Steven Furtick - Kingdom Clout
Matthew 20:20. I'd love to say I planned to start the year 2020 with Matthew 20:20. I did not plan that. Maybe God did. That was coincidental. I'm not that smart, but God is. Matthew 20:20 is the verse I want to start with today. Let me read this in its entirety and then come along and preach behind it and give you a little bit along and along.
Matthew 20:20: "Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 'What is it you want?' he asked. She said, 'Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom'. 'You don't know what you are asking', Jesus said to them. 'Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?' 'We can', they answered". That's kind of cocky. "We can".
"Jesus said to them, 'You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father'. When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many'". Amen.
What a fascinating little story. What a great place to talk about the subject of kingdom clout. Before I forget this, Holly said it stressed her out last night because I didn't give a title for the message. She said she couldn't hardly listen to me or notice how attractive I look in this red track jacket because I didn't give a title. So, for those OCD saints, this is Kingdom Clout, Part 1. Are you good?
Let's go. My series ideas don't come from brainstorming sessions; they come from conversations. My favorite person to talk to about the sermons I'm going to preach is not Bishop T.D. Jakes. He's my favorite preacher. I heard a rumor he might be coming to preach for our anniversary, but he's not my favorite person to talk to about my sermons. When I really want to talk about a sermon, I love to talk to my 14-year-old, my firstborn son, Elijah Furtick. He is insightful. He helps me to understand concepts through his eyes, and he has such a great way of getting excited about what I'm preaching. He gets it quickly before I even tell him what I'm going to preach. It's like we have this thing, and he gets it.
My best sermons I ever preached came from me talking to him. If I track them back, even if I go on YouTube, the highest sermons people watch and say it helped them came from talking to him. (Don't get any ideas that I'm going to start giving you a cut or anything like that, but I really appreciate you earning your keep around the house.) When you think about the ages of our children, it may help you to understand the subjects I choose for my messages: 14, 12, and 8. Having a brilliant 14-year-old son affords you the ability to relive parts of your life through their eyes and, really, to give them advice that you didn't take when you were their age either, to tell them things they need to do that you didn't do.
So when Elijah started talking to me about clout, clout chasers, and how people do anything for clout… I think he was quoting Offset or one of the other theologians from those three apostles. How many of you all are like me? You're 38 years old or older. Things are so different now for kids. They really are. These days, kids are really obsessed with popularity. It's different than it was when we were kids. We were focused on serving God and making a difference in our world. These days, kids will do anything for clout. They're driven and obsessed by what people think about them. They spend their time trying to prove stuff to people who aren't even paying attention. It's different than it was…
Wait a minute. For all of us who have ever said something stupid, like, "You shouldn't care what people think about you…" That is the worst advice you could ever give. Please care what people think about you. Please brush your teeth. Please wear deodorant. Please smile. Please be nice. It's okay to care what people think about you. It is not okay to be controlled by what people think about you. In Matthew, chapter 20, Jesus has just finished giving his disciples two consecutive lessons on the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God was not a new concept, but Jesus was the first one who called it that.
In Matthew's gospel, you'll see the phrase the kingdom of the heavens, because the Jewish audience Matthew was writing to would be offended if he used the name of God. It was not to be spoken. So he referenced it in a more abstract way: the kingdom of the heavens. You'll see it in other gospels, the kingdom of God. It was preached about over 100 times through the mouth of Jesus, but he didn't just preach about it; he demonstrated it. Everywhere he went, he taught the kingdom of God, not so much so they could learn it by principle but so they could observe it by demonstration. How many know a good sermon is one you can see and hear? Jesus did just that. He would teach it, and then he would do it. He would talk about it, and then he would transformatively heal or bless or forgive. He was demonstrating this kingdom of God everywhere he went.
