Kingdom and Empires: The Missing Middle (part 2)
Yesterday I uploaded part 1 of last Sunday’s message. Here’s part two …
Time to Rethink.
Matthew 3:2, the first words of Jesus as he begins His ministry as the Christ in the New Testament, says, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Over 50 times the Gospel of Matthew speaks of the kingdom of heaven.
We hire Jesus as our savior but fire him as our teacher by refusing to communicate his message about the kingdom. The creeds inform us that the incarnation led to the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension but the Gospels say that the incarnation led to the introduction of the kingdom of God, which necessitated the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. In the Gospels a central idea is that with the coming of Jesus we witness the coming of the kingdom.
Mark 1:15. The first words of Jesus: “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has comenear. Repent and believe the good news.”
As soon as Jesus had been anointed for his task as the Christ by the Spirit in the Jordan river, he proclaimed, “The time has come … for the kingdom. The time has come … to change your minds.”
That is what the word repentance means. A change of mind that results in a change of heart and direction. While people thought they knew what the kingdom was, a change of mind was needed because the reality of the kingdom was going to be different to their thoughts about the kingdom.
In Jesus’ time the Jews were looking for a messianic king but they wanted someone who would implement the policies they embraced. The only way people could see God’s kingdom, Jesus said, was to repent; to change their heart and mind and understand that the kingdom was less about their policies than it was God’s presence.
Much of the New Testament teaching about the life of Jesus is built upon the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Prophecies such as Zechariah 2:10:
“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. 11 “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.”
The New Testament teaching on the kingdom is centered on the presence of God. It contains the idea that with the coming of the Lord, a power is introduced that influences all people. The kingdom speaks of a person, a power and a people. In the Zechariah text the ‘Lord’ declares that the ‘Lord Almighty’ sent him to them. This is the heart of the kingdom message. With the Lord’s coming a rule and reign that affects all peoples is ushered in (see Zech. 8:20-21; Isa. 2:3; 16:1; Micah 4:2). So the kingdom draws attention to a person – Jesus – and through this person a dynamic, supernatural, redemptive power is unveiled that sets people free and invites them into a movement to establish God’s reign and rule ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’
Some of you may be thinking, “Craig, is this such a big deal?” Why is the missing middle, Jesus’ life, so important to me now?
- Because Jesus lived God rules, peace reigns and hope exists!
- Because Jesus lived, God wants you to live too.
- If we miss the middle of Jesus’ life, we miss the heart of our own!
We may have been Christians for 50 years but if we can’t answer the question of why Jesus lived then something of substance, the kingdom message, is missing in our life.
- Jesus lived for a purpose and a context; our life has a purpose and a context too.
The purpose of Jesus’ life was to usher in God’s rule on earth as it is in heaven. This coming Sunday at Central, Brad is going to show us, from the beginning of the Scriptures through to the end, why Jesus lived. He’s going to show us in a way many have never seen before, why missing Jesus’ life is tantamount to limiting the power of the Gospel in our own lives. In Ephesians 1:4-11 and 2:10 Paul writes that we were created for good works. There is good that God wants us to do that centers around extending God’s rule and reign on earth as it is in heaven. Someone has said that,
“God intends to put the whole world right. So he puts us right in the present through the good news so we can be part of his putting-right project for the world.”
Here is our challenge for folks for this series.
First, think through how the life of Jesus can and should bring greater significance to our life right now.
Second, take time through prayer to open up to what this series will do.
Third, commit to be here or partake in this series every week. We’ve been promoting today for a long time BUT really this is the just the beginning of the journey.
If you are unable to attend a service in person remember the live stream of the online campus. The online campus now gives us the ability to interact with one another during the service itself. Check it out!
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