Kingdom of Hope

What Does It Mean To Be A Citizen of God's Kingdom?

George Wright
Nov 1, 2020    44m
We are automatically citizens of the country we are born in, but we need to learn, what does it mean to be a citizen of God's kingdom? We must remember that we aren't automatically citizens in His kingdom, we have to be born again through our belief in Jesus to be citizens of the Kingdom of God. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 Well, what a privilege it is to be reminded of the way that God has been working here at Shandon. It is good for us to recognize that it is unusual what God is doing, that we are a part of something together that is unusual. And we want to honor the Lord with that, and we want to continue to push ahead in this mission that he has given us.

George Wright: 00:24 It was amazing for me to hear, when Lee first shared this with our staff team, that over the last couple of years here at Shandon, there have been more baptisms than in any decade in the history of our church, just over the last two years. That's amazing, God is doing great work, and we want to continue to join him in what he is doing for His glory so that more and more people can hear the good news of what Christ has done for us.

George Wright: 00:52 And you all, today is pledge Sunday. And as we make pledges of what we will give to the Lord, what has been entrusted to us, that we return back to him as a gift of stewardship in light of all that he's done for us. It's a reminder, we give because of what we believe, we give because life change matters, we give because we believe that the best days are ahead for the sake of the church, and we want to be actively engaged and involved with what God is doing for his glory through his people. And so I want to thank those of you who have made a pledge and brought it with you today. If you have not had the opportunity to do so, you can grab one of those cards in the lobby before you leave, you can also make your pledge online. To those who are joining us online, there's a place for you to make a pledge to next year's ministry budget right there online. We are going to have our pledge cards given a little different way, it'll be at the end of the service. And typically we would invite everybody to come down front, but just because of the reality we find ourselves in, we just felt like it was best to have baskets at all of the doors as we leave today, so you can be prepared to give your pledge card as you're leaving today. Thank you, thank you for praying, thank you for giving, and thank you for serving as we seek to follow the Lord's will for the sake of his church.

George Wright: 02:20 Let me encourage you now to grab your Bible and turn with me to First Peter chapter 2. We are continuing in our series The Reason For Hope, believing that regardless of what we're walking through, and regardless of how difficult the circumstances may be that we find ourselves in, and regardless the level of uncertainty that we are facing in our culture, in our nation, in this time, we, as a people of God, believe according to God's Word, and according to the faith that he has entrusted to us, that there is reason for hope. And so we return to the Word of God, this very important week in the life of our country, as we all understand there is much at stake, there is much on the line, we are praying that God would move in this nation, and we stand on the word of our Lord. We have reason to hope, even in the week of a crazy presidential election, we have reason for hope. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, we have reason for hope.

George Wright: 03:39 First Peter chapter 2, I will read verses 9 and 10, to get us started here this morning. Let me turn your attention to that scripture, and let me invite you if you're willing and able to stand with me as I read from the Word of God, that we all would be reminded as we stand...If you're joining us online, we do this each week, we stand at the reading of God's Word so that we can be reminded as a people of God, the Word of God is our foundation, it is what we stand securely on as God's people. And the Word of God lays before us what God says is right and good and true, what we need to hear as we long for hope, this is the word of the Lord. Verse 9 of First Peter chapter 2, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." This is the word of the Lord, I believe a word that we need to hear in this very important week in the life of our nation.

George Wright: 05:14 Would you pray with me that God would use this word to speak into our hearts. Heavenly Father, as we stand before you now, our hearts are heavy as we recognize the reality of what is in front of us as a people, and as a nation. Father, we are praying, believing, and trusting that your will will be done. We look to you and we pray, Lord, as people vote this week, as people turn out in record numbers is what we're hearing, Lord, we pray that you would advance the beautiful gift of hope into the hearts of many. And so Lord, we stand before you now needing to hear of the hope that you have laid before us, we need to be reminded as your people of the hope that we have in the good news of what Christ has done. And Lord, we recognize there are some joining us today that need to hear of this hope, there are some that have never encountered this hope in a real way, there are some that do not have hope today. Lord, we pray in your power, in your spirit, that you would meet them right now today, that they would see this beautiful gift of hope that has been made available through Jesus Christ our Lord. We look to you, have your way among us, let us hear what you desire for us to hear this day. We ask all this in Jesus' name, I pray. Amen. Amen. You may be seated, thank you for standing.

