Collision: The Line is Drawn Sermon Video

When God’s world collided with Simon’s world, he went from a fisherman to evangelist.
When God’s world collided with Levi’s world, he went from a tax collector to a gospel-writer.

In this message, we explore Luke 5 and the call of Simon (vs 1-11) and Levi (vs 27-32) and what happens when God’s world collides with theirs. And the point: To ask what happens when God’s world collides with yours…

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Kingdom of God vs. Kingdom of Heaven: A Meaningful Difference?

Having seen in the prior posts (1 | 2) the priority of the kingdom in the gospels – both in declaring Jesus the rightful king over all and in Jesus’ own preoccupation with the kingdom – we must ask an important question. Is there a meaningful difference between the term “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven”? Matthew, in his gospel, always uses the term “kingdom of heaven” while Mark and Luke both use “kingdom of God.” Is there a difference?

Let me suggest that the difference is not of meaning in the term but rather primarily with respect to audience. Matthew was writing to a primarily Jewish audience which held names for God in the utmost of respect. Heaven, then became a word used as a substitute for the venerable name of God. Last year, I was presenting at a conference on leadership. While attending another session at the conference, one of the presenters, Jewish by descent, wrote and spoke of “G-D.” That is, even today, rather than use the name of God, he inserted a dash for the vowels. That is what we are talking about here. Matthew, knowing his primary audience was Jewish, substituted the word “heaven” for the word “God” in deference to their tradition.

Mark and Luke, on the other hand, were writing to more Gentile audiences (Luke himself was a Gentile). A phrase like “kingdom of heaven” would not have had context or meaning to their audiences. So, they use the phrase “kingdom of God” because it was more contextualized and meaningful to their audience.

So, in short, “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” are not two different expressions with two different meanings. No, they are one and the same, contextualized for the original audiences of the gospel writers.

Interact: What expressions do we contextualize in our culture to help our audience understand us and make sure our message is clear?

 

Jesus’ Preoccupation with the Kingdom

In the previous post, I introduced what will be an ongoing look at the kingdom of God. The first contention was that the primary polemic and purpose of the gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) was to establish Jesus as the rightful king. At his birth, at his trial and at his death, the Scriptures declare Jesus as king. But the gospel writers go further. As the describe Jesus, his teachings and miracles, they picture someone who was himself consumed and preoccupied by the kingdom of God.

That is, Jesus taught about and thought about the kingdom of God more than any other single topic. More than money. More than heaven or hell. More than salvation. Because all of those find their meaning and purpose under the umbrella of the kingdom of God. Following are just some of the verses about the kingdom found in the gospels, with a short declaration of its implication.

  • “From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near'” (Matt. 4:17).
    • The coming of the kingdom should lead us to repentance.
  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).
    • The kingdom is coming not to the powerful, but to unexpected people.
  • “Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches'” (Luke 13:18-19).
    • The kingdom of God is growing and expanding – and will do so until it fills the whole earth.
  • “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it'” (Luke 18:16-17).
    • Again, the kingdom is coming to unexpected people.
  • “This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
    • In his model prayer, Jesus calls us to pray that the kingdom would come on earth. More on this important thought in a future post.
  • “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matt. 6:33).
    • The kingdom is to be of first priority to us as God’s people.

In total, the NIV has 116 verses with the word “kingdom” in the gospels! This is, obviously, just a subset. I have compiled the full list here: Kingdom Verses. Here’s the point: the kingdom of God was Jesus’ preoccupation. And, according to Matthew 6:33, he has invited (nay, instructed) us to be preoccupied by his kingdom too.

Interact: Jesus has instructed us to be preoccupied with his kingdom. But to do so, we have to know what the kingdom of God is. What is the kingdom of God?

 

Hypocrisy: Part 4 – Why hypocrisy is so bad

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

After several posts looking at the perception (at least partly valid!) of outsiders that Christians are hypocrites, we must ask one question: So what exactly is so bad about being a hypocrite? And the answer to that question is found in the parable above. Of all people, the Pharisee should have known how great is the salvation of the Lord. As a spiritual leader, he would have known the Scriptures better than anyone, especially the tax collector. But instead of being humbled by his own brokenness and overwhelmed by the grace the Scriptures teach, he became a spiritual snob, rubbing his moral superiority in the noses of those around him.

The problem with hypocrisy is not merely that we fail to live up to what we say we believe. It’s that we look down on others for failing to live up to standards when we ourselves cannot live up to them. Most Christians are, unfortunately, too like the Pharisee. We are spiritual snobs. Instead of one beggar showing another beggar where to find some food, we become confident in our own righteousness. We lose site of our own depravity and the incredible grace that has been extended to us.

If a hypocrite is a Christian who fails to act in accordance with his/her stated beliefs, all of us are hypocrites. We are not finished products yet. Until the day that Christ returns, we will still fall short. Hopefully, we are, each day, being made more like Christ by the Spirit of God. But what will be my attitude during this process? Will I, like the Pharisee, stand on my moral high horse, condemning those who fall short of lofty standards? Or will the grace that has been extended to me overflow to others and meet them at the point of their sin, pain and anguish as it did for the tax collector?

Interact: Are you more like the Pharisee or the tax collector? How so? What needs to change in your life?