May 13 2012

Sermon: Living behind enemy lines

Posted at 7:00 pm under SNAC Service

Living Dangerously ….

Perhaps there is no more dangerous way of living than behind the enemy lines; to be a champion of another Kingdom while living in alien territory.

And, when we choose to follow Christ, that is exactly what we are doing.

Peter challenges us (1 Peter 2:11) to live as aliens and strangers in the world, abstaining from sinful desires and living such good lives among the pagans, that though they accuse us of doing wrong, they may see our good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.

He goes on in that passage to speak of the challenges we face from the authorities, from foolish men, from our masters, from those who insult us and even from those we love; our spouses and our fellow Christians.

 

In Mark 1:15 & 16, Jesus says, “The time has come, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news! Come, follow me.”

It is an invitation to repent, believe and to follow Jesus in discovering the beauty of His Kingdom.

This Kingdom is the realm of God’s action. It is where God is present … His Kingdom is not in some faraway place beyond the grave, but right here with us. He is active in this world: it is His world, and He came to redeem it. And everywhere He acts, His Kingdom is present. When He answers a prayer, saves a soul, heals a body, gives sight to the blind ….

And He calls us into this redeemed world: to enter into it and to partake of it and to champion it.

 

And its dangerous!

Paul describes this crossing over in Colossians 1:13, saying that we have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and (have been) brought into the kingdom of the Son.

Its a dangerous place because the geography and the politics of the old dominion of darkness have not changed. We continue to live in this geo-socio-political space but under a different banner, with a new ruler and a new set of values.

 

No longer friends of the world we have become “aliens and strangers” in this world; and we have a subversive mission. Our mission is to proclaim this Kingdom come, to pray for it and to present the redeeming action of God as the only way in which anything in this world will ever make sense.

 

Dallas Willard makes the point that it is not enough to preach the good news about the Kingdom, we also need to manifest it through the transformation of our own character into Christlikeness. And, he says, the only way in which we can do that is by placing our confidence in Jesus as Lord of all – Lord over life, sickness, circumstances, demons and death.

We need to show that our understanding of the omnipresence and omniscience of God translates into the reality of our everyday life.

This Kingdom life is detailed for us in Psalm 145:10-12

10 All you have made will praise you, O Lord;

your saints will extol you.

11 They will tell of the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your might,

12 so that all men may know of your mighty acts

and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.

 

And our way of living in it is given in Psalm 55:22 – “Cast your burden upon the lord and He will sustain you” and 1 Peter 5:7 – “Cast your anxiety upon Him because he cares for you.”

God is an all-loving and all-powerful God who is active in this world. Indeed the whole story of the Bible, as you will discover in following through with the E100 Bible Reading Challenge is that God is constantly active – speaking, guiding, leading, coercing, directing, chastising. All with one purpose, that none should be lost and that all should come to repentance.

Coming into the kingdom means that we understand this clearly, and though we live behind enemy lines (in the place of the dominion of darkness) we are not overcome. Indeed, quite the opposite – we are confident of the victory for we have seen it in our own lives at our conversion and every day since then!

 

REPENT!

This idea of repentance has been much misunderstood. We hear explanations of reversal of behaviour, of deep confession and so on. Perhaps a good way to understand the Greek word metanoeite is given by Prof Dallas Willard. He says, “Think again about how you have been thinking.” Or, get a new insight about things as they really are … think about your life again, how different would it be in the light of God’s immediate presence and availability.

How would you behave?

What would be your priorities?

Who would be your friends?

 

BELIEVE!

Repentance is a decision about the past and a resolve for the future.

Believing shifts us into yet another paradigm. Now the resolve, based on our past and our new experience of God, must become a way of life.

Just as repentance must shape our thinking so believing must determine our values.

Who do you trust? Who influences your decisions?

How different would you be if you understood that God actually was at hand, in your every day, as Lord of your life?

Would you be anxious about anything?

Would you be self conscious about your abilities?

Would you be fearful of your future?

 

FOLLOW!

Repentance is a change of thinking.

Believing is a change in values.

Following is a change in behaviour.

 

When Jesus called the disciples to follow, He required them to leave behind their careers – Peter, James, John, Andrew and others had to leave behind their fishing business. Matthew, his tax collectors box.

In essence they had to leave behind everything on which they had depended. When Jesus calls us to follow Him He still does that. It may not mean that you must resign from your job or walk off your farm; but it will mean that you must uncouple yourself from your safety net(s). It is the safety nets which compromise our relationship with the Kingdom. This was Judas’ problem – he wanted to be both; in the Kingdom of God but also he wanted to continue as a political provocateur (His former role: Iscariot means assassin).

 

We need to remember that when Jesus called His disciples, it was for an historic and unique purpose – they had to be WITH Him for the next three years in order to be equipped for the ministry of being the springboard of the Gospel.

 

In calling us Jesus wants us not necessarily to be apostles but He does want us to be agents of the Kingdom. And whenever we are called into the kingdom it is just not possible to follow Jesus unless we do it with everything we have.

In your work, do everything with and for Jesus. That means unscrupulous honesty in your dealing with God, your suppliers, your customers, your fellow workers and your means of production.

It means trusting God into the unknown; taking risks, and rising to challenges which He might lay before you.

But above everything else “following Jesus” means that we must remain close to Him. He must always be in our sight, we must not risk any kind of detour.

Our present life is lived “in enemy territory” – we are behind the lines, so to speak. Our danger is not that we would be found out – indeed, part of our mission is that we must be found out – no, rather our danger is that we would get sidetracked; that we would step into an enemy minefield; that we would lose sight of where our leader is taking us.

 

In numerous places in his letters, Paul gives us guidelines for living behind the enemy lines. Perhaps the best one is in Colossians 3.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.


 

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