October 1, 2020
And as you go, preach, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 10:7).
In the western world we are not as familiar with the idea of ‘kingdom’ as our cousins ‘across the pond’. The U.S. is a republic, not a monarchy so the concept of ‘kingdom’ to us is vague at best. But even the U.K. is not a kingdom comparable to what Jesus came to bring.
The word ‘kingdom’ in this text literally means ‘reign’. The reign of heaven is the reign of God. That it is ‘at hand’ meant it had drawn (come) near. The apostles were to preach to everyone that God had come near to them in Jesus Christ.
For 400 years (Malachi to John the Baptizer) God had not spoken to Israel. Now He was speaking again to them through Jesus Christ. God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).
That same message needs to be declared (preached; taught; spoken) today - God has drawn near to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. How are people to respond? There are 3 aspects to the reign of God in our world today. 1) God reigns in the life of a person when he/she believes in and receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is called conversion, being born again, being saved. 2) God’s reign continues in a Christians life through sanctification (to be cleansed of sin; to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ [Romans 8:29]). 3) God’s reign will find its ultimate expression when Jesus establishes His Millennial Kingdom on earth (Matthew 25:31; Acts 3:19-21; Revelation 11:15; 20:4).
The story is told of 2 pastors sitting next to each other on an airplane. We’ll call them Bob and John. Bob took a small piece of paper and began writing on it until it was completely covered with words. He handed the paper to John and asked, “What does this say?” John could hardly distinguish a single letter on the paper. “What was the first word I wrote?” Bob asked. John had no idea. Bob then handed John a small blank piece of paper. “Write the name Christ on the top of this paper,” he said. John did. He then told John to write the words ‘Baptist’, ‘Presbyterian’, ‘Methodist’, ‘Episcopal’, ‘Pentecostal’, ‘dispensational’, ‘fundamental’, ‘evangelical’, ‘liberal’, ‘Protestant’ and a dozen more words that describe Christian groups. The point became clear: Jesus Christ is so often buried under a multitude of secondary matters and human interpretations that no one can understand who He really is.
After my first attempt at preaching in the preaching class at Seminary, my professor wrote across the top of the sermon manuscript K.I.S.S. I got the message - Keep It Simple, Sir.
“Lord Jesus, forgive me for taking the simple message of salvation and making it complex and confusing. Help me cut through the theological jargon to the very heart of why we are here, and that is to tell people about You and Your power to save. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”