The U.S. Constitution, right? Isn’t that what the Supreme Court judges are ultimately to use as a foundation for their interpretation of what is right and what is wrong and what is just and what is unjust? They say, “What does the Constitution say?” That’s the basis. What is our constitution? What did Jesus say? Luke 4:4 “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” And again Matthew 24:35 Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” So for the Christian in our government this kingdom do we have a document that tells us about the laws of the kingdom? Huh? Help me. Act a little Pentecostal, just a little. A little participation here. Seventh-day Adventists are so cerebral. The Bible must be the final place where we go to determine what is true, what is the will of our King.

How do we know we’re following the laws of our government? This is our constitution. Now the very fact that Jesus went out preaching the kingdom of heaven is at hand or that the apostle said the kingdom of heaven is at hand it’s amazing that Rome did not react more. I mean, even Pilate said, “Are you a king?” to Jesus. “Are you coronating yourself? Is there going to be an insurrection against the empire of Rome?” They understood that He wasn’t talking about this kingdom because they weren’t even threatened by it. The religious leaders tried to use that when they said, “Oh, He’s making Himself a king, and if there’s any king other than Caesar, Pilate, you’re in trouble!” That’s what finally was the ace up their sleeves, but up until that point the Romans really never felt threatened. And unfortunately in our world if you tell people the kingdom of heaven is at hand, they don’t act like there’s about to be an invasion. It ought to trouble people in a government when you say, “Your government will soon be displaced by another government,” but it doesn’t trouble people. Why doesn’t it trouble them more? Because there aren’t very many citizens, aren’t very many soldiers, doesn’t seem like anyone’s really taking it seriously, but really there are two kingdoms that are at war in this world, and by the way, that means they’re at war in your heart.

Have you felt the battle before? There is a conflict between, there’s a divided kingdom in this world. Jesus said John 12:31 “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” Satan has claimed territory that belongs to Jesus. Even Jesus identified him as the prince or the ruler of this world. He claimed to be sovereign. Didn’t the devil say to Christ, “All these kingdoms are mine and I’ll give them to you if you bow down and you worship me”? There are kingdoms, there’s a cosmic conflict between these two kingdoms that are colliding. That’s sort of rhymed, didn’t it? This is this tension between two kingdoms, and the good news is the Lord is saying, “You can change kings.” You can be part of a different kingdom. By the way, you don’t get dual citizenship. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me.”

It’s like I heard a story one time during the Civil War when the war broke out this very phlegmatic gentleman had his farm right on the line between the north and the south and he talked to his friends north of the Mason-Dixon Line and they’d say, “You ought to join the North and be a Yank.” He’d talk to his friends on the south and they’d say, “You ought to be a Reb and join the South.” He didn’t want to make anyone mad so what he did is he got a uniform of each side and he wore the shirt of the North and the pants of the South. He had the blue and the gray so where do you think that got him? The North shot him in the pants, and the South shot him in the shirt. You can’t do both. You can’t say, “I’m going to enjoy the world and the pleasures of sin and this kingdom and I’m going to get all of the gusto I can, and I’m also going to try and be a Christian at least once a week.” You can’t have dual citizenship. Jesus said, “You’re either with Me or against Me.”

Where are you? Where’s your heart? Is it in the world, or is it in Christ’s kingdom? Jesus said in Luke 11:17 “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.” Some of you have felt this division inside. It doesn’t last long. There can’t be this division indefinitely. Wars don’t go on forever; even the Hundred Year War finally came to an end, didn’t it? And though the war in this world may have been six thousand years, it can’t last forever. There is a division in this world. It just is not going to last. I think we see it coming to a head. In your hearts one of two things will happen, you’ll feel that struggle inside, either Jesus will win or the devil will win. You’re going one way or the other. You can’t stay neutral in this divided kingdom.

