Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Living in the Kingdom of God

Living in the Kingdom of God

What is the kingdom of God, and what does it mean to live in God’s Kingdom? Does it just entail a few moral adjustments or adding a few religious observances to a normal western lifestyle? If there are two kingdoms and only two kingdoms, then should those kingdoms be observably different in almost every way? If one kingdom is a kingdom of divine light, and the other kingdom is one of utter darkness, then shouldn’t the kingdom of light be remarkable within a culture of darkness?

The kingdom of God is only inhabited by those sinners who have been born again by faith in the Lord Jesus, and based upon that act of faith they have been adopted as the sons of God. They are part of God’s family. Now citizenship in that kingdom comes with countless benefits as well as clearly communicated patterns of behavior both in the heart and in one’s life. These patterns are particular to a disciple of Jesus Christ, and although they are not grievous, they are completely counter to all that the kingdom of darkness believes and expresses.

Living in the kingdom of God is freedom unknown to the world at large. This freedom is far beyond any earthly freedom. This kind of freedom sets the soul soaring and even when imprisoned here on earth it still flies with the freedom of a soaring eagle. Paul can be shackled and beaten and yet he still can sing praise to God with the passion and freedom as if he was in the very throne room of God. How? Well Paul’s life was not bound to the dictates of this world. In fact his life was in Christ with God and his earthly body was a living sacrifice.

The kingdom of God comes with all sorts of paradoxical mores. In the kingdom of darkness the first is first, the living have life, self promotion is an art, and money is a goal. In God’s kingdom the first are last, dying to self is life, humility is divine, and the material things of this world are necessary but never sought. In the world’s kingdom they list the richest people in the world so they can be admired. In God’s kingdom the sore ridden beggar winds up with God and the rich man winds up in hell.

The differences between these two kingdoms could not be anymore pronounced. But somewhere along the line the church has slowly but surely adopted and adapted to the dictates of the kingdom of darkness and the culture that emanates from such a kingdom. So deep has been the compromise that there is little if any observable distinction between the people in the pews and the people in the pubs. It is sad and tragic, and the entire spectacle has left this western culture with little hope and precious little expressions of Jesus which might provide a redemptive light to a dark and hell bound kingdom.

When we are ushered into the kingdom of light, we are given the mind of Christ. This means that we think altogether differently than we did before, and our perspective is now eternal and not temporal. It should be an astonishing transformation that arrests the minds of those who knew us before Christ. Old things have passed and all things are becoming new. No longer are we tied to the reality that is offered by the world. Now our realities are unalterably tied to Christ and His kingdom truths. We have surrendered our earthly citizenship and we have become sojourners in this present world. Is that what we see today?

I would suggest that the ways in which the church has compromised are so deep and so varied that we are almost incapable of seeing our situation anywhere near an honest and truthful assessment. Our statements of faith and our doctrinal convictions are trotted out as meager expressions of the Risen Christ. But in life we borrow like the world, we love those who love us, we spend inordinate amounts of money on entertainment, we overeat with regularity, and we waste time with all kinds of things from television to Facebook to phone conversations and other social activities. While we profess citizenship in God’s kingdom we live like those in the kingdom of darkness.

I believe the only remedy is a radical and painful awakening to our state and a passionate pursuit to have our hearts and lives come into alignment with God’s Word and the direction of God’s Spirit. This is not a time for some minor adjustments, or for buying a new devotional book. This is a time for a lonely walk down a path that once again leads to the cross. This is a path of self denial wrapped in the glory of His presence. This is a time to forsake the things of this world and surrender to loving and serving our Wonderful Master. Oh how we have redefined what it means to be a believer until it has become convenient, comfortable, and very friendly with the things that allure those who do not believe. In essence, we live as we desire without any serious thought to what Christ has said and we call it “discipleship”. That is spiritual treason.

