“STEPPING INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD”
(First Steps Sermon Series)
Westgate Chapel 11/25/01 a.m.
PROPOSITION: That becoming a Christian is bringing your life completely into God’s kingdom, into the range of His effective will….where what He wants to have happen, happens.
- REVIVAL has begun in the Northwest!
- THIS is God’s word to us, and we are already seeing the signs of revival all around us.
- WE are seeing God bring new people into the fellowship on a regular basis.
- AND because of this, I think it is time for us to re-visit some of the basics…just to make sure we are all on the same page.
- AND you can’t get more basic, than entering God’s kingdom.
- WHEN God created humanity, He gave Adam and Eve dominion over their environment….a context in which to rule, to govern.
- LOOK with me at Genesis 1:26,
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’”
- FROM that day to this there is in the heart of every human a God-given desire to rule…something.
- IF any of you have raised children, you know that this trait shows itself early in life…in fact is something that requires discipline or the spoiled child becomes a tyrant in his/her own home.
- BUT from an early age we want to know…
* What is my space to control?
* What is my stuff to control?
* Who are my people to control?
- FROM birth to the day we die we are searching for the boundaries of our personal kingdom.
* At home.
* At work.
* In the neighborhood.
* In relationships.
- IN his book, the Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard says that having some degree of control over things is recognized as an important factor in mental and physical health.
- THAT’S why slavery is such a dehumanizing and onerous sin, because it leaves the slave with nothing to control. Their bodies and lives are at the disposal of another.
- AT the other end of the human spectrum from slave is king, or queen….who have control over an entire kingdom.
- WE all have a kingdom.
- THEY may vary in size, but we all have a kingdom.
- DALLAS Willard says that your kingdom is “simply the range of your effective will.”
- AND that is how God made you. It is how he made you and me to function….to rule, to have dominion, in our kingdom on earth.
- IT has been that way from the beginning of creation….and it was a good thing.
- IN Genesis 1:31, at the end of the sixth and final day of creation, and God had given Adam and Eve the privilege of ruling creation, it says,
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
- IT was good because Adam and Eve were not alone. They weren’t off selfishly doing their own thing.
- GOD was Adam and Eve’s constant companion.
- HE was their Source of strength, their Source of wisdom, their Source of understanding.
- THEY could be trusted to rule and have dominion because their kingdom was inextricably intertwined with God’s kingdom.
- GOD was acting in and with them….co-laborers in God’s kingdom on earth.
- TO use Dallas Willard’s definition, Adam and Eve were operating totally within the “range of God’s effective will” on earth….so nothing could go wrong.
- THEIR rule was pure, and unselfish, and good.
- IT was a perfect world….because Adam and Eve’s kingdom was indistinguishable from God’s rule.
ii. why do I need to be saved?
- AND then a catastrophe happened in Eden.
- ADAM and Eve decided that they were too encumbered, too confined, operating within God’s kingdom….and in arrogance struck out on their own.
- THAT was at the heart of their rebellion….and sin entered God’s perfect creation.
- IN Romans 8:20 the apostle Paul says that from that day to this, creation has been subjected to frustration.
- AT that precise moment in world history a huge gulf was created between God’s kingdom (the range of His effective will) and the kingdom of every man and woman from that time to the present.
- SIN was the cause, but the result was that, without God, you and I are left to rule our kingdoms without Him.
* Without His love...we have tried to find love on our own, and have perverted it with every human lust.
* Without His presence…we are all fighting to establish control over our petty kingdoms, and heaven help whoever gets close to our borders.
* Without His wisdom...we have tried to save ourselves with human knowledge, and only made the world the worse for it.
* Without His grace…we don’t have the strength to get through the hard times or the grace to give Him the credit for the good times.
* Without His peace…we are left to negotiate cease fires that seldom last.
* Without His joy…we try to drown our sorrows with anything that numbs the pain.
- IT has not been a pretty picture…without God.
- LIFE on earth really is paradise lost!
- WE have a God-given drive to rule, but separated from God by our sin….we only make a mess of the things we try to control.
- THE apostle Paul, in Romans 7, describes it this way…
“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)
“When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” (Romans 7:21)
- NO wonder he cries out in verse 24,
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
- YOU see, it is not only the guilt of our past sins that separates us from God. It is that the kingdom of your life and mine is separated from God’s kingdom.
- AND there is a gulf that separates you and me from God’s kingdom….the range of His effective will.
- AND because God is completely holy…and our sin deserves only His punishment…we are stranded on the wrong side of the gulf, and under threat of His wrath.
- YOU and I need to be saved…
* …saved from frustration, trying to rule our kingdom without God.
* …saved from punishment, the just consequence of our sin and rebellion against God.
* …saved from estrangement from God’s kingdom.
