Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message: The Kingdom For Keeps – 04 – Series On Sermon On The Mount; Date: 13 March 2011
For more sermons and other writings check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org
What you see is not what you get. What you see first of God’s kingdom is not the essence of what God wants to give you even though the “wow-factor” – the spectacle – the stimulation of the senses – (for many) – in the first encounter with God’s kingdom is undeniable. What you will get in the kingdom of God is not seen by others but remains a well-guarded secret between you and God.
I know – I am not yet making any sense. However, bear with me. The Sermon on the Mount is teaching us some important – and probably some unexpected – lessons on what is seen and what remains unseen in God’s kingdom.
When Jesus first called his disciples to be “fishers of men”, he showed them how the “fishing” worked – how to sweep large masses of people into the kingdom of God. Consider (again) this early report from the Bible – Matthew 4:23-25: “[With his first disciples in tow] Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.”
In this early report – in this first introduction to God’s kingdom for many – the kingdom comes with a stunning display of visible power: the paralyzed get up and walk – Jesus is healing every disease and sickness. Therefore, large crowds are streaming to the manifest evidence of kingdom authority.
And they are not wrong. God is at work here and God meant them to take note of his glory. Among us here in this church – you are meant to rejoice over miracles and healings and manifestations of God’s power. For instance – last week – Logan shared how he had experienced the miracle of oil manifesting on his hand. He was overwhelmed by the goodness of God.
[In the Bible – oil frequently represents the Holy Spirit and people are anointed with natural oil to signify that God anoints them with the Holy Spirit for healing (Mark 6:13; James 5:14–15) or to step into a special calling. Kings were anointed for their positions (1 Samuel 16:13) – and also some prophets (1 Kings 19:16). Furthermore, the Bible uses the language of anointing – the smearing of oil on persons – to say that Jesus himself was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38) and now – from heaven – wants to anoint us with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21–22; 1 John 2:20, 27). Therefore – when God performs the miracle of making oil appear on our hands – it is time to get excited.]
Yet – for all of the visible excitement of miracles and kingdom power – what you see is not what you get. On the one hand – you are meant to take notice of evidence that the kingdom of God has come near to you (Matthew 11:4-5; 12:28) but – on the other hand – the miracles, healings and power are not the essence of God’s reign in your life.
In fact – the evidence of kingdom power can be – totally – misleading. Listen to Jesus and some of his most confronting words in the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
This is almost scary. We know that the devil has power also and his servants perform signs and miracles also (Matthew 24:24) but – in these verses – Jesus was not talking about them. He was talking about people who thought that they were Christians. They knew how to say “Lord, Lord” to Jesus. They knew the truth about him and they seemed to have such a good track record of operating in visible kingdom (of God) power: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” Yet, Jesus refuted their evidence. Prophetic words, driving out demons in Jesus’ name and commanding miracles are not surefire proof that you are in the kingdom of God – that you belong to Jesus. He said to them: “I never knew you.” Why? They did not obey him. They loved the power of the kingdom but not the king. Jesus explained to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
This is stunning and scary and confusing. What you see (at first) is not what you get. Visible power is nice and necessary – (making you pay attention) – but not the essence of the kingdom.
(Before I continue) – are you taking this in or – (at this point) – do you feel like arguing with Jesus? (I do.) For years – our little church has been struggling so hard to grow in faith and obedience but also kingdom power. For years – we have been faithful in little things but – at the same time – (we have been) praying for breakthroughs – for God granting us greater authority over demons [may they manifest as soon as we step into a room], greater prophetic words [not just personal words of knowledge but calling out the destiny of cities and nations], greater miracles [may we have miracles that make the front-page of the Chronicle]. All this time – we thought that these breakthroughs would come through maturity and deeper intimacy with Jesus in prayer. Were we wrong? Will the power come irrespective of our relationship with Jesus?
How am I going to answer that? Let me just sketch a few thoughts. God responds to desire. What we want, we often get. Many in the crowd came to Jesus for healing – not much else. And Jesus healed them all – whether they changed their lives or not. In the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus explained – Matthew 7:7-11: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened … If you … know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
God – as a loving father – often responds to the desire of people. It seems that we can pester him and get what we want. Our desire does not have to be mature – or even responsible – because (according to the Bible and according to our own experience) God has no qualms about releasing kingdom power on brand new Christians. For instance, you may be here for the first time but God may grant you (this morning) – if you so desire – to heal people from cancer. On the other hand – you may have been a Christian all of your life but have never seen power manifest through you because you never asked for anything. Without desire – without certain faith expectations – God – (so it seems) – does not release his gifts. Desire – more so than maturity – determines whether we can access kingdom power – or not.
