Let's turn together in our Bibles, if you have a copy of the Scriptures, to Matthew chapter 3. We're looking this week at the subject of "Kingdom Life", and tonight I want to look specifically at the "Kingdom Gospel". Just one verse, verse 2, and it's John the Baptist is preaching. Verse 1 says: "In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!'". Turn over to chapter 6, we're very familiar with these words of the Lord Jesus, in verse 33 - some of you could quote it to me right now if I asked you: "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you". Then over to chapter 24 of the same Gospel, chapter 24 of the same Gospel, verse 14. Jesus is going into a long discussion on end times, what's going to happen just preceding when He will return to the earth - I hope you know that, that Jesus is coming again. In verse 14 He says: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come".
Maybe we could pray? And I would encourage you just to pray for yourself right now, that God would speak to you. We were singing that a moment or two ago, but please just pray, would you? Just say: 'Lord, have You anything to reveal to my heart, anything to say to me, anything You want to do in my life?' - because that's a prayer God loves to answer, because He really wants to meddle in our affairs, because He loves us so much. He doesn't want to leave us on our own, but He likes to be invited. So why not ask Him just now: 'Lord, would You please come, and would You speak to me now?'.
Father, we thank You we can come to You as our Abba, Father. Your name is holy, and we just say tonight: Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We thank You for Your kingdom coming in Davy's life. We thank You that that was the kingdom breaking in. We thank You, Lord, that You've already been touching lives, and moulding and softening hearts. I just pray now that You will come, Holy Spirit, and witness Jesus and the Father to everyone here, that people will come to know You, that people will be warmed and set on fire and ablaze in Your kingdom love. I pray for people to be set free, to be healed, to be filled by Your Spirit. Lord, we need You now, we can do nothing without You. So we ask You to come now and help us, help me. In Jesus' mighty name - and everybody said: Amen.
The gospel of Jesus Christ introduces us to a Saviour. Isn't that right? But that Saviour is also a King, a King of a kingdom. Jesus came to announce the kingdom of God. If you don't know what the kingdom of God is, a very simple definition of it is: the rule and reign of God on the earth.
Someone has said that Jesus was a very odd sort of King - and there's no doubt about that. In fact, it would have to be said He was a King of a very odd sort of kingdom. Some people have called the kingdom of God an 'upside-down kingdom'. Another person described it like this: that Jesus reached, as it were, into the shopping window of humanity and switched the price tags. He turned the value systems of this world on their head.
We all know, don't we, that kings and kingdoms need to be strong? They need to defend themselves, defend their people, defend their borders, they need to defeat their enemies and impose their wills on their minions. Yet Jesus taught that the greatest person in the kingdom of God is the weakest, the meekest. In fact, He said that a child is a symbol of what it's like to be great in His kingdom. One who loves is great in the kingdom of God, one who serves the poor. To put it another way, you live under God's rule and reign when you respond in love, even to enemies. Remember that one? 'Love your enemies', not just your neighbour, but your enemies, Jesus said. When you forgive those who offend you, this is God's kingdom breaking out. And it's not just through the teaching of Jesus, but actually His enthronement, if you like, in His Kingdom, as King of the Jews, was when He ascended the cross, sentenced to a criminal's death. Now that is a kingdom like no other. Yeah? We need a lens change, to understand what the kingdom of God is when it shows up on the earth.
John the Baptist was the forerunner of that kingdom that we read in chapter 3 of Matthew's Gospel. To paraphrase what he said, we could render it: 'Change your mind' - that's simply what 'repentance' means, 'metanoia', the Greek combination of words - 'Change your mind, because a new day has dawned, the kingdom of heaven is here'. There needs to be like a brain transplant for some of us to understand what God's kingdom is all about. The Bible is filled with the kingdom of God, there's nearly 75 references to the kingdom. 'Kingdom of heaven' is just a different way of saying the same thing - it's found around 35 times. Jesus didn't stop talking about God's kingdom. In fact, it was a focal point of all His entire ministry, the parables He taught about were kingdom parables, every miracle He performed was a kingdom event. In His teaching, His illustrations, His works of power - all of them were intended to reveal that God's realm had come to Earth.
