Which kingdom are you a part of? Using the account of our father of faith, Abraham, Brother Ken Miller compares the two kingdoms and asks us to seriously consider to what lengths we will go to be a citizen of the city of God. Further, he points to Jesus’ solution to lust, and provides a call to overcome the technological structures of our time.
What more is there to be said? Hallelujah!
We have heard the Word of God. Amen! And the Word of God has been living, and active, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. If we’re honest, it has penetrated to the dividing asunder of the soul and the spirit and the joints and marrow, and it has discerned the intents of many hearts here today. We praise God for the word that’s been preached. We praise God for the vision that’s been lifted up. And may nothing that has been said so far somehow be diminished or undermined. And I’m not sure what else to say. I thought about suggesting to Brother Joel and the committee that perhaps we should extend Kingdom Fellowship Weekend and have the afternoon set aside now to gather together in some sort of little study, resource groups, and think about what we have just heard and what must be done to, by God’s grace, better implement what’s been shared. So hallelujah.
I have a message from the Lord. It feels to me like what I have been asked to share this morning is somehow a call to decision. By following our beloved father of faith, Abraham, “Tower of Babel or City of God.” Genesis chapter 11, verses 1-4. We’ll begin here, then turn the Book to the end and read from the end of the Book from where, we have already heard, heaven will come down and join earth and “Earth and heaven” as the song says “will be one.”
But first Genesis 11 in verses 1-4; the Tower of Babel:
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
The essence of Babylon. Self-reliance. Self-sufficiency. Self-exultation. Self everything. Humanistic. Self-effort. Apart from God. And we’ve heard about those false kingdoms that seek to undermine the unshakeable Kingdom and take our hearts away. This is it. Babylon. And those ancient Babylonians wanted to raise themselves up by their own effort, building a civilization of their own making without any moral influence outside themselves. Does this sound familiar?
Revelation chapter 21. Now we go to another city. Praise the Lord! Revelation 21: Here we have the consummation when God’s kingdom is fully realized, and all opposition will have been put down. And I think we’ll see at this point in eternity, we will see civilization, humanity, reaching its apex:
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. 7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
Here in this scene we know the tower that is being built. No false kingdom. But here we have, brothers and sisters, here we have, with the King of kings, we have His people gathered, finally, at one with Him. No tower is being raised to heaven, but a city coming down from heaven. And here we finally see our full potential as human beings realized, not through self-development, self-rule, self-reliance. But we reach our potential, brothers and sisters, as we heard this morning already, by heaven coming down to earth and being joined. And I see here finally the culmination of the present kingdom, we see it here. The longings, the aspirations that we have today here, the desires of every human heart represented, the goal and the longings for love, for comfort, companionship, the longing for unity, they’re all met right here, brothers and sisters, in this final day. And the essence of the New Jerusalem is not some self-effort trying to reach up and lift ourselves up. Rather the essence of the New Jerusalem, my dear brothers and sisters, is God coming down. The grace of God coming down, accomplishing the union of God with man.
And as I read the Scriptures, from beginning to end, as I read the Scriptures, I find that the truth of Scripture pretty much boils down to a simple thing, and here’s how I see it. I’m basically a farmer, so my mind doesn’t work in deep theological studies, sorts of ways. I think that, as I read the Bible, as I see the essence of the Revelation, it is: God wants a people, and He wants to be with His people, and right here we have it fully realized. Hallelujah!
At the beginning of the story, He is with His people, in the Garden. And as we heard, there was a tragic thing that happened, and those very first people made a decision that was treasonous, and they deserved to die, they no longer could be with God, in His holiness. So God sent the man forth from the Garden, He drove them out, it says, saddest words in the history of humanity. Why doesn’t God do something about the horrible state of the world?
