What are they? What are some signs that you are a kingdom citizen?
1) You ask a lot of questions.
2) You are willing to give up everything to enter the kingdom.
3) You change.
First sign that you are a kingdom citizen: you ask a lot of questions.
Why do you ask questions? Because you’re curious. Kids ask a lot of questions. Why is the sky blue? Why do I have to eat my vegetables? Why do I have to go to sleep now? Why, why, why? They’re curious. It’s a sign of life. What if Elijah, my 3 year old, just sat there all day and didn’t say a word? We’d conclude that something is seriously wrong. Dead things don’t ask questions. If you had a doll named Chucky and it came over to your bed and started asking questions in the middle of the night, you’d be freaking out. That’s a horror movie. Dead things don’t ask. Asking is a sign that you are alive.
Why would believers ask a lot of questions? Because you’ve been born into a brand new kingdom, you’ve entered a new world so to speak. And it’s completely unlike the world that you transferred your citizenship from. The value system of this world and the kingdom of heaven are completely opposite. Instead of power and ambition and wealth, citizens in the kingdom of heaven display weakness and humility and gratitude and a poverty of spirit. Instead of rulers who seek to be first, you have servants who don’t mind serving others first.
If you are a citizen in this world, you’d be asking, how can I get ahead, how can I outshine my competitors, how can I attract a spouse, how can I gain security for my future? If you are a citizen in the kingdom of heaven, you’d be asking, how can I get to know Jesus better today? How can I serve my neighbor today? How can I fight against this sin and honor God today? How can I store up treasures in heaven today? Totally different set of questions.
Jesus begins chapter 13 with the Parable of the Sower and look what the disciples do in v10.
10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
The disciples have a question and they bring it to Jesus. Remember – asking is a sign of life. They ask Jesus a question and the fact that they ask distinguishes them from the crowds who didn’t ask. v2 – the crowd was so large that Jesus had to get into a boat and speak to the people who were lined up along the shore. The disciples and the crowds heard the same parable. Upon hearing it, the disciples asked Jesus, why do you speak to the people in parables? Upon hearing the same parable, the crowds didn’t say a word. They simply turned and left.
Crowds listen. But they leave. How do you know if you are one of the disciples, a citizen in the kingdom of heaven vs. just being a nameless face in the crowd? One asks and the other doesn’t. Let’s bring it down to our level.
If you are in the crowd, it’s like being in a large lecture hall. When I was a freshman at Cal, I took Chem 1A, freshman chemistry and there were 700 students in the class. When a class is that large, you can pay attention if you are interested in the material. Or, even though you are physically present, you could be checked out mentally. You can tune out. In a lecture that large, you could be in the back row and fall asleep and no one would notice.
In a lecture of 700 students, is the professor addressing you personally? Not really. He is addressing the crowd. It’s up to each student whether or not they really want to listen There was a particular history professor at Cal named Prof. Litwack who took it personally when students fell asleep during his lecture. And he would call you out in the middle of the lecture. You in the blue shirt, hey, wake up. And he would publicly admonish the guy for being disrespectful. For him, it was not so much that he wanted to insure that you were getting his material, but it was more, I’m famous, I have a lot to say, why are you here if you’re not going to be decent enough to stay awake during the lecture.
Imagine if I called people out during a sermon. Hey, Isaac, you look a little sleepy. Sophia, listen up, this point is just for you. I wouldn’t do that and because I don’t, it’s easy to fall into the mentality of the student snoring in the back row of the lecture hall who thinks, eh, this stuff is not that important. I’m not that interested. I can get the notes from someone later. This lecture is not personally impacting. It’s just information and I can take it or leave it.
I know that some of you have this crowd mentality. You hear some points, you gather some insights, you might jot down a phrase or two. Your heart might be slightly stirred in the moment. Your brain might be slightly stimulated. But as soon as the service is over and you walk down the stairs to the Social Hall, you’ve forgotten half of the message. And by Monday morning, you can hardly remember what passage was covered.
The crowd mentality. I’m here to learn. Teach me a fact about faith. Maybe I will pick something up that I can put into practice this coming week. The crowd never asks because they don’t really care enough to ask. They don’t ask because they want to keep Jesus at arm’s length. They don’t ask because they don’t want to be changed.
If this were not a sermon and we were meeting over coffee and it was one-on-one, then at least, you’d be engaged. You’d respond to my questions. You might even ask me some questions. And we’d have a conversation, a dialogue.
