June 28, 2010 David Balzer

Luke 17:20-18:8: Thy Kingdom Come

A few years ago, an American was looking around an expensive jewelry store in Sydney. His eye was caught by a large, pink Argyle diamond. A diamond worth 30 thousand dollars. Which he decided to buy.

He handed over his credit card. PLATINUM American Express. The sales assistant swiped it through the computer terminal. And at that moment, THE COMPUTER FROZE. Nothing worked. She was thinking, “WHAT DO I DO. I’m in the middle of the BIGGEST SALE ALL MONTH, and the SYSTEM GOES DOWN!”

The American customer leans over and asks a series of questions about the computer she’s using; he offers a few tips; she punches some keys and the computer’s WORKING AGAIN.

She looks up at him and says, “So you KNOW a little bit about computers, do you?”

“Oh yeah, I know A LITTLE,” he said with a smile.

They finish the transaction and the guy leaves with his pink Argyle diamond. A bit later the manager comes in and asks about sales.

She says, “Actually we sold that big pink Argyle diamond!”

“Wow, who’d you sell it too?”

“I don’t know – some American guy. ”

They flick through the credit card details and they find out they’d just sold the diamond to a Mr Bill Gates – chairman of Microsoft – the biggest COMPUTER company in the world!!”

And suddenly, this woman’s feeling very silly “So, You KNOW a little about computers do you?”

The reality was Bill Gates RULES the computer industry!

When the moment came to meet someone famous, she missed out/ because she didn’t KNOW WHO SHE WAS LOOKING FOR. If she’d KNOWN, she could have been READY. And not made a fool of herself.

And today’s section is all about BEING READY. Being ready for the Kingdom of God. The Day of the Lord. The reign of Messiah.

All the Jews knew it was coming. They could hardly wait. A day of JUSTICE and VINDICATION. A day of VICTORY. When GOOD would triumph over evil.

A day when the sovereign reign of God would be OBVIOUS. When The Kingdom of God would begin.

God had PROMISED it was coming. It was right there in the prophets.  But the problem was RECOGNISING it.

If you asked 100 Jews what it’d LOOK LIKE, or when it would COME. You’d get 100 different answers.

1. When is the Kingdom of God Coming?

And so, perhaps because he’s got a reputation as a PROPHET, Jesus gets asked the question on everyone’s lips. “WHEN is the Kingdom of God coming?” It’s there in v20.

It’s the Pharisees who ask the question. And THEIR view is that the Kingdom of God will come through STRICT OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW. If they could just get everyone to follow the law closely enough, then God will take notice, and restore his kingdom.

And their HOPE was that when the Messiah came, he’d remove the foreign oppressors – the Romans. And would rule on King David’s throne again. It’d be glory days for Israel.

And when you’ve got THAT idea in mind, it’s no wonder you MISS OUT on seeing the One God HAS sent. The REAL Messiah.

And that’s just what Jesus says they’ve done. Look at it there in v20.

20 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does NOT come with your careful observation, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is WITHIN you.”

By WITHIN you, Jesus means within you ALL. AS A GROUP. In other words, the Kingdom of God is AMONG you. They’re looking everywhere, checking for signs. But the Kingdom of God is already walking and talking among them. The Kingdom of God is JESUS HIMSELF.

He’s THERE, and they’ve MISSED him.

What do we MEAN by the kog? If you’re after a definition, here’s one. The Kingdom of God is the TIME AND PLACE AND PEOPLE where the reign of God is seen.

And that’s nowhere more obvious than in the life of Jesus.

His miracles, his healings, his teaching, his behaviour. All of them point to God. And to the fact that God RULES as LORD of the UNIVERSE. He rules over creation. Over sickness. Over . He rules over Satan, and evil and sin.

But it’s not quite as simple as that. It’s not just about THEN. The Kingdom of God BEGAN in the life of Jesus. But it was only LOCALISED. And TEMPORARY. And EASY TO MISS. Especially for those who weren’t INTERESTED in seeing or hearing. Or for those who were looking for a different TYPE of kingdom. With a different kind of KING.

