Mr. Keys, Streams, Take your Place in the Kingdom.
Mr. Keys, you teach in this sermon that we should come in past the mere fringes of the kingdom: we must get past this fear of leaving our comfort zone and we must not be scared to commit. We are challenging you to live up to these words by reading our analysis of your sermon. This will not only take you outside your comfort zone, but it might show you some things that you should be aware of.
Summary: In the beginning, God meant earth to be a reflection of heaven. Humankind was seated in authority to extend that kingdom. Adam and Eve gave it up. Jesus came to restore it. The kingdom was the central theme of everything he did and said. Jesus brought the kingdom with him; he commissioned his disciples to do the same; we are expected to bring it with us. We must take hold of our kingdom privileges. Our destiny is in this kingdom. Repentance and forgiveness are just our entry into it. God wants us to move to its center. (He reads from Isaiah 14, comments on Lucifer’s fall, and recapitulates what he said about earth as it was in the beginning.) Lucifer, cast from his seat, looked for another one. So he tricked Adam and Eve out of their seat, and he became the god of this world. They lost their seat. But God had a plan. The King himself came to earth and brought his kingdom with him. (He reads from Luke 4.16-21, and gives some historical context to Jesus’ ministry.) Ministry begins when you take your seat of authority in the kingdom. (He reads from Ephesians 1.18-22; 2.4-7.) Lucifer tried to take God’s seat; Jesus offers to share his seat with us. Do we deserve it? No. It’s because of God’s love and kindness, grace and mercy. When the kingdom comes, there is joy, freedom, peace, power, and healing. Why do we not always see these things? We have to choose to take our place in the kingdom. We must choose not to hang around the fringes. We cannot fulfill our purpose and assignment in the kingdom until we take our seat of authority there. (Joseph and Esther are mentioned as examples of persons who took their seat.) Jesus has a place of dominion for you, a place of authority over the enemy, a place where you extend the kingdom. When Jesus taught, he first sat down because when he taught he taught with authority. We need to learn how to sit in kingdom authority. We have to believe we have it. We have to live in awareness of what we have. (He testifies to having come into this awareness about a dozen years ago.) This is a year of fulfillment. This year we need to do less pursuing, more possessing. Imagine courting a woman for thirty years. There would be a problem there, maybe a fear of commitment. This is like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for all those years. We’re scared of getting out of our comfort zone. Something more might be required of us. “We talk about pursuing revival. Maybe we should stop pursuing it and just possess it…just have one.” Pursuing can become an excuse for not possessing. And it can become a substitute. We need to take what God offers. With God there is more than enough, but no waste. He’ll give only what we take. “How do we take our seat? Choose to take it, and then live with the awareness of where we are, what we have.” If you’re living in fear, you’re not resting. You have no authority. Jesus slept during the storm because in the kingdom there are no storms. He was seated in the kingdom, in that heaven on earth. If the kingdom comes into your life, into your home, there is peace. Peace is fatal to the enemy. If we live in fear, we lose our authority. To pursue is wonderful; to possess is glorious. (Worship team is called up while he counsels the people.) If the enemy takes our peace, he takes our authority. (He prays against defeatist Christianity while someone begins to strum a guitar.)
Remarks. It is obvious that some research was done in preparation for the sermon. The verses that are read coordinate well with the topic, which he does not digress from. This theme of taking your place in the kingdom is a biblical one. It is perhaps most obvious in the word ‘reckon’ that occurs in Romans. “Likewise reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (6.11.) The kingdom is presented in its past and present aspects. This is refreshing, for too often, the future aspect is all we hear about. Esther and Joseph are excellent choices for showing us persons who took their seat of authority. He’s right that Christians live as though they do not possess what they have been granted. Until we come into an awareness of the spiritual riches given to us, and until we begin to act as the heirs we are, too often we will have a defeatist attitude and be hindered from living victorious lives. In the process of explaining this, he takes us back to Genesis to show us what was had and lost in Adam. He handles this well. The healing shadow of Peter is well applied as the potential influence a Christian could have. The best point of the sermon concerns the sitting posture of Jesus being a symbol of the seat of authority he had: When he taught, he usually sat down. This is very instructive. We’ve never heard this before. The truth of it seems obvious as we recall the Scriptures featuring Jesus’ teaching ministry. We do not see any major doctrinal faults in the sermon.
