Summary: Every word in the Bible is important. So you can’t condense the Bible down, but what I’m talking about to today is condensing the essence of the gospel, the kingdom of God, down into one verse.
Let’s open our Bibles to Romans 14:17. We’ll read exactly what we just sang about there. You have to be careful what you read to make sure you figure it out. Some of you have already read some of these things called “actual bloopers from church bulletins.” One of them said, “Ladies, the church rummage sale is a chance for you to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don’t forget to bring your husbands.” Another one said, “Barbara is in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of the pastor’s sermons. I don’t think that’s funny myself, actually.” Another one said, “The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind, and they may be seen in the church basement on Friday. Eight new choir robes are needed, due to the addition of several new choir members and to the deterioration of some older ones.” The final one, this actually appeared in a church bulletin, “An African missionary, Bertha Belch, will be speaking tonight at Calvary Memorial Church. Come tonight and hear Bertha Belch all the way from Africa.” Now, that would be something, wouldn’t it? That’s great. When you folks send me funnier things, I’ll share funnier things, all right?
When you read something, you have to really pay attention and say, “Did I really read what I read?” When you come to Romans 14:17, I call it the New Testament condensed version of the gospel. A few years ago, Reader’s Digest decided they would publish the “Reader’s Digest Condensed Version of the Bible.” They were going to take some parts out and condense it down. It was a marketing flop. Do you know why? Because you really can’t take anything away from the Bible. Every single word in the Bible is inspired of God and it’s irreplaceable. There is nothing you can take out. In fact, sometimes you’ll want to look at the very last page of your Bible in Revelations 22, there is a warning saying, “If anybody takes away from the words of this prophecy, your name will be taken away out of the book of life.” If anybody adds to the words of this prophecy, these plagues will be added unto you.
Every word in the Bible is important. So you can’t condense the Bible down, but what I’m talking about to today is you condense the essence of the gospel, the kingdom of God down into one verse, like John 3:16, like Romans 6:23. Romans 14:17 falls in that category. This is why I memorized this verse in college. This is why I’ve been having a good time being a Christian since I was in college. It says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating or drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
That phrase “in the Holy Spirit” covers all three of those, righteousness in the Holy Spirit, peace in the Holy Spirit, and joy in the Holy Spirit. When you understand that, my friend, look at verse 18. Anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God–that’s your vertical relationship–and is approved by men. That’s your horizontal relationship. That is the condensed essence of the gospel of the kingdom of God.
I. THE KINGDOM OF GOD EXPLAINED
Let’s talk about that today. I want to say two things about this kingdom of God. Don’t you want to be a part of it? Number one is the kingdom of God explained. This verse explains what the kingdom of God is. It starts by telling us what the kingdom of God is not.
1. The kingdom of God is NOT a list of external rules (religion)
It’s not a list of external rules. You know, that’s what religion is. Religion is man’s effort to try to become acceptable to God by the way they act, by keeping a list of thou “shalt do this” or “thou shalt not do this.” You remember the context of this passage? If you’ve been here the last couple of weeks I’ve been talking about Romans 14, it discusses all these disputable matters, these questionable issues that some Christians say are okay and some Christians say are not. The essence of the Christian life is not about arguing about those things. It’s not keeping a list. It is in knowing Jesus Christ.
I look around and see some people into religion whether it’s the Catholic religion or the Baptist religion or the Methodist religion. Can I say very clearly, there are not going to be any Catholics in heaven, and there are not going to be any Baptists in heaven? There aren’t going to be any Presbyterians in heaven. The only people who are going to be in heaven are those who are born again, who have a relationship with Jesus Christ.