And for people TODAY it’s even EASIER to miss the kingdom. Because it’s even LESS obvious than it was in Jesus’ day. Jesus returned to heaven, and gave US the task of building his kingdom.

Jesus still reigns. And God’s kingdom is still real. But people can’t SEE Jesus for themselves. And his reign isn’t an obvious one. It’s QUIET, and SUBTLE, and DISCREET.

And as far as people think, it’s WEAK and FOOLISH. Who would leave the fate and responsibility of a movement in the hands of a weak, frail, disobedient, insignificant bunch of people like US? But that’s just what Jesus did.

Doesn’t seem like much of a kingly reign, does it?

You’ve probably seen video footage of Iraq when Saddam Hussein was dictator. There were statues and huge murals everywhere showing Saddam Hussein. His police forces were everywhere. Regular s left people in NO DOUBT about who was in charge.

Yet, Jesus rules the UNIVERSE from his heavenly throne. His power is so beyond comparing to any EARTHLY RULER. And yet, it’s not OBVIOUS. It’s easy to miss.

And most people out there today DO miss it. Most people who’ll come to Christmas carols will miss it.

They have SOME idea about God. But perhaps they’re not sure how Jesus fits in. They might even be LOOKING. Trying a little of this, or a little of that. Eastern mysticism, or works righteousness, or new age mumbo jumbo. They share their own ignorance. “I like to think that God’s like…..”

For them, Jesus was just a good teacher, or a moral example. Or a failed rebel who died disillusioned and alone.

But they’re all wrong. And so, they miss out on the kingdom, because they’ve missed out on Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus who lives today in the lives of Christians.

Have YOU recognized who Jesus is? He’s your KING. And your SAVIOUR. Your LORD.

If you miss out on recognizing and responding to him. You’ll end up looking a lot more foolish than that shop assistant who met Bill Gates.

And if you HAVE recognized Jesus. Is your LIFE REFLECTING that. When others look at YOU, are they SEEING the Kingdom of God? Are they SEEING a person in whom God RULES?

The Kingdom of God exists NOW in the lives of people who LIVE with Jesus as their King. Among CHURCHES where people are honouring Jesus. And we need to be SHOWING that to people, so that they can SEE King Jesus.

2. How will the kingdom come?

But there’s a bit more to it than that. (But wait, there’s more!) The kingdom was THEN. And the kingdom is also NOW. In a lesser sense.

But there WILL be a time when God’s reign will be seen in A MORE OBVIOUS way than it’s seen TODAY. And even than it was in the life of Jesus. And that’s when Jesus RETURNS.

That’s when the Kingdom of God will be CONSUMMATED. When it will begin in its ENTIRETY. The climax, and end-product – the GOAL of the whole process. And that’s what Jesus goes on to talk about. HOW the kingdom will COME.

Look at how he begins v22. “Then he said to his disciples,

“THE TIME IS COMING when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but YOU WILL NOT SEE IT.

It’s not here yet, at least not COMPLETELY. But it will be soon. And here’s HOW it will come. And then Jesus goes on to explain at least FIVE PIECES to the PUZZLE.

The FIRST piece of the puzzle is that the kingdom will come UNEXPECTEDLY and OBVIOUSLY. Look at v23.

23 Men will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. 24 For the Son of Man in his day WILL BE LIKE THE LIGHTNING, WHICH FLASHES AND LIGHTS UP THE SKY FROM ONE END TO THE OTHER.

Lightning comes QUICKLY. And OBVIOUSLY. We’ve seen some great lightning strikes over the last week or so. And when they hit, there’s no warning. But when it DOES strike, EVERYONE can see it.

And it’s going to be the same when Jesus returns. Everyone will know it. There’s no inside information. No chance that SOME people will get let in on the secret FIRST, and some won’t NOTICE. EVERYONE will see him. No mistakes. No-one misses out.

But the world-wide unveiling of Jesus’ VICTORY/ will only come after his SUFFERING. That’s the SECOND piece of the puzzle. SUFFERING will come before victory. Look at it there in v25.

