I am going to do a flurry of posts here real quick. I realized today that I haven’t posted any of my recent messages on here. I never really knew if people benefited from them, but I heard from one person today that reads them and prints them. Good enough for me. So, I am going to post all of them we have done at CCH this fall.
Here is the first one. As always, sorry for the formatting…but I hope you are challenged by the content.
The word ‘revolution’ is kind of a cool buzz-word at the moment.
The word ‘revolution’ comes from the Latin word which means ‘to turn around.’ That’s why, when you put a record on a record player, you choose an RPM speed, over Revolutions Per Minute…the number of times your record turns around while it’s playing.
And the word conjures up a lot of images in our brains as well…
I went to our good friend Wikipedia and looked up some famous revolutions…
The American Revolution is one we are most likely all familiar with. There are also revolutions in the history of most countries…Mexico, Ireland, France, Spain and so on.
Sociologists call these ‘great revolutions.’
There are also political revolutions…where governments are overthrown or changed.
The ones that most of us are familiar with today are social revolutions…where old ideas are forced out and new ideas are ushered in.
…the industrial revolution. Where technology and machines began to replace people…the steam engine and cotton looms and chemicals starting doing the work that people had been doing up until that point. It changed the way work was done forever.
…the sexual revolution. Where commonplace ideas of sex began to change. What was once taboo was now talked about and practiced openly. Gay people came out of the closet and women could get the birth control pill. It changed the way we look at sex forever.
…the digital revolution. Where computers took over everything and information becomes instantaneous. We go from no computers anywhere in 1980 to computers in our dorm rooms, on our hips, and in our schools in 20 years.
So…what is a revolution?
Websters—‘a renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed.’
This is one definition…it’s the definition that applies to when we talk about our forefathers rejecting the rule of the English monarchies and setting up their own government in America.
Another definition: ‘a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something—a change in paradigm.’
And this is where we are going to hang out tonight…and what we talk about tonight will set the foundation for what we will talk about all semester.
And here is where it gets good…
I feel as though we are being called by God into a revolution of our own… a fundamental shift in thinking.
The key word…SHIFT.
From an old way of thinking to a new way…
I want to give you some examples of old ways of thinking…and we are going to talk about the shift that happens when you join the revolution.
· The only point of being a Christian is to get to heaven.
We have fallen into the trap in our culture, I think, of believing that this is true. The only reason to be a Christian is so that someday, when you die, you get to go to heaven.
And to me, that seems pretty selfish. And a lot of what you hear from TV preachers and radio shows and maybe in some churches around where you live…is that you can escape hell and live the good life in heaven.
And while that is true…is that the only point to being a Christian? Is that the only reason to call upon Jesus? So that you can go to heaven?
I don’t think it is…
Let me ask you this very challenging question: if there were no heaven and no hell, would you still follow Jesus?
If there were no motivation to get to heaven, would you still be a Christian? If there were no fear of hell, would you still be a Christian?
Or is heaven the only thing that Jesus has to offer?
If there were no heaven and no hell, would you still follow Jesus?
I hope you would…because as I read the New Testament, I become more and more convinced that Jesus offers so much more than heaven. I believe that Jesus offers us something for the here and the now…not the there and the later…but today.
Think about this: if the only thing that Jesus offers is heaven, why does he spend so much time talking about loving our enemies? After all, in heaven, there will be no enemies.
And if all Jesus offers is heaven, why does he spend so much time talking about how we handle our money? Or why does he talk about murder and hatred? Or why does he talk about adultery and lust? Or why does he talk about serving others and become least?
Because all of those things deal with the here and the now…if all Jesus offers is heaven for us later, why even spend time teaching those things? They would be irrelevant.
Jesus came not just to prepare us to die…he came to teach us how to live.
And that is the revolution…that is the shift that God is bringing in our lives…He wants us to see that there is more to following Jesus than just heaven.
It’s not just about life after death…the revolution is life during life.
