Friday, September 20, 2019

The Kingdom of God is Within You

No one will say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’; because the Kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21 (GNT)

Jesus came preaching that a Kingdom of God, and he was saying the Kingdom of God has come not into you, and he would invite the people to be a part of that Kingdom.

Somehow between then and now it became popular to think that God's Kingdom and heaven and everything about what God is inviting us to, is applying to something way off in the distant parts of the universe, or even beyond that universe, and way off in the distant future. But Christ invites us into something that is for us now, a Kingdom that we enter into now, and be a part of now, and that extends then into these other remote places they will not be going for a long time.
[Listen to the audio for this sermon]
preached extemporaneously 
at Briensburg UMC on September 15, 2019.

The expanse of the universe and the life of the world to come, are things that are going on in the future. The Kingdom of God is now, and we're all invited to be a part of it.

And it's in him. They saw must struggle about how if you go off to the highest mountains, God is there down to the lowest depths. Wherever you might go. Paul wrote about how in him we live, and move and have our being.

Then we had Emerson and I tried to memorize this last night, so we'll see how I do. I think Arby, just...
"What lies behind us..." "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us," Emerson.  Praise the Lord and thank you for the prompts.

Well, John wrote in his letter "Greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world." And then in Revelation he wrote that God said "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with people."

So, over and over the Bible testifies to what Jesus is saying right here in this passage, challenging the thinking of those who wanted to put it off somewhere unreachable. Because if it's unreachable, then it's also not a problem, if we don't go into it. And this is kind of a little bit of the argument, if love can't be expressed in its fullness and perfection, then some people think that we shouldn't even try at all.

And what Jesus is saying is "Come on in now, the Kingdom of God is within you. The kingdom of God is among you."  And he invites to be a part of that kingdom now, to see the realities of who we are, ourselves, and who the people around us are. To experience that presence and that joy.

So, the Kingdom of God is the kingdom of love. That's God's law. And there are a lot of ways to look at the Bible and people look at the Bible in a lot of ways. But Jesus taught us to look at the Bible through the lens of love. And if we do that, we're going to have a whole different perspective that we view our whole faith from.

Then, anybody who looks at it from any other perspective. Whatever that may be. Whosoever verses, or whatever opinions, or whatever views that somebody has as they read the sacred pages. If they're not reading them from the perspective of God is love, that the basis of understanding the scriptures is love as Jesus taught. That the commandment of God is to love one another as Christ has loved us. They're going to have a different perspective, and there's really no use in arguing about it. Because they're going to have a whole different approach to the scriptures, which is going to mean a whole different outcome on how you're going to understand. 

So, Christ invites us to this prism: The view of love in every word that we read, in every psalm that we sing, in our prayers, in our fellowship in our evangelism.

I don't know if I told you but I appointed Mitch as our Evangelism Chairperson during the Pride Festival because he was doing such a good job telling anybody about how we love each other here.  So, Praise the Lord. Amen.

In all of that we view love is a central focus there. Because of John 3:16 which we'll study about. Besides, We'll get through the 16th verse. And Leslie, let's remind us of what that is.

"For God so Loved the word that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life."

So with that, God is inviting us to be a part of the kingdom of Christ. Now, it's a kingdom governed by love. There's a verse in a Christmas hymn "Oh Holy night," and it says "Love is his law and peace is this...something" [Love is his law, and his gospel is peace.] Love and peace. and our famous hymn, Oh! for A Thousand Tongues to Sing, a big Wesleyan hymn, has that final stanza that says "Anticipate your heaven below and own that love is heaven."

Just think if everybody loved each other in our whole community around Mashall County the way we love each other here in this room right now. Don't you think the world, at least in Marshall County, would be a better place? And what about our whole country? And our world? So, we want to stand on that. And we don't want to give up a world that we love one another as Christ loved us. How important is that? It makes the difference between the joy and sorrow in the whole world right now.