“But first he must SUFFER many things and be REJECTED by this generation”

Before anyone’s able to see Jesus as the King in His VICTORY, they first have to recognise that his VICTORY only comes THROUGH his . His suffering is the MEANS by which he defeats sin and . It’s the means by which he CAN stand victorious on the last day. Because he HAS taken on . And DEFEATED it.

The THIRD piece of the puzzle/ is that when the Kingdom of God comes. It will come WITH JUDGMENT and NO SECOND CHANCES.

That’s the point of mentioning NOAH AND LOT. Two examples of God’s JUDGMENT. In both cases, people had plenty of warning. They were TOLD what was coming. But they DIDN’T TAKE NOTICE. They chose to IGNORE the warnings. They just kept right on doing what they’d ALWAYS been doing. A bit like most people TODAY. But when judgment started, it was too late for second chances. Look at V26.

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the Ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all”.

And the same with Lot when Sodom was destroyed.

Judgment comes, and there’s no changing your mind. The decision has to be made on the basis of the WARNING that judgment’s coming. Once it STARTS, it’s too late.

That’s a scary thought for your friends and neighbours. Their chance depends on YOU WARNING them.

And the FOURTH piece of the puzzle in there from v30. There WILL be rescue, but only for those who single-minded about being rescued. No HALF-hearted people will be rescued. V30

“It will be just like that on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no-one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife.”

Jesus is thinking about Noah and Lot again. Imagine there’s a huge flood. You’d be CRAZY to be on the roof of your house, with the flood-waters rising, and THEN decide to run downstairs and fetch the cat, or rescue the photos.

You either WANT to be rescued, or you DON’T!

Same with Lot. It’s no good, fleeing from the city of Sodom, as fire and brimstone rains down on it, and then turning back to look at your beloved garden getting ruined. FORGET IT!

You either WANT to be rescued, or you DON’T!

Like people stuck in a flooded river. Imagine it. They’re stuck on the roof of their car. The waters roar past them. Rescuers fix a single rope from the bank/ to the car. A brave rescuer makes it across, and hands the victim the safety harness to put on.

How ridiculous to say, “That looks a bit scary. And I’ll get my new shoes wet. I’m not sure I WANT to be rescued AFTER ALL. I think I’ll just stay here until the waters die down. Come back in a week, and check up on me”.

You either WANT to be rescued, or you DON’T! There’s no rescue for half-hearted people.

Look at how Jesus puts it in v33. “Whoever tries to KEEP his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it”.

It seems ridiculous to us. But it’s EXACTLY what SO MANY people do TODAY. They know that one day Jesus will return to judge. But they’re not SERIOUS enough about it to CHANGE their LIFE. TO get rid of the rubbish. TO get their shoes wet. They’d rather keep working at BUILDING the LIFE THEY KNOW. Than give it up for RESCUE. And a life they DON’T know.

Do you know people like THAT? They KNOW the FACTS. But it hasn’t made any DIFFERENCE in their life. THEY NEED TO BE WARNED. No half-hearted people will be rescued.

The fifth piece of the puzzle is that the kingdom will come DIVISIVELY. Look at it there from v34. Judgment will take one spouse and leave the other. One friend and leave the other. One workmate and leave the other.

Other allegiances don’t matter. It doesn’t matter who you’re FRIENDS with. Or who you’re MARRIED to. No one gets a ticket because of who they know.

No other obvious difference, apart from the fact that one knows Jesus and the other doesn’t. It’ll happen like that with YOU. In YOUR family. Or your neighbourhood. Or among YOUR friends. Or Workmates.

It’ll never work to say, but my Dad was a minister. Or, my whole family for three generations were Christians. Or my aunty was a missionary. The only allegiance that matters is whether you know Jesus.

Is that YOU?

3. So what?

Jesus has told HOW the kingdom will come. But it’s not just HEAD KNOWLEDGE. Theoretical. For Jesus, that knowledge is to affect our BEHAVIOUR.

And there’s at least FOUR things our lives need to be showing. Five answers to the question SO WHAT?

