I had started a 4 part series on The Beauty of God’s Kingdom about two-weeks ago, before I was interrupted by a series (Don’t Bash the Man Called Cash) which took over most of last week on Johnny Cash and Gospel-Centered Living. Before this post, there were three others in dealing with the topic.
And for Part 4, The Beauty of God’s Kingdom is that you serve A Consuming God. The beauty of God’s Kingdom is that His fire, judgment, and wrath will consume all those that are not a part of the gospel.
The reason we serve the kingdom of God in awe is because of the fear of what we know lies in the very character and hand of almighty God. To think that we could be in the place of never knowing Christ, or never being part of this unshakable kingdom, should bring us to our knees in adoration of whom we serve on a daily basis. This is not a game or some joke, or even just a mere story written by some random writer; we are talking about the creator of the universe. This is why the writer of Hebrews ends this chapter by showing the importance of recognizing who our God is, bringing forth the most severe warning in the whole book of Hebrews. Those who do not know the gospel, do not know God, and do not live in the unshakable kingdom have only the force of God awaiting them. The God of Sinai – whom none could approach – is the same God of Zion. The judgments and wrath that poured out among the people of the golden calf awaits those that make idols in the same way today.
In other words, if you are not under the grace of God, you are damned because nothing but the wrath of God waits for you. Wrath abides on your head, and unless you see Christ, see your mediator, and repent and come to the fountain of blood which is offered to all, there will be no mercy for you. God does not tolerate other gods. And other gods aren’t just physical statues – gods are anything you serve besides the one true God. So, whether you serve yourself, your sin, your wants, your money, your greed, your lusts, your pride, your self-pity, or any god of doing whatever it may be that your flesh wants, the almighty God will not allow any before Him. They are completely shakable and have no part in the gospel kingdom.
There is another angle to this, which is vital to speak of, because some of you may be sitting here today and you know the gospel and are part of the unshakable kingdom, but you still struggle in areas which don’t allow you to live in reverence or awe as you ought to. You may struggle with debt that seems too large, bills too high, unruly children, unsaved family, difficult work, never-ending housekeeping, taxing studies, great worries, deep agony, depression, hurt… and you wish that Christ would come and shake what needs be, and take home what is His as soon as possible.
For those who feel this way, I want to say this:
I am going to end this message where I started – and that is exactly what you have do also. You have to end where you started – that is, Jesus Christ. He who gave you everything you have, will finish everything for you. God shows Himself as a consuming fire so that you can enjoy His good news and enjoy His work in awe. God, this consuming fire, did not spare His Son, but sent Him to the cross. He poured out His wrath – this consuming fire – upon His Son so that you can benefit now and for eternity. But even more than benefiting for ourselves, we benefit for the glory of God. We remember that the God of the law is the God of the gospel; the God of Mount Sinai is the God of Mount Zion; and because of His mercy His people enjoy new mercies every morning, so that we live daily in reverence and awe for Him. Someday, the person who mocked the gospel, who did not come to Christ, who refused the cross, will receive the consuming fire of God. But the one for whom Christ laid down His life in the front lines of the fire of God, that person lives for Him. He didn’t give us the gospel benefits in this kingdom for us to walk around and boast in ourselves, and he didn’t give them for our own self-gratitude. He gave them to make His own name known… to make known His fame and His glory, so that the world may see His holiness among all the nations, so that more will come from the farthest ends of the earth and proclaim, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.”
An Acceptable Kingdom. The beauty of God’s Kingdom is that it deserves your worship with reverence and that it leaves the believer of the gospel in nothing else but awe.
Speaking about the unshakable kingdom, we now look at how the believer lives in the kingdom. The writer of Hebrews says in verse 28, “and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” The privileges that the believer has, living in the gospel kingdom, are of the very highest regard. No believer can say, “well, I think I could do better” or “I wish this was different.” There is nothing whatsoever more satisfying than living under the gospel! We live under this gospel which is endless – it is for now and forevermore, as Christ sits on His throne above and is our Ruler.
