For the last few weeks, I have written about the Kingdom of God. This writing has paralleled my preaching on Sunday mornings on the Parables. The parables are simple stories with powerful invitations to a deeper life. The parables are also mainly about God and the Kingdom. The last few weeks I have focused on what Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God, in His speaking and His actions. For the next two weeks I will be focusing on how this can be lived out in a person’s life, in church community, and especially at Covenant Grove.
The Kingdom of God today
The Kingdom is God’s presence and rule in human hearts. The King has come and inaugurated a new reality. People are called to know Him, follow Him in community, and join His mission in the world. God is the King, and the mission of the Church (and each Christian) is still to join Jesus in the work of the Kingdom. I will reframe the six Kingdom points, and suggest some directions at how these can become real today:
- The Kingdom is first about the King. The King has come and inaugurated the new Kingdom reality. This is about the themes of:
- Devotion: Who is Jesus? Do I allow His presence into my life?
- Identity: Who I am in the new reality of the Kingdom?
- The Kingdom is where God’s will reigns (righteousness). This is about the themes of
- Freedom and Peace: Can I be free from the selfishness inside of me? Can I have peace with God and myself and others?
- The Kingdom is a community of faith, defined around relationship with the Father. This is about the theme of
- Community: Am I loved? Can I truly love others?
- In the Kingdom, people give generously out of God’s abundant love. This is about the themes of
- Generosity and Security: Do I see God’s abundance? Is it safe to be a generous giver with my time, resources, talents, and money?
- The community of the Kingdom joins the mission of the King. This about the theme of
- Purpose: What are my gifts? Why am I here? Am I part of something bigger?
- The Kingdom includes God’s good judgment over injustice and selfishness. This is about the themes of
- Goodness and Justice: Is God good? How will His goodness become a reality on earth? Will the world be made right?
I will not have space to unpack all of these themes, but my hope is that – with the study and writing that has been done on the Kingdom of God – that these themes can be unpacked in your life. I believe these themes – connected as they are to the Kingdom of God – are core to the human life. These themes show that what Jesus was doing in the Kingdom of God was fulfilling some of our deepest needs and longings as human beings. This is not to reduce the teachings of our Lord to subjective wish fulfillment or to minimize His mission to Israel – it is to see the real obstacles and dark areas of our lives that can be overcome with Christ. This is also an invitation to see sin not only as things we do wrong (hurtful words to others) but also the things we neglect to do that are right (indifference to the hurting of others).
Some thoughts on practically living out these themes:
The Kingdom of God is God’s presence in human hearts. How can people truly experience the Lord? First, people need to hear the message of Jesus. Christ emphasized the message of the Kingdom, and empowered His disciples to preach. People need to hear His invitation and promises, and spend time with Him. At Covenant Grove Church, we focus on God’s Word – hearing and responding to God through sermons, time in the Bible on your own, and lots of time and prayer with God. Our goal in our services is for people to experience God’s loving presence – and so we take times of reflection (“selah”) and even have prayer meetings in service. As people know God more and live out Devotion, they discover their true Identity in their Creator. Walking with God and knowing your worth to the Father helps set you free from the selfishness inside.
Second, people need to be loved and love others in a Community centered on God. In my church, we focus on Life Groups. Our goal is to help Life Groups be places where people can get closer to God and experience His Kingdom presence in life. In true community we overcome our insecurities and truly experience God’s love. We realize that we are loved and that we can love others and make a difference in their lives. This is central to what it means to be human – to love and be loved, to know and be known, to be significant and allow others to be significant to us. In community God’s love is lived out among us, and lives are changed.
Third, we experience the Lord by joining Him on His mission – we are going where He is. Our highest Purpose is to be with Him; as we follow and use our gifts we discover our significance in His larger mission. We can make a Kingdom contribution. This is evangelism, mercy, and justice. Recently we have been focusing on seeing evangelism as listening – praying constantly, and listening to the hurts of others, then praying with them. Our culture is so busy, and offering people genuine attention and time to listen is truly a gift. Followers of Jesus can give this gift, and pray with people more than giving out platitudes of advice. Prayer is powerful. If appropriate, we can then share our stories, and God’s story, and invite them to a worship service.
God’s Word, Community, Significance – Discipleship, Fellowship, Mission. These are the Roots of the Tree.
More thoughts next week as we wrap up the series on the Kingdom of God.
Please feel free to share thoughts, too!
 I am indebted to Mark Scandrette’s book for most of these categories. Practicing the Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011) 64. Also see Scandrette, Free: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2013).