October 7, 2018

The Kingdom Declared

Passage: Luke 8:1-21

Good morning! And Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Our family will be heading down south, right after the service, for a couple of days to spend some time with family over the holidays. But my hope is that, wherever we are and whatever we are doing for Thanksgiving, this will be a time for each one of us to dwell on the faithfulness of God and His provision for us. Because God is good.

I encourage you to grab a Bible and turn to Luke 8. We are continuing with our sermon series on the Kingdom of God—the sovereign rule of God, through Jesus Christ, which is both a present reality and a future hope.

We believe in a God on His throne. There is no political party or nation or kingdom on this earth that matches the authority of our God. The kingdom of the United States, the kingdom of the Canadian Liberal government, and the kingdom of the Alberta NDP government do not have that kind of power and authority. Our God is over all things and all things are under His sovereignty.

When things seem out of control—when the government is encroaching on the religious freedom of Christian schools—we can be thankful that we worship a God who is in control and whose Kingdom is unlike any earthly kingdom.

Last week, we looked at how the Kingdom of God is an upside-down Kingdom. The Kingdom of God doesn’t work like the kingdoms of this world do. In fact, the Kingdom of God functions the exact opposite of how we would expect a kingdom to function.

In the Kingdom of God, the exalted are humbled and the humbled are exalted. In the Kingdom of God, it is better to give than to receive. And in the Kingdom of God, in order to truly be great, we must first become servants.

And we see this modelled for us by our Lord Jesus Himself, who became a servant, obediently going to the cross under the direction of His Father, and giving His life as a ransom for many, so that He would be exalted to the name that is above every name, and that we would be saved through Him.

We cannot earn it and we cannot pay for it; we are saved by the unmerited grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. This is completely upside-down.

So far, we have seen the coming of the Kingdom of God, we have seen what it looks like to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God, and we have seen how drastically different the Kingdom of God is than the kingdoms of this world.

And this morning, we are going to look at the Kingdom of God declared. The mission of Jesus was to declare to all that the Kingdom of God has come. That’s what we looked at in the first sermon of this series, in Mark 1:15, when Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The message of the Kingdom of God was good news, not just for the Jews who were watching and waiting for the Kingdom of God to come, but good news of great joy for all the world.

And the mission of the Church is to continue to declare this same message. The message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God has not changed—it’s the same message that has been preached for two thousand years.

And in our text, for this morning, we will see that the Kingdom is declared to everyone, regardless of the response.

So, if you have your Bibles open to Luke 8, we will begin reading in verse 1: “Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.”

1. We see here that the Kingdom of God is to be declared to everyone.

What is really interesting about Luke’s Gospel, that I discovered in my sermon preparation, this week, is that Luke has more references to the role of women in Jesus’ ministry than any of the other Gospels.

If you look back at the previous chapter, Luke 7, at the end of the chapter, Luke tells us that a woman of the city went to the house where Jesus was, and in front of everyone there, weeps at Jesus’ feet and anoints His feet with this costly ointment.

Everyone there is shocked that Jesus would allow this woman to touch Him, considering who this woman was, but Jesus simply says to her, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

And then, we see in this passage that Jesus’ twelve disciples are with Him, as He’s going around preaching about the good news of the Kingdom of God, but so are these three women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna.

And the mention of all these women is significant, given the low view of women at the time. Women were viewed as inferior to men, they led more private lives, and they couldn’t bear testimony in court.

But Jesus comes along, and He turns all of that around, right? And all of a sudden, you have Jesus interacting with women and healing women.

And what Luke is showing us is that Jesus was bringing the Kingdom of God to everyone, including women. Jesus didn’t declare the Kingdom of God to one gender or to one class or to one kind of people; He declared the Kingdom of God to everyone. “The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

The Kingdom of God crosses all kinds of gender and socio-economic spectrums. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do or what you’ve done, the Kingdom of God is for you.

Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” At the foot of the cross, we are all one in Christ.

James, the brother of Jesus, writes about this in his letter, in James 2:1-5. James says, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?”

Here is where the Word of God bears its weight on us: Are we ever partial toward a certain group of people? Do we ever stick closely to people like us, rather than people not like us?

And here’s the big question: Do we ever not give the gospel to those people who are not like us?

Because here is what the life of Jesus, and all of Scripture, gives us: There is no such thing as partiality or favouritism, within the Kingdom of God. How do I know this? Because if there were, we would not be citizens of the Kingdom of God.

God’s chosen people, throughout the Old Testament, were the Jews. God made a covenant with the Jews that He would be their God and they would be His people. And they were to be a light to the nations, so that the nations could be brought to the One True God. And they did a terrible job of it.