Hallelujah – we know He did! He did something! The story is that God sent His Son into this world, and I want us to think this morning, brothers and sisters, reflect a little bit on the wonder of our salvation. Let us never take for granted, my dear friends, the wonder of Jesus coming from the glory of His Father’s throne into this world to save us poor sinners, and this is why we are here today. Let us exhaust in our salvation. Hallelujah! We have the right to come into the presence of the King! We have the right to an audience now, with the God of the universe, because of what our King Jesus has done, in subduing the earth and our corrupt nature. Praise the Lord! We couldn’t do it, but God sent Someone down to do it that we might enter into fellowship with Him again. So that God might have His purpose realized. God wants a people, and He wants to be with His people.
Basic truth that we find all over the New Testament is that if a person: man, woman, or child, believes in Jesus that God sent down from heaven, he or she is one with Jesus. He or she is in Jesus, and there some wonderful verses we could talk about, some of the favorites, at least for me, are Second Corinthians chapter 5. We have verses like “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.” And here we have Jesus in His incarnation, He’s coming to earth, He’s living, He’s ministering, He suffers, He dies, He resurrects from the grave, He ascends back to His father – hallelujah! – and in all of that, God is in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. Jesus put it this way in His prayer to the Father. Just before He died, He said: “I in them, and Thou in Me” – hallelujah! – “that they may be made perfect in one.” And this is the Gospel, brothers and sisters. We are here from all walks of life; we’re here from various types of backgrounds, and locations, and society would, by the way they measure things, they would probably rank us in some kind of various stratus, status, and classes, by our profession, by the amount of money we make, and all of that.
But – praise the Lord! – in the redemptive work of our Savior we come together, one in Christ, one in God, and in God there is no status, unless we would say that we are all sinners at the foot of the cross, and we’re beggars, and blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Hallelujah!
This morning, we are in Christ if our faith is in Him, and Christ is in us, and because of that, we are in God, because God the Father has forever been in perfect unity with His Son. This is how God reconciles the world to Himself, and is the glorious Gospel. And it is so simple, and yet it is so profound and so life-changing, the most wonderful news we could possibly imagine. And Revelation 21:3 is the culmination of this great reconciling work of God that Jesus accomplished. And when Jesus has finally turned over the kingdom to His father, here’s what we have – I’ll read it again:
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
My brothers and sisters, today we need to make a decision: the Tower of Babel or City of God? Is this what is in front of us? Brothers and sisters, this final state of humanity when we will be with our God forever and ever.
Now let’s go back to Genesis chapter 11. I think we see still today the same two classes of people that we saw in Genesis chapter 11. We have, at the beginning of the chapter, people trying to build their own civilization without God. They’re building their city out of earthly material. Many religious people are working side by side with atheists and irreligious people in this human structure.
At the end of Genesis chapter 11, we have another strain of people. These people are the followers of Abraham who was called out of the land of Ur, and he was called toward a city that had foundations whose builder and maker is God. Why did God call Abram out of Ur? Because He wanted a people. Why did God allow Isaac to be born to Abraham? Why? Because He wanted a people. Why was Jacob born to Isaac? Because God wanted a people. Why was Judah born to Leah, of all people? Remember the story? God is able to use the trickery of Laban who tricked Jacob and got him married to Leah, and out of that union came Judah. Judah was born because God wanted a people. Judah the father of Perez.
Another very unlikely circumstance: Tamar. The mother of that son – son born in incest, really; it’s a terrible story there in Genesis chapter 38. And then we have the rest of the line of the Messiah. Why was David born to Obed? Because God wanted a people. Solomon born to Bathsheba through David’s illicit relationship with Bathsheba? God wanted a people. Finally, one day in the city of Bethlehem a young virgin gave birth to Jesus, our Messiah, because God wanted a people.
Why are you born? Why are we here? God wants a people today to lay hold of the mandate that we heard today. My dear people, my desire is that we would grasp the reality that God has called us to be His people. We are the chosen generation, a royal priesthood, called out of darkness into His marvelous light, that we should proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. We are here to do His work. Praise the Lord!
So – the dwelling place of God is with men. He will dwell with them. They shall be His people. God Himself shall be with them.
