Madison Church

Exploring the Kingdom of God | Unseen (Part 4) | Stephen Feith

July 17, 2023 Stephen Feith
Madison Church
Exploring the Kingdom of God | Unseen (Part 4) | Stephen Feith
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What if we told you our understanding of the physical realm can significantly influence our perspective of the supernatural? That's the journey we're embarking on as we wrap up our series on Unseen, exploring how the physical and spiritual intermingle, with the God of the universe in the mix. We use the lens of Mark 1:14-15 to scrutinize the Kingdom of God, shattering misconceptions and unveiling the vast implications of this biblical cornerstone.

Have you ever wondered about the implications of God being at once natural and supernatural? This intriguing duality forms the crux of our discussions. We bask in the refreshing truth of the Gospel, acknowledging the tarnished reputation of the term 'evangelical', yet appreciating its essence as the bearer of good news. We confront our brokenness and its contribution to the world's suffering, but not without the reassurance that the good news proclaimed by Jesus and his early followers still holds true for us today, despite the disillusionment caused by some church leaders.

Our concluding discussions transport us back to the Garden of Eden, revealing the startling similarities between Satan’s tactics then and now. We marvel at the transformative power of the Kingdom of God, as symbolised by the humble mustard seed, starting tiny but growing into a haven offering shade and healing. As we explore the Greek concept of repentance, metanoia, we're inspired by its call for a radical change of heart and mind. So, are you ready to embark on this transformative journey with us? Tune in and let's explore these profound concepts together.

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Speaker 1:

Alright and I want to welcome our online audience. I'm glad you're watching or listening and I hope that you'll join our church community soon in person. My name is Steven Pieth and, as I told the room already, I'm the lead pastor here, and today we're concluding, and some of you are really, really happy about this. We are concluding our series Unseen, and the reason that you might be happy about this is because it's been almost eight weeks of talking about things that you can't see. That's kind of hard to wrap our minds around the things that we can't see, and we've also, as such, talked about the things that are unseen. We've been talking about some things that you don't normally bring up in your everyday work conversations. We've been talking about angels and demons and Satan and spiritual warfare, and in this series we've been talking about maybe some popular misconceptions, because oftentimes what we see as depicted in Hollywood movies or children cartoons of angels and demons and all these things are cartoonish, but for some reason, that's what we kind of think is true or we think that it's based on something. That's true, it's based on a true story, and what we've learned throughout the series is actually know that there have been a lot of creative liberties taken over several hundreds of years, if not thousands, and so we're trying to unlearn some of these things so that we could relearn what biblical angels, demons, spiritual warfare, all of that stuff was about. And then last week, in part three, jason, he did great. Jason had a great message on sins and specifically kind of this idea of signature sins and we all have something that we really battle with, something that really gets us in he talked about in the series on seeing how, like sin in the spiritual sense of sin, it's not something that you can see, but we do see sin around us all the time. I can't show you spiritual sin, but I can show you what an angry outburst looks like. I can't necessarily show you sin, but I can show you what alcohol is on that ruins families, looks like. And so Jason, again talking about things unseen, but how they affect us is seen, and I think that if we've done our jobs correctly, myself and Jason, I hope that what you're kind of coming to realize and concluding is that life encompasses both the supernatural and the natural. What is real is both seen and unseen, and that we are beings. As human beings, we possess both a spiritual and physical dimension to our lives and we cannot separate the two, although we sometimes or should I say oftentimes, do. Many of us tend to lean toward one side or the other. You might be somebody who over spiritualizes everything and underplays the physical. That happens, right, that might be how you are. Some of us overplay the physical and we kind of are dismissive of the spiritual and we want to kind of say that there's a balance to it. What that precise balance is hard to say, it's not really science, but we want to get people off the fringes and more toward that balance. And so, talking about the seen and unseen natural supernatural, one of the things, as we rep this series out, that I want to talk about today is how God himself is not exempt