Community Group Study Notes
1. Have someone in your group provide a 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
2. What is one thing that God taught you through this message?
3. What does it mean to be people of the kingdom of God?
4. What difference does it make when Jesus is King over your entire life? In what area of your life is this most clearly seen? In what area of your life is this less evident?
5. What is one action step that you can take in light of Sunday’s message and our conversation today?
America, America, God shed his grace on thee. You may have heard that song, maybe even played that song or listened to that song at some point in this past weekend as we celebrated the birth of a nation. The song is America the Beautiful. It was pinned in 1893 by a woman named Katherine Lee Bates and she pinned it in 1893 as a poem, but eventually in 1911 it was published as a song. Interestingly enough, there was a man who was in a church and played the organ and he composed a musical score, but had no words and she, many years earlier had composed a poem that didn't have a song and they eventually found one another. Her lyrics to his music and eventually it became the song, America the Beautiful. America, America, God shed his grace on thee.
I'm grateful that the song actually references the grace of God because, as a nation, certainly we have experienced in some degree, the grace of God. We live in a free place, we live in a place that has opportunity as much as any country in the world, but our nation is far from perfect. And although we have experienced the grace of God, it's fair to say we need more. We need the grace of God in this nation. You see, God didn't just give us grace for a moment or even for the outset, but God is exactly giving us grace as we desire it and we need it. And we need it in these days. In fact, I think that the writer of that particular song, America the Beautiful, I think she foresaw this as well, because one of the choruses of that beautiful song, America the Beautiful, that we never sing, says this, "America, America, God mend thine every flaw." We don't sing that part very often, do we?
But she had, at least, some line of sight into what was happening in her world as she wrote that and maybe what would eventually be happening in our world because I'm guessing she might have been able to see that crowning our good with brotherhood might be a challenge then and may even be a challenge in the future. And so we hear songs like that around this time and it speaks into the very nation that we are celebrating. But there are other songs as well. Songs like, in the Civil War timeframe like, We Shall Overcome. That song also contained within it the idea of God being the one who could bring peace and friendship and the ability to walk hand in hand. And it became a staple during that season.
Now interestingly enough, that song just made it into the public domain very, very recently, within the last just couple of years. And now the person who was, in part, responsible for that song is finally getting credit. Her name was Louise Shropshire. She was a minister of music in Cincinnati in the 40s, 50s, 60s and she had actually written a piece, I Will Overcome if Jesus Wills, that was what she was saying. I will overcome if Jesus wills. She was hosting Dr. King in their home. Her husband and she were hosting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in their home when he was there in the Cincinnati area preaching and after their meal, she as a minister of music, went to the piano and started playing her song to which he asked permission if he could make that not just personal, but make it corporate by saying, "We Shall Overcome", and then the language from Dr. King in so many of the messages that you heard was in part, born from there.
These are songs that rightly so speak to the heart of our nation. These speak to a nation and more specifically, they both speak to God's activity in a nation. I want to make sure that you understand something. God loves nations and here's why. Because within nations there are people and God loves people. But God has a greater concern than geographically bounded nations. God's concern is actually not just about nations over which he is sovereign, but God's concern is about a kingdom. You see, where God is actually concerned is the nature of the kingdom of God and this is a bigger reality than just the reality of a geographic nation. And as grateful as we are in this fourth of July weekend, this Independence Day weekend, to be able to live in a country such as we live, as beautiful and flawed as it is, we're grateful to have the opportunity to live in such a place.
We're blessed as a result with opportunity and all of those kinds of things, but our primary concern as people of God, should be the kingdom of God. Now the interesting thing is, is that when we use that phrase and we say words like, kingdom or kingdom of God, it's really a familiar phrase to us and we seem to understand what we're saying when we say it, but sometimes people are using those phrases in different ways to explain different things. And it's a very familiar phrase to us, but if we were pressed on what's the definition of that, it's a little harder for us to be able to communicate in truth what a definition is of that term even though it rolls off the tongue so easily for those of us who've been a part of the life of the church.
