Monday, March 22, 2010

A Nation or a Kingdom?

[This entry follows a sermon preached at Gray Road Baptist Church, entitled "Insight into God's Kingdom." Click on the title to get the audio.]

In thinking about the teaching of Mark 4:21-34, I keep coming back to one word: kingdom. The four statements used in this sermon to summarize the text all include the word...

1. The kingdom of God is revealed in Jesus Christ. (v. 21-23)
2. The kingdom of God is grown by God. (v. 26-29)
3. The kingdom of God is the greatest of all kingdoms. (v. 30-32)
4. The kingdom of God demands our attention. (v. 24-25)

It is an interesting word...kingdom. It is not the same as 'nation.' A kingdom may be made up of separate nations or countries. Think, for example, of the United Kingdom, which is made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. It is one kingdom made up of more than one nation. Such is true of the kingdom of is one kingdom made up of many nations. In fact, one day, a multitude of people will lift up their voices and cry out, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Rev. 7:10). This is a beautiful picture of the fully-gathered kingdom of God, from "every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages..." (v. 9).

This is why we preach the gospel...this is why we exist as a glorify God by preaching a gospel that will build the throne room scene in Revelation 7. I love the mission statement of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis: "We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ." That little phrase "all peoples" pictures the end result...all peoples, nations, tribes, and languages gathered around the throne exalting the God who has saved us by His grace.

We live in a day where it seems that the main mission of the American church is to rebuild a Christian nation. is true that our nation has a distinctly Christian heritage. It is true that over time, we have seen sin become more pervasive and public and permissible...especially in recent decades. It is also true that, as believers, we must be concerned for the advance of the gospel and the kingdom of God in this wonderful country.

However, let us remember that whatever may happen in this nation, we proclaim a gospel which is building a kingdom...not just a nation. We serve a God who is calling out a people for Himself from every nation, not just the one in which we live. God's vision is so much bigger than ours. Many long to re-create an ideal time in American history, and Scripture would teach us that the only ideal will take place when sin is absent and we are with the Lord forever.

Do we want to see our nation changed? Absolutely! Do we want to see Christianity's influence grow in our neighborhoods, cities, and states? Yes! However, this kind of change does not begin or end with elected officials. It does not begin or end with certain types of legislation being passed or not being passed. A nation changes as the kingdom of God expands within that nation, and the kingdom of God expands within a nation as the gospel of God is proclaimed there. This is why the church was not founded by God to elect presidents but to ordain pastors. It's why the church was not founded to proclaim a political platform but to proclaim a Savior.

The gospel is proclaimed week in and week out in churches throughout the world to advance the kingdom of our great God. This kingdom is not like the opening ceremony of the Olympics, in which each nation marches in and the size of its delegation is noted. There are no national flags in this kingdom. Around the throne of God, we will stand as one people under one flag...under one banner. "...his banner over me was love" (Song of Solomon 2:4b).