My mother, when she was alive, was not all that happy with what I taught and what I revealed about the family. In fact, my mother told her Sunday school class, “I’ve spent most of my life keeping the family secrets and I have a son who’s out telling them to the whole world!”
You really are as sick as your secrets. You may not like me very much, but you won’t be surprised if you find out that I’m not as pure, as spiritual or as together as a preacher ought to be. I’ve already told you.
Are you afraid? Me too. Do you sometimes struggle with sin? Me too. Do you wince because of the insecurity that comes from being the adult child of an alcoholic? Me too. Have you been shamed and will do almost anything to keep from being shamed again? Me too.
Now that’s settled, we can be free with one another. We really are as sick as our secrets.
I have some good news for you though: Jesus says that we are as secure as our secrets…the secrets of the Kingdom.
I used to think that my job was terrible. You wanted to sin and it was my job to keep you from sinning. You wanted to run away and it was my job to keep you there. You wanted to have control and it was my job to disabuse you of that desire. You wanted to have people like you and it was my job to make you offensive. You wanted to rebel and it was my job to make you submissive.
That job description was particularly hard because I know of nobody who wanted to sin, to run away, to have control, to rebel and to have people like me…more than me. It was sort of like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.
I used to worry about you a lot and, frankly, I used to worry about me a lot too.
I’m a lot older and some wiser now. My call as a preacher isn’t so much to convince as it is to announce. I’m here to proclaim the Kingdom.
That’s what the disciples did too. Jesus sent them out to announce the Kingdom—not to force the Kingdom, not to defend the Kingdom, not to set up the Kingdom. He sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:20-21).
What is Jesus saying? The Kingdom is wherever the King is. If you are a Christian, because of Jesus in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27), the Kingdom is within you. If you’re a Christian, the King resides in you…and that is the Kingdom. Behold now the Kingdom!
While the Kingdom has a future hope when the King returns (Look busy, Jesus is coming back soon…), it is a present reality too. That’s the reason Jesus said that, when we pray, we should pray for the coming of the Kingdom (“Thy Kingdom Come,” Luke 11:2). The King and the Kingdom are coming…but the King has also come. If you are a believer, he is in you, comforting, leading and ruling you. It is not up to me and it is not up to you.
The principle is important here: What God begins, he always completes, and the fact of its beginning is the absolute promise of its completion.
That’s why I don’t worry so much about you anymore and why I don’t worry so much about me anymore either. The secret of the Kingdom is the King—his love, his power, his acceptance, his forgiveness, and his righteousness.
From Matthew 13:10-17, the context of the Parable of the Sower, I have three announcements—proclamations—to make if you belong to him.
If you’re the King’s subject, you will know.
“To you it has been given to know…For to the one who has, more will be given…” (Matthew 13:11-12).
You have heard that the world says seeing is believing…but God says believing is seeing.
As you may already know, I don’t eat liver or okra. As for liver, I have a policy of not eating anything that has done anything else before. As for okra, it is slimy and hairy, and was not intended to be eaten. They tell me that both are enjoyed as an acquired taste. In other words, you have to eat something you don’t like and keep on eating it over and over again until you like it.
What’s with that?!
Knowing the truth about Christ is an acquired taste but it’s different: You like it in the beginning but aren’t sure that anything could be that good.
I’m good at debate. I learned to be good at it by doing it for myself. I came by this belief the hard way and I can defend it. But once I learned to defend it, the irony is that I no longer had to defend it.
You may wake up in the middle of the night and think, I’ve been believing in something that isn’t true…This just couldn’t be true. I can sympathize. As someone who has been walking it a long time, I can help until, that is, I no longer have to help. Do you know why? Because the more you know, the more you will know and eventually knowing will be such a part of you that there won’t be any need to defend it.
I’m sure the Christian faith is true because…well…just because. I know because I know because I know because I know. The older I get, the more real Jesus is to me—as real to me as the breath I breathe. That isn’t because I’m particularly religious. It’s because I’m his. You are too.
