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Kindergarten II

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It was John the Baptist who first preached, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” as part of his preparation of the way for Jesus’ ministry, as it was prophesised through the prophet Isaiah when the Lord said, “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.’ “  And to show that Jesus started preaching from where John left off, Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”  John preached repentance from sin and baptism by water, and when asked by those who heard him, “What should we do then?” he taught them to do good works and to live a moral life, such as, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”  To the tax collectors, he said, “Don’t collect any more than you are required to.”  And to the soldiers, he said, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”  He preached repentance of sins to enter the Kingdom of Heaven to live a moral life, but as it is reported by many who knew, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this Man was true.”

The Kingdom of Heaven is about doing what is right in the eyes of God.  It is about good works and avoidance of sin.  It is about works that ordinary power can perform, for anyone who has food, clothes or simple honesty can share what he has – no miraculous power is needed to achieve that.  If it is God’s plan to only bring the Kingdom of Heaven through Jesus Christ, then Jesus would not have also said, “The time has come.  The Kingdom of God is near.  Repent and believe the good news!”  It is with the Kingdom of God that the Gospel or the good news is carried, not with the Kingdom of Heaven, for the Kingdom of Heaven entailed only repentance and a life of doing the morally good, but carries within it no miracles, just as John’s ministry carried no miracles.  The blessings that flowed would flow through the natural doors of time and nature, but not out of God’s miraculous presence, whereas the Kingdom of God has good news.  At least, if you were to ask Jesus, “What should we do then?” as they asked John the Baptist, the answer from Jesus would begin with, Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men because you will do what I have been doing and greater things than these you will do.”

Indeed, for those who enter and remain in the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”  One thing children learn to do is to say, “Sorry,” when they are rebuked and punished for wrong doing.  They may do it again, but they certainly know how to say sorry when they are punished.  Indeed, I have never heard a child say, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”  No, not little children.  They will cry, weep and even scream, but they do not defend their own righteousness.  When they get old and become adults, you will hear them say, “I didn’t/haven’t done anything wrong.”

The Kingdom of Heaven is entered into by changing and becoming like a child.  The Kingdom of God is received just like a little child and by being born again of water and Spirit to enter it.  Jesus said, I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.  I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  The Kingdom of Heaven is available to all who humble themselves like a child – change and become like a child in their repentance, which is why Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven.”  You may have the power to prophesy and drive out demons in His Name, but the failure to change and become like a child in your repentance means you never entered the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is after you have changed and learned to humble yourself in your repentance like a child that you can receive the Kingdom of God like a child – grateful for the forgiveness and grateful that a loving parent who has rebuked the sin now comes with a reward because of the repentance.  It is not just the faith of a child that you need to receive the Kingdom of God, but the attitude of the child who has gone through his tearful repentance and now finds that there is a reward waiting for him for his repentance.

It takes the Spirit to help you to enter the Kingdom of God because it is the Kingdom of Power.  That is why, just as humbling yourself like a child does not get you into the Kingdom of God, but empowerment by the Holy Spirit allows you to enter the Kingdom of God.  Thus, the Kingdom of Heaven is for those who are childlike in their repentance and the Kingdom of God is for those who are childlike in their gratitude.

Adam and Eve lost the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth because they did not repent as a child would, but each sought to defend their own righteousness when Adam said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it,” and Eve said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate,” and neither of them said, “Sorry.”  They were ‘infants’ – innocent like children – but they did not know how to humble themselves like children.

The failure to repent like a child is a most dangerous trait.  Even when you are called and chosen by God to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, you are not above making the mistake of not saying, “Sorry” like a child, just as the twelve did not say, “Sorry” to Jesus when they disobeyed Him and tried to go to Capernaum instead of Bethsaida as He had told them, after feeding the 5000.  That is why when Jesus spoke of the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, He said again, Repent and believe the good news!”  If there is anything you and I need to perfect ourselves in as we practise the words of Jesus, it has to be the practice of repentance.  Since it is the practice of repentance, the perfection of repentance is the mastery of sin.  You see, the avoidance of sin needs no repentance, and a man who avoids sin needs no repentance and therefore has a righteousness of his own.  However, God did not say to Cain, “Avoid the sin,” but He said, “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”  All Cain had to do was to say, “Sorry,” and thank God that he was shown the acceptable sacrifice through Abel and go and do as Abel did.  In the exact same way, we need to always continue to repent and thank God that He has sent Jesus to show us the way and to do as Jesus did – went across the lake in a boat if he had a boat, or walked on water if he did not have a boat.  Indeed, it is my opinion that he who avoids sin has never mastered sin, but he who repents of all that he does gratefully, is the master of sin.  Indeed, though he sins, sin has no power over him, for his constant repentance in a grateful attitude to God through faith in Jesus, has delivered him from death to life.  So it is no wonder that the command to you is ‘continuous repentance’.

We who have been shown the difference between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God should never pride ourselves, for the Kingdom of Heaven is entered into by repentance, but the Kingdom of God is received.  As such, if you believe that you have done nothing to receive the Kingdom of Heaven, then how much less did you earn the Kingdom of God?  Truly then, the Kingdom of God is the greater gift.  Indeed, even the parable of the talents and the parable of the minas confirm this.  Remember Jesus used the parable of the talents to show us what the Kingdom of Heaven would be like at the time of the end and He used the parable of the minas to teach those who thought the Kingdom of God was about to come.  Well, according to the commentary, a talent is worth a thousand dollars and a mina is worth three months wages.  In any country of this world, which uses dollars as their currency, three months wages is more than a thousand dollars.  So, the Kingdom of God is definitely the greater gift.

