Summary: What is God’s Kingdom? How do we identify it? This one-off message (departing from the Waking the Dead series) examines the Kingdom of God.
Wildwind Community Church
David K. Flowers
April 24, 2009
If you read the gospels, you will see that Jesus was constantly referring to the Kingdom of God, or – in Matthew – the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus spoke of this kingdom as an actual thing. You don’t need a preacher to tell you that. Read it for yourself and you will see that Jesus believed deeply in this Kingdom. He believed in its reality. He believed in its ability to change lives. He believed that it was where he was from. And he believed that there was a way that you and I could be part of it. In fact, that is the thrust of most of his teaching – telling us about the existence of the Kingdom, and explaining to us how we can be a part of it.
Since the Kingdom was the central thrust of the teaching of Jesus, both those who are following him and those who are merely curious about following him must understand what the Kingdom was to him. It doesn’t matter what I think the Kingdom is. It doesn’t really matter what you think the Kingdom is. The critical question is what did Jesus mean when he talked about the Kingdom? Jesus told stories to illustrate the Kingdom to us, using everyday things like camels, seeds, trees, money, employers and employees, gates, and more. He made it as simple as possible so that we could understand it. So today and in the next three weeks after this we’ll be looking at what we can learn about the Kingdom from these stories Jesus told. We’ll start with where the Kingdom comes from and how it grows.
Let’s look at our text for today. It is two very brief stories (comparisons, actually) located in Luke chapter 13.
Luke 13:18-21 (NIV)
18 Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?
19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches."
20 Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to?
21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."
Really? That’s what it’s like, huh? Like a mustard seed, and like yeast? That’s fine, but does this really tell us anything? Folks, the brilliance of Christ’s teaching is that if you’re not looking closely, you will miss it. It seems not only simple, but simplistic at times. But I want to show you four amazing things about the Kingdom that we can understand from these two simple comparisons.
First is that God takes the initiative to build the Kingdom. Jesus said “a man took and planted a seed”; “a woman took yeast.” In these comparisons, God is represented as taking initiative. Let’s say that we had the luxury of forgetting everything we had ever learned about God right now, and my job was to reeducate you – to start from scratch. If I had that challenge, I would begin by reading to you these brief stories Jesus told and telling you, “God is the ruler over a kingdom. And God has taken the initiative to build his Kingdom into our lives and into our world.
This is absolutely central to our understanding of God and of the Kingdom. It begins with God and God’s activity. What are the first four words of Genesis chapter 1, verse 1? “In the beginning God…” God is the initiator. He is the first mover. He is the one who makes things happen.
Revelation 4:11 (KJV)
11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
2 Corinthians 4:6 (NIV)
6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
You cannot overstate the importance of this. Why? Because you live and I live in a world where we are first. What about me? What about my needs? What about my goals and plans for my life? What about what I want? What about me-time? This is my decision, my choice, as long as I’m not hurting anyone else, I get to decide. This is what I feel is best. Here’s what I think, what I believe, what I feel, what I want, what I need. When is the last time you picked up a magazine at the grocery store and read an article about how you do not have the right to decide what’s best for your life? Those articles wouldn’t sell very well. When is the last time you read in a popular magazine or heard on television about God’s place as the creator, the first mover, the initiator of everything that is? You can go to Harvard or Yale and get a graduate education and not learn a single thing about God. God is not considered to be important, or worth knowing about, enough to bring him into any college discipline – math, science, psychology, economics, biology – you cannot find me one discipline (other than theology and small parts of philosophy) where God is brought into the discussion as a serious player. In every part of our society, God is marginalized. Our world is in utter turmoil at this instant. Which of our world leaders, including our professing Christian leader Barack Obama, is seriously suggesting that God created this earth and knows how to fix what is broken? When did you last read in the newspaper about how God is able, God is capable, God is the creator and sustainer of life and can surely deliver us from the mess we are in?