It was not the kingdom his disciples expected. It was not a kingdom that delivered them from Roman oppression. That's what they wanted. That's what they prayed for. You could make the case that for the twelve disciples he chose, they signed up to see his kingdom come. They signed up so they could witness his kingdom, but when they saw it, they almost missed it, because they were looking for something so different than what he came to bring. It was right in front of them, but they were looking past it to something in the future that Jesus did not even intend to bring, which was political deliverance, which was an economic deliverance, which was a military reign or rule, but Jesus came to preach the kingdom of God.
This particular instance in the ministry of Jesus did not happen at the beginning, but it was just before his ministry would start to come to a close on earth. The Bible says this mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. I think the most profound question is the one Jesus asked next. The question sounds simple on the surface, but let's take a moment and think about it as a new year begins. Jesus asked this mother, "What is it you want"? We all have a list, but usually in church we are taught to downplay our desires and to pray prayers we don't really mean because they sound good, but they're plastic.
What I admire about this mother in the passage is that she got honest with Jesus and said, "I want my boys to have VIP seating in your kingdom". Don't you love somebody who will be honest about what they want? Don't you ever have people who call you on the phone and you just want to tell them, "Cut the crap and tell me what you want. I know you're not calling to check on me. You never do. Do you need $20? I'll Cash App you just to get off this phone right now. What do you want"? Or even with my kids… I love being a dad, but when they're being too nice, there's something behind it. "How was your day, Dad"? "Okay. You can have more video game time". "What do you want? Let's just get to it".
But Jesus is asking the question not on the level of inconvenience, like, "What do you want?" because everything the woman is doing, this mother of Zebedee's sons, is on the surface exactly what you should do. Let's look at it really quickly. She comes to Jesus. That's what you're supposed to do, I think. I don't know where else to go. How many have something in your life that people can't do for you that only God can do for you and the only way you're going to get it is if God gives it to you? Will you come to him? That's why I came to church: to get something from God. I didn't come here to hear the same thing I hear on the news that the world is falling apart. I came for a gospel message that there's something greater than who sits in an office, that there is a kingdom that cannot be shaken and we have access.
So she came to Jesus. She came to the right person. She knelt before him. She had the right posture. She brought her sons. She had the right priorities. What parent doesn't want their kids to go to the best school? But this takes helicopter mom to a whole new level, because these boys are 30 years old. Still setting up play dates, and they have a beard. These disciples are not just any disciples. I want to show you something. Can I show you something? I'm going to do it anyway.
Mark, chapter 3. The Bible gives an indication of who Jesus chose when he came to set up his kingdom. Notice this: the kingdom of God had already been established, but it had never been reflected in human form. When Jesus got ready to show what the kingdom of God looked like, he could have come looking like Thor. He could have come looking like Dwayne Johnson. He could have come with biceps, but he came as a baby. That's fascinating to me, to know that when he wanted to show us the kingdom, he started with the ultimate emblem of weakness. He did not start with deliverance; he started with diapers.
Everything God brings into your life will come in a small form. It will seem insignificant in the beginning stages. That's why you can't despise the day of small beginnings. You have to celebrate some baby steps this year. You have to realize God is working in your life, even if people don't see it to celebrate it. People don't know to celebrate what they can't see. So celebrate yourself for a moment, that you came to church on this weekend to get a word from God. I need you to know that Jesus picks people who have problems. Peter, Andrew, James, and John.
Look at this passage in Mark 3. I still haven't gotten over this, so if I read it slowly, it's to keep from getting choked up, because I am someone who struggles a lot of times with believing that God chose me. When I read this about how Jesus was calling his disciples to establish his kingdom… He didn't go to a seminary; he went to the sea and found four fishermen, the first four…Peter, Andrew, James, and John. It says it in Mark, chapter 3, in such a beautiful way.
"Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons". I said, to have authority. Not just to get attention. We live in a time where people don't know the difference between attention and authority. It's embarrassing to me that we have created a generational perspective that doesn't know the difference between greatness and fame. If you don't believe me, grab somebody who looks like they're younger than you and ask them, "Would you rather be rich or famous"?