George Wright: 07:21 It has been said on many occasions over the last few months that 2020 has become the year of the yard sign. Everywhere you go, everywhere you drive, every time you take a walk through your neighborhood or down your street, there is a really good chance you are seeing multiple yard signs. Yard signs that have been placed with great passion, in individuals yards, to make it clear where they stand, and what they believe, and where they are placing their hope. In the midst of all of this passion that swirls around our culture, as it relates to politics and policies, what we see if we really look underneath the surface, is people staking their claim on something that they believe is a part of their identity. I am passionate about these things, because this is who I am, that's what we are saying. I put these yard signs out for everyone to see that this is who I am, I want you to understand, this is who I am.

George Wright: 08:48 As we turn our attention to First Peter again this week, we are seeing here from the Word of God, given to us through the Apostle Peter, the scripture is addressing this issue of identity. Specifically, Peter is going to begin to talk about political authority, and rulers of the day. But before he goes there, he says, I want to make sure we understand where our identity is truly found. We just read in verse 9, the Word of God says to the people of God, you have been given a new identity. Your identity is wrapped up in what God has done for you through Jesus Christ, that you and I could never do for ourselves. The scripture is saying, the people of God, have been called by God, to live from this new identity.

George Wright: 10:05 We must ask first, as we begin to talk about identity among the people of God, who specifically are the people of God? Are we all God's people? Are we all God's children? That's a statement that gets thrown out from time to time, we're all God's children. Are we all God's people? Go back to the beginning of First Peter, First Peter chapter1. Look at what it says in verses 3 through 5 of First Peter chapter 1, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be (look at what it says) born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

George Wright: 11:11 Who are God's people? Are you born as God's people? Are we all God's people? Please hear this, the scripture makes it clear, some of us really need to understand this today in the midst of a religious gathering, in a sometimes religious culture, we need to hear this. You are not born into the Kingdom of God, you are born again into the Kingdom of God. We are not all God's people, the people of God are the people that have been born again into a new identity, into a new life, into the gift of salvation, because of what Christ has done. That's what it means to be the people of God. And as the people of God, given a new identity, you have been called by God as a child of the King, to serve the King of Kings above all.

George Wright: 12:30 You see, the scripture goes on to say here in First Peter chapter 2, our text for today, that in this new identity as a child of God, you are also given a new citizenship. You are invited into a new Kingdom, a Kingdom that is not of this world. That's where we began today, right, verse 9, "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession." Peter is saying, through the inspiration of the spirit of God, to the people of God, that you, as God's people, if you have been born again into the Kingdom of God, you are part of a greater Kingdom. A Kingdom that is greater than the kingdom you currently find yourself living in, a Kingdom that reigns over all the kingdoms of the world. You serve a higher authority than any human authority that is reining or ruling, you are God's representative people, pointing to God's Kingdom.

George Wright: 13:49 So how should we live as a citizen of this higher Kingdom? How should the people of God live as members of the Kingdom of heaven, as members of the Kingdom of God? And specifically, on the week of a huge election, how should we navigate and interact with the political ruling authorities of the land in which we dwell? That's where we're going.

George Wright: 14:29 So let's look back at the text, First Peter chapter 2, verse 11, we see the scripture begin to tell us how we live as God's people, citizens of the Kingdom of heaven, interacting with the kingdom of the world in we live. Verse 11 says this, it says this, "Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul." The first thing I would draw your attention to right here, is that God's people have been called to live as strangers in a foreign land. God's people have been called to live as strangers in a foreign land, sojourners and exiles, immigrants in a foreign land. This is how the scripture views those who are followers of Christ, you are a citizen of a different Kingdom altogether, who is just passing through and visiting this kingdom in which you find yourself of this world.

George Wright: 15:47 You see in a sense, this messes with some of our categories. In a sense, the scripture is saying here, you actually, if you are a child of the King, if you are a member of the Kingdom of God, if you have been born again into God's Kingdom, you actually have more in common as a follower of Christ with followers of Christ who live in France, or China, or Indonesia, or Afghanistan, than you have in common with the people who might be living on your street who are not followers of Jesus. That can mess with our categories a little bit, right, that can mess with our politics a little bit, this is a completely different way to view citizenship. And the scripture is saying, your identity, if you are a follower of Christ, whose life has been transformed by the power of the gospel, your identity as a citizen, is as a citizen of the Kingdom of God first. Are you viewing your citizenship this way, as a foreigner in a distant land, serving a greater Kingdom?

