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Upside Down Kingdom

Read this message transcript from the "Here’s the Church" message series

Harold Bullock: Have you ever wondered why it seems like society likes to beat up on us? We, who are Christ followers… Occasionally, there is an appreciation, but very often in the media you see Christians portrayed in a very negative light. We’ve been the subject of suits over various issues over the last several years. It just seems odd. We get together on Sunday normally, and we worship together. We try to help each other out. We do a lot of work in the communities. People come to Christ and stop their lives of crime. You’d think there would be greater appreciation. Why is it that people beat on us? That’s not just a victim mentality, by the way. It can become that, but it’s a real issue for us. 

There are two verses in the New Testament that have bearing on this. One records the words of Jesus; the other records words of some of the opponents of Christianity. The first is in Luke 16:15; Jesus is talking to some of the major religious leaders of the day. They were fellas who were regarded as holy, but they also had a lot of greed. He says to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” God’s value system is different from ours. What we admire God detests. Then, at the Greek city of Thessalonica, many years later the apostle, Paul, has arrived. They're starting to share Christ with people when a riot breaks out, and some of the leaders grabbed some of the new Christians and dragged them to the judiciary. They say, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…” Wow. Paul, basically an unknown, and his gospel, basically unknown, but quickly it has an effect that turns the world upside down. That’s Acts 17:6.

Actually that’s the key verse for the 17:6 Network, the network we’re a part of. “Turned the world upside down”—one of the great issues of the Christian life is faith, just trusting God. We looked at that last week, how faith works. Another great issue of the Christian life and of church life is the world, the world around us. That’s what we’re going to look at today. By the way, I’m Pastor Harold, Senior Pastor at Hope Church if you’re watching this and you’ve not met me before. The great challenge is the world. The physical world is a place that’s been damaged by human rebellion, but it’s a beautiful place. It’s actually amazing in its design and interactions, a beautiful place. The human world, well, it retains some of the marvelous things that God put into human beings, but the human world has really been twisted by our rebellion against God. It’s not as bad as it could be, but its values are upside down. Our values are upside down to God’s. 

You and I actually get the world. We’ve grown up, we were born, and we were raised, and some of us came to Christ very early. Others came to Christ rather late, but we understand the world. We were raised in it; we know how to navigate it. We’ve actually enjoyed a lot of its ways. It’s the society around us and all its complications and all its organizations. We get it; however, once we decide to follow Christ, we begin to experience some different things. There’s a kind of difference from everyone; we still go through a lot of the same things like everyone. Christ-follower or not Christ-follower is dealing with the challenge of the coronavirus right now. We’re subject to a lot of the same things but increasingly, our views shift. We don’t see life the same way, and more and more and more we see differently. Our values, what we think is important, begin to more and more and more differ from the world’s. They resemble more and more God’s, and God’s are upside down to the world’s.

We find outsiders blaming us for trouble in the world. “The men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” Actually, Paul probably thought he was turning it right side up. That’s the reaction, so what is going on? We, Christ-followers, actually undergo a kingdom shift. When we come to Christ and yield our life to Him, then we undergo a kingdom shift. There are two kingdoms in the world, two great ones. Colossians 1:13, a book in the New Testament (small book), says, “He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” We actually grow up in the world in a dominion of darkness. There’s all kinds of lights in the world, but spiritual truth is really lacking. Darkness. He’s transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son. We now have a new Lord, the Lord Jesus. In that kingdom, another verse very close to this one says it’s the kingdom of the saints and light. We can see things. We begin to see how life really is. 

There’s been a kingdom shift. We shift from this world’s way and this world’s mentalities to the kingdom of the Lord, and with that comes brand new ways. John 17:14-18, Jesus is actually talking, and this is what He says. “I have given them…” He’s praying to the Father. “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” We now have a different anchor; we now have a different life source. Christ had a different life source. We have His. Then He goes on, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” It sure would have been easy if He just would have taken us out of the world. We would have arrived at a certain point, and we would have committed our lives to Christ. And zap! We would be more problems. But He leaves us in the world; it’s interesting. The world is going to oppose us, and He leaves us here. We’ve been given a new life, a new King, a growing peace and ability to deal with life, but it all happens in the world around us and the society around us. The society is the same old; it’s always changing, but it’s always changing in the same old way. It’s always changing, but it’s always the same ideas recycling. It’s always changing, but we have actually really changed. The Lord intends it this way.