So when we say that we're doing kingdom work or we're a part of the kingdom of God, what are we saying when we say that? There's a couple of groups of people that are actually saying different things than one another. On one side you've got a group of people that are actually using the idea of kingdom or kingdom work to describe a variety of good works that are done. For instance, if they are helping to feed people in need of food, they'll say they are doing kingdom work. If they are digging fresh water wells in a country that is in need, they will say they are doing kingdom work, and by the way, these are wonderful things to do, that we've been a part of doing. Or if they are helping to educate people in nations or places that are struggling in terms of their education, they will say this is kingdom work.
And here's what they mean basically, they are saying the kingdom work is good people doing good works for the common good. That's the idea. But then there is a different group of people that's over here and this group of people, when they talk about the kingdom, they are actually not talking about something particularly tangible just like these people over here are not talking about anything particularly spiritual. This group of people over here, instead of talking about tangible things, they made the idea of the kingdom of God virtually, solely spiritual. In other words, when people get saved, when people come to faith in Jesus, they are transported from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light or the kingdom of God. That what this idea of the kingdom of God is for these people, is the idea of our lives being transformed spiritually and having the hope of an afterlife with God. This is the idea of the kingdom of God.
Now I've painted this in very reductionistic terms because I'm just showing you that there's a difference sometimes in how people view the idea of the kingdom of God. You've got sometimes people over here that are talking about good words that are basically done for the common good. Good people doing good things for the common good. And then you've got on this side people that are just thinking about that solely, spiritually. That this is just about people's lives being transformed, doesn't really have to do with the everyday living that we do. So both of those people actually talk about the idea of the kingdom of God. And if we're not careful, we can find ourselves just floating into one or the other camp, but I'm going to suggest to you through the course of this series that we're doing over the next five weeks that what you're going to learn and what you're going to find out is that this isn't really an or when we describe these, it's an and.
You're going to see elements of both of those things in the context of what we describe as the kingdom of God, but in truth, what we sometimes have a difficult way of dealing with this because we don't really know how to define it. Some of you may be thinking to yourself, "Jerry, why are you making such a big deal of this? Why are you going on and on about this idea of the kingdom of God?" Here's just one really small way and one really small reason, because the whole New Testament is about it. That's why. There's a reason that I'm going on and on about it. And very specifically, because when you open up Mark's gospel, which you're about to do, you're preparing to do right now, everyone, everywhere. I can see you through the camera, you're doing it. Whether it's a phone or it's a Bible, when you open up Mark's gospel, the very first, listen to this, the very first phrase that comes out of the mouth of Jesus in his earthly ministry has to do with the kingdom.
This is why this is such an important statement, because Mark is setting up his gospel in such a way that he's showing us the first words out of the mouth of Jesus in his time of ministry, after his baptism and after the temptation and all of that, in his launching of his ministry, the first words out of his mouth have to do with the phrase, the kingdom of God, and Mark is using that because he's setting up his whole gospel to teach us about the reality of the kingdom of God. It's really important to us and you're going to figure that out as we keep progressing through this, but what I want to do is, I want to be able to show you that first phrase of Jesus in Mark chapter number one. And here's what it says. It says, after John the Baptizer, John the Baptist was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God.
Here's what he said. "The time has come", Jesus said, "the kingdom of God has come near." Then he says this, "Repent, change your mind", that leads to a change of action or change of direction, "repent and believe the good news. The kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe the good news." Now for some of you, you're thinking to yourself, All right, here's what I hear when I hear that. Hold on. Before you go there, before you go to being concerned with what you hear when you hear that, which is important, I think we better be concerned about what the people there heard when Jesus said it because if we really want to get a definition that's really close to what Jesus was saying at the time he was saying it, maybe we should understand what the people listening to him, the Galileans, what they were actually hearing when Jesus said, "The kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe the good news."