George Wright: 17:13 The scripture uses a term and in several places to talk about this, called an ambassador. An ambassador of the most high King, an ambassador of reconciliation, the scripture talks about. An ambassador who represents the one that we serve, the one who has changed our life, the one who has given us the gift of a new citizenship in the Kingdom of God. And as a citizen of the Kingdom of God, we must understand that our calling is to pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of God above all else.

George Wright: 18:00 I love this quote from Dr. Russell Moore in his book Onward, as it relates to how the church interacts with the culture around us. He says this, "The world system around us, the cultural matrix we inhabit, is alien to the Kingdom of God, with different priorities, different strategies, and a different vision of the future. If we don't see that we are walking a narrow and counterintuitive road, we will have nothing distinctive to say, because we will have forgotten who we are. In the kingdom, we see how the gospel connects to culture and to mission. And, perhaps most importantly, in the Kingdom of God, we see who we are and where we are headed. " This is so important, we see who we are, and where we are headed. Followers of Christ are members of a kingdom that has no end, followers of Christ are members of a kingdom that is eternal, and this should determine how we interact with the kingdoms of the world around us. This reorients our perspective all together, I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God first, and then a citizen of the kingdom of this land in which I dwell.

George Wright: 19:46 We continue in our journey through chapter 2 of First Peter, we come to verse 12. We see a second thing that is highlighted here in the scripture, of how people in the Kingdom of God are to interact with the kingdoms around us. Look at verse 12 of First Peter chapter 2, it says, "Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers..." Is that happening? You better believe that's happening. "So that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation." How are we to live and interact with the kingdoms of the world around us as members of the Kingdom of God, simply put, we are to live as ambassadors of the King. We're to live as strangers in a foreign land, but we're to recognize we've been given a task, we've been a mission, we are the live as ambassadors of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, to point to who he is and what he has done. Followers of Jesus Christ represent a greater kingdom, followers of Jesus Christ have been called to something that is higher. And the scripture is saying, your conduct, your speech, your tone, the way you interact with others, the things you post, they should look different from the world around us. Because if you are a child of God, and a member of the Kingdom of God, you are pointing to the King, or at least you should be Our interactions with the world around us, especially in the midst of this hostile political environment, are they different in tone and expression in the things that we say, or is it just looking like the rest of the world in the way we interact with the political process? Your conduct, the scripture says, matters to point others to the gift that only the King bring.

George Wright: 22:16 I love reading history, especially the history of our nation. And I came across a fascinating story from the early 1800s,it talked about an interaction between a group of Christians in the Boston missionary society, and a group of native Americans, Indians, from the Iroquois tribe in New England. The missionaries, this happened in 1805, had requested a formal meeting with this Iroquois tribe. And at this meeting, the missionaries wanted to present their case of the Christian message, and why it would be beneficial for this tribe to trust and believe the Christian message, a very noble task of the missionaries were taking upon. It's very interesting how this all played out, the Indian tribe, the Iroquois, we're willing to listen to what the Boston missionary society had to say. They were respectful, they were gracious, and they heard the presentation of the Christian message. And after the missionaries had shared their faith with this tribe, a spokesman was appointed from the to respond to what had been shared. That spokesman was named Chief Red Jacket, he was the leader of the Wolf clan of the Iroquois Indians. He responded with a lengthy response, a very well thought out response, a very respectful response to what had been shared again by the Boston missionary society. And at the end of his response, this is the way he wraps up what he said, and I quote, "Brother, we are told that you have been preaching this message to the white people in this place. These people are now our neighbors; we are acquainted with them; so we will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again what you have said." How is that for an honest and convicting response?

