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Description: Isn't belief in something or someone more than just intellectual assent, more than an emotional response, more than what we can touch and see?
The Kingdom of God
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
In America the difficulty is not to find anybody talking about Christianity — the difficulty is to find what real Christianity is. Because there are so many versions of it in our nation and itís so easy for you and me, who kind of like doing what we want to do anyway, to regard it as a kind of religious supermarket. You just go along until you get the product that suits you and all that does, of course, is prepare you for everlasting hell really. There is only one truth, there is only one Christian faith, there is only one right way to believe, there is only one creator and there is only one way to meet him at the end of this life. Thatís the way that is outlined in this dear Book. This is about the fifteenth year that we, as a worshipping fellowship, have studied the Book of Romans in the New Testament here in the Bible. We have studied the Book of Romans because it is the clearest and most ordered outline that God has given us of what Christianity is. Itís almost as close to a systematic theology that you could find. The Book of Romans has been at the base of every mighty movement of God, right from Martin Luther through to John Wesley up to our present day. Every movement of God has started with the rediscovery of the truths of Romans. It was a letter you remember that Paul wrote in 57 A.D. to the Christians at Rome. It outlined what Christianity was about. And so this is the 15th year that we have been studying this book. We try to do it almost consecutively every Sunday verse by verse just breaking at times to deal with some other subjects that we have dealt with over the past maybe two or three months.
So, loved ones, letís get back to it together now if you would look at Romans. The next verse is Romans 14:17 “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Do you remember Paulís talking about ìadiaphoraî? He is talking about ìadiaphoraî, itís a Greek word that means, those ethical questions about which faithful Christians have honest disagreements. We would say maybe war and pacifism. Thatís one of the ìadiaphoraî many of us here would probably differ about in our attitude to pacifism or attitude to war or it might be evolution. Different ones of us here who are faithful Christians would have different opinions on evolution. So thatís what adiaphora are and you remember Paul was dealing specifically with those young Jewish Christians who came into the church and looked at the older Christians and said, “You are not observing the Jewish laws about food, you are eating meat and you are eating meat that Jews arenít allowed to eat, you are wrong and you are not worthy of bearing the name of Christ.” They were kind of critical of the older Christians. Paul said, “Look there is only one right attitude in that situation and that is on both sides real love and forbearance.
You who are younger and are ready to put the world right and to criticize everybody else for not doing the right thing, will you please show humility and love and forbearance towards these older people? And will you stop trying to impose what you think on everybody else? And then, you who are older and more mature; donít take advantage of your liberty about eating meat, if by doing that, you put a stumbling block in the way of somebody else. Maybe it is right for you to eat any kind of meat you want, but donít take advantage of that, if itís putting somebody else off Jesus. Probably with us today, maybe, it would be drinking alcohol. I would say honestly, that we would differ, there are many of us who would differ here this morning about alcohol, whether you drink any or how much you should drink or whether you should drink none. I would say that there are honest faithful children of God here this morning who differ from others about that. Paul is saying, “Look, donít you criticize other people. And you who feel you have liberty about it, donít take advantage of your liberty. If by doing that, youíre driving somebody away from Jesus.î So thatís really what Paul is talking about and then you see he goes into this verse and you could look at it and see how it runs after that context. Romans 14:17: “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Now, with every great truth in Godís word, Satan is always eager to get alongside you and me and misinterpret it. Now I think he tries to do it with this. He gets alongside you and me and he says, “Thatís right brother, Amen, the kingdom of God is not concerned with food and drink. Itís not concerned with petty particular little ethical questions like that. Itís not concerned with things that we have to do and we havenít to do. The kingdom of God is something much more abstract, much more ill-defined than that. Itís something that can be adapted to our individual wishes and our individual preferences and our individual interpretations. In fact, the kingdom of God is not food and drink. Itís not do this, donít do that, itís righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. And each man and women can interpret that as he or she wishes.î And the danger there, loved ones, is that if you felt that kind of response towards this verse then your response is not coming from a great mature spiritual life. Itís coming from a kind of immature spiritual life that is eager to get away from any kind of obedience and is eager to interpret the kingdom of God in a wishy-washy general way. So much so that youíd fail to see how radically different it is from the world.
And, brothers and sisters, it is true, the kingdom of God is not arguing over evolution, itís not disagreeing about pacifism, itís not agreeing about abortion, itís not concerned with that kind of thing. But still the kingdom of God is radically different from the kingdom of this world. And some of you may say, “Well, now, itís no big deal anyway, is it? I mean we wonít know what the kingdom of God is like; we donít know whether weíre in it or out of it, until after we die.” Well, loved ones, thatís not what Jesus says. Some of us have the idea that thatís why itís called the kingdom of heaven at times. The kingdom of God is called the kingdom of heaven, because itís all going to be in the future some time.