But to be able to do that, you have to immerse yourself in the world of the Galileans and the world that they were living in was one that was saturated with what we call the Old Testament or the Hebrew scriptures. This is what they grew up learning in school, this is what they were affirmed in, in their house, this is what they grew up memorizing and so they've got this Old Testament that we talk about, the Hebrew scriptures, and their idea around kingdom or kingdom of God is actually coming from that. It's not just something that they are twirling about in their heads, making up something. So to understand that, I've got to back you up into the Hebrew scriptures and what I'm going to do over the next few minutes is, I'm going to read every single verse in the Old Testament. No I'm not, I'm not doing that, but what I am going to do is, I'm going to summarize this for us so that we understand what we're talking about. And I want you to go with me on this. You might be saying, "I didn't come here for a history lesson, Gillis, that's not what I'm here for."
If you read the Bible, you are always getting a history lesson. Just as a heads up, it wasn't written yesterday. It's been around a long time so every time you open it, you are reading history, but you are also reading something that the Holy Spirit inspired so that we may be transformed more into the image of Christ as a result. Now I back you up all the way to the book of Genesis. Start at the very beginning on page number one. Do you know what page number one tells us? That there's a king and a kingdom. That's what you learn right away. The creator, God, has made for himself a cosmic temple so that he, as the king, can dwell in it and he has also created human beings that he calls, image bearers. They are created in the image of God. What does that mean? This was the terminology of kingship and here's why. Because image bearers were meant to, they were meant to relate to the king. They were meant to rule under the king and they were meant to be people who would demonstrate the king, representing him in the place that they were in.
This was common language that was used in the ancient world and that's why Moses was using this very terminology. And so these image bearers now have a responsibility to represent the king, to relate to the king, and to rule under the king. That's what we find out in the book of Genesis. But what happened to those original image bearers? They sinned. But instead of talking about that sin being really generic, there was a very specific nature to their sin and it had to do with kingship. And do you know what that very specific nature was? They were trying to usurp the king's authority. This is what's going on in the book of Genesis is you've got people who are in rebellion against the crown. They are trying to usurp God's authority as king. In other words, they wanted to rule as king instead of ruling under the king. Or as one author said it, instead of them wanting to just be godly, they wanted to be God-like.
You see, this was about king and kingdom and when that happens, when human beings, image bearers fall into this patten of rebellion against the king and his kingdom then what we read from Genesis 3 to Genesis 11 is, we read basically the chronicles of rebellion. Cain and Abel, the flood and judgment of Noah's time. The tower of Babel. What you've got is, you've got human beings that are in rebellion to the king. So you know what God does to stem the tide of the rebellion and also to demonstrate his forgiveness and his grace, he taps on the shoulder the son of pagan idol maker named, Abraham. Not a likely candidate. But he taps him on the shoulder and says, I'm going to make a covenant with you, Abraham, and here's my covenant. I'm going to bless the world through your progeny and I am going to rule through the people that come from you.
Abraham put up a fuss. He's like, I'm super old and have you seen my wife? Her biological clock detonated decades ago. She's super old, I'm super old. How is this going to happen? God says, trust me. Then they have a child, they name the child, Laughter, because they are like, what. God, from that progeny, as their children have children and their children have children, from that comes a nation. And that nation is called, Israel. And what God said is, I'm going to rule through this nation. I am the king and I'm going to rule through this nation. Notice what God did. It went from the original image bearers right here with Adam and Eve that God said I want to rule through you. In other words, you're going to rule under me and they failed and humanity failed so God now has chosen a people for himself to do the same thing. You're going to rule under me and you're going to represent me and you're going to be a nation that demonstrates to the world who the true king is.
It went from Adam to Abraham to Moses to Joshua and then to the judges of which Samuel was the preeminent judge. But all of this time in biblical history, listen to this, God alone was king. And then something changed. At the time of Samuel, which I just ended with, Samuel was leading the nation of Israel as a judge and he had two sons. Samuel, I think, was hoping that his sons would be able to rule after him, but they were wicked. And so the elders of Israel came to Samuel and they asked him for something very specific. Here's what it says in 1st Samuel, chapter eight. So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and they said to him, you are old. How do you like that as an intro? How to win friends and influence people. You are old and your sons do not follow your ways. Here's what they say. Now appoint a king to lead us such as all the other nations have. But when they said, give us a king to lead us, this displeased Samuel so he prayed to the Lord.