* …saved to “the range of God’s effective will.”
iii. how am i saved?
- THERE is no way, humanly, for us to cross that gulf that separates us from God.
- JESUS is the way across the gulf that separates you and me from God, into His kingdom.
- THE cross of Jesus alone spans that gulf.
- THE apostle Paul writes,
“For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10)
- WE are reconciled to God! We can cross the gulf that separated us, the gulf created by sin…because Jesus, God’s Son took on Himself the punishment for our sin, and reconciles us to God.
- AND Jesus died, not only our sin, but the sins of the whole world.
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2)
- BECAUSE Jesus was fully human, He was able to take our place on that cross and give His life for ours.
- BECAUSE Jesus was fully God, the sacrifice of His life was the perfect (sinless) sacrifice, and therefore acceptable to God on our behalf.
- SO, Jesus is the bridge that spans the gulf that separates us from God’s kingdom.
- AND the way across that bridge is a journey taken by repentance and faith.
- REPENTANCE simply means gladly turning your back on, leaving your old, sinful life, and turning to God.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
- AND it is in faith that you and I turn to Jesus to save us.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8)
- BY faith I mean…
* That you trust what God’s Word says about your predicament outside of God’s kingdom, and separated from God….and you repent.
* You trust that Jesus’ death and resurrection provides the bridge to be reconciled to God.
* And you act in faith, crossing that bridge….bringing your broken, sinful life into submission to the kingdom of God.
- BEING saved is not just a means of getting your sins forgiven…it is bringing the whole of your life, through Christ, into the kingdom of God…into the range of His effective will.
- IT is a restoration for you, in this world, of what Adam and Eve lost in the garden of Eden.
- NOW, you are restored…
* …to moment-by-moment fellowship with God.
* …to His wisdom for dealing with life’s problems.
* …to His grace for every situation, strength cut to size.
* …to His love, freeing you to love others, even forgiving your enemies.
* …to His purposes, which are much higher than yours would ever be.
* …to His righteousness, to do the good things you could never do when you were on your own.
- YOU live your life, you rule your environment, now within the range of His effective will.
- THAT is why the Christian life is called discipleship…you are now in God’s kingdom to live as an apprentice to Jesus.
- THAT is why Jesus taught us to say, when we pray,
“Your kingdom come….on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
- IT is because the Christian is ruling in their kingdom….now within, and submitted to the kingdom of God.
- THIS is living the way God intended in the beginning of time.
- JESUS came to restore that fullness of life. He said,
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
- NO wonder Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 5:17,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
- WHY would anyone not want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?
iv. how do i know i am saved?
- ONE last question!
- HOW do I know that I am saved? How do I know that I am in the kingdom of God?
- YOU know it, as a certainty, because two supernatural things happen the moment you put your faith in Christ…and step into God’s kingdom:
1. THE Witness of the Holy Spirit Within
- PAUL writes in Romans 8:19,
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.”
- THAT is that inner voice of God’s Spirit who will use God’s Word, God’s presence, to assure you that you are now a child of God.
- IT has nothing to do with your feelings, or your circumstances. It is the inner witness of God’s Spirit.
2. THE Witness of Power Over Sin on the Outside
- BUT there is a second witness, and you can expect it to show up in your circumstances…in your life…and that is power over sin.
- OH, it doesn’t come all at once.
- ACTUALLY it is a journey that all of us disciples are on, growing every day…
“…being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
- BUT it is God’s power in you, the moment you get saved, to say “no” to sin.
- THE apostle John puts it this way,
“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.” (1 John 2:3)
- THOSE are the two assurances of your faith in Jesus being the real deal.
* The inner testimony of the Holy Spirit that you are a child of God, in God’s kingdom.
* The testimony that comes from finding that you now have power over sin….and growing stronger every day.
- NOW, you need both of those witnesses.
- IF you have the inner witness of the Spirit, but no power over sin….that is not good enough.
- IF you have some victory over sin, but no inner witness of the Spirit…that is not good enough.
- THAT is how you know you are a Christian, the real deal, living your life, ruling your kingdom….with all the resources of God’s kingdom at your disposal.
- NOW, if you are already living within the kingdom of God….doesn’t this make you want to shout and sing?
- BUT if this morning, you are not sure….don’t put God off any longer.
- YOU are going to make a royal mess of ruling your little kingdom if you try and do it without God.
- AND face it, His is the only kingdom that is without end….so if you insist on staying outside of His kingdom, you have no hope for the future or eternity.
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)
- SO if this message finds you outside of God’s kingdom, separated from Him by sin…put your faith in Jesus today and step across into the kingdom of God.
- LET your life begin anew today!
- IN the words of the apostle Peter, preaching to a crowd in Jerusalem, after the Day of Pentecost…
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…” (Acts 3:19)