No, the kingdom of God is called the kingdom of heaven because it exists at this very moment in heaven and the kingdom of God here on earth is meant to continue in existence. Thatís why in the Lordís prayer we pray, ìThy will be done, Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.î Jesus made it very clear that the kingdom of God is not just in the future; you donít have to die to be part of the kingdom of God. Itís one of those strange verses that many of us have wondered how we should interpret at times. Mark 9:1. “And he said to them, ëTruly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” Hear Jesus saying it, ìthere are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.î In another words, he says you donít need to die to enter the kingdom of God. In fact, there are some standing here listening to me, he said, who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God coming with power.
When did that take place? Look at Acts 2:1, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Thatís the coming of the kingdom of God. Thatís the kingdom of God in power. Many of us used to think the kingdom of God coming to earth was the activities of Christians in reforming the prisons or in reforming human rights, or improving the lot of the downcast in society. You remember Jesus said, “No, my kingdom is not of this world. Itís not those things.” The kingdom of God is the domain of the king. Kingdom comes from king and dom, which is part of the Latin word ìdominosî which means Lord. The kingdom of God is the domain of the king — itís the rule of the king. And wherever the rule of the king takes place; there is the kingdom of God. Thatís why Jesus could say to us the kingdom of God is within you.
When the rule of the king is taking place in your heart, the kingdom of God is there. Wherever the kingdom of God is actually manifested in people changing and being changed, there is the kingdom of God. Itís, in fact, what Jesus referred to when John the Baptist sent some disciples and asked, “Look, are you the kingdom of the Messiah or should we look for another?” Do you remember the way Jesus answered? Itís in Matthew 11:5, “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.” And you see what Jesus said in verse 4, ìAnd Jesus answered them, ëGo and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.í” Thatís the kingdom of God when men and women are changed. When blind people see and deaf people hear, when people are healed. Thatís the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is Jesus ruling in life here on earth and changing things.
You and I have a tendency to say, ìWell now, I mean if you are born of God, then arenít you in the kingdom?î Do you remember in John 3, Jesus said unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God. So being born again is a vital primary condition for seeing the kingdom of God. But no it isnít. Everybody who thinks they are born of God is not necessarily experiencing the kingdom of God. And if you say to me, ìOh, no you canít be born again and lose your life.î Loved ones, itís very tricky to try to prove that you have been born again, if at this moment you are dead. The way to prove you have been born again is that you are alive and you are experiencing all the things that people who are born again experience. Jesus himself implied through Paul, through His Holy Spirit, that there were people who thought of themselves as born of God and yet werenít going to be part of the kingdom of God because they werenít at this moment. They were not experiencing the rule of the King in their lives.
And you remember itís a verse that we referred to before. Itís Galatians 5:19, “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.” There is an absolute difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. The kingdom of this world is filled with strain and anxiety and worry, itís filled with resentment and bitterness and anger and sarcasm. The kingdom of God is filled with confidence and faith and peace and joy and love and kindness.
Brothers and sisters, you can tell which kingdom you are in. Stop arguing about whether you are born again or not. Which kingdom are you living in? Are you experiencing the domain of the king, the rule of the king in your life? If you are, then your life has the freedom from captivity and the freedom from imprisonment to evil habits that Jesus brings. But if you are not experiencing those things and you are living in the midst of the kingdom of this world and you are constantly being fraught with anxiety and worry and strain and bitterness and sarcasm and antagonism, then realize you are living in the kingdom of this world. And that is not Godís plan for you. And if you say to me “Oh, brother, how could I be if I believe these things, how could I be in the kingdom of this world?” Oh, brothers and sisters, because of Matthew 7:21. Jesus knew the danger of these days and He gave us good guidance. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
Itís not enough to have respect for Jesus. Itís not enough even to believe in Jesus. Being in the kingdom of God is doing what he tells us to do. Itís obeying his commands. Itís letting his rule be made real in our lives and then the kingdom comes into our life and frees us and delivers us from self and from the powers of this world. But the kingdom of God is the actual rule of the king. Itís not the king who is sitting up there on his throne, and us bowing down to him and saying, ìYes master, yes master.î Itís not that. Itís the king having his way in our hearts and lives every day in our lives. Itís the moment when the tire blows out on the freeway and you look up to the king and say, ìLord, I thank you that you are working all things according to your willî and the peace of the kingdom of God, through the Holy Spirit, flows into your heart. It is not the tire blowing out and youíre saying, ìAh, this would happen to me, it always happens to me on a snowy day.î It isnít, loved ones, and we do need to see it. It was just so plain to me with our dear friend Susan standing on the snowy slope with yet another rib cracked from metastasis disease that the cancer has brought. It was such a clear witness when she stood there about to go down on the sled with her little four year old son and she said, ìI believe God has healed me. I believe he has made me whole.î
That is obedience to the rule of the king. That is acting in accordance with your faith. That is fulfilling the condition for the kingdom and the deliverance of the kingdom life to take place in your life. Thereís another good verse that we have mentioned before. Itís 1 Corinthians 4:20, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” The kingdom of God is not talk, talk, talk. Itís not talk about the moral majority, talk about abortion, talk about church life, talk about theories, talk about heaven, and talk about the end days. The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power; power in your life, delivering you from self and from the tempers of self and from the weaknesses of self and from the inadequacies of your life at work and your life at home. Thatís what the kingdom of God is. Itís actual deliverance.