George Wright: 25:06 In light of what we see here in the scripture, as the Word of God is reminding us, people are watching, people are listening, and so our conduct, as we say, we represent the King, is incredibly important. The words that we say as we say we are an ambassador of a heavenly kingdom are incredibly important, and if the words we say don't change the way that we personally live, and the way we treat others, especially others who don't agree with us, or sit on the other side of the aisle, or hold very different beliefs than us. If the words that we say don't line up with the way we treat other people, why would they want to hear what we say? And I believe this simple statement with all of my heart, that people will not care what we believe, until they believe that we care. You know, we see this all throughout the scripture, all throughout what the Word of God is leading the people to do, in the way we are called to interact with the world around us. People will not care what we believe, until they believe we care about them. Think about this in your own life, it is far easier to dismiss or disregard the comments someone has made if you know they don't care about you. When someone cares about you, and genuinely loves you, and comes to you to say something that is probably hard to hear, you're much more likely to listen, because you trust that they actually care. Is that the way we are representing our King to the world around us, are we living as representatives that people might actually want to listen to, because the action and the conduct of our lives line up with what we say?

George Wright: 27:30 Finally, as we continue in Second Peter, or excuse me, First Peter 2 this morning, we go back to verse 13. As the scripture then begins to talk about the way we interact with the political process, and the political authority that is reigning over the land in which we reside. First Peter chapter 2 verse 13 says this, "Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people." These words preach themselves, do they not? These words are so incredibly powerful, and so incredibly convicting. This is the call for the people of God who are citizens first of the Kingdom of God, to also be good citizens of the land in which they dwell. To have a respect for authority, whoever that authority may be, even if you disagree, even if that authority is against you, even if that authority makes life hard for you.

George Wright: 29:04 It's like we forget the context in which the Word of God was being written. Peter is saying to a group of early Christians be subject to the authority, even to the emperor who, oh, by the way, is a guy by the name of Nero, who is using Christians as human torches to light his parties at the palace in Rome. Why in the world, why in the world would we ever respect the seat of authority from someone that is so evil, someone that is so clearly against what we are for? Well, the scripture says, so that we can actually silence the fools through living out an authentic, genuine faith in Jesus Christ, above all else.

George Wright: 30:21 These verses are reminding us that God is in control, that God is the one who oversees and reigns over all authority, both good and corrupt. And God uses, please hear this, this is important theology for the Christian Church, God uses all in authority, both good and corrupt, to draw men to their need for God. We often forget this, we often believe that the only way God could have put someone in authority is if they're good. No, no, none of us are good, we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, we all are in desperate need of a savior. And sure, some, especially in politics, might look worse than others, but we all have sin, we all need a savior. And God uses even the corrupt of this world, God uses even what the enemy meant for evil and destruction, to bring about good by demonstrating to people, even in desperate times, that they have a need for God. That their political leader has disappointed them or failed them, and they have a need for a higher authority, they have a need to be a citizen of a greater kingdom. God is in control, God is reigning over all, and the Word of God reminds us, it is God's will. That's strong language, it is God's will that the people of God do good, even in the midst of corrupt or evil authority, so that the ignorance of foolish people will be silenced, and men will see their need for him. We know this to be true, right? You don't silence the ignorance of foolish people by lashing out and fighting with fools, that's why no Christian ever engages in fights on Facebook, right? We missed that one a little bit.

George Wright: 32:51 Listen to what the Proverbs say, the proverbs say a lot about this, but one of my favorites is Proverbs 29 verse 9. This is so good, it's 29 verse 9. I'll read it, I'm sorry, I may have typed it in wrong when I sent you my slide. Proverbs 29 verse 9 says this, "If a wise man has an argument with a fool, (listen to this) the fool only rages and laughs and there is no quiet." Welcome to social media. If a wise man, this is the scripture, this is the scripture. If a wise man has an argument with the fool, the fool only rages and laughs and there is no quiet. 2020, here we are. And the Word of God is saying to us, through the Apostle Peter, God's will for you, if you are a child of the King, is to live in such a way that your life and your speech silences the fool because the gospel is so alive in you. And it is so obvious that even as you love and respect the land in which you dwell, you are citizens of a greater kingdom.

George Wright: 34:22 So we wrap up with this, First Peter 2 verses 16 and 17 says this, "Live as people who are free, not
using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor." Again, these challenging words, Christian, child of God, member of the kingdom of heaven, live as one who is free because you are free. And your freedom, please hear this this is so important, this was written to a people under the oppressive rule and reign of a ruthless Roman emperor. They had no political freedoms, they had no cultural freedoms, they were living in the margins, constantly persecuted, constantly under attack. And the scripture is saying you are free, because true freedom does not come from a politician or a government, true freedom comes from Christ.