from this mix, from this combination. I love Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of this passage in Hebrews. He writes Eugene Peterson paraphrases since the children are made of flesh and blood, it's logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the devil's hold on death and freed all who cower through life scared to death, of death. So in this passage in Hebrews, the author is just confirming something that a lot of us know God is fully God, but also fully human. He had a body. And if the physical didn't matter let me just point this out. This might not be obvious, but I want to point it out If the physical didn't matter, god doesn't leave heaven, he just stays put, he just kind of star-tracks you into heaven with him. Right, just zoop gone. If the physical didn't matter but the idea that God leaves heaven is, the author says, took on flesh tells us that the flesh, that the physical, that the scene, that the natural matters. I'd also like to go a step further in saying that if the physical, if what we do, doesn't matter, paul wasted an awful lot of time writing letters that we study to this day about how we should behave physically, and what we've been trying to do again is to show that there is this connection and today that God himself has entered in the conversation. And as we conclude our discussions, I wanna explore a concept I think that many of you have heard before. You might not be familiar with, but it is the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God, I know you've heard it, but maybe if you were asked on a test today to define it. You wouldn't do so hot. Maybe you would, but by the end of our talk, hopefully, all of us will do good. There will not be a test at the end, so rest assured, if you wanna follow along, we're gonna study one passage today, mark, chapter one, verse 14, verses 14 and 15. This is a well-known passage from the gospel of Mark which, again, I think many of you have encountered and I think that there's a lot of misunderstanding with it. So we're gonna do as we've done the last few weeks we're gonna unlearn some stuff, we're gonna deconstruct some stuff, not just to demolish it and have an empty plot, but to rebuild something good. And so we read in Mark, chapter one, verses 14 and 15. Later on, after John the Baptist was arrested, jesus went into Galilee where he preached God's good news. If you're taking notes, you wanna underline, highlight God's good news would be one of them. To underline the time promised by God has come at last. He, referring to Jesus, announced the kingdom of God is near. Another one to underline Repent of your sins and believe the good news. So, whereas Matthew, luke and John, they kinda begin their gospels one way, mark goes completely rogue. Mark skips most of the beginning of Jesus' story. Mark has an urgent message he wants everyone to hear, and so he jumps right into Jesus' ministry. And again in verse 14, later on, after John was arrested something that takes Luke several chapters to get into after John was arrested, jesus went into Galilee where he preached God's good news, and the good news is the first thing I wanna talk about this morning. Depending on the translation you're reading, you may encounter the word gospel instead of good news. You might hear that Jesus came to preach the gospel or he came to preach the good news. In the ancient Greek the term is good news, and we'll put it up on the board. I can't pronounce it to save my life, so I'm gonna save me embarrassment and just not even try. But that second word here is, you see it kind of as it's written out in English, that might look a little familiar to you. It kind of looks like the word evangelical, doesn't it? Now that I've pointed it out, that is actually where the word evangelical comes from. So you've heard this term today evangelical and there are a lot of connotations with that. Right, I said the word evangelical and you all just straightened up. Real good. So in the future, whenever you guys are getting sleepy. I'm just gonna drop that out and just see how you all react. That's gonna. That's the word. Okay, hundreds of years ago, back in the Reformation, the 16th century this is during the 1500s okay, they started calling themselves evangelical because of this word bringers of the good news. That's what the word originally meant. That's what they originally started calling themselves because, in their opinion, the good news wasn't going anywhere. If you looked at the world before the Reformation, you knew where the church was. There was one church. It was the Catholic Church. You knew where it was and you knew how to get there. And if you wanted to hear the Bible because you couldn't read it yourself, that was against the rules you came to the Catholic Church and you had someone read it to you and they taught it to you. And what if you just didn't agree with what they were teaching? Or could we question that? No, there's no questioning it. This was the truth. This is what the church said. It's untouchable. And so then this evangelical movement starts to come. