“Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come.” (Matthew 4:17)
Last week we started a deep dive study into the Sermon on the Mount. I hope you will join us. I think you will see Jesus’ sermon in a fresh, new light. To get the full thrust I urge you to watch the YouTube videos at 721ministries.org.
Years ago, I joined some knucklehead friends rafting down the Chattooga River in Georgia. At times the river was easy and relaxing, and at times it was challenging, even a tad scary. (Not scary for me, of course, but for the others.) It was not just casual drifting; we had to do our part, keeping our paddles in the water to steer and navigate.
But here is the key – and the spiritual application: we were not operating in our own power. Our power source was the river. When we got out of the flow of the river we were back to operating in our power, paddling and working hard. At the end, the river dumped us into a big lake, across which we had to paddle to meet our ride. We quickly learned a raft is not made for lake paddling.
It was awful to be out of the flow of the river. Hard work. No fun. I kept expecting a Deliverance hand to slowly rise up out of the water. So today I want to talk about rivers: specifically the River of Life.
The Sermon on the Mount is all about living in the Kingdom of God now. Jesus wants you to know that you can live in the kingdom now. As Dallas Willard said, “If you want to go to heaven, go now.”
To be frank, Jesus’ teachings make little sense, and have little “real-world” relevance if not seen through his perspective of living in the Kingdom now. They are nice truisms and platitudes, and make for good bumper sticker and kitchen towel sayings. But oh, come on, no one is actually going to live them.
And please do not miss this: no one can live them outside the Kingdom.
But this Kingdom of God can be a vague and ambiguous concept. So today let me try to paint a picture that perhaps will be helpful. Let us start to think in terms of: “Life in the flow of the Kingdom.”
The River of Life is throughout the biblical story. From Genesis to Revelation, we see the prophets and the psalmists repeatedly speaking of Living Water, and the River of Life. Jesus spoke often about this river and living water imagery.
To the Jews gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles he declared:
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37-38)
Can I get you to start thinking in terms of “Living in the flow of the Kingdom among us?” I can wrap my arms around that concept. We know what the flow of a river is like. I know when I am in the flow, and I know when I am not. Even more so, I know when the choice I am about to make is going to take me out of the flow.
You do, too.
The question is not, “Is this a sin?” or “Is this okay?” The better question is, “Is this in the flow of the Kingdom?” (Helpful hint: If you have to ask the question it’s likely not.)
When I choose to get out of the flow it is as though I have gotten out of the raft and starting walking alongside the river by myself, while my buddies float on by. My feet are getting sore, I am getting tired and ornery. Trudging along, yes, trudging along in my own power – as I had done most of my life. Exhausting.
Where’s the fun in that? Where is the power in that?
May you learn to stay in the flow of Jesus’ Kingdom among us, and relish the ride.