Jesus’ death and resurrection was only part of his mission; his overall mission was to bring the kingdom of God — God’s power, presence, and reign in ordinary lives like yours and mine. Jesus brought God’s kingdom to earth, he taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come,” and he invites us to seek first God’s kingdom. The new year is a great time to review our plans for living and base our lives in 2022 on this remarkable opportunity.
You know, you can tell a lot about a person by where they get their news.
If people are on one side of the political spectrum, they tend to get their news from one news source. If they’re on the other side, they tend to get it from another source.
I thought it would be fun to learn more about this, so I’m going to ask everyone to say out loud, where is the main place you get your news?
We’ll all say it out loud together, that way no one will hear you because we’ll all be saying something. We’ll do it altogether on the count of three. Here we go. One…two…three.
Wow! I was hoping you would say the Bible is where you get your news. In particular, I was hoping you would say you get it from Jesus.
Many people don’t realize Jesus was actually in the news business.
My wife’s favorite source for news is a great-looking reporter. He’s a muscular guy who’s strong and sensitive, has great big white teeth, a very soothing voice, and dresses like a million dollars. He’s my wife’s favorite news reporter.
My favorite news reporter is Jesus.
Just before the Sermon on the Mount we’re told:
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria… (Matthew 4:23-24)
Now there’s a very important distinction in this text. We’re told Jesus teaches. He gives instruction or advice on how to live.
But we’re also told he preaches or he proclaims.
Now we often associate preaching with telling people what to do, but the word was not used that way in the first century. It was not even a religious word. It was a news word.
Jesus went around announcing something that had happened. News.
And it was not just news. It was good news!
The Greek word for this in the New Testament is euaggelion.
It’s from a little particle eu- that means good.
“Eulogy” is good word.
“Euphoria” is good feeling.
“Europe” is good rope.
Anyway, eu- is good; -aggelos means messenger. We get our word angel from that.
That’s also where the word evangelical comes from.
“Evangelical” is a word that has been trashed pretty bad in our day.
True story. There’s a denomination called the Evangelical Free Church. I attended Trinity graduate school in Chicago. It’s a seminary that’s affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church.
A woman went to visit a church in Southern California that’s part of the Evangelical Free denomination. She didn’t like evangelicals.
She figured if a sugar-free soda is a drink with no sugar, if caffeine-free means there is no caffeine, then an Evangelical Free Church is a church with no evangelicals in it.
Now, in the first century, evangel just meant good news or gospel. That’s what Jesus went around announcing.
Now, the question is: what is the good news Jesus went around announcing?
It sounds like a simple question, but if someone were to ask you that, how would you respond? What would you say?
What is the good news Jesus went around proclaiming?
I’ll tell you a deep, personal conviction based on a lot of experience.
I think the vast majority of people and the vast majority of churches in America — churches that teach the Bible — would not give the same answer to that question that the writers of Scripture give.
What is the good news Jesus went around proclaiming?
I’m going to read several verses of Scripture. I’d like you to think about what the gospel is.
Jesus had one message he came to proclaim. What was that one message?
In Mark 1:14 and 15, this is Mark’s summary of Jesus’ message:
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming — the gospel — the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
After Jesus chose his disciples, he adopted a strategy to communicate the gospel to everyone he could. Luke 8:1
After this, Jesus traveled about from one town to another proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.
When he sent his disciples out on a preaching mission, he sent them to proclaim just one message. Luke 9:1
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God.
After Jesus rose from the dead — after the resurrection — he gathered his followers together, and he spoke to them about one topic. Acts 1:3
He appeared to them [this was after his resurrection] over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
The very last glimpse we have of the early church in the Book of Acts, the last verse of the last chapter is of the Apostle Paul in chains in Rome. Paul is proclaiming one truth.
Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God.
If you were going to say what Jesus’ gospel is about in one phrase, what would that one phrase be?
The kingdom of God.
More specifically, the only gospel Jesus came to proclaim is this:
The kingdom of God — that is, God’s power and presence and reign — has now become available to ordinary human beings like you and me.
You can live in it if you want to.
You can walk right on in.
That’s Jesus’ gospel.
It’s the only gospel he ever preached.
