What the Kingdom of Heaven is Like

Title: What the Kingdom of Heaven is Like
Text: Matthew 13:31-32
Time: February 22nd, 2014

 

This past week I was reading a book that quoted a famous atheist of the last century, Bertrand Russell, who once was asked, “When you die if you find yourself standing in front of God Almighty, and he asks you why you didn’t believe, what would you say?” He replied, “Not enough evidence!” I immediately chuckled to myself and thought, “What would be enough evidence for him to believe in God?” How much evidence is enough? How much more evidence does he need? For myself, I see an abundance of evidence all around of God’s existence. But then I started wondering how one man or woman can claim there isn’t enough evidence to believe in God, yet other men and women have no problem seeing enough evidence and believing in God. After having thought about that question for a while, I concluded that it’s all in how a person follows up on the evidence they are given by God. In my Christian life I find that the more evidence I see, the more I’m given by God to see – and so on and so on. But for an unbeliever or atheist or skeptic they probably don’t recognize the evidence for God that they are presented, and then in turn, they fail to see any more evidence because they’ve closed themselves off to the initial evidence before them. And so it starts a vicious cycle of blindness on their part to the presence of God in the world. I then thought of the parable of the mustard seed told by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 13:31-32, “He (Jesus) told them another parable: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come a perch in its branches.’” And that’s just the way faith is, like a mustard seed planted inside someone’s heart – it starts out small and grows to become the biggest thing in a person’s life. For example, today after many, many years of believing and living the Christian faith, God is the biggest thing in my life. But for an atheist, an unbeliever, a skeptic, God is nothing to them, or very insignificant in their life. They live a life totally apart from God in their thinking, feeling, and living. Does it come down to evidence, like the world famous atheist said? No, because he sees the same thing as Christian believers see. But it comes down to how he follows up or processes the evidence. It comes down to what he does with the evidence, his reaction to it, his openness to it, whether he pursues it or dismisses it. A believer looks at the world, looks at his own life and pursues God with whatever evidence he sees, while the unbeliever rejects whatever evidence he finds, or he doesn’t follow it any further. In other words, you might say, if we look close enough we’ll find traces of God everywhere, but if we try hard enough, on the other hand, we can dismiss any traces of God that are available. I’d like to use the parable of the mustard seed this morning to bring out this point further, because it explains how the Kingdom of God can be big in one person’s life, and virtually non-existent in another person’s life. It all comes down to faith, and how we follow up on what God gives us to work with. I hope this message will encourage you to pursue God whole-heartedly with your life.

First, there are signs of God all around if we look hard enough. Matthew 13:31-32, “He told then another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. . . the smallest of all your seeds.” Before we become a Christian we are presented with all kinds of evidences of God in the world, in our life, in the situations we face here and there, and so forth. But we are also confronted with arguments against God too. And that’s confusing. We run into Christian believers, yet we also talk to unbelievers, or hear skeptics or atheists or doubters talk too, and they put a different spin on things. They may say things like Bertrand Russell said, “If God is real, why doesn’t he come out and show us plainly, instead of beating around the bush?” Or we may question why God let’s things happen the way he does. So instead of seeing evidence for God, why might think we see evidence for God’s absence. But in the midst of all the conflicting evidences, in the midst of all the confusion of life, there are signs, hints, clues that God is present and that he cares. Now what we do with the signs of God presence is the key. If we follow up on God’s signs to us of his reality, then we are given more confirmations of his reality, and so forth. And that’s how the kingdom of heaven is built up in our life, by being led little by little by God in life. We open the Bible and read, it speaks to us, so we believe and act on it. Then more inspiration and guidance comes from God’s Word, so we read more and believe more, and it becomes solid and firm confirmation that we really are dealing with God. I was watching a TV show the other day about a tracker in the forest who could tell where someone had walked even after days, because he could see the little signs that the normal person would miss. A broken branch off a bush, a dusty footprint in the trail, grass pushed down by a shoe, and so forth. He could see what was there, but only because he was looking carefully. The mustard seed is a small seed, the smallest seed that the farmers in the ancient Middle East sowed. Skeptics or unbelievers have complained saying that the mustard seed isn’t the smallest seed in the world, so they say, that proves the Bible is wrong and it should be believed. See how they twist everything and try to disprove God? Well, the truth is, the mustard seed is the smallest seed known to the farmers of Jesus’ day, and it’s the smallest seed they used to plant. Jesus was talking to real people, in a real place, at a real time, so used it to make his point. So there’s no real problem. We become a Christian when we take God’s Word and pursue it. And even after we become a Christian, we grow by taking God’s Word and pursuing it further. If you aren’t a Christian today, ask yourself, “What has God shown me about himself?” Follow up on that sign. It may be as small or insignificant as a mustard seed, but follow up on it, pursue it, because according to this teaching by Jesus, it will grow. Follow a spiritual inspiration or insight. Take time to pray, make time for the Bible, attend church, talk about God with others, listen to Bible teachings, and other things. If God has opened a way of faith into his kingdom, don’t ignore that. It may be just a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, but follow it. That’s how we enter the Kingdom of God. But there’s more.

