Sunday, August 28, 2011

Missio Dei - Introduction to the Kingdom of God

Missio Dei – Kingdom of God (beginning)
Why would we begin our semester with a series on the Kingdom of God?
• The Kingdom of God is a central theme Jesus ministry and teaching. There are 76 distinct “kingdom” sayings in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
• When Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray, part of his instruction (which we call the Lord’s Prayer) includes the line about praying for God’s kingdom to come (to earth as God has willed it in heaven).
• Jesus said to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.
• Jesus told us it important to “receive” the Kingdom of God. Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Mark 10.15).
• Both Matthew and Mark introduce Jesus’ teaching ministry with sayings about the Kingdom of God: The time has come. The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news (Mark 1.15).

Definition of the Kingdom of God – when we hear the word “kingdom” we need to think of the rank, authority and sovereignty exercised by a king. In what we are talking about in the Bible, “kingdom” is the authority to rule. The kingdom is not a realm, a territory or even a people, but it is God’s reign.
The Hebrew-Christian faith expresses its hope in the terms Kingdom of God. It is deeply rooted in the OT and is grounded in the confidence that there is one eternal, living God who has revealed himself to men and who has a purpose for the human race which He has chosen to accomplish through Israel (and ultimately through Christ’s church).
God’s kingdom is his power. The territory of God’s rule is heaven and earth
Ps. 145.11, 13 – they (creation and God’s people) tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might… Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.

Kingdom of God in the Old Testament – In the OT, there are many places that God is presented as king.
Prior to the people of Israel having God select them an earthly king, the people acknowledge that God was their king.
1 Sam. 12.12 – When you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, “No, we want a king to rule over us’ – even though the Lord your God was your king.
Ps. 24.10 – Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – he is the King of glory.
Isaiah 6.5 – (after seeing god seated on his throne with his robe filling the temple), Isaiah cries out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord almighty.”
Isaiah 33.22 – for the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king, it is he who will save us.
Zephaniah 3:15 – The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm.
Also in the OT, the earthly king was understood to reign as God’s representative and be under his suzerainty. That means that a people group are allowed to rule themselves but under the watchful eye of a greater power. The earthly king was looked upon as the earthly expression of God’s rule.
We see this again in 1 Sam. 12.14 there was the understanding that the people and the earthly king were to obey the Lord and follow Him. If they did that, it would go well with them. If they did not obey (often times led by the king’s example) they were punished by the Lord.
God promised to have a descendant of King David (the greatest of the OT kings) on the throne forever.
2 Sam. 7.12-16 – God promises David that he will raise up David’s offspring to succeed him…God says, “I will establish his kingdom…I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever…Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established.
God wasn't just the king over Israel. We see in the book of Daniel that God moves the kings of all the nations. In
Daniel 1.1-2, we see that it was God who delivered the King of Judah into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands, who was the king of Babylon and the most powerful king in the world at the time. Later we hear testimony from Nebuchadnezzar in
2:47 – Surely your god is the God of gods and the Lord of kings…
And later after he is restored to power after going insane for a period of time, he praises Israel’s God by saying:
4.34-5 - His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.
In the OT, the kingdom was an emphasis on the fulfillment of God’s saving promises. The ruling power of the Lord is demonstrated at the exodus when he destroyed the Egyptians and save Israel. Israel also looked forward to the day when God’s rule would be established and their enemies thwarted. This future kingdom would be realized under a descendant of David would rule in this kingdom.

The situation of the hearers of Jesus’ ministry and their longing –
The Jewish people of Jesus day were expecting God to come in judgment and punish the wicked (Israel’s enemies) and reward the just (Israel). They were longing for deliverance.
There were differing views about how this was going to be accomplished. How was this kingdom to be ushered in? What were the people supposed to be doing to “help” God inaugurate this ultimate kingdom on earth. There were two groups within the Jewish people who thought that if the Torah (the Law of Moses, the 613 laws/commands of the first five books of the OT) were kept more faithfully, God would fulfill his promises. God would usher in his kingdom. So the people of Qumran withdrew from society and tried to become God’s perfect people as they awaited him to justify themselves. The Pharisees held to a strict observance of the Law as well because they saw that in the past, God punished his people because they neglected the Law and instead turned to false gods for worship and security.
There were other groups like the Sadducees who advocated cooperation with the Romans (who were the occupying forces). They even compromised on matters of the faith and allowed Greek culture to blend in with their worship of God.
And yet on the other extreme, there were those who were Zealots who advocated violent rebellion against their oppressors. They felt that they needed a military messiah to deliver them and usher in a localize kingdom based in Jerusalem.