This is something I believe very deeply to be desperately tragic — millions and millions of Christians in our day have substituted another gospel.
They wouldn’t put it in these words, but this is the gospel a lot of people just carry around with them in their minds. This is what they think: the gospel is the minimal entrance requirements for getting into heaven when you die.
They really think the gospel is the proclamation of the minimal entrance requirements that will get you into heaven when you die. The gospel is your ticket for getting in. That’s it.
They don’t put it in those words, but that’s it.
I’ll give you a little picture of this.
A few years ago, when Hamilton first came to San Francisco, some of our friends generously gave Kathy and me their tickets which were very difficult to get at the time. I think I remember tickets selling for over $1,000 apiece at the time.
Well we had tickets which meant we were allowed to see the show.
It didn’t matter that we weren’t wealthy. It didn’t matter that we didn’t have expensive jewelry or fancy clothes, or a chauffeur to drop us off in front of the theater in our limo.
We had tickets! They had to let us in.
Well, a lot of people think of the gospel as the arrangement where you get a ticket to Heaven so they have to let you in.
They think of the gospel as the announcement of the minimal entrance requirements (what you have to believe, pray, or do) for getting into heaven when you die.
The tragic result is for millions of people who follow Christ, there’s no connection between their misunderstanding of the gospel and their everyday life.
Here’s the problem for any of you who have read the Bible — where in the New Testament does Jesus ever say, “Now I’m going to tell you the minimal entrance requirements for getting into heaven when you die?”
Where does Jesus ever say that?
He never does… but in thousands of churches that’s the way the gospel is presented. “I’m going to give you the minimal entrance requirements so you can get the heaven deal done.”
That’s not Jesus’ gospel.
Here is Jesus’ gospel — this is a brilliant paraphrase of Mark 1:15, which summarizes his gospel.
This is from Dallas Willard — who was, I think, the best writer in our day about the truth of the kingdom of God.
This is just a profound paraphrase of what Jesus said:
All the preliminaries have been taken care of, and the kingdom of God is now accessible to everyone. Review your plans for living, and base your life on this remarkable opportunity.
That’s Jesus’ gospel — all the preliminaries are taken care of — all the work that God has been doing in the people of Israel to shape an understanding of who he is and what his life is about, it has all reached its fulfillment in time.
Now, God’s reign, God’s power, and God’s presence are directly available to anyone who wants them.
“So repent,” Jesus says, which is a word about the way you think.
Review your plans for living — think it out again… and believe, trust, risk your life, abandon your life, base your life on this remarkable opportunity.
That’s Jesus’ gospel.
Of course Jesus’ gospel includes the promise of the forgiveness of our sin as a gift of grace.
Of course Jesus’ gospel includes the promise that death will not have the last word, that our eternal life with God will never, ever cease.
Of course Jesus’ gospel includes these things, but it includes more than that.
Jesus came to bring the kingdom of God.
So many people think the only real reason Jesus came to earth was just to die on a cross, and he was just kind of treading water until then.
The truth is — Jesus’ death on the cross was just one part of his mission; his overall mission was to bring the kingdom of God.
In Matthew 6 Jesus is speaking to people who believe in God, but are tempted to waste their life worrying about the same stuff everyone else worries about:
What am I going to eat?
What am I going to drink?
What am I going to wear?
What kind of job will I get?
How much money will I make?
How big of a house can I afford?
Will I be successful?
What kind of title will I earn?
How high up the ladder am I going to climb?
Everything is about my little kingdom.
Jesus says in Matthew 6:32:
For the pagans run after all these things
And the irony is Christians who don’t understand Jesus’ gospel end up, for all practical purposes, spending their lives running after the same thing that people who don’t know God run after.
The pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first his [what?] kingdom and his righteousness [which simply means right living — the wonderful living that characterizes the person in the realm of God.] and all these things will be given to you as well.
And then God will take care of everything else you need.
I’ll devote my life to this, every breath I’ve got — that we understand that Jesus had one gospel… and his one gospel was the gospel of the availability of the kingdom.
His one purpose was to model the kingdom, to manifest the reality of the kingdom in his life.
His miracles weren’t done simply to impress people, but were done to manifest the reality and the nature of the kingdom of God in this world.
Jesus’ one command to people was to seek first the kingdom.