Now there is a reason that that displeased Samuel because Samuel knew that God alone was king and there wasn't supposed to be somebody who was standing in God's place as king. God alone was king so it displeased Samuel. By the way, it displeased the Lord, too. Do you know what God was doing with Israel? He said, I want you to represent me because I am the king. Israel says, we want to be just like all the other nations. But God says to Israel, I want you to be nothing like the other nations. I want you to be different than all the other nations. And they say, we want to be just like them. We want to have a king that can sit on a throne, that can lead us into battle and all that kind of stuff and they'd just forgotten how God has led them up to this point in history.
Samuel is displeased, the Lord is displeased, but the Lord says, okay. I'm going to give you what you want. The first king of Israel was named Saul. Not a great king, good looking dude. When you see him described in the Bible, tall, good looking, you know they kind of describe that basically in the Hebrew, stud. That's what it basically said. That's just my translation, but that's what it said, Saul was a stud. But Saul was there at first and wasn't a particularly good king but in the midst of that what God did is, God said, I've got somebody. He's actually in Bethlehem, he's a shepherd boy right now, but I've got somebody. His name's David. David becomes the king. You remember David, right, slay the giant, David. King, Rock Star David, that's David. Basically the rest of the Old Testament is this. David and David's descendants and what happens as a result of that. That's basically the rest of the Old Testament. Right after Samuel, from that point, that's what you've got going forward for the rest of the Old Testament.
Now what's interesting about this is that God did something very specific with David. Stay with me. God did something very specific with David. He said, I'm going to make a promise that actually through David's descendants is going to be one who I'm going to reestablish my rule in the land through this one. Through David's descendants. And the kingdom has actually been promised to David's descendants so much so that after David's son, Solomon was on the throne, after Solomon, the kingdom split and it became a northern kingdom and a southern kingdom. You had the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel. And with those two kingdoms, they were kind of at odds with one another and so the guy from the kingdom of Israel, named Jeroboam had really kind of taken over a spot that he didn't deserve because he was not one of the descendants. But you had a guy named Abijah, who was there in Judah who reminded Jeroboam of this very thing.
The king of Judah is reminding the king of Israel of this. Notice what it said actually in 2nd Chronicles 13. Abijah stood on Mount Zemaraim in the hill country of Ephraim and said, Jeroboam and all Israel listen to me. Don't you know that the Lord, the God of Israel has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt. Yet Jeroboam, son of Nebat, an official of Solomon, son of David rebelled against his master. Some worthless scoundrels gathered around him and oppressed Rehoboam, son of Solomon, when he was young and indecisive and not strong enough to resist them.
Listen to this. And now you plan to resist the kingdom of the Lord, which is in the hands of David's descendants. The kingdom of the Lord or the kingdom of God is in the hands of David's descendants. See, this is what you're seeing with the idea of king and kingdom all the way through the context of scripture and now, for the rest of the Old Testament, you've got kings that are sitting on thrones after David and what you see is this. You see a few that are decent kings and most of them being awful. And so do you know what was happening? During that time, God was raising up prophets to be able to not only speak truth to power against the kings, but also speak to the people. And do you know what those prophets were doing? They were reminding them, we know that you're thirsty, we know that you're starving. We know that this leadership is not any good, but there's one that's coming.
Listen to what Isiah said in Isiah chapter nine. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders and he will be called wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, prince of peace, of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever and the zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
You've got God saying to this people who now have human kings, which they were never supposed to have, but he has given them this divine detour through David and his descendants, that he knew he was going to do all along and they are thirsty and they are hungry and they think that we know that this is coming, but when. And Jesus shows up. And Jesus says these words to those people. The kingdom of God has come near, so repent and believe the good news. Now you're starting to hear it in the way that they were hearing it. Jesus was announcing to them that God is reestablishing his rule in this place through me. That's what Jesus was saying.