Don't even put God in the question. Save that for later. "Would you rather have money or followers"? If they really get honest about what they want, they will tell you… It is a culturally pervasive issue of our day, and it's the Devil, and it's shortsighted, and I came to preach about it. I'm not salty, but I am serious. Everybody famous isn't great, and everybody great isn't famous. Somebody on your row might be great, and you don't even know their name. I came to preach about kingdom clout. I have a name that's registered in heaven. My name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. I might not have a blue check but he shed his red blood for me and I'm his. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
This is a five-week series, and I have to go slowly. It said he chose them to be with him and to preach. When we meet somebody, we identify them by what they do. "Hey, I'm Jerry". "I'm Steven". "What do you do"? He called them (notice the order) to be with him and to preach, so that what they did would flow out of who they were, but when you define who you are by what you do, it's shaky ground. So before he called them to do it, he called them to be it. Real kingdom authority comes from knowing who you are, whose you are, and not allowing this crazy world to define you by what you do, what you have, what you wear. Let me tell y'all something I didn't tell them last night.
There was a preacher who was talking to me the other day about my shoes. He didn't ask me anything about a sermon, exegesis, insight from the text, or the Holy Ghost. He wanted to know about sneakers. "How about these? How about those"? I said, "Man, I don't know. Most of the stuff I wear somebody gave to me. I don't even know what it's called. And now half of it is in Elijah's closet, because he's my size, and I don't even get to wear it before he steals it".
It bothered me, because when we started the church, Holly would go buy me a button-down shirt, because I had a superstition. Every weekend I wanted to wear something new, but we didn't have any money, so she would find a $2.99 clearance at Dillard's. But I was proud of it, because when I would put it on and I would give myself a haircut… I didn't know how to fade my hair. I only had one guard on the thing. I didn't know how to fade. I didn't know how to dress. I didn't know how to do anything, but I was called, anointed, appointed, passionate, fired up, charged up. I was set apart.
What I wanted you to know… I was so proud of those $3 shirts from Dillard's. I was anointed in those $3 shirts from Dillard's. See, when you really have something from God, it is not about externals. The external is fine, but it is the Spirit of God that makes you great. It is not an income level. It is not a number of followers. It is not clicks and comments and all this crap the world calls clout. When you have a Father who is in heaven who knows your name, who chose you, who called you, you can do what you have to do because it's in you! He called to him those he wanted. Did you see that? He called those he wanted. God has options.
There's a difference between having clout and being chosen. People can give clout. They can take it away. "Hosanna! Hosanna"! "Crucify him"! within a 72-hour period. They will change their mind. Oh God, they'll change their mind. But when you're called and chosen… Look at verse 13. He called those he wanted. What does it feel like to be wanted? Like that. See how happy you get? God has options. Sometimes you don't. Be honest. Sometimes you hang out with people because they were the only one available. Sometimes you hire somebody because they were the best available candidate. You make it work. God looks for exactly what he wants. I don't mean to get biological, but he fertilizes the right egg at the right moment.
Do you realize the percentage chance of you being born when you were born to do what you do? And you're going to walk around in self-doubt trying to figure out if God chose you? You ought to know God chose you, you ought to believe God chose you, and you ought to go through your life with your head held high no matter what is in your bank account because you're chosen. Eric used to always tell them, because they would make fun of him for being adopted when we were in high school… He'd say, "My parents picked me; yours got stuck". That shut them up real quick too.
My Father picked me. He wanted you on the earth right now, and he wanted you short or he wanted you tall or he wanted you to have experienced this set of circumstances or the other, and he got what he wanted. He called what he wanted. Beautiful. Let's stay in it for a moment. Sometimes we rush past stuff too quickly. Who did he choose? It lists them. It gives a list. These are the Twelve. I have 22 minutes to do this. Y'all pray for me. We'll pick it up next week. I'll do what I can do this week, clear the parking lot so we don't have any fistfights, and then we'll come back next week. Come every week for this series. We're going to build on this. Don't come to me once every four weeks and then wonder why you don't get any stronger. I'm going to need you to come regularly so we can build on this. Then we can get it in with repetition and talk about the kingdom of God.
