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Story of the Kingdom

God's Kingdom God's Story  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Jesus’s Primary Message

Mark 4:26

26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

When we think about the central figure of Christianity the first thing we should go to is the cross, it’s Jesus. As we look at Jesus and his ministry and message, his words and his works, there is something that stands out. Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God more than anything else. When he taught, he talked about the Kingdom of God, when he performed miracles he said the Kingdom of God is at hand. Within these 3 words contain a story and a mystery that once unpacked opens a door to the heart of God like never before.

Key to Scripture

With Jesus being the central point, not only what He did but what He said. Understanding the Kingdom unlocks the Old Testament, that’s what Jesus did. When we study the Old Testament with the understanding of the Kingdom it expands the New Testament and brings a fuller meaning to what God is saying. Reading the letters of Paul, James, and John to the Corinthians or Ephesians takes on a new essence. When we understand and study the Kingdom, we begin to discover a portion of the depth of God’s love, and His mission for the world.
The reason Jesus is the central point
Old Tes

Embodying the Message

As we move forward, I want to talk about what we do with what we learn.

Head

What is theology? It’s the study of God. That’s all it is. The Bible calls us to theology, to study God. That’s part of what we’re doing here and going to continue to do. As we look at the big picture of God, Jesus, the Spirit, and the bible, engage with your mind. Think about whatever understanding you have and process what needs to shift in our thinking.

Heart

We don’t stop there however. As we work through the processes and shift in our thinking we need to let that flow downward and begin to examine how what we’re reading, hearing, and thinking affects what we’re feeling. What’s going on in our heart? To be able to wrestle with what’s going on, on in the inside, to struggle to reconcile the tension in our hearts, and to allow ourselves to experience the reality of what God is saying.

Action

Finally, what we’re processing through in our head and experiencing in our heart must lead us to action. We must think and we must experience, but we must also act. And understand, these steps to embody the message are not a forced set of rules to obtain holiness, rather it’s a call, an invitation to experience and embody a message of hope.

The Bible’s Story

Looking at the bible, we generally break it up into 2 sections. The Old Testament and the New Testament. There’s a good reason for that. The Old Testament otherwise known as the Hebrew Bible has been around a lot longer. There are other reasons as well, but in this series I want to show you that while we have this divide in books or volumes, they are actually one story. Everything is linked, it’s one story in 4 chapters. Often, only 2 or 3 chapters are told and focused on, we want to look at all 4 chapters. It’s a story that helps us understand why we’re here and what we’re called to do. It’s a story where we get to see the very heart of God displayed in beauty, compassion, and wonder.

Creation

The story begins, as you would imagine, with creation. In the bible there are multiple accounts of creation, even beyond Genesis and in Genesis there are 2 accounts.
What we see in both is that this is the main plot of the story, this is God’s original intention, original plan for the world and humanity.
In this 1st account of creation we see a world flourishing, bursting with goodness, with life that has the ability to create more life, more goodness. There’s an intuition we have that tells us of this goodness. When you see something broken you want to fix it, because something in you is saying ‘it must be fixed’. When you see a child in pain, hungry, there’s something in you that says, ‘this should not be.’ What is this intuition, what is it that makes us revolt against marred creation. It’s an innate understanding that the world is beautiful, that the world is good. The world isn’t just beautiful, it’s the beautiful gift from a God of love. This first chapter, creation, is not just the beginning of the story, but it’s the foundation of everything that is revealed to us, even today.
Psalm 65:1-5

5 You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,

God our Savior,

the hope of all the ends of the earth

and of the farthest seas,

6 who formed the mountains by your power,

having armed yourself with strength,

7 who stilled the roaring of the seas,

the roaring of their waves,

and the turmoil of the nations.

8 The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;

where morning dawns, where evening fades,

you call forth songs of joy.

9 You care for the land and water it;

you enrich it abundantly.

The streams of God are filled with water

to provide the people with grain,

for so you have ordained it.

10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges;

you soften it with showers and bless its crops.

11 You crown the year with your bounty,

and your carts overflow with abundance.

12 The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;

the hills are clothed with gladness.

13 The meadows are covered with flocks

and the valleys are mantled with grain;

they shout for joy and sing.

