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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Sinners, Saints, & Kings

Today, I begin a 4-week series about living in the Kingdom of God.  It was inspired by an interesting message I heard by the evangelist Myles Munroe, where he shed light on the Kingdom of God by considering the rules and protocol of living under the authority of a royal family.  I hope you will join me each week as we delve into some important concepts about living in the Kingdom of God.

We are so blessed to live in America. I am so thankful for our freedom. And as voting day in my community approaches on November 6, I am grateful we get to vote for who will lead us. Now, our choice of leaders often leaves much to be desired, but we have the choice.  Can you imagine if we didn’t have a choice?  Suppose our leaders didn’t have to work to win our vote.  Suppose they were chosen for us or inherited their position by birth?

That’s the way it is in some countries. That’s the way it's been for most of the world’s history. Before my country’s forefathers broke away from England, leaders were appointed by the king of England or simply gained their leadership position as a birthright without any regard to the people’s wishes?  If you think America's government is a mess, just imagine what a mess it would be if the democratic process didn't hold leaders accountable!

Democracy is not perfect, but I believe it is the best form of government on this earth.  Kingdoms and dictatorships don’t work on earth, because a sinful nature resides in us all and it corrupts leaders to the point they abuse their power.   Without democracy, there is no way to hold leaders accountable.  In America, “we the people” hold our government in check when we vote.  It is the best governmental system we have found to live under in our broken world.

But today, I tell you the Kingdom of Heaven is not a democracy.  The Kingdom of Heaven is a kingdom—The Kingdom.  And it is ruled by a king—The King. You don't get a vote. Either pledge allegiance or realize you are a traitor.  Everyone wants to go to Heaven, but do you know what that means?  Do you think it will be a democracy in Heaven?  Do you think you will get to vote on who leads you or what you will do or how you will live?  No.  It is a Kingdom ruled by the King.

Furthermore, I tell you the Kingdom of God is not just some place we go when we die.  The Kingdom of God (AKA the Kingdom of Heaven, for the terms are interchangeable) is right here among us, right now.  The core message of Jesus’ teaching was not about a heaven we go to when we die.  Jesus said, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2)  Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection ushered in the Kingdom of God.  So we who call ourselves Christians, who proclaim that Jesus is Lord, live in the Kingdom of Heaven right now.  And to the extent we accept and follow the rule of Jesus the King right now, we experience the glory and reward given to all who live in the Kingdom of God.

I want to read a couple scriptures and make some comments as we go. 

Judges 17:6In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

In a democracy, people choose leader. A kingdom is led by the rightful ruler.  A king supposedly gets his right to rule from God—it is a divine right.  To start with, Israel didn't have a man who served as their king, because they considered God as their King.  Unfortunately, when everything was going well for the kingdom, the people would stop listening to their King (God) and start doing whatever they wanted.  So, the nations who lived around them would start to raid, invade, and oppress the Israelites.  They would cry out to God to save them and God would, but as soon as things started going well again, the people would forsake the King (God) and do whatever seemed right in their own eyes and the cycle would repeat.  

So rather than learning from their mistakes, the Israelites decided they wanted to be like all the other nations around them--they wanted an earthly king.  They thought this would solve their problems.  God warned them that an earthly king would get power hungry and take their property and make them pay taxes and misuse his power, but the people were adamant.  "We want a king—just like everyone else!”  What an ungrateful thing to do!  They were essentially rejecting God as their King in favor of a mortal king.  

This is what our sinful nature leads us to do.  We want to do things our own way—“whatever seems right in our own eyes.”  We don't want to give allegiance to THE KING.  We want to be our own way.  The results are predictable.  We make a mess of our lives.  We sin.  We hurt ourselves and others and we break God's heart.  This predicament is not just something we read about in the Bible; we can see it playing out all around us even today.  

We are broken.  This is why Jesus came to live among us.  He came to save us from ourselves and help us return to the reign of God, our rightful King.

Matthew 3:2 - “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
Jesus’ core message was repent because the Kingdom of Heaven (or God) is near.  His primary message was not love, not healing, not 'die and go to heaven'; it was repent. You see, you can’t enjoy the benefits of the Kingdom (which are love and healing and eternal life) unless you enter into the Kingdom.  And you can’t enter into the Kingdom unless you repent and accept the rule of the King.  So we need to repent!

How do you repent and accept the rule of the King?
First, you must be sorry for your sin.  Recognize that you are a sinner.  In other words, realize that you have not obeyed the King.  This is not a minor detail.  You have rejected the rightful rule of the King of the universe.  You are a traitor and you need to beg for mercy.

Second, confess your sins to God.  You need to go before the King and confess that you have sinned against Him.  Whatever other sins you have committed, your biggest sin has been neglecting your duty to honor, obey, and love the Lord your God.  Bow your head and pray to God and confess.

Third, ask forgiveness.  Ask the King to show mercy and forgive your sin.  God's mercy and grace are amazing.  If you are truly sorry and ask for forgiveness, He is faithful and just and will forgive you.

Fourth, make restitution. Sin causes real damage.  You need to do what you can to make it right.  A few years ago, we were doing some painting at our church.  The painter left the paint cans outside on the playground where he was painting, planning to return to work the next day.  Well, some kids who lived nearby were playing on our playground and saw the paint.  They decided to get into some mischief.  They opened the cans and splashed the paint all over our brick wall.  It was all caught on our security cameras; we even had footage of them walking home to their house and going inside.  So, we went to the parents and showed them the pictures of their kids vandalizing our property.  They made their kids say they were sorry and come back to the church to clean up their mess.  That is restitution.  When we sin, we need to do what w can to make the wrong right.  Sometimes you can never make up for what you’ve done.  And certainly, our sin against God is so great we can never pay for it.  Thankfully, Jesus death on the cross paid the cost of our sin in full.  However, we must still sincerely ask forgiveness and do what you can do to show our change of heart.  Remember, you’re not earning forgiveness, you are showing a change of heart.

Fifth, forsake a life of sin.  Make a commitment to follow Jesus and obey him as your Lord. This is not a one time commitment; it is a way of life.  Everyday you are going to wake up know God is your King and you are going to live your life for Him from now on.  I encourage you to talk to someone about your commitment—a family member, a wise Christian friend, a mentor, or a pastor. You need their support to help you and hold you accountable. 

Finally, receive forgiveness. When we repent of our sin, God is faithful to forgive us. Jesus washes us clean and we start over as a brand new person with a clean slate. Now it’s also time to forgive yourself and receive the peace God gives to everyone who truly repents and trusts in Jesus. You are forgiven. Now forgive yourself. 

There is much more to explore about living in the Kingdom of God, but this is enough for today.  I hope you will check back next week for part two.  Let me end by saying:  a saint is just a sinner saved by the grace and forgiveness of God.  Those Christians who have died and gone to heaven--perhaps someone you've known and loved--in the Kingdom of God cheering us on.  They can see what we cannot see.  They see the King and the Kingdom.  They are cheering for you, hoping you will trust in what you cannot see—but what they can see—the love and grace and forgiveness and Lordship of Jesus Christ.  If you want to be in the Kingdom with them, turn to Jesus today for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.

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