Lead anxious world to security of God's kingdom, Thomas says

ST. LOUIS (BP)--The shocking events of Sept. 11 thrust America into a new age of insecurity and anxiety that needs passionate Christians to lead people to the joy, security and hope found only in the kingdom of God, Claude Thomas told messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 11.

"We are constantly being reminded about what has happened and we are being warned about what could happen," he said. "An uncertainty and a vulnerability has swept across our nation. We have learned that kingdoms do rise and kingdoms do fall.

"But there is one kingdom that is reliable, invincible, eternal and will never, ever fail ... the kingdom of God and his Christ."

Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas, directed the congregation's attention to Luke 14:15-24, which tells the story of a master who sent his servants out to bring people to a feast when the invited guests decided not to attend. When the servants' first trip failed to fill the banquet table, the master sent them back out with instructions to persuade everyone they found to come back with them.

Like the servants in the parable, Christians have been sent by their master to invite people to come out of a world of anxiety into a kingdom of peace, Thomas said.

"We have an invitation to what people need and want most in life," he said. "They want love. They want forgiveness. They want peace. They want joy. They want security. They want contentment. They want hope.

"You don't find those things in the kingdoms of man. You find those in the kingdom of God."

If Christians have experienced the joys of God's kingdom, they ought to tell others who are searching for those joys, Thomas said.

"If we have been to the table, and the platter of God's love has been served and we have eaten from the plate of forgiveness and drawn from the pitcher of his joy, ... does it not stand to reason that we have found something that we need to tell others about?"

Thomas noted that the master in Jesus' story sent out three invitations, each one more passionate than the one before, and the servants reflected their master's passion. He said a kingdom Christian likewise shares the passion of God's heart.

He recalled an article he read in the June issue of The Commission, the magazine of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, which told the story of a Christian in China -- "Luke" -- who was trying to take the gospel to an unresponsive village. Though the village leader turned him away repeatedly, even having him beaten, the Christian kept praying and coming back. Eventually he led the whole family to faith in Jesus.

"What was it that drove Luke to go back to that house?" Thomas asked. "It wasn't a prospect card that somebody placed in his hand. It wasn't because of a program being promoted by the pastor in the church. It was because of what God had placed in his heart.

"We need that same kind of passion in our hearts. I want to be like that, don't you? ... I want to have the fire of God in my heart."

Christians whose hearts aren't blazing with God's fire must seek him until his passion for the lot fills their hearts, Thomas said.

"We need to get on our knees and stay on our knees until God sets our hearts on fire.

"There is a day coming when we are going to see the kingdom of God right here on this earth," he said. "And until that day comes, you and I must leave here with the kingdom on our hearts and a passion to tell every person, 'Come to the table. There's a feast and a bounty. Come to the table.'"


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