Christ Alone Empowers Us for Kingdom Living (Part Two) - Character
Grace Community Church
August 23, 2020
Christ Alone Empowers Us for Kingdom Living (Part Two)
Turn with me to the gospel of Matthew chapter 4:23. The good news of the kingdom is that Jesus came to make it possible for us to enter the kingdom of God, and to make it possible for the kingdom of God to enter us. Christ alone empowers us for kingdom living.
For the sake of simplicity we’re looking at kingdom living in three arenas.
- Kingdom leading (what we looked at last week)
- Kingdom character
- Kingdom power and priorities
23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
5 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matt. 4:23-5:3
In Matthew’s gospel Jesus segues from the proclamation of the kingdom, to the demonstration of the kingdom through healing and miracles, and then, as the crowds grow and the momentum and excitement builds, Jesus leads them to a mountainside and sitting down he begins to teach the crowds about the kingdom of heaven. We’ve come to know it as the sermon on the mount.
The sermon on the mount is about the values and principles and priorities of the kingdom of God. And most of it has to do with character. Character qualities that are aligned with the kingdom of God. Character qualities valued by God. Character that is…
- Poor in spirit
- Pure in heart
- Not angry, not lustful
- Loving – to the point of loving our enemies!
The sermon on the mount sets a bar that is too high for us to reach but near the end of the sermon Jesus
gives us this warning:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matt. 7:21
If we misunderstand the purpose of the sermon on the mount that could leave us pretty hopeless. Cause we know we don’t – we can’t! - perfectly do the will of the Father as laid out in the sermon on the mount. The qualifications for entrance into the kingdom of heaven is kingdom character. And we fall far, far short.
Who is the one who does the will of the Father? What is His will? Jesus tells us in John 6:29, 40
“This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent…40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:29, 40
Jesus didn’t give us the sermon on the mount as the way to life. Only Jesus – Christ alone! – is the way to life. God’s will is that we believe in His Son who died for our sins. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved! Period, hard stop!
So what do we do with the sermon on the mount and its call to kingdom character? Jesus didn’t give the sermon on the mount to his disciples as the way to life, he gave it to us as a way of life!
When we are saved, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and empowers us for kingdom living. And that includes kingdom character. Jesus came to get us into the kingdom, and to get the kingdom into us. The Holy Spirit is in us to change us. He goes to work on our character to make it more like Jesus’ character. Kingdom character.
I did a series on the sermon on the mount a few years back where we went through all the character qualities in more detail. This morning I want us to deal with kingdom character with broader strokes coming from two questions: where does the Spirit work to build Kingdom character into us? And how does the Spirit work to build kingdom character into us?
- Where does the Spirit work to build kingdom character into us?
This might seem like an obvious question, He builds kingdom character in our character. But what is character? Where is character? It’s worth thinking about for a minute.
We are in the middle of a roofing project. Initially we were going to rip off the rubber membrane and attach a new membrane over the old insulation. But the underlying layers were so rotted that the new wouldn’t adhere to the old and we had to tear it down to the deck and start over with new materials.
Character isn’t who you are on the outside, it’s who you are on the inside. That’s what I mean by “where”. Character is who we are – really are – deep inside. Character is who you are when you’re alone. Character is the most important thing about you because character is you.
One of the mistakes we can make is attach a “kingdom character” façade on top of all the old. Make surface changes. Behavioral changes.
Jesus said beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them (6:1) because he knew we will be tempted to do things that make it look like we have good character out of bad motives. To aim for people thinking “what a good person!” rather than actually being a good person.
In today’s language we might call it virtue signaling. Jesus says, don’t signal. Be.
- Be loving
- Be merciful
- Be truthful
- Be generous
- Be loyal
- Be humble
- Be protective of the helpless
- Be compassionate
- Be courageous
Be, be, be. Kingdom character isn’t about building a façade that looks good on the outside. Kingdom character is about changing who we really are on the inside to be more like Jesus. To reflect the character qualities of the kingdom – from the inside out.
Josiah told me that as they took off the old layers of junk, they saw that the roof had seen a lot of abuse and “cheap fixes” over the years to try to fix the problems.
The same is true of us. Deep within, sin has done a work on us. On our being – our character.
