Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Withstanding the Kingdom

“And now you think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord….”
II Chron. 13:8a

The words of my text and the words I shall write are addressed to you who have not yet surrendered to Jesus Christ. They are the words of a king of Judah addressed to a rebelling king of Israel, but if you permit me, I would like to address them to your soul. You may be a close friend of mine, a neighbor, a loved one, a co-worker, a church going person, an acquaintance or even a stranger. Today my heart is deeply impressed with your greatest need, which is an uncompromising and immediate surrender to God. My heart goes out to you, not chiefly because we cannot share this faith and enjoy mutual converse in the things of the Lord…though this would delight me very much. My heart goes out to you because you are engaged in a battle you will not win. “You think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord.”

Every soul on earth belongs to a kingdom, and there are but two in the entire world. There may be any number of countries and nationalities, hundreds of languages, and thousands of districts, and cities, and villages. There are many rulers scattered all over the world and many different forms of government established to organize and protect their citizens. But there are only two kingdoms. You belong to one or the other. These kingdoms are as different as two kingdoms can be. They have different kings, different standards, and different destinies. The Bible calls the one “the kingdom of the Lord” (II Chron. 3:8) and the “kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 3:2) and the “kingdom of His Son” (Col. 1:13). The other is simply the “kingdom of Satan” (Luke 11:18).

My purpose I will not conceal. I have but one reason for writing to you this day. My whole heart and mind are focused upon one single goal. I wish to persuade you to leave the kingdom you are in and submit to the kingdom of God. I am asking you to change your allegiance, your commitments, your citizenship, and your status. I am pleading with you to think about where you are now and where you are going and to change directions. I have laid my cards on the table before you. I do not want your money, your property, your influence or your talents. I want you to give your heart to Jesus Christ.

Your life has had numerous blessings. Times of unexpected prosperity, times of undeserved pleasures, times of love and laughter and plenty. You have experienced, at times, the kindness of others. You have had food enough, and sometimes enjoyed meals so delicious the flavors and savor are permanently impressed upon your mind. You have read something moving, and your heart was lifted. Sweet music has moved your soul, lightened your mood, and soothed your mind. All these good things God has provided for you to enjoy. And yet, for all that, “you think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord.” You have hardened your heart against His tender calls to repent and believe. Oh my dear friend, do you not see that you “despise the riches of His goodness…not knowing the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)”

Your life has had troubles. Your plans have been overturned, your advantages been lost, and your health at times has been taken away. You have known the pains of lost love, the sorrows and fears of being alone, you have known times of being in want and a deep sense of emptiness that nothing in this world you have found can fill. Injustice has troubled you, unkindness has followed you, and unmerciful enemies have dealt unfairly with you. All these and more the Lord has allowed so that you might turn to Him in the day of trouble, and yet “you think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord.” Oh that you would this very day turn to Jesus Christ and find in Him a “refuge in the day of trouble” (Psalm 59:16) and a “very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).”

Your sins have been a web entangling your own soul in sorrow. Temptation comes and you find not the strength to resist, though you know this sin will only bring more pain and problems upon you. Your own conscience cries out against you for the wrongs you have done, the hurt you have caused, the weakness of your flesh, and the failure of all your resolves. Attempts to deliver yourself from greed and envy and anger and lust and pride have all been unsuccessful at last. And you have heard of this gospel by which men may be forgiven their sins and have peace with God. You have heard there is a merciful Lord who takes pity and has said “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sins I will remember know more (Jer. 31:34).” You have heard it said by Jesus “I have power on earth to forgive sins” (Matt. 9:6) and that “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:14).” But alas, even still, “you think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord.”

I too belonged to that kingdom in which you now stand. I understand your hesitation and your fears and your arguments against surrendering to Christ. But I plead with you, before time runs out, to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). I shall lay before you briefly four more arguments to abandon your kingdom of sin, and self and Satan and come over by faith to the kingdom of Christ.

First, your resistance is Unreasonable. Why should you continue to refuse God’s gift of His Son? Much lesser gifts have you received in this life, from much lesser persons, and these you received with gladness and gratitude and much joy. But you refuse God’s gift of eternal life? Is that reasonable? You accept eagerly gifts that cannot last. But you will not receive the “gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17) that lasts forever?

Second, this is Unmerciful. Should you not have mercy on your own soul? Will you sentence your own soul to everlasting punishment simply because you will not humble yourself to repent and believe? Is it merciful to exchange a few moments of pleasure for an eternity of pain? Thomas Manton once wrote “A man's greatest care should be for that place where he dwelleth longest; therefore eternity should be his scope.”

Third, your efforts to withstand the kingdom of the Lord will be Unsuccessful. Abijah, king of Judah, cried out to the armies of the enemy in our text and said “O children of Israel, do not fight against the Lord God of your fathers, for you shall not prosper!” (2 Chron. 13:12) Oh my dear friend, whoever you are, you shall not prosper in this fight which you maintain. Surrender. Give all to Christ. Lay down your arms. Hear His gracious invitation “As I live,’ says the Lord God,  ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked  turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11)

Finally, dear friend, your withstanding is utterly Unnecessary. There is no good reason for it at all. You lack no invitation, for you have been invited to come by the gospel itself. You lack not the means, for this offer is given freely “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). You lack not the opportunity, for “behold now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2).” You lack no promise of success for Jesus Himself declared “the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out (John 6:37).” Oh why, why, why do you then delay?
Why go on withstanding the kingdom of the Lord?

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