There are so many things that need to be thought out and written about, when it comes to our understanding of the kingdom of Christ. There are so many things to learn that they can’t all be included in a brief little series about kingdom living. The Apostle Paul spent two whole years while under house arrest in Rome proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 28:30-31).
An example of the vastness of this topic is found on John York’s web site. Beginning on August 14, 2005 and running through May 28, 2006, he presents an in depth sermon series entitled: Thy Kingdom Come. Listening to this series is time well spent. The fact that York presents 40 lessons underscores the comprehensive nature of this topic.
From time-to-time Mike Cope writes some interesting things about the kingdom on his blog. In a recent post, which is simply called The Kingdom of God, he states that “the primary message of Jesus of Nazareth was the kingdom of God.” This is, in my estimation, pure truth. In fact, I would extrapolate from this point to suggest that the primary mission for those who follow Jesus Christ is to be the kingdom. Jesus desires that we recognize and embrace His kingdom claims and live into His kingdom calling on our lives. This, in my opinion, is what Matthew 28:18-20 is all about. This is what kingdom living is all about. In other words, we are supposed to extend a kingdom-presence in the world.
What is a “kingdom-presence”?
In short, a kingdom-presence is evidence of King Jesus’ sovereignty over our lives which shapes the way we live from day-to-day, especially as it pertains to how we relate to others. The most basic principle related to this idea is what we often call the Golden Rule, which is: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31, TNIV). The expanded version of this idea is found in Matthew 7:12. Here Jesus says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” This kingdom-principle often requires that we behave in a manner that is counterintuitive. When we do so, we are extending a kingdom-presence into a small part of the world through deeds of kindness, mercy and grace.
In describing the nature of His followers Jesus outlined several additional ways in which His followers can and should be a kingdom-presence in the world. Among these we find the following:
– Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth…”
– Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world…”
– Matthew 13:33, “The kingdom is like yeast…”
– Matthew 13:31-32, “The kingdom is like a mustard seed…”
We are quite familiar with each of these. The inherent qualities of each of these things to which Jesus likens the kingdom helps us to understand the nature of the kingdom from Jesus’ point-of-view. Salt purifies and preserves. Light illuminates and guides. Leaven (yeast) permeates the whole, inwardly and progressively. The mustard seed, though small in comparison to other seeds, produces a tree that provides secure shelter for God’s creatures.
Thus, we see that we extend a kingdom-presence in the world by being salt, light, leaven and love. Perhaps you are saying, “Wait a minute! Where in these passages do we hear Jesus talking about love?”
That’s a good question. I’m glad you asked it. I believe it is one of those truths that stands behind a truth. You see, unless a seed gets into the soil and dies, it only remains a single seed (cf. John 12:24). If, however, it dies it produces many seeds—by God’s marvelous design it reproduces itself many times over. When it comes to this sort of living—a willingness to give oneself for others—love is the animating force. Indeed, Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Thus, the truth behind this truth is: The seed must die in order to bear fruit. Love is the force that motivates Jesus’ followers to do just that. Hence, to be tree-producing-seed, we must be driven by love!
The other day, I read an interesting post by a sister who works with the Bronx Fellowship. She gave me permission to share her story with you. It is a poignant example of what it means to extend a kingdom-presence in the world by being Salt – Light – Leaven – Love. In my estimation, this is what kingdom living is all about. I urged you to click on this link.
This is who we are: Salt, Light, Leaven and Love! Salting the earth; lighting the world; leavening the whole lump of dough; and dieing to self in order to give life to others is what we are called to do! By doing so, we extend the kingdom-presence in the world. Let’s go to it!
© Bill Williams
July 5, 2006