Summary: Reflecting God's Future Kingdom

Living as a Reflection of God's Future Kingdom

Matthew 18:2-3; Acts 17:6; Matthew 18:22

We're going to continue this morning in part three of Identity Check as we travel through the book of 1 Peter. I hope you have been reading that book, and I hope that book has been reading you. As always, one of the things I love to say is it is one thing to read the Word of God, but it's quite another thing to allow the Word of God to read you. When the Word of God begins to read you, you now have a decision to make. You now have a decision that you can just hear it as truth, or you can adjust your life to reflect the truth.

Really, that's what the Word of God is all about. I want you to turn with me this morning, before we ever get to 1 Peter, to the book of Matthew, and I want you to go to chapter 18, verse 2. It reads like this: Jesus said, "And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, 'Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of [God]."

Jesus comes and he puts a little kid right in front of the disciples. The same way this morning, if you could imagine him doing the same to you, if Jesus was here, he'd put a child in front of you, he would look at you, and he would look at me, and he would say, "Unless you turn and become like this little child (this innocence, this pureness, this fresh start), you will never enter the kingdom of God."

That's pretty strong. That's pretty heavy. I want you to understand when you read "the kingdom of God," or you read "the kingdom of heaven," everywhere you read that in the Scriptures, what you are really saying is, "God's rule and reign in the here and now." You see, this is more than the kingdom of God that is a futuristic kingdom.

We know the kingdom of God is yet to fully come. We know at the second coming of Christ he will come back. He will set all things right. He will take all injustices away. He will banish every sin, every heartache. Everything that corrupts God will do away with, but because of the power of the resurrection, the glory of that future kingdom now manifests itself in our lives as the Holy Spirit lives within us.

The kingdom of God. God's rule and reign in the here and now. That's what he's really saying. The beauty of the context of Matthew 18 (I'm not really here to preach on Matthew 18 today) is really discipleship and Christian community, and at the very heart of it is forgiveness. Have you ever been to a church community or to a church in general and you gather and you just don't feel any forgiveness? You don't feel any kind of love? You don't really feel anything different from the community of the world, so to speak.

Have you ever found yourself in a place like that? We've all been there. Even our local body… I've had times where I come in and kind of feel that. How many of you know that should not be? We are a community that is called to be different. We are a community that is truly upside down from the world. The Bible talks over in the book of Acts, chapter 17, when the disciples had come into a certain city they were completely upset about it, because they said, "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…"

It wasn't so much that they were turning the world upside down as much as it was they were setting all things right. If there's ever something the church needs to be, the church needs to be a refuge from the storm of the community out there that tries to set us apart. Jesus, in this whole context of Matthew 18, really sets the whole stage.

I'm just glancing through, but it talks about the temptation to sin. He says, "Don't cause a little one to sin." In other words, "Don't bring heartache into their life." That's what the community of the church should be. He moves on and talks about the parable of the lost sheep. Remember, that one that was lost. They go look for the sheep and they go find it, and they offer forgiveness.

That's what it should feel like when we come through the church doors, that we are coming into a refuge, but here's the deal. Is it okay to preach a little bit? Here's the deal. I believe with all of my heart on some levels (not all churches, but I believe the Western church in general a lot of times), we've learned to offer a lot of judgment but not a lot of refuge, and it's not right.

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