In the book of John, the word “life” is found in the book 36 times…listen to some examples:
John 1:1-4 ESV
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
John 5:40 ESV
…you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
John 6:33-35 ESV
33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life…
John 8:12 ESV
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 10:10 ESV
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 14:6 ESV
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
Jesus uses that word ‘life’ over and over again…and the original Greek word for life in those passages is ‘zoe’ or Zo-A.
And that word means life in heaven…but that word also means life here and now. Jesus meant both…and we cannot ignore the life here and now for the life after death. Jesus offers and means both.
Now, don’t get me wrong…I am excited about heaven and I am excited to get there. But, I am more and more convinced that Jesus came to give us life here and now as well.
And that’s the revolution…embracing the life Jesus offers here and now.
Here and now…
Those words lead me to our next old way of thinking:
· Jesus’ Kingdom is coming when he returns or when we die and go to heaven.
The word “kingdom” is used no less than 120 times in the 4 books of the Gospels. Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God are terms that Jesus uses a lot…and they are terms that we have heard a lot about too.
But…can anyone put their finger on what exactly the Kingdom of God is?
Can anyone define the Kingdom of Heaven?
Jesus obviously had a lot to say about it…but I think the best definition we can come up with is that Jesus’ kingdom will be established when he comes back…or when we die and go to heaven.
This old way of thinking definitely piggy backs on the last old way of thinking…that Jesus just came to bring us heaven. The old way of thinking is that the Kingdom of Heaven is still on its way…
But…here again…I think God is calling us to a revolution. To turn around from this thinking and to shift to something new…
The Kingdom is not some distant vision that we have to sit around and wait for…
The revolution is this: The kingdom is here as well as there…and the kingdom is now as well as later.
Listen to some of these words:
Matthew 3:1-2 ESV
3:1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
John the Baptist is preparing the way for Jesus…and his statement to the people for their preparation is: repent, for the kingdom of heaven is here.
Where is it? It’s here. It’s not just for later…God has something for us today. The Kingdom is here.
Listen to Jesus’ own words:
Luke 17:20-21 ESV
20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
That passage could also be translated as ‘the kingdom of God is within you.’
The kingdom is here…
What does it mean that the Kingdom of God is in our midst?
Over the course of the semester, we are going to look at the Bible and see if we can find some answers to that question…
Here is what is ahead for us this semester:
Next week, we will start looking at the Kingdom Manifesto in the Bible…the Sermon on the Mount. We will spend 7 weeks working through it.
Then we will spend the rest of the semester going through the book of Matthew and looking at what we will call the Kingdom Parables. Matthew refers to the Kingdom of Heaven some 32 times…and Jesus tells us a number of parables that give us a glimpse into what the Kingdom is.
· The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field…
· The KOH is like the grain of a mustard seed or like leaven…
· The KOH is like a treasure hidden in a field or a merchant in search of fine pearls…
· The KOH is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants…
· The KOH is like the master of a house who went out to hire laborers for his vineyard…
· The KOH is like a king who gave a wedding feast for his son…
· The KOH is like 10 virgins…
We have read all of these before…and if you are like me, you maybe glossed right over them and said, ‘I don’t understand this…I think I’ll kind of skip it.’ Together, we will not skip these passages anymore but dive head first into them.
And next semester (I know that seems millions of miles away) but we are going to look at the primary law in the Kingdom of Heaven:
You can see in the word “revolution” the word ‘love.’ Next semester is going to be entirely devoted to love…love of God, love of our neighbors, love of our enemies, characteristics of love, roadblocks to love…and on and on.
Love is one of the keys to the revolution.
And I will be honest with you…we are going to wrestle through this together. I am not really the kind of guy to stand up before you and tell you how you should live or think or believe…I would much rather ask questions and we can work it through together. I hope at CCH we can create an environment to wrestle and struggle with each other…where we can ask questions and together look for answers.
Here we believe that the Bible is true and perfect…as we wrestle, this book will be our guide.
…but I want to drive home this simple fact tonight.
If the Kingdom of God is here, in our midst…then that is the truth. That means that in all the messiness and frustration and confusion of this life, Jesus and his kingdom can be found.
Let me read a quote to you by a guy named Rick McKinley in a book he wrote called “This Beautiful Mess.”