So if you want a definition based on Jesus, if you want a definition for what the kingdom of God is, and a special thanks to Dr. McKnight who helped summarize this really easily, here it is. The kingdom of God is a people governed by King Jesus. The kingdom of God is a people governed by King Jesus. Some of you are saying, that's seems pretty obvious to me now. Yeah, it does. But it may not have been obvious to you at the beginning, because you may have, in your head, have gone, yeah, I didn't really know how to describe the idea of the kingdom of God, but now that we understand what Jesus was saying to the people he was saying it to, now we say, okay, the kingdom of God is a people governed by King Jesus.
You see, this was good news to the people that were listening because it's consistent with what the gospel writers were actually saying about Jesus as king anyway. Stay with me here because I'm going somewhere. This is really consistent with what the writers of the gospels were saying, particularly when Jesus was born. You remember when Matthew wrote about Jesus' birth? He talked about magi coming from the east to worship who? A king, right? And then when you read Luke and what Luke has to say about the birth narrative, Luke actually uses, the angel actually uses it, but Luke records, the angel saying three things about Jesus that actually point to his kingship, all in the same statement that the angel makes. In fact, listen to what the angel said in Luke 2. But the angel said to them, do not be afraid, I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
Today in the town of David, read this with me, a savior has been born to you. He is the messiah, the Lord. Savior, messiah, Lord. Each of those things actually points to Jesus as king. In fact, when we're reading Mark's gospel, you do know how Mark got his gospel. Mark was not one of the original 12 disciples. Do you know where he got it from? Peter. And when Peter was an old man writing, do you know that he used the exact same three statements to describe Jesus in terms of his kingship? Listen to what he said. 2nd Peter, chapter one, he said, therefore my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election, for if you do these things, you will never stumble and you will receive a rich welcome, listen to this, into the eternal kingdom or the kingdom of God of our, say it with me, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christ is the Greek way of saying messiah. Same exact phrase. Lord, savior, messiah.
You see, here's what I'm saying to you. That when we actually use the term, savior, when the Bible uses the term savior, it's a kingly term because what it's describing is the promised one who has come. The promised king who has come to rescue his people. That's what he means when he means savior. When he uses the term messiah or Christ, he is saying that Jesus is the anointed one just like David was anointed by Samuel. Jesus has been anointed by the Father as king. And when he uses the term, Lord, he's actually saying this. Jesus is Lord, Cesar is not. And boy do we need that word today. Jesus is Lord and no politician, no political party is. Jesus is Lord, they are not.
We pray for them, whoever they are, whether it's in the White House or the congressional house, or the governor's house or wherever. We pray for them, we pray for God's wisdom on them, on all of them, even if they are not our candidate of choice, whatever that looks like or if the party that we support is not in control of the House or the Senate or whatever, we pray. That's our responsibility. That's what we've been called to. But we have a king. My allegiance is to the king. Your allegiance as people of God is supposed to be to the king. That's what we are supposed to embrace because remember, when we read this passage in Mark chapter one, it says this. Jesus says the time has come, the kingdom of God has come near so repent and believe the good news.
When he said the kingdom of God has come near, he's saying, I'm here. The king showed up. The kingdom of God is near because I'm here. The king is here. And so he says, change your way of thinking so that it changes your way of behaving and believe the good news that the kingdom has broken into the world. This is incredibly important for us to be able to embrace because why are we learning this. Why are we spending our time on this? One, because I'm introducing a series and we need to understand what we're saying when we say, the kingdom of God. But two, because we need to learn what it means to be the people of the kingdom. You and I need to understand what it looks like to be people of the kingdom of God. That means that Jesus is lord over everything. He's king over everything and that means in our lives personally that we've got a responsibility to surrender ourselves to King Jesus and say, Jesus, whatever it is you want, whatever it is you say, I surrender to you because you're the true king.