And so it can happen that you find yourself in an environment where your desire for prophecy and miracles is stirred up but not a heart for God. And God lets you have what you want. It’s just that one day Jesus will say to you: “I never knew you.” You operated in his name but did not submit to him. You were interested in showy power but not the power over sin – to live in obedience.
This kind of aberration works best in churches where the power of God is already present because you can “catch” the power from others. There is a contagious aspect of the kingdom. For instance, when King Saul in the Bible had lost his way with God and was troubled by a demon, he called upon another man to make music to God because in the atmosphere of worship – the atmosphere of the kingdom – (which came through that other man), he himself got better (1 Samuel 16:13). In the same way – King Saul experienced that in the company of other prophets, who were operating in this powerful gift, he himself would prophesy even though – at the time – he was rebelling against God (1 Samuel 19:24). He experienced the contagious aspect of God’s kingdom power.
[Cf. The power may also be transferred by the laying on of hands (e.g.: Acts 8). However, one may also consider whether the miracle working people, who thought of Jesus as Lord, were exercising demonic power. They may not have been aware of the true source of their power but became deceived in a Christian-sounding environment. Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:14.]
However – not contradicting what we have said so far – there are powerful callings in God’s kingdom which are tied to maturity in the sense that God only releases more power upon you after he has tried and tested you. [And by the way this is far safer for us.] Jesus himself was about thirty years old before he was immersed in the Spirit of God and power. Yet – the danger of this scenario is that when the release of more power comes, it – (often) – remains with me whether I choose to continue with Jesus or not. A gift from God is a gift. It is mine and is not conditional on my ongoing obedience – Romans 11:29: “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.”
What does this mean in practice? What you see is not what you get. If you can have power but not the kingdom, then there must be something beyond the visible power – something in the kingdom that remains a secret to the crowd.
This is important. You may be here in church and you may have learned to flow with the power of God in worship. There are feelings – a tingling of the senses – some giggling – gold dust on the hands – and even a knowing about God but you are not in a good place. For years – you like to be so spiritual in one church after another but then refuse to be accountable to anyone and deal with the deep wounds of the past. To some extent – we are all facing this danger. The power is present and – therefore – (incorrectly) – we give ourselves the “thumbs up” – (spiritual health: ok) – but then – immediately after the service – gossip and resentment and rebellion and selfishness come out of our mouth.
The power – the goose bumps – are not the essence. Consider also the following report. We don’t want to judge anyone from a distance but I have the feeling that we would never want anyone to write about Living Grace in this way [abbreviate]:
“‘New Mystics’ David Vaughan (Emerge Wales), Ben Dunn and John Crowder at Sloshfest” by David Lowe, (The Sun, January 21 2010 at this link). “The Ravers Who Get High On God.”
WILD-EYED and out of control, the clubbers flail wildly to a booming beat. With sweaty clothes clinging to their backs, some people even pass out. While this could easily be mistaken for a dodgy booze and drug-fuelled party, there is something very different about Sloshfest. The revelers are party loving Christians who don’t drink or take drugs – but say their euphoria is down to the power of God and their seeming drunkenness due to “God-ka” and the “yum rum of Heaven”.
Last weekend around 600 people attended the annual rave-like event – where no alcohol or drugs are available – at the dowdy Dolphin Club in Barry Island, South Wales. Now in its fourth year, it attracts visitors from alternative churches around the UK.
Sloshfest organizer David Vaughan invited me along to experience the religious revolution first-hand. The 38-year-old from nearby Pontypool is a former drug-user who makes no apologies for painting God as a party animal who wants to win over youngsters with supernatural highs.
Bizarrely, David greets me at the door wearing a monk outfit – he is joined by dozens of dancing pirates, an Abraham Lincoln, a unicorn, winged fairy and a court jester draped in Christmas lights.
After leading me to a quiet room away from the madness, David says: “This behaviour and message is bringing liberation to a world that doesn’t want Christianity as it has been.” “People are looking for something relevant to them. If you like to party, drink and take drugs, our advice is, ‘Don’t drink Vodka, drink God-ka’.” “There is no greater high than the Most High. When you come into God’s presence there is an intoxication that is overwhelming.” “It is filled with life and brings you to another level of joy unspeakable, liberating you from fears and inhibitions you find in the world. It is a blissful sense of liberty.”
