Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Building the Kingdom

Christians sometimes speak of building the kingdom of God. But is this something Christians are called to do? We are called to seek the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:20), to pray for it (Matthew 6:10), but not to build it. This is significant because the kingdom is not primarily something we do but something God does. It is in fact tied to two key events: the coming of Christ (Matthew 4:17; 12:28; Acts 28:23) and the Second Coming of Christ (Matthew 25:31-34; 26:29; Acts 14:22). Both of these involve God intervening in a new way in the world to accomplish His purposes.

Now we are pictured as part of the kingdom, those who are using what God has given us for His purposes (Matthew 25:14-30), preparing ourselves for His coming (Matthew 25:1-13), and being engaged in that which is good (Matthew 25:31-46). If we are God's people we are part of the kingdom, but we should behave as those who are part of it (Colossians 1:12,13; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Timothy 4:18). The picture is that of bearing fruit (Matthew 13:3-9; Mark 4:26-29; John 15:1-11).  This fits with Paul's statement that it is God who causes the increase (1 Corinthians 3:3-9). Now the life of the plant is in the seed, and God gives the seed (Luke 8:11; 1 Peter 1:23-25; James 1:18). Nonetheless, we need to cultivate it in our lives. If I want to plant a garden, I need to do things like plow up the ground, possibly fertilize it, and water it. But the real life is in the seeds. Now the work of God in our lives is a hardy plant and can grow in many different conditions. But there are still things we can do or neglect to do 

What difference does this make? It is easy to start seeing the kingdom of God as something we do or we create. Rather, it is something that God did by sending His Son to pay the price for sin (Colossians 2:13,14; 1 Peter 2:24,25; 2 Corinthians 5:21) and that God will do by Christ's coming again to transform all of creation (1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Philippians 3:20,21; Romans 8:19-25). But we are to have our lives changed now as a reflection of that (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Corinthians 3:18). However, it is easy to see the kingdom as a political program or a church program if it it is something we build. It therefore puts the emphasis on our political or organizational skills to bring it about. But if the kingdom is something God does, we can trust Him to bring it about. And we need only live as citizens of that kingdom which He has brought about and will bring to completion.

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