Pastor Vannae Savig – July 5, 2020
I was 15 years old when I decided to commit my life to following Jesus. Let me paint a picture of teenage Vannae. I was obsessed with books and writing poetry, I was pretty social and full of teenage sarcasm. I was introverted but hid it well, and had a tight group of friends. My family always said I was an old soul, so I didn’t really worry about normal teen things. Instead, I can remember sitting in my room listening to music, wondering if God was real, why did I feel so lost, and what did God (if he existed) have planned for me?
A guy, I had a crush on, invited me to his church’s youth group. I had been to church before, but I had this idea that church was just about going to picnics, talking to a God who wasn’t listening, and acting better than everyone else.
But, I went anyway. I can remember looking around the room, and seeing that these kids were a part of something that was bigger than the regular high school life. They had something that I did not. Which was so confusing to me, considering that we grew up in similar neighborhoods, went to the same schools, and had similar friend groups. But there was something different about these teens, they were on a journey of beginning to live as Kingdom People. I remember the youth group would go out and bring meals to our homeless community. But it was more than that. These teens would actually spend time with them, knowing their names and their stories. I also remember them praying for these men and women. I was shocked. They weren’t focusing on themselves. They weren’t acting better than anyone. They actually cared. They actually were doing the things I heard Jesus had done. And I knew that I wanted that too. I knew that this is what I had been looking for all along. I wanted to be part of The Kingdom of God.
We are beginning a new series today about Kingdom People living. We as followers of Christ, we are a part of the Kingdom of God and therefore called to be Kingdom People, not church people. The book, Announcing The Kingdom talks about the difference, “Kingdom people seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice; church people often put church work above concerns of justice, mercy, and truth. Church people think about how to get people into the church; Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world. Church people worry that the world might change the church; Kingdom people work to see the church change the world.”
Kingdom People are called to be more than just people who go to church. Kingdom people’s lives should transcend outside of the church walls. Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Disciples all talked about and lived as citizens of the Kingdom here on Earth. But what is the Kingdom of God, what does that even mean?
Let’s rewind back to the Old Testament. The Israelites are freed from a life of slavery in Egypt, and led to the Promised Land. However, they complain, and say that they want a “real” king like the other nations had around them. And God and Samuel the prophet are like, “I don’t think so guys, this isn’t’ a good plan.” But then just like when you’re pretty sure getting your kid a dog is a bad plan and they promise they will take good care of it, and give in? God said “fine”but listed qualities a king should have. And the Israelites are like, “Meh…” Long story short, the whole human king thing didn’t work out and the O.T ends with the Israelietes still longing for a king. Plot twist, God sends Jesus to be king! And Jesus coming to Earth gave us a small glimpse of The Kingdom.
So even though the Israleites may not have realized it, the Kingdom of God was happening in the present with Jesus, it was also yet to come in all its fullness in the future. And when it has come, all suffering will be gone. There will be a day when like the scriptures say in Revelations 21: “all things will be made new and every tear will be wiped away from the face of the broken hearted.” So we live in this tension, of the Kingdom now, and the Kingdom not yet. However, in this interim time we are called to continue the work that Jesus did. As in, we are setting up the eternal Kingdom, right now.
In Isaiah 61:1 is Jesus’ calling, it’s also our own calling as Kingdom People as well. Let’s read it: “The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace— a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies— and to comfort all who mourn, To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, Messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.”
This verse draws for us an incredible picture of what Jesus has come to do. The Messiah announces that He came here to heal the damage that sin brought. Sin has done great damage, so there needs to be a great work of redemption. The extent of the comfort and restoration is beautifully described. Instead of the ashes of mourning, Jesus gives His people beauty. Instead of the mourning itself, Jesus gives His people the oil of joy. Instead of the spirit of heaviness, He gives His people the garment of praise. When we look back on the work of Jesus here on Earth, we see that Jesus not only spoke words about the Kingdom – he went around Israel doing the works of the Kingdom. The blind began to see, the sick were healed, captives were being set free…
A lot of the time we think about the work of the Holy Spirit as something that happened after Christ’s Ascension. But as we see Jesus recite Isaiah 61, he says, “The Spirit of God is upon me…” as in the Holy Spirit was right there with him, in midst of his ministry here on Earth! And we also have the Holy Spirit with us so we can continue in Kingdom work.