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, you don't have to go to church, we'll bring the church to you. Because when we read Acts, that's what we see happened. We see, jesus went to people. Jesus didn't say this is where I'm setting up shop, build a nice little temple, hang some lights and we'll just tell people this. I'll be here Sundays at 11 and they will come to me. It's not at all what Jesus did. Jesus went to people and then we see him pass the baton and it's the disciples in that go. And so these first evangelicals, they say we're gonna be just like Jesus, just like the early followers. And they say you wanna read the Bible? Cool, we wanna help you read the Bible. You got questions? Cool, we're going to engage that. And so this word evangelical and again I wanna acknowledge it does not mean today what it used to mean hundreds of years ago, but it used to mean something powerful and it still can mean something powerful. The good news is here, and we might ask ourselves, well, what is that good news? Cause as we look around, the world doesn't look great, and as we look around, oftentimes, more often than not, the Christian church doesn't look great. You see, we can talk about the connotations that come with the word evangelical, but let's admit that there's a greater problem going on. It's not just one sack of followers of Jesus and the church. We have a lot going on and maybe you're here today, you're watching or you're listening online and, yeah, you're like what good news is there? You might not be all in today, you're not sure about Jesus, you're kinda checking things out, or maybe you're getting started, or what I think is more common is, you're all right with Jesus. Jesus is great as followers Nah, not so much. I don't really like them right, and so, as such, you can't see yourself being a part of this church, this good news that we're talking about. Some of your objections, the reason for your hesitations, might be that followers of Jesus can be hypocritical. You've seen a disconnect between what you read. Jesus teaches those things that emphasize love and compassion and forgiveness, and it seems very hypocritical with the behavior of his believers. That seems judgmental. You may also have disillusionment with the church due to leadership issues, leadership failings, people who have my job, who have used their platform to abuse people, to benefit from corruption, to mishandle, whether on purpose or not, sensitive issues that have eroded your trust to this day of church leadership. You might feel that the church restricts questioning and critical thinking, excludes people who do not conform to specific doctrines or practices. Finally, I know several people, as you probably do too, and maybe you're one of them. Okay, maybe you're one of them. You've experienced hurt within the church. You've experienced rejection in the church. You're dealing with trauma today because of a past church experience. So let's go back to that. We're all right with Jesus, but maybe not as followers. So what is the good news? And I want to be transparent. If you know me, I value transparency, authenticity. I'm not here this morning to defend our record as a Christian church, because I can't defend it. We have been all of those things. Leadership has failed. We have leveraged our platform for selfish gain. We are hypocritical. We could talk more about that later. We need a savior Okay, that's part of it, but how we respond to other people who are just like us is judgmental. We haven't allowed people to ask questions. We've kind of stifled that a little bit, and so I just want to express my sincere apology, because I know that when I'm talking about right now affects more than half of you in the room or if you're watching or listening online. I want to offer you a sincere apology and I'm sorry for your experiences in that. In that, at our church, I'm working very hard to make sure that doesn't happen to you and that this church community is actually a place of healing and reconciliation and justice. Now, all of that said where was he going with this? Because I was going somewhere with it. All of those issues, all of those problems make the good news better. Because if you and I were perfect, the good news is just news. If we didn't need Jesus, if we didn't need the kingdom of God, well, that's just news. It's here, cool, take it or leave it. But it's this thing that, because you and I, we got to take credit, we got to take responsibility. All of us have contributed to the brokenness of the world. You've hurt people, just as I have, because we're so screwed up and messed up. The good news is really good. Mark said the time prompt remark quotes Jesus the time promised by God has come at last. The kingdom of God is near, and this concept of kingdom of God being near was so central to Jesus's teaching. So often you hear Jesus say the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. He uses heaven and God interchangeably. So we shouldn't think and I'll talk about this in a second but we shouldn't think heaven as like somewhere out