Jesus’ role in inaugurating the Kingdom of God – The kingdom of God lay at the heart of Jesus’ teaching. It had continuity with the OT as well as with those Jewish people who were expecting a conquering King who would defeat their enemies and set up his throne in Jerusalem. But it also differed a little bit. The scope of Jesus’ kingdom was universal rather than limited to just the Jewish nation. It was here and now and present in him rather than just a vague hope for the future. It was connected with him personally and with his ministry.
The coming of the kingdom was the central theme of Jesus’ mission. His teaching was designed to show humanity how they might enter the Kingdom of God (Matt. 5.20; 7.21). His mighty works were intended to prove that the Kingdom of God had come upon them (Matt. 12.28). His parables illustrated to his disciples the truth of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 13.11). When he taught his followers to pray, at the heart of their petition were the words, “Your kingdom come…” (Matt. 6.10). On the eve of his death, he assured his disciples that he would share with them the happiness and the fellowship of the kingdom (Luke 22.22-30). And he promised that he would appear again on the earth in glory to bring the blessedness of the kingdom to those for whom it was prepared (Matt 25.31, 34).
So what is the good news of the Kingdom? What does it mean that Jesus brought the Kingdom of God near? It is this: that God is now acting among humanity to deliver them from the bondage of Satan. It is the announcement that God, in the person of Christ is attacking the very kingdom of Satan. Jesus casting out demons is proof that the Kingdom of God has come among people and is at work among them.

Already/not yet? – The kingdom can be explained in terms of the already/not yet. The kingdom was inaugurated in Jesus’ ministry but not yet consummated. It had arrived, but the full salvation and judgment promised had not yet come.
The kingdom is a present reality
Matt. 12.28 – If it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
And yet it is a future blessing that will only fully be realized when Jesus returns.
It is at the same time a gift of God which will be bestowed by God in the future yet we need to receive in the present.
Jesus showed in his exorcisms that the kingdom had broken into history. Jesus is invading Satan on his turf. Jesus tells us that Satan is the prince of this world and Jesus does great damage to his territory. Jesus went around healing all of those who were under the power of the devil. And yet God’s enemies had not yet been entirely removed and the people of God did not yet possess all the blessings pledge to them in the OT. The Kingdom has arrived and yet there is a day in the future when God will judge all of the enemies of his people and Jesus will be that Judge.

Our role in extending the Kingdom of God –
The story of Jesus is the story of God’s kingdom being launched on earth as in heaven. It is the story in which evil has been defeated and new creation has begun. We, as followers of Jesus, have been commissioned and equipped to put that victory into practice.
Jesus assumes his authority from his Father and invests it into his followers.
In the Great Commission, Jesus tells his followers: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations…”

Now, how do we do this? How can we properly proclaim that Jesus is king and he is ruling from heaven and that death has been defeated and that God’s new world has begun? Doesn’t this seem laughable? But, if we as the church are working on correcting these issues, if we are actively seeking justice in the world and if we are cheerfully celebrating God’s good creation and its rescue in music and art and community, and if our community is allowing that to happen in our midst, forming a new community, then that announcement makes sense.

The kingdom of God burst into the world in the person of Jesus Christ. He came in power, and his death on the cross secured victory over death. The end is no longer in doubt. And yet there is work to be done. The goal of the kingdom is to make things as they should be, restoration of all things, but it is still in process. We get to partner with God in the creation of that kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. God has left us to represent this kind of kingdom on earth and – by the power of the Holy Spirit – to move it forward. When people look at us, the church they should see restored relationships, people made whole, miracles taking place and they should say, “Oh, that’s what the Kingdom of God looks like. The church is a sign and an instrument of the kingdom. It engages in kingdom work for a kingdom agenda. The church is the Kingdom’s tool.

When we look at it that way, then evangelism is not calling people to make a decision for Jesus and be happy with that. If we as the church are engaging in the work of new creation, working toward reconciliation, peace, justice, mercy, then evangelism is a call to invite our friends, coworkers, family members to come work alongside us to extend the kingdom of God.

Your role in this story is to receive the Kingdom. What is received? It is God’s rule. In order to enter the future realm of the Kingdom, you must submit in perfect trust to God’s rule here and now. We must seek first his kingdom and righteousness, that is his rule and reign in our lives.

That’s our hope for Missio Dei. I hope you will join us on this mission.