Who do you say that I am?
The Kingdom of God is within your grasp!
Theme Verse: "Who do you say that I am?" Matthew 16:15
Readings: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; John 3:1-17; Matthew 6:7-15;
Matthew 18: 1-5
Optional: Matthew 18: 21-35; Matthew 13: 24-33, 44-50
Memory Verse: Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." John 3:3
KINGDOM: "the territory, people, state, or realm ruled by a king."
INTRODUCTION: The following is a summary of thoughts about God's kingdom presented in the book, Sitting at the Feet of the Rabbi Jesus, Chapter 13
God's kingdom is a realm that has no geographic location and transcends earthly nations. This kingdom is not a place but rather the actions of and dominion ruled by a king who transcends all earthly kings. It is God's reign, and those whom God reigns over.
Kingdom of heaven is a phrase sometimes applied in the New Testament Gospels but the word "heaven"as applied here is really a respectful euphemism for God's name, which good Jews would not utter. So Kingdom of Heaven is really Kingdom of God. Many Jews in Jesus' time believed that God was going to redeem the world by bringing it under his reign. What they did not know was what kind of king God's Messiah would be. Jews had prayed for centuries that the whole world would one day know and honor God. (and we Christians pray in the same way – "thy kingdom come…") Jesus' ministry was wholly about the Kingdom of God, and how it had broken in on this world. Read Luke 11:20 (and Exodus 8:19).
GOD'S KINGDOM IS INTIMATELY CLOSE! Read Luke 17: 20-21 and Matthew 12:28. The Jews believed- as noted in 1 Enoch and 2 Baruch from their Scriptures- that the kingdom of God would be observable through cosmic or celestial signs. The literal translation of Luke 17: 20 means- "the kingdom of God is not coming with signs that can be observed." (or, "not with your careful observation", or "not in a way that can be closely watched") The kingdom is in fact within "your midst", or "intimately close", or "within your grasp", or "at hand". This means that it is so near no one can miss it. It is here. There is an urgency to it- what are you going to do about it? Do you want to be in God's kingdom? How does that happen? This verse has also been translated as "the kingdom of God is within you"; meaning, a personal commitment, where we bow down in our hearts to the king, where we daily enthrone him, or worship him. It is a present and continual choice on our part to be in God's kingdom.
YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN! In Matthew 8:5-10 we read the story of the Roman centurion who came to Jesus so that his servant might be healed. He told Jesus that there was no need for Jesus to come to his home. Instead he says, "Just say the word and my servant will be healed, for I too am a man under authority…". The centurion placed himself under the authority of Jesus, and the kingdom of heaven visibly broke into his life. When you hear the phrases, "make a personal commitment to Jesus", or "commit your life to Christ", it means submitting your life to Jesus, and believing that he has authority to forgive all sins, including yours! In John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus, "You must be born again". You must be born again to see and be in God's kingdom. It is as when Jesus says, "He who has ears, let him hear." In this case, it is, "He who has eyes, let him see." In today's Matthew 18 reading, Jesus in v. 3 states that unless we "humble" ourselves like a little child- the word "humble" literally means "repent", or "turn around"- we can never enter God's kingdom. This has nothing to do with any inherent humility on the part of any child, but it does point to a child's trusting spirit, and their willingness to be dependent and receive from others. Everyone who believes in/ trusts Jesus will not perish but have/receive eternal life! Eternal life is God's life, it is his kingdom. Paul as noted in Romans 8:17 states that "if we are children than we are heirs." Roman inheritance law established an heir by birth, whereas we are granted the privileges and responsibilities of being an heir upon someone's death. Paul emphasized that because we are born into God's life through faith in Jesus we become his children, and if we are God's children then we are heirs to all that belongs to the king. Have you made this personal commitment to Jesus? If so, can you give examples of the kingdom of God visibly breaking into your life or the life of someone you know? Set this against Jesus' home area of Nazareth, where he could not perform many miracles because of the people's lack of faith.
Once we have been born from above, our life in Christ, our kingdom life, does not end. It is active and present and continuous.
Read Matthew 7:21. Only those who do God's will Jesus will recognize as God's children. What is God's will? Read John 6:40.
Read Psalm 44:4. When we believe, and as we believe, a personal relationship is established and maintained. See Thomas in John 20:28- "My LORD and my God!"
Read Colossians 1: 13-14. Jesus has delivered us from the powers of darkness, and transferred us to his kingdom. And that kingdom is "Unshakeable"- see Hebrews 12:28, so let us worship and give thanks to God in "devotion and awe"!
Read Colossians 3: 1-3. "Keep seeking the things above." Matthew 6:33.
WHAT IS KINGDOM LIVING? A Christian writer once defined eternal life as "not about duration of time but quality of life." There are many examples in the New Testament about how we live in God's kingdom. Following are a few: Matthew 5:1- 7:29; Romans 12: 9-21; Galatians 5: 13-25. And of course we read the parables of the kingdom of heaven ("the kingdom of heaven is like…") in Matthew 13. In Matthew 5 is the well-known Sermon on the Mount. There Jesus proclaims to the people "Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for the kingdom of God belongs to them." Jesus wants us to have hearts like beggars, hearts that are submitted to the Father. Remember in last week's lesson where we read Jesus' words that he does only what he sees his Father in heaven doing? As we live like this, totally dependent on the Father's love and the direction of his Spirit, the kingdom belongs to us. Later, Jesus tells us to "let your light shine before people". We should want this for others too. In Matthew 6 we read the Lord's Prayer. It begins by our acknowledging God as Father and king ("hallowed be your name…"), then continues with a request of the Father for his kingdom to come. What other examples of kingdom living are provided in these readings?
In Galatians 5, Paul discusses the difference between the life in the flesh and the life in the Spirit. If God has set us free from the bondage of sin, then we are free indeed! We have been called to this freedom- but don't misuse it! Paul exclaims- "Live by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh." He is clear in pointing out the desires of the flesh and the behavior that comes from them, and adds "Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!" So what are we to do? "Live by the Spirit"! Recall now the reading in last week's lesson from Deuteronomy 17, where the expected lifestyle of Israel's king is described. How does that life and this kingdom life compare? What is God saying to us about his life, eternal life, and about personal relationships? All of the conduct described not only establishes a personal relationship with God but also enhances our relationship with God and with one another. Jesus said in John 10:10 that he came so that we might have Life and have it most abundantly. God loves us and wants what is best for us, and kingdom life is the best life.
Following are words received for this lesson:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". (Matthew 5:3) A word received: Come to me so that you will truly know your poverty and your need for me.
"Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:12) A word received: I want your joy to be complete. Look to me for joy that comes in the face of adversity and persecution.
Another parable he put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches." (Matthew 13:31-32) A word received: Come, nest in the branches; come rest in my arms. Come to me; come find your shelter in me.
Another parable he spoke to them: "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened." (Matthew 13:33) A word received: I want my love to be mixed up with your life. I want to raise and leaven you as yeast does with dough.
You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:5) A word received: Come to me, I will build you up on the sure foundation of my love. You are precious in my sight.