I like to think of the believer today as joining in the long line of people stretching back all the way to Abraham. These people having been called out of Babylon, out of their old lives to follow Him into the new. Archaeologists have uncovered Ur, that great city, and they discovered that it was a wealthy city. Marketplaces in the city, schools, libraries, many people were wealthy in Ur and had comfortable houses, lush gardens. But – you know – a significant little detail is that Ur, Abraham’s town, was located maybe three hundred miles south of Babylon. And when Abraham was called out of Ur to go to the land of Canaan, he almost certainly passed right by Babylon and its tower. And he passed by Babylon to go to the land of Canaan, and my brothers and sisters, why do you think he passed by Babylon? It was because he saw a city that had foundations whose builder and maker is God.
Abraham had the kind of faith that the martyrs had. The real and true faith is a true knowledge of the heart, through hearing the word of God which through the illumination of the Holy Spirit is imprinted on the heart, and works so effectively in us that we are drawn away by it, by this faith, from all visible and perishable things to the invisible and living God, acquiring thereby a new spiritual taste for that which is heavenly, and not for that which is earthly. For saving faith is of such a nature that it conforms to things not seen.
This is why Abraham could pass right by Babylon. He saw the city, the unshakable kingdom which will last forever and ever, and eventually made it around the Fertile Crescent. We don’t know how long it took him, but he finally made it to the land of Canaan. And more promises started coming. Promises of the land. Promise of a son. Promise of descendants like the stars in multitude, and the promise of a blessing that would reach to all the families of the earth. These are the promises that came to Abraham. And he never did settle down in Canaan. It says in the book of Hebrews that he lived in tents with Isaac and Jacob. And what kept him going? He saw into the future. He saw things. He saw things. He saw things that no one else seemed to see.
Hebrews 11:13. Let us follow our ancestor, Abraham in this journey. Hebrews 11, chapter 13. Let us go there and look at that verse and unpack it, just a bit. Hebrews 11:13, these are the patriarchs, it’s a familiar verse:
But they all died in faith. They hadn’t received the promises but they saw them afar off. They were persuaded of them, they embraced them, and they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
Abraham never did get all the promises. He got the promise of a son, but he never got the promise of the land. He got the promise, but he never got to settle in it. He never really saw the promise of the descendants as the stars in multitude. But he had the promise. And he saw it afar it. And he saw it clearly enough that he was persuaded of it. And he embraced it. He wrapped his life around what God had said. And out of that seeing the promise, out of being persuaded by what God had said, and out of embracing his life around what God had said. Out of that came an identity. This man, by his life, confessed that he was a stranger and a pilgrim, and he passed by Babylon and he headed towards the city that had foundations, whose builder and maker is God about which we read about in Revelation chapter 21.
You know, Abraham faced many, many challenges and it seems to me none of us have ever faced the dilemma that Abraham chapter 22. Where he, on one hand, saw the promise of God where there would be a multitude like the stars descended from him. On the other hand, he had just heard God say that he is to take his only son Isaac and sacrifice him. How does that make any sense, not to mention anything about the incredible heart-break that must have been in Abraham’s heart when he realized his son would have to die at his own hand by the command of God? This did not make sense. If it had been me, I might have said, “God, this is not making any sense at all. I can’t do it.” And I might have been disobedient. But Abraham had a way of simply trusting God, even more in this time of great testing. His faith simply grew stronger and we know that in the book of Hebrews, we know that the way our father Abraham saw his way off the horns of this dilemma was this: he knew that God was able to raise his son, Abraham’s son, from the dead, and he believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead. So on one hand he had the promise of a vast multitude of descendants. On the other hand, he had the word of God “Sacrifice your son.” And he believed God for both. He believed he would have many descendants. He believed he would have his son. And his faith carried him all through his life. And I believe right now our hero Abraham has found the city he’s been looking for all that time.