But when you get to the New Testament, what do you see? You see Jesus saying that “the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.” Who are the lost? Everyone!

Jesus came for everyone—not just for the Jews! So, how arrogant would it be to limit the gospel to only those people who are like us? How arrogant would it be to be partial toward those people who are like us?

There are people going to hell, who have not heard the gospel. Are we going to sit here and tell ourselves that this is alright—that we don’t have to bring certain people to the One True God, because they aren’t like us?

And I’m here, too. I’m not exempt from this. In my first year of Bible College, we spent a week doing Native ministry on a reserve. Until that point, I had no interaction with Aboriginal people, not because I tried to avoid them, my whole life, but because I never had the opportunity, where I grew up.

So, this was a huge wake-up call for me to come out of my “white person” box, in order that I might declare the gospel to these people. And what I found, as I talked with these adults and played with these kids, is that they need the gospel as much as anyone else, because the gospel is for everyone.

The gospel is not for select people, it’s for men and women, it’s for white people and black people and aboriginal people, and it’s for rich people and poor people.

Jesus clearly modelled what it looks like to declare the Kingdom to everyone. In the book of Revelation, it says that people from every tribe, tongue and nation will be worshipping God together in heaven. Do we want to be part of this?

2. Declare the Kingdom of God to everyone, and do it, regardless of the response.

Look at verse 4: “And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 ‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.’ As he said these things, he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’

“9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that “seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.’”

Jesus gives His famous Parable of the Sower. But what's interesting about this parable is that the sower isn’t mentioned after it says that he went out to sow his seed. And that’s because the sower isn’t the point of the parable; the point of the parable is the kinds of soil on which the sower sows his seed.

And I think this is good for us to keep in mind, because it makes the point, not about us, but about the message. Because that’s easy to do, right? We can so easily make a big deal about the fact that we are bringing this message to everyone, but the message gets lost somewhere in there, when that happens.

So, Jesus gives us four different kinds of soil that the seed—the Word of God—is sown into, to give us a picture of the responses we will get to the gospel.

1. Verse 5: Some of the seed “fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it.” Jesus says, in verse 12, these are the ones “who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.”

1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

The devil is alive and well. He is a manipulator and a liar, and he invades the hearts of man, in order to make everything else more significant than the Word of God. What once was planted, he goes in and seeks to eliminate.

And it’s why Peter goes on to say, in verse 9, “Resist him, firm in your faith,” because it is by grace through faith, we are saved. Works will not help you. In fact, works will give you a false sense of security, because you will think you are saved based on all of the good things you do, and you won't be.

Instead, believe in Jesus and be saved, because it is belief in Jesus’ work, and not our own, that saves us.

2. Verse 6: “Some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.” Jesus says, in verse 13, these are the ones who “hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.”

One of the values that the leadership of The Chapel is seeking to cultivate in the church is spiritual depth. We want to see people have spiritual roots that sink down deep, so that when times of testing come, we will be able to withstand it.

I have always wrestled with being an overly intellectual person. I know what I believe and I’m at peace with that. But if all I had was an intellectual faith, then I wouldn’t have those deep roots that sink down into Jesus when trials come. Instead, all I would have is what I think I know.

And the problem for those who have an intellectual faith in Jesus, is that, when trials come, you start to doubt the goodness of God, because why would God allow bad things to happen to me.

And the reality is that intellectual faith, which has no roots in the goodness of God, won’t sustain you, and you will simply wither away.

3. Verse 7: “Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it.” Jesus says, in verse 14, these are the ones “who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.”

This one is fairly self-explanatory. There is so much in this world, vying for our attention. Every commercial we see on TV is getting us to buy what they're selling. “Your life is not complete without this,” they say.

We get so caught up with cares and worries of this world. “Am I enough?” And meanwhile, God has laid out for us what the path of life is—what the good life looks like. And He’s wooing us, past the thorns, past the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and toward the final soil in the parable.

4. Verse 8 says that “some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” And Jesus says, in verse 15, these are the ones “who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

It can be discouraging to declare the gospel to people for a long time and to not get the response you would like. It can be discouraging to pour in to other people and to not see the fruit. But when you do see the fruit of it, that is a good feeling.

And here is where there is so much freedom from discouragement: It’s not up to us. It’s not up to us to save people. What's our responsibility? To declare the Kingdom of God to everyone. As followers of Jesus, that’s all we can do, because the rest is up to God.

All we can do is simply plant the seed; it’s not up to us to cultivate. We don’t control the rototiller—that’s not our job. We simply plant the seed, and then let the Spirit of God do that work of breaking up the ground, so that that seed will grow and bear much fruit.