Some of us are better at being Americans than we are at being kingdom people. We're super quick sometimes to be able to parrot our favorite talking head whether it's from Fox or from MSNBC, depending on what side of the spectrum you may find yourself on, and we're way better, we're way better at spitting words from the world than we are at being kingdom people. You're going to find out what I think and I love you. I may step on some toes. I'll take my shoes off because I love you, but then I'll stomp. Listen, I love you and I just want to tell you the truth in Jesus' name. We have to be able to submit ourselves personally and let God do the work in our hearts so that we begin to see the world like he sees it. Not just as we've been conditioned to see it, but as he sees it. There's a difference in those things, by the way.
Sometimes we've conditioned ourselves to see the world in such a way and everybody that doesn't see the world the same way that we see it, they are just stupid. They are just stupid. They should just be as smart as we are. We've got to be able to personally lay ourselves before the King and say, do what you will. By the way, in our families we have to be able to do that. We have to be able to teach our children what it looks like to be people of the kingdom. People of the kingdom of God. We have to do that in the church. The church has to be a place where people can see the reality of the kingdom of God because for so long sometimes in our churches history, I'm not talking about the chapel, I'm talking about the churches' history, we have promoted things that are absolutely antithetical to the gospel. We've not only accepted them, but we've actually approved them when what we're supposed to be about, listen to this, kingdom people, in all of our beautiful diversity, who have been transformed by the glorious gospel of King Jesus, who are now a people governed by King Jesus, made up of all different kinds of people from all over, every nation, tribe, and tongue, we ought to be able to give the world a preview of coming attractions.
We should be, listen to this, we in the church should be a movie trailer for the kingdom of God, that everybody can watch and say, "Hmm, so that's how you do that." But instead, what we end up doing sometimes is, we end up giving them a different look. I'm telling you, the reason of this idea of the kingdom of God and living as kingdom people is so important is because it's important in our national moment. Yes, we're in a pandemic. And the world is looking at the church asking questions about how people of faith actually work through these things. In times of testing, what are we? In times of testing, what do we look like? Do we become people who grow in the exercise of our flesh and just get angry and lash out and be mad and post everything that we're thinking and all of that stuff or do we grow in the likeness of Jesus in who we are, in what we do?
The world is looking. The world is also looking at us in a time of racial tension. And they want to know, what is the church doing in that regard. How is the church responding in that moment? How do those people that come from all those different walks of life and backgrounds and ethnicities, what do they look like when they are together? And we've got to make sure that, listen, that the church doesn't end up doing exactly what the world does, which is fracturing along racial lines or fracturing along political lines. We are a kingdom people. We are people governed by King Jesus. Wherever we come from, whatever our background, what does that look like? It looks like, listen, instead of fracturing, we run toward one another. That's what we do in the body of Christ.
Some of you are going, "Man, yes, absolutely true. But that's easier said than done." It is easier said than done. It is easier said than done. But that's our responsibility. Our responsibility is to do what King Jesus says. To say yes when King Jesus says what he wants to say. That's our responsibility. The question that you have to ask yourself and I have to ask myself is if we have moved toward brothers and sisters in our community of faith during times like this, to be able to understand one another. Brothers and sisters who are different than us, to be able to understand one another, to be able to bear one another's burdens, to be able to see the world maybe through their eyes and they see the world through ours. And we don't have to agree about every single thing in the whole world, I get that. I got it.
Your political party may be different from their political party, maybe different from their political party, that's fine. We all get to vote. That's the beauty of living in America. They didn't even have those options then. These Jewish people, they didn't have that option. They were under the rule of Rome. They didn't get to go, "I don't think I want that, Cesar. He beats the junk out of us, I don't want him." That's not what they could do. They didn't even have an option at that point. You know what they did? They prayed and they lived like people of the kingdom and we would do well to do the same. Plus we get the blessing of being able to vote.
My concern is being able to understand one another. Love another, empathize with one another. Relate to one another in real relationship, not just transactional. Oh boy, I've got a lot to say. Here's why, because when we trade our unity as kingdom people, when we trade in our unity for political polarization or racial polarization, we, listen to this, that as an offense to what Jesus died to create. He died to create a multi-ethnic beautiful picture of his glorious grace and when we decide to just fracture it, here's what happens. Instead of building bridges, we build walls. And by the way, Jesus destroyed, according to Ephesians 2, Jesus destroyed the wall of hostility between Jew and gentile. That's basically talking about racial differences. Also, by the way, cultural differences, by the way. He destroyed it in the cross. How dare we rebuild what Jesus died to create. We can't rebuild this wall, he died to destroy it so that we might be able to show the world what it looks like to live as kingdom people.
