June 13, 2021

“The Kingdom of God is Like…”

I Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17

A while back, I spoke briefly about Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus, a Pharisee, and a seeker.

And Jesus told Nicodemus: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  Of course, Nicodemus was confused by this, but what Jesus was saying is that to see God’s Kingdom a person must be born not only in the fleshly sense…that is being born of our earthly mother and father…but a person must also be born spiritually.  To see God’s Kingdom, we must be born of God through God’s Holy Spirit.  And this occurs when we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, repent of our sins, and put our whole trust…our entire lives into His hands…making the decision that we will become followers of Jesus.  And when this occurs, we begin to change in some radical and new ways!  Because God’s Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives and begins changing us from the inside out!

As I read just a little bit earlier, from 2 Corinthians: “if anyone is in Christ, he [or she] is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  To be in Christ is to be in the Kingdom of God and to see the Kingdom of God.  Now some of you might be thinking to yourselves right now that the Kingdom of God only refers to what happens to those of us who are saved through faith in Christ after we die.  We often think of the Kingdom of God only as some geographical area…as heaven or paradise.  But this isn’t what Jesus means when He speaks about the Kingdom of God…sure Jesus is speaking about eternal life with God…but He’s not just talking about some place where we will go after we die…He’s also talking about life right here and right now!  You see, the Kingdom of God really means the reign of God.  And so, when we enter the kingdom of God, we are entering the realm of new life where God reigns!  We are entering the realm of new life where Jesus is Lord!  We are allowing Jesus Christ to be in control of our lives.  We are allowing God to have free reign over our lives and our decisions and every aspect of everything!  That’s what it means to enter the Kingdom of God or see the Kingdom of God!  It’s what we see and experience once we allow God to be in control!  And what freedom, what burdens are lifted, what new life is granted when we allow God to bring us into God’s reign!  Yes, praise God, “if anyone is in Christ, he [or she] is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!”

In our Gospel Lesson for this morning, we come across Jesus saying: “This is what the kingdom of God is like,” and “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like…”  Jesus did this a lot when trying to get across to those who were listening to what it is like to live under the reign of God.  He compared it to things we can understand or relate to.  Jesus spoke of earthly things to convey heavenly truths.  And this makes sense, does it not?  We can’t possibly know what something is like unless we have experienced it, touched it, tasted it or seen it.  Say you have seen a color that no one else in the entire world has seen.  How would you explain it to someone else?  You would have to say: “This color is like…”  Otherwise, there is no chance that anyone would be able to even come close to grasping what you were talking about.  So again, and again throughout the New Testament, Jesus tells us: “The kingdom of God is like…”  Jesus doesn’t tell us that the Kingdom of God “IS” “a treasure hidden in a field,” or that the Kingdom of God “IS” “a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish,” or that the Kingdom of God “IS” “yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked through the dough…”and I could go on and on and on…No, instead, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is “like” these examples.

So, in our Gospel Lesson for this morning, we see Jesus using illustrations from the growth of nature to describe the Kingdom of God.   In verses 26-29 Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is happening, and for those who can see it—there are clear signs of its reality.  “A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”  In and through the lives of those who are allowing God’s reign to control their lives, that seed of faith…that seed of grace…that seed of salvation is sprouting and growing.  And just like if we see a plant every day, we cannot see its growth taking place…when we look at our lives from one day to the next, we may not be able to see any Christian growth or maturity.  But that doesn’t mean that growth is not taking place.  Because in the same way that nature’s growth is constant, so is the growth of the Christian who is living within the reign of God.  The sun comes out every day and the seed grows and sprouts.

The rain comes and the seed grows and sprouts.  And before you know it there is “first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.”  Then the grain ripens and it’s time for the harvest.  For those living in the Kingdom of God…God is in control of our lives, and thus God is in control of our Christian growth toward becoming more and more like Christ.  That’s what theologians like to call the process of sanctification or going on to perfection!  Because when God is in control of our lives, we are going to rely on God for our every decision.  And we are going to rely on God’s grace to enable us to make it through every decision.  We are going to rely on God’s grace to forgive us when we fall short or sin, and we are going to rely on God’s grace to enable us to pick ourselves up and try again!  When we are living under the reign of God, God is the One Who causes us to grow from a seed to a stalk, to a head, then to the full kernel in the head.  When we are living under the reign of God, we may not see this growth happening every day…but it is happening!  And when we look back on our lives a year ago or five years ago or ten years ago, we will see how much Christian growth and maturity God has caused to happen in our lives through our living under His reign!  And my friends, there is nothing more exciting than this!  Are you living under the reign of God?  If not, it is never too late to allow Jesus to be the Lord of your life…it is never too late to allow God to take complete control.  We are never too old to be born again!  Just as nature’s growth is inevitable so is the growth of the Christian who is living under the reign of God!  And this growth can and will make such a difference, not only in our lives but also in the lives of those around us!  Because there is nothing so powerful as growth.  A tree can split concrete pavement with the power of its growth.  A weed can push its green head through an asphalt parking lot.  Nothing can stop growth.  And it’s the same way with those living in the Kingdom!  Despite all the devil’s schemes, nothing can stop the good that comes to this world through those who are growing in their love for others, in their service to others, in their acceptance and kindness and generosity to others through living under the reign of God!

Good fruit will come.  Good things will happen.  Good results will occur for and through those who allow God’s Reign to rule their lives!

In verse 31 Jesus goes on to say the Kingdom of God “is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.”  Here again Jesus is talking about the growth that takes place and the results of living under the reign of God!  Before we are converted to Christianity our lives may appear to be very small and insignificant.  Before we begin living under the reign of God, we might not have a lot of good things to show for all the living we have done.  Our lives may appear to be as small as a mustard seed.  But once we begin living…really living in Jesus Christ…our lives sprout and take root!  We find that God begins using us to bring others into His Kingdom or reign.  We find that some of the old sinful habits and addictions which used to plague us like monkeys on our backs…. God begins to lift these things off us…. we find that we are drawn to the reading of God’s Word and that through the reading of God’s Word we are fed with meaning, and purpose and hope!  We find that we not only enjoy…but we also need the fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Worship becomes real and active and alive……we begin treating people differently and looking at people in a different light…with a kind of love, the kind of love that God has!  And one day…because of living under the reign of God…we find that our lives which once seemed so small and so insignificant—sort of like a little mustard seed—have grown and become “the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches” that others are able to perch and find rest and shade in witnessing what God has accomplished in us!  This is what it is like to live under the reign of God.  We can live in this very difficult and often painful world…and not only live through it but be victorious over it through the power of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit changing us, molding us, causing us to grow and mature in love from the inside out!

There is a Hymn in our Hymnals, it’s on page 394, “Something Beautiful”.  The Kingdom of God is like the description given in these words: “Something beautiful, something good; all my confusion he understood; all I had to offer him was brokenness and strife, but he made something beautiful of my life.”

If you are not living under the reign of God, please, take that most important first step today, this morning, this very instant and allow God to make something beautiful of your life!

Amen.

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