And certainly we're not the only room where loves is being preached in Marshall County, or around the world. But we're one of them and we believe in it. Amen? And through that love we are becoming more than we are, even just as we reflect on that and think about God's love for us, in practice that love for each other and the world around us, it changes us and it changes the world. Maybe not a whole world overnight-- maybe not us overnight. But it changes things for us to love one another. To try to love one another, even if we're not very good at it. To practice it, and get better. And it brings us into a oneness. That nothing else can bring us into. You can't be one with people you don't love.

So, Paul talks about how we are growing into the stature of the fullness of him that filleth all in all. And he talks about how that is the work of Christ on the cross, reconciling all things to himself. All that unity and oneness can only really come about by love. Any other attempt to do that puts us at odds with each other somewhere, but love brings us into harmony with each other.

We still will be all different, and we celebrate that and go in and instead getting rid of that we celebrate all of our uniqueness. Just think of how that keyboard would sound this morning that there was only one note. It would get a little monotonous if all the keys only had one note. But because it has many and they're all played softly, they come into harmony and you give us some beautiful music. That's what God invites us to. When he invites us to the Kingdom of God. So, he says the Kingdom of God has come nigh until you. The Kingdom of God is near at hand. The kingdom of God is within you. The kingdom of God is among you.  In a way they seem like separate concepts but they're not. The word that is translated in some translations as "within" says "the Kingdom of God is within you," is translated in other translations "the kingdom of God is among you." 

Because that's the definition of word. It's got two definitions "within" and "among" and they're not that quite different. They're part of the same concept that Jesus is talking to us about. But we do have a tendency to think of our relationship with God, and our religion, and our views about the faith, in very personal terms. And we should, it is personal and there are aspects of that that are just very personal. But when we enter into our personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ, we each claim Him as our Lord and savior and some of the things we had in the affirmation faith, we used to walk out from the baptismal covenant.

We see him as our Lord and Savior. It's a very personal thing. It means personally studying the scriptures, learning how to write with the divine word of truth. Going through the feelings that we have, sorting out the thoughts that we have and hearing God speak to us and call us as individuals to "follow Him."
But it's also a "we thing." I'm not the only one that is doing that in this room, am I? Each and every one of us is doing that. Each and every one of us has our personal relationship with God in Christ. Each and every one of us in this whole room has our own experiences and understandings and views and questions, and challenges, and affirmations, and doubts and all the things that go into being a person of faith. Each one of us has those and we share that.

Jesus said, "I am the light." Jesus was talking about that he was light of the world, but then he told everybody in sermon of the mount, "You are the light of the world." Collectively and individually, whether we are together and whether we are apart, the light of God shines through us and into us and we share that.

We share the relationship that we have. That's why I love about the testimony at time and we say about things that God has blessed us with. Then we get to share those joys or while I'm about to pray at times when we share the concerns that are on our heart. Then we share those. It's more than just saying what they are. It's a sharing. Don't we feel that? When somebody tells us about something that's painful going on. We feel that, don't we? We empathize with that and it becomes part of our suffering as well. And when somebody has the blessing and the joy and Knox [newborn baby in our congregation] is born, we feel that joy, we get to share that joy. It becomes as part of our joy, we empathize with that joy, and there's a unity there, isn't it? There's a oneness there. Like family. Like being the family of God. Like being a family. Together.

I think that's part of what Wesley is trying to capture in writing that stanza,  "Anticipating you heaven below and own that love is heaven." Because we're already entering into that heaven.

When we feel those joys, when we share those. That's why we sing Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love." We're all entering into heaven. We've already entered in. When we have that little spark and the leap of faith that makes us, let us jump over that chasm of doubt and just believe, and just love and trust. And as we grow in that, then the kingdom grows within us. And as we all grow in that, the Kingdom grows among us.

And we go out the door in a few minutes, the kingdom -- we'll spread it around wherever we go because everybody we love, everybody we smile at, and everybody we shake hands with gets a little piece of the Kingdom through that contact.

We take Christ, we take his life and take his love. We take his friendship and joy, acceptance and nurture and support and encouragement and all the things that we are experiencing right now in these moments, and we share it with everybody we know in all kinds of little ways. Most of them are not even words. Most of them just the way we connect with family, friends, strangers, whoever else whose paths we cross this week.

Behold, the Kingdom of God is within and among you. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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