Tony Evans - God's Unshakable Kingdom
Well first of all, I want to say hello to my Gateway Church extended family. I am so grateful for Gateway and what it means to the kingdom of God, what it means to the membership of this great church, and to all of the multitude of people that you serve throughout this nation and beyond, and leaders, but on a very personal level, I want to thank you for the way you have loved me and my family, the way Pastor Robert and sister Debbie Morris have walked with us as a family, through our ups and downs.
As you know, 2020 was quite the year for us in terms of losses on behalf of my late wife, Lois, thank you so much for the way way you loved her and loved me and loved us during our time. And so I could not begin to go further without letting you know how appreciated and how much loved and valued you are for all that you've meant to us and our ministry and beyond. So God continue to bless you. Thank you also for allowing me to be part of this special week of ministry that you're starting the year off with and to allow me the privilege to be a part of it. All of us knows what it's like to be awakened suddenly out of our sleep, by an alarm clock of some sort going off. There has been a disturbance that moves from our unconscious state to a conscious state of reality. It means it's time to get up. We no longer are going to be allowed by the noise of the clock or the radio to sleep and slumber. It is to shake us from one reality, the reality of sleeping in a subconscious state, to a new reality of getting up, getting going and beginning our day.
Well, there is another kind of alarm clock. It's God's alarm clock. It is designed to wake God's people up from our sleep and our spiritual slumber in order that we might get busy on a new reality of what we have got to be about in light of all we are facing. I know that 2020 will be a year you will never forget, a year of pain and pandemic. In fact, a year of pandemic on top of pandemic. Medical pandemic, racial pandemic, political pandemic, policing community pandemic, economic pandemic, judicial pandemic. It's been one thing on top of another. I'd like to submit to you that what you have seen happen is not by chance. It is very intentional from God's point of view. If all you see is what you see, then you do not see all there is to be seen.
The author of Hebrews writes Christians who are struggling. They're going through a difficult time and they're trying to figure out what in the world is going on. We have our faith, but look at our circumstances. In fact, some were even questioning whether it was worth going on at all in light of the topsy-turvy nature of the world in which they lived. But that's when the author of Hebrews sounds an alarm. He wants them to wake up and not limit themselves to the reality of their circumstances. Certainly they cannot deny, nor can we, the reality of the world and situation we find ourselves in, but neither should we let that reality by our physical eyes cloud what God is up to when we use spiritual eyes.
He says in chapter 12 verse 25, "See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns us from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, 'Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.' This expression, 'Yet once more,' denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain". He says there is a whole lot of shaking going on.
The concept of being shook, shaken means that there is a disruption to the natural order of things. We're going along in our lives and everything seems smooth and we're not, you know, we have a little nick here and a nick there, but when your world is turned upside down, whether it's your personal world, or like us, our family situation, or whether it's the cultural calamity or the church's having to re-figure things out. I think you would agree with me that this is a disturbance like none other. Whenever God was ready to do something new, he would regularly cause consternation. He would shake things up.
When he wanted to do something new at the Red Sea, he put Israel between a rock and a hard place. He put them in a catch 22. He stuck them out on a limb. Pharaoh one side, the sea on the other side, and they were trapped in a problematic situation. That's 'cause he wanted to do something new. When Abraham offered up Isaac, that was a contradiction of epic proportions. He tells him, kill his son, but murder is against God. He tells him to sacrifice him because he wanted to do something new. Martha and Mary, he delays, Jesus does, in going to the tomb, He lets him die even though he said he wasn't going to die. Why would he say something and let the opposite occur? Because he allows shaking disturbance when he's ready to do something new.
When God shakes things up, it is an uncomfortable reality that we are in. When God shakes things up, you're not laughing anymore, you're probably crying. You're not at calm, you're in disturbance. It is what I call a divine disruption. When he shakes things up because he's up to something else. Most of us have experienced some time in our lifetime throwing up, regurgitating. That's an unpleasant situation. I'm sure you will agree. It's kind of nasty to throw up your food, but I bet you would probably say it's sure feels a lot better after I've done it. When the disturbance hits your belly, causing a regurgitation of that which does not belong. While it's a bad situation, it becomes a beneficial circumstance. When God shakes things, it's because he's up to something. When we get wrapped into glories, it's going to be a lot of shaking going on in the world.