Now think about it: this is a world that previously was marked by the works of the devil; but now, through Jesus, it's tangibly being impacted by the rule and reign of God. Significantly, before Jesus returned to heaven - after He had died on the cross, was buried, and rose again - He spent 40 days teaching His disciples about the kingdom of God. Turn with me to Acts chapter 1 for a moment, Acts chapter 1 and verse 1: 'The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God'. If you like, He had a Bible Conference on the kingdom of God for the 40 days in between His resurrection and His ascension to heaven. Now, that must mean it's pretty important - wouldn't you agree? It confirms that this was His primary message, even after His resurrection. I kind of used to believe, and I know many people that do, that the kingdom of God message is not a message post-resurrection, that we've got a kind of different gospel message now, of your sins being forgiven and going to heaven when you die; but this gospel of the kingdom is something that was reserved for Jesus' time, and maybe might show up in the future sometime - but no, this scripture shows us otherwise. All that Jesus talked about, or the most of it, between His resurrection and ascension, was this kingdom.
So let's answer a few questions tonight, as we lay a foundation for the week that we're going to enter. What is the kingdom? Well, as I said, it's the rule and reign of God on the earth, it's the eternal kingdom rule and reign of God - His domain here. Someone put it like this: it's God's rule over everything and everybody everywhere in eternity past, in the present, and in the future - that pretty much covers everything, doesn't it? It has two manifestations. There is the present kingdom of God that shows up when people like Davy Alistair give their life to Jesus, when people are healed, when people are delivered and transformed. But then there's the ultimate future kingdom of God, when Jesus returns and sets up a kingdom in a more established fashion, perhaps. So some people have coined this phrase: there is the 'now' and 'not yet' aspects to the kingdom of God. There's something already going on in God's kingdom now, but there's something yet to happen.
What has tended to take place in the church is, we have projected the reality of God's kingdom so far into the future, that it has no bearing on our present reality. Yes, there's an ultimate kingdom that still has to happen - otherwise Jesus wouldn't need to come back again! Isn't that correct? We need Him to come. But actually, the reality of an ultimate kingdom of God on the earth one day, is the very guarantee of the existence of a present expression of the kingdom of God now. What I want to appeal to you tonight is: to make sure that the 'not yet' aspect of the kingdom of God, whatever you believe about end times and Jesus' return, make sure that the 'not yet' aspect doesn't rob you of the 'now' reality of God's kingdom here tonight. Yes? Because it's real. The kingdom has come in Jesus, and the kingdom is coming now; and, yes, the kingdom will come. Myles Munroe called this 'God's big idea', the kingdom of God. That's what it is!
Second question: where is the kingdom? It's interesting to note that the word 'kingdom' and the word 'church' are right throughout the New Testament scattered, they are prominent themes. Yet the kingdom of God is not exactly the same as the church - do you know that? Maybe it's a little bit complicated for some, but the church is in the kingdom of God, but the kingdom is bigger than the church. The Kingdom incorporates everything that God's doing even outside of the church - and some would say, Israel in the Old Testament, even to an extent in the future, is part of this rule and reign of God before the church ever existed. So the church is in the kingdom, but the kingdom is bigger than the church. So we need to understand this: the church today, particularly in Ireland, needs to get a grasp of this, because we are impoverished because we are not kingdom-minded.