there. He's talking about it being here right now. But it's not just Jesus. This idea of the kingdom of God coming here was found right at the beginning of the Bible. It was found at the beginning of the Bible and it's the story, it's the whole arc of the biblical narrative that we have today. So let's clarify something the difference between what kingdom meant to Jesus, what kingdom means to you and me today. For us today, kingdom is often understood as a static noun. When we think of kingdoms, you might think of your kingdom, your house, your yard. You think of kingdoms. You might think the United States of America or China, another country. That's a kingdom, right. You might think of ancient kingdoms, and it's always a noun describing a place. But what's interesting is that when Jesus talks about kingdom, in the original Greek it's a verb. So there's a little bit of a disconnect there. It's an action, it's about doing something. So when he talks about the kingdom of God, he's talking about the rule and reign of God. He's talking about the rule and reign of God. It is the act of ruling and reigning. It is a verb. This misconception between a kingdom being a noun, a place and a verb was happening thousands of years ago, in the first century in the world that Jesus walked. Jewish people, for example, expected Jesus to be a warrior king, just like David was a warrior king. They thought the Messiah, should he come in their lifetime, would overthrow the Roman Empire. And you can't really blame them, because if you were a Jewish person, your ancestors had been constantly conquered, constantly killed, constantly thrown out of your country, the land that God promised you. We like to talk about that right, like the Israelites escaping Egyptian and getting to the promised land and it being like really exciting. We like we can all relate to being in the wilderness and like God's leading me to the promised land. But what we forget about the story is that they get there, they get to the promised land, and then they don't keep it. Stuff happens, they go in and out of the promised land forever, and so you can imagine, if you're a Jew living in the first century, when God's Messiah finally comes, we're going to overthrow the Roman Empire. Everything is going to be great. Jesus, ruling by the sword, will impose his rule on his enemies. You don't want to listen to Jesus. Jesus or the Messiah, that's how they thought it was going to be, and it is a significant reason why so many Jews, so many Pharisees, people who knew the Hebrew Scriptures better than anyone, so why so many of them missed Jesus, even though it was written on the pages of who he would be. And we look at it today and we talk about that. We're like, oh yeah, it was written right there, but they missed him because they weren't looking for a peaceful Messiah who loved his enemies, and we're looking for a warrior king. See, god's kingdom operates differently. That's why the Messiah is different. That's why our king is different. You could say it's upside down compared to how the rest of the world works. It's teachings like the first will be last and the last will be first. It's upside down. It's opposite of what we think. The kingdom of God is not about conquest or imposing God's will over his enemies. Jesus taught again that we should love our enemies, and Paul emphasized, as we've talked in this series, that our enemy is not the person sitting next to you or the person who cuts you off. It's not your boss. Our enemy is not flesh and flesh. It's flesh against spirit and perhaps the reason that a lot of people in our society you might be one of them, I know what times I am. Perhaps the reason that we miss Jesus and what God is doing in our lives is because we're not looking for him. Perhaps we're going back to this idea of misunderstanding what the kingdom is, and when we think of Jesus, we think where is the warrior king? In that sense, we're missing him because we're not looking for a sacrificial lamb, which is who he was. And, furthermore, it's not just that Jesus came to be like us, to redeem us. It's not just that, which would be great, but it's that Jesus ushered in God's kingdom with him. And this is the moment when the unseen merges with the seen. Jesus is on the scene. It's God taking on flesh, but it's not just that. You can see Jesus now, it's that he's bringing the kingdom of God with him. What was once distant and in the future and somewhere out there, jesus brought with him and said it is here. The proclamation is the reign of God is here, the rule of heaven is here. It's not somewhere down the road, it's not after you die, it's here today, sunday, whatever the date is 1130,. The kingdom of God, the rule of God, is here and, although it's not yet fully manifested, it's not yet fully realized because there's a battle that still rages on. It's here, but you might want to ask a question why was Jesus saying it is here now? Again, going back to Greek and I'm going to a lot of Greek today but it's really fundamental to understand the passage. He's saying it's at hand. When Jesus declares