Who knows, this could be it, but if not, then he has a purpose in time and space for you and for me, as he had for the Christians to whom he is writing. We're finding individuals being shaken, families being shaken, churches being shaken, nations being shaken. In fact, we got a shook up world. So, when God disturbs the natural order of things, creating conflict, contradiction, or allowing it, guess what the author of Hebrew says? He says, do not refuse him who is speaking. He says, God, verse 25, is talking. Okay? Here it is. Some people say, I wish I could hear God talk. Oh yeah, you can. Certainly, he talks in his Word, but he screams in circumstances. Especially when he rocks your world, shakes your reality. He's talking.
I remember growing up in Baltimore, Maryland on Fulton Avenue, where my grandfather and grandmother lived. We would periodically go over to their home on weekends and spend the weekend. And that was fun for me. I got away from mom and dad for a weekend, which meant that I could watch cartoons undisturbed. So Saturday mornings I would get up and watch my cartoons. I'd watch my Mighty Mouse and you know, the Road Runner kind of cartoons. I mean, I was in heaven growing up at my grandmother's house, but every now and again, every now and then, there would be a thunderstorm. The heavens would be roaring. Lightning would be striking. And you're talking about messing up a mood. My grandmother would say, Turn the TV off. Say what? I'm watching my cartoons. Turn the TV off. Grandma, why do I have to turn the TV off? And her answer was always the same, cause God is talking.
When there was a disruption up there that caused a frustration down here with my cartoons, I had to shut things down because in Grandmother's language, God had something to say. Most of us check with the weatherman or weather lady. And we check with them because we want them to tell us what's going on meteorologically speaking. And don't let there be a storm coming, a hurricane coming, or a tornado coming cause then we don't check with them, we live with them. I mean, we give them special attention when the normal is being interrupted by the abnormal and we pay close attention to what in the world they have to say.
Well, when God rocks your world, he's talking and he says, I've got something to say, that's why I've created or allowed inconvenience. And at the heart of what he has to say, he makes it clear. Yet once more verse 27 denotes, it says, here's what I'm saying, "removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain". He says, I'm disconnecting something. I am shaking something, to remove something, to reveal something. He says, the reason I allow disturbance in your life and in this world is because the spiritual has been so demoted, and the physical has become so promoted that things are out of whack. So what I'm doing is I'm shaking stuff up so that that which can be shaken may be removed, and that which cannot be shaken may remain. I'm separating something. I'm dividing something. And in order to get your undivided attention, I am creating a disturbance.
So here it is. When God rocks your world on whatever kingdom level he rocks it, when he rocks the world as he has been doing lately, it is because he's after a separation. He's after a reorganization. This phrase is taken from Haggai chapter 2 where the people had gotten things mixed up. They had stopped building God's house and started building their house. When you read those chapters of that brief prophetic book, he says, No, y'all got stuff wrong. Y'all ain't got money in the right place. Wrong place. Ya'll got yourselves in the wrong place. Y'all have messed up here. So I'm going to shake things up so that you get things in their proper perspective. God is disrupting things because Christians have become too secular.
We're complaining about the world when the problem is not the White House, the problem is the failure of the church house. He's shaking things up because we love Sunday morning and he's forgotten all week long. He's shaking things up because we have compromised too much, allowing the unrighteous to take over the evil systems of this world and the evil systems of our families and the evil systems of our hearts and of our lives. And he says, Oh no, you don't. Oh no, oh no. We going to disturb this thing up in here. And he shakes it up, but while it's a bad feeling and bad circumstance, there is a divinely ordained purpose to the shaking. When there is an earthquake, things that can be shaken, shake, but where people live in earthquake territory, they build things in such a way that even if there isn't an earthquake, while it may move, it's not dislodged.
If there is an earthquake on earth and you're in an airplane, because of where you are, what happens where they are is not the same because you're operating from a difference sphere. When God rocks our world, it's he feels he's been too displaced, too removed, too dumbed down. He's not only been kicked out of the culture, he's been kicked out of the church, while we still sing songs, pray prayers, and read Bibles. Because he is not the definition of all of life, he's just the spare tire for when life goes flat. When a woman is pregnant and in labor, that means she's in pain, she's hurting, she's struggling. She's in excruciating anguish, but the only reason she's hurting is because something new is trying to separate.