It's always invisible to the human eye, it's always insignificant to the human mind, and it is always immediate. It's right now. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. That was the first message Jesus preached. He said, "Repent…" Change your mind. Metanoia in the Greek. "…for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". When he established his kingdom, he chose certain candidates, and he chose twelve. He appointed those he wanted. He made you her mom. He made you her daughter. He put you in that. He let you have that, because he believes in you that much. He called those he wanted. And who did he want? "Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter)…"
You may know him for his profanity more than for his preaching, because he was cussing when Jesus was about to go to the cross. That's the first-round draft pick too. People never pick correctly. People never do. They never pick Tom Brady first. People never know what they're looking for. People never see what's inside. People will celebrate all the wrong stuff. People will celebrate when you lose weight. "Wow! You've lost weight". But keep it off. They won't say anything. We don't celebrate consistency. Do you know another thing about people? (I'm getting into the second week already.) They will celebrate a talent or a gift but not effort. Because we're crazy.
We need Grammys and Academy Awards and compliments from people who are insecure themselves, and then if they don't give us a compliment, we don't think we did anything, but it's their insecurity that kept them from giving a compliment, not anything deficient in us. People don't know what to celebrate. Even in a good sermon, people clap at the wrong times. When Jesus was choosing, he chose on the basis of something he could see that they couldn't.
So the Scripture says he chose Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter. He liked to nickname people. Everybody in our family has a nickname. I don't call any of my kids by their real name. They don't even call me "Dad"; they call me Moch. It's a long story. I don't have time to explain it. Jesus started that. He called people stuff that he knew they were that they didn't know yet. He'll call you righteous while you're still struggling with addiction. He'll call you an influencer when nobody else knows your name. He will call you great when the world will trample over you to get what they think is great. He called those he wanted, and he called them to be with him.
And when he called them, he called Simon, and he said, "You're Peter, Petros, rock. You're something I can build on". Then he called James, son of Zebedee, the one from Matthew 20. Remember? He chose him and his brother John. You may recognize him, because he had a whole gospel called John. He wrote the gospel of John, and he always called himself "the disciple Jesus loved". That's not what Jesus called him. Look at what Jesus called him. "…James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges)…" That's Greek for hot-tempered. It also means disturbance. He called them that, and then he still chose them.
Who in here struggles with something, like a temper or an issue? I swear your wife is going to raise your hand for you if you don't get it up real quick. I'm trying to spare you some embarrassment. How many of you struggle with something? God can look right past what people trip over and say, "Come on. Go with me. We have a job to do. I know you don't see it, I know you don't feel it, but the kingdom of God is at hand". Yes, Lord. "…Boanerges, which means 'sons of thunder'…" That's a nice translation. So these boys follow Jesus for three years. They left their father's fishing business, which was successful. I know it was successful, because when he called them, they had hired men helping them. Zebedee, their dad, had servants on the boat.
So they left something where they had servants to become servants. Kingdom clout, when you stop worrying about what looks good to people because you want to be right with God. Kingdom clout. We need this message. Our children need it. We need it. We're still teenagers, dressing for everybody else, spending for everybody else. They're not there to pay off the credit card, and they didn't even notice we wore it. Jesus said, "What do you want"?
Now, remember what they've seen. They've seen miracles. They've heard sermons. They've seen his compassion, and they've seen his (How should I say this?) other side, when he flipped over the tables in the temple because they had started making it about clout rather than kingdom. He didn't like that. He didn't like that exclusivity where it's like, "These kinds of people are the people God can use and these aren't, because they're this and they're that". He didn't like that, and he taught them and showed them. But then just before the last week of his life, James and John and their mom come to Jesus. They're like, "We want you to give us VIP seating in the kingdom". At least that's how I always read it, but I realized something. It wasn't just important what they asked for.
