As we near the celebration of Easter, our thoughts as Christians should be moving towards the events that surrounded Jesus’ life, death on the cross, and His burial and resurrection from the grave. The amazing thing about Jesus’ first coming is that He inaugurated the kingdom of God!
For most Americans, the concept of a kingdom with a king who rules over his subjects with complete authority is difficult to comprehend. Currently, we live in a culture that allows for a tremendous amount of personal freedom, so the concept of a king with absolute authority can seem distant for many.
But the kingdom of God is mentioned in the gospels 134 times and is a major theme in Jesus’ teachings. As Jesus said in Mark 1:15:
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
While kingdom talk was much more common in Jesus’ day, the nature of God’s kingdom is unlike any on earth. His is an upside-down kingdom, totally counter-cultural to those of this world. Let’s look at some of the differences:
Jesus’ kingdom is present as well as future. It is an already/not yet It is already because God reigns in the hearts of His people through the indwelling Holy Spirit. The already aspect of Jesus’ kingdom is that God reigns now and delivers people from the grip of sin.
His kingdom is not yet because it is not currently present in fullness. That will come when Jesus returns and establishes His reign on earth for a thousand years. After this, He will fully renew His people and the universe.
Unlike earthly kingdoms, the moment a person repents and believes in Jesus, he or she is adopted into the family of God with all the rights of a family member.
Unlike earthly kingdoms, where people seek power and control to determine a person’s self-worth, in Jesus’ kingdom, God’s people are called servants. Christians should not seek power, position or status to determine their self-worth. In Jesus’ kingdom, humility and selflessness are most important and are an evidence that he or she is a kingdom citizen.
Jesus’ kingdom is established in the hearts of His people and in their relationships. It triumphs over sin, death and Satan.
All people are welcome to become part of Jesus’ kingdom. All a person must do is simply repent of sin and believe that Jesus Christ died for him/her. Once he/she turns to Jesus for forgiveness, they are a member of God’s kingdom.
As we turn the corner towards Easter, I am grateful for our King, Jesus Christ. He came not as a conquering and valiant warrior, but as a humble servant who sacrificially died for us, His people, and rose from the grave so that we can have eternal life when our time on this earth is done. Not only that, but He gives us abundant life on this earth in deep relationship with Him and in service for His glory.
But always remember this truth: One day Jesus will return, and when He does, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In the weeks leading up to Easter, we will have weekly blog posts that highlight the upside-down, counter-cultural nature of God’s kingdom. Please check back weekly to read and reflect. Our hope is that these posts will help prepare our hearts even more for the wonder of Easter.
As Thanksgiving approaches, it is a good time to reflect on that for which we are thankful. I hear people say all kinds of things they are thankful for. These include their families, jobs, health, or even their bank accounts. While these are indeed good things, have you considered that all of this would not be possible without the generous nature of our God?
In the book of Genesis, God is portrayed as a generous host who provides everything needed for His creation to enjoy. God appoints humanity (Adam and Eve) to be co-rulers over His creation and generously supplies for all their needs. He asks them to trust in His generous provision and live according to His wisdom.
But Satan came into the garden as a serpent and deceived mankind to think that God was not generous, but was actually holding out on them. He tricked them into focusing on what they did not have instead of fixating on all the wonderful things He had given them. The result was the fall of man as they sinned against God. Instead of trusting in the truth of God’s gracious generosity, they trusted in a lie and believed they needed more than what God had generously provided.
The rest of the Old Testament demonstrates how God chose a people (Israel) on whom to pour out His generous blessing. But humanity constantly rebelled against Him and selfishly wanted more and more, just as Adam and Eve did. They were never satisfied. Sadly, the Old Testament concludes with God going silent and mankind remaining in a state of selfishness, rebellion, and sin.
As we turn the page to the New Testament, one might think that God would bring utter destruction and judgment upon humankind. But instead, we are stunned by God’s incredible generosity.
God sends His own Son, Jesus Christ, as the most generous and gracious gift to selfish and ungrateful humanity. Jesus could have come to live in opulence, but instead, He chose to live a life without comfort or abundance. He lived without the comforts of this life so that He could relate to the poorest of the poor and share God’s generosity with all who would receive Him. Jesus was so generous that He gave His own life and allowed His own people to kill Him, so that He alone could pay the enormous cost of their sin.
In Jesus, we see this unfathomable generosity of God. Because of God’s love and provision provided in Jesus, mankind has a new opportunity to trust in God rather than to selfishly trust in self or the things of this world.
Remember what Jesus said: “Do not worry about what you will eat or what you drink or what you will wear. But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:31-33).
Where is your focus this Thanksgiving? Is it on what you do not have or is your focus on what God has generously given in Jesus Christ? Jesus also said: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). Jesus is God’s most generous gift to mankind!
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Hopefully, we are thankful for all His blessings. Ultimately, though, I am thankful for Jesus Christ because He truly is God’s most generous gift and my greatest treasure!
Have you ever stayed as a guest in a home where the people made you feel like an unwelcomed guest? I recently read a story about a pastor who had been asked to preach at a church that was far away from his home, but the congregation could not afford to put him up in a hotel. They told him that a family in the church had offered to have him stay in their home for the few days that he was there.
When the pastor arrived at the home the mother of the family greeted him coldly and showed him his room. She then told him, “Don’t expect any meals or expect us to talk with you. We agreed to let you use this room but you are on your own for anything else.” She left the pastor standing in the doorway, and for the next five days and nights that he was there, the entire family went about their business as if he was not there. He had never felt more awkward and unwanted in his life. He was an unwelcomed guest.
That story got me thinking about what Paul the apostle says in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…”
In Colossians 3:16, Paul tells us that the word of Christ should dwell in us richly. The word dwell is taken from the Greek word enoikeo, which is a compound of the words en and oikos. The word en means in, and the word oikos is the Greek word for home. Together they mean to dwell in a home. It carries the idea of someone who takes up permanent residence in a home.
So when Paul tells us to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, he is encouraging us to give God’s word a warm and welcoming reception so that it feels at home in us and takes up permanent residency within us!
Does the word of God have this kind of place in your life? Does it dwell in you richly? Does it feel at home in your life or is it being treated as a complete stranger just as that pastor was? I pray that the word of God is a welcome guest in your life and that it will always be at home and dwell in you richly!