Living in the Kingdom

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Matthew 5:1-12

It is an upside down kingdom:

Again and again in parables, sermons, and acts Jesus startles us. Things are not like they are supposed to be. The stories don’t end as we expected. The Good Guys turn out to be the Bad Guys. The ones we expected to receive a reward are losers. The least are the greatest. The immoral receive forgiveness and blessing. Adults become like children.

Things are just not like we think they should be. We are surprised. The kingdom surprises us again and again by turning our world upside down.

The Kingdom of God is spiritual and dynamic

The Kingdom of God was foretold, it is present, and it will come fully in the future

The Kingdom blesses us with God’s forgiveness, care, family, and Holy Spirit

We enter the Kingdom of God by obedience to the will of God, repentance, sanctification, and new birth

Therefore today we look at what it is like to live in the Kingdom. Jesus did two things in his three years of ministry. Told stories about the Kingdom of God and healed people. No wonder the crowds were numbered in their thousands. Leave healing aside for a moment, Jesus taught people about the Kingdom and they loved it!

What’s it like? I agree with Bill Hybels, church is the best hope for the world, because it best represents the presence of the Kingdom. It is where people can best taste and see that it is good.  It is sometimes said that the Christian faith is about love and that is all that matters. What was being claimed as “Christian” is a very narrow caricature of what the Christian faith is really about. It is only when we look and see what Jesus teaches about the Kingdom that we can gain a sound understanding of what it is to be a Christian.

1. Kingdom Attitudes.

The best and the clearest indication and direction that we have with regard to the attitudes that should be in our lives are set out in the Beatitudes as delivered to us by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5 – 7).

Attitudes are the heart of behaviour. Kingdom attitudes are listed in Matthew 5:

Poverty of Spirit (humility) can lead to The Kingdom of Heaven

Mourning (over sin) – Comfort from the burden of sin

Meekness (towards God and others) – Inheriting the earth (living a blessed life)

Are we to be wimps? Hardly – remember Boaz! Roman times when they were selecting horses to draw the chariots and they would have sometimes three or four abreast and you looked for a horse which was meek. Now, these are strong horses, powerful horses but in meekness they were able to be controlled by just the smallest pulling of the reins. So, I think that’s a point that if we are to be controlled of the Holy Spirit, meekness has more to do with that than it has to do with whether somebody is a wimp, or not a wimp.

Hungering and thirsting after righteousness – Being filled with righteousness

Mercy towards others – receiving mercy

Purity of heart (desiring holiness) – Seeing God

Who demonstrates purity of heart in this example of Jessica Simpson?

Jessica Simpson, the MTV celebrity early in the first decade of the 2000s …. was a music performer of significant celebrity. She attained enormous television exposure on her own MTV reality show—the Newlyweds. Part of her novelty was that she presented herself as a Christian on her show ("Jesus is my homeboy") and declared her commitment to remaining a virgin until married (a signpost of an evangelical youth in the nineties).

When she exploited (or was exploited for) her sexuality on both TV and in film, evangelicals proved their cynicism and largely ignored her. For many evangelicals, she was just another "backslider," someone who didn’t "get" what it means to be a Christian.

When she was criticised, however, by evangelicals for appearing provocatively in the music video for the song "These boots are made for walking," she defended herself by say­ing, "I was always criticized for my looks in the Christian world. They said I was too sexy to sing Christian music … I think if they were really good Christians judgment wouldn’t be there" She in essence told all evangelicals, with the bravado of her larger-than-life public persona, "You have missed the point! If you were really saved, you would accept me for who I am. For we who have been forgiven are free now to do anything we desire, and you should quit resenting it!"

Jessica famously complained that "they would never let me sing solos in church, because they said I made the men in the congrega­tion lust!"

Makers of peace – Being known as children of God

Enduring persecution – the Kingdom of Heaven

NT Wright, “when God becomes King, he comes with a message of forgiveness and healing and this is designed not just to remove old guilt or cure old sicknesses, but to renew the whole person from the inside out. Hearts will be transformed”

2. Kingdom Conduct

Is the Sermon on the Mount for today? Some argue it was for the disciples, or for the Jews, or simply unachievable therefore Jesus death was plan B.

It is certainly not a new “law”. But it is the blueprint of what life looks like when hearts are changed and God is King.

There must be an outworking of these attitudes in our conduct. The very same Sermon on the Mount says: Let your light shine.

We are to be salt in this world, meaning that we bring flavour and taste and preservation. We are to be light shining the light of God into the darkness, so that people might glorify God. (Matt. 5:13-16)

There is a necessity for a higher standard of conduct. It is not enough that you don’t murder but you also need to avoid anger (Matt 5:21-26).

Not just avoid adultery but eschew impure thoughts. (Matt5:27-30).

And more.

For example, avoid divorce because of what it does; avoid flippant oaths by speaking truthfully.

And positively, responding to evil with good; loving your enemies; doing charitable deeds to be seen of God and not man; praying & fasting to be seen of God not man. (Matt 5:21-6:18).

Loving your enemies is a good example, Universal practice of Jewish martyrs was to call down heaven’s curses upon their persecutors. Because Jesus core teaching is about forgiveness, he absolutely challenges that. And, he demonstrates that to his one executioners, as does Stephen.

Of course there is a battle going on, a great clash of culture and power, ideology and spirituality. But that is a battle against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

3. Kingdom priorities

Get your eyes fixed on heaven. The things that are most important to us are the things that motivate us. (Matt 6:19-24). We are to lay up treasure in heaven, for if our treasure is there then our hearts will be also. Let me ask you what is most important to you today, is it your eternal salvation, is it your relationship with God, is it God’s Kingdom. You cannot serve two masters – whatever those two masters might be.

There is no need to worry. Indeed the Sermon on the Mount gives the assurance that we should: seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt 6:25-34 )