We’re to pray for our king. Any of you ever been to England or some of these countries where they all say “God save the queen,” “God save the king”? Or in a lot of the official slogans of the ever diminishing number of monarchies in the world, there’s very few left, but part of their language is to pray for the king. Matter of fact, you’ll find that in the Old Testament where he says remember to pray for the king. Samuel said, “Pray for the king.” What about us? Are we supposed to pray for our kingdom? What does Jesus say? The Lord’s Prayer, look at the priority that Jesus puts on the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God. Right in the Lord’s Prayer twice, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and it’s ended in Matthew by saying, “for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory.” I mean this was central to Jesus’ teaching. How many parables does Jesus say the kingdom of heaven is like a net cast in the sea, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking pearls, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, the kingdom of heaven is like, the kingdom of heaven is like…

Jesus is trying to get us to think kingdom thoughts that we’re part of a different empire, a different dimension. Do you forget sometimes that we’re ambassadors of another world? An English visitor to the U.S. commented about U.S. churches, “You Americans are so concerned about being happy as if our kingdom were the focal point of God’s designs rather than God’s kingdom being the focal point of ours.” So many of our prayers, and they’re right. That’s a good observation. In America in many of the new evangelical churches it’s like God exists to make us comfortable in this kingdom. Come on. It’s all this name it-claim it theology and if you come to our church God’s going to do this for you and make you comfortable in this kingdom. That’s not the purpose. Our comfort is not the issue. His kingdom, our doing the will to expand His kingdom is what should be our priority. Do you pray for His kingdom to come or are you comfortable with this kingdom here?

The keys to the kingdom. You know Jesus said Matthew 16, “I will give unto thee…” Wow! These are powerful words. It’s often been abused and people think that God gave some special key to Peter himself, but really it’s telling us that Jesus gives every believer the keys to unlock the kingdom. Can you imagine if you were given the keys? It’s like holy city, a capital kingdom with a castle that’s surrounded by a wall and the opposing army is at the gates and at night you’re given the key to unlock the gate and let the other army in or to let the captives out. You’ve got that key between the corridors of the two empires. That’s a pretty powerful thing to have. You have that. What is it for? It’s not talking about the keys that were given to Peter or the pope.

Jesus is the key that you use to unlock the hearts of others that they might find eternal life and the kingdom. Isaiah 22:22 you can remember that one. “The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder” speaking of the Messiah; “so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open.” That’s quoted by Jesus in Revelation. You and I are given the keys; in sharing the gospel you unlock the gates of heaven for others. That’s what that means. What a privilege that you can go around and help other people find citizenship! Periodically when we travel, matter of fact, it happens frequently when we travel especially in some third world countries people befriend us there and then we’ll have them very delicately come to us and say, “You know, I would sure like to come visit your country, but I need a sponsor. I need someone who can make it possible. I just need a name and address to give to our embassy so I can come visit America.

Can I use your name? Will you help me get my visa so I can come?” You all know what I’m talking about? As pastors and missionaries traveling you’ve got to be careful about doing that because you can get into trouble, but the fact is you are given the ability to help other people immigrate. You’re given the keys so they can change and become citizens. Somebody Karen and I met in Russia, matter of fact, you’ve seen him on TV and you don’t even know him. We met him there for the first time a young man who ended up doing some translation for us, and through our relationship with our team he gradually was able to go visit and to go to school. He now is married and resides here and is contributing to the church and the country. In one sense we felt like we were the key. It’s fun to see someone, because he’d come from a life where there was so much poverty and so little to such affluence and to think you could be used that way. It’s wonderful to see this young person prospering compared to when we first saw him. You have that privilege of helping people transition from bondage to royalty. Matter of fact, this is the story of the Exodus. Think about it.

Have you ever seen a kingdom born? The children of Israel went as a tribe into Egypt. They became a nation of slaves and when God brought them out, God established them as a new kingdom. Matter of fact, He said, “I’m giving you a new calendar, I’m giving you a new government, you are going to be a new kingdom.” He took them from a nation of slaves and they became a new kingdom. God can do for you what He did for the Israelites. You can become from slavery, royalty. God said, “You are a kingdom of kings… a kingdom of priests.” Don’t forget that in any kingdom the two highest positions that could be held were the royalty and the priesthood. God says you get both when you become citizens in His kingdom.