Over the next few weeks we will be discussing some of the things in the Isaiah verse, and what it means to live our lives as a part of God’s kingdom. This morning I want to focus on the role that the Holy Spirit plays in the lives of kingdom people.
When you are living your life as a kingdom person, it means that you are making the Kingdom of God the nucleus of your living, giving top priority to the affairs of the Kingdom of God, striving towards the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Being a kingdom person is more than just going to church, or even being deeply involved in church activities. It’s a complete heart change that spreads throughout every area of your life.
This means that you are being led by the Holy Spirit. You’re giving room for God to speak into your life. Kingdom people are commissioned and empowered by the Spirit of God to do the works of the Kingdom. We are empowered by the Spirit to bring the presence of God’s future to our streets, neighborhoods, towns, and cities – wherever He sends us. Romans 8:14 “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God.”
The Holy Spirit can speak to us in our quiet times, but also throughout our busy lives. I have a friend who was at work. He was in the middle of a very busy day when someone came to his office without appointment. Hearing this at first, he thought to himself, “Um, I don’t have time for this! Doesn’t this person know how busy I am?!” And then he prayed a little and felt like God saying, “ Excuse me, you can’t make time?” Almost immediately he got up from his desk, and went out to meet this person who showed up unannounced. In the end, my friend and this person ended up talking about Jesus, the person gave their life to the Lord right there in my friend’s office, and they both were shouting and worshiping God! Being a Kingdom person means that you are led by the Spirit, you’re listening out for His voice, and making room for Kingdom work.
I realize that it is often difficult to know when we are hearing from the Holy Spirit, and even more difficult to act on what you hear or feel. I want to encourage you that God wants to communicate with you, and isn’t trying to make it difficult, or make you feel like it’s impossible to hear from Him. Everyone can hear from the Holy Spirit. It just takes practice, and the more time you spend with God the easier it will be to hear His voice above all the rest. Hearing from the Holy Spirit, doesn’t have to be in big grand ways. It is more usual for the Spirit to lead us by a still small voice, through a Sunday sermon, or through good advice from a friend, or maybe you feel a tugging in your heart. You have to learn to hear His voice, to practice. For example, concert pianists can easily tell if one key is slightly out of tune. This level of perception can only be achieved by carefully paying attention to the subtle details of their instruments for much time beforehand. And we can learn the Holy Spirit’s voice, by spending time with Him, reading our Bible, and doing Kingdom work.
Being a part of that youth group, I think the thing I found the most surprising and the most captivating was the idea that there was a God who wanted a relationship with me. And through the Holy Spirit, God could communicate with me, and lead and teach me the ways of The Kingdom.
I encourage you to take time to listen, and see what God might want to be speaking to you about in this sermons series. Let me tell you a simple exercise that I like to do. Sit in a quiet peaceful place. Bring a piece of paper or a journal and a pen. Take a few deep breaths, and pray. Not like a prayer request kind of prayer, more like meditation type of prayers. I usually ask God to clear my mind. Or I focus on a phrase like, “Come Holy Spirit.” Or a simple Bible verse that you like. And then just sit. Sit in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Try to clear your mind. When something like “you need to do the laundry” pops up in your head, write it down. That way it’s out of your head and you no longer have to think about it. Then just listen. Try to relax. See if there’s anything the Holy Spirit has to say to you. Sometimes you’ll see pictures or words. Sometimes you’ll see Bible verses or remember a quote you heard. – Write it down in another place when you do…maybe even if you’re not sure of what you’re hearing at first; but you can go back and contemplate/reflect/pray/meditate on what you wrote to try and discern if it’s from God and/or how God wants to develop it with you. Sometimes you’ll feel warmth, feel comfort…….whatever it is, Remember, The Holy Spirit is always positive, encouraging, and truthful. And sometimes you won’t hear anything…and that’s ok too. Take a break, try again another time.
Being a Kingdom person and letting the Spirit lead, means that we bear the burdens of the weak, we love people in radical ways. When we let the Spirit we show forgiveness, and when we let the Spirit lead we love mercy and do justice.