The Kingdom Life
I was asked a powerful question today by a dear friend. He wanted to know how to process a mentor’s moral failing. Did this person’s failing negate the person’s teachings and influence? This struggle seems to be more and more common in today’s church. Whether there has been an increase of leaders failing or an increase in coverage of these failings, I do not know. But, it has caused many of us to pause and ask what is at work within the church at large that is causing and/or enabling these incidents. Many blogs can and have been written on this topic; most of which focus on church leadership and structure. It is certainly worth reevaluating our structures to look for flaws. But I also wonder if there is not something more fundamental at work. Leaders are products of the church, like all other disciples within the church. And moral failings are not unique to leaders, though the damage the failures of leaders cause affect more people. However, I would venture to say that the problem lies within a flawed understanding of the gospel we preach and have come to believe.
As I discussed in my previous blogpost, the true Gospel that Jesus proclaimed was not one of mere forgiveness and going to heaven when we die, but rather that the Kingdom of God has come near and is made available to us. To become a Christian is to embrace God as King by putting your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Certainly we are forgiven and covered by God’s merciful grace, but that is in order to enable us to be a part of His perfect Kingdom. When we place our faith in Christ and are baptized into his name, our citizenship, our place of belonging and identity, is shifted from the kingdom of this world to the Kingdom of God. The true Christian Life is not about simply believing a message about Jesus but about living out the Kingdom of God here on earth as it is in heaven.
A New Reality
Imagine being teleported back to ancient Egypt. One day you’re just sitting on your couch watching a rerun of Chopped when suddenly BAM you are teleported back 4000 years to ancient Egypt. What would you do? How would you survive? Obviously, language would be a major issue. But so too would culture and customs and dress and a whole myriad of other challenges that would come from being in a different Kingdom than you are used to. In order to live in this new reality, you would need to learn how to do life in this new Kingdom.
Spiritually speaking, when we place our faith in Jesus Christ and are baptized into his name, we are transferred into a different Kingdom. And just like in the scenario of being teleported to Egypt, we must learn how to live in this new reality. Unfortunately, learning a new way to live has not been essential to our gospel understanding in the modern church. We have turned the gospel into a message to believe, not a new reality to be lived.
At its core, discipleship is teaching a person how to live the Kingdom of God life. Listen to how Jesus framed discipleship:
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
This passage is often referred to as the Great Commission. We are commissioned by Jesus to help people become his followers and we mark this with baptism. But far too often, that is where our understanding of the Great Commission falls short. There is much more to what Jesus commissions us to do in these parting words. We are not simply told to go make disciples and baptize them. We are also supposed to then “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Embedded in the commission itself is the language of kingdom. Kings are the ones who give commands and anticipate obedience. Jesus has taught us by example and in His teachings how we should live as members of God’s Kingdom. And he has charged us to make disciples (students) and to teach them how to live the Kingdom life.
Learning = Thriving
In the ancient Egypt scenario where you suddenly find yourself thrust into a foreign kingdom, you would desperately long to learn all you could of your new kingdom in order to thrive in your new reality. There would be a direct connection between how much you learned and how well you lived your life in this new kingdom. A failure to learn would result in starvation and hardship and loneliness. Learning would be key to thriving. And so it is with those who become disciples of Jesus. We must regularly learn all we can about this new Kingdom of God because it is so antithetical to how we live life in this world. Where the world says revenge, Christ says forgive. Where the world says take, Christ says give. Where the world says promote yourself, Christ says to die to self. Where the world says independence, Christ says depend on him and each other. Where the world says hide your weaknesses, Christ says confess them. You get the point. Kingdom of God life runs counter to how we are naturally taught to live.
In order to thrive, we must learn to become fluent in the ways of the Kingdom of God. Which is why Jesus tells us to focus on not just making disciples but on “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Jesus longs for us to be thriving examples of the Kingdom of God here on earth. He longs for us to live as fruitful gardens in this world, harkening people’s souls back to the Garden from which all of mankind draws its roots. A people whose lives are heavy with the bountiful fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control). And Jesus longs to see these gardens grow as others come to enjoy Kingdom Life and experience the Spirit’s harvest in their lives as well. But central to this happening is one key requirement: Kingdom Fluency. Learning to live the ways of God’s Kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven.
In my next blogpost, I will break down how we have begun to measure and think about Kingdom Fluency at Paseo. For now let us pause and ask a few key questions:
- Would you describe your life as thriving with the fruits of the Spirit? Why or why not?
- Have you approached Bible study, growth groups, and Sunday morning worship with the deep desire to learn how to obey what is being taught about Kingdom Life? Why or why not?
- How would seeing yourself as living a different Kingdom Life here on earth affect your daily life?
- What is hindering your from embracing the Great Commission as the purpose of your life as Jesus intended it?