Posts Tagged Kingdom of God
[Following the Resurrection] “When the apostles met together with Jesus, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” Jesus said to them, “The times and occasions are set by my Father’s own authority, and it is not for you to know when they will be. But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” After saying this, he was taken up to heaven as they watched him, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They still had their eyes fixed on the sky as he went away, when two men dressed in white suddenly stood beside them and said, “Galileans,why are you standing there looking up at the sky? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.” Then the apostles went back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is about half a mile away from the city” (Acts 1:6-12).
The cross and resurrection of Christ was the strange and paradoxical way God chose to begin restoring his broken world and advancing his Kingdom of peace, love and hope. In another startling move, God then chose a rag-tag group of nobodies to be the vehicle by which he would spread the message and mission of this Kingdom throughout the entire world. The book of Acts tells the story of the trials and triumphs of this small, persecuted, grassroots Jesus movement as it made its way across the expansive Roman Empire.
Sound exciting? Well it was. The life of the early church looked much different from many of our experiences of the church today. Yet, early on they were faced with three threats that still tend to plague the church today — and they can be identified in the one bold question this angelic man asked the disciples immediately following Jesus’ ascension:
Why are you STANDING there LOOKING up into the SKY?
As Christians today strive to faithfully advance God’s Kingdom on earth we must be vigilant to avoid being a church of STANDERS, LOOKERS, and SKY-GAZERS.
1. STOP STANDING. God has called us to “GO and make disciples of all nations.” In the passage above, they all stood paralyzed, amazed at the power of God as he took Jesus from their sight. They had just asked whether it was the time for God to restore His Kingdom, and Jesus’ indirect answer is often taken to be a “no.” However, I believe Jesus intentionally changed the subject from WHEN to exactly HOW this Kingdom was to come. The disciples all expected a military revolt and overthrow of the Roman imperial forces. Jesus however seems to hint that it will begin to come when God pours out his Spirit on the disciples at Pentecost and they begin spreading a taste of His Kingdom to the ends of the earth. The Book of Acts is not a book of beliefs, doctrines, laws or ethics. It is what it says — a book of “acts.” As we read we are swept up into the wild and adventurous MOVEMENT of the Spirit, and we travel along with Peter and Paul and the rest. The message of the Gospel MOVES thousands of miles from Jerusalem to Rome in only 28 chapters. The church today needs to become once again a people on the move, a forward-marching Kingdom-advancing church who take an active role in spreading God’s love, joy, peace, forgiveness, grace, healing and hope “to the ends of the earth.” There is too much standing around. “Go, therefore, and make disciples…”
2. STOP WATCHING. It is also easy to become a spectator in the church today. In fact, the way we have designed our “services” often encourages a multi-media presentation where the pastors and worship leaders DO everything and the rest of us sit rather passively in the audience observing the service, watching the pastors, receiving a message (i.e., “being fed”) and then leaving. Outside the Sunday service, we can also easily hide in the shadows watching others volunteer for service projects, go on missions trips, teach Sunday School classes, volunteer in the nursery, etc. Many of us generously give money toward the work of the Kingdom so that we can avoid actively getting involved in the nitty-gritty work of Kingdom-building. The mission of the church in and for the world is a truly hands-on project that involves real, messy involvement. We are called to be not only “hearers of the Word, but doers also.” Remember James’ rather pointed reminder: “My friends, what good is it for one of you to say that you have faith if your actions do not prove it? Can that faith save you” (Jam 2:14)? Let us stop watching, and start actively engaging in the work of advancing the Kingdom.
3. STOP SKY-GAZING. Finally, the disciples in this episode were fixated on the sky (“They still had their eyes fixed on the sky” v. 10), as if that was where all the action was to be. Granted, you don’t see a man ascend into the clouds everyday, so we should probably cut them some slack. But 2,000 years later there are entire strands of the church who are still staring into the clouds awaiting rescue. I speak of all escapist, dualistic versions of Christianity where the entire goal of the Gospel is to wait for Jesus to come back and take us up (“rapture”) into some heaven in the sky for all eternity. Many today are realizing the folly in this gnostic-like view, and are again placing their hope in the God of Creation whose desire it is to bring the New Jerusalem down to earth, to “make all things new,” dwell once again with his people (cf. Rev 21:22-25), and finally establish his righteous, restorative reign “on earth as it is in the heavens” (Matt 6:10). We are to partner with the God of Creation and to become wise stewards of his beautiful world that is “groaning for liberation” even now (Rom 8). God is coming — no doubt about that! Yet, as we await our savior from a high, we are to be focusing our eyes on those around us who are filthy with the dirt and grime of this world, and bring God’s love, hope and healing to them. We need to stop staring at the sky, and start bringing a little taste of heaven to those suffering here on earth.
So, as we move away from Resurrection Sunday to business as usual, let us make sure we are not still “standing there looking up at the sky.” Let’s get busy announcing and building the Kingdom!