“This isn’t offensive to the Lord, but it is to the religious folk who attend a dead organization.” “Heaven is going to be wild. God will show up and be the life of the party. We want to see fun coming back into the Church.”
Christians who claim to get high on the Holy Spirit and drunk on Heaven’s wine have caused outrage in the USA. Dozens of complaints about blasphemy have been posted on YouTube videos of the movement’s best-known advocate, John Crowder.
The former alcoholic, whose fans are dubbed “Crowderites”, is at Sloshfest and typically slurs through sermons about “smoking the Baby Jesus”, being “whacked out” and “tokin’ on the Holy Ghost”.
Event organizer David reveals God guided him to establish Emerge Wales, the group behind Sloshfest, which calls itself “A rising supernatural movement in the UK who are burning for Jesus”.
He says: “From around the age of 18 I got into drink and drugs. I’d take speed, acid, amphetamine and smoke cannabis every day.” “Three years later I went to a church in Newport with a friend who’d reformed and I realized Jesus had plans for my life. I gave myself to him and that ripped out the desire for drugs and alcohol.” “I began praying and studying God’s word and remortgaged my house to devote myself even more.” “We set up Emerge Wales four years ago because, globally, spiritual eyes and ears are opening. God wants us to enjoy his wine and embrace the spiritual realm.” “Jesus changed my life dramatically and now I work for him to spread his message and love.”
Back in the main room the party is pumping, with dry ice, air horns and dazzling disco lights adding to the debauched atmosphere. A middle-aged woman calling herself Pinky Pirate dashes to the front and grabs a microphone.
The crowd screams with delight as she shakes uncontrollably and bellows: “It is such a wild fire. It is a fierce wild fire. It is untamable and undomesticated.” Even bigger cheers are reserved for talented American singer Ben Dunn who takes the stage for a set of high-octane Christian tunes.
Amid the chaos a woman dressed as a pirate queen crawls past muttering. Strangely, despite no sign of alcohol or drugs being consumed, she and many other worshippers look spaced out, with red, puffy eyes and a vacant stare. Standing up, she shakes my hand and slurs: “I’m Mrs Jesus. I love my husband.” “He makes me so happy. I love him but I’m a bit drunk.”
At a lunch break I make a beeline for the woman, who now appears sober as she helps herself to the salad buffet. Jesse Reid is a singer and actress from Maidenhead, Berks, who admits she once found this worship distasteful. The 30-year-old says: “Five years ago this would have been so offensive to me. It can seem shocking if you’re not used to it.”
“I had an operation which went wrong, followed by three years of ill health because my system was smashed. During that time I got really close to God – I felt him dwelling in me in an almost physical sense.” “When I’m worshipping I know I look absolutely insane, but that’s how I’m affected by my heavenly daddy.” “The pirate costume shows I’m involved in stealing back his treasure. We’ve been robbed of lots of good stuff and it’s time to take it back for God.”
“All over the world there are Christians dressing as pirates to show he is their compass, Jesus is their captain and the Holy Spirit is the wind in their sails.” “Of course we all like to drink the yum rum of heaven, too.”
In 2005, John Crowder wrote The New Mystics, a religious book promoting Sloshfest-style ecstatic worship and mystical Christianity. His ideas appealed to people like David Vaughan around the world and a second volume, The Ecstasy Of Loving God, followed last year. While John holds no official position within the movement, his influence is undeniable – both books are selling at the Sloshfest memorabilia stall.
John will feature in a fascinating new documentary called The YouTube Prophet, on Current TV at 10pm on February 22. Before addressing the lively Welsh crowd, the 6ft 5in David Blaine lookalike tells me he became a Christian after a Godly experience on LSD.
John, 33, from California, says: “I was a party guy at college and became an alcoholic within the first year, sometimes downing up to 36 beers in a single day. I also did recreational drugs and during an LSD trip in a bar I had a profound encounter with God. I knew that if I went to sleep that night without changing my ways, I would surely die.”
“When I sobered up I stopped doing drugs and became devoted to Jesus.” “Now I want people to see that church isn’t dour and dreary. It is an awareness of the mystical, fun and joyful nature of God.”
Moments later John is on the stage encouraging the crowd to enjoy the “love fest” and drink their fill of God’s wine. Outside, a curious passer-by peers through a steamed-up window. Chuckling, he shakes his head and says: “Looks like one hell of a party.”