Without rediscovering the kingdom, the church remains deficient in authority, because the kingdom is the realm where the King reigns. Yes? Without the kingdom, the church remains divided, because what we instinctively do is begin, in our sinful humanity, to build our own kingdoms. We often compete with one another, and, dare I say it, we fight with one another when the kingdom is not central to the church. We are depleted in power when the kingdom is not central to what we do as church, because the power is actually, through the King, dispensed throughout the kingdom - and we need to tap into it as the church. When we focus on the church and ignore the kingdom, we actually leave the church powerless. That might be an explanation of why we find ourselves where we are in our own land, unable to bring transformation to our communities. Isn't it interesting that Jesus never said: 'Seek first the church?'. Why is that? Because if we seek first the kingdom, the church will be blessed. If we seek first the church, we don't get the kingdom. The church has lost its kingdom mentality.
I believe my message here tonight is as much to call the church back to the kingdom message. We have adopted an abbreviated gospel message. Yet we read, Jesus said in Matthew 24:14: 'This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come'. When Jesus announced this gospel of the kingdom, it was long before He ever foretold His death and His resurrection. Now don't misunderstand anything that I'm saying tonight: I am not at all belittling the cross of Jesus Christ and His glorious resurrection, because the gospel of the atonement is what brings us an entrance into the kingdom of God. Without the cross of Jesus, we have nothing. It's all because of His blood that we've been singing about tonight. But the gospel of the kingdom is not just the gospel of the atonement. For so long, the church has just been preaching a gospel of atonement and leaving the rest out! Yes, the cross, the resurrection is how we enter the kingdom, and stay in the kingdom, and know the fullness of the kingdom message - but it's not the full message.
Turn with me to Luke chapter 4, Luke chapter 4. Bring your Bibles with you, will you? Luke chapter 4 - somebody's laughing there, I hope he's not laughing at me! Luke chapter 4. I told everybody off last year for using their phones, do remember that? You all came the next night with these big Bibles! So we'll be looking for the big Bibles tomorrow night, or get an App with page turning on it or something like that! Luke chapter 4, Jesus is in His home synagogue, and the scroll is presented to Him for the reading of that Sabbath. The reading happened to be - or maybe He chose it, we're not sure - Isaiah 61, which is the prophetic mandate, the mission statement of what Messiah would come to do, inspired hundreds of years before Jesus was ever born - and He reads it. 'The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me', verse 18, 'Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty', freedom, 'to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty', freedom, 'those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord'. Jesus said: 'This is what I'm here to do'. In fact, they were all so gobsmacked, it said, 'their eyes were fastened on Him' - because He actually had the audacity to say, 'It's Me! Today this scripture', verse 21, 'is fulfilled in your hearing. I am the fulfillment of this prophecy'.
But what is it? His mandate was to bring good news to poor people, to disenfranchised people in society, to people who feel they have been held back, to bring healing to broken hearts - anybody got a broken heart here? Freedom to people who are in captivity to the devil, habits, compulsions, addictions; recovery of sight to those who are spiritually blind, to set at freedom those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord - that was the year of jubilee when slaves were set free, debts were cancelled. Yes? Wonderful! Land was restored, that had been taken off your family, in the year of jubilee. You see, Jesus doesn't just want to forgive your sins. He wants to actually undo the damage that the devil has done in your life, in your family, in your community. It's a full gospel that He wants you to embrace. Listen, Jesus can forgive your sins, He forgave Davy's sins, He forgave my sins. There're people I could get up here tonight, and they maybe wouldn't want to divulge the type of sins in their life - who would? I'd run a mile if my sins were on the PowerPoint here tonight! But thank God, they're under Jesus' blood, there as far as the east is from the west, that I will never answer for them, because Jesus died for them. That's good news, isn't it? If that's all there was, and we get to heaven when we die, that would do me! But that's not all there is. There's much more.
Look at chapter 10 of Matthew quickly, chapter 10 of Matthew, verse 7. Jesus is sending out the twelve disciples to preach the gospel of the kingdom, this good news. In verse 7, He says: 'And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand'. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give'' - that's the gospel of the kingdom! Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons, it's a gospel of power.