1. Which of the 3 errors do you personally tend toward? Are you a STANDER, LOOKER, or SKY-GAZER?
2. Which of these 3 postures most accurately describes the American church today?
3. Do these 3 categories help classify the particular weaknesses of various denominations of the Church?
“The basis for the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount is not what works but rather the way God is. Cheek-turning is not advocated as what works (it usually does not), but advocated because this is the way God is — God is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. This is not a stratagem for getting what we want but the only manner of life available, now that, in Jesus, we have seen what God wants. We seek reconciliation with the neighbor, not because we feel so much better afterward, but because reconciliation is what God is doing in the world through Christ.”
-Will Willimon & Stan Hauerwas, Resident Aliens
Q:“What do you think the Bible means by the Kingdom of God?”
This is such a central theme of the NT and yet it is so dynamic and varied in its uses and references that one does not blame someone for being confused by exactly what it means. Is it a place called the Kingdom of Heaven? Is it a political reality? Is it a community ethic for the eschaton? Is it a present reality or future hope? or both?
How do you capture the essence of the Kingdom of God in a nutshell? How would you answer this student’s question?
Here’s my quick response:
Put simply, the Kingdom of God is “the sphere of God’s effective reign” (Dallas Willard) — that is, it is actively present where ever and whenever God’s healing, restoring, saving, justice-bringing REIGN is having it’s way. Quite literally, it’s the “dome” over which God is King. It’s not a place we go to when we die, but the reality God is bringing already and will someday bring in full to earth. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The Kingdom comes when ever and where ever God’s will is done.
Does that capture the essence? Agree or disagree? What would you add?
THE ONE BIBLE THAT SHOWS HOW ‘A LIGHT FROM ABOVE’ SHAPED OUR NATION. Never has a version of the Bible targeted the spiritual needs of those who love our country more than The American Patriot’s Bible. This extremely unique Bible shows how the history of the United States connects the people and events of the Bible to our lives in a modern world. The story of the United States is wonderfully woven into the teachings of the Bible and includes a beautiful full-color family record section, memorable images from our nation’s history and hundreds of enlightening articles which complement the New King James Version Bible text.
Greg Boyd weighs in on the questionable — or, according to Boyd — pervasively “idolatrous” agenda behind this new themed Bible. According to Boyd: Read the rest of this entry »
“There is a beautiful and powerful grassroots Kingdom movement arising all over the globe …. Millions of people are abandoning the Christendom paradigm of the traditional Christian faith in order to become more authentic followers of Jesus. From the Emergent Church movement to the Urban Monastic Movement to a thousand other independent groups and movements, people are waking up to the truth that the Kingdom of God looks like Jesus and that the heart of Christianity is simply imitating him.
Prior to my current leadership role in a church setting, I was on the front lines of organizing a grassroots Jesus movement among the teenagers in my hometown where I was teaching, coaching, driving instructing and ministering. You can read about the Revolution in Mound HERE. One of the main challenges of this movement was finding new and appropriate language to describe the type of Christianity we were inviting teens to explore AND the Christianity we were running from. I can’t tell you how much time, effort and care was put into choosing the appropriate labels and avoiding the others as this movement drew attention from curious onlookers. We ended up specifically inviting others to become “followers of Jesus” and we described the Revolution as “a movement centered around the revolutionary message and mission of Jesus.”
Every word was carefully chosen and intentionally used. We were inviting teens:
…to become real, intentional FOLLOWERS; not merely believers or Sunday pew-sitters.
…into a real, personal, growing relationship with the real JESUS of the gospels; not a mythical religious figure or icon.
…to join an exciting, purpose-filled MOVEMENT that would have real, visible, measurable impact in the community.
…to understand the truly counter-cultural, untamed, REVOLUTIONARY nature of Jesus’ message and mission; Jesus wasn’t executed because he was a Mr. Rogers-like storyteller in a sweater..
… to grasp the central “Kingdom-of-God core” of Jesus’ MESSAGE buried beneath all the layers of additional Christian tradition and teaching.
…to become active agents, or “disciples”, of Jesus in carrying forward his MISSION of advancing the Kingdom of God on earth “as it is in heaven.”
Greg Boyd’s quote above captures so beautifully the spirit of our own “grassroots Kingdom movement” in Mound.
I was shocked then as I listened to a sermon last night during my Snap Fitness workout that basically claimed that the new, popular trend among Christians is to avoid the label “Christian” and to instead call themselves “followers of Jesus.” She even mentioned the thousands of people who put “Follower of Jesus” as their religious affiliation on their Facebook profile. Yikes! That’s what mine says! I thought I was being careful to distance myself from the more mainstream Christian crowd. Turns out my “new language” is already old jargon. My careful distinction has become a mainstream phenomenon.
Which raises again the big question: Now “whatchamacallme?!” What new label do I use to capture and describe my Christian faith? Why do I feel the need to be so carefully labeled in the first place? What do you call yourself? What label do you choose to use? Should we keep relabeling ourselves or just reclaim and reform the public image of “Christians”?
I’m tempted to give up this seemingly futile religious name-game. Yet, Jesus himself may have started this name-game in the first place when, amidst numerous rumors surrounding his true religious identity, he asked his disciples quite pointedly: “Who do you say that I am?” Since Jesus has now commissioned us to go out on his behalf, as his Body, should we not be prepared to offer a careful, well thought out answer when others corner us and ask, “Who do you say that you are?”
So, again I ask: Whatchamacallit?