People may learn to drink “God-ka” and have “yum rum from heaven”. They may call their services “sloshfests”, slur through the sermons and call the experience: “smoking the Baby Jesus” and “tokin’ on the Holy Ghost”, but what’s the danger (and I am not attempting to pronounce any judgement on “sloshfest” from a distance)? You can have all of that without actually belonging to the kingdom of heaven because God responds to desire. Please do not misunderstand me. I do not mind one little bit when someone is “drunk” in the Spirit. I like the experience but not as an end in itself. The visible power is not the essence of the kingdom.
Then, what is? Listen to Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the salt of the earth ... You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 7:15-20: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
This is getting much closer to the heart of the kingdom. What Jesus wants to be visible – more than anything else – is love. The people in God’s kingdom are the salt of the earth, the light of the world and good trees because they are bearing the good fruit of love. They shine with love – good deeds of compassion.
Jesus knows us better than we ourselves. At the end of the day – it’s not power that makes us happy but love. If Jesus had just been a miracle worker, he would have never changed the world. He loved us to the extreme – in death. The cross tortured Jesus until he suffocated – and today it may fill us with shame that we (the human race) persecuted the Son of God – but when we look at the cross, we see what Jesus wants us to see: the salt – the light – the good tree, which is winning us over with love.
One time he made his love tangible to his disciples, when he offered himself in bread and wine. Jesus had been salt, light, a good tree and now became bread and wine – Matthew 26:26-28: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’”
Visible power is what we may see first – the blind see and the lame walk – but then Jesus wants us to see the love which springs forth from his kingdom because love is what we want and – according to Jesus – we can recognize the people in God’s kingdom by their love: “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
There are people who try to fake the kingdom life and perform many “good deeds” without love. However, Jesus said to them – Matthew 23:27-28: “ … You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are … unclean … On the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” Matthew 23:23: “Woe to you … You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 9:13: “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ … ”
Bearing Jesus’ words in mind – the fake is easy to spot because you can fake religion – (the observance of some religious rules) – but not love – especially not the boundless love which is the measure of the kingdom in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:44: “ … Love your enemies … ” Matthew 7:12: “ . in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” [However, we may also consider that only God can truly see the heart of people and we often fail to spot the “log” in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3).]
Is this it now? Have we come to the end of our message? What we see first is not what we get as the essence of the kingdom. The power is nice but the love is better – the good deeds by which we can recognize the people of the kingdom. Is that it?
No. What you see is still not what you get – at least not the essence of what you will get. What you will get in the kingdom of God is not public in the same way as good deeds are public but remains a well-guarded secret between you and God. Consider some more of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 6:1-18:
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him …
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Jesus insisted that personal acts of devotion to God – such as praying to him, giving to the needy because of him and fasting in our desire for him – these personal acts of devotion were to be done in secret. We are to hide from others what we give away. We are to hide from others when we pray. We are to hide from others that we are fasting: “Put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting.” “When you do not announce it with trumpets and when you pray, close the door behind you.”
Why the secrecy? This has again to do with love. Our love for others may shine in public – for this reason God made us salt and the light of the world – this kind of love is very public – (be a city on a hill) – but our love for God is to be private because at the core of the kingdom – (what we get but not immediately see) – is his desire for us to love him and him to love us – in an exclusive (therefore secret) relationship. God is a jealous God. He does not want to share our acts of devotion with anyone else. When we converse with him in prayer, he desires our undivided attention. He hates it when we playact and just go through the motions to be seen and respected by others. On the positive side: Don’t mind the jealousy. The Father loves you with a passion which cannot wait to lavish gifts on you when you focus on him only: “ … your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
The love between God and you is secret because it is personal. It is holy. It is kept pure from outside interference (and that includes outside criticism.) Furthermore, it is secret – must often remain secret – because the experience of love is too good for words. Listen to the following testimony [abbreviate and retell in your own words]:
Charles Finney: The Autobiography Of Charles G. Finney. Condensed and edited by Helen Wessel, Minneapolis: Bethany House 1977, p37-38: When I was a young Christian, I used to have many seasons of communing with God which cannot be described in words. Not infrequently these seasons would end in an impression on my mind like this: ‘Go, see that you tell no man.’ I did not understand this at the time, and several times I paid no attention to this injunction but tried to tell my Christian friends what seasons of communion I had with him. But I soon found that it would not do to tell what was passing between the Lord and my soul. They could not understand it. They would look surprised and sometimes, I thought, incredulous. I soon learned to keep quiet in regard to those divine manifestations and say but little about them.