This is so liberating, isn’t it? It takes the pressure off of us, completely. Whether or not a person comes to saving faith in Jesus Christ is not up to me, I am just responsible for giving them the seed—for giving them the message.

One of the most discouraging places in all of Scripture for me is when the prophet Isaiah is told by God to give the message of God to the people of God, but that the people would never listen to him.

Isaiah’s entire prophetic ministry is him relaying the messages of God to the people of God, and the people never responding. If that were me, I would want to quit. If, as a pastor, I were to only receive negative responses to everything I said, at some point, that would wear me down. I would not want to give another message to God’s people, because they won't get it, anyway.

And God is saying, “It’s not your job to get them to get it. It’s mine. You simply speak what I tell you to speak.”

And this goes right back to declaring the Kingdom of God to everyone, because we have no idea what kind of soil each person is. We might take one look at someone and say, “They look pretty rocky on the outside. I don’t think that the seed is going to get through.” We don’t decide that.

We don’t decide that someone is not going to receive what we have to say, because God is potentially doing more in them than you think. The very fact that God brings us to the place of sharing with people what He has done in us is a testament to what God can do. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Tim Keller once said, “You are worse than you think you are, but also far more loved than you feel you are.”

When we think about how God has saved us from the judgment of our sin—that God took that penalty upon Himself—we should be overwhelmed by grace. And the overflow of the grace and love that we have received, is what pours out of us to everyone, because we can’t help but share all of this goodness.

The true Sower, Jesus Christ, who came to bring the ultimate life-giving seed to the soil would eventually give up His life, so that we might have life. And now, we who have life are the sowers of this seed. It doesn’t make sense to us, but it makes perfect sense in God’s economy to use us to declare the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

3. So, declare the Kingdom of God to everyone, regardless of the response. But the question that Jesus leaves us with, is: What is our response?

Probably most of us, even if you didn’t grow up going to church, know the song, “This Little Light of Mine.” Right? We sang it at Community Praise & Prayer, on Friday. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

And the verses continue: “Don’t let Satan blow it out.” “Let it shine till Jesus comes.” “Hide it under a bushel, no!” We know the song.

Well, Jesus uses this powerful illustration, in verse 16, to bring all of this to a close. He says: “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. 18 Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

The purpose of light, Jesus is saying, is to expose things for what they are—to bring them to view. We would never hide a lamp that was lit; it would defeat the purpose of the lamp. And in the same way, Jesus is saying that everything will be exposed when the King returns to consummate His Kingdom.

The reality of the Kingdom of God declared is that each one of us must give a response. Either we will reject God and His Kingdom or we will receive God and His Kingdom. But there is a coming a day, when our response will be brought out to the open—when the light will expose everything.

How did we handle the Word of God that was declared to us? What did we do with the seed that was sown in us? All of this will come out in the open. There will be no middle ground. There will be no “all roads lead to God.” There will only be the question of whether we believed in the King of the Kingdom of God. So, “take care then how you hear.”

We have all been given the opportunity to respond to the grace and mercy of God. What is our response?

Verse 19: “Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.’ 21 But he answered them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’”

When we know the degree of our depravity—how lost we are, by nature—and when we know the degree of the love of God—how He gave His Son, as a ransom for many—then we know how badly other people need to hear about this amazing good news.

These aren’t just good words for us to hear and then go on our merry way. These are the words of life. God didn’t give us His Word, so that we can feel good about ourselves, that we are on the good side. No, God gave us His Word, so that we might give it to those who need to hear it.

“To the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

This should make us weep, because for those who believe in Jesus, it’s a huge responsibility to declare the Kingdom of God, but for those who don’t believe in Jesus, whatever morality or good works they have, is not enough.

It’s not enough, because only Jesus is enough. He’s enough, when we aren’t enough. He’s enough, when the more that’s been given to us is too much for us. He’s enough, when prejudice and partiality get the better of us. He’s enough, when we are discouraged by people’s responses to the gospel. He’s enough, when the kingdoms of this world seem too powerful. Jesus is enough!

Whatever response you have given Jesus, in the past, if you turn from your sin and turn to Jesus, today—if you declare with your mouth that Jesus is enough for you—then you will be saved.

This is the Kingdom declared. It’s the message that Jesus is enough for us. It’s the message that every Kingdom citizen has the joy to declare. And it is truly worthy of thanksgiving.

So, what's our response? Will we accept or will we reject the King of the Kingdom? Will we accept or will we reject the opportunity to declare His message to everyone? What will our response be to the Kingdom of God? Let’s pray…

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