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Matthew, a tax collector, is making money hand over fist. Despised by all the people for collaborating with the Romans, he absorbs himself in his world of money. Then one day, (in Matthew 9:9) Jesus passes by, looks at Matthew and simply says, “Follow Me.” And for one brief moment, Matthew has a dilemma—a split-second image of all his gold and silver; his house and his possessions. Then he looks at Jesus and realizes he has to make a choice—he can’t have both. But there was no comparison. He recognized instantly that he was looking at the True Treasure and the True Riches. And he left everything. He made a sacrifice that turned out to be no sacrifice at all. (hotsermons.com/sermon-illustrations/sermon-illustrations-sacrifice.html)
Matthew records the proclamations of John the Baptist and Jesus in Matthew 3:2 and 4:17, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Earl Jabay writes on pages 7 and 8 of “The Kingdom of Self”:
The first thing a baby does when he comes into the world is to establish his kingdom. He, of course, is the king. He is number one. Because there is none higher than himself, he is in the position of a god.
Babies do all this their first day among us. Shortly after birth, the baby is hungry. He is exhausted by a humiliating eviction from quarters, which quite frankly, he thoroughly enjoyed. Besides, his source of food is cut off. A complaint must be registered immediately.
The baby cries. He wants service.
A weary mother hears, understands and responds—for nothing in all the world is more precious than her baby. The little fellow is introduced to the breast and though he is not too happy with the considerable effort which is now required on his part, his stomach is soon satisfied.
But now our little friend has a new problem. There is an uncomfortable feeling around his buttocks; and because his skin is very tender, he again lets out a cry. Mother quickly responds. She changes the diaper, caresses her beautiful baby and lovingly places him back in the bassinet.
Each time the king cries out, he is obeyed.
In a typical day, the king has about six feedings and three bowel movements. Roughly nine times each day he tests the authority of his kingdom—and each time he is gratified with the results. All he has to do is cry and someone will come running to attend his needs. Obviously, he is the center of the world. The world exists for him.
He is a god!
The kingdom of self is ruled by the unholy trinity of me, myself and I. As we grow up in the kingdom of self, those around us either recognize the crown we wear, or we hide it in clever and sophisticated ways. The saying applies, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”
The kingdom of self is actually the kingdom of darkness—marked by pride, rebellion, isolation and darkness. Satan rules over the kingdom of self. We don’t realize that when we fool ourselves into thinking we serve ourselves, we actually serve Satan and the powers of darkness.
When was the last time we took a step back and asked ourselves, “Why am I doing this? How much of my life, work and relationships is about me?”
When John and Jesus proclaimed “the kingdom of heaven is near” they were saying the conflict between the kingdom of self [the kingdom of darkness] and the kingdom of heaven was coming to a head with Jesus’ death and resurrection. This conflict continues in the hearts and minds of people as they decide who they will serve today.
The Jews recognized the supreme power and authority of the king. The Romans would declare “Caesar is Lord!” Followers of Jesus would risk imprisonment and even death when they declared “Jesus is Lord!” The King’s love language is obedience, so we express our love for Him by surrendering to Him.
We have drawn unbiblical, unhealthy and unhelpful distinctions between the sacred and the secular. We have done this individually and we have done this corporately—as the church. Please stop saying that you go to church. We are the church! Let’s look beyond the four walls of our church buildings.
Having a kingdom vision redefines the purpose of our lives. We can stop saying that pastors and missionaries are more important in the kingdom than people in other vocations. If we serve the King, we are all in “full-time ministry” [which is generally an unhelpful term]. We no longer need to compare ourselves with others as we keep our eyes on the King of kings.
I encourage you to watch “Work is Beautiful: The Florist’s Story” at www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwaiE7tW6kw.
Life with the King of kings changes everything. Life in the kingdom flows out of life with the King—every minute of every day. Life with the King changes our purpose, our priorities and our motives. He has certainly changed my life! Will you let Him change yours?