We must look at what this means for the believer. Think back to when your heart was not part of the kingdom of God. And then think of where you are now – an heir with Christ and having part of God’s eternal inheritance. What more could we ask for? What more needs to be said or done that would cause us to live in reverence and awe? Nothing! This is of incomparable worth. This is why we, as believers, must keep our eye on Mount Zion; keep our eye on Christ, the mediator of the new covenant. This means that we live a life in two very important ways. They are:
1. Reverence – that we bow in humble adoration, in the highest respect, every day to Christ for what he has done for us.
2. Awe – that we live in holy fear, showing our Savior that we live in absolute wonder and amazement of what He has done.
Do you live your Christianity like this?
One may think of this and ask, “why is this so important?” or “why must I do this?”… Which I will easily answer. Being a part of the kingdom that will remain forever and that is unmovable should call you to live in zeal and with a passion for living in reverence and awe continually throughout your days. How can any believer sit under the words here in Hebrews 12 and not be struck with awe? When we hear of this inheritance and understand how unworthy we are to receive it, and yet know that it is bestowed upon us so graciously, how can we not feel that love bursting forth from our heart in thankfulness for this great gift Christ has given? How can we not want to give thanks for the kingdom that will forever reign? What makes this so incredible to the believer is that we did no work for it – if it had been our own work, we would be across the valley hanging out on Mount Sinai. But it’s not of our own work, and therefore we look towards Zion, look towards Christ, and see that it was His work alone through which we inherit this kingdom. In light of this, serving Christ must be done gratefully – or as the writer of Hebrews said, to be serving in reverence and awe. If it’s not, what is the real heart of our service? If the true heart of our service is focused on Christ, it will be done in reverence and awe. Everything we do – our worship, service, life, parenting, being a spouse, a teacher, or working on studies… everything from our waking up until our laying down at night is done for the kingdom of the gospel, and is done in reverence and awe to Christ alone.
Why “reverence and awe”? We’ll look at that in this third and last point later this week.
I now want to focus on bringing to your attention three things so that you may see the Beauty of God’s Kingdom. These three things are: 1. An Unshakable Kingdom 2. An Acceptable Kingdom 3. A Consuming God.
An Unshakable Kingdom. The beauty of God’s Kingdom is that it is not like any kingdom or place of this world that will be shaken in the end of days.
We are told that believers are to be grateful for receiving the kingdom. I say “believers” because the writer specifically says in verse 28, “we.” In this, he was referring to believers, and that he himself was a believer. This kingdom he speaks of, however, is different than what we often may think about when making mention of the kingdom of God. The members of this kingdom whom the writer is referring to, are the members of the gospel kingdom – that is, those who have professed Christianity; who follow it, have repented, and believed on Jesus Christ. Those who have done this are a part of a kingdom that is unshakable – a kingdom of the saints, a kingdom that will remain, a part of the Mount Zion that cannot be destroyed.
I would like to go back to where the writer of Hebrews mentions Deuteronomy 4:24, where it states: “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” In his time and day, Moses constantly warned the Israelites about apostasy and idolatry. Likewise, the writer of Hebrews is warning his readers about falling back to the beliefs they once held – that is, Judaism – and is encouraging them to persevere and continue to run the race, looking toward Mount Zion and their new kingdom. And this is a call for us today as well, as we are of the same gospel kingdom.
Believers of the gospel – and even unbelievers – hear these words of the Spirit and through these words we are shown the greatness contained in the gospel. We are given something that otherwise would be unattainable, as we are part of a kingdom that will not and cannot be shaken or destroyed, and is unlike any kingdom that has ever existed. This kingdom has been granted to us on behalf of Christ’s blood alone. We now have received a kingdom that is under the new covenant, which is a part of the freedom and grace we have received in Christ Himself. Believer, in this kingdom you have numerous and invaluable rights and privileges that you could never think of when dead in sin. In this kingdom you have been made kings – a royal priesthood. You receive happiness and honor because of your representation in the kingdom of the gospel. Not only can this kingdom not be moved, but it is one that will never change and will forever be bestowed upon your heart so that you can enjoy the gospel – that is, Jesus’ work.
How can we do this – enjoy the gospel, and live in light of this kingdom and Jesus’ work? Well, that brings us to the next part… in which I’ll post within the next week sometime.
Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to Hebrews chapter 12. We will start our reading at verse 18 through 29, and will be focusing on verses 28 and 29. ESV – Hebrews 12:18-29 – 18For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20For they could not endure the order that was given, If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned. 21Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, I tremble with fear. 22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. 27This phrase, Yet once more, indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29for our God is a consuming fire.