Pilgrim and stranger. We’ve been talking this weekend about how technology is changing us. I want us to be reminded of what Peter Mommsen of the Bruderhof community wrote in the winter issue of Plough. (see https://www.plough.com/en/topics/life/technology/the-joys-of-tech-asceticism). Now we’re coming down to deciding how we shall consecrate ourselves to the service of our great king who has called us into His kingdom and has given us this mandate to represent and honor the King on this earth. My brothers and sisters, we are going to have to focus our lives and deal with the problems that we face.
And brother Finny shared the other day some statistics that have been with me all weekend weighing on my heart, and I have done some similar things. He did a survey at a Bible School – “cream of the crop” young men – and I won’t mention the percentages of the young men who had been involved in pornography in the last three months and in the previous year, because they’re depressing, but they’re way, way off the charts, way too high. And I’m gonna come back to this idea of what we should do with technology in order that we may effectively serve the King of kings on our pilgrim journey. Peter Mommsen says,
More often than not, then, the best social media policy is also the simplest: abstinence. Even those with strong reasons to post and tweet – keep up the good work, Plough social media editors! – need to set themselves firm guidelines.
Then he goes on and says that the editors of this magazine, they leave social media at work. In the face of pornography, he says if we want to keep our children offline we may have to change our lifestyle and spending habits, switching schools, or even moving.
Voice such ideas, and sooner or later you’ll be called a Luddite. Rather than reject the label, then, perhaps we should rehabilitate it.
We should remember that Jesus put people before machines and profits.
Technological asceticism on its own won’t solve society-wide dilemmas, much less save our species from extinction. Its function is more basic: to help us maintain the spiritual independence needed to tackle these challenges.
My brothers and sisters, I do feel that there is a need to call for Jesus’ radical solution to the problem of sin in order that we may serve our God acceptably with reverence and godly fear in this kingdom work He has given us to do. This weekend is not only a time of coming together experiencing warm fellowship and worshiping God together and hearing about the call to reign with Christ on this earth. This weekend is a weekend of commitment, a weekend of decision, a weekend of consecration and surrender. And my brothers and sisters, our heavenly Father can use only clean vessels.
And I was thinking about, what might Abraham do about the challenges of technology in our day, and I got to thinking about what Jesus would say to us at this meeting. Particularly now, when there is the issue of lust. I felt led to talk about this this morning. I’ve been listening this weekend for someone, since this session has a lot to do with technology, and this world culture, and how it is impacting us, I was listening for someone to bring in the radical teachings of Jesus on how to deal with lust. I haven’t heard it yet, so I felt – this is Kingdom Fellowship Weekend, my brothers and sisters, and we’re all about lifting up the radical teachings of Jesus. Matthew chapter 5 in verse 28-30, Jesus gives us His solution for the problem of lust. He says,
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
What is Jesus’ solution to the problem of porn? What is Jesus’ solution? Jesus solution is amputation. And abstinence. And I believe, my brothers and sisters, we need to do this if we’re gonna be used by God to advance His kingdom.
And I’ve asked brother Joe Friesen to come up here. He’s gonna bring some equipment up here, and by the grace of God this is not a gimmick. This is not a gimmick. We have – let’s imagine here – statistics that brother Finny gave the other day – so shocking to me – if those statistics should hold true for this group of people, there should be many people here dealing with this issue. As this young man is gonna demonstrate.
This is a sledge hammer.
This is an anvil.
This is a smartphone, brothers and sisters. This smartphone has caused many a young man, middle aged man, even older men to stumble and fall into the sin of lust. We remember that the technological structures of our society – we have to get past the illusion that those structures are neutral. They are not neutral. They are under the forces of our enemy, and we have to be honest about that, not be afraid because we come under the audience of the King of kings and the Lord of lords who has redeemed us from this world. But Jesus’ solution is radical, because He loves us and He wants us to be with Him in that New Jerusalem, and He calls us, brothers and sisters, to take up our cross, to die to self, and to give up all to follow Him.
Technology must be part of that surrender. And I believe that if lust is being fed through modern technology, I believe that to follow Christ might well mean in this particular thing, in this particular sin, it might well mean the amputation of technology in some sort of way.