His one plan was for his church to extend the kingdom of God.
Yet the tragic truth is millions of people today who claim to be Christians could not tell you what the kingdom is.
So we’re going to be students of his kingdom for the next several months as we study the Sermon on the Mount. This is what Jesus is after in the Sermon on the Mount.
So we’re going to study it.
We’re going to read about it.
We’re going to pray about it.
We’re going to think about it.
We’re going to talk about it in small groups.
We’re going to be obsessed with it.
We’re going to get enamored with it.
And then we’re going to devote our lives to it — living in it and extending it… because it is the gospel — the kingdom of God is now available to ordinary people like you and me.
You can live in it if you want to.
I want to spend the rest of our time today talking about a basic understanding of the kingdom of God.
His news is the kingdom of God is available.
Now, this can be difficult to understand because we don’t use the word kingdom much.
So let’s talk for a moment about what a kingdom is, because we tend to think of a kingdom as thrones and castles.
I want to start by saying… we all have a kingdom.
Your kingdom is that little sphere in which what you say goes.
We see this way back in Genesis. We’re told:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)
See, that’s kingdom language — “rule over.” It can also be translated, “Let them have dominion.” Or “Let them reign.” “Let them have influence.”
That’s part of being made in the image of God.
Your kingdom is the place where you have dominion… starting with your body.
Yeah, your body.
It’s what we see in a little child when they learn to walk, talk and say no. They’re learning their body is their kingdom.
What’s a two-year-old’s favorite word?
What’s that two-year-old learning?
That he’s got a kingdom. She’s got a kingdom.
That’s a real important word.
When little kids are in the back seat of the car with other little kids sitting next to them… they draw a line. “You better not cross over this line. This is my kingdom.”
And they start defending their little kingdoms. They go to war against each other.
And then their dad turns around — whose kingdom does Dad think the car is?
He thinks it’s his kingdom.
“Don’t make me come back there!”
And the kids are thinking, “Sure — come back here while the car is going 65 miles an hour down the freeway.”
And of course Dad can’t go back personally, so he sends Mr. Hand back there… like a snake just groping around.
Then the kids retreat to the little corner of their kingdom where Mr. Hand can’t get them.
Ken Davis has advice on how to get them out of the unreachable safety zone…
A tap on the brakes brings them right into play — “Thy kingdom come.”
So there’s your body, there’s the space around your body. That’s why if someone gets in your face, they violate your kingdom.
Then your possessions. Maybe your home.
When we lived in Sunol we would drive to the top of Kilkare and hike the Pleasanton ridge.
One time I was out by myself and a man came out of his house and asked what I was doing up there. He said it was private property.
He started screaming at me that I was on private property, his property, and he unleashed a barrage of profanity-laced hostility I could not believe. It was like pure venom. I said to him, “Do you want a piece me? Let’s go old man!”
I didn’t actually say that. I was more pastoral in my response.
Here’s the question though — in whose kingdom is that guy living? He’s living in what might be called the kingdom of self. The idea is — “This is my little kingdom. My life is my kingdom. I’ll guard it. I will not share it. If you violate my kingdom, I’ll let you have it. I’ll kill you maybe.” I had trespassed his kingdom, see?
Question: Whose kingdom are you living in?
Now this is really important. You have a physical location. You have a physical home, and it determines your identity.
People who work with identity will sometimes say geography is identity. Where you are determines who you are.
I’ve been to Britain, but I’m not British. I’m Californian.
You have a spiritual location. It’s not physical, but it’s real. You have a spiritual location, and it’s literally real.
Now Jesus says you can live in the kingdom of God. Do you understand?
This is the greatest opportunity ever offered to the human race! This is the greatest news in history! This is the news Jesus came to announce. He didn’t just teach; he came to announce news.
Now you can live in the kingdom of God.
In the kingdom of God, no one can threaten your ultimate well-being.
In the kingdom of God, you have the abundance of heaven to support you, a flood of ideas and divine generosity.
In the kingdom of God, you are never at ultimate risk. When this guy was yelling at me on that walk, I knew I was perfectly safe. One reason I knew this was he was in his early eighties and looked too weak to hit me with his walker.
