Part 1 of 2
By Dallas Burdette January 12, 1998
Thrust Statement: The coming of Gods Kingdom is a call to worship.
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:2; Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 4:14-21
When someone speaks of the coming of Gods kingdom, what does this convey to you? What mental image does this impart to you? Do you identify the kingdom of God with the church of God? Are they one and the same? When you reflect upon the kingdom of God, Do you automatically meditate upon the prophetic elements in the Older Writings? When you reminiscence upon Gods kingdom as revealed to us through the prophets: Do you recall the words of Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel? Do the words of John the Baptists announcement about the coming of Gods kingdom impact your thinking? What do you envision when you explain Jesus proclamation concerning the kingdom of God?
Today, I want you to dwell on just one of the above viewpoints about the kingdom of God. I am wondering if any of you have ever carefully thought about the coming of Gods kingdom as a call to worship? By "a call to worship," I do not have reference to "ritualistic acts" performed on Sunday morning, but rather, to the concept of worship as the presenting of ones body as a living sacrifice as act of worship (see Romans 12:1). In other words, have you ever taken into account that the coming of Gods kingdom is a call for a change in your behavior? Is your idea of the coming of Gods kingdom a call to a change in your way of life? Have you ever contemplated that the kingdom of God is "within you" (Luke 17:21)? It is this interpretation that I want to share with you today. The central point of the message at this time is: "The coming of Gods Kingdom is a call for a change in ones life style."
John and Jesus
To set the stage for the development of the "Coming of Gods Kingdom as a call to worship," we need to turn to the early ministry of John and Jesus. If you want to know what the kingdom of God and its coming meant in the teachings of John the Baptist and Jesus our Lord, then, one needs to look at the preaching of John and Jesus. A detailed study of the preaching and teaching of Jesus, especially His parables, will shed tremendous insight into a clearer perspective of what it means to speak of the coming of Gods kingdom; then, at this point, one will see what the kingdom is meant to be. Every individual is to experience the kingdom of God by allowing Gods rule to embrace the soul, mind, and heart. It is true that the kingdom of God is the rule of God, but the kingdom is the rule of God in the hearts of men and women. The kingdom, in one sense, is God Himself in His power.
Triple Meaning of the Word Kingdom
There appears to be a triple meaning of the word kingdom in the Scriptures. For example, first, it is something supernatural, that is to say, it is a gift from above; it is not an outgrowth of ordinary life. Second, it is a religious blessing, that is, it is an inner link with the living God. Third, it is, in one sense, an experience with God in which men and women find salvation. The kingdom of God saturates and rules the lives of men and women; it involves the whole substance of an individual. It is within the kingdom that men and women experience the forgiveness of sins. With the coming of Jesus, the kingdom of God entered time.
The Arrival of Gods Kingdom
If we wish to preach the New Testaments message of the arrival of the kingdom of God in Jesus, then, we have to ask where and how the kingdom is present in our world. Every Sunday, we, as believers, get a glimpse of its glory in our worship assemblies in our observance of the Lords supper. But beyond that, what are the evidences that the kingdom has come for which Jesus taught His disciple to pray (Matthew 6:10)? The message today is only a brief beginning at responding to the prayer that Jesus tutored His disciples to pray: your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
In praying for the kingdom to come, Jesus taught his disciples to pray, in conjunction with this coming, "your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." It is this concept that I wish to address at this very moment. Is it any wonder that Jesus said, following this prayer, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). This "righteousness" appears to be connected with a course of action toward man and God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes conduct that is hallowed in the sight of God. Jesus begins this prayer with, "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name" (Matthew 6:9). How does one "hallow the name of God? Jesus gives the answer: "your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
This statement by Jesus is very similar to what He told His disciples earlier in the famous sermon:
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).
Doing the will of God on earth involves the believers participation in good deeds. This participation will be more fully developed in Part Two of this message. But, as we reflect upon this last phrase about good deeds, Jesus, no doubt, recalls the first commandment in the Decalogue: "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name (Deuteronomy 5:11). Immediately following this first commandment, God reveals to Moses the kind of behavior that will not take the name of God in vain. What are some of the commandments? Consider the following:
Honor your father and your mother (5:16).
Jesus is once again calling attention to the course of action that is required by God. His will on earth is to be carried out as it is in heaven. It is ethical behavior that enshrines the name of God. It is also ethical behavior that causes individuals to praise our Father who is in heaven. After enunciating the "beatitudes" and explaining the purpose of "salt" and "light," he told His disciples:
Immediately, Jesus illustrates this righteousness of God with the so-called righteousness of men. He does this in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus cites the teachings of the Pharisees, and, then, contrasts the true teachings of God with their commandments.
With the religious leaders, righteousness focused on the externals, but with God, it converged on the heart (Matthew 5:1-48).
John the Baptists Ministry
To set the stage for this message, lets call on John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, as he announced that the "kingdom of heaven" is forthcoming. Like a bolt of lightning, John proclaims "repentance" as a preparation for the drawing near of the kingdom of Heaven. Matthew informs us that "In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matthew 3:1-2). John warned the Pharisees and Sadducees to "produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matthew 3:8). Following the baptism of Jesus and the imprisonment of John, Matthew informs us that "From that time on Jesus began to preach, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matthew 4:17). Then, Matthew reveals that
Prophecy of Isaiah
This is in fulfillment of a prophecy by Isaiah (739 BC) concerning the "year of the Lords favor" (Isaiah 61:1-2). Jesus applies these verses (1-2) to Himself in the synagogue at Nazareth. Matthew writes:
Our Lord affirmed that this prophecy of Isaiah 61 is fulfilled in their hearing. He stood up to read in the synagogue and upon completion said, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:20). As Christians we should find a great deal of comfort in Jesus statement. This fulfillment reassures us that the Word of God actually does come true. But for many in Nazareth, they wanted evidence of it. But when Jesus refused to give them evidence, they tried to kill him by throwing him off a cliff. Luke captures the rage of the Nazarenes when he writes: "All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way" (Luke 4:28-30).
We stand amazed at how foolish the people in Nazareth were not to believe that the kingdom of God had come into their midst. How backward they were not to understand that Isaiahs words had been accomplished in the arena of their lives. Are we, too, backwards? Are we conscious that the words of Isaiah have been accomplished in the arena of our own lives? Should these words of Isaiah affect the way we live? Is there a biblical example in which Isaiah 61:1-3 is employed as a basis for "good works"? Yes, there appears to be a statement from Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2. In this Scripture Paul exhorts the Corinthians not to receive the grace of God in vain.
In closing the message for today, I ask: Has the kingdom of God really come into your life and mind? Is the coming of Gods kingdom a call to worship for you? Is the coming of Gods kingdom a call for a change in your lifestyle? Part Two of this message will develop the subject of worship as a proper response to the kingdom of God. But this worship is not just limited to a church building, but it involves the whole of ones being, twenty-four hours a day, not just one-hour weekly.
Preached: Grassy Church of Christ, Arab, Alabama