Have you ever thought of the kingdom of God as the family business?
What I’m about to cover in this and next two week’s blog is the basis for my biblical worldview on why you and I exist and what it means to actually follow Jesus in real life. These two blogs are longer than normal, so you may want to get a fresh cup of coffee and let’s get to it.
In my previous worldview as a religious Christian, prior to my own spiritual re-birth some thirty years ago now, I had a Sunday school understanding of the gospel and the kingdom. Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection was all about me – getting me and others out from underneath this problem with sin, which we had with God. Once that was done, I had my promise of heaven when I die, and living with God in his kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven.
But, here’s where I missed it!
At the moment of our surrender to Jesus, when we were truly born again, our “old self” died spiritually and the Spirit of the Living God came to take up residence in us. We weren’t just forgiven – we were made brand new, infused with new – spiritual DNA, actually becoming the spiritual children of God.
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12, 13
As children of God, we were automatically adopted into the family of God! God the Father became our father, Jesus became our elder brother and every true follower of Jesus, every man, woman and child are now my spiritual family. “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:35
What I’m about to tell you may shock you, but please hang in here with me. The primary reason Jesus came to earth, died on the cross and rose again was not so you and I could go to heaven some day!
“And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Rev. 5:9-10 (emphasis mine)
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” I Peter 2:9
We are Jesus’ gift to our Father!
Salvation’s ultimate purpose is to redeem spiritually lost men and women for God to serve in his kingdom both now and forever. And Christ’s death, burial and resurrection is the amazing mechanism God chose to reserve and adopt his spiritual children into the family of God.
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” I Col. 1:13
My wife and I adopted two of our children from Korea. When we decided to adopt, we didn’t daydream about the mechanism of adoption – the cost, the months of waiting, the court hearings and finalization of our adoption. No! What we dreamt about was having these children be part of our family – them loving us and us loving them. However, it was necessary that we go through the process of adoption to make that dream possible.
So it is with salvation! Yes, it’s true as it says in I Timothy 1:15b, “Christ came into the world to save sinners.” But, that was not the primary reason! It was for God we were ultimately saved. And when we joined the family of God – we also joined this conspiracy of the faithful, sold out to God, doing the will of God for the glory and pleasure of God, first in this life and then the next!
You’ve been given a sub-kingdom.
Dallas Willard, in The Divine Conspiracy, really helped set me straight on the kingdom. He defines the kingdom this way: “The Kingdom of Heaven is the range of God’s effective will – where what he wants done, is done”.1 Even though God rules sovereign over the entire universe including our world, because of Satan and sin, there are “pockets of resistance,” or ignorance over which his rule is not yet complete, for reasons known only to God.
Not only does God have a kingdom, but he entrusts each believer with a “sub-kingdom”, or as Neal Plantinga, the former President of Calvin Seminary, calls them “little kingdoms”- smaller spheres of influence and responsibility, within God’s kingdom over which we “have our say.”2
“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21
The kingdom is in us! Therefore, the ultimate purpose for every follower of Jesus – priests and co-workers in his kingdom, is the same – to shamelessly love God and both proclaim the good news and be the good news in those remaining pockets of resistance, wherever we find them.
You have a mission from God!
In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren puts it this way, “Our time on earth, our energy, intelligence, opportunities, money and relationships are all gifts from God on loan to us. We are stewards of whatever God gives us, to be used for his glory, not ours. The first task God gave humans was to manage and take care of God’s “stuff” on earth. That role has never been rescinded – it’s part of our purpose on earth today.”3
So when Jesus instructs us to pray, “May thy kingdom come, may your will be done”, we aren’t praying for the kingdom to come into existence. It has always been and will always be! And, we’re also not merely asking God wishfully for Christ’s future kingdom to come more quickly. Rather, we are praying for God’s will to “be done on earth as it is in heaven”, in your life and my life as the redeemed of God on earth.
Do you remember babysitting when you were younger? Before the parents left they gave you authority to “rule” in their place – that is, to keep order, protect and care for their kids and make the kinds of judgments they would if they were present. In essence, they ruled through you. Now, maybe it didn’t always go all that well and it won’t always in your sub-kingdom either, but that’s the idea.
So, when we became adopted into the family of God, we automatically joined what I like to think of as, “the family business” – the kingdom of God. And, next week I’ll get right into how this incredible family business works. But, here’s my definition for these sub-kingdoms.
Sub-kingdoms are all the people and resources over which we have authority or with whom we have influence.
Here’s a sneak preview of your sub-kingdom: When you’re hanging out with your friends and your Christ-like character raises the level of conversation, Christ is ruling or influencing through you. As a child of God, when you’re kind to a really difficult person and your “Jesus like” response, changes the dynamics of that exchange, your obedience causes the kingdom or the rule of God to come. When you obey the 10 Second Rule and buy lunch for a stranger – the kingdom comes.
When you’re an advocate for a frightened person, or you help the poor – God’s grace comes – in the flesh – your flesh. When you introduce a friend to God, or to the teachings of Jesus – the kingdom comes. Darkness is in retreat whenever God’s will is done. God is redeeming the world – taking back what is his, through you and every believer who takes their sub-kingdom assignments seriously.
Well, what do you think? I’d like to hear your comments or questions, so let’s learn together!
1 Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, (New York: Harper San Francisco Publishers) Page 25
2 Plantinga, Cornelius, Engaging God’s World, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.) page 105.
3 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan) Page 44