George Wright: 35:53 I want to make this really clear, I love this nation, I love the United States of America. Hey, I was born on the 4th of July, that's as patriotic as you can get. I love the United States of America, we live in the greatest country in the world, with the most freedoms of any people in the history of the world. And yet, please hear this, there are countless people living in this land of freedom who are not free, they are not free at all. They've got privileges, they've got rights, they've got opportunities, but they are not free at all. They are in bondage to their sin, they are in bondage to their shame, and they are in desperate need of true freedom. And that may be you today, that may be you, perhaps that's why you're so passionate about your political persuasion, perhaps that is why you're so passionate about your personal preference, because you're not truly free in the good news of what God has done for you.

George Wright: 37:12 Listen, I believe at the same time there are countless people around the world living in countries with a tremendous amount of persecution and oppression, who can only dream of the freedoms that we have in this land, and yet they are living as a people who are free because they have Jesus Christ as their Lord. Do we truly believe that freedom comes from Christ alone? Let us remember where true freedom is found, and let us live according to the freedom that we have been given through the beautiful gift of the gospel. Remember where we started, once you had not received mercy, but in Christ you have received mercy, and in receiving mercy and receiving freedom, you are given a new citizenship all together. You are God's people, live like it.

George Wright: 38:16 Please hear me, by all means, by all means, please vote. That is a right and a privilege that we have in this nation, vote your conscience, vote your convictions, vote what you believe in as a follower of Christ. But as you vote, remember where true freedom comes from, and remember whose kingdom you are a part of. This is liable to be a crazy week, in a crazy season, in a crazy year, but our God is in control. And our God, please hear this, our God will use the authority that is in this place, God will use the authority that is in place in this nation, please hear this, regardless of who it is, for his glory, so that people will see their need for a savior, so that they will see their need to be a part of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God's own possession. Members of the Kingdom of God, that's what people need to see, and that's what the people of God have been called to invite people to experience. So may we live as a people who are free, and may we live as a people pointing to God for his glory, knowing that our King is reining today, and our King is raining forevermore.

George Wright: 40:22 Let's close by praying for our nation, and praying that God's Word would take root in our heart this week. Father, we love you, we are thankful, thankful for your word, thankful for your mercy toward us that once we were not your people, once we had not received mercy. But through Jesus Christ, all who have trusted in the good news of the gospel have been called a people, have received mercy, have been invited into something that is greater than anything this world could offer. Oh Lord, give us eyes, give your people eyes to see the kingdom, the kingdom. And give us eyes to see the world around us through the lens of one who is an ambassador of the King.

George Wright: 41:30 Lord, our nation is in turmoil, there is tremendous hostility, there is tremendous pain, there is tremendous desperation, there are people longing for hope everywhere we turn. Oh Lord, we pray, we pray for this country. You have blessed us in so many ways, Lord, please rally your people to be ambassadors of the King, to live out of this blessing as people who are free, pointing others to the true hope that we have in Christ. Let us not, let us not be people who forget where our citizenship truly lies. Lord, we need you to guard our words, to guide our actions, to use us for your glory. This can only happen when the spirit of God has authority in our lives, and so I pray, Lord God, this week that your people would walk in step with your spirit, for your glory, that people might see the hope that we have in the good news of what Jesus Christ has done.

George Wright: 42:51 Lord, I pray for those who are with us today who have never experienced this freedom of the gospel, this hope of the gospel, that comes through Christ alone. Lord, I pray for those who have been longing for hope, those who have been hurting, those who have been confused, Lord, I pray that today would be the day for some who recognize they have a legitimate need, they need a savior. They have sin that needs to be forgiven, they have a heart that is longing for hope, and they have a desire to be a part of a family and a kingdom that has no end. Lord, I pray that today they would trust their life to Jesus. Online, in the seats, wherever they may be, that they would say, I need Jesus, I am trusting my life to Jesus.

George Wright: 44:04 We praise you for the gift of salvation, for what you have done for us that we certainly could never deserve. And we pray that it is in that gift that we would live in this land, for our neighbors, and our friends, and the people around us, to see the hope we have through what Christ has done. How we need you, we look to you. It's in Jesus' name, I pray. Amen. Amen.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206