There are two reasons why Christ leaves us here. The first one is this; He leaves us here so that we would grow by doing God’s will amid challenges. It’d be great if we grew while we partied; it’d be great if we grew spiritually while we are living a great thrill ride at Six Flags. It would be great if we grew spiritually while we’re sitting down just being happy. The truth is though most of us grow through being stressed. We grow through difficulty. We grow by doing God’s will amid challenges. Challenges around us are the world. The world does two big things; first, it tempts us. We get tempted with its delights. 1 John 2:15-17 catalogs them. The first one is the beauty. There are beautiful things we just so desire. It may be beautiful persons; it may be beautiful automobiles. It may be beautiful houses, but we look at them and so desire them. The desire of the eyes… Then, passions to gratify may be eating, drinking; may be feeling, may be immorality. We have passions and the world parades these in front of us, and ooh, we get tempted to gratify. Things that are out of bounds but very, very interesting to us…

Then the world puts before us ways to parade our importance. If I had that, people would think I was so cool. If I do that, people will think I am so cool. If I dress this way or if I have these relationships, people will think I am somebody. These come to us and actually appeal to us because we’re not fully done in Christ Jesus yet. We’re still dealing with that old desire to sin that lurks in us. The temptations show up. Basically, it’s the same temptation; the temptation is to use up our lives on things that don’t really satisfy you. You use up the thing, and it doesn’t really satisfy you so it comes back. And, you have to have more, so you use up your life. The world just can’t give you a rich life. That comes only through Christ Jesus. Through walking with Christ, we actually experience truth. We can see things how they really are, and we don’t make the mistakes that are so costly. Then out of the truth, freedom comes. There are kinds of mistakes that we don’t step into that would trap people.

He gives us truth; He gives us freedom. He also gives us a full, rich life. In John 10:10, He states; He says, “I have come to give you life abundantly.” The idea here is plenty of it. People tend to think the Christian life is sort of on meager resources, but actually there’s a fullness and a richness and just a joy to it that only comes as you walk it. But, it only comes from Him. It doesn’t come from having the beautiful car, the beautiful house, the beautiful person, or the fabulous experience. But, the temptations are real. The world challenges us with the temptations, and we have to deal with them. As we learn to deal with these things, we grow spiritually. We make decisions over and over and over again for the right things and character sets in us.

The world challenges us in another way, too. The world pressures us to conform. Romans 12:2 says in the Phillips translation, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold…” Boy, we’ve felt that. Peer pressure, group pressure, media pressure—-“You are thinking the wrong things!” This pressure says, “Look at how we think. That’s the right way, and we’re going to squeeze you until you fit what we think.” That’s hard. Sometimes it comes from family; sometimes it comes from friends. Sometimes it comes from everybody thinking you’re dumb. But, it’s real, and it is pressure. The world wants us to, it pressures us to, adopt its views. One of the reasons why the media attacks Bible believers is because the media wants to hammer us into thinking their way, particularly about sex and license, and their way about what’s important in life. Their views, then their values and what’s more important… You see this over and over again. Someone says, “I did this because it gave me the greatest and best.” And we look at what they did, and we go, “You did that?!” But, the media would praise the person. We just have a different idea about what’s important. That’s what Jesus said. What God thinks is important, that’s upside down to you guys. What you think is important sort of makes God sick, if God could get sick. It’d make Him sick to His stomach. It’s an abomination to Him. 

The world wants us to accept its virtues, that is what the society says is noble and good...not what the Bible says. What society says is noble and good often is wretched. Sometimes we still have Christian mores in the West of Christianity dominating the scene, but very, very often what is right and good is spit upon. It’s laughed at. We’re pressured to adopt their views, their values, and their virtues, but we have our own views. We look at life very differently. We have our own values. We actually think some other things are important. We have our own virtues; we’re going to live this way, not that way. So, the pressure comes. Our character grows as we learn how to resist the pressure, It grows amid trusting God in the challenges. James and Romans talk about this. You can check the verses on your handout. Our character grows amid the challenges, amid the pressures. We trust God and do the right things and walk through. He takes care of us, and we learn just how faithful He is. And, we change. Christ left us here so that we might grow. 

Christ also left us here to help others. He left us here; the word we use in the church circles is “minister,” to minister to people again amid challenges. Christ Himself helped people, ministered to people amid challenges. He taught Truth amid groups that were trying to trick Him. He taught and healed people sometimes in situations where religious people attacked Him for healing the person. The Lord wants us to help others amid the challenges. First of all, to do good to the people we encounter, including the ones that actually attack us. There is a time for physical self-defense, yes. There is a time actually for societal rebellion, yes. But, the normal stuff that happens to us...we’re required by the Lord to treat people well, even those who oppose us, who attack us. So, we do good to people. We encounter Christ-followers and then those who aren’t Christ-followers as we’re moving through the day. We’re looking for opportunities to do good. That’s one of the major reasons why He was here. As we do the good, we’re showing people what God is like. We’re living by His ways. One of the things we’d like to do as a church is to invite people to discover and experience His ways. We’re living those out, and they’re different. Though people may complain; they’re actually very attractive on the inside to the heart. To be good to people demonstrates His ways.

