Samuel said to King Saul, But [now] your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him a leader of his people because you have not kept the Lord's command (I Samuel 13:14 NIV).
Kingdoms built by men shall not permanently endure. They have no lasting heartbeat. As soon as they are created, they are in decline. It may be years, but these man-made kingdoms will come to an end. The only lasting kingdom is the Kingdom of God. God's Kingdom shall last forever.
Yet the spiritual health of this nation is declining rapidly. The heartbeat is growing faint. The patient is growing weaker. Groans are getting louder and louder. There is an emergency in the land. People are dying by the millions. Many are in spiritual refugee camps, starving to death for the Bread of Life. These spiritual refugee camps are not only in Africa and Afghanistan, but everywhere we go and everywhere we look. They're all around us. And they circle the globe.
Listen to Samuel's indictment of King Saul, "You acted foolishly. You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. You've disobeyed God. Your kingdom will not endure."
God is looking for a man, a woman, a teenager after His own heart who will sacrifice self to live for Jesus' sake. Jesus said, For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it (Matthew 16:25).
Our children's children stand to live out their lives in a world of pagans and persecution. We need to declare a national emergency. We no longer have the luxury of keeping the joy of Jesus to ourselves. And if you have no joy, there is only one way to find it: get alone with God and pray, "Dear God, I want to be in fellowship with You again. I want to live a victorious life while I wait for the visible return and victorious reign of my Lord upon the earth."
Unprecedented Meeting in 2000
Less than two years ago, a small band of brethren began to meet and pray for our Convention. There were eight people in the group. Four state executive directors and four presidents of SBC entities. In the summer of 2000, an unprecedented meeting took place in Nashville. I was told that this was the first time in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention state executive directors and presidents of SBC entities met together in one room at the same time. In a convention built upon cooperation, that little known fact was staggering to me!
We came together with a desire to enhance the cooperation between the state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention. At the end of the day, those who had gathered appointed an eight-person committee they called the Task Force on Cooperation.
God's Agenda, Our Vision
As we worked and prayed together, it became apparent we needed to lay down our agenda and set our minds and hearts upon discovering God's agenda. We were struck with the realization that Southern Baptists seemed to be yearning for a vision; a vision that would give us a cause much bigger than ourselves; a vision that would lift our sights and enable us to see beyond our own Baptist borders to the uttermost part of the earth; a vision that would break our hearts over a nation that's losing its way spiritually; a vision that would help us be all we can be for God's glory.
We need a vision that will bring us to "weep o'er the erring ones and lift up the fallen." We need a vision that will renew our spirit and refresh our souls. We need a vision that will help us, as God did Isaiah, to see God as He really is, and ourselves as we really are. Only then can we see the world as it really is. The Lord is sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up. Let us join the chorus of the seraphim, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts: the whole earth is full of His Glory."
A Vision Born!
The vision before our convention today was first born in the hearts of South Carolina Baptists almost ten years ago. South Carolina Baptists gave us the first Baptist church in the South. Now God is giving us a glimpse of a vision He first gave them.
Theme, Vision, Mission Statement
The theme we bring to you today is "Empowering Kingdom Growth (EKG)." Our Scripture is Matthew 6:33. Our vision statement is "Seek first the King and His Kingdom." Listen to the mission statement recommended by the Task Force: "Empowering Kingdom Growth is an initiative designed to call individual Southern Baptists to renew their passion for the Lord Jesus and the reign of His Kingdom in their hearts, families, and churches from which God can forge a spiritual movement marked by holy living, sacrificial service, and global witness." We have prayed for the fresh wind of God's Spirit to blow through our churches, renewing our hearts, healing our wounds, forming our character in the likeness of Christ, and filling us with spiritual power.
What is the Kingdom?
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness … .
You say, "What is the Kingdom?" In our vision, the Kingdom is the rule and reign of God in our hearts. The disciples were taught not to underestimate the power of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God will not be stopped. It will not be defeated. No criticisms, no crosses, and no crusading armies can halt its movement across time and space.
We cannot successfully fight a spiritual battle using the world's devices. We will be defeated every time. The battle is the Lord's. In eternity past, Satan led a rebellion against God. The entire human race was hopelessly entangled in the rebellion. But through Christ, God is redeeming His creatures and re-establishing His reign on earth and in the hearts of men.
