EPIC : The Kingdom Advances by Rick Shurtz

We continued our series at Gateway Church in Austin called Epic!

To get the most out of this series, read through the daily Scripture readings and the Next Steps with your family, with running partners, or in a life group.

Rick Shurtz spoke at Gateway McNeil and I spoke at Gateway South. You can hear the message from McNeil here and listen to my message below (along with a special update on the property and a sneak peek at the new series with John Burke at the 31 minute mark):

Here are notes from the message:

How MUCH does our presidential election matter?

I word that question very carefully.

  • Presidential elections matter.
  • Government matters.
  • Leadership matters.
  • Policy matters.

So I don’t ask, “Will it matter?”

It will. It does.

I ask, “How MUCH will it matter?”

Is there a presidential candidate, or a candidate for any office, that will truly fix our world’s problems.

Our world has countless problems:

  • Poverty problems.
  • Terrorist problems.
  • Economic problems.
  • Crime problems.
  • Education problems.
  • Problems with hate and racism.

Is there a candidate, that if we give him or her four years or eight years, at the end of their presidency we will say…

“There are no more problems!”

“If problems are like weeds, he or she pulled the weeds up by the roots!” 

Public policy—laws– trim the weeds, maybe even slow weeds down from spreading, but public policy doesn’t typically pull weeds up by the root.

For the past six weeks, we have been in our Epic series where we have looked at Scripture’s storyline. The story line from Genesis to Revelation.

I have a question for us today:

Does this epic storyline do anything for the weeds?

  • Does the storyline of Scripture do anything for the weeds I see in society, the big picture?
  • Does the storyline of Scripture do anything for the weeds I see in my life, my own individual picture?

Sometimes we may think: “If God is truly loving, why doesn’t he do something?! Why doesn’t he fix all of this?!”

This epic storyline is God’s answer to that question.

It’s his, “This is what I’m doing. This is how I’m responding. This is what I’m doing to fix what’s gone wrong.”

With that in mind, consider if you would, a curious event in the life of Christ. Jesus is astounding the crowds. People believe he is the Messiah, and they assume he will rid Israel of the Romans who have been oppressing them.

So it’s in this context, that this happens:

Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. John 6:15

“I’m not running for office…” he effectively says. “I’m not taking on Rome, I’m not taking on the republicans, I’m not taking on the democrats, I’m not taking on any of that. I’m NOT interested in your public office.”

Jesus has this ground swell of support, that could lead to a revolution, that could propel him to the top of the ticket, yet he takes a pass.

The judges, kings, poets, and prophets all spoke about the Kingdom to come, the everlasting Kingdom of the Messiah.

Even Jesus spoke a great deal about the Kingdom!

  • He went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom… – John 4:23
  • Jesus … proclaimed… the good news of the kingdom … – Matthew 9:35
  • Jesus said… “the kingdom … has come near.” – Matthew 3:2
  • Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom… – Matthew 4:23
  • As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom … has come near.’ – Matthew 10:7

So what is going on?

I’m convinced Jesus didn’t target ousting Rome, because Rome wasn’t the true problem. Rome has never been the problem. Jesus didn’t go after any of these things, because he wasn’t interested in trimming weeds.

Hear carefully what Jesus says about his kingdom and who will be part of it:

“I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they experience a new birth.” – John 3:3

When Jesus speaks of this coming kingdom, he makes it very clear, the subjects of HIS kingdom, those that live in this circle, they’re going to experience something.

  • They’re going to experience a new birth.
  • They’re going to become new people.

Consider one of the prophecies about the Messiah found in Ezekiel:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. – Ezekiel 36:26

Put another way, “A day is coming when we’re going to fix the real problem! The real problem is not about laws and political opinions. It’s not about Rome. The real problem is not what happens out here, the real problem is what happens in here, that then manifests itself out there. If we can fix that internal problem, then we hold potential of establishing a kingdom that would be worthy of being an eternal kingdom.”

Listen to how Jesus responds to a question about the Kingdom.

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21

This kingdom, it doesn’t begin by somebody winning an election. It begins within us, a transformation of our heart and soul.

If Jesus refuses to lead a revolution to oust Rome…what does he do?

There are three events:

  • First, there’s the cross.
  • Second, there’s the resurrection.
  • Third, there’s the outpouring of God’s Spirit.

The Spirit empowered the early church, those who followed Jesus as the Messiah and King of this invisible Kingdom.

Listen to how Paul’s ministry is described:

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. – Acts 19:8

Paul’s speaking persuasively about this “kingdom of God.”

What does Paul, though, say about what happens in this kingdom. He writes:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: The old has gone, the new is here!All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. – 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

The kingdom of Christ is one made up of people who have experienced the new birth Jesus talked about. They are new creations. The old has gone the new is here.

God reconciles us to himself, and he then gives us the ministry of reconciliation.

The Scriptures gives us at least three experiences we must have to be part of this Kingdom.

1. Reconciliation

When Jesus set out to fully solve the problem, first and foremost he knew he must reconcile humanity to God.

This cross and resurrection, it brings peace between the Creator and the created. It brings about the opportunity for forgiveness of sins.

In another place we read:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:1

Our first experience, to participate in this kingdom, it is to be reconciled. To experience God’s grace, to ask God to let Christ’s death on the cross pay for our sins.

2. Transformation

Yes, God is at peace with us, but now we must be transformed, we must live in accordance with our new creation.

Scripture says this:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. – Romans 12:2

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. – Romans 8:5

There was the cross and resurrection that bring about reconciliation. There is the Spirit that brings about transformation.

We live in a new Kingdom, but the Kingdom is not yet fully here. It’s the idea of “already/not yet.” The Kingdom is fully here, but one day all will be made new and all other kingdoms will not longer exist. Jesus will return and bring with Him the Kingdom.

As a result, we experience an internal and spiritual battle. With God’s help, we can make progress to become who He created us to be.

We are to be transformed and bringing transformation to others!

3. Glorification

 

…those he justified, he also glorified. – Romans 8:30

In another place we read…

…in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. – 1 Corinthians 15:52

This is when the transformation is complete.

It’s when this life is done, and we stand in God’s presence, and we fully and completely experience God’s kingdom.

Kingdom fulfilled

Which leads to our final stop on this epic journey.

Hear carefully how revelation describes the fulfillment of all things…

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” – Revelation 11:15

 

This is why Jesus held out when they sought to make him king.

This is why he wasn’t interested in ousting Rome.

Rome would come and Rome would go.

Jesus looked forward to a day when there would be a kingdom populated not by people who may or may not be interested in the king, not by people who need laws they will never fully uphold, not by people whose hearts bubble up with countless dangerous thoughts and inclinations, but populated by a people who have been made new, made whole, made good, made right with their creator. A people who will not need the strong arm of government forcing them to do things they really don’t want to do, but who will be a people who abound in love, in peace, in joy, in kindness.

Consider this…

  • What if this epic storyline is true?
  • What if reconciliation is possible?
  • What if transformation is possible?
  • What if glorification truly is coming for those that have been reconciled and are now experiencing transformation?
  • What if this truly is an unfolding of God’s response to the world’s problems?

I would be willing to suggest that if this accomplishes what it appears to accomplish, what it claims to accomplish, I would suggest that nothing else matters.

 

 

 

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