Oh man, I have a lot to say. But, I also have a friend, we've met, I say a friend, he doesn't know me. But we've met. I drove him one time at a conference and he was super nice to me. His name is Dr. Tony Evans. Some of you know who Dr. Evans is and he's really, in my opinion, one of the spiritual fathers of our nation. In terms, right now, presently, one of the spiritual fathers. He has given so much leadership to people, black, white, brown, he's just giving leadership. And he's godly and he's kingdom minded. He's the first African-American to graduate with his PhD from Dallas Theological Seminary ever. Leads a church in Dallas, but speaks national platforms all over the place. Many of you have seen him, heard him. And I've been tracking during these season, both from pandemic and from the conversation we're having nationally, I've been tracking with some other pastors to see what they are saying, how they are leading. And we have people that are tracking with us and asking how we're leading and what we're saying too.
But Dr. Evans shared some things with his congregation in light of what's happening in our nation, particularly on the racial side, that I thought was so outstanding that I asked for his permission to be able to share it with you. And they said yes, by the way. Instead of me quoting him, I'd like you to hear a man who thinks with a kingdom lens as to how he's looking at the world he lives in right now.
Dr. Tony Evans.
Tony Evans: You know we're in a medical pandemic right now. Simultaneously, we're in a cultural pandemic because we're seeing the devolution of our society. And we're in a cultural pandemic because we're in a spiritual pandemic. We have wandered away from a value system that was established by God for how human beings were to live and act and relate to one another across racial and class lines, we have come up with our own standards and it has not done us good. It is absolutely needed right now that there needs to be a reset and this is the time to do it when it has everyone's attention at the very same time.
The Bible is clear. In Psalm 89, verse 14 it says, from God's throne comes righteousness and justice. And this is not a seesaw where sometimes you go for righteousness and sometimes you go for justice. These are twin towers. These are twins. They are always to be balanced side by side. Righteousness is the moral standard of right and wrong to which God holds men accountable based on his divine standard. Justice is the equitable and impartial application of God's moral law in society. And God wants both. Yes, he wants to protect the life of the unborn in the womb, but he wants to see justice of the life once born to the tomb. In other words, God wants a whole life agenda, not a term agenda.
But unfortunately all lives aren't valued the same way. And they ought to be because every person is created in the image of almighty God. It is now time on a personal level and on a systemic level that we reverse the course of history that has brought us to this point and that we reverse it on all levels. God has four levels in which life is to be lived and therefore there are four levels in which changes need to be made. I call it, we call it the kingdom agenda of a visible manifestation of a comprehensive rule of God over every area of life. It starts with an individual, it starts with you. Don't try to change the nation if God can't even change your heart. In other words, we have to develop a heart that cares for our fellow man because they are created in the image of God, not because they look like us or have what we have, but because they have a stamp of divine creation on them.
That means that you have the responsibility to reach out to somebody different than you. Let them understand where you came from, where you come from, the things that have influenced your perspective. Hear from them and give them an audience and then both of you find out what God has to say about the matter so that he can keep everybody straight. And then there is your family. We must be transferring values to our children. Don't expect them to think differently and act differently if they aren't hearing differently from their parents, if they are not getting a righteous value system of judging people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. It means you connect with other families who may be different than you and you not only get to know them, but guess what you do, as families together, you go serve another family that's worse off than you. Because guess where reconciliation happens?
It doesn't happen in seminars, that's information. Reconciliation happens in service. So as an individual and as a family, with another family different than you, serve somebody worse off than you and now you are part of the solution through good works that God calls us all to do. And then the church, the biggest problem in the culture today is the church because the church has failed. We wouldn't even have a racial crisis in America if the church had not failed to deal with this sin like God calls it in his word. But because they passed it off, ignored it and even promoted it, we still have this division in our culture. So don't expect God to fix the White House, if he can't even fix the church house.