“When Jesus was on earth, He painted a radical vision for His followers. He called it the ‘kingdom of God.’ His kingdom is a heavenly reality that lands smack in the middle of everyday life. Even here, Jesus said—in the harshness and mess of earth—His kingdom is the way things really are. His announcement was nothing less than revolutionary…His followers were not quick to pick up on the revolution. They longed for another world—a world without oppressors, injustice, beggars, or messes. For three years, Jesus walked among a people overcome with longing and spread the Good News of His kingdom. And He said that His kingdom was already happening around them…Jesus invites us to live out the historical reality of His kingdom in our post-everything culture, but we have to face the hard truth: Most followers of Jesus have grown accustomed to a spirituality that doesn’t remotely resemble a revolution.” (pg. 17-18)
Let me read that last line again: “Most followers of Jesus have grown accustomed to a spirituality that doesn’t remotely resemble a revolution.”
How sad…that our faith isn’t a revolution…it isn’t a shift in paradigm or thought…it isn’t anything new…it’s old and stale. No wonder people are turned off by Jesus…they don’t see the life that he offers.
How do we change this? How do we shift from a stale, crusty, lifeless, non-revolution spirituality to the kind of radical, ground-breaking, world-shattering revolutionary faith ever?
In a word…you’re going to love this…in a word—we must repent.
If we want to usher the revolution into our lives and our faith…into our CCH community…we have to repent.
Do you know what Jesus said in his first sermon?
Mark 1:14-15 ESV
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
What does he say?
The kingdom of God is…at hand. It’s here.
And then he says…repent and believe in the gospel.
The good God-fearing Jews that Jesus was speaking to when he said this had a picture in their mind of what the kingdom was supposed to look like. They understood that they were God’s chosen people…and they believed that God’s literal kingdom over all the earth would be restored. They were waiting for the day that would establish this long-awaited kingdom.
They anticipated an actual reign by an actual king. Their king would bring freedom from oppressors and justice to all people. He would sit on the throne and God would be known as the true God over all the earth forever.
And then Jesus comes…and he says ‘the kingdom is here.’ But the people didn’t see what looked like a real king. And Jesus starts telling them that the kingdom is like leaven and mustard seed and owners of vineyards and virgins…and they say, ‘is this guy the one we were waiting for?’
And over the next three years, as Jesus was amongst them and taught them, they asked him the question one hundred different ways…’are you the king? And is this your kingdom?’ And their conclusion was…NO WAY.
They believed in the idea of the Kingdom of God…but the person of Jesus just didn’t meet their expectations.
And Jesus’ first words to them were…REPENT.
And the same goes for us today…we have expectations of what the Kingdom of God is supposed to look like. And we run the risk of missing Jesus too…just like the Jews did. And so, Jesus’ first word to us tonight is, too…REPENT.
Not a very cool word for our culture…it conjures up nasty images in our heads of preachers standing on the corner yelling at you to repent. But I don’t think Jesus says it the same way those guys do…
He is asking us to set down our assumptions of who he is and what his kingdom is like…and imagine something new.
To REPENT means to turn around…which is interesting, because didn’t we decide that the word ‘revolution’ means the same thing? Revolution and Repent mean the same thing…to turn around and go in a different direction.
Jesus is inviting us into this repentance…and into this revolution…to imagine another world, another life, another way.
He is inviting us to turn away from what we thought we knew…about him and about his kingdom. He is inviting us to turn away from our assumptions and embrace the fact that his kingdom belongs to children, and that prostitutes and tax collectors and other sinners get it, but often the religious elite don’t. He is inviting us to see the kingdom in the humble and destitute and powerless.
He is inviting us to turn…to repent and to join the revolution.
He is inviting us…and I am accepting the invitation…and I am inviting you to accept the invitation as well.
If you accept the invitation, you won’t be the same again. I can guarantee it. And our community here at CCH won’t be the same again. And our campus won’t be the same again. And our world won’t be the same again.
And it starts here…and now…with our shift, our turn…the turn of repentance and the turn of the revolution.