But there are some lesser faults that are too serious to say nothing about. (1) His assumptions. He teaches that when you’re in the center of the kingdom, in deep awareness of your spiritual possessions, as it was with Jesus during his ministry, there are no storms. It is true that there may be greater peace in trials when we are more conscious of our high place in the kingdom, a peace that surpasses that peace we enjoy simply by an assurance of salvation, like that peace certain martyrs have been known to possess on their way to the stake. But can unshakeable peace be the norm? Was it even the norm for Jesus Christ? Is it not true that the more spiritually cognizant we are, the more likely it will be that greater trials will be our lot, even to the point that our peace will be thoroughly disturbed? The prime example he gives for the assumption that deep spiritual awareness yields unshakable peace is the incident in which Jesus calmly slept during the storm. “In the kingdom, there are no storms,” Mr. Keys says. But what about the time Jesus wept before the tomb of Lazarus? This looks like a storm. What about when Jesus mourned over Jerusalem for its unbelief? “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23.37.) This looks like a storm. What about Jesus in Gethsemane? “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (26.38.) This looks like a storm. And what about the storm Jesus was in while on the cross? “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (27.46.) This is the greatest storm in all of history! So while we agree that there may be a sense in which Jesus always experienced peace (for how can it be otherwise with a God-Man?), yet it is utterly wrong to assert that there are no storms in the kingdom. Jesus was in the center of the kingdom; there the greatest storms occurred; and by his own testimonies his peace was profoundly shaken by them. And so the same must all Christians expect (they being no greater than their Master, but infinitely inferior) once they enter into the realization of the inheritance and privileges that are theirs in Christ. Rather than state that we should just take our seat in the kingdom, then, Mr Keys ought to tell us how this is done, the conflict to be expected when we do it, and what joy there is set before us that might stimulate us toward this end. How do we take our seat? “Choose to take it,” he says. First he assumes that there are no storms in the center of the kingdom. Then he assumes that we can just take our seat there. This is simplistic, vacuous advice. How is advice like that going to help anyone? “I press toward the mark,” says Paul in Philippians 3.14. This advice is better. That we should no longer pursue and just possess instead is to merely pretend that we have attained to that which we have been pressing toward. Mr. Keys assumes that he moved from the fringes of the kingdom to its inner space about a dozen years ago. If that were so, he would know what living closer to the center of this kingdom involves. He would not miss the plain answers in the lives of Esther and Joseph, which are the examples he gives of persons who took their proper seat in the kingdom. Esther did it in the words, ‘If I perish, I perish.’ Joseph did it by resisting sin and suppressing the urge to revenge himself. You don’t just take your privileges. It’s a tense matter and a hard work. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (1 Timothy 2.12.) The closer Jesus got to the center of his mission, the more agitation of soul did he experience and the more temptation there was to avoid the objective he had set his face toward. The temptations of Christ did not end in the wilderness. The devil departed from him ‘for a season,’ the Bible says. Natural storms did not move him. But spiritual storms did. The other assumption committed by Mr. Keys is that this is the year of fulfillment in his church regarding the possession of privileges. What evidence is there for this? Knowledge of divine matters abounding in his members? A sense of sin among the members that amounts to an outworking of selflessness? Are we not always hearing predictions like this from certain brands of churches? And yet things always continue the same. If we go to the life of Jesus for an example of what it means to absorb our inheritance and to claim our privileges, then it means that we will often be in situations that call forth an utterance like, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26.39.) By obeying in face of the tormenting prospect of the cross, Jesus came into full possession of his privileges. Our victories in the kingdom are not so easily come by either. And if this is true individually, then it is even more true en masse. Therefore, how can revival just be claimed and presumed? “Maybe we should stop pursuing revival and just possess it,” says Mr. Keys. “Just have one.” But because God the Holy Spirit is the Reviver, he is Sovereign to revive according to his will; therefore there is no guarantee, no matter what we do and how holy we live, that we will be raised to an awareness and conquest in this life that surpasses that which the babe in Christ attains to.
(2) His demeanor. There can be no doubt that Mr. Keys thinks himself to be much closer to the center of God’s kingdom than he actually is. As long as this is the case, he is living in a kind of presumption. And we have never read of any minister in history who had revival while his joking and worldliness remained unmortified. Men like Jonathan Edwards and Henry Venn were serious, mortified ministers. Mr. Keys is way off this mark. For instance, at one point he asks why the congregation is so quiet. Probably they were actually learning something. But thinking noise to be a sign of success, this pastor is dismayed by the lack of it, and finally expresses relief when he gets the congregation yelping and clapping at the mention of his marital relations! This is the year this congregation will take its seat, Mr. Keys assures us. But we can assure him (the year being passed) that this prophecy has proven false. We suspected that it would if only for one reason: these people at Streams are too ready for carnal laughs to be taken seriously by the Lord. And no doubt the prophecy will prove false again if uttered again unless the pastor stifles their desires by his own mortification!
