THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU, Luke 17:20-21 — Pete Bauer
This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on October 18th, 2015. To listen to the audio, just click on this link- sermon.
The Kingdom of God Does Not Come with Careful Observation.
The Way We Imagine The Kingdom:
- What if you could get every Christian in this county to believe and understand the Bible with conviction and with wisdom? What if every church in this county truly grasped the message of the Bible and began to really work together with one another?
- What if all of those Christians began to go out and share their faith and to convert the people of this county, so that there was an amazing revival of obedience and faith?
- What if, as a result, God began to bless this county – and not just this county, but this state – and not just this state, but this region of the United States – and not just this region, but this Nation, so that laws began to be changed and the government began to be reformed?
- And what if the U.S. began to impact the other countries around it and the rest of the world. And what if God were to set up his kingdom on this earth and heal all the world’s scars and hurts, and create a Kingdom that would take over and last forever? How could that happen?
The Pharisees had an idea. It was an idea that made Biblical sense to them. They believed that what I have just described above could happen if they could get every person to believe and to do the right things–to be faithful to the Laws of God. They believed that if they were careful and other people were careful to do the will of God – they could change the world. These were their ideals and hopes. Perhaps this sounds familiar to you…
Packaging the Kingdom and Cleaning Up the World: And so the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked him when the Kingdom of God would come. This morning I want you to think about Jesus’ answer. Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation…“ What did Jesus mean? Christians often take it as their primary duty to clean up the world. So often we hear of the need for the government to be transformed–for society to be transformed–even for the church to be transformed. If only we could create the government, society, or church that honors God on all fronts, we could change the world. This is what the Pharisees believed also–based on texts like Isaiah 11:9, “They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
But Jesus confronted this kind of thinking–the belief that the Kingdom of God can be somehow created by our careful observation, our methods, or our spiritual movements to clean up the world.
Nor Can We Locate the Kingdom of God on a Map or in a Movement.
Countries Cannot Be the Kingdom of God: When Jesus said of the Kingdom, “… nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,” he was saying that the Kingdom of God cannot be located in a place, or a nation–and he was speaking to Israelites! Jesus was saying to Pharisees, (people who were committed to the idea that Israel was God’s people and that they were–and would become–God’s Kingdom), that Israel as a place and a nation was not the Kingdom of God.
This is what Paul is getting at when he says, “… they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants… it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants” (see. Rom.9:6-12).
But there are many people who want to locate the Kingdom of God in Israel, or in the United States, as if a country formed and maintained by force of arms and economic prosperity could ever serve the purposes of the Kingdom of God.
Movements May Serve, but Are Not the Kingdom of God: In the same way, Jesus says, you cannot look at a movement and say, “Here is the Kingdom of God.” The movement of the Pharisees was a reform movement that sought to make Israel pure–but Jesus is telling them that their movement is not where the Kingdom of God is located.
These will be hard words for some people. It is, after all, easier to see and to join a movement, to think about how we can bring revival to a nation, than it is to face what Jesus says next. The reason we cannot locate the Kingdom of God in a Nation or a movement–the reason we cannot bring about a reform movement that will become the Kingdom of God by our careful observations, according to Jesus, is, “… because the Kingdom of God is within you.”
In other words, the place where God’s Kingdom is at work to create permanent change is within a person! God has chosen to address the problems of the world, primarily, by doing so one person at a time.
The Kingdom of God is Going On Within You.
Jesus’ words, here, can sound very mystical and undefined, as though the Kingdom of God is some sort of internal sensation, or sudden, immediate change of character. But this is not what Jesus is saying at all. So we need to spend the rest of our time talking about how the Kingdom of God is to be “within” us, changing us, and giving us life.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is Received Within You: The first thing that “the Kingdom of God is within you”, means is that the foundation of our faith is internal. To recognize our need for God–to receive forgiveness for sin and new life and awareness of the Holy Spirit of God as a living presence, is an internal movement. There are many ways, stories, experiences that people may have had in regard to how they received this internal gift. Some people have been aware of the presence of Jesus from their earliest childhood–some later in life. However, this most basic movement must take place in some way, internally. A Christian must have some experience of forgiveness, of the voice or presence of God’s Spirit, through conviction or joy or hope, or understanding. A person must somehow have, as Hebrews says, “… been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made a partaker of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come…” (Heb.6:4-5).
Have these things happened to you? These things are the movements of the Kingdom of God within us–not so that we would have jumped through the proper hoops, but because the heavenly gift that allows us to enter the doorway of the new/eternal life is the gift of God’s love and grace.
The Work of the Kingdom within you Consists of Inner Conversations with God: The Kingdom of God is a matter of a conversation that is taking place within you. God speaks, through convictions, through encouragements, through hearing the word of God and attending to it, through the wise counsel of trusted believers. The Spirit of God within us moves us to ask questions like…
- How have I come to love and honor God?
- Do I love God in my actions, words, thoughts?
- Do think about or talk to God during the day?
- What are the Biblical convictions that I live by?
- How do I respond to my family, my neighbor, the stranger? With love, fear, contempt, violence?
- How am I honoring or dishonoring the gift of life God has given me? How am I using my abilities, my time, my mind to honor God?
- Do I give thanks to God during my week, in my day to day life?
- Where is my life being corrupted by sin? How am I changing and turning from sin and selfishness?
The Inner Movement of the Kingdom With Us, Then Translates into Meaningful, External Action: Jesus did not say these things because he was hoping to create a church full of navel gazers who would sit around and think about their inner life while the world passed them by. Rather, Jesus realized that unless a person receives, and is changed by, the Kingdom of God within themselves, they cannot hope to have any real effect on the world around themselves. Our external actions and words are hopeless unless God is at work within us to will and to do his work (Phil.2:13). Jesus’ goal with his disciples, and with us, is to change the world one person at a time, by awakening the spirit of the person, by setting them free from sin and guilt and by gradually shaping their character in the love and holiness of God.