Then, to be His ambassador, His representative, and not only to demonstrate His reality and His ways but to call people to be reconciled to Him, to invite them into the kingdom, to invite them to be forgiven by God, to invite them to lay down their arms and accept peace from God. Christ leaves us here in the world that we might grow, that we might actually be of help and minster. As we follow Him in the middle of it, we grow and change, and other people do, too. God actually calls us to resist the pressure of the upside down world. It puts a pressure on us, and sometimes it is just...we just hate it. We’re called to resist it. The world’s upside down; you let it squeeze you into its mold, you’re going to be upside down just like you always were. We can actually develop a new and different and pleasing kind of life by resisting the pressure. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God…” You can check things out; you can pick out what God’s will is. “...what is good and acceptable and perfect.” His will is always good, and you’re going to discover you actually like it, as you get into it, and no flaws. It’ll be the best thing. 

I’d like to give you my translation of that verse. I read the ESV. Years ago, I had a couple of years of Greek in graduate school and learned how to translate passages. I am not a Greek scholar, but I know how to read Greek scholars. In working through the passage, I want to translate it this way. A translation is an attempt to really reflect what the words mean in the Greek. “Don’t model yourself after the pattern the world uses.” You’re modeling yourself; you’re creating yourself. You’re creating this thing called you in your life. “Rather, transform yourself by renovating your mindset (thoughts, emotions, and choices).” Your mindset has to change—your thoughts, emotions and choices. Renovating your has to be a new set. “Then you will be able to recognize what God’s will for you is—and his will always turns out to be completely good for you, pleasing to you and flawless.” That’s my translation. Do not model yourself after the pattern of the world, rather transform yourself by renovating your mind. 

I’d like to show you a video that was put out by CNN a few years ago. It’s on 3D printing, and I think it’s relevant for what we’re talking about so take a look at this. Then, I’ll come back to you.

(Video begins) “Traditionally when you think of printing, you think of printing out something on a piece of paper with ink. 3D printing is actually printing out a physical object. You have a digital image that you can create using different animation modeling softwares. You connect this image with your 3D printer, and it actually reads that, analyzes it, and it prints it out in physical form, layer by layer. If you think about traditional printing, you have syringes with ink. With 3D printing, you can have syringes with all different types of liquid consistencies. This could be plastic; this could be rubber. Some more advanced ones are using metals. Manufacturers have been using 3D printing for decades, and you can print out car parts. The space industry uses this, but also more and more you can print out really creative things. Doctors are printing out prosthetic limbs. You can now print out organs. We spoke to a fashion designer who was able to actually 3D print sunglasses that he put on his models for fashion weeks. It used to be that the average person couldn’t own one because 3D printers were really, really expensive. We’re talking like half a million bucks, but now a couple different companies came and said, “You know, we want to make this so average people can have this.” You can probably get one for about a thousand bucks. Let’s say I had a jacket and I lost my button. Instead of going and trying to go to the store and find a new button, I could actually download the blueprint, connect it with my 3D printer, and I could print out a new button. The people at the forefront of this new movement say they want this to be as common in people’s homes as the toaster oven. So, you can only imagine that five or ten years down the road, a lot of folks are going to have 3D printers in their homes.”

3D’s a brand new way to think about creating things. It’s one things to print two-dimensionally on a piece of paper. It’s another thing to print an object you can hold with your hands. Our creation of the new life that we have in Christ Jesus is really very much like 3D printing. As I saw this video, I thought of Romans 12:2, and I want you to hear my paraphrase of Romans 12:2. Now a paraphrase translation of the Bible is something that tries to get the ideas. It doesn’t keep exactly with the words, and sometimes it may get a little bit loose. I’ve tried to stay as close to the meaning of the words with this paraphrase. It’s not a translation, but it is a paraphrase. Listen to this and think about that 3D printing. Here we go; Romans 12:2. Don’t model yourself after the pattern of the world… Here we go with the paraphrase; that was a translation. 

“Don’t 3D print the new you according to the blueprint this world uses. Instead, create a new person printed according to God’s blueprint. To do that you will have to renovate your mindset—you will have to trade your old perspectives for God’s perspectives. You’ll have to trade the old set of emotions that you have previously indulged for the set that God says is healthy. You’ll have to revise what you choose to fit with God’s priorities. With a different mindset you wIll be able to recognize God’s blueprints and not be tricked by cheap imitations. And, you will like the new life—printing the new you according to God’s schematics will always lead to what is completely good, what is pleasing to you, and what’s flawless—there will be no disappointing cracks in the new life you produce.” That’s a lot of words, but it catches the essential idea of what Romans 12:2 is saying. 