Conclusion. Whatever is meant by taking your place in the kingdom, it is not the ‘reckon’ of Scripture, like in ‘reckon yourselves dead to sin’ in Romans 6.11, which would make for a biblical application of taking your place. Mr. Keys means something else, like something akin to claiming victory. And to us this advice amounts to something that is no more revolutionary than positive thinking. To reckon, one must learn what one’s place is on account of Christ, and then, by the strength of the renewed mind (by learning doctrine), apply faith to a higher practice. Mr. Keys would have us take our place by simply choosing to. But this is like choosing to be somewhere without any means to move you there. And so you get nowhere. He tells us to take our seat closer to the center of God’s kingdom. But he never tells us how to get further in to take that seat. The poor people are given nothing to work with. This is the principal flaw in the sermon. The omission leaves us with a huge question mark. When people try to apply this advice to just sit down in authority, they will soon realize that they are no more powerful to do it than they were before they attempted to sit down. And this hollow advice that says we should just take our seat is even more hollow when applied to the larger matter of revival. We can’t claim revival, for it is the Holy Spirit who revives, and he is like the wind that blows where it will. It is a dismal fact that Mr. Keys does not know what that event is which he so greatly desires. And we can say it with emphasis that he does not know what real revival is because if he did he would never teach that we can just lay hold on such a thing. If he were acquainted with the nature of revival, not only would he stress our impotence to bring revival on, he would come in from the fringes and preach soberly and earnestly on the nucleus of God’s truth. He would come in from the fringes, and rather than tell us to claim something, he would zone in on the center of the kingdom where the doctrines are that the Spirit has been pleased in the past to revive men by. But preaching such doctrines will not guarantee revival. Pride, joking, and worldly amusements must be put away by the preacher of them. And still there is no guarantee because above all it must be believed with certitude and conviction that revival is never deserved and that the Spirit, for his own reasons, must decide to come down in power upon his people. But though the presence of these doctrines will not guarantee revival, it is a guarantee that there will be no revival without them being preached. A competent historian gives the following list of reviving doctrines: the sufficiency and supremacy of Holy Scripture; the total corruption of human nature; Christ’s death upon the cross as the only satisfaction for sin; justification by faith; regeneration, or heart conversion; the connection between true faith and personal holiness; and God’s hatred of sin and love of sinners. It should be obvious by this list that repentance and forgiveness would have to be preached in connexion with these. Repentance and forgiveness are our entry into the kingdom. And because of God’s condescending attributes, like grace and mercy, we get to share the seat of Jesus. This is all true as far as it goes. But to go beyond this barely entered state to a place of awareness by which we reach for our privileges must involve more than just an act of the will. There needs to be an understanding of what was necessary to bring us in the door. The big old doctrines must be preached both for Revival and Maturity. Without knowledge of our adoption, we will hardly be compelled to live like sons of God. And so the pastor’s job is not just to tell us to lay hold of our kingdom potential, but to give us a tour of the trials and wonders that are found near the center of this glorious kingdom. We must be taken past the elementary doctrines of repentance and forgiveness to what it fully means to be justified, to what it really means to be holy, to what it’s like to connect with our Advocate in Heaven. Give us a view of what the center looks like, and we might be drawn to the dedication it takes to dwell there. We are thankful that repentance and forgiveness are mentioned as our entry into the kingdom. But when Mr. Keys intimates that the gospel is more than this, he seems to teach that the rest of it is this move to the center of God’s kingdom. But this is wrong. The gospel is truth, not practice: saving doctrine. Strictly speaking, the gospel is the death of Christ for sin, his burial, and his resurrection, as it says in 1 Corinthians 15. The doctrines connected with these facts, like those mentioned above by J. C. Ryle, the competent historian, are what we might call the rest of the gospel. This additional truth, once taken in, is what will enlighten us and produce the awareness needed for some further attempt at pressing into this kingdom already entered into. And these doctrines should be prominent for another reason. They are the teachings by which sinners are awakened to their need of salvation. Preaching to the lost must somehow be blended in with our teaching of the found, for in this present church-world we cannot assume that we are addressing bona fide Christians.