the kingdom of God is here, he's saying and now at hand, presently, not before, but right now. Well, why wasn't the kingdom of God here before Jesus? The planet Earth where we live is not a place where God's will is fully and completely done. See, you have a will and I have a will. We've talked about that. We've talked about sin right and we do things against God's will and as such, there's a curse over the world. And I wanted to go back to that idea that kingship and kingdom and ruling and reigning showed up right away in the Bible. You can read about it in Genesis 1, 28, when, after God makes everything it's good. It's good, it's good. There's a man, a woman and humans. And he says rule with me. That's that word, kingdom, but in Hebrew, rule with me. The Psalmist puts it this way in Psalm 8, verses 4 through 8. When I look at the night sky and I see the work of your fingers the moon and the stars. You set in place what are mere mortals? That you should think about them, human beings, that you should care for them. Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority the flocks and the herds, all the wild animals, the birds and the sky, the fish and the sea, and everything that swims, the ocean currents. You see, you were intended to rule with God when he made you, when he made us, his creation, the crown jewel of His creation. He didn't just say enjoy everything. He said rule it with me, be good to it with me. This is why creation care matters. Now, if we were to stop reading Genesis 1 or the Psalm 8 and we just turned to Mark 1, where we read Jesus say the kingdom of heaven is near, we would be confused. What happened between rule with me and rule with me again? What happened? Well, everything we've been talking about the last three weeks Satan happened, spiritual warfare happened, sin happened, all of the spiritual things that we have been talking about happened and it impacted our physical world. It impacted your physical body, some of those things that we talked about about being hypocrites and leaders using their power to leverage for their own gain. Past trauma that you have experienced within the church Sin. I can't show you the spiritual sin, but I can show you how you have been affected by it. That happened, and so let's read Genesis 3, the scene in which all of this first begins, and reading from the message, paraphrase once again the serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal God had made. He spoke to the woman. Do I understand that? God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden? The woman said to the serpent not at all. We can eat from the trees in the garden. It's only about the tree in the middle of the garden that God said don't eat from, don't touch it or you'll die. The serpent told the woman you won't die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you'll see what's really going on and you will be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil. When the woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it, she'd know everything. She took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband and he ate. And then, if you keep reading on, we just read about the collapse and the curse that rushes in with sin. You see we've talked about spiritual warfare and this is kind of where it begins. Whether you believe this story actually happened as it's written or if it's kind of like fictional, take on what happened. What we see is Satan depicted as a serpent here. Tell that lie. Did God really say and I know I keep saying this go back on YouTube or podcast, listen to the series. We've talked about this, because Satan does it with Jesus. Did God really say? And the woman responds right, she responds correctly no, god didn't say that, but it was the next one that got her. You know, you don't have to rule and reign with God. You could rule and reign as God. Reigning and ruling with God wasn't enough for the people then. It's not enough for us today. It's not enough for us today. We can be incredibly selfish and we would really prefer to reign and rule alone. We want to reign and rule our own lives according to our will. If that doesn't work, we'll pray to God. We want to reign and rule our families, our houses, our kids, our marriage, our friends where we work. We want to rule and reign, we want the power, and then that gets manipulated, enter spiritual attacks. Did God really say that was bad? I think you're doing okay and yet, even though this happens and the curse comes, god doesn't abandon people. Jesus comes bringing with him the kingdom of God, and it's not complete until it's death. He says the kingdom of God is near, so when is it? Here On the cross, jesus takes his last breath. He says it is finished. And now the kingdom of God is here. In this passage we've been studying Mark 1, 14 and 15, jesus ends with Repent of your sins and believe the good news. The Greek word for repent, another one that we misunderstand a lot, is metanoia. I can actually say that one. It's a changing of your mind. So I don't know what you grew up or what you think today. Repenting