The bigger reason I knew this is what Paul said. This is just literally true.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God [notice this] that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Now what Jesus talks about as the kingdom of God, Paul describes with the phrase “in Christ.” He uses that phrase 164 times.
To be in Christ is to be in his kingdom, to be in his presence, his power, and his favor.
See, this is the news that makes all of the Sermon on the Mount true and good.
The reason you can turn the other cheek is you live in a kingdom where justice is ultimately assured and will win because of God.
The reason you can not worry about tomorrow is your tomorrow is in the hands of the King.
The reason you can store up treasure in heaven through generosity is the abundance of heaven belongs to your Father.
Do you understand? Jesus isn’t just some guru who walked around making up pretty sayings out of nowhere.
He is absolutely brilliant. He is the smartest man who ever lived, and the brilliance of his teaching rests on the truth of his news.
So what kingdom are you living in?
See, we all have a kingdom, and here our little kingdoms of self get all junked up by sin.
Now on earth, all those little kingdoms (yours and mine) merge and intersect, and they form larger kingdoms — neighborhoods, corporations, nations, and economic, political, and cultural systems. Kingdoms are systems of personal power.
This is very important. Kingdoms are systems of personal power.
We might call that whole collection of kingdoms (all of our merged kingdoms) “the kingdom of the earth” to use biblical language.
Now let’s do a study in contrast for a moment.
Jesus says, on the one hand, there is this domain called the kingdom of God. It exists right now; it’s this sphere in which things happen just the way God wants them to happen.
Paul writes, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of legalistic rules about what you eat and drink but of righteousness, peace, and joy.” That’s God’s kingdom.
Then there is the kingdom of the earth.
Question: How are things going on the kingdom of the earth?
Not so good.
Check out the news wherever you get your news. Covid. The Taliban takes over Afghanistan. Inflation. Supply shortages. Tornadoes rip through Kentucky. Devastating storms and horrendous loss. Racism. Political polarization.
We’re not even sure if we can trust the news to tell us the news or if we’re getting their spin on the news.
Well, Jesus had a plan. He is bringing up there down here.
Most of you will know the most famous prayer in history is called the Lord’s Prayer. It’s in the Sermon on the Mount. We’ll get to it in our study.
Often we think we know it, but we actually don’t. There’s Jesus news in it we’ve never thought about.
Ken Davis writes about a chapel service for the Chicago Bears back in the 80s when they won the Super Bowl.
Their coach, Mike Ditka, asked “Refrigerator” Perry (a giant lineman) to say the Lord’s Prayer.
The Bears’ quarterback, Jim McMahon, said to the chaplain, “There is no way the Fridge knows the Lord’s Prayer. I will bet you $50 the Fridge does not know the Lord’s Prayer.”
The chaplain thought, “That’s kind of weird to bet on the Lord’s Prayer, but okay.”
Everyone closed their eyes, and the Fridge began to pray, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”
Jim McMahon shook his head, handed the money over to the chaplain. “I was sure he didn’t know the Lord’s Prayer!”
A lot of people have heard the Lord’s Prayer but never thought about this part of it.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
The kingdom of God is the place where God has influence, where he rules and reigns, where his will is done.
Many people in the church think the gospel prayer is, “God, help me get out of here so I can go up there when I die.”
Jesus did not say to pray that. He said to pray, “God, make up there come down here.”
Not just that. Jesus said it’s already begun.
“The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)
Jesus said the good news is breaking news. “The time has come.”
How did the time come? What’s happened? How is the world different today than it was yesterday?
Of course the answer is Jesus. Jesus is here! That’s why the time has come.
This is an audacious claim. Jesus is the kingdom bringer in his body. Do you understand? In his life, in his words, in his healing (which is the central part of his ministry because it’s bringing God’s peace — shalom), in his death, in his resurrection, up there has come down here.
This is the most audacious claim in human history. The King is here, and he’s here without an ego. He’s here in humility, a carpenter, a servant.
He is not on a throne but on a cross.
Then he gives the Sermon on the Mount.
And this year, 2022, we’re going to seek to master it and to be mastered by it.
Something I learned this week, according to Gallup, more than half of Christians don’t know who taught the Sermon on the Mount? I’m not kidding.
In one poll, 12 percent of people polled thought it was called the Sermon on the Mount because it was delivered on horseback.
