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The Kingdom of God (Romans 14:17), Part 1 of 5 / A: Rethinking heaven
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   Romans 14.17 (1 of 5) - final.docx (152.5K) [2] DATE : 2012-09-10 04:06:53
THE KINGDOM OF GOD (Romans 14:17), Part 1 of 5


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Romans 14:17
for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Luke 7:20-21
Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
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Here on the stage is a beautiful flower that we can see.  Is the fact that we can see it proof of its existence?  When we say something exists, we say it because we’ve seen it.  Is the fact that we have seen it really enough for us to declare that it exists?
When you see the stars, in many cases you are looking at something that is not actually there.  Stars burn for a long time.  And the stars are so far away that even though the light a star emits is traveling so fast it can circle the earth several times in a second, it takes that light thousands of years to reach me and come into my eyes.  So although I have seen the light of that star, I am seeing something that was actually emitted thousands of years ago.  The star may still exist, or it may not actually exist anymore.  Even scientifically, we cannot attest for certain that something exists just because we have seen it.  Even more so the kingdom of God is not about things that we can see.  When we say that we cannot see the kingdom of God unless we are born again we are not talking about seeing with our eyes.  We are talking about seeing with new life.

Because you touched something does it exist?  That’s not always the case either.  When something exists, it exists because God has spoken it to be so.  Is the kingdom of God we talk about something that is physical or located in space?  It is not something we can see or that is in space.  But we are limited because we ourselves live within the confines of time and space, so we conceptualize heaven within our own confines.
For example, a child might think heaven is he can eat something he can’t usually have.  When I was growing up in Korea, bananas were very expensive.  When my maternal grandmother came to visit, she would bring one banana – that was a big gift.  Since she favored my older brother, she would immediately break off half and give it to him, then the other half was to be shared by the three other kids: me and my two younger sisters.  I decided I would be better off asking for the peel, because there was more banana stuck to the inside of the peel than there would be sharing half a banana among three people.  That’s how rare bananas were when we were little.  So when I was little and we talked about heaven in Sunday school, I thought that heaven was a place where I could eat all the bananas that I wanted, that I so rarely got to taste here on earth.  Heaven was a place where I could have the things I wanted.  That’s what we do: conceptualize heaven within our limited view of things.  Because we are limited and have suffering, we think that if we go to that place, we will shed those restrictions by, for example, getting all of the things that we have not been able to possess before.  Maybe some of you have dreamt of heaven as a place where you are swimming in diamonds, where even the toilets are made of diamonds.  But that’s not the nature of heaven.  It’s not some place where you get all of the stuff you ever wanted.

God’s concern is to start by making heaven inside of us.  If I become the picture of heaven, then the place I am in becomes heaven.  Before, something caused me suffering, but now that I have transformed, within that same thing that gave me suffering, I can find peace and joy, and find the righteousness of God’s kingdom.  Before I would wish for hardships to disappear, but what I didn’t know then that I see now since I am changed is that all of those things that God permitted to happen were God’s treasures.  When my eyes transform, those things become precious.  Before I would wish I had never met some person, but since I become heaven, I realize that person was a precious jewel to me.  Before I would ask why something had happened in my life, but since I am changed, I know that these hardships were so valuable.  I had a very difficult period in my early thirties, but now that I think back on it, all of those things were treasures.  All of the events that arose were like jewels in my life.  Ultimately, before God will make a new world or a new environment, He first makes me new.  So heaven starts from me.  It starts by changing people, changing me.  Before I would pray for my surroundings or the world to change because I thought if the world would just change things would be okay.  Since things aren’t working here, I would imagine another world and that if I could just go to that place things would be okay, but before I transform, no matter where I am, that place is not heaven.  But if heaven is inside of me, no matter who I meet or what happens to me, wherever I am becomes heaven.  Heaven is not something I’ve seen, not a place that is over here or over there; it is something that is in my heart.

(The full transcript of Part 1 of 5 is also attached here as a Word document.)