Do you ever feel like the world is cracking and beginning to crumble? ISIS, Ebola, changing sexual morals, disintegrating families, escalating crime, drugs, suicides…. I don’t need to elaborate. The world is shaking. It’s passing away. But believers in Jesus need not fear or be depressed, for God has given us an unshakeable kingdom.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (>Heb 12.28–29 NIV)
Live for the unshakeable kingdom
This world and everything in it is going to pass away. But we are receiving a kingdom that is permanent. It will last forever. It can’t be destroyed, let alone shaken. This means that everything we do for that kingdom will last. All we invest in that kingdom is secure. It won’t devalue; no one can steal it; it’s there and it will be there when we get to heaven. Every act of kindness we do in the name of Jesus, every glass of water we give a thirsty person, every dollar we give to the church or the poor, every meal we make for a family in need, every time we babysit for a friend—safe. Permanent. Every prayer we offer, every song we sing, every time we praise Jesus, every act of obedience—stored away in the unshakeable kingdom. In light of the unshakeable kingdom, why would we live for this world? Why would we give ourselves to sin and selfishness? Why would we spend all our time pursuing things that are fading, aging, crumbling and passing away?
The author of Hebrews says that since we are receiving a permanent kingdom “let us be thankful.” How can we not be thankful that Jesus rescued us from lives of futility and gave us eternal life in his kingdom? How can we not be thankful for an unimaginable glorious future? Let’s make thankfulness one of the main habits in our lives. Yes, we should thank God for all our material blessings, but let us thank him for the incredible blessings of the kingdom—the righteousness of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, God’s love in Christ, God’s protection from evil, his strength to conquer sin… innumerable spiritual blessings.
Ask God for grace
The phrase “let us be thankful” is often translated from the Greek “let us have grace.” Hebrews 4 tells us that in our weakness when we face temptations we should boldly approach the throne of grace for “grace to help in time of need.” Jesus is waiting to give us his mighty power to overcome temptation.
Have a healthy fear
Since we are receiving an unshakeable kingdom, we should “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” This isn’t just talking about our “corporate worship” when we gather with the church to sing and celebrate, but our lives. We are to offer God holy lives. We should live “with reverence and awe” or with a healthy fear of the Lord. We don’t want to take God’s holiness and majesty for granted. We don’t want to presume that we can sin and God won’t discipline us. We don’t want to give in to sin. Remember “God is a consuming fire.” The author of Hebrews is referring to DT 4:23–24:
Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
God warned Israel, that though they were his chosen people and he would bring them into the promised land, they must be careful not to fall into idolatry, because he would punish them. God doesn’t take sin lightly. Nadab and Abihu didn’t fear God, and offered different incense than God had commanded:
Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. (LV 10:1–2)
This doesn’t say that Nadab and Abihu went to hell. It says that fire came out from the Lord and consumed them. They ruined their lives in this world by their disobedience. In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira, who it would appear were believers, lied to Peter about money and God struck them down. The result was that “great fear came upon the whole church” (v. 11). Obviously, God doesn’t always consume us when we sin. He is patient, long-suffering, and merciful. But we shouldn’t presume on that mercy. A healthy fear of the Lord will help us live holy lives that are pleasing worship to God.
We who have believed in Jesus are receiving an unshakeable kingdom. Let us be practice being thankful, let us seek his grace to overcome sin, and let us cultivate a healthy fear of God. That’s a recipe for joy!
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.