The kingdom of God is an invisible kingdom which adds citizens through the regeneration power of God’s Spirit. The only way God's kingdom is visible is through us. Once a living soul has been translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s Dear Son, that living soul must be transformed in every area of thought, word, and deed. But we have so often compared ourselves with ourselves and in so doing we have instituted a diluted and anemic form of Christianity. We love to say that one day the world might come to either imprison or kill us, but why would they do that? Our lives are nicely settled into this culture and even some of the political leaders confess Christ, so why would they come for us?

Of course the uncomfortable question is why haven’t they come for us yet? Religious freedom and a pluralistic society have quietly but effectively minimized our expressions of Christ and mostly confined them to a Sunday morning pulpit. In fact, thousands of pulpits no longer even mention Christ or they preach another Christ. The local church operates as a business and continues a redundant oblation that has created an unbroken chain of Sunday mornings that are as interchangeable as socks. We come, we go. We come, we go. We come, we go and all things remain the same since the father’s slept. And like Samson, we don’t even know that our power is gone…nor do we care.

Instead of following the Lord Jesus we follow the issue of the day dictated by the world. When the kingdom of darkness intends to pass a law, the church reacts. When the kingdom of darkness embraces sin, the church reacts. When the kingdom of darkness goes to war, the church joins in. When the kingdom of darkness hates its enemies, so does the church. When the kingdom of darkness seeks to spread its gospel via the voting booth, so does the church. And while living in a pluralistic nation that worships idols, murders its unborn, embraces all kinds of sin, and unashamedly suggests that it is the greatest nation on earth, the church places its hand over its heart and pledges allegiance to this nation.

And the contradiction is striking. No one can serve two kingdoms and no one can serve two masters. To offer your partial allegiance to another kingdom is to wholly deny your allegiance to the kingdom of God. And when you pledge allegiance to a nation and its culture, you inevitable begin to live within the framework of that allegiance. And the fallen culture begins to surreptitiously invade your thinking, and ultimately your life loses its salt and light. And Christianity becomes “one of many” religions instead of a walk of extravagant humility, love, and an observable expression of self denial and moderation.

But any radical departure must be a radical process. May I suggest a starting place? Begin by laying all your allegiances and alliances before the Lord with no preconceived ideas. Ask the Spirit to reveal which ones are hindering your spiritual growth and also which ones are unbiblical. And covenant with God to surrender fully to His will concerning any and all of them. Perhaps the Spirit may direct you in ways that may be painful, but with that pain will come the glory of the balm that soothes a heart surrendered to Him.

We are a citizens of the kingdom of God. It’s time everyone around us recognized that in dramatic ways.


Steve said...

Amen to your post, brother Rick. I'm convinced every ill of the Church and of Christians' thinking stems from our failure to understand and live "the Kingdom of God," which Jesus expressly told us to seek FIRST.

Blessings, Steve

Steve Lumbley said...

Hey Rick,

I don't know if you saw this headline before you posted this article but I think it pretty much verifies what you are saying

Jonathan Falwell: Culture Is Redefining What's Right, Wrong

Rick Frueh said...

Yes, Steve, it does present an example of reactionary Christianity. The gay marriage issue is an especially delicious straw man and provides a self serving boldness by excoriating a fallen culture as if they are only now straying.

As a corpse deteriorates, are we to stand up and rebuke the corpse and feel a sense of boldness? The culture war is a war of moral works and completely misrepresents the gospel message.

What if Jesus, reigning in heaven before His incarnation, rebuked the world's culture? Paul tells us that Christ did not hold tight to His pre-incarnation position but humbled himself and became obedient to the death of the cross. And for whom did He do that? For sinners. Will we do the same or will our moral outrage satisfy our need for Bibical self praise and render the gospel subservient to the this and the next moral and political issue?

Anyone one can get up and proclaim that the Earth is round and get applause. We all know that even the male/female physiology and the reproductive process reveals God's will on the subject. But to pontificate about a corpse when that corpse needs life is pure self righteousness.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rick
You can at least post a picture of yourself. We want to see who we are looking at when we read your opinion. Is that so hard? And by the way, I like what you say.