Listen to me. You can't understand what they ask unless you understand when they asked it. In the verses just before the verses I read you, where this mom comes up to Jesus and kneels down and says, "I want my boys to be okay", he had just, for the third time, told them about his death. They didn't want to hear it, because it meant that in order for God to bring about what they wanted him to bring about, they would have to go through what they didn't want to go through. When he talked about the cross, he did it in dramatic language, but they couldn't hear it. They didn't want to hear it. They rejected it. They rejected that message because it did not fit with their expectation of what the kingdom would be.
When God does something in our life that does not conform with our expectation of how we wanted him to work, we will tend to reject it. When someone God wants to use is raised up in our lives… We don't really have different values than the world, because we think that in order for the gospel to go forward we need celebrities to get saved. That's the kingdoms of this world, not the kingdom of our God. God calls the known and the unknown. I need to preach this message, because just Friday, I went to Cheesecake Factory. It has been a minute since I did that. One reason I quit going is the menu gives me a panic attack. It's so big.
Do you all remember Encyclopedia Britannica? The menu is like chapter 7, verse 3, on the… We're talking about choosing. You have options at Cheesecake Factory. Seventeen different kinds of ways to die early, and all of that. When we finished eating, we were sitting there a moment, and I was telling Elijah, "Kingdom clout. I'm so excited". He was like, "Me too. It's going to be awesome. What's going to be the first message"? The server, not the one who had taken care of us during the meal but somebody I had noticed a few times… We both talked about it. He just had something special about him. Both of us noticed. He came over and said, "I don't want to disturb you, but this meal… I've been the whole time… Thank you".
He said our messages have helped him, encouraged him. Somehow he thought that would bother me to tell me that. I was like, "Oh, man. Thank you, man. That means the world. It really does". He went to walk away. He was like, "I don't want to bother you". I said, "No, come here. What was your name"? He said his name. He said, "My name is Mike, but I'm nobody". I said something to him just to say, "No, man". Then after he left, I told Elijah… I was like, "That's why I have to preach this". Because most everybody feels that way. Play me off if you want to. I know that's the same thing you walk around telling yourself. "I'm nobody". You all will have the nerve to say stuff to me like this.
One woman in the church said the other day, "I'm just a stay-at-home mom". If you ever say something like that to me, I will find the nearest Elevation pen and throw it at your forehead like a Death Star. Stop saying stuff like that. You are just a… What? If you are a stay-at-home mom, let's do the math. You are a doctor, a lawyer, an Uber, a UFC referee if you have more than one of them. I'm not just a nothing! (That wasn't good grammar but it felt like God.) I'm not just a student. I'm not just a teenager. I'm not just a woman. I'm not just a nothing. Get your hands off my calling, Devil! He called who he wanted. He chose me for it. I'm important because he made me. You don't have to know my name. I know a name that is above every name. Kingdom! In the kingdom I'm somebody. In the kingdom I have a Father. He knows every hair on my head. He knows when I'm hungry. He knows when I'm thirsty. He knows what I secretly wish I had.
If we will get honest about it, when he said, "What do you want"? we really all want the same things. There are only two things we really want. There are a lot of ways we try to get them. Some try drugs, some try sex, but that's not really what you want. Whether you drink something or eat something, that's not really what you want. What you want is significance. What you want is security. Here's what I want to say under the unction of the Spirit of God. Somebody share this message online right now, because what I'm about to say is going to set somebody free. When you attach your significance to status or when you attach your security to stuff, it's never enough.
So if it's four figures, five figures, six figures, seven figures, eight figures… If you get it, you'll be worried about losing it if you have to have it to make you somebody. I'm not mad. I have an Instagram account too. Post on it and swipe up about it and share with a friend, but if I need that to be me, it's just a matter of time. I'll prove it to you. Out of all of the fishermen on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus chose four. Out of those four, he had a favorite three. Andrew didn't even make the three. He's the one who brought Peter to Jesus.