If you are a believer, you’d agree with me that God speaks to us primarily through His Word. He can come to us through events and circumstances. For some, He can even appear in dreams and visions and use other supernatural means. But the primary way that we hear God is through the Word. That means, whenever we open up Scripture, whenever we hear a sermon or a Bible study, we’re not doing it merely to gain insights. Like opening a textbook. Or surfing the web. We don’t surf through the Bible and look around for tidbits of trivia. We read and we listen because we want to hear the voice of God. A personal word from the Lord. We want to encounter Jesus personally.
There were times that I remember vividly as a young Christian while I was an undergrad at Berkeley when the Word of God was preached and I felt like I was the only person in the room. It’s like everyone around me dimmed into the shadows and the spotlight was on me. It’s like the preacher read my journal containing my deepest thoughts and fears and worries, it’s like he saw straight into my heart and he tailored the message just for me. Of course, it’s because God sees my heart. He’s see straight through whatever polished image I project. God convicted me of my sin. And I remember a bunch of times when I would be pierced by the Word of God and there would be a rededication time at the end of the service and I didn’t care if I had gone forward 4 straight weeks. I didn’t care what people thought of me – oh, is Ray trying to be super spiritual? Or, wow, is Ray struggling with a hidden sin? I didn’t care how it looked. I heard God’s voice and I came forward in a puddle of tears. Other times, I couldn’t even come forward. I just sat slumped over in my chair and I broke down. Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, I stayed in that position for a long while until everyone else had eaten and all the chairs had been cleaned up and the floors were swept and they were turning the lights off because it was time to go.
God speaks personally to you and to me. He speaks as if you are the only person in the room. I believe He is speaking to you right now. But you must be a true kingdom citizen, a true disciple to hear it. We need our spiritual eyes and ears opened for us to hear the voice of God.
God speaks to me and you through his Word. Do you believe that? Are the words of God bouncing off of you or are they sinking in? Is the Word of God like a spray, a mist that hits your skin and then a split second later, it evaporates. If you are a disciple, you will have a lot of questions and you will bring those questions to Jesus.
What kinds of questions would you ask? You would ask, what does this parable mean? But you wouldn’t stop there because it’s not like Christian life is a class and I am going to pass out an exam at the end of the service and test your listening comprehension. You’d be asking, how is God speaking to me personally through this parable? You see the difference?
10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
Jesus gives his reasons why he speaks in parables starting in v11–
11 He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven as secret knowledge. It’s top secret. It’s highly classified. Verse 34-35 refers to knowledge that is hidden. Secretive, hidden. Friends share secrets and you have a special bond because only your inner circle knows about it. And so when a tier 2, semi-friend shows up, he doesn’t get the secret handshakes and the inside jokes that the close friends share amongst themselves.
You might think, why is God hidden? Why is he keeping secrets? That seems awfully exclusive. Why doesn’t he just show up on everyone’s facebook and post simultaneously to all billion users the words–I am God, repent now or die? Why doesn’t he just appear right now in this room and blow us away with an awesome display of power? Why is he hidden? Because God is not going to force anyone to believe in him against their will. God will save whom He wants to save. He is sovereign. But God also gave us a thing called free will and he is looking for us to repent and put our faith in Jesus. God won’t barge his way into our hearts. He knocks and we have to open the door in repentance and faith.
So if you don’t want to be in the kingdom of heaven, if you don’t want Jesus, God will honor your wishes. He will back off. He will keep things hidden, under wraps. Crowds who are only mildly interested see only surface level things. They hear only the big lecture, the parable, which is mysterious, because it doesn’t come with much of an explanation. The crowd is fine listening to a parable.
What separates the disciples from the crowd? While the crowds listened and left, the disciples stayed around and they asked, Jesus, why do you speak in parables? And the next question naturally would be, what do these parables mean? Like v36 – the disciples say, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” Because for those who stay around and ask, the secret is revealed and Jesus tells them exactly what the parables mean.
Last night, I met up with some local church planters and one pastor who is considering church planting and he had a lot of questions. What’s it like being a young pastor? What’s it like planting a church? What’s it like ministering to college students? How do you disciple? How do you raise up leaders? Question after question. And I left that meeting encouraged. Because he asked, I want to pour into him, I want to spend time with him and encourage him to do what God has called him to do. I was pumped up. And I thought, how Jesus must be so thrilled when we come to him with our questions. And how much our act of asking builds up our trust in Jesus. Asking is a sign that you are a kingdom citizen.