Monday, March 16, 2009

This week's sermon: Upside Down

Acts 25:13-26:32.
We have talked before about the two kingdoms fighting for control and influence in our lives. They are the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God. The kingdom of the world says that wealth, fame, and success are the goals. That is the message we see all the time, everywhere we look, "These things will make you happy. You will be satisfied if you have the biggest bank account, and everyone knows your name." The other kingdom, the Kingdom of God says that it doesn’t matter if you never make a dime, if no one knows your name and if you never win at anything because the God of the universe knows your name and wants to be a part of your life. To the world that is foolishness. It is crazy, completely upside down and ridiculous.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:25 "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. 26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. God chose the foolish to shame the wise because the foolishness of God is stronger than man’s wisdom."

That is hard for us to accept sometimes. It is hard for us to see how God is going to use the weak things to shame the strong. But by studying the kingdom of God at work it begins to become clear that without the upside down priorities of the Kingdom, we would have no place in it. This morning we are going to look again at the life of Paul to see the upside down kingdom at work.

We see this upside down kingdom in Paul’s testimony of his conversion. Only in the Kingdom of God would the Master of the Universe appear to his enemy and make him his friend and servant. By worldly principles, Jesus should have struck Paul down on that road to Damascus and left him there to die. But the Kingdom of God is a kingdom of redemption. God took Paul, his enemy, and made him into one of the greatest evangelists of all time. By worldly standards that is foolishness, by Kingdom of God standards that is wisdom. And aren’t we thankful, because we all were once enemies of God, and he is drawing each of us closer to him every day.

As God draws us closer, our priorities begin to reflect Kingdom of God priorities over kingdom of the world priorities. The kingdom principles are shown at work in Paul’s life as he patiently endures unnecessary imprisonment so that he can bear witness to the power of the upside down kingdom of God. They are shown as he offers his defense before rulers and kings with more than just his own freedom on his mind. Paul tells Agrippa in Acts 26 that he has the salvation of every person in the room on his heart and mind. If he were still living by worldly principles his only thought would be for himself, but here he is thinking of the true freedom in Christ available to all who are listening.

What principles in your life need to be turned upside down so that you can bear witness in your world to the kingdom of God at work in you? Do you need to have your priorities reshaped when it comes to wealth? The world says to get all you can and hoard it for yourself. The Kingdom of God says, “Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, but store up treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”

Do you need your priorities reshaped when it comes to fame and popularity. The world says you can only be happy if everyone likes you, so do whatever it takes to make them like you. The Kingdom of God says, “I must decrease, so that He—Jesus—can increase,” and that the humble are blessed, for they will be lifted up.

Do you need your priorities reshaped when it comes to your definition of success? The world says you have to win to be happy. The Kingdom of God says "Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." The world says you have to be happy, but the Kingdom of God says "The Joy of the Lord is my strength." Joy is something the world cannot give. You can be happy, but it only lasts a minute. Joy is a state of being, not an emotion. It comes from being content, having peace, not striving for what perishes, but pursuing a Kingdom that is eternal.

Let God draw you close so that he can rewrite your priorities. You and I need to be at home in the Kingdom of God, it is where we will spend eternity. When we get used to Kingdom priorities, we start seeing them as right-side-up and we see that the world has it upside down. Then following in the footsteps of Jesus comes naturally. Let’s Pray.

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