And how does it come about? All through faith, through faith. Faith in what? Faith in Colossians 1:13: “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” Itís faith in that. So, you get up in the morning and the darkness descends upon you and all the worries and anxieties of the day ahead fill your own heart. At that moment you act. Because thatís what the kingdom of God is. Itís not about talk. Itís not about believing. Itís about acting. Faith is action. At that moment, you act and you open that poor, old mouth with the air that isnít so fragrant in it and you open that mouth and you say, “Lord I thank you, that in Jesus you have delivered me out of the kingdom of darkness and translated me into the kingdom of your beloved son and that is where I dwell at this moment. And in him and in his kingdom all the difficulties of this day have already been overcome and have already been solved. I thank you for that, Lord.” And you get up and have your All Bran cereal and coffee. Thatís it. Itís action, loved ones.
The way to experience the kingdom of God is to act and speak and do the things that you know are true. That God has raised all of us up in Jesus to his right hand and there he has overcome all the power of the enemy in our lives and the kingdom of God is made real in your life when you act like that. Do you realize that as Peter and John came to the temple and the guy asked for alms, do you realize that Peter didnít know any more than you know that the man would actually be healed? In other words, he didnít have a whole filling inside in his heart rising up and say, ìI really feel full of faith, I just feel full of faith and I know I can just lift that guy up.î He didnít say that at all. He just believed that Jesus had borne that manís sickness and carried his pain. Peter put out his hand and touched him and said, ìIn the name of Jesus Christ, be healed.î Itís acting, you act, you just act in absolute faith that God has already done these things in Jesus. Then as you begin to do that in your life, you begin to move in the kingdom of God.
If you say to me, ìDo you mean some Christians donít live in the kingdom of God?î You know they donít. They call themselves Christians but they are just believers, just believers. They are dead believers, easy believers but they donít know the kingdom of God — they donít move in power. They donít see things being changed in their lives or in the lives of their friends. They keep it all inside in their head as theory but they never go out and act on the thing in absolute faith and confidence, because they are afraid of having egg on their face. And they lose everything, even with clean faces, but they lose everything. They move in the realm of mental belief and theory and they hop from one place to another and never are delivered. Loved ones, the kingdom of God is not food and drink but it is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit and it comes through acting in faith.
Now, you can begin it this very minute, you can. I donít know how you are with your finances, or how you are with the family situation or with your job. But at this very moment you can exercise faith that in Jesus, who died for all therefore all have died, you have been delivered out of the kingdom of darkness, and you have been translated into the kingdom of his beloved Son. And in that kingdom all things have been rectified and you can take that stand this very moment in regard to any of those things in your life. You can step into the kingdom of God and out of the kingdom of theory and the kingdom of easy believism and vague mental theories. Will you do it?
Will you step out right now? If you say to me, “Whatís the mark of it?î Youíll know because worry goes from you immediately and anxiety fades away from you. As you re-orientate all your thoughts and all your feelings in the light of what you know to be a fact — that you have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of His beloved Son — and there Jesus has absolute power and has already rectified all the things in your life.
What I think would be good if at the end of every morning service I try to always have a hymn. And if ever you just want to walk up to the altar to commit yourself and make a stand, do that. If you do that and then just go back, you are in Him. I think we should always have that as a normal pattern of Sunday morning so that you can take the first step in faith which is action.
Do you experience the kingdom of God in your life? Do you want to move out of theory and out of easy believism into the kingdom of God? Then exercise faith this morning. Exercise faith and begin to go into work tomorrow morning with a light heart and in peace. Letís pray.
Father, how we do thank you that the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink. It is not a matter of arguing over ethical behavior, but it is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. It is seeing the rule of a king made real in our lives. It is you, Lord Jesus, freeing us and delivering us from all the evil habits that have dogged our steps for years. It is you moving mightily in circumstances and changing them because we believe and have faith and move out in action on that faith. Lord, we step into that kingdom of God this morning and we trust you to manifest it in our lives right from this very moment for your glory. Amen.