Summary: Jesus said the kingdom is near, yet often we don't sense God's closeness. This sermon looks at five places where we're likely to meet God.
A GOOD QUESTION: Why don’t I sense God’s closeness more often?
- Most of us can tell you about moments in our lives when we sensed God’s closeness.
- One such moment for me was when the Holy Spirit spoke to me at 4 a.m. in Guangzhou, China. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so palpable and near that I knew I was in God’s presence.
- Those moments are incredible. Whether they are big life-changing moments or just little everyday glimpses of God’s movement, I think we would all say that we would like to have more of those. Is that possible?
A HOPEFUL SIGN: The kingdom is near.
- This was good news that Jesus shared. You don’t have to wait many years for the kingdom. You don’t have to go something distant to find it. It is near.
- I believe the kingdom is still near today. We have the opportunity to embrace it, to participate in it, to be a part of it every day.
- The unfortunate reality, as we’ve already said, is that many of us don’t sense that very often. Could it be that the kingdom is hiding in plain sight?
- I want to argue this morning that we often get caught up in what the world says is important and worthwhile. In so doing, we get distracted from the daily opportunities to catch a glimpse of the kingdom right here beside us.
- Why would we do that? The things of the world are easy and shining. They attract our attention and cause us to forget that there are more worthwhile ways to spend our time. For example, we all know that playing on our smartphone is a largely wasteful way to spend our time, but it draws us in nonetheless. We lose out on more meaningful ways to spend our time, but we come back to it again and again because it’s bright and shiny.
- I think that is analogous to what we’re talking about this morning. There are opportunities to have a deeper moment on seeing the kingdom, but we get caught up in the cheap, easy, shining things of the world. I want to redirect us this morning back to some of the most likely places to see the kingdom breaking through all around us.
WHERE TO LOOK:
1. Do I hang with my equals or the least of these?
- Our natural tendency is to be around our friends and those who are our equals in life: my social class, my income level, my education level, etc. It’s the way of the world – we are networking and connecting, we are climbing the ladder, we are moving up.
- So much of what we do in life is segmented in this way:
a. Most people live in neighborhoods where their neighbors are the same social class.
b. Most churches tend to be predominantly one social class or the other.
c. We love meeting someone who can be useful to us because they’re important in their field.
d. Within companies, the workers and the management don’t usually eat lunch together.
- It’s the way of the world.
- There are a couple of passages worth thinking about on this point:
a. Matthew 25:31-46.
- This is the famous “least of these” passage.
- In many ways, this is the most direct of statements on where to sense more of God in the world. Jesus here tells us that when do these kindnesses to the least and the lost, we do it to Him. Many of us have felt this before. You go serve at a soup kitchen and you sense God near. You reach out to a friend who has lost everything and you sense God near.
- This makes our “hang with my equals” tendency a problem. I rob myself of opportunities to sense the kingdom nearby when I live my life exclusively in an upwardly mobile mode.
b. Luke 14:12-14.
- Jesus offers some specific teaching in this regard. He tells us that instead of always inviting out those who can return the favor we instead should invite those who have no ability to repay us. Then we will be blessed with the kingdom.
- In a small way, we are trying to do that with the Scott meal – sitting down and eating with the struggling students there.
- Still, I have to confess that that isn’t exactly what Jesus says to do here because He isn’t just speaking of a church ministry but of our individual lives. And, so, we must admit that simply ignore Him on this point.
- Let’s go back to the opening point. It’s easy to shrug off these things as good ideas, but not anything that I’m willing to change my life to experience. And yet we’re surprised when we don’t sense God very often. Maybe the kingdom is near but we’re too busy networking to experience it.