So when the Holy Spirit builds kingdom character into us, He has to take us down to the decking. Kingdom character won’t adhere to the rot, abuses, and “cheap fixes” of our old character.
God looks at the heart, and the Spirit works on the heart. He goes to work on the core of who we are, the center of who we are, the reality of who we are. And that is harder work, it’s messier, it’s uglier a lot of the time. But the finished product is worth it.
- How does the Spirit build kingdom character in us?
How does this work get done? How does the Holy Spirit build kingdom character in us? Simply put, He uses everyday life and all it holds to do His work in us.
He uses the good times and He uses the hard times. He uses the difficulties and He uses the blessings. He uses failures, and He uses successes to do His deep work in and on our character.
Because it’s in real life that real character is forged. And it’s in real life that real character is displayed.
Character is about who we are, deep inside. It’s about being. And everyday life is where we “be”. We might love the concept of being a righteous, merciful, loving, forgiving, sincere person, but the only way we are those things is if we are those things in our everyday lives.
The Spirit uses the heat of life to move these things from concept to character.
- For instance, the Lord brings someone into your life who is hard to love, and says, love them. We can glue on a “I love you!” façade, or we can let the Spirit work His supernatural love into our hearts.
- We get hurt by someone and want to hurt them back, want to make them pay. But the Lord says “forgive them.” We can act like we’ve forgiven them all the while seething with bitterness inside, or we can let the Spirit teach us to forgive by making us a forgiving person.
- Maybe an opportunity to do something good for someone comes up and we want to get the trumpet out and blow our own horn, and the Holy Spirit whispers, keep it just between the two of us.
Literally every situation we come across gives us an opportunity to follow Jesus and as we do, the Spirit uses it to build kingdom character into us. If we don’t follow Jesus, if we choose our own way, kingdom character isn’t built into us, and we remain stunted and immature.
Life brings heat and the heat tests the genuineness of our character.
On Friday I was working on the message, and I was really getting into this kingdom character thing, when I started getting interrupted by one thing after another. Every couple minutes another interruption. I could feel something rise up in me, and it wasn’t the love of Christ! Life brings the heat!
- You think I’d be a patient person if my kids didn’t find new and unusual ways to drive me crazy! That’s exactly where Jesus wants us to follow him, and as we do the Spirit teaches us patience.
- Maybe you struggle with fear. Guess what God will use to help you grow in trusting Him and not worrying? That’s right. Situations where your heart is tempted to be afraid. Tempted to worry. And right there, Jesus says, don’t be anxious. Your heavenly Father loves you and will care for you.
And so it’s messy, but the Spirit takes you down to your inner decking and walks you through the hard process of choosing to trust in a scary time.
Maybe someone here is thinking, yeah I get it. The Spirit uses problems and difficulties to work kingdom character in me. But life is good right now. No big problems, many big blessings, I’ve got a string of successes.
That might be the hardest time to choose to follow Jesus of all. Jesus isn’t against our succeeding and doing well. But in that he calls us to follow him into humbling ourselves and acknowledging our need for God. Our indebtedness to God. Our reliance on God. The Holy Spirit wants to scrape off all the rotten layers of pride and self reliance off our character and build the kingdom character quality Jesus calls being poor in spirit into our character. For it’s to them, not the proud, that the kingdom of heaven belongs.
Let me close with a few brief encouragements as you pursue kingdom character.
- Remember it’s a process – don’t expect it all to happen at once.
- Believe in the Spirit’s power to do this work in you. We can’t change ourselves – at least not to go from sinful character to kingdom character. Only the Holy Spirit can do this work in us, believe that He will, and that He is.
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil. 1:6
- There’s forgiveness when we mess up. Nothing stunts the Spirit’s work of building kingdom character in us more effectively than condemnation. There is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
God sees the heart. That’s scary. Nothing deep inside of us is hidden from God’s sight. But God loves us anyway, and He wants to work in and on our hearts to make us more like Jesus. That’s so hopeful. As we close, will you put down the defenses, get past the superficial, and invite the Spirit to get to the heart of who you are.
More in Christ Alone
September 13, 2020Christ Alone is the Alpha and Omega
September 6, 2020Christ Alone is the Good Shepherd
August 30, 2020Christ Alone Empowers Us for Kingdom Living (Part 3) - Kingdom Power and Priorities.