For the last few weeks I have been writing about the Kingdom of God – the main message of Jesus. Unfortunately, many Christians have not taken the time to understand what Jesus meant by “Kingdom of God”. I have shared how the Kingdom is where God is present and His will reigns. It is about people living in a new relationship with God and filled with His hope and power. The Kingdom is lived out in community – a family of God’s children who are committed to living out His will (not their own), caring for each other, and joining God’s mission in the world.
Today, I want to focus on the abundant life of the Kingdom. If God has given us abundance, as His loved children, then we can give generously and serve devotedly. The Kingdom means we overcome the lie there is not enough money or time in our lives.
In the Kingdom, people give generously and serve devotedly out of God’s abundant love.
The Kingdom is a gift; it needs to be accepted, and it leads to generosity. Jesus taught that the gift of the Kingdom is worth more than anything else (Mt.13:44). Once a person has experienced the new life of the Kingdom, and the new relationship with the Father, they can let go of everything they own – in joy (Mt.13:45). But it is hard, Jesus taught, for the rich to enter the Kingdom (Mt.19:23f; Mk.10:23f; Lk.18:25f).
The children of the Kingdom are born of the Spirit (Jn.3:3) and have a new relationship with the Father through the Son. Jesus taught that the Father has been pleased to give the disciples the Kingdom – so they could live WITHOUT FEAR, even selling possessions and giving to the poor (Lk.12:32-33). The Kingdom of God is an invitation to a life of abundance and security. We can live out giving and serving because we are the loved children of God. The blessings and abundance of the Father lead to generosity and fearlessness. Out of His abundance, Kingdom disciples are called and expected to give their time and serve – even the least and lowliest (Mt.25:34).
The disciples of Jesus were expected to follow Him and serve Him. They were also empowered to experience and preach the Kingdom (Lk.10:9-11). This means that those who follow Jesus have to rearrange their TIME to put Jesus first. He has given His followers the message of the Kingdom – if we do not live it out and speak it out, it will not spread to every human heart.
Jesus gave His disciples authority and sent them to proclaim the Kingdom, heal the sick, and cast out demons (Mt.10:1-7; cf.Mk.6:7; Lk.9:1-2). Jesus expected His disciples to be able to teach His message (Mt.5:19; see 13:51-52), to extend His Kingdom, and even be willing to suffer with Him. Those who are close to Jesus have His power, and join in His fight against the dark powers of this world. He conferred on them the Kingdom, including the authority to judge (Lk 22:29-30; cf.Mk.11:10). He gave them the “keys of the Kingdom” – the authority to judge sin and pronounce to others the forgiveness of God (Mt.16:19). This does not mean the disciples were expected to be without sin. Rather, out of their own experience of forgiveness (the presence of the King) they would be willing to forgive others (extending and living out the Kingdom) (Mt.18:21-22, 33).
Forgiveness and mercy are central to the Kingdom of God. Jesus denounced the scribes and Pharisees because they had forgotten mercy and had shut the Kingdom against people (Mt.23:13), and so the Kingdom would be taken away from their leadership (Mt.21:43).
The Kingdom begins with the King – as people experience Him and His abundance, they are invited to respond with joy and give generously, including in mercy and forgiveness.
- What would it mean for you to accept the invitation into the SECURITY of the Kingdom – and live generously?
- What would it mean for you to live at the RHYTHM of joy that Jesus showed us – and give your life to His eternal mission?
We have abundance from Him; we don’t have to hoard money, possessions, or time. We can follow Jesus and give generously and serve devotedly.
 One of Jesus’ favorite Kingdom sayings was “the last will be first and the first will be last” (see e.g. Lk.13:29-30).
 Peter is a great example. He is able to hold the keys of the Kingdom and give forgiveness because he has made so many mistakes, including denying Jesus. This is the perfect person to hold the keys and hold with authority the message of forgiveness found in Christ and central to the Kingdom.
 Jesus enacted a forgiveness without the Temple (and thus had a very different take on the holiness code; in the Kingdom, holiness is stronger than impurity). NT Wright, Jesus, 160, 257. A major theme in Jesus’ ministry, says Wright, is the return of YHWH to Zion (p.634, citing the Parable of the talents). But He did not return to the Temple – but in Jesus and His followers (p.426).