means it's not getting on your knees and you know oh Jesus, I'm sorry for saying that bad word it's a changing of your mind. It's so much bigger than that prayer. It's so. It includes that prayer. It's so much bigger. It's changing your mind. Jesus is saying change your mind. You think your will is better. Change your mind. That's not the kingdom of God. You think that reigning apart from God is better. Change your mind. This is better. Right here, those angry outbursts, the alcoholism, whatever it might be, all of those things that we don't control bitterness change your mind. So when you see the word repent here, it's an ongoing change of mind, it's about refreshing our mind less like me and more like Jesus. So he says the kingdom of God is near. Change your mind and believe the good news, and it is good news. I want to end in Matthew 13, when Jesus compares the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, to a mustard seed planted in a field. He says the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of the garden plants. It grows into a tree and birds come and make nests in its branches. The mustard seed is tiny, as Jesus says. It represents and in this analogy it represents the kingdom of God and it seems really small, right? Jesus says I'm here and it's kind of like this Can you see this? Can you see those? Even with the spotlights you can't really see them, can you? How about now? He says it's just like one of these. It's just like one of these. It's so small. This is what the kingdom of God is like, and it started with a few followers and some humble beginnings. He says you know, this one seed, jesus says, has the potential to turn into something really great. Let me tell you about these mustard plants, mustard plants that come from this little seed. They're known for their ability to grow in almost like these conditions that they shouldn't grow in no water, a lot of sun. They can grow in those when nothing else can grow. These mustard plants they find a way to grow. They have a robust root system. They penetrate deep into the soil and enables them to tolerate even the driest and hardest conditions, and so this made them suitable to grow in middle eastern climates, which often experience those desert-like conditions. The black mustard plant is known for it's not just that it can grow in those environments, but it grows rapidly, it grows quickly, it spreads throughout nature. It starts off as one seed and then there's a tree and all of a sudden, those seeds spread everywhere and there's a ton of them growing. They reach heights of several feet in just a very short period of time. It made them very useful. It provided much needed shade to people who were traveling and moving around Remember they traveled by feet back then. So you found a good shade tree. You stopped. Mustard seeds have also been recognized in ancient cultures for their medicinal properties. If you had a stomach ache, you are having digestive issues, respiratory issues, you needed anti-inflammatories, things like that you take mustard seeds. It provided healing for you. And so when Jesus says the kingdom of God is like the mustard seed, we have to take all of that into consideration, or we missed just how powerful of an analogy it is. The kingdom of God expands and spreads, transforming lives and communities and also, and ultimately, the world. The kingdom of God can be planted in conditions that shouldn't grow in. The kingdom of God can be planted in post-Christian places, places like the place we call home, madison, wisconsin, the driest, hardest condition, where nothing else can thrive. The kingdom of God can thrive. The mustard seed transforms, and that reflects how the kingdom of God transforms lives. This illustration of the mustard seed serves as a reminder that even small acts of faith and seemingly insignificant beginnings can have a profound impact when infused with the power and the presence of God's kingdom. I want you to think as we conclude here. You might feel like a mustard seed, right, pretty small and significant. What good is this If we believe Jesus? He says what the kingdom of God? You can be just like this mustard seed and you can be planted anywhere, dry, hot, nothing else is growing. It's a graveyard, a spiritual graveyard doesn't matter, you can grow anywhere with my kingdom. Like well, will I have a purpose? He says yeah, you will. It might not be to shade travelers, but you have a purpose. Part of that purpose is to offer healing, and what happens is is you can Google image this later but one of these seeds, when planted and grows, can transform entire valleys into very green and yellow places where birds are hanging out, where life happens. So this morning I'll leave you with this encouragement as we close the series no matter how small or insignificant you feel, remember what God said with my kingdom, you're just like this mustard seed you can transform everything all around you.

Exploring the Unseen
The Meaning and Misconception of Evangelicalism
Origins and Power of Spiritual Warfare
Mustard Seed's Transformative Power