In the second account the narrative shifts a bit, we see creation more in regards to humans. We see an intimacy. The God of the universe in a loving relationship with man and woman. This intimacy demonstrates for us not only what was meant to be, but what is now possible between one another and with God. It’s a relationship where the creator handed everything over to humanity as an inheritance.
[This is yours, take care of it].
We squandered it away (which we’ll get to later). With this inheritance he gave humans authority (not over each other) over this created goodness, and asks for obedience to maintain that authority. You see, when I say obedience, that word carries a lot of baggage, because through history it’s been used to abuse, misuse, and destroy people. When God calls us to obedience as he did in the beginning, it’s because he wants us to do it his way, in order to maintain and multiply the beauty and love He just created. It’s not demeaning nor controlling. This obedience creates an authority that is characterized by love, care, and tender affection, not what we tend to see people do, but kind of in the way Jesus used his authority (through his obedience). This intimate relationship with God and mankind was very good.
[Dvorak Symphony]
Sin, evil, darkness try to tell us that this is what we should be focused on, shifting focus to the broken, and taking the place of creation as the original. When we focus on sin, we forget the goodness. It’s sometimes hard to believe in the goodness of God when we see the pain all around us. Often the brokenness of the world is given preference over the created goodness of it. This is why remembering the first chapter of this story is paramount before going into the second chapter.

Fall

This next chapter is an important part in history, and critical to the major story of the Bible, but all too often, it becomes the sole focus and we miss so much. Nevertheless, chapter 2 in the Kingdom story, is the Fall.

World

Looking at the state of the world, of our cities, of various peoples, it’s not enough to say that the world is broken, but there’s something in us that also says, we broke it. Injustice, murder, hate, oppression, poverty, sexual and domestic violence, how can there be good in all this. That to which we have been given to care for, to rule over with love and devotion, we handed over to darkness, and darkness has made its play. The world is not marked by the rule of God or the Kingdom, but the rule of darkness.

Humanity

The intimacy between one another as humans, the closeness of walking with the creator has been pulled apart. Evil divides, destroying the connections that make up who we are. The fruit of this sin is death, of bodies, of relationships, of ecosystems, of communities, of nations, of people groups, it corrupts our social institutions. The depravity of humanity has made itself known over and over again.
The word sin is often used in church environments. Let me explain it this way, sin is basically disobedience. Now remember how we defined disobedience earlier, not a controlling, abusive mandate, but a submission to the one who gave us life.
[Self curved in on self]
[5 Year Old, don’t walk on table. When he falls it’s not because you pushed him, in the same way we didn’t obey and so we fell]
[Self curved in on self]
The fruit of this sin is death, that is death of bodies, of relationships, of ecosystems, of communities, of nations, of people groups.
Sin is opposition to God’s good plan for creation to flourish. God has authority, he gave it to mankind, and we gave it away.

Chains and Responsibility

[I do what I don’t want to do, I don’t do what I want to do]
In the fall, we became chained to sin, that is, we don’t have full control and yet still bear some responsibility. From a big picture point of view, God’s problem is not with people, He’s not opposed to his creation but to our projects, the things we do out of that sin. Wrong, is not just me or us, or else self improvement would be enough. We need to understand this balance of being enslaved by sin, yet still having personal responsibility. When we don’t, we end up blaming others for the brokenness in the world, in our world, and we want to separate from them, or sometimes even quarantine them.
Mark 7:14-15
God not opposed to people, but projects

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” [16]

not just me or us, or else self improvement would be enough, it’s not
balance of being enslaved by sin, yet still having personal responsibility
People aren’t the problem, it’s the nature in us that’s in opposition to what is good that is the problem. It’s not what’s outside (people or otherwise) that’s our problem. How often do orient this way in our relationships, in our communities, in our journey with Christ.
All of this doesn’t mean we can’t express our sadness and despair to God or that He’s uninterested in our sorrows and pain. God weeps with us. It doesn’t mean we will never be angry at God. It’s okay to let out the pain at the brokenness we see.
Jesus not outside but inside that defiles
The good thing is, the story doesn’t end here.

Redemption

We’ve just seen, what seems like 2 polarizes ends of a spectrum, thankfully, it does not end here. So we enter chapter 3 of this story, Redemption. When we see something wrong, unjust, unfair, not only is there something in us that recognizes that’s not how it ought to be (how it was originally created) but, that it can be fixed. What has been wronged can be made right. A world of heartache is ultimately oriented towards healing, and we experience this. Wounds heal, forgiveness takes place, whole people groups are reconciled.

Healing

Healing

Throughout the rest of the Bible, we see this is God’s plan. He desires to create a people who bear his name and are instruments of healing in His world. This is Israel’s story. When we speak of healing, it’s not just removing the brokenness to make it clean and unblemished, instead it is taking what’s broken and using that to make something beautiful out of the whole.