This is the only kingdom that is going to last. Kingdoms come and kingdoms fall. Jesus said there are going to be wars and rumors of wars. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, but they rise and they fall. History seems to repeat itself, but is one of them going to last? Daniel chapter two, verse forty-four, “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” Now kingdoms come and kingdoms go, but one kingdom is going to endure. Which kingdom is that? Let me reword that. If we know that kingdoms come and kingdoms go, they rise and they fall, they flourish and they then vaporize, some of these kingdoms used to rule the world and they’ve totally disappeared off the scene no vestiges left, but if you knew there was one kingdom that was going to be the final kingdom that would last through eternity, which one would you want to be part of? I mean, don’t you want to be on the winning team?

The kingdom that’s going to last is Jesus. Revelation 11:15 “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” That’s the one that’s going to last. Now how does that happen? We’ve been trying to emphasize that it starts on the inside. It begins by your accepting the inner kingdom. Let me just reiterate. When we talk about the kingdom of God we’re talking about two things. A kingdom that is available right now and it’s been available since Christ began preaching and John the Baptist began preaching two thousand years ago, that is the spiritual inner kingdom, you can have that now. It’s at hand right now. Then you’ve got the literal, physical kingdom. In the book of Acts chapter 1 when Jesus was about to ascend to heaven one of the disciples said, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” What was he thinking of? What was that apostle thinking of?

The inner kingdom or the outer kingdom? The outer kingdom. Jesus was trying to shake them and wake them and say, “Look, you still don’t get it. That’s not why I’ve come the first time. First time is the inner kingdom, second time the outer kingdom.” Right? He said it’s not to come through that kind of observation, not at this time. But later that kingdom will come as well. That’s the one that’s going to last. Right now it’s an inner kingdom. “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, `See here!' or `See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is” present tense “within you.” Luke 17:20, 21 Not it will be, it is within you.

Now with that in mind here’s some of the most important things I could share with you. if you have felt that conflict between two empires raging within your heart you can invite Jesus to sit on the throne of your heart and sin will no longer have dominion over you. Look at those words in Romans 6:12 and 14. Notice the language is kingdom language. “Therefore do not let sin reign…” He could have used a lot of other words, but he used the word that has to do with a government, a king sitting on a throne reigning. Don’t let sin reign. The opposite of that is Jesus reigns in your heart.

Verse 14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you…” I’m so thankful he worded it that way because, let’s face it, even in a kingdom where there’s an element of peace and prosperity, you think of the most safe place in the world you could live. Are there still some violators in those kingdoms? Are there still occasional rebels and people who disobey and jay-walk or whatever it is? Right? Sure, but they don’t have dominion. Ah, there are some places in the world right now namely some in Africa where if they’re in the midst of a civil war, you’re not sure from day to day who is in charge. Terrible insecurity, violence. When you accept Jesus and He takes dominion in your heart that doesn’t mean there won’t be the occasional violation. It doesn’t mean there won’t be the occasional disturbance, but it is not the pattern anymore because there’s a new power on the throne of the heart, right? Do you understand what I’m talking about? Sin doesn’t reign.

Before you’re a Christian we are addicted to sin. It’s the pattern in our lives. After we become Christians there is a new power inside and you’re growing in sanctification and it’s no longer the pattern. Sin doesn’t have control over you anymore. That’s good news. Colossians 1:27 I’ve asked Karen, I said, if no one else says amen will you please help me? So she’s pretty good about that. Thank you, dear. I appreciate that. It says, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you...” The kingdom of God within, Christ in you, sitting on the throne of your heart and your mind, “the hope of glory.” Your mind is filled with Him and it pervades and permeates all you do.

