Text: Luke 17:20-30
The Pharisees once asked Jesus when His kingdom would come. Every time we pray the Lord's prayer, we ask for the same thing. "Thy kingdom come." Do we really know what we are asking for? It's rather dangerous to ask the Almighty for something you don't know anything about. You might not like what you get. We continue to ask for the kingdom to come because we trust that Jesus' kingdom is going to be good for us, whatever it is.
Jesus gave us some clues about what kind of kingdom he would be bringing. First of all, it wouldn't come from us. "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation." We don't establish the kingdom of God by our own effort. Those kind of kingdoms don't last very long. You could be Bill Gates or Ted Turner, with more money at your disposal than you can imagine right now, but what control would you have over the world? Could you end the war we are in right now? Could you stop the terrorists from striking us again? No, the kingdom of God does not come from what we do for ourselves. The kingdom of God comes from God to us.
Jesus said not to look around outside in the world for the kingdom of God. He said it was within us. The better translation of the text says, among us. Don't look around for the biggest church, or the most beautiful sanctuary to find it. Don't judge a church by the personality of its pastor or whether it can pay all its bills. Don't look to where all the people are going. The Bible says where there is a dead corpse, there the buzzards will gather. You won't find the kingdom there either.
Jesus said the kingdom of God is hidden. It's hidden beside you. That is if you have faith in Jesus Christ. All the kingdom that God wanted to establish on this earth was personified in the person of Jesus. All his hopes and dreams for us were wrapped up in that baby of Bethlehem. So don't judge a book by its cover. To many in his day, Jesus appeared as just another traveling preacher, someone who made a living off he good will of others. But inside Jesus was the kingdom of God. If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, then the kingdom with you as well.
Today is veterans day, and this year our veterans are more precious than ever. Today they remind us of what it is to give of one's self. It doesn't matter whether they served in times of peace or times of war, whether they traveled overseas or served at home. What matters is that when their country called upon them they didn't run away. They answered the call. Not because they wanted to, because that was what was asked of them.
God asks something of all his people. He asks us to trust him. Even though following Jesus may look like a foolish thing to do today, he wants us to follow him. He asks us to trust that what we see people clinging to today, wealth, security, safety, we realize this is foolish. No one lives here forever. We all want to live as long as we can, but death will one day come and find us. It will find us because we are under an ancient curse called sin. Sin is defined as not trusting in God. When you fail to trust in God, you go your own way. Sin is something we are all guilty of. Just think of all the times in life you did not trust God. Death is what you deserve for this.
Some people's reaction to the threat of death is just to live it up all the more before they die. Just like in the days of Noah and Lot, people are concerned about what they are eating, drinking, wearing, what they are buying and selling, and who they are going to impress and marry than they are concerned about who created them and what their purpose is in this world. The people in those days were wiped out by catastrophes. They are a reminder to us of what happens when we forget about God and do not listen to him.
The people realized their sin, but it was too late. For the people in Noah's day it was when the flood came and they all were drowning. In Lot's day it was when fire and brimstone came down from the sky and destroyed their homes and killed them. In both cases it was because of their godlessness and immorality. They wouldn't listen to the word of God from the prophets. There was no hope for them.
But how different it can be for us. We are threatened by death today, but those who pay heed to the Word of the Lord will be saved. "He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe is condemned." Those who put their trust in Jesus as savior will be spared eternal death and destruction. God has taken away their sins. Their punishment is removed. When they pass from this life they will go to be with the Lord. On the last day God will open their graves and raise them up. He will welcome them into his kingdom.
God's kingdom is among us when we believe in Jesus in this way. His kingdom is hidden in this world. He hides it in the pages of the Bible in the story of Jesus who died for us. He hides it in simple water, but those who are washed in the simple water are brought into his kingdom. He hides it in the simple act of eating and drinking, and, O how it is ridiculed and scoffed at. Yet we continue to eat, believing that Jesus' words, "this is my body, this is my blood" carry all the power today that they did when he first spoke them, power to sustain us in the faith and bring us to the kingdom of heaven.
God wants us to trust his kingdom is coming. We have a hard time trusting God. But if we never learn to trust him, we will never see how much he can help us.
Being stewardship Sunday, we know that we will soon be asked what portion of our riches we will give to God. Most of us never fill out those pledge cards and turn them in. Why is this? Is it because we don't trust that God will provide us with a paycheck next year? Is it because we don't trust we can keep our word when the gospel of Jesus is our motivation? Is it because we look at other people who have more than us and think that it is their duty to give to God and not ours? It is a good thing that our veterans did think this way when there was a war to fight. We'd all be speaking German or Japanese right now if that were the case.
God wants us to learn how to give. To give we have to be able to trust. If we can't trust God, then there is no hope for us. But if we can look to what God gave for us, the sacrifice of his only Son on the cross for our restoration, we can find the trust. The kingdom is inside us.
When I was young there was a Saturday night ritual around our house. From early on I remember my parents getting our their checkbook and making a check out for the church. My father was a carpenter, a blue collar worker. Every week there was a check for $30 dollars in the offering. One time I asked him how much he made. $300 dollars a week, he said. It wasn't until I was older that I realized what a sacrifice that 10% was to our family. That was probably the reason why we drove a used Ford and didn't have motorcycles and snomoblies and a speedboat like some of my friends. But there was no question of not putting it in the offering. It was our church. That was our pastor preaching to us. To this day I can remember the figures of $30 penned on those checks. Now its a part of my family to give a percentage back to God, not a left over, but a first fruit. What a joy it is to do that.
As a pastor I hear many people appealing for us to trust God. It happens at a voters assembly when we plan to spend more than we have. People stand up and say, "We have to have faith. We have to trust God will provide if we are doing his will." If you expect your church to trust God, then you should trust him also. We should all trust that God is going to provide for our families if we are giving as he expects, even in uncertain times.
Is God moving you to trust him by giving an offering from the best that you have? We can come up with a hundred reasons why we won't fill out that pledge card, but every one of them will show how we don't trust that God's kingdom will come unto us.
The prophet Malachi writes in the third chapter, the tenth verse: "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that ther may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."
We may think that a tenth is too much for us to give. What if God only gave 10 percent of your salvation and left you to work out the other 90 percent? No, God gave 100 percent when he gave his only Son. That's the kingdom of God.
We trust God with our salvation. He is asking us to trust him with everything else as well. Go ahead. Let the goodness of God be your guide. Take that step of faith. The kingdom of God is among you. The Holy Spirit put it there when he brought you to believe that Jesus is your only Savior. Trust God, and learn to give as he has given to you.
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
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