See after nine months, the baby is saying, I've been here too long. It's time for me to break away to a new reality. But mama, in order for me to break away for a new reality, I got to create some disturbance. I got to create a situation here because I'm trying to break out to a new reality. When God is ready to take you to the next level, when God is ready to take my ministry, my church, your church, when he's ready to take the ministry of this great ministry to the next level or our national ministry, the Urban Alternative to the next level, he's going to create some disturbance. He's going to make us uncomfortable where we are, because he's trying to do a delivery.
You know, in the old western days, when they were trying to get the gold, you saw them shaking. Why? To get rid of the sand and debris, so the gold could be revealed. Even today, you have shaking tables that vibrate, so that the shaking reveals the reality of what is important, the gold, what is precious, and not the ancillary things. That's why the Bible says count it all joy. In James 1, when you come into various kinds of trials. He's not saying be happy about the pain, he's saying be joyful about the purpose because the purpose is always to reveal something new. The Bible calls it from glory to glory, the next level.
Do you remember whenever you went from one grade to another grade in school, you had to take a test? Yeah, most of us weren't excited about taking the test, but it was a necessary part of the transition to the next grade level. He says, I'm talking. What I'm trying to do is I'm trying to change the order of things because you've gotten too earth-bound. You've gotten too tied to your money, so let me, let me create some disturbance. You've gotten too tied to your success, let me create some disturbance. You've gotten too tied to your politics, let me create some disturbance. To tied to your racial identity, let me create some disturbance. I'm going to shake this mama up, and I'm going to shake it up because I've not been situated. We would not have the problems that we have in our culture today at the level that we had it if the church had been the church. But because the church was trying too hard to be culturally acceptable, because the truth of God has been dumbed down to satisfy acceptance in the culture, we've seen all of our systems taken over by those things that are anti-God.
Now we're praying like we didn't pray before, huh? Crying out like we didn't cry out before. Listening like we didn't listen before. Why? Because God is shaking things up because he's doing something new. He says, don't ignore my voice. Don't just think stuff happens. Don't just think, Oh, this is just a bad year, a bad day, a bad week, a bad month. No, I'm trying to shake you up. So don't ignore me. You know, the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7, It's better to go to a funeral than a party. You know why it says it? Solomon says, the reason why it's better to go to a funeral than a party is because the funeral is going to tell you the truth, the party going to lie to you.
Now the party is fun. There's no pain in the party, but you ain't gonna get the truth at the party. At the funeral, you're going to look at life differently. You're gonna look at life more seriously. You're gonna be visiting your own mortality in a funeral. So he says, a funeral is better than a party because now eternity is going to become more important than time. The problem is, after the funeral is over, give it enough time, and it's easy to ignore the message. So God has to shake us up again. So what God is doing, he's shaking things up. He's shaking things up. He shook it up in 9/11. He's shook it up economically in 2008. He's shaking it up now with multiple pandemics because he decided to shake up a whole nation and simultaneously a whole world, which means you shook up too because now you got to worry about the mask. Is the mask on? Are they wearing a mask? They're getting too close. See everybody tore up from the floor up because he is speaking. He says, don't ignore my voice.
I remember one time I had a speaking engagement in Fort Worth. 30 minute drive from Dallas and they faxed over the directions. I always would rather fax because I'm not a GPS system person yet, okay? I'm old school. So they fax it over and I just put it there on my dashboard to follow the directions to the church in Fort Worth. So I read the directions and pulled over, pulled down on the highway, got to the exit that the paper said, then I got off on the exit, turned left. I was driving and driving and driving. No church. I was now in the country. If there was a church out here, Dr. Doolittle was the pastor because there was nothing out here but animals. So obviously something's not right here.
I turn around, go back the other way, get to a 7-11. I figured a 7-11 knows where to tell me to go. Walked in there, he said, Oh, just go down to the next light turn left, you'll be there. I go to the next light, turn left, I am now in a residential neighborhood. If there's a church up in here, it's a house church. Because there's nothing here but houses. I'm lost again. Now it's seven o'clock, I'm supposed to be up speaking at seven o'clock. I come back to the main street. Come to the light. A guy pulls up next to me. I asked him to wind down his window. I asked him where the church is. He don't know, so I'm stuck. I decide to pick up the paper again.