Years ago there was a man called J.B. Phillips who translated New Testament into contemporary language from the original Greek language. He was so over-awed at the multifaceted details of the Greek language, that can't really be described through any of the English translations, that he wrote a book called 'Your God Is Too Small'. He was inferring that we put God in a box - and we do! Guess what: you can't put God in a box, in case you didn't know! If you try to do that, guess who's in the box? You are! But I want to suggest to you that for many of us, our gospel is too small. Praise God for sins forgiven, and heaven when we die - but this gospel of the kingdom has the potential to change our world and our society now! It has the potential to change Northern Ireland and Ireland as a whole.
Where is it? We asked the question. Turn with me to Luke chapter 17, Luke chapter 17. I know I'm getting you to go to a lot of verses; but, you know, some people think what I'm talking about isn't in the Bible - so it's important to show it is. Verse 20, Luke 17 verse 20: 'Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when' - you see, this is what people get all uptight about - when? 'When the kingdom of God would come, He answered them' - and He didn't answer them 'when', He answered them 'where'. He said: 'The kingdom of God does not come with observation' - the NIV translates that 'not with something that can be observed' - so stop looking for it that way. 'Nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you' - or, as the NIV says, 'in your midst'. It's here, in you! Wow! Does that not excite you? If it doesn't excite you, you don't know what's going on, you haven't got it yet. The kingdom of God is here. Yes, there's a 'not yet', but there's a 'now'.
How do I enter? Well, we read it together, didn't we? Matthew 6:33: 'Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added' - that's one of Christ's first commandments, after 'repent', it's really His first command. There's a continuous aspect to this: keep on seeking the kingdom of God. This is not something that you do once, when you sign a card, or pray a sinner's prayer; this is something that is a lifestyle. It also includes His righteousness, to seek a life that is pleasing to Him, and actually replicates His character. But you won't seek the kingdom of God until you see the kingdom of God.
There was a very religious guy came to Jesus one evening in the dark of night, because he really didn't want his contemporary clergy, if you like, to see him. He was a Pharisee. So at least he came to Jesus, even if it was the dead of night, he came. He asked how you could inherit eternal life. And Jesus told him: 'Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'. He doesn't say you can't enter it, He actually says, 'You can't see'. You need God to do something for you, that actually brings the very life of heaven into your heart - that's what becoming a Christian is. It's a miracle. It's the greatest miracle ever. Your very nature is changed, and you become a son or a daughter of God by believing that Jesus is the Saviour of the world, and that He's able to deal with your problems, and your issues, and the wrong in your life. I wonder, have you had this birth from above? I wonder what you seek? Do you see the kingdom by having this experience with God, where you turned from your ways, and your selfishness, and your sin, and you turned to Him. But even if that has happened in your life, what are you seeking tonight? Are you seeking first the kingdom, is the kingdom first? Jesus says everything else will be added to you - and if I could just kind of paraphrase that, what He's saying is: 'You look after My kingdom, and I'll look after yours'. When we give the kingdom priority, everything becomes ours. Wow!
That takes - and I haven't got time to go into these passages - but right throughout the Gospels, a child-like trust to enter the kingdom. To see it, you need this new birth. You need to seek it, but you need to become like a little child. He said he's the greatest in the kingdom, a little child, because he's humble. He's innocent, he's not double-minded. He has no agenda of his own. Maybe he's a bit naive, and so he accepts things at face value - and that's the way you need to be in the kingdom. That's why it's been such a struggle for me: not because I'm clever, but I like to think I am, and I ask a lot of questions, and have a lot of cynicism and doubts and scepticism. But what happens in the kingdom is: you've got to be like a child, and live comfortably with the sense of your own ignorance. You can't know everything. You won't know everything. You've got to become comfortable with the mystery of the kingdom of God - and there's a lot of stuff God does when He shows up that is weird. Look up the definition of 'weird' in the dictionary, by the way, and it is actually spiritual phenomena: weird.