What is the main law in that kingdom? It’s love. The driving motive in God’s kingdom is love. This is where one of the big differences comes in. In the world what is the principal motive of action? Selfishness. It is. Self. I had someone observe one time that years ago the magazines were things like Look, Time, Life. Some of those went out of business and now the magazines are Me, Self, Glamour. I mean, it’s all just so into yourself. People are very egocentric. In the world today it’s all about worshipping yourself, but in God’s kingdom it’s a kingdom based on love and so He puts that in your hearts. You’ve heard me quote this before. Near the end of his life when Napoleon was a prisoner on Elba he said, “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded great empires, but Jesus alone founded His empire upon love and to this very day millions would die for Him. Jesus Christ is more than a man.” He realized their empires were all founded on force and selfishness.

Now here’s the good news. Everybody is invited to be part of this kingdom but it’s sometimes made up of a ragtag group. You remember in the Bible when King Saul was rejected as king because of his pride and his rebellion? So Samuel went and anointed David. Even after David was anointed as king did he get to be king the same day? He was anointed as king, that meant as far as God was concerned it says, “The Spirit of God left Saul.” The Holy Spirit filled David, an evil spirit began to torment Saul, and then there were years when Saul was still on the throne acting like king, but as far as God was concerned David was king. But David didn’t look like the king. He’s living in caves, he’s running from the enemy. That’s what’s happening in the world today.

The devil has lost his kingdom. Jesus is the king of this world. Do you see what I’m saying? But it may look like Saul is on the throne. It may look like the devil is on the throne, but David, Jesus is the king who is coming. Let me tell you what it said about David. I Samuel 22:2 “everyone who was in distress,” would that be you? “everyone who was in debt,” that might be you, “and everyone who was discontented” unsatisfied with what was happening in the government, they gathered to David. “So he became captain over them.” It sounds like he was sort of a leader of a Robin Hood group. Everybody can come to Jesus. Even before David was king people gathered to him. Did you get that? We can gather and become part of Christ’s kingdom. Now don’t forget this. Those that joined David before he took the throne are the ones who ruled with him when he took the throne. Those who were faithful to him during the time when he seemed like he was the underdog were the ones who were promoted when he finally did have the kingdom. Right now Jesus looks like the underdog in this world, doesn’t He? But if you and I, even though we might be poor and in debt and discontented and have all our problems, if we would join ourselves to the Son of David and say, “I know that He is going to be the ultimate King” then you get to reign with Him. That’s exciting when you think about it.

I started the message with the words of Christ, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Let me repeat that in your ears today. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” What does that mean? It means within reach. At hand means you can take it now. How sad that the kingdom of Christ, that you could become a citizen of the kingdom that that opportunity is present right now, and you wouldn’t want it because this kingdom is not going to last. I was reading in history about one of the great tragedies of history. It’s the South Pole expedition. There was a Norwegian team led by Amundsen and there was an English team led by Captain Robert Scott that were both about the same time trying to make their way to the South Pole. Amundsen was a little sharper, maybe from living in Norway he knew that the best way to try to tackle the South Pole was to use dogs as a means of carrying supplies and transportation. But this was still a whole new novel idea and the English were used to conquering with horses. But in the arctic zones the dog is king. Well, Scott must be commended for his bravery and his tenacity. He said, “No, we’re Englishmen. We’re going to use horses.”

So they took horses to Antarctica and tried to use these horses to pull the sleds across this frozen, there’s no grass anywhere, you know, frozen waste, and they died halfway to the South Pole. Finally the men had to pull the sleds manually. They managed to reach the South Pole and can you imagine how discouraged they were when they’re barely alive, they get to the South Pole and they found out that the Norwegians, the flag of Norway is there. They missed it by four weeks. On the way home, they crossed, I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of miles, from the South Pole back to they had this depot, a shelter where they had food and provisions that they had erected. The last three including Captain Scott froze to death within eleven miles of the depot. They got into a blizzard. They couldn’t get out of their tents for days. You can read his diary. I read it last night. Very sad. They knew it was eleven miles away and they’d gotten so close.