My friend, we’re in a world that does not understand us. It can get hold of our ideas; it just doesn’t understand the life. It’s a world that tends to react because they want to do some things and say some things that are really important that we say are really not important. Maybe they want to violate some things that we find an abomination. It would be awful to do that. So then they react in the middle of this world; you’ve been called by Christ Jesus and are put here intentionally to live in such a way that as you choose what He says rather than its pressures, its temptations, you grow. As you do what He says and help people amid all the pressures, not only do you grow, but there are benefitted, and the truth about God comes alive. That’s the world we are in, and it’s in the middle of this world that you create the brand new life that God has given you. It starts as a gift from God, and it proceeds with your cooperation. 

You are the printer, my friend, You’re the one who’s creating this thing, like the 3D printer creates those forms you saw. Your actions, your attitudes, your words, your deeds—these are your syringes. They’re the things that squirt out the stuff that the new life is made from. They’re your syringes. You’re the printer; your actions are your syringes. Situations are where you print. It’s sort of like the case on the printer itself. It’s always in the middle of situations that we’re doing stuff. They’re like the case in which you are forming the new life. You know what? The new life is the product you’re creating in the middle of a world that doesn’t quite understand and is not sure it wants to. Sometimes, it’s just downright antagonistic. God gives us the power by His Word and with His Spirit to become very, very different people. If you’re going to do that, the first step is this. You need to input the blueprints that God has for life. If it’s marriage, what God says. If it’s parenting, what God says. If it’s finances, what God says. If it’s relationships, what God says. The world has its schematics, its blueprints, and they actually produce pretty defective stuff. God’s blueprints may be tough to print, but they’re flawless. 

First, you input God’s blueprints, then you print. Situations come and go all day long, and daily situations, whatever situation it is, you realize you’ve got to make some choices. Ask for God’s help, and then act and speak in line with God’s directions. Then the new life grows. Your actions are the syringes. With a 3D printer, I have a picture. The product does not immediately appear. You don’t just turn on the printer, and boom! There’s the product. Instead, it appears layer by layer by layer as the syringes print the new form. This is the way it is for your life. The new life in Christ Jesus starts, but it’s real. But, it turns into external reality a little bit at a time. So, it will fully appear, just like in the 3D printer. The shape doesn’t appear immediately, but it will appear if the printer just keeps on going. So my friend, keep on printing. Over time and with many actions, a new life will take shape. And you know what? That life is a good life. It’s good in essence, not bad. It’s pleasing; you’ll like it. And, it’s perfect; it’s flawless. You’ll be glad you did it this way. 

We are in an upside down world, or we are to the world upside down. We’re trying to turn the world upside down like us. We are upside down to the world, yes. They have different views; they have different values. They have a different idea about virtue, but the world is upside down to God. We’re trying to learn His ways, the right side up way. You have to learn, friend, that the world’s tantalizing things...all those things...the beautiful, the passionate, and the proud. All of those things will bite you. If you give in to them, you go for them, they will bite you. You will pay a cost that you did not think you would have to pay. They’ll bite. You have to learn also that the world’s pressure can be resisted. It requires some thinking through on how to respond a lot of times, but you have been given a life that the world can’t create and it can’t take away. In Christ Jesus, you will live forever. Understand, it’s pressure can be resisted, and as you do that, a better life emerges for you. That better life is a help to other people. As it does, as the new life, the better life, emerges… As it does, the will of God will become clearer and clearer to you. 

The problem with the old ways of thinking, the old values, the old you… The problem with those is if you're really oriented that way, the will of God could be right in front of your nose and you wouldn’t recognize it. But as you start printing the new life, things will get clearer and clearer and clearer to you as to what the will of God is. Again, that all turns out to be good, pleasing, acceptable, and flawless. As you resist the world’s pressures, a better life emerges. I want to urge you to keep on printing by God’s blueprints. The beauty is already emerging. Just keep on. It will grow. One of the great issues of the Christian life and of the church life is faith, trusting God, and out of that the risks that we take. We looked at that last week. Trust is actually the only way to move forward in life. You might want to check out that message. A second grade issue, huge issue, is the world and the pressure to compromise. So often, Christians cave in, and their Christianity begins to crumble. It’s the pressure. But as we print by God’s blueprints and not the world’s, life grows sweeter. It can be resisted. There's another great issue for the Christian life. It’s a challenge, actually, that so many Christ followers misunderstand. So join us next week online, and we’ll talk about that third grade issue, that third big challenge.