- 15 Mar
Would it be accurate to say that life can be good, and life can be difficult? Some days your feet hit the ground and you feel like, Pinky and the Brain, “Today we take over the world!”. Other days it takes every ounce of strength, energy, and discipline in you to drag yourself out of bed?
You go to your regular pizza joint and have the same pizza, and one day it tastes like a slice of heaven and the next the same pizza tastes like a cardboard box. You go to a lunch time braai with friends and end up staying for toasted sarmies for dinner, and the next time with the same friends, you are back home by three in the afternoon in your PJ’s binge watching something on Netflix. What does scripture have to say about the ups and downs of life?
In Christ we are given the kingdom. In Matthew 16:19 Jesus says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven…” Jesus will give you the active, dynamic, rule and reign of God. In the same way that the curtain in the Holy of Holies is torn top to bottom and God is revealed to all at the moment of Jesus’ death, Jesus is saying every woman, man, and child is given the kingdom. The kingdom is not reserved for those with special training, for a particular race, with economic status, with a color of skin, or any other of the myriad ways we divide our family. Jesus is living proof that God is with us.
We live in the tension of the ALREADY AND NOT YET of the kingdom. Daily we can experience the immediacy and the future nature of the kingdom. Sometimes you pray for someone and they are instantly healed! Other times you pray for the someone and they get sicker. But in Christ we are called to live out kingdom life.
Scripture comes with a warning and it runs throughout the gospels. Many of Christ’s parables speak of us baring fruit, eternal fruit. Consider the vine and the branches, the talents, the Barren fig tree, the sower and the seed and more… We are commanded by Jesus to live fruitful lives. Christ’s word to us in this area of our lives is strong. He says it this way, "This is the way it is with you. God's kingdom will be taken back from you and handed over to a people who will live out a kingdom life. (Mat 21:43 MSG)
That is a frightening thought that the kingdom will be taken back from you. But you may think, come one, once saved, always saved! The bible does say if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord you will be saved. Friends, what we are talking about this morning goes beyond salvation. We need to move from the Cradle and the Cross to live Kingdom lives today. But what does it mean to live out a kingdom life?
Let us begin with a look to what scripture tells us about the immediacy and the future nature of the kingdom. The already and not yet…
THE ALREADY OF THE KINGDOM
Jesus tells us to pray “Your Kingdom Come” that kingdom is the future kingdom where there will be no more pain, no more suffering, no more hunger. No more cancer, no more surgery, no more COVID and He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. The writer of Hebrews talks to us of the heroes of the faith. I will not go through the entire of Hebrews 11 so let us pick it up from VS 24. But bear in mind that the phrase ‘By Faith…’ appears 16 times in this passage.
We pick it up with Moses:
Heb 11:24-35 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. (25) He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. (26) He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (27) By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. (28) By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. (29) By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.
The writer moves on from Moses:
(30) By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. (31) By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. (32) And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, (33) who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, (34) quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. (35) Women received back their dead, raised to life again….
Come on Jesus! Bring it on! The ALREADY of the kingdom. By faith, these people rocked the world! But as the writer goes on and we begin to see something else happening…
THE NOT YET OF THE KINGDOM
Yes, we will see victories in this life. But what happens when we do not? Did God fail us? Did we do something wrong? Is our faith not strong enough? Were our prayers not anointed enough? Did we not read the bible enough, go to church enough, give enough? We have read of many victories, read on with me:
Heb 11:35-39 …Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. (37) They were stoned ; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated-- (38) the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. (39) These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
Nearly all Jews knew the stories of Maccabean martyrs, who were tortured in various ways: scalded to death, having skin flayed off, stretched on the wheel and so on. Regular torture practices of the Greeks included fire, thumbscrews and stretching on a wheel to break the person’s joints, then beating the victim to death (sometimes pounding the stomach as if it were a drum) in that helpless position. The Maccabean martyrs were scourged, whipped, crucified and more.
We just read of Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets and more who conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched flames, escaped the sword; people whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Even people receiving their dead, raised to life again.
The ALREADY of the Kingdom but there is the NOT YET of the kingdom as well that holds things in tension:
There were people who were tortured and refused to be released, they faced jeers and flogging, chained up and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They were destitute, persecuted, and mistreated--all were commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
Do you see the tensions of the immediacy and delayed nature of the kingdom? Friends, these kingdom lenses are a healthy way to view our faith and scripture. If we do not, we easily become disillusioned and lose confidence either in our own faith or sadly the faithfulness of our Father.
You can have all the faith in the world, and Father may still say no to one of your requests? Let me ask you a question: “How much faith does it take to overturn God’s no?”
I have lived this all too often in my life, we all have. Having many surgeries and more throughout my life and well-intentioned Christians saying things like you must just have faith, or more faith. Meaning that my difficulties were of my own doing and somehow my suffering, illness, surgeries and even deaths I have faced were somehow my fault.
Have you ever anyone met a well-meaning but deluded person who says something like, “I know your child is sick, or you have cancer, etc. let me ask you, is there sin in your life or in your past that has caused this?” It is simply NOT TRUE!!
HOW DO WE DO LIFE WITH THESE TENSIONS?
The writer of Hebrews goes on to give us three ways in which we can live and get through the valleys and mountains of this life: How we can live life well understanding the already and not yet nature of the kingdom
1 – STEP OUT OF SIN, RUN THE RACE AND PERSEVERE
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Heb 12:1)
Is there sin in your life that you need to deal with?
Are you living the kingdom life Jesus called you to? Remember Jesus words, “God's kingdom will be taken back from you and handed over to a people who will live out a kingdom life”? (Matthew 21:43)
Are you persevering? The dictionary defines persevering as, “continuing in a course of action despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”
Think of Joseph, David, Elijah, Nehemiah, Job, Jeremiah, Paul, and others, they all lived persevering faith. Are you ready to throw your hands in the air and wave them like you just do not care or will your live out persevering faith?
2 – FIX YOUR EYES ON JESUS
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Remember that wonderful hymn? “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”
If you need direction, remember: He is the lamp unto your feet.
If you are in the storm remember: Peter walking on the water…
If you need peace remember: Jesus spoke peace to the storm…
If you need healing, provision, joy, purpose, it is all found in the person of Jesus! Fix your eyes on Him!
3 – STAY IN SCRIPTURE SO YOU DON’T GROW WEARY AND LOSE HEART
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:3) Eugene Pedersen and the Message paraphrase puts it this way, “When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (MSG)
When you are feeling weary and losing heart, stay in scripture!
Take some time to consider just how do we do this thing called kingdom life?
- Have faith – Jesus you are with me, on my side in this war for eternal life, and that you will bring the victory.
- Step out of sin, run the race, and persevere.
- Fix your eyes on Jesus.
- Stay in scripture so you do not grow weary and lose heart.