Jesus

After the fall, that is chapter 2, God set out a law that showed us just how much healing we needed in the world. However, only God through the divine Son could prove faithful to God’s law of love. Jesus demonstrated through obedience what God intended. Remember we talked about our bondage to sin, to darkness. Jesus came, not so God could forgive us, He was doing that prior. No, Jesus came to break us free from the chains of sin. He made a pathway for permanent forgiveness. Where Jesus went, the sick were healed, the blind could see, the oppressed were set free, communities were reconciled, injustice ceased. Things were done God’s way.
Luke 10:8

8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10

The individual, the social, the global are set right. Jesus called this, the Kingdom of God.

Not Yet

Jesus heals us, so we can be healers. Transforming inward as we transform outward. We don’t demand obedience and holiness from others, instead, we love so deeply that others can experience the goodness and beauty we’ve been talking about the whole time.
[Transformation] - As we become more like Jesus through our relationship with him, we become transformed into his essence. It’s not behaviour modification, it’s a whole new person.
now and not yet
[Empowerment] - He gives us the power, the ability to do what he did.
[Trinity] - Full force
This is what we see in the early church, it’s what we see in large parts of the history of the church, and it’s what we can see today! This isn’t only the story of the Bible, this is a story we get to be a part of.
Not only God’s story, we get to be a part of it
In all of this, there is a hope. A hope of what can be, and while we see healing occur in our world, there’s a deep longing for complete and total healing. We have this hope because sometimes healing doesn’t happen. Wounds remain, division and separation persist, vengeance is preferred over forgiveness. We exist in the story, in the overlap, between being a part of what Jesus did, playing in the game of mending, and also a time which hasn’t come yet in which total healing will occur. We long for what’s to come.
Yet, there is a demand to work towards the redemption of our world of our peoples to take place. Knowing we won’t see complete wholeness, but working as if we could. We must be able to hold onto both the redemptive power and hope of God and know that hope does not negate or is less real than the brokenness of our world. It’s not overly optimistic, nor overly realistic.
The world can be healed, the world is being healed, let’s continue to be a part of the healing.

Restoration

Now we arrive to the 4th chapter, Restoration. This part of story is interesting, because it also lies in the overlap of where we are now and what is coming. This longing and desire of more, of the totality of healing, and everything being made right, flows out of our heart into the reality of the future. This restoration is more than a return to the pristine past of creation, it’s more than a reformation of what was destroyed by sin. We long for something that hasn’t been done before. As we try to set things right we often repeat past mistakes. We hope not of better, but of something brand new.
Revelation 21:1-5

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” m for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ u or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

Brand New

What is this new thing? What is this completeness. A place of no more death, no more sickness, everything is right and just. The human imagination points beyond itself, beyond what the natural world can realize. Even when it comes to the healing of the world, we long for something that we haven’t seen before. What we find at the end is not a negation of the goodness and beauty of the beginning, it’s what it was supposed to be. The Kingdom of God, once it arrives in its fullness does not come as a human project (political, social, or otherwise), it’s a future that invades where we are now, actually interrupting our human projects. It’s a gift from God.
Even when it comes to the healing of the world, we long for something that we haven’t seen before when it comes to complete healing. What we find at the end is not a negation of the goodness and beauty of the beginning, it’s what it was supposed to be. The Kingdom of God once it arrives in its fullness does not come as a human project (political, social, or otherwise), it’s a future that invades where we are now, actually interrupting our human projects. It’s a gift from God.
This is what happened when Jesus was on the scene. Everywhere he went, something drastically wrong, was made right, that was the Kingdom. This future, restored, new world was happening in His midst.
[Forward/Back]
We get to see the same thing in our midst. This is a world that is coming, but we get to see parts of it now. As followers of Jesus we live between two worlds. The broken world being healed and the transformed world we await. These two chapters are inseparable and sometimes occur at once. It is the whole story that informs what we do now.

Practical Tips

Think about this big story and journal or speak with someone else about how it effects your understanding of the bigger picture of God, the Bible, and Jesus. Has anything changed? Do you think differently about God and his mission carried out by the church?
Find a way to experience God’s creation and rest in it’s beauty reflecting on God’s goodness. (take a walk, engage with some art that speaks to you) Look at something wrong and unjust around you. How does your heart react to this brokenness?
Jesus heals us to be healers. What in you needs to be healed right now? Seek after that healing. It may not be physical, it can be emotional, spiritual, mental. (prayer, talk to staff, etc). How can what is broken around you be redeemed and made new? What is your role, and what is God calling you to be a part of? (if you’re not sure, prayer, staff, etc)
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