The first is pretty obvious. If the Kingdom of God is going to come SUDDENLY, then citizens of the kingdom need to BE READY.

Have you accepted Jesus’ offer of rescue? Have you repented, and handed your life over to him?

Or are you still not sure? Wondering if it’s worth what you have to give up. Are you looking over your shoulder at what you’re leaving behind.

Get rid of it. It’s not worth it! Take the offer of rescue. Forget everything else.

But if you HAVE taken that offer. Are you ready for Jesus to return? How much does the shadow of that day influence the choices you make each day? Your thoughts, and priorities, the temptations you give in to. Who you spend you time with. How you fill your day.

These actions speak louder than your words. They’re the things that answer the question, Are you ready for Christ’s return?

Can you get to the end of each day, and say “Yes, I’m happy if Christ can tonight. I’ve done what I can do today!”

The second SO WHAT is there in v25. If Jesus had to suffer before his victory. Then WE should expect to also. The kingdom hasn’t come YET. God reigns, but not completely and obviously. And so, EVIL OFTEN WINS. And God’s people often suffer. ESPECIALLY if they’re working at building God’s kingdom.

On a similar theme is the third point. There in v33. Living in the light of the Kingdom of God means losing your life in Jesus. Giving up what THE WORLD says life is about/ so that you might gain TRUE life. Gain Jesus.

Tim and Darlene Arieau visited here earlier this year. They’re friends of the Thorpe’s. Missionaries in a small village in PNG. And they’ve spent the last number of years learning the language without telling them a WORD about Jesus. And they’ve spent the last NINE MONTHS living in a hut with a dirt floor. Teaching the big story of the Bible. Culminating in Jesus’ and resurrection.

To some people it must seem like they’ve THROWN THEIR LIFE AWAY.

But around TEN of the tribe have become Christians. It’s taken seven or eight years. But Jesus thinks they’ve GAINED their life. They’ve thrown away ONE LIFE. To GAIN a BETTER one.

What have YOU given up for the sake of Jesus? What WILL you give up for him?

Can you cope with being a little LESS comfortable? Or well-off? Or relaxed. Can you be making better use of your holidays? Or your evenings? Your energy? Losing your life that you might GAIN it.

And the fourth SO WHAT is there in the next chapter. If we’re confident that the Kingdom of God is COMING. Then it should affect the way we PRAY. We should be praying EXPECTANTLY AND PATIENTLY AND STEADFASTLY for the kingdom to come.

It’s a parable about a woman who wants JUSTICE. The judge isn’t interested. But she keeps NAGGING. Day after day. Night after night. Please bring justice.

Until finally the judge gives up. For the sake of some peace and quiet. He decides to rule in her favour.

And Jesus’ point is that if that’s what happens with a judge who’s NOT interested in justice. HOW MUCH MORE will God give us justice if we cry out to him day and night.

It might be in the general, small-scale sense. Small things. Short-term deliverance. But, from the context, I think Jesus is talking about the ULTIMATE day of justice – Judgment day. The day when ALL rights will be wronged. All the innocent will be vindicated. And all guilty will be called to account.

Keep praying for Jesus to return. For justice to come. And Jesus promises (v7)

“Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will be keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, WHEN THE SON OF MAN COMES, will he find FAITH on earth?

When Jesus returns, will we be FOUND praying for his return. Demonstrating our faith. Pleading for justice?

It’s the sort of thing Paul talks about to the Thessalonians in 2 Thess 1. They’re suffering persecution. And listen to what Paul says to give them hope. God’s judgment is to be the fuel for them to keep sticking it out. V5

5 All this (persecution and trials) is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: HE WILL PAY BACK TROUBLE TO THOSE WHO TROUBLE YOU 7 AND GIVE RELIEF TO YOU WHO ARE TROUBLED, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.

The Kingdom of God is coming. But it’s not a theoretical irrelevancy. It’s a FACT that should be affecting the things you do and say TODAY.

Listen to what Paul concludes. V11.

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus is coming back, so let’s be ready, suffer like their Lord, lose our lives in Jesus, pray expectantly and patiently and steadfastly for justice and the kingdom to come

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