Nothing has changed my life like discovering the Kingdom of God. It’s sad that I didn’t really understand it until I was 33 years of age. I knew what it was to be a good “moral” person and a good Baptist, but I really didn’t get the Kingdom of God. I knew the Gospel of salvation, got my ticket stamped and practiced moral self-improvement – but I knew little of how the Kingdom changes everything. The Kingdom starts from the inside out. The Kingdom is what Jesus came preaching. He didn’t start out by telling everyone exactly who he was, instead he said, “Do you know that you were created for more than you are experiencing and life is supposed to be better than what you see?”
For me, it was on a hill praying one day that I first heard the voice of the uninvited Holy Spirit whisper in my ear, “Bob, when will be Jesus be enough?” Why wasn’t he enough? I accepted Jesus and jumped through all the hoops but still didn’t see like he intended. One day, when I’m very old, and hopefully still sane, a book about the Kingdom of God will be the last book I write – I’m still learning too much and fear writing this one too soon. Here are some things I’ve learned about the Kingdom . . .
1. The Kingdom of God is the internal expression of God within a person and the public expression of God to humanity.
The Kingdom has to first start inside of us. It transforms us gradually, it isn’t a quick fix but each step depends on the previous step – it’s all connected. The Kingdom is the present Jesus and his rule lining my life up with all that he teaches, has given me, the identity I have in him, and the freedom I experience. But it cannot stop here! Sadly, this is as far as it gets in those few who become obsessed with the Kingdom. The Kingdom isn’t static and we aren’t containers of the Kingdom but channels of the Kingdom to flow through. The Kingdom is to be present in all things, not just people – as Colossians [1:15]-20 says.
2. The Kingdom of God transcends every life plan and preconceived notion of what God is going to do.
I knew how to grow the church, and frankly I did it quite well. I just didn’t know how to be the church. Dealing with people of other religions? Only a realization of the Kingdom of God would lead someone like me into that. God loves all and wants all to hear. The Kingdom leads us to ask, “how do we speak publicly about Jesus?” And even more importantly, “How do others see our love for them?” Only God could take someone like me and lead our church to become multi-ethnic. Only God could make me love the crazy people I love – because he first loved Crazy Bob.
3. The Kingdom of God is present at all times in all places.
I’m not taking the Kingdom anywhere – it’s already everywhere. How do I flow with the Kingdom where it has a stronger presence? How do people feel blessed from the presence of Kingdom citizens? My job is not to be God. My job is to abide in God so he can do through me what his glory creates and not fulfill my little dreams of self. Modern Christianity is living according to your dreams for God, ancient present Christianity is living for the glory of God. These two aspects are radically different. Most books for pastors are written to help you with your dream – which is fleeting. Only the Glory of God is eternal. Live for that reality young pastor and God will take you so far beyond your dreams and you’ll thank him for it.
4. The message of Jesus is the Kingdom of God is here, now, and within you.
My question is not what will God do in the future but how am I letting the Kingdom live in this moment as I meet this person, as invitations come. I’ve learned that the invitations God gives us are often not the ones we would choose for ourselves and even can be costly – but they are the ones that matter the most. God will never be experienced inside the lines we draw and the structures of religion.
5. The Kingdom of God cannot be stopped by men without God or forced by men who think they speak for God.
The nations figure so prominently in the Scriptures. My ancestors have fought in the American Revolution, the Alamo, the Civil War, and WWII – but NO NATION can ever be confused or equal with the Kingdom of God be it the United States or Israel. He loves all nations – and his people are to be lights in all nations of an eternal kingdom that transcends nations. Some Christians believe in something called “dominion” theology – they are going to take over things for Jesus. When we have to stoop to the methods of the world to bring about the Kingdom of God – no doubt we have brought a kingdom – but not the one of God. The reconciling, peacemaking nature of Jesus, the Sovereignty of Father God, and the power of the Holy Spirit really is sufficient for transformation. Will it be complete in my life? No, but may I be totally transformed in him more and more day by day to bring that Kingdom everywhere I live.