Summary: some of the character and Kingdom of God as revealed in the Old Testament.
Kingdom Beginnings: Insights from Abraham
When we talk about the Kingdom of God, it is easy to focus only on the words of Jesus and what He taught about the Kingdom of God. There is certainly enough there to talk about and try to understand! But we can also learn a lot about the Kingdom of God from the Old Testament. In the two sermons in this series thus far, we’ve talked about how the Kingdom of God is multinational and we have a lot to learn from Christians in other cultures, and last week we placed Jesus very clearly and firmly as the King of the Kingdom, worthy of our complete and total love and obedience. Today I want to back our journey up a little, and see some of the character and Kingdom of God as revealed in the Old Testament.
This morning I want to look at 3 verses in Genesis 12. Now, the context for this is essential. Genesis 1-11 is the first section of Genesis, dealing with the creation texts, Noah and the flood, right up to the tower of Babel. Genesis 12 begins an entire new section, the story of God and the creation of His people. It is the story of Abraham and his immediate descendants.
Right here, at the very beginning of the story of God and His chosen people, we see some fundamental principles that establish God’s Kingdom. Let’s read verses 1-3.
“1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
Point #1: Called Out
The very first word God speaks to Abram is this: “Leave”. That tells us something about God’s Kingdom: we need to leave some things behind to enter in. And those things are not light, fluffy things we can gladly do without – to Abram, God said “leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family.” That is a pretty high call, a lot to sacrifice, don’t you think?
Lest we become tempted to think that no longer applies, listen to Jesus’ words from Luke 14:25-28: “25 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. 28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost.”
As I look at a lot of what is emphasized today, I sometimes get concerned that it is one-sided. I sometimes fear that we talk exclusively about how great it is to follow Jesus, about how incredible the relationship is, how rewarding, how exciting, how wonderful. And it truly is – I believe that with all my heart, and I echo the apostle Paul who said “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil 3:8-11). I echo that “surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”. But I am concerned that we sometimes neglect the part of the Christian life that is about “giving up.” Paul didn’t – he said it plainly: “for whose sake I have lost all things… (I want to know) the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”. Jesus certainly didn’t emphasize only the rewards – He called us to “carry our own cross and follow him”.
My point is this: being in God’s Kingdom means we must leave the kingdom of this world. There is no dual citizenship. Jesus demands that we choose one King, and then obey completely.
And it is a big sacrifice: we are invited to give our entire lives to Jesus, to reject all the values and lifestyles and priorities that Jesus does not command, and to bow to Jesus alone. We are called to total, sacrificial, obedience.