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Sunday, November 11, 2018

What Did Jesus Mean When He Said "The Kingdom Of God Is Within You"

This is the manuscript of a sermon I preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles, CA on Sunday November 11, 2018.  Today is Veterans Day a day we thank and celebrate all the men and women who have served in the US military to protect this nation and insure our freedoms. We exercised one of those freedoms this past Tuesday when we voted.  Today I want to talk about another nation or kingdom...the Kingdom of God. To hear the audio click on the YouTube image at the end of the manuscript.  

Today is Veterans Day a day we thank and celebrate all the men and women who have served in the US military to protect this nation and insure our freedoms. We exercised one of those freedoms this past Tuesday when we voted.  To all the veterans; thank you for your service.  You served this nation the United States of America. Today I want to talk about another nation or kingdom, the Kingdom of God.

I've heard many times in sermons, in fact I've heard it recently in sermons that the Kingdom of God is within you.  That phrase “the Kingdom of God” is part of an answer to a question that the Pharisees asked Jesus.

Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV)20  Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21  nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."

What Is The Kingdom Of Heaven?

The Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are synonymous.   So if in this sermon I say Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God I'm talking about the same thing.  The phrase “Kingdom of God” occurs 68 times in 10 different New Testament books, while “Kingdom of heaven” occurs only 32 times, and only in the Gospel of Matthew.  Jesus even uses the two terms interchangeably.

Matthew 19:23-24 (NKJV)23  Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven.24  And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." (Bold mine).

Let's see what He meant by His answer, the Kingdom of God is within you.

The Greek word translated “within”, in this scripture is entos, which is translated various ways.  It is translated “within” in several versions including the one I just read which is the NKJV.  It is translated among you” in the NLT, and “in the midst of you” in the ESV. Earlier versions of the NIV had “within you” with a marginal note suggesting “among you.”

Since Jesus was answering the Pharisees the “within you” translation is not the best translation because Jesus was surely not saying that the Kingdom of God was within the Pharisees’ hearts. These people opposed Jesus and had no relationship with God.  Jesus even called them hypocrites.

Matthew 23:27 (NKJV)  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.

So the best translations of entos, in the context that Jesus used it are “in the midst of you” or “among you”

The Jewish leaders were looking for the Messiah to come and lead the nation of Israel in a successful liberation from their captors the Romans.  Instead here was Jesus talking about a Kingdom that called for repentance and loving your enemies.  Many people believed that Jesus was that Messiah who was going to free them from Rome.  That's why the Pharisees asked the question trying to get Jesus to say something that they could use against Him. 

If Jesus answered in a way that indicated that He was about to lead an armed revolt the Pharisees could notify the Romans who would arrest Him and if His answer was that one that indicated that He was not the Messiah that the people were looking for who would free them, He would lose the big crowds of followers.

The people of Israel were looking for a military Messiah. So they viewed the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven as a literal place, like the physical nation of Israel today or the United States.         

However, the Kingdom of God is a spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of those who become part of His Kingdom.  Jesus told Nicodemus how a person could become a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

You remember Nicodemus he was the Pharisee who came to Jesus at night because he didn't want his fellow Pharisees to see him.

 John 3:3-6 (NKJV)3  Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

The Kingdom Of God Is Not Just About Heaven

A big misconception of many Christians is that the Kingdom of God is all about a place called heaven, our home after death.  However, the Kingdom of God is not all about the future and strictly speaking it’s not a place.
When we hear the word "Kingdom," we think of a nation or empire controlled by officials and while this was certainly part of the ancient imagination that gave birth to the idea of "the Kingdom of God," it cannot fully encompass it.  The Kingdom of God is not a place really although when Jesus returns His Kingdom will be a literal place, covering the entire earth.
Revelation 21:1-4 NKJV Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and  be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Today it’s more what the Kingdom is like, instead of where it is.  
Jesus talked a lot about the Kingdom of God, and He demonstrated what the Kingdom really is.  He healed people, He blessed people, and He comforted people.  He brought us face-to-face with the Kingdom.

