June 28, 2010 David Balzer

Luke 11:1-12:12: Kingdom Coming

Rob Kilgore received a cochlear implant in the early 1980s. Within a month he went from being profoundly deaf to experiencing a whole new world. He told his story to a gathering in honour of Australian scientist Professor Graeme Clark, the inventor of the cochlear implant.

“I was 24 years old when I suddenly lost my hearing in an . I was basically deaf for the next nine years. During those years I knew a part of me was gone – I thought for good. I had a good job, a family, and was satisfied with my life. But, there was that part of me that wanted more. I wanted to hear my daughter, talk to my family, enjoy my surroundings again.

Silence is a restriction that keeps you from being a whole person. I – d that silence but had come to accept the fact I wasn’t going to hear again.

When I first heard about the implant process, I did nothing about it. Why? Because I was afraid. Afraid of the unknown. I had accepted my silent world. I did not want things to change.

The doctors were telling me the implant was a good option for me. But I waited, I did not want them to give me something that would be HALF hearing. I WANTED TO BE WHOLE AGAIN and this was not for me. It took months of pushing, for my family to talk me into having this surgery.

I went into the operation full of hope, and full of fear.

Three weeks later I was hooked up to the processor for the first time. Dr McCabe, the doctor that I had spent so many years with, and whose voice I’d never heard before, was the first to speak to me. He asked, ‘Can you hear me?’ I said, ‘Yes!!’

My mother was there in the room and started to cry. The doctor asked her to speak to me. Choking back tears, she said, ‘I can’t.’

I looked at her and said, ‘I have waited nine years to hear you again and now you can’t talk!’

The whole room was crying but me, I wanted it all and I wanted to be sure this was not going to be ed away, as some cruel joke.

Those nine years were terribly hard for me and I’d tried so hard to make my life whole. But it wasn’t until that day I felt like me again. I got back something I had lost.

I reflect on those years and I look at the last ten years since. And I’m amazed at my life. My daughter and I can talk whenever we want, I can enjoy my family, I can be a part of my work team and take part in most activities. I still have restrictions but I am a resolute person and know that as time goes by it will only get better.”

I want to ask you all a question. Was the world of hearing REAL to Rob Kilgore?

It’s a complicated question, isn’t it?

He USED TO hear. Before his .

And “sound” continued to exist AFTER his – just that he wasn’t PART of it. He didn’t PERCEIVE IT. Couldn’t be PART of it.

And then after his implant, the world of hearing was MORE real to Rob. He could hear his mother and daughter. He could be more involved at work.

But it wasn’t PERFECT. The implants, especially the EARLY ones, only produce a limited number of frequencies. So while it might be enough to be able to identify speech, and give you SOME involvement in the world. There would still be so much of the world of hearing Rob COULDN’T be part of.

The complexities of orchestral music. The rich vibrations of the strings. The sharp blast of the trumpets.

Or the beauty of wonderful vocal harmonies. So sweet they bring tears to your eyes. Or birds singing, or the ocean roar. Would still only be HALF hearing.

Was the world of hearing REAL to Rob Kilgore? Yes, and No.

He experienced PART of it, but not the WHOLE. It was NOW, but NOT YET. The world of hearing had BEGUN for him. But there was still SO MUCH MORE.

And it’s the same situation that Jesus is trying to get across in these verses today.

Except instead of opening people’s EARS, he wants to open their EYES. Instead of the world of HEARING, he’s describing the Kingdom of God.

He’s the hearing expert trying to convince profoundly deaf people that there’s much more to the universe than what they’ve experienced before. He’s offering them a transplant – the chance to experience maximum life. That life is the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God. It means the RULE of God. The extent of his reign. The places and people where God’s power and kingship exist.

And while it’s FACT. Reality. It’s not something that’s OBVIOUS. It’s not often we can see it, or hear it. Can’t always TOUCH it.

Which explains why Jesus is having a hard time convincing people. And why Christians STILL have a hard time convincing people.

1. The kingdom is coming (1-13)

And yet Jesus’ message/ is that the kingdom has BEGUN. It’s what he got across with his WORDS. But also with HIS ACTIONS – his miracles.

God’s reign was seen in JESUS HIMSELF.

But he also taught that the Kingdom of God is STILL COMING. It’s present and real in SOME RESPECTS, but NOT ARRIVED in others.

It’s NOW, and NOT YET.

The Kingdom of God. It’s been what Jesus has been on about his whole ministry. Preaching and proclaiming it. Especially in the last few chapters.

In Ch 6, he said that the Kingdom of God belongs to the poor.

In Ch 7, he said that the least person in the Kingdom of God was greater than John the Baptist.

In Ch 8, he told PARABLES about the Kingdom of God.