It is important that while studying this chapter you don’t look at only a tree, or just the leaves; rather, you need to look at the whole forest. In order to see that whole scope here, I am going to first spend some time in introduction to the verses we read. I believe that it’s necessary to do this so that the points are understood all the more. So, I am going to start by going back to the beginning of the chapter and my aim will be to show the beauty that lies there, from the beginning to the end… the end being what we will be specifically dealing with today.
In the first 17 verses, which we did not read, the writer of the book of Hebrews asks his audience to throw aside everything they are going through – their pain, hardship, and suffering – so that they can know Christ even more.
Verse One – The writer wants his readers to lay aside all their weight; any hook that has gotten a hold of them. In essence he is saying, “If it does not help your progression in Christianity, then get rid of it.”
Verses Two – Four – How does one do this? He looks to Jesus. He focuses as though on a one-lane road, seeing and knowing where Jesus is at all times, not turning any other way, not looking back and forth. The writer of Hebrews relates Christians to being those running a race; we are running towards Christ, who has endured the cross because of the joy He knew that would come from it. It was us whom He went to the cross for, and He alone is the founder and perfector of our faith. Christ went beyond all measure in both trial and temptation, shedding His blood for our sin, and He is now seated at the right hand of God. This is the Jesus we look to.
Verses Five – Thirteen – Here the focus shifts to show that the Lord’s people do suffer. But it also shows that we are to receive our suffering with the knowledge and assurance that the Lord is always at hand. In verses 6 to 8, we see that the Lord chastens His people because He loves His people; and it is through suffering for Him that we can know in our hearts that we are the Lord’s people. Verses 9 and 10 show how people are subject to the correction of earthly fathers, and through that, we both know and learn how to be submissive; thus, there is even so much more reason to be submissive to our heavenly Father who disciplines us. Through verses 11 to 13, the writer makes it clear that there are no excuses when it comes to suffering and living for the Lord. The benefits of suffering for Christ are great. Therefore, we are encouraged to continue throughout, and to enjoy the Christian life at all times, no matter what it consists of.
Verses Fourteen – Seventeen – This portion of the chapter ends with the writer urging Christians to persevere. He shows us the seriousness of sin, and that once one renounces their confidence in God, it is impossible to retrieve what was lost. We see here that the writer does not want Christians to claim Christ and then turn away and expect that they can come back after they had renounced their faith.
This brings us to the second part of the chapter, and the main context (verses 18 through 29) where our two verses are placed. Here the writer gives a bit of biblical history of Israel, using it to relate to the readers. As throughout the whole book, he looks again at the person and work of Jesus Christ, showing us both what was written in the Old Testament and the New Testament about Him. In this, the writer uses the example of Mount Sinai because of the redemption and deliverance which Moses brought to the Lord’s people with the Law. This is shown in comparison with the redemption that Christ gave in the gospel.
It is significant to notice the two “for’s” here, so that we see the importance of what the writer is doing with the whole of the passage. First it says, “For you have not come to what may be touched.” Over the next seven verses he then gives the reason why we are not to be like Esau, which is something he stated in verse 16. The writer is expressing that he doesn’t want to see these new Christians – who had left the Jewish faith – to compromise or leave what they now claim and believe. Next, in verse 25 he states, “For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.” Both of these bring us to the final section where the writer declares, “For our God is a consuming fire” in verse 29. This whole section is used to bring the believer to see that his mediator, his better blood, his new covenant, is found in Christ. It helps us understand and to love that better blood, the new covenant, and most of all, to love Jesus.
Next we see that verse 28 begins with “Therefore.” Why this word? We can see it this way – verse 22: “Therefore those that have come to Mount Zion and the city of the living God;” “Therefore those who come to the angels, therefore those who are enrolled in heaven;” verse 23: “Therefore those whose God is your judge, therefore who righteousness is made perfect, therefore those who have Jesus as their mediator;” verse 24: “who is apart of the new covenant, and therefore to those that are sprinkled with a better blood then that of Abel.” Why the “Therefore?” It is because the writer is now giving the climax of his chapter to those who believe the gospel; ‘you are a believer, therefore,’ “be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29for our God is a consuming fire.”