It was right at hand. And they thought I want to just go through the blizzard, try and find it, and they froze to death in their tents. Talk about how sad to be so close to the South Pole and at least their position in history. They missed it. And to be so close to at least surviving and they missed it. To miss something that’s life and death is really sad. It’s like this traveler across the desert who was found right over the sand dune from the oasis, died of thirst. If he had gone over one more hill, he would have found it. Those stories are always so sad, to be so close and not get a hold of it. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Some of you realize maybe you’ve been acting like citizens of this world instead of citizens of Christ’s kingdom, and you’d like to be born and naturalized into that new empire.

You know before we sing, I want to ask you right now. I’d like to invite everybody here to just close your eyes, please. Close your eyes and you might bow your heads for a moment before God, put aside any outside distraction that might be present and in your heart I’d like to invite you to ask yourself what is my priority in life? Am I seeking first God’s kingdom? Is that part and the start of my prayers and the conclusion of my prayers that His kingdom come, for His is the kingdom? Do you see your role in this life as an ambassador of another realm or do you find that you’re getting a little too comfortable in a foreign land? If this morning the Holy Spirit is speaking to you and you say, “Lord, I would like to have that new birth. I want to be a citizen of Your kingdom. I want to repent and reach out and take that kingdom that’s available right now.” The kingdom of heaven can begin reigning in your heart and mind right now. If you’d like to ask for that, would you lift your hands with me right now? I want to pray for you right now.

Loving Lord, our King, we want to come before You and accept on Your terms the offer You’ve made for us to be citizens of Your kingdom that’s available. Lord, right now we are inviting Jesus to reign on the throne of our hearts and sometimes we don’t act like we’re willing. Sometimes we sense that struggle inside because there is another enemy force, there’s another king who is clamoring for control. Lord, we are giving You permission, we are choosing by our will to say, Lord, we want You to be the king in our lives, in our minds, and in our hearts. By making that choice, Lord, we pray that You will subdue every other influence, every enemy, every alien force that is resisting Your supremacy. Take our hearts and take our minds as only Yours, Lord, and as we invite this internal kingdom we pray that we can live as ambassadors in Your world, that our church will be an embassy in this foreign land, that we will find encouragement from one another and most of all we pray that we’ll do everything we can through the keys You’ve placed in our hands to prepare people for the next kingdom the physical kingdom that will come when Jesus comes again. Bless each person that they might experience Christ ruling on the throne in their hearts and minds. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

God bless you. Our closing hymn is “O Worship the King”. It’s an anthem of praise and I wanted to end that way praising our king. Let’s sing 83. Let’s stand together.

O worship the King, all glorious above, O gratefully sing His power and His love; Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

O tell of His might, O sing of His grace, Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space, His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form, And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.

Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite? It breathes in the air, it shines in the light;

It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain, And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail, In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail; Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end, Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

Dear Lord, we are so thankful that we can look to You as our King. Forgive us for the times when we seem treasonous, Lord. I pray that we can be faithful to represent You as we go from this place. Lord, we ask that you might reign both in our hearts right now and soon we believe the meek will inherit the earth and You will rule the earth. We pray that we can be part of that kingdom now and then. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

You may be seated. I’d like to remind you as you exit the sanctuary we have those free sharing books The Ten Commandments Twice Removed that will be great for you to share. We’ll be having a special Ten Commandment broadcast May 5th and 6th and there’s two books actually you can share that are out there. Take them. We hope that you’ll use them to spread the good news about the kingdom. For those who have special needs for prayer there will be a prayer group who will be here in the sanctuary. Let’s respect the sanctity of this place for them.

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Heaven: Is It for Real? (PB) by Joe Crews

Heaven: Is It for Real? (PB) by Joe Crews
God's Promises




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