When I say the word “kingdom,” do you know what I mean? I know. It probably sounds like church-speak, so let’s talk about it. When the gospel accounts, particularly Matthew, Mark, and Luke, talk about Jesus’ ministry, they talk in terms of the kingdom. Though it may initially seem like an unnecessary point, the fact that they speak of a kingdom means that there is in fact a king…King Jesus. It also means there are citizens of the kingdom who are called to live under the reign of the king. The question then for us is this…are we living as citizens of the kingdom or are we trying to be our own king? This is a question that much of the modern church has either ignored or gotten wrong, all with far reaching implications.
Christians are Subjects to Christ’s Kingdom
When Jesus came on the scene in Mark 1, the first “letters in red” we read point to the kingdom, and to the implications for those who would call themselves Christ followers. In Mark 1:15, after his defeat of Satan in the wilderness temptation, Jesus introduced his ministry by proclaiming the kingdom… “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” This is his proclamation of the Gospel of God, as Mark 1:14 describes it. So the news of Jesus’ kingdom IS the good news. It is good news because he is a better king, a righteous king, a loving king… he is the kind of king who shares all with his subjects. BUT, he is king none the less, and if we are to be his, we must be all his. His kingdom has no place for divided loyalties.
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us, “But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” This verse doesn’t mean that we are to try and trick Jesus by pledging allegiance to him so that we can get what we really wanted all along…goodies. No, it means that rather than seeking the kingdom of this world, we are to seek the kingdom of God. How often do we miss this? How often do we try and live with one foot in the kingdom of the world and one foot in the kingdom of God? Jesus, the good and loving king, has no place in his word for this kind of divided loyalty.
We are to build His kingdom, not ours
So what does this mean for us in Trussville? Well for starters, it means more than I’ve got time to speak to here. At the very least, however, it means that we are to focus on building His kingdom and not ours. In church planting, our focus, more than gathering personal followers, is the proclamation of the gospel and the advance of the kingdom. It means building a church the way our king has prescribed, a good summary of which is found in Acts 2:42… “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching (the ministry of the Word of God) and fellowship, to the breaking of bread (the sacraments) and the prayers.”
So the church is meant to draw people to Jesus, Jesus’ way. Yet so often, we try to draw people to man, man’s way. Outside of church planting though, building His kingdom, instead of ours, means living for his glory and not for our own pleasure. As we already said in part 1 of this discussion (see A Kingdom Conversation part 1), a big part of living for his glory means that we are to love our neighbor. But how do we do that?
We are to engage the community with a kingdom mindset
We begin by engaging the community around us with a loving, Christ-centered, kingdom mindset. The Word of God is clear on two truths, which at first glance seem to be polar opposites. The first is this: the kingdom of this world stands in opposition to the kingdom of God, which means that if we are Christ followers, this is not our home. If we are Christ followers, then we are in fact citizens of Christ’s kingdom and are exiles in a foreign land.
The second truth, however, is this: our king did not abandon the kingdom of the world but rather engaged it. Far too often those who profess the name of Christ will move to one of two extremes, both of which seem to me to be missing the story of God’s redemptive work in creation. At one false extreme Christians will try to live with divided loyalties, embracing the world with one foot in each kingdom. On the other hand, they will build a wall around themselves and retreat from the outside world. Jesus, however, knowing who he was, and whose he was, ate with the sinners and the tax collectors. He did this because he loved them and wanted to both proclaim andshow the gospel of grace. He didn’t capitulate, but he did engage.
This truth that Jesus embodied is consistent with the truth that God commanded to his Old Testament exiles. In Jeremiah 29:4-7, he told the people of Israel who had been sent into exile the following:
4 "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
The Lord here seems to be affirming the distinctiveness of his people, while calling them to be involved in the life of their community, seeking God’s blessing, and transformation within that community. To do so, like Jesus, we must know who we are (children of the king) and whose we are (the king’s).
For Christ followers in Trussville, whether at Christ Church or not, we must ask ourselves kingdom-minded questions…questions like:
Are we living in subjection to Christ our King in a way that glorifies him and builds up his kingdom?
Are we engaging the community around us in a way that is true to our rightful king, while also being winsome and engaging with those who do not yet know him as king?
We must ask ourselves these questions, because the community is asking them of us.