In Ch 9 he promised that some who were listening wouldn’t die before they’d SEEN the Kingdom of God.

In Ch 10, he sent out 72 disciples to PREACH that the Kingdom of God was NEAR.

And here at the start of Ch 11, when the disciples ask Jesus how to PRAY, he starts with these words, “Father, hallowed be your name, (MAY) YOUR KINGDOM COME.”

Was the Kingdom of God REAL? It’s a difficult question – a bit like the one about HEARING.

Because for SOME people, God’s reign was OBVIOUS. They’d seen it Jesus. His healing, and teaching. Through Jesus God’s power was clear. Storms calmed, sick healed. Even people brought back to life.

But other people weren’t so easily convinced. They saw exactly the same miracles, heard the same teaching about the kingdom. But their eyes weren’t working.

The evidence was there. It was available to their senses. But the message wasn’t getting through.

The same situation as with Rob Kilgore. The world of sound was all around him, but his ears weren’t working.

Was the kingdom REAL? Well, yes, and No.

And so Jesus teaches his disciples to pray that God’s kingdom would COME.

Part of what that request meant/ was that people would EXPERIENCE the REALITY of God’s reign. That their eyes and ears would be opened. They’d see and hear. That God’s reign would become more and more evident.

In fact, as Jesus continued to talk about prayer, he says that just ASKING for that experience is the way for it to begin. Because God LOVES to give people a realisation of him. To open people’s eyes.

Look at what Jesus says in v9.

(Luke 11:9-13 NIV)  “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. {10} For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. {11} “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? {12} Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? {13} If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

If an EARTHLY father will give gifts to HIS kids, HOW MUCH MORE does God love to give gifts to his children. So if you want to EXPERIENCE GOD, just ask.

And what’s his response? The Holy Spirit – the presence of God Himself with you. That’s his gift to you. Enabling you to experience God’s reign in your life. To experience the Kingdom of God! And it’s there for the asking.

2. The kingdom has come (14-28)

And yet, if the kingdom was COMING. There’s also a sense in which it had ALREADY COME.

In the next section, Jesus is driving out a demon. An evil spirit. It’s God’s force for good. Versus the forces of evil.

It seems like an obvious example of God REIGNING over evil. Of God’s kingdom. And v14 tells us that the crowd was AMAZED. An impressive miracle.

But not everyone. Some had their fingers in the ears, or their hands over their eyes. Refusing to recognise the reality of what was there. Look at v15.

(Luke 11:15-16 NIV)  But some of them said, “By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” {16} Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

Two different mistakes. One recognising the power, but assigning it to the wrong source. They thought he was using SATAN’S power to drive out the demons.

And the other group wouldn’t even recognise the power. It was just a TRICK, something normal people could do. And so they asked for A SIGN FROM HEAVEN. SHOW US PROOF.

A group who’d fit very easily into modern Australian society. “Show me proof, and I’ll believe in God”.

It’s exactly the comment I got from a year 8 at Evans High the other week. She was part of my small group, and I asked them what they thought about God. I wanted them to be honest, and not just tell me what they thought I wanted to hear.

Well, she was HONEST alright.

“It’s all a load of CRAP. God’s not there. I prayed for God to heal my grandad, and he died. I’d believe in God if he answered a prayer like that.”

I’m sure it’s a fairly common attitude. Perhaps you even know people like that. She wanted a sign from heaven.

But, unless her attitude changes, I’m not sure it would do any good. Because it was exactly this comment that came from people who’d just seen Jesus CAST A DEMON OUT. “Give us proof!”

They’d already SEEN the proof, and it didn’t mean a THING to them.

So we’ve got two groups of sceptics. Who refused to see.

And in the next paragraph, Jesus answers BOTH of their charges. First, he answers the FIRST criticism. That he’s using Satanic powers to cast out Satan. He says NOBODY’S kingdom works that way. If you’re divided against yourself, you’ll be ruined. It’s simple. So Satan doesn’t work like that. It’s got to be by GOD’S power that he’s doing it.

And then look at what he says in v20. The definitive proof. The sign from heaven. The evidence of the reign of God.

(Luke 11:20 NIV)  But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, THEN THE KINGDOM OF GOD HAS COME TO YOU.

Recognise THE SIGN. Recognise THE SOURCE.  God is expressing his power when you see me casting out the demon. The kingdom HAS COME.

So not only was Jesus praying for the kingdom to COME, but he was announcing that it had ALREADY BEGUN. Now, and not yet.

And then he gives them a challenge. Choose a side! V23.

(Luke 11:23 NIV)  “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.

You can’t keep sitting on the fence. Skeptics who are waiting to be convinced aren’t keeping their options open, they’ve already chosen a side. They’re AGAINST Jesus.

