Reset: The Kingdom of God

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From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” — Matthew 4:17 NIV

Everybody has a kingdom.

Everybody.

Dallas Willard defines the Kingdom of God as “the range of God’s effective will: where what God wants done, is done.”  My definition is “life in the presence of God and under the power, rule and reign of God.”

Jesus’ entire life and ministry — the words He spoke, the miracles He performed — were all a declaration that the kingdom of God had arrived! That through Jesus, God was reversing the curse of sin and beginning of the redemption of all things!

When Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead and forgave people who were desperate, He was demonstrating the arrival of the kingdom of God.

Tim Keller says that Jesus’ miracles were not the suspension of the natural order, but the restoration of the natural order.

“The Bible tells us that God did not originally make the world to have disease, hunger, and death in it. Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus' miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming.”

German theologian, Jurgen Moltmann describes it like this: “Jesus’ healings are not supernatural miracles in a natural world. They are the only truly ‘natural’ things in a world that is unnatural, demonized and wounded.” 

The miracles of Jesus are the greatest DEMONSTRATION we have of what the kingdom of God looks like.

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When the Roman Empire was in its prime, it was huge and kept getting larger!

Whenever a new territory came under Roman control, the Romans would use force to try to make that new territory as much like Rome as possible. They built Roman temples to reflect the religious beliefs of Rome that involved the worship of Caesar. They instituted Roman education, arts and culture.

Why? Because if a Caesar ever visited that region, they wanted the Caesar to feel right at home.

That’s what the Kingdom of God is! The Kingdom of God is “the range of God’s effective will: where what God wants done, is done.” It’s whenever everything in heaven is instituted on earth so that God’s government, teaching, worship, glory and power are manifested on earth; and earth starts to look a lot like heaven.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. —1 Corinthians 4:20 NIV

The most exhaustive description of what God’s kingdom looks like was given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

In Matthew 5-7 Jesus gives us a high definition photo of what life lived in the presence of God and under the rule and reign of God looks like.

If I had to use one word to describe what life lived in the presence of God and under the power of God looks like the word I would use would be DIFFERENT.

The Sermon on the Mount describes exactly how you want the people you do life with to live and to act.  In fact, most of us go through life unconsciously demanding that people around us live and act the way the Sermon on the Mount describes the way we should live and act.

It addresses our attitudes and actions. Our motives and deeds. When you read the Sermon on the Mount you know, “This is the way life should be.” But you also know, it is impossible for me to walk this out. This is way beyond me.

When Jesus began teaching, He hit “reset” on hundreds of years of religion, conventional wisdom and “sacred cows” on all kinds of subjects — happiness, anger, relationships, forgiveness, prayer, marriage, difficult people, enemies, giving, money and the list goes on.

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If you’re reading the Sermon on the Mount RIGHT, it will CONDEMN you, EXPOSE you and CONVICT you.

Martin Luther said the Sermon on the Mount is so difficult that we can only fall on the grace of God. In other words, Luther believed that the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount are so challenging and impossible, that without the grace of God we are sunk.

The Sermon on the Mount wasn’t written for people who believe they’re perfect the way they are. It’s for people who know they haven’t arrived.

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. —Matthew 5:1-2 MSG

This is so counter-intuitive. I mean, when the crowds are blowing up, conventional wisdom says either “capitalize on that momentum” or “coast… you’ve arrived, you can relax, enjoy the moment.”

Jesus ignores conventional wisdom and when his ministry starts drawing huge crowds, He goes HIKING. He goes OFF ROAD.  He “climbed a hillside.”

Think about it… climbing takes effort.  Climbing requires intentionality. Climbing means you’ve got to engage your will, exert your strength, take some action and apply some effort.

Climbing forces you out of your comfort zone. It forces you to use muscles you may have never used before. It expands your breathing capacity and strengthens your heart. You don’t climb a hill by accident.

It’s almost as if Jesus purposefully made it difficult or challenging for the crowds. He’s “upping the ante.”

Why? What’s going on? Why does Jesus climb this mountain?

Maybe he wants a little elevation to make it easier for people to see Him and hear Him. But I don’t think that’s the main reason He climbs.

I believe that from the very start Jesus wanted people to know, “If you’re going to follow me... if you’re going to hang with me... you’re going to have to climb. Because I didn’t come to make your life comfortable. I didn’t come to help you keep the status quo. I didn’t come to continue business as usual. I’ve been demonstrating the kingdom of God through what I’ve been doing. But there’s more... climb with me... ELEVATE your expectations!

Let go of your low-level life. Get ready to breathe the clean air of grace: grace-filled attitudes, grace-filled relationships, grace-filled purpose and calling, grace-filled influence and responsibility, grace-filled character, grace-filled discipleship!  Let’s go climbing!”

Jesus understood that “good is always the enemy of great”.

Good is always the enemy of great.

Great always requires growth.

Growth is always UP.

Jesus could have coasted on this wave of popularity. But He was never in it for personal popularity, He was only in it to “seek and save those who were lost.”

So the moment the crowds started to gather, Jesus went for a hike. He went mountain climbing, because He wanted His disciples and these crowds to know that they were meant for MORE! They weren’t meant for the VALLEY. They were meant for the MOUNTAIN! They weren’t meant for survival! They were meant for significance!

God wants to take you HIGHER.

Are you going to climb with Jesus or hang with the crowds?  Are you going to settle for what’s easy or will you pursue the purpose of God in your life?