The intimacy with God in his kingdom can stretch people’s understanding and imagination. How do you explain to someone, that has never had the experience, how it feels when you are falling in love? This kind of relationship remains unknown and hidden until it happens. It’s the same with God. [Cf. Matthew 8:4; 12:16; 17:9.]
Therefore – after all that we’ve said in this morning’ message – we conclude that in God’s kingdom we grow in our understanding. There are stages. First – visible power attracts you – (the healings and miracles) – but then you discover something better. Christians are the salt of the earth and the light of the world – on account of love – and you like the good trees that are bearing good fruit. However, then you make an even better discovery: love again. At the secret core of the kingdom – there is a loving God that jealously guards the personal relationship between you and him. And this is real and this is for you to experience.
Hear some more from our previous testimony:
Charles Finney: The Autobiography Of Charles G. Finney. Condensed and edited by Helen Wessel, Minneapolis: Bethany House 1977, p37-38: I used to spend a great deal of time in prayer, sometimes literally praying “without ceasing”. I also found it very profitable, and felt very much inclined to hold frequent days of private fasting. On those days I would seek to be entirely alone with God – and would generally wander off into the woods, or get into the meeting house, or somewhere away entirely by myself.
Sometimes I would pursue a wrong course in fasting and attempt to examine myself according to the ideas of self-examination then entertained by my minister and the church. I would try to look into my own heart in the sense of examining my feelings, and would turn my attention particularly to my motives and the state of my mind. When I pursued this course, I found invariably that the day would close without any perceptible advance being made. Afterwards I saw clearly why this was so. Turning my attention, as I did, from the Lord Jesus Christ and looking into myself, examining my motives and feelings, my feelings all subsided.
But whenever I fasted and let the Spirit take his own course with me, and gave myself up to let him lead and instruct me, I always found it in the highest degree useful. I found I could not live without enjoying the presence of God, and if at any time a cloud came over me, I could not rest, I could not study, I could not attend to anything with the least satisfaction or benefit until the way was again cleared between my soul and God.”
[Cf. Charles Finney: The Original Memoirs Of Charles Finney, Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989, p332: “ … I then realized what is meant by the saying, that he ‘is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.’ He did at that time teach me … I had had no conception of the length and breadth, and height and depth, and efficiency of his grace … I spent nearly all the remaining part of the winter … in instructing the people in regard to the fullness there was in Christ. But I found that I preached over the heads of the masses of people. They did not understand me … yet as a general thing the testimony that I bore was unintelligible to them.]
Finney learned that God did not demand much time in self-examinations. It was not necessary to keep looking into one’s own human heart and – all day – scrutinize every hidden motive. Finney learned that God wanted more time of simple communion with him. As Finney turned his attention toward God, God would respond by leading and instructing him and filling his life with the enjoyment of God himself: “I found I could not live without enjoying the presence of God … ”
Likewise – Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 6:7-8: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” [Cf. Matthew 7:25-34.] God does not demand many words – (as he does not demand much time in self-examinations). We are not to babble and fill up the time with endless petitions. It’s not necessary. “The Father knows what we need before we ask him.” What God wants is time with us – simple communion – loving him and him love us – and we will not fail to enjoy him.
[It is these secret times with God that renew and refresh us. As we are touched by his love that is holy, the Sermon on the Mount becomes a wonderful expression of our Father’s beautiful nature. We are so much in love that we are no longer scared about the cost of the relationship. It is in these secret times with God that we strengthen our quality of being salt and the light of the world. The love of God takes possession of us and – what’s more – with him you cannot separate his love from his power which means that the more time we spend in secret intimacy with him, the more we grow in the authority of his love for preaching the kingdom and healing the sick and performing miracles. (This is how it works under normal circumstances. According to Jesus – as we have discussed earlier – there are some people who can operate in power without intimacy but – so far – this has not been my own personal experience.)]
I think (this morning): this is the best (that) I can do for you. You have to discover the secret of the kingdom for yourself. On the one hand – Jesus promised you – Matthew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” But – on the other hand – the secret is not available for everyone. Healings are public, good deeds are public but intimacy with God is too precious for general consumption. Jesus warned us in the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 7:6: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs … ” God does require some humility and desperation from you. This is how Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor on spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Be searching – be poor in spirit – and the secret of the kingdom will be yours. Beyond the healing and miracles – beyond good deeds of love – you will discover a Father that loves you. Amen.
 There is something unexpected and hidden even in this statement. Then, consider the principle in Matthew 13:11-17: “He replied, ‘Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.’ … ”