Who taught the Sermon on the Mount?
Jesus taught it.
How important is it?
This is from a Harvard professor, Harvey Cox. It is:
“…the most luminous, most quoted, most analyzed, most contested, most influential moral and religious discourse in all of human history.”
Why? Because he got lucky? Because he was in the zone? Because he was good at motivational speaking? No!
The Sermon on the Mount is not general, moral advice to be nice to each other.
It is not a series of random, lovely sayings by a guru.
It is not a list of rules.
It is a bold, brilliant, fearless, life-transforming trumpet blast to come join King Jesus in his divine conspiracy to bring up there down here and redeem the world.
The question is — will the gospel of Jesus become your gospel? What kingdom are you living in?
It’s very interesting. The ancient titles given to the four books about Jesus in the New Testament are not, “The gospel of Matthew, the gospel of Mark, the gospel of Luke, the gospel of John.”
Some of you will see this in your Bibles. They were called, “The gospel according to Matthew, the gospel according to Mark, the gospel according to Luke, the gospel according to John.”
Why is that?
Because they knew there was only one gospel, and it was Jesus’ gospel. It was the gospel of Jesus. He announced it. He defined it. It belonged to him.
Now the question is — what’s going to be your gospel?
Everyone has a gospel. Everyone has an ultimate hope. Everyone is waiting for some news.
This word gospel was a loaded word.
When Jesus was born, Rome had a gospel. This is from a Roman inscription in Jesus’ day.
“…the birthday of the god (Caesar Augustus) has been for the whole world the beginning of good news concerning him.”
That’s that same little word euaggelion (gospel) that has come to men through him (through Caesar).
Do you see? The gospel of Jesus is a claim that Rome’s good news is fake news.
Not Caesar, not any merely human kingdom can redeem, transform, and save the earth and the human race. Only King Jesus can do that.
Now if you want to respond to Jesus’ gospel, you make him your king. You make him your Lord. You make him your friend and forgiver.
You do not respond by saying, “Jesus, I’d like to use your death as my ticket to heaven, but I think I’ll stay in charge of my own life. Thank you!”
You repent, Jesus says.
Now repent does not mean feel badly.
It’s primarily a thinking word. Literally, it’s from the Greek word for mind. To think again. To think differently after being with. Revise your strategy for living in light of this most remarkable opportunity.
What kingdom are you going to live in?
You can become his disciple. Dallas Willard said:
A disciple of Jesus is one who practices his presence and arranges his or her life in such a way as to live as Christ would live if he were them.
You see, as a church, we exist for one reason without apology. We exist to make disciples, to lead everyone into Christ-centered living.
The idea behind the Sermon on the Mount is we actually do the stuff Jesus told us to do with his constant presence and gracious help.
When you do that, up there is coming down here.
Every time you are angry and tempted by revenge but instead you turn the other cheek, up there is coming down here. That’s why he said to do it.
Every time you’re tempted to enrich your little kingdom, pile up more stuff but instead through generosity, you store up treasures in heaven (which, by the way, are not just for when we die. That’s all around us; that’s real), up there is coming down here.
Every time you’re tempted to judge but you judge not, up there is coming down here.
Every time you break through selfishness and let your light so shine that people see your good deeds, up there is coming down here.
Every time you’re tempted to make your life about a better lifestyle but instead you consider the lilies of the field who live in the kingdom of God and you trust God, up there is coming down here.
Every time you do unto others what you would have others do to you, every time you let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no,” every time you give in secret, every time you pray for daily bread for you and for others, every time you ask, every time you seek, every time you knock, up there is coming down here. It’s happening as he said it would.
We are not consumers of Christianity waiting to leave here and go up there. We are followers of Jesus helping up there to come down here.
So I want to invite you to live as a disciple of Jesus, as a follower of him.
And I want to invite you to begin now to read through the Sermon on the Mount. We’re going to immerse ourselves in it. It’s three chapters in the gospel according to Matthew (chapters 5, 6, and 7).
We will sit at Jesus’ feet. We will learn what Jesus taught. We will ask for Jesus’ presence. We will do what Jesus says.
Up there is going to come down here.
Let’s pray as Michaela and the team come to lead us in a closing song.
Blue Oaks Church