What do you need to do? Nothing. Nothing at all. Don’t be more religious. Don’t do more religious stuff.
Getting there is an acquired taste. And I don’t worry about you because what God starts, he ends and you will know.
Behold now the Kingdom.
If you’re the King’s subject, you will grow.
“To you it has been given…For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance…” (Matthew 13:11-12).
One time I spoke for the national staff of Prison Fellowship. At breakfast, I sat down next to a very sweet, very nice and very proper woman. She seemed out of place. I’m not such a cretin that I said what I wanted, “What is a nice lady like you doing in a place like this?” but I did say, “How did you get involved with Prison Fellowship?” This nice lady replied, “I robbed banks and shot people.” I almost choked on my eggs!
She laughed and then said, “Steve, that is the reaction I get a lot. In fact, it was my own reaction. After I became a Christian, the warden called me into his office. He gave me a series of pictures and asked if I recognized any of the women. I looked carefully and said that I didn’t. He laughed and said, pointing to a picture, ‘That’s you.’ I had changed so much, I didn’t even recognize myself.”
God does that with us. And what he begins, he finishes.
I recently got a letter from a man who wrote, “Steve, I’ve been listening to you teach for over twenty-five years and I wanted you to know that I love the changes that have happened.” I remember thinking, What changes? God’s Word doesn’t change and I’ve been teaching God’s Word for all these years. I kept reading: “You aren’t as angry as you used to be. You are less condemning and you are kinder. I heard truth in you always…now I see Jesus.”
What happened? I didn’t set out to work at being different. Not at all. In fact, I didn’t even know that I had changed.
Are you struggling with sin, with issues that keep you from following Christ? Is it so bad that you’re beginning to wonder if you’re even saved? I have some good news for you: Just keep running to him. You’ll be surprised. Because he has begun something in you, it will get better and, more and more, you will grow.
What do you need to do? Nothing. Nothing at all. You can’t make it happen. It happens because that is what the Kingdom is all about.
Behold now the Kingdom.
If you’re the King’s subject, you will flow.
“Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them…But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear…” (Matthew 13:15-17).
To be blessed means to be happy and content. To be healed means to be made whole, to be forgiven, and to be made well. The church should be such a healing place…because it’s the place of the King.
I know how hard it is for you. I know the pain. I know my own. I know about the abuse, the shaming, the hard places in your life, the emotional pain, the physical problems, the divorce you went through and when you thought you just weren’t going to make it. I know the sleepless nights, the fear, the loneliness, the emptiness and the doubts.
I’ve said so many times to so many people, “You’ll get better” and they do. That isn’t my voice; it’s the voice of my Savior.
The King is in your life and he has healing in his wings (Malachi 4:2). God is even now moving among his people and healing. So, whatever it is, bring it into the light. It’s his. He will heal it. Even if it doesn’t happen today, it will happen someday when you’re Home and when you’re just like him.
On the authority of God’s Word, right this very minute, Jesus, the King, is healing, empowering, changing, forgiving, loving and making you whole.
What do you need to do? Nothing. Nothing at all. It’s the work of the Great Physician.
Behold now the Kingdom.
Early on in Picasso’s career, when he was still an unknown, he painted a portrait of Gertrude Stein. Unbeknownst to her, Picasso painted Stein as an old woman. When Picasso gave the portrait to Stein, she was shocked and said that she did not look at all like that. “I know,” replied Picasso, “but you will.”
I don’t worry about you. You will know. You will grow. You will flow. Maybe not right now, but you will. (I know you worry about me sometimes too. Now you don’t have to worry about me…for the very same reason.)
Time to Draw Away
Read Romans 7:15-25 & Romans 8
Do you feel like you’ll just never get any better? Don’t fall into the religious “do more, try harder” hole (it’s a deep one). Instead run to Jesus and rest in him. The fact is, there is absolutely nothing you can do to get God to love you one iota more than he already does and there is absolutely nothing you can do to get God to love you one iota less. You belong to him…so you can’t help but get better. But it’s not you; it’s him. It’s all grace.