If you and I are to help wake up those who are in the Kingdom of Heaven by a clear and present demonstration of the power of the Kingdom of God, then we must make sure, as Jesus said, to remove the plank out of our eyes before we attempt to remove our brother’s splinters.  In both parables, there is a servant who buried his allotment, be it talent or mina, and both of them had the same fault.  In Matthew, the servant said, “Master, I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.  See, here is what belongs to you.”  And in Luke, the servant said, “Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth.  I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man.  You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.”  In both parables, in both kingdoms (Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God), there are lazy and wicked servants who think ill of their master.  Indeed, both of those servants thought of their master as a thief – reaping what he did not sow and taking what he did not put in.  And neither of them repented even though they both had fellow servants who went out to work immediately and they both saw how generously their fellow servants were rewarded.  Yet, neither of them felt remorse to say, “Sorry, I blew it.  I thought you were a hard master, but I am wrong about you.  Here is your money back.”

You see, you can only act on what you know and what you believe you can do, and both of what you know and what you believe can be wrong.  So, repent.  Repent of what you have done with the talents and minas that God has given each of you.  If the Lord were here today, how well will you be able to give an account of yourself?  If you are like me, you need to repent, and repent we must, otherwise we are not fit for the service that the Lord has called us into.  If the Lord were to compare us with the suffering church of China, how will we stand – we who have enjoyed not just the freedom, peace and prosperity of our host nation Australia, but have also been privileged to witness the power of God in our midst whenever we meet?

When Jesus wrote the seven letters to the seven churches, He did not appear to John as a gentle Shepherd holding a lamb with sheep around Him.  Indeed, His appearance bore little likeness to the Jesus who John spent three years with.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace… and out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword.  His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.H  Little wonder that John fell at his feet as though dead.

Indeed, if Jesus was to send a letter to the church in Sydney, what would He write and how many would run to greet Him, whose head and hair were white like wool?  Does anyone know how Jesus would look when He arrives over Jerusalem?  Unless you have prepare yourself to meet with Him, whose eyes were like blazing fire, you are not ready, like John who was not ready and fell down as though dead.  Jesus said to His disciples about the signs of the end, “For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth.  Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”  Why would Jesus tell us, His disciples, to pray that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man, if His form when He arrives is not going to be frightening to those who have been lazy?

So go quickly, if you have ears to hear, run and check yourself and see if you have buried the talents and minas that He has given you because you have been lazy, and has your heart been weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life?  Run and check now and repent if you have.  Repent and repent again for the Kingdom of Heaven is not near nor is the Kingdom of God, but you are in the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God is in our midst, for you are all witnesses of the power of the Holy Spirit testifying for Jesus.  He has driven out demons in our midst, and the blind has seen, and the lame has walked, and your eyes and ears have heard things that the prophets and apostles had longed to see and hear but had not.  Repent, I say, and repent again, for the judgment begins in the house of God.  You are all, each of you, like fig trees that have enjoyed the soil of their vineyard for three years and more.  If you do not bear fruit now, you will not be allowed to take up the soil, but you will be removed so that new trees may be planted in your place.

To those cities that witness His miracles and did not repent, Jesus said, “Woe to you, Korazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies?  No, you will go down to the depths.  If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.  But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

So what would He say to individuals who have seen His miracles and have not repented?  How would we stand if Jesus were to look at the suffering church of China and the Middle East and Sudan compared to the laid back church of Sydney?  “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows.  But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.  From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Does it honour the Master to have to throw out lazy and wicked servants?  No!  So, before He arrives, we must prepare ourselves and each other.  It is late, but not too late.  So repent – wake up and keep working!  Is this the honour we want to give to the Lord, to have to judge His churches as He had to do with the seven in the book of the Revelations?  Or do we want to present to the Lord His church made ready, as Paul desired?  Paul desired it, but was not privileged to finish it, just like David desired to build the Temple.  So, do not be foolish like Solomon, for indeed, you who belong to the church in Sydney are like Solomon, born into a time of peace and plenty, when indeed that time could have been spent much better in developing and acquiring the full power of God and displaying it. 

There is a price to pay for the Kingdom of God, which you have received.  The price is diligence.  If you would show due diligence and listen to the Lord carefully and not casually, then you would not have to pay the real price.  There is a price to be paid for receiving the Kingdom of God, like all who receive a precious gift.  It is the responsibility of looking after that gift.  Repent so that you may indeed keep the prize and not have to pay the price if you are fearful.  However, if you are like the first two servants of the parables of the talents and minas, you would gladly receive the prize and go forth to pay the price of being considered worthy to receive the prize.  John said, “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus…”  The price is suffering, not suffering because you are powerless, but suffering because you do have the power and you are fulfilling the Lord’s word – “All men will hate you because of Me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

In our repentance, let us consider all that we have received and what we have done with it.  If indeed we are going to honour the Lord and prepare ourselves to be at Jerusalem to receive Him with honour and not go home to Heaven hoping to be received with honour, then we must steel ourselves to pay the price for carrying the prize.  Look to the Holy Spirit and look out for each other.  Could we at least inspire Paul to write of us as he wrote to the Thessalonians?  We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.  Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.  All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.

You may be suffering, but test your suffering as you test your faith and works.  Are you suffering for the Kingdom of God or are you suffering because you have not listened and have buried the talents and minas that have been given to you and you are dissipated and weighed down with the anxieties of this life?  If you fail the test, repent!  If you think you have passed the test, humble yourself and remember the heroes of faith who have gone before you.  How would you stand with them?  Not that we compare ourselves, but how will the Lord compare the church in Sydney to the church that has embraced the suffering for the kingdom and the patient endurance that is theirs in Jesus?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.”  Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.  And what is sin that so easily entangles, but the sin of the lazy and wicked servant who does not know to say, “I repent”?

Amen.

 

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