The Kingdom Of God Is Not Just A Place

So what is the Kingdom of God like?  What is the character of the Kingdom of God?
The kingdom of God impacts actions, thoughts, relationships, families, institutions, and governments. In the end, it will touch everything on earth, when God’s will is fully done on earth “as it is in heaven.”
When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray.  He starts that model prayer by asking that His Father’s Kingdom come and be on earth as it is in heaven.
We sing it every week.
Matthew 6:9-10 (NKJV) 9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.10 Your Kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
When He answered the Pharisees’ question He was telling them that the Kingdom had already begun right under their noses.
This kingdom arrived with the coming of Christ, who urged his hearers to repent because the “kingdom of God is at hand.”
Mark 1:14-15 NKJV Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Christians are now part of that kingdom.
Colossians 1:13-14 NKJV He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

Even though we are waiting for the full expression of God’s kingdom that will come in glory and power at the return of Christ, we are at this time living under the reign of God as his people—we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.
In Scripture the kingdom of Heaven must be understood as something that is already here on earth but not yet fully present. In other words, the kingdom of God has been inaugurated but not yet consummated.
The kingdom of heaven is what the writer of Hebrews said the faith heroes were looking forward to.
 Hebrews 11:13-15 NKJV. They all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.
 This Kingdom has started on earth in a most unexpected and unnoticed way – like a mustard seed.  Jesus described it in a parable.
Matthew 13:31-32 NKJV Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
The picture painted in this parable is of humble beginnings experiencing an explosive rate of growth. It grows large and becomes a movement that impacts people everywhere. 

So Where Is The Kingdom Of Heaven

The kingdom of God is neither up in heaven nor limited to human hearts, but is something we ought to experience in all aspects of our earthly life.
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount which is recorded in Matthew 5 through 7 talks about the present reality of the Kingdom of Heaven
Matthew 5:3 (NKJV) "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:10 (NKJV) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
 The kingdom of Heaven is not something that is part of the political systems of this world. No government on earth truly represents God’s kingdom. Our hope is not that the governments of this world will transform into the kingdom of God, but that the kingdom of God will come from heaven to earth in power and glory.
How does the kingdom of God come from heaven to earth?
It does not come through moral reform and social justice, which is a good thing but can lead to a very liberal view of lifestyle and sin. It does not come through political processes either which can also be good but taken to legalistic extremes.
The Bible teaches that God’s kingdom only comes as God’s people preach God’s Word, which, coupled with God’s Spirit, produces life and obedience.
God’s Word and Spirit change the hearts of sinners such that they are rescued out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of His Son Jesus.
Colossians 1:13-14 NKJV  He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
When Jesus said pray “Thy kingdom come, Jesus is not talking about God’s sovereign will because that is already set both in heaven and already on earth. 
He is asking the Father to reshape the hearts of every single person such that God is obeyed and glorified by men.  When the kingdom of God is in the hearts and lives of the lost, they begin to obey God. Today, we know that reality only in part. When Jesus returns we will experience that reality completely.
 To seek God’s kingdom coming to earth is to declare our great need for God’s presence, provision, love, and redemption. We have been given a mandate of the highest importance from our King of kings. We are to carry the Kingdom of God with us everywhere we go and release this Kingdom through everything we do. We are called by Jesus to bring heaven to earth.
Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

You and I are made to make an eternal impact far greater than you can imagine. God wants to use us to release his love, grace, peace, mercy, and redemption to others in desperate need of Him. He longs to call us out from the daily grind of life into a higher pursuit of seeing the earth transformed by His goodness.
Seeing heaven come to earth all starts with declaring your need of God. It all starts with drawing a circle around yourself and allowing God to transform you from the inside out. You are not called to minister to others in your own strength. You are not called to figure out how to best love people. You aren’t even called to muster up a desire to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. All the weight of eternal impact rests on the shoulders of your heavenly Father. All that is required of you is to take time to let God love you, fill you with the desires of His heart, and follow his leadership into the fulfillment of those desires.

Let the fruit of the spirit he has planted in you through the Holy Spirit grow and mature.

Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

God wants to bring the kingdom to earth through you. No matter who your friends are or where you find yourself, God wants to bring the Kingdom to earth everywhere around you. If you will say yes every day to the adventure of being used by God, your life will begin to take on a whole new purpose so much more fulfilling than anything you’ve previously experienced. May you see God’s Kingdom come to earth through your life today.

Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV “The Lord  bless you and keep you; The Lord  make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ’

Sermon Audio

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