Stop trying to understand everything. I think there's folk here, and that's your barrier to the kingdom - I'm not saying you're not a Christian - but entering into the fullness of this message of the gospel of the kingdom, because you don't understand certain things that God's doing in the world. You don't understand the miraculous, the supernatural, you want your head to be in gear before anything happens in your heart. But you actually need to make a decisive act and decision of your will to say: 'Lord, whatever You're up to, I'm in'. Can you say that? I've even had to come to the stage of saying to the Lord: 'Whatever it looks like, Lord, as long as it's from You. I'm in'. You see, the reality of the kingdom is more caught than it is taught. 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven'. 'Father', can you say this tonight? 'Father, whatever You're up to you, I'm in'.
There's a young man by the name of Leif Hetland, some of you will know of him, you've maybe read his books. He came to another general in the faith really, Jack Taylor, to ask questions about the kingdom of God. When he left Jack, Jack said to his wife: 'That boy is in for a lot of trouble. He thinks you can study the kingdom, but what he doesn't realize is: the kingdom is studying him! He thought he came to get the kingdom, but what he doesn't realize is the kingdom is about to get him!'. The kingdom got me. The kingdom has got some of you. You thought you were looking into things, weighing things up - but the Lord is out to get us, in a good way, don't freak out! It's good for Him to get you, because He's the only one that gets you. He's the only one that knows you. He's the one who searches your heart. He knows your ways, He knows your past, He knows your brokenness, He knows your struggles, He knows your hurts, He knows everything about you. It's time for some of you to surrender your heads. I'm not saying that God is irrational, but He transcends the rational, He transcends reason. Faith makes a fool of what makes sense.
There's a lot of shaking up going on in the world today, and I think it's just what Hebrews 12 talks about. It's on the screen here, Hebrews 12:26-28: 'See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, 'Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens'. The words 'once more' indicate the removing of what can be shaken - that is, created things - so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire''. Who would agree with me that there's a worldwide shaking going on? There's a song about that, isn't there? 'A whole lot of shaking going on' - but that's something else. But there's a worldwide shaking in politics, in morals, in governments, society and Western countries seem to be more polarized than in living memory certainly. I know things like that have happened ever since Jesus was here, but whole nations and institutions of the world are being shaken to their core. This passage is telling us that the wicked and the righteous will be affected by the shaking, we're all feeling it, aren't we? All of us. This shaking exposes - this is what Hebrews says - what can be shaken, that involves created things. It's designed to exalt and actually expose what cannot be shaken, which is the kingdom of God.
If you're one of the children of God, the shaking all around us in the world is designed to shake you toward God, I hope it's doing it. But also, if you're not a child of God, if you've never put faith in Jesus, if you've never repented and come to personal faith in Jesus Christ as your Saviour and your Lord, that's what this shaking is meant for. So that you would come into a kingdom that cannot be shaken, the mighty kingdom of God that is here now and is coming more and more.
So, I want to call you into that kingdom. If you've never stepped into it, maybe you're still in the kingdom of darkness? That's OK, you're welcome here; and, actually, the Lord really is interested in having you - really, will you take that step, and will you come in? Maybe you thought, because you were in church, and you went to church, and you're baptized into church, that you were in the kingdom? But no, it's not the same thing. Maybe you're a Christian, you're genuinely a mature born again believer, maybe even Spirit-filled; but you haven't understood what this kingdom is all about. Well, tonight is your invitation. Can I tell you: tonight's your invitation if you need healing, because there's healing in the kingdom, healing of heads, mental illness, healing of hearts, brokenness, emotional brokenness. There's healings of spirits that have been crushed in life. People's identities, who don't know who they are. There's healing for broken bodies. There's deliverance and freedom from the bondage of Satan.
Do you believe this? Do you believe that Jesus came and brought the kingdom, that what Jesus bled and died for and rose again, so that the kingdom of God would show up on the 14th of August 2019 in a field in Newcastle? His kingdom is here. The King is here, because the King is the kingdom, the King is the kingdom. Jesus is here.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at the New Life Conference 2019 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the first recording in his Kingdom Life series, titled "Kingdom Gospel" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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