When I paid close attention, it said, when you get off the exit, turn right. See, when I got off the exit, I leaned to my own understanding. I turned left and I got lost listening to people. It wasn't that I didn't talk to people. It wasn't that I wasn't trying to find the right way. It's just that I didn't start with listening to the instruction that I'd received from the pastor who ought to have known where his church was located. When I went in that direction from the ramp, I was at the church in three minutes. See, I lost a lot of time because I refused the voice that knew what it was talking about by doing my own thing and listening to other folk who meant well, who were leading me astray. Look, this is not a time for human understanding because as we've all seen, human understanding is limited.
So what are we to do since God is screaming and he's trying to get Christians in particular, since the book of Hebrews was written to Christians who are struggling like we are today, where our lives have been disrupted, our churches can't meet, but people are fearful of this problem, this disease, this disruption. He says in verse 28, "Therefore". Now whenever you see in the Bible, "therefore", what is it there for? He's telling you in light of what I just said, in light of the fact that God is talking. "Since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken". Oh, Oh, I love this. 'Cause you know, if you follow our ministry, it's about the kingdom agenda, the visible demonstration of the comprehensive rule of God over every area of life. God called you to be a kingdom man and kingdom woman. He called you to build a kingdom family, to raise kingdom kids. He wants you to be part of a kingdom church and then expects you to make a Kingdom impact because all of this is about his kingdom.
That is the only subject of the Bible, the glory of God through the advancement of his kingdom. He says, the reason why I'm shaking things up is because I want you to experience the unshakable kingdom. The kingdom that's not disturbed by the circumstances that you're in the middle of. The circumstances are real. The Red Sea is real. Lazarus' death is real. All that's real. So don't deny it. And yes, wipe your eyes because of the tears that you're crying during your circumstance. But if you will listen to me, you will see you're part of a rule (kingdom is rule) that cannot be shaken. You remember Rahab? Joshua at the battle of Jericho? Because of her confidence in God, the spies said, bring all your family into the house and when we shake this place up, you and your family will not be shaken. We're going to let your house stand. And I know we know that the Walls of Jericho fell down, but not all of them. There was one piece of the wall left up because the Bible says Rahab's house was built into the wall.
So all of Jericho fell down except that one spot where her house was attached to the wall. In other words, she didn't get shook up, although everything around her got shaken up. He says, I want you to experience me in the midst of the world that's shaking your very existence. He says, "Since we have received a kingdom," You belong to something that is not subject to ruling your life because kingdom is rule. You may be affected by it, but you are never to be ruled because of it. Because you can't be shaken. If you're a Christian, you can't be shaken because you know your eternal destiny, but even in history, you can be stable. You can count it joy.
So you say, well, how do I do that? How do I do that? Well, your week, your time together is to focus on God, is to prioritize him. So what does he say? Let us show gratitude. Oh, there it is. Thanksgiving is the order of the day. Lord, I want to let you know, I thank you. But wait a minute, what am I giving thanks for? The Bible says in everything, give thanks. Let's get that straight. Not for everything, in everything. You don't give thanks that you're sick. You don't give thanks that the world is in calamity. No, you give thanks that in the middle of all of this, in the midst of it, that you are secure in him. His rule over your life, his covering over your life, you're giving thanks for his unshakeable presence in a shaking situation. He says, And then I want you to mix gratitude with ministry. "By which we may offer to God an acceptable service". Mix gratitude with ministry.
Remember when Jesus fed the 5,000? He fed 5,000 men, not counting women and children. 15 to 20,000 people with some sardines and crackers. Yeah, he did. He didn't have enough. That's a crisis situation because the disciples said, Where are we going to eat? How are we going to feed everyone? Ain't enough McDonald's nowhere to solve this problem. The Bible says he took the fish and the barley loaves and it says, he gave thanks. You know what he gave thanks for? Not enough. It was not enough. And he gave thanks for not enough. And when lo and behold, they opened up their eyes and Moby Dick is laying on the beach. Orca the killer whale is laying on the beach and everybody's got something to eat. Why? Because he gave thanks. But then what did he do? He distributes it, used his disciples to minister.