Some of us will be defined not by what we do but what we empower others to do, and it will be the greatest contribution of our lives. You don't even know how God is using you. That parking dude out there this morning, jumping up and down, made me so happy to preach to you. He didn't even know. He was doing all this stuff, throwing stuff. I didn't know what he was doing, but it made me happy. It helped me preach. But you don't know, because the kingdom of this world only celebrates what is seen. Out of the four, he had a favorite three: Peter, James, and John. But it's never enough. Out of all of the people he could have chosen, he chose twelve. They were two of the Twelve. Out of the twelve he chose, there were three. They were two of the three. But it's not enough. It's never enough.
So they come to him, and they're like, "Uh, Mom, you do it". You know all of the ways we use to mask our real motives. "Mom…" It's not so much what they asked; it's when they asked it. He had just told them, "I'm going to the cross". I used to think they were selfish. They weren't selfish; they were scared. When you are scared, when you are fearful, when you secretly think you don't have what it takes, it causes you to do crazy stuff to get attention. It's not really attention you want; it's intimacy. It's not really to be noticed; it's to be known. That's what we really want.
It takes you a lot of your life to figure out what you really want before you realize, "What I really want is to be connected to God". When they came to him, they came to him honestly. I need to illustrate this. Come here, JJ. Who wants to help me preach? We'll just act it out really quickly. I'm going to leave you with this, because it's powerful. It's the way my mind imagines the Scriptures and the way I see things. I want you to be thinking about this this week. Somebody say, "I've already got it". The kingdom of this world is all about arrival; the kingdom of heaven is all about awareness. The kingdoms of this world are all about achievement.
"When I get that, when I have that, when I get there, when I lose that, when I gain that…" That is the world's definition of greatness. When will we stop allowing the world to define what God created? God makes you great…God's approval, God's authority, God's seal, God's ownership. You are not a nobody. He didn't die for nobody. He didn't shed his lifeblood for nobody. He didn't go to the cross for a nobody. The way I saw it… You be over here. You be Jesus. Just for this illustration. Don't go home with this. Just be Jesus for three minutes. Can I show you something? It was powerful to me how I read it. Both of you come here. You be James. You stay there, Jesus. (That felt weird saying that. You know what I mean, Lord.)
Matthew recorded it like this. He said this mother (I'll be the mom; you be the boys) brought her sons to Jesus. She knelt; they stood. She said, "I need you to do something for me. My deepest desire is that these boys will be okay. In your kingdom that you've been preaching about and demonstrating that you came to establish, I need you to make sure that one gets at your right, one gets at your left". I read the text so many times before realizing that at the moment she asked for this…
She brought her boys to Jesus, and when she said, "Will you grant that my boys can stand at your right and your left?" at the moment she asked that, they were already there. Could it be that you're already there and you don't even know it? You could be chosen and not even know it. To be so focused on the future, to be so focused on there that you miss it here. When he came to preach, he preached, "The kingdom of heaven is here".
I want us to take just a moment, and every grateful person, I want you to celebrate where God already brought you from and where he already brought you to. Just to get a picture that "I'm already there. He already loves me. He already accepts me. He already chose me. He already knows me. He already called my name". Come on, that's not a big enough praise. You need to get down and humble yourself and say, "Thank you, Lord, for what you gave me, for what you made me". He's doing it right now. The kingdom is at hand. The kingdom is here. The kingdom is now. The kingdom is within you.
Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Father. If you never do anything else, you did so much for me. I believe greater things are ahead, but I thank you for where I am right now. I've already got it. It's mine right now. I'm accepted right now. I'm validated right now. Put your approval on them, God. Put your "yes" on them. Put your favor on them. Put your checed. Divine mercy be upon them in this year. Would you just lift your hands like this, like you're receiving something? God, I've searched so hard for what I already had, and I just want to stop in your presence and thank you today that you called who you wanted and you wanted me. I thank you that I'm already at the right hand where there are pleasures forevermore, fullness of joy in your presence. We know the past has its issues, and we know the future has its uncertainties, but in your presence is fullness of joy, right here, right now. I thank you that these, your children, are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, belonging to a kingdom that can never be shaken. We give you praise, for your name is great. In Jesus' name, amen.