For many, when they first begin hearing intentional teaching about the Kingdom of God, there can arise an unsettling in their hearts. Because most Western Christians have been indoctrinated with a less-than-Kingdom version of Christianity, the concept of a literal Kingdom of God, currently invisible but fully visible in the future, can seem foreign and awkward to them. Suddenly their Christianity is no longer centrally about obeying a list of church-rules, learning an orthodox set of theological truths, behaving morally as good Christian examples, or ritually attending worship services in a building once or twice a week. When the reality of the Kingdom is presented, there comes this growing awareness that God has called us to a full and complete surrender of our entire selves unto His rule. We begin to grasp that we are being called to renounce all of the various lesser kingdoms that cry out for our loyalties. Our allegiance is required to shift. Our values must be transformed. This is unsettling for many Western Christians who, upon hearing of the all-encompassing expectations of King Jesus, may become concerned about whether or not they even belong to Jesus at all. Receiving clarified understanding about what the Bible says concerning the Kingdom of God awakens something within our spirit. The Kingdom is so all-encompassing that, when one begins to initially grasp it, much of what they previously believed about Jesus and Christianity seems puny and paltry by comparison. They sense a need within themselves to bow lower, move deeper into the stirred waters and surrender more fully to the currents of the Holy Spirit’s leadership. At some point, these now enlightened Christians sense a need to receive even greater clarity on the Kingdom. They discover that they are being consumed within by the beckoning of God. What should we expect to see from the lives of those who have moved on from the shallows of cultural Christendom and into the reality of the Kingdom? Below are five shifts that I have witnessed in those who have abandoned themselves to the King.
When we receive the Kingdom of God as our fullest context for existing:
(1) Our allegiance will change.When Jesus becomes King in one’s understanding, one’s honor, loyalty, and obedience becomes His. We intentionally and perpetually place ourselves under His authority, rule and leadership. Whatever He says, we determine to do as He empowers us. This shift in allegiance is expressed in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10). Kingdom people commit to a lifelong submission of their own will to the will of the King. They cannot bear the thought of living out their days independently of His guidance.
(2) Our faith will deepen.One of the difficulties people have with the idea of a spiritual Kingdom is that it does not appear to be in place yet. It can currently only be discerned by faith. The present depth of one’s faith determines the measure of how he or she is experiencing the Kingdom of God. Each generation moves farther and faster away from God and His ways. Because the Kingdom must be discerned by intentional and lasting faith, we must fight the temptation to live for the here and now, as if this present life is all that matters. But the hope of the Kingdom is that there is far more to life than what we see right now. We press into what we cannot discern via our natural senses. We actually learn to deny the mastery of what we see, hear or feel to be viewed as the ultimate truth. We live for invisible realities until the promise that they will be visible manifests. Jesus made extraordinary promises in regard to a future Kingdom for all who follow Him as King. The Kingdom of God is not yet fulfilled completely on earth, but it has been inaugurated by God and will last forever. Believing this over the course of your life will deepen and purify your faith.
(3) Our core values will enter a transformation.Western culture values achievement, success, possessions, power, independence, and image. Kingdom values will always reflect what matters to the King. Jesus described a number of His values in Matthew 5:3-10, a section of the Sermon on the Mount. The farther we move into the Kingdom, the more these values will become our own. Anything that opposes Kingdom values will seem foreign to us and distasteful. We will begin to view everything through a completely different lens from the culture in which we live. While there will be a growth-trajectory for all of us as we learn how to live with reshaped values, Kingdom people will undeniably adopt the King’s priorities and make choices that reflect those values – in their jobs, families, and communities.
(4) Our priorities will shift.We will outwardly live out what we inwardly value. This is true of every human being, no matter the kingdom to which they belong. The real test of our values is how we invest our lives – how we manage our abilities, how we invest our time, and the things into which we invest our money. Jesus spoke directly to that issue in terms of the kingdom (Matt. 6:24-34). He did not demean the value of pouring time into our dutiful work, nor did He diminish the need or enjoyment of material goods. But Jesus challenged His followers to bring Kingdom values into their day-to-day lives. “Seeking first the kingdom” (Matt. 6:33) puts a Christlike perspective on one’s work and its outcomes.
(5) Our mission will become clear.Some people are inwardly driven to accomplish great tasks with their lives. Others live aimlessly from day to day, lacking purpose or direction. Either way, understanding the Kingdom and aligning with it affects the trajectory of a person’s life. Jesus imparts to all of His followers a life-purpose and a mission which flows from our identity as citizens of His Kingdom. We live as subjects of the kingdom and promote kingdom messaging and values in everyday life. Ultimately, He wants His followers to extend His message to the ends of the earth, so that all people have the opportunity to give their allegiance to Him as their Savior and King (28:18-20). We are all given sub-missions which, when working intentionally together, bring about His overall mission in each generation. We are enlisted to advance the Kingdom of God.
So, clearly, Kingdom is different than the version of Christianity that most of us are familiar with. Holy Spirit, please help us to see where we are on the Kingdom spectrum. Help all of us to want to press in more deeply. Increase our abandon. Secure our deliverance from this present culture. Help us not to hide behind the deceptive pull of “remaining balanced” which is so often nothing more than a recipe for spiritual lukewarmness. Make us to become radicals. Radical in heart. Radical in allegiance. Radical in love. Radical in sacrifice.
Make us like the radical King who is returning for a zealous Church.