This Kingdom will cast its shadow to the ends of the earth. Its influence and presence will permeate all things. The expansion of the Kingdom of God is relentless, and it shall be until the Lord Jesus has restored all things that have been corrupted by Satan's rebellion and man's fall. As the Apostle Paul declared, Then comes the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and authority and power (I Corinthians 15:24).
Today we have the opportunity to discover God's agenda. Will we take the liberating, life-changing gospel that makes men whole and holy to every corner of the earth? The day is coming when the rule of God shall extend throughout the entire universe. It will be a day when "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done," is a prayer finally and fully answered.
We will discover the Kingdom only when our hearts are captivated by the incomparable Christ!
Empowering Kingdom Growth is not a program, but a vision. We are praying for God to transform this vision into a grassroots spiritual movement that sweeps our hearts clean and takes a broom to the streets and gutters of the world. We are praying for the back streets of sin to be cleansed. We are praying for lost souls to confess their sins and let Jesus wash them away by His shed blood.
Empowering Kingdom Growth is an appeal for spiritual renewal in individuals and churches. The acronym for Empowering Kingdom Growth is EKG! A medical EKG measures the health of the physical heart. God wants healthy Christians to worship and serve Him in a healthy church. We believe God is calling us to make an appointment with the Doctor for a spiritual check-up. Will you take your soul and your church to see the Great Physician? Will you ask God to heal you if there is dullness of hearing and dimness of sight?
We will discover the Kingdom only when our lives are consumed by the invincible cause!
Do you know what happens when you discover the Kingdom of God? You pledge your all to the King. You hold nothing back. All other allegiances disappear. All other attractions fade. All other ambitions become uninspiring. Nothing brings real joy but His Kingdom's cause. Saul was a proud man, but he was overwhelmed by Christ and discovered that all the symbols of self-righteousness and self-worth seemed to him as trash. He gladly gave his all to the King. He said, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ" (Phil. 3:7-8, NIV). This is the spirit of a person who is in the Kingdom of God.
One writer has said, "For a man to know the privileges of the reign of God in his life, he must put God's Kingdom unquestionably and unconditionally first, before money and possessions, before rights and privileges, before family and friends, before personal attitudes and hidden desires. It must be the serious commitment of the whole life, for 'no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God'" (I Believe in the Church by David Watson).
Jim Elliott was consumed by the invincible cause of knowing God had called him. He was to be ready to sacrifice his life if necessary so that a pagan tribe of Auca Indians in Ecuador might hear the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although a half a century has passed, the martyrdom of Jim Elliott and his fellow missionaries reminds us of the great cost of serving the Kingdom of God and the great commitment that is demanded. Before he died, Elliott wrote in his journal, "God, I pray thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus."
Consumed by Christ
We only discover Kingdom power and Kingdom promise when we are willing for our lives to be consumed for the cause of Christ. Chuck Colson observed, "It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn't want our success; He wants us. He doesn't demand our achievements; He demands our obedience. The Kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified. Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness; finding self through losing self" (Loving God).
We must abandon self for Jesus' sake. John the Baptist declared, "He must increase, but I must decrease." The quote of Jim Elliott most often remembered says it all, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
What will the Kingdom of God cost you? We do not know, but God will give you the strength to give up everything for Jesus' sake!
Am I a Kingdom Person?
Would you ask yourself these questions? "Am I a Kingdom person? If not, how may I be? If so, how shall I live?"
When Moses understood God's call to lead the people, he inquired, "But who will go with me?" And God said, "My Presence will go with you." Moses exclaimed, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us out!" He didn't want to go without God! What must we pray?
Oh, God, we've had enough! Enough of trying it on our own! Enough of fleshly pursuits! Enough of business as usual! Enough of worldly ambition! If Your presence does not go with us, do not send us out!
Enough of denominational competition! Enough jostling for recognition! Enough seeking the favor of man! If You do not go with us, do not send us out!
Enough superlative preaching without the power of the Spirit! Enough dryness in our thirsty souls! If You do not go with us, do not send us out!
Enough self-absorbed worship! Enough preaching for the purpose of pleasing and appeasing the people instead of glorifying God! Enough sterile invitations! If You do not go with us, do not send us out!
Enough prayerlessness! Enough worldliness! Enough greed! Enough pragmatism! Enough pride! Enough arrogance! Enough compromise! Oh, God, if Your presence does not go with us, do not send us out!
Jesus, capture our hearts and consume our lives. Without the King, there is no Kingdom. May Thy Kingdom come, and Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.