Churches don't just get together for joining worship services, that's great, that has its benefits, but it also addresses the issue of inequity, whether it's racial inequity or economic inequity or healthcare inequity or opportunity inequity, it recognizes the systems that are at work, that work against the fair treatment of people creating the opportunity for them to take advantage of all that God has blessed us with in this nation. But they do it in such a way where people are held accountable to be responsible for their decision making. Then it speaks to the culture at large. It speaks not, first of all, from a political platform, it speaks first of all from the bibliocentric platform. Since God doesn't ride the backs of donkeys or elephants, the church must speak with one voice because we have one God, one Lord, Jesus Christ and one inherent word to speak from. And yes, we should protest evil in a righteous way. We should let our voices be heard, but then we must act because if we don't act, all we did was have a speech.
We must implement righteous principles, modeling it through the church so we can see what it looks like in the broader society. And then finally, we must challenge our civil leaders on all levels of government to be agents of healing and not division, to speak in such a way where unity is reinforced and not divisiveness. That the words that come out of their mouth and the way they say the words that come out of their mouth must be words of strength and kindness, not vitriol and meanness. And when those four areas, the individual, the family, the church and the community, begin to operate that way, based on God's standard then he can feel comfortable to get back in the midst of us and make us repairers of the breach and healers of the land.
So this starts off with prayer. I don't just mean say, God help us. No, I'm talking about where we repent of where we failed to do what he says do, the way he says do it. Where we realign ourselves under his authority while pursuing our relationship with him where his word can overrule our ideas, perspectives and agendas. And then he will listen to your prayers because you're praying like he wants you to pray, not like you want to pray. When that kind of prayer goes up, with that kind of action supporting it, now, now we're ready to see what he will do in healing our land.
Jerry Gillis: Amen. I want us to pray for a moment just as he exhorted us to do. And I want to pray through those arenas for just a moment. So join me whether you're online or at one of our other campuses. I want you to join us as we take a moment to pray.
Father, we come before you and we acknowledge King Jesus who is the king of kings and the lord of lords, the one before whom every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is lord to the glory of God, the Father. Father, individually we submit our lives to you, King Jesus, as those who are image bearers designed to represent you and to relate to you. I pray that, King Jesus, you would search our hearts and if there is any wicked way in us, any sinful way in us, any way in us thinking of mindset that's inconsistent with your heart and your mind, I pray that you would bring it to our attention, that we would confess it and renounce it and that we would seek to be the kind of people by your spirit in us, by your power in us, that would look, think, act, and talk like our king, the one in whose image we are made.
I pray that in our families that we would be people with a kingdom agenda, that the goal for our children would not just be success in school or success in sports or activities, and while those things are wonderful and we're thankful for the opportunity to participate in them, may we help to model the behaviors and the life of the kingdom for our children and our grandchildren. And in your church, Lord Jesus, as the head of your church, the kingdom should look like the king and may all of us that claim your name learn what it means even in times like these to be people who look like the king. And in the world at large, may the world look at us and see previews, glimpses of a kingdom that's rich and beautiful and built on truth. Father, help us in our hearts to do that and to act, to move forward. Help us in your body to move toward one another not away from one another. And may we not sacrifice our unity on the altar of politics or division, but Lord, we need to move in to understand, to relate, to empathize with one another and to grow together in light of your word and in light of your spirit's leadership.
As our heads are bowed, if you're someone who has not yet trusted your life to King Jesus, the good news is this, is that the one that came and announced that the kingdom of God has come near, came because he loves you. God so loved the world that he gave his only son, who was the king, so that if we believe in him, we wouldn't perish but have everlasting life. If that's a need that you have, in just a moment, our campus pastors are going to help share with you how you can connect with us and we can help you on this journey of faith. Father, thank you for the truth that you have shown to us in your word. May we be people who are doers of the word, not hearers only so that it may glorify your name. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.