I don’t have a big problem when people disagree with me. That will happen from time to time. Actually, disagreements help me immensely. I learn a lot from disagreements. No, it is not disagreements that I hate most; what I hate is to be misunderstood. Sometimes the misunderstanding comes from the imprecision of the English language. Sometimes it comes from the hearer not listening carefully. Sometimes it comes form the hearer not having the full context of my work to understand what I am sayng.
But then sometimes it is due to my own mistakes in articulating my understanding. But be that as it may, I wanted to talk about a recurring theme in my work that is misunderstood by many.
“How do you preach the coming Kingdom?”
In an article a while back, I asked the question, "Are you a preacher or a motivational speaker?" In that article I argued that “the coming Kingdom” is missing in motivational speaker’s sermons. My argument is that the Kingdom of God should totally saturate our sermons. Just as people hear the cross even when we are not necessarily speaking specifically about the cross, people should hear the coming Kingdom even when we are not speaking specifically about it.
Then someone responded, “We can’t preach about the second coming or prophecy every week.”
I admit that I was not as explicit as I could have been in presenting the point, but the questioner has misunderstood my point. I was not speaking of eschatology or end time prophecy. No, I am not only talking about the second coming, although I think that does play a role in our preaching. Neither am I talking about speculative prophecy and things like Russia coming into Israel or God’s people disappearing or something like that.
To be honest, I am not even talking about something that is totally in the future. “Coming Kingdom” might imply that I am speaking of something we do not have now but will come in the future. No, I am talking about something that we have now but will be more fully experienced in the future. I am talking about a present reality and a future reality. I am talking about something that is now and that is future. I am talking about the reality that Christ’s actions have set up a competing Kingdom to the kingdom of this world. This competing Kingdom has its own laws and ways of relating.
Yes, we can learn of the Kingdom by reading the parables. We can learn of the Kingdom by listening to Jesus as he preaches the Sermon on the Mount. I am talking about the fact that we Christians live in that Kingdom now, while it is true that we also live in the kingdom of this world.
Ambassadors Of Christ
But we don’t just live in this world. We are ambassadors of Christ and God’s Kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:20).
So when I say to preach the coming Kingdom, I mean to help your people learn how to become members of that Kingdom. I mean to help your people learn and understand what Christ has done so that this Kingdom is possible and open to us. I mean to help your people understand that in being a member of this Kingdom, there are ways of relating and ways of being (that Christ spoke of in his Sermon on the Mount—that was Kingdom preaching). I mean help people understand the responsibilities of being an ambassador of the Most High God.
So yes, there is both a future focus (when the Kingdom will be fully realized) but also a present focus (living in the Kingdom while we live in this world).
And yes, this is a dynamic that is missing in those who would make the American Dream the gospel. This is a dynamic that is missing in those who would preach about how to get a better job or how to get ahead at work. Yes, this is a dynamic that is missing and reminds us that even though preachers may encourage the saints, they are not merely Tony Robbins. I mean no disrespect to Tony Robbins; neither do I mean that preaching should not encourage the saints. But I do mean that when we are encouraging the saints and when we are uplifting their spirits, we are doing it within the context of God’s coming Kingdom.
As you go, preach that the Kingdom of heaven has come near. (Matthew 10:7)