Summary: What did Jesus mean when He said that the Kingdom of Heaven is NEAR? It is WITHIN us, AROUND us and BEFORE us.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
Before the colonialists imposed national boundaries in Southeast Asia, the kings of Laos and Vietnam reached an agreement on taxation in the border areas. Those who ate short-grain rice, built their houses on stilts, and decorated them with Indian-style serpents were considered Laotians. On the other hand, those who ate long-grain rice, built their houses on the ground, and decorated them with Chinese-style dragons were considered Vietnamese. In other words, the exact location of a person's home was not what determined his or her nationality. There was no border. Instead, each person belonged to the country or kingdom whose cultural values he or she exhibited. So it also is with us. We live in the world in this nation of Canada but our citizenship is in heaven. We are part of God's kingdom, we live according to His kingdom's standards and values.
Matthew 4:13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali-- 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: 15 "Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-- 16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
What did Jesus mean when He said that the kingdom of heaven is near. Certainly He wasn’t referring to that film with Orlando Bloom about the crusades. Let me suggest to you that there are 3 different ways in which the kingdom of heaven is near to you this morning:
1. The Kingdom of Heaven is WITHIN us – in our heart
The kingdom of heaven comes first to our hearts when we accept Jesus as Lord of our lives. When we surrender our lives to the lordship of Christ and proclaim Christ to be King in our lives then our hearts become an extension of His kingdom on earth – the place where Jesus rules and reigns.
Luke 17:20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you."
Wherever God rules over the human heart as King, there is the kingdom of God established. -- Paul W. Harrison
As Christians we are called to be Christ’s ambassadors. This means that we are representatives of Jesus. We live in this country but we represent another. We speak for Jesus and show others what His Kingdom is like. People will judge Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven by how we live our lives.
I heard the story of a Jewish couple who were expecting a baby. They went to a rabbi to ask advice about what to name him. They told the rabbi they wanted to name the baby Jacob. The rabbi replied “that is a wonderful name”. The husband said “you don’t understand, you see my wife’s father was named Jacob and he was a good and righteous man”. The rabbi said “I don’t see the problem – name him Jacob after your wife’s father”. The husband continued “but my father was also named Jacob and he was a horrible violent drunkard. If we name the baby Jacob, how will people know that we named the baby after my wife’s father and not my father.” The rabbi thought for a moment and then finally said “Name the baby Jacob. If he turns out to be a good man you will know you named him after your wife’s father. If he turns out to be a bad man you will know you named him after your father”.
Let me ask you a question this morning, are you a positive model of Jesus Kingdom or a negative one?
Alexander the Great, one of the greatest military generals who ever lived, conquered almost the entire Mediterranean world with his vast army. One night during a campaign, he couldn’t sleep and left his tent to walk around the campgrounds. As he was walking he came across a soldier asleep on guard duty—a serious offense. The penalty for falling asleep on guard duty was, in some cases, instant death; the commanding officer sometimes poured kerosene on the sleeping soldier and lit it. The soldier began to wake up as Alexander the Great approached him. Recognizing who was standing in front of him, the young man feared for his life. “Do you know what the penalty is for falling asleep on guard duty?” Alexander the Great asked the soldier. “Yes, sir,” the soldier responded in a quivering voice. “Soldier, what’s your name?” demanded Alexander the Great. “Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great repeated the question: “What is your name?” “My name is Alexander, sir,” the soldier repeated. A third time and more loudly Alexander the Great asked, “What is your name?” A third time the soldier meekly said, “My name is Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great then looked the young soldier straight in the eye. “Soldier,” he said with intensity, “either change your name or change your conduct.”