Introduction: In the inter-testamental time, the time between when Malachi was written and Matthew wrote his gospel, there was no prophet to speak for God – or from God. During this time, a longing grew in the hearts of the people of Israel, a longing not only to hear from God, but also for God to rescue his people.
The longing of the people was likened to the time when David reigned. His kingdom was a time when:
- Their enemies were defeated
- Worship was restored
- Their was peace and prosperity
In the writings during this period of time a phrase was coined, words were found to express the longing of the people of God. They spoke of a kingdom to come that was liked David’s kingdom, but far greater than David’s. They called it the “kingdom of God…”
When John the Baptist appeared suddenly, prophesying and speaking for God, there was great rejoicing. The people asked him if he was the one who was going to usher in the “…Kingdom of God…” His response:
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”Matthew 3:11
So when Jesus came striding on the scene, and spoke these words,
“The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The people knew what Jesus was saying. The time of their waiting was over. God was getting ready to break in and deliver them. They believed…
- Their enemies were going to be defeated
- Glorious worship was going to take place in Jerusalem
- A time of unparalleled peace and prosperity was going to break loose upon them
Each of the three gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, begin with this story. The disciples made the connection. God sent a prophet to prepare the people for one ushering in the kingdom of God. Jesus was the one who had come to deliver his people.
But then things went bad. The one who preached the kingdom, who stirred their hearts to great heights of expectation, disappointed them. The very Roman soldiers he was supposed to overthrow, arrested him. He was killed on a cross, where Moses said blasphemers and law breakers were to be put to death.
The Great Misunderstanding: the kind of kingdom God was setting up. They wanted a power kingdom, a kingdom that would free them from the Romans and feed their stomachs.
The Greater Misunderstanding: the kind of king who ruled in the kingdom of God.
The people of Israel thought the messiah king was coming once. They did not foresee that he would come two times, first to introduce his kingdom, then to finally establish his kingdom. They believed when Messiah came he would set up his kingdom on earth. Period. End of Story. The age of the future would suddenly invade this age, and history would end.
The spiritual leaders of Jesus day believed the kingdom of God was coming for them, to bless them, to prosper them, to set them free. They did not see it as a kingdom for others, a kingdom for the poor, the powerless. They did not see themselves as the oppressors that God’s kingdom was against.
What kind of kingdom is the Kingdom of God?
• The kingdom of God is an already – and a not-yet kingdom. We live with tension: the king has come but has not fully come. He came as a servant, he will come as a mighty warrior. He heals sicknesses, but we still live with disease and death. He defeated Satan, but he still prowls around, seeking people to devour. We live in this tension of being between…most theological error comes because people try to force the kingdom to fully come NOW. Demand healing NOW, they demand Satan be bound NOW, they demand prosperity NOW, they demand gay marriages be banned NOW.
• The kingdom of God is an under kingdom – not an over kingdom. There is no such thing as a Christian nation NOW. We have two glaring examples of that not working in our immediate past: South Africa and the United States.
• The kingdom of God is a grassroots kingdom – not a skyscraper kingdom. There is an incredible growing, grass-roots movement taking place all over South Africa. I find it in every town and city in this nation. People caring for those impacted by AIDS. Job schemes. Savings clubs. Housing initiatives. Business training programs. Not a few, scores, hundreds, maybe thousands of tens of thousands. Examples: Out side Durban in a squatter camp a small band of young people living among AIDS impacted people. Mama Gladys in Port Elizabeth. A home for babies in Johannesburg. Every church is involved. Many business people. Living Hope in Cape Town. A white family moved into Mamelodi, then bought a burned out school building and now run a home for disadvantaged children. A Professional hunter named Rufus in the Eastern Cape who attracts clients from America so he can take them into the villages of the Transkei.
• The kingdom of God is an every day kingdom – not a one day a week kingdom. Bill and Ann Eames – Hope Crafts. Neil and Mandi Hart in PE.
• The kingdom of God is a full time kingdom – not a part time kingdom. Wendy Ryan – journalist who started a sewing class, that turning into a business that has grown out of control.
• The kingdom of God is a church based, disciple making kingdom – God sends his church into every sphere of life to advance the kingdom by making disciples and transforming society through life on life discipleship. The church has it’s greatest impact will goes into the world, not by asking the world to come to it. It is an incarnational kingdom...
• The kingdom of God is a horizontal kingdom – not a vertical kingdom. John Broom – retiring from Meadowridge Baptist now meeting with businessmen who are burned out and fed up with hype and religion but want to do the kingdom. Sunday church is half-time, and the game is played all week in the market place, the education classroom, the government office, the sports field, and in the factories, mines, and offices where people meet people
Conclusion: What is happening in this country could gain enough momentum to transform the whole nation. What does that kingdom based, discipleship oriented , local church driven transformation look like? Not power and control over the government, not erasing all sin and passing laws to control the hearts of the unredeemed, but life on life influence, small communities of faith, and large celebrations of believers celebrating what god is doing all week long in their lives.
What it does mean is a movement Jesus followers, spontaneously growing and multiplying, led by ordinary people who are making disciples, gathering in homes and shops and soccer fields and schools, equipping leaders, and planting simple churches that are not dependent on buildings or theological specialists.
Transformation means a grass roots movement that becomes so pervasive you can change laws because you have changed so many hearts.
Transformation means servant leaders who lead by example, by their tireless efforts to serve and uplift the poor and oppressed.
Transformation means a change in the way people treat each other. A transformed South Africa is a South Africa where crime goes down because poverty has been removed from our nation, every family has a home, every child has a decent education, and every person has a job. Transformation means Christians get off their back sides and form street committees to watch out for each other, not waiting for big brother to do it for them.
Transformation means …
- Holistic not dualistic spirituality
- Apostolic not hierarchical leadership
- Simple every day church, not complicated, performance church
- Incarnational not attractional mission
- Membership through belonging not just believing
I am amazed how many people believe in the priesthood of the believer, church is people not buildings, and God calls us all to obey the great commission, yet fall back into old paradigms of mission and church as soon as the conference finished.
God want your life to make a difference now. Don’t wait for permission to do something, you have been given the power to do something!