Second, there comes a time when we have to act on what we know. Matthew 13:31, “He (Jesus) told them another parable: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.” Now look at this next step, it says the man took the seed and planted in his field. In other words, you’ve got to take what God has revealed to you, what you’ve noticed of God’s truth, what you understand of the gospel or Bible truth, and plant it by faith in your life. You’ve got to step out in faith and believe or trust in God for salvation with your life. Now it’s not enough to simply look for and see signs of God and God’s presence in the world today, or even in your life. It’s not enough to see evidences of God, although that’s a start, but you’ve got to act on what you see and know. You’ve got to put your faith in God through Jesus Christ. Yes, you’ll still have questions about this or that, but that shouldn’t stop you from going ahead and trusting God anyway. Another stumbling block that atheists or skeptics or unbelievers often have is that not only do they miss God’s signs and clues in this world of his presence by saying, “It’s not enough evidence, not enough signs or clues,” but they also refuse to believe until all their questions are answered. For example, they’ll say, “Christianity teaches that Jesus died on the cross for man’s sins, but how can a man die for the sins of another?” They may, for example, let their questions prevent them from going ahead and trusting Christ. The truth is, if you wait until all your questions are answered before you believe, you won’t ever believe, because even a lifetime of study won’t answer all questions about Jesus. God has designed the world in such a way that if a person really wants to delay believing over and over again, they can. There are always questions one could ask, always doubts one could raise. But wisdom calls us to make a choice for Christ even when we don’t know all the answers to all the questions. When I become a Christian long ago I didn’t have all the answers, I still don’t. But I knew enough to know that becoming a Christian was a good thing, in fact, the best thing I could do with my life. It has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m learning more about the Bible every year, more about God, getting more questions answered as I go through life. If I had waited until all my questions were answered I’d have never made my decision for Christ. Have you committed your life totally to Jesus Christ? Have you surrendered your life absolutely to the Lord? If not, what’s holding you back? Some people have Christianity in their head, but not in their heart. In our country, it’s practically assumed that people are Christians because our country is a so-called Christian nation – that’s what it’s known for around the world. We’re seeing more and more that’s not the case, as our nation moves further away from God year after year. But still, lots of people think that if you’re an American you’re a Christian. But unless you trust Christ from your heart, unless you place your trust in him for salvation, all you’ve got is theology in your mind, not faith in your heart. Do you have saving faith this morning? If not, then confess your sins, repent, turn to Jesus in simply faith. He’ll change your life and start you on a new journey in his kingdom. But there’s more.

Third, as our trust in Christ grows, God’s kingdom increases in our life. Matthew 13:32, “Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come a perch in its branches.” Do you see the progression? Something small like faith in Christ for salvation grows into something big over time. Many years ago I went forward at a Billy Graham Crusade and made a decision to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I knew it was the right thing to do. If you had asked me, “What did you just do?” If I’d have said, “I just got saved.” Do you know that I couldn’t have shown you anything to prove it. You couldn’t see my trust in Christ. You couldn’t look into my heart and you couldn’t detect anything, but it was real nonetheless. That’s the mustard seed. It’s the smallest of seeds. The skeptics could laugh and say, “You went forward but came back empty.” No, I went forward and committed myself to following Jesus, and that’s something, although it’s not something visible or easy to see. But over time, if you were to look at my life you’d see that I planted something that day, or to put it another way, God planted something in my heart that day – saving faith. I acted on it, and I’ve been following God ever since. And it’s changed my life, and it continues to change my life. I’m still excited about prayer. I pray every day and I look forward to prayer every day because I have pursued God for so long I’ve built a relationship with him and count on him to lead and guide me in life. I’m still excited about God’s Word, the Bible, in fact, I’m more excited about the Bible today than I was when I first became a Christian. The more you learn, the more you want to learn. I’m still buying Christian books, and Bible study helps because I’m excited about God’s Word. I hope I can get you excited about God’s Word too, if you aren’t already. I’ve got a long way to go in my Christian life, but I’ve come a long way too. That’s how the kingdom of God works. It starts out small, almost invisible. But over time it builds upon itself, little by little. Sometimes we see a big burst of spiritual growth in our lives because of events and circumstances. Most of the time it’s just a slow, gradual process where we learn more about God and more about his kingdom, how to live according to his will. In a church, there are people at all stages of spiritual growth. Some people aren’t in the Kingdom of God yet, other are very close. Some have just come into the kingdom, others have been in God’s Kingdom for a while, and still others have been growing in the Lord a long time. But the key is to keep moving forward, keep progressing towards God. Are you making progress towards God today? If you’ve backslidden, get back on track and recommit and rededicate yourself back to God, doing things God’s way. If you are stuck and aren’t moving onward towards God, ask God to get you unstuck, and then go through the opening God gives you for forward progress. God has a plan for each and every one of us, are you willing to follow God’s plan today? Let’s pray.

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