Now this young man, brother Joe, is going to demonstrate to us what one solution might be in order to make a decision for the people of God. Brother, it’s time for some righteous anger:
(smartphone gets smashed by sledgehammer on an anvil)
Thank you, my brothers and sisters. What would Jesus do if He came into the temple of God and He saw that the temple was filled with violence and lust and hatred, and there was no quietness for His spirit to dwell? I think He would get a little bit angry.
Thank you brother Joe.
May that be an act of consecration to our King. It may be that there are some people here today that have been here this weekend, and you’ve heard this discussion throughout the weekend on media and serving our King, and you know you must deal decisively with a problem of lust as Jesus taught it.
This anvil will be in the back of this tabernacle, along with the sledgehammer. And I ask that if there is someone here today, that as a symbolic gesture, would like to begin to deal with the problem of lust, it will be back there, if you wanna use it in a similar way. The only thing we ask – I talked to the Kingdom Fellowship Weekend committee about this – we ask that this is not a gimmick of some sort or a short-lived commitment. If you know that technology has led you into treason against the King of kings and the Lord of lords; if you know it has led you there, and you want to deal with it, then gather a few people around you, two or three people, take them back there, declare your intentions about what you want to do to clean up your life, maybe write some things down, have witnesses back there, destroy, as a symbolic gesture, the technology that is dragging you down, because Jesus taught amputation.
Amputation is a very difficult thing. Life-changing. Back in the days without anesthesia, dreadfully painful, people would be able to see your handicap, but there’s a cause, and the cause, Jesus said, is to save your body from being cast into hell. Is it worth it? Have we taken this problem seriously enough, is what I’m asking? How serious are we about consecrating ourselves to this kingdom coming down to earth that we heard about this morning? This is a time of decision.
So dear brothers and sisters, the other evening I read to you the bad news of Revelation 18. Now, I just think it would be appropriate, at the end of Kingdom Fellowship 2018 that we would read the good news together. Let’s go to Revelation chapter 21. Here we have the culmination of all things – praise the Lord! Revelation 21 says:
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. 6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, 11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; 12 And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: 13 On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
And my brothers and sisters, here we have the foundations:
14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
18 And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. 19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; 20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.
My brothers and sisters, the city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Verse 22:
22 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. 23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. 26 And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. 27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. 1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: 4 And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. 5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
Down to verse 12:
12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 14 Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
Brothers and sisters, the Tower of Babel or City of God? It’s our choice this morning. The grace of God is reaching down to us as it has for 2000 years since Calvary. And He’s calling us. He’s calling us. This great God of the universe who gave the kingdom mandate to the first two people, and they lost it, and He worked for those thousands of years to make it possible to back to Him, and He gave it back at Pentecost, and those people – we claim their heritage, and they went out and Genesis chapter 1 verse 28 was fulfilled, and they began to make disciples and reclaim His universe for the King of kings and Lord of lords. And the question is this morning, where are we as His people? Are we willing to join in with the people of God, to forsake Babylon, and to travel homeward to our heavenly city, and along the way declaring His excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
We heard a lot this weekend; we heard a lot this morning about how we are to serve our King. Let us not let those things slip. Let us capture them in our heart and in our mind. Let us be talking about them over this noon meal and as we fellowship together and as we leave this place, and may the glory of His kingdom flow like a river with us into our home communities.
17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
Let’s stand for prayer.
Our heavenly father, we are convinced this morning through our own experience that You want a people and you desire to be with them and you have been with us here at this place. We praise and thank you for your presence in our hearts and in this assembly. Now as we leave this part of the service and as we think about returning to our respective communities, and places of work, and the things you’ve given us to do, oh God, help us to set our eyes, as Abraham did, on the city that has foundations whose builder and maker is God. Let us not lose sight of that city, and in the meantime, let heaven be brought to earth along the journey. Fill us with your spirit. Fill us with your love and mercy, and let us be able to bring this Gospel, this union of God and man, to our neighbors wherever we go. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.