3. Responding to the kingdom (11:29-12:12)

And the theme of LOOKING FOR PROOF continues into the next section. RESPONDING to the kingdom. Jesus has said that the kingdom has COME.

But now the question is/ how you RESPOND to it. Look at what he says in v29. Describing the people who refuse to see.

“This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.”

It’s wicked to ask for a miraculous sign, when the evidence is right in front of you. And then a bit further down, he explains what he means by Jonah and Nineveh. V32.

“The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they REPENTED at the preaching of Jonah and now one greater than Jonah is here.

So when you see evidence of the Kingdom of God, when you see one greater than Jonah. What’s the appropriate response? Repent.

To turn from your own sovereignty, and recognise the kingship of God. To bow the knee before Jesus.

But repentance isn’t all. In the next section, Jesus says that repentance has to affect you ON THE INSIDE.

He starts off by talking about how easy it is to see a lamp when it’s put on a stand. Much easier than if it’s under the bed.

I think what he’s saying/ is that Jesus is the lamp. And that it’s not that hard to recognise him – he’s making it obvious what he’s doing. He’s on a stand, not under a bed.

But that’s not all. Recognition has consequences. The way you RECOGNISE Jesus will affect you on the inside. See him clearly, and your life will change. V34.

“When your eyes are good, your whole body is full of light”

So not only do we respond to Jesus with REPENTANCE, but this shows itself in A CHANGED LIFE. Repentance is seen in obedience.

And we see what this means in the next section. Jesus goes to dinner with a Pharisee. But he’s hardly a polite dinner guest, because he starts to criticise the Pharisees.

He points out a range of behaviours that show their hypocrisy. How they HAVEN’T recognised the one greater than Jonah. They HAVEN’T repented. They HAVEN’T seen the lamp. And so their body ISN’T FULL OF LIGHT.

And the common theme is about how things look fine ON THE OUTSIDE. But they’re rotten on the INSIDE.

Like v39. Worrying about washing cups and dishes. But ignoring the poor. Compassion and mercy! Much more important.

Or v42. Giving a tenth of everything to God – right down to your parsley and shallots. All EXTERNAL stuff. But neglecting justice and love for God. Much more important.

Or v43. Loving what people think of you. Who-you-know, and what your connections are. Rather than what you actually ARE like. On the inside. What GOD thinks of you. Which is much more important.

That’s what it means to respond to the kingdom.

And so what does it all mean for us?

First, if you HAVEN’T recognised Jesus. Seen the kingdom of God. And responded. Then let me encourage you. REPENT. Turn to God.

Just like Rob Kilgore, it will change your life. Living in the Kingdom of God is the best life there is.

That’s the FIRST step.

But if you HAVE recognised Jesus- if you HAVE repented. Then let me suggest that it’s ONLY THE BEGINNING.

Because recognising Jesus isn’t something you only do ONCE. When you FIRST become a Christian. It’s something you do every day.

If Jesus is LORD, and he’s died for you, and won you eternity with him. Then that’s got CONSEQUENCES.

Is your repentance seen ON THE INSIDE? Your thoughts and attitudes and actions when no-one sees you. Are they becoming more like Christ’s? Is your desire/ increasingly to please Jesus only?

Let me suggest two other ways in which recognising Jesus will be seen practically in your life.

One. Seeing the kingdom clearly affects how we pray. God ISN’T deaf, or contrary, or y, or disinterested. He’s our loving heavenly father, who LONGS to give good gifts to his children. So we see his kingdom clearly when we ASK.

Seeing the kingdom clearly affects how we pray.

Two. Seeing the kingdom clearly affects the way we understand earthly events. Jesus cast out a demon from a mute man, and the crowd asked for a sign from heaven.

But the reality was this WAS a sign from heaven. A sign that the kingdom of God had COME.

And everything we’re involved in has similar SPIRITUAL consequences. It’s not simply one man against another, or one organisation trying to grow, or one person working to become more like Jesus.

It’s a HEAVENLY conflict. Jesus, the stronger man claiming ground from Satan the strong man.

Everything we do, as a church or as individuals, is part of a GREATER conflict. Between kingdoms.

And that gives our struggles a great significance. And it gives us a motivation to keep going when things get hard.

It’s Paul’s message through the whole book of Ephesians. We’ll be looking at that next term. For example, Ch 6 v11.

(Eph 6:11-12 NIV)  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. {12} For our struggle is not against flesh and , but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Seeing the kingdom clearly affects the way we understand earthly events.

Jesus longs to give us a hearing transplant. A seeing transplant. The universe as he sees it is right there in front of us. We only need to ask him to open our eyes.

Can you see it? The Kingdom of God is here. And it’s coming.

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