Oh, let your ministry quotient go up. Who are you serving in the middle of the pandemic? Who are you helping in the middle of the crisis? It can't be just about me, myself, and I. It's gotta be God, I am going to be a conduit, not a cul-de-sac. I'm going to find out how, in my pain I can be a blessing. I'm going to give somebody else the comfort that I need you to give me, because when I give it to somebody else, then you'll see, I'm not a container and you will let it flow to me. Luke 6:38. I remember the movie, The Hanging Tree, Gary Cooper. That's one of them old school movies. He's a doctor There's a young man who's shot. Gary Cooper, the doctor, saves his life from a bullet wound. The man gives thanks. Thanks, Doc. You saved my life. What can I do for you? Gary Cooper says, well, I'll tell you what, why don't you become my assistant so you can help me save the life of others, just like I saved your life when your world was shaking.
If you want God to shake your world, why don't you help somebody else's world who's being shaken, who may not know what you know, understand what you understand, may not even be a believer. The Church is now... Do you know what God has done? He's opened up a wide door for the church, 'cause nobody knows what to do. We're not the ones to be shaken, we're the ones to hold the ground. We're the ones to keep our posture, to keep our word going, our worship going. Yes, to be wise, to be safe, but yet not to throw in the towel. Why do we do this, he concludes? With reverence and awe at worship, exaltation of God because our God, he says, is a consuming fire. Our God is a consuming fire. Now the book of Hebrews goes into the Old Testament sacrificial system quite a bit. It goes into the sacrificial system to tell them we are no longer under that system because Christ is the fulfillment of that system.
So he says, back then they offered sacrifices on the altar. So what did they do? They would put the sacrifice on the altar and let the fire consume it, eat it up. That's bad news. It's certainly bad news for the animal, but the reason the animal was there is because it's bad news for the people, because it was a sacrifice, temporarily, the layaway plan for the sins of the people. So it was a sin sacrifice because God is a God of judgment and wrath and justice, so if something didn't get substitute, the people were in trouble. But at the same time, it was bad news, it was good news because when it was consumed, offered on the altar, the Day of Atonement, the blood on the doorposts, you know, all of that consumption freed God up to not deliver wrath, but deliver mercy. So it was bad news that led the good news because it consumed in order for God to bring good. That's what Jesus did on the cross. He was consumed so you and I could have eternal life, starting now.
So our God is a consuming fire. So when he sees stuff all the out of whack, he disturbed stuff, but he disturbs it because he's after producing something new. You know, when Sister Evans was here with me and it was time for me to come to church, she would check my shirts to see if they were wrinkled, and if the shirt was wrinkled, she would go in and take out the ironing board and she'd take out a hot iron, plug it in and let it get hot. Steaming hot. She'd take the hot iron and rub it on the shirt. If the shirt could talk, it would go, ah! Oh! It's hot up in here. You're burning me! She would put heat on the shirt, not because you wanted to be mean, but she knew that there were some things out of whack. It was wrinkled. So she had to iron the wrinkles out, and she ironed the wrinkles out for one purpose, I had to wear it, and she wanted me to look good wearing the shirt. But in order for me to look good, she had to disturb the shirt. Because she wanted me to look good in it.
God wants to wear you, and he wants to wear me. He wants to wear my church, your church, my ministry, this ministry. He wants to wear us, but in order to do it, he's got to get some wrinkles out because he wants to look good on us. He doesn't want the wrinkles of the culture, wrinkles of secularization, wrinkles of racism, wrinkles of unrighteousness. He doesn't want the wrinkles of classism, culturalism, inequities, and all the other ism's, idolatry that have affected us. He wants the ironing on, and sometimes he'a going to let it get hot, but that's only 'cause he wants to look good when he puts you on. So give thanks. Worship him. Serve him as you look forward to a year with him, that will bring him glory and others good, for he is worthy of your commitment and mine. Let us pray.
Father, I thank you so much for the Gateway Church family. Thank you for the small piece you've allowed me to play in this week. I speak to myself even as I speak to them. Thank you, in the midst of my tears and pain and loss. Thank you, in the midst of the needs of this congregation. Thank you. Thank you that we are on stable ground, even though we're in traumatic times. Use us to minister to others. In Jesus' name, amen.