Summary: 1. The kingdom of God transforms us individually. 2. the kingdom of God transforms the world. 3. The kingdom of God is Now. 4. The kingdom of God is Not Yet.
As Jesus began his ministry, the Bible says that he, “traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1). The concept of the kingdom of God was central to the teaching of Jesus, and therefore it is critical to our understanding of what it is to believe in and follow after Christ. E. Stanley Jones defines the kingdom of God like this: “The kingdom of God is God’s total order, expressed as realm and reign, in the individual and in society; and which is to replace the present unworkable world order with God’s order in the individual and in society; and while the nature of the Kingdom is social, the entrance into it is by a personal new birth now; the character of that kingdom is seen in the character of Jesus — the Kingdom is Christlikeness universalized; while it comes on earth in the time process it is eternal and is the same rule which is in heaven and because it is Christlikeness this makes it heaven — there and here; and while it is a total order demanding a total obedience, it brings total freedom.”
The purpose of God in creating the world was to establish his reign over all the earth. That reign was marred and spoiled by our disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Christ came to reclaim that which was his own, and to proclaim God’s rule and reign over all the earth through Christ’s victory, as he overcame the cross and arose from the grave. He proclaimed that his complete victory would come at the time he returned to earth, when every knee would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11). The kingdoms of this world go blindly on, believing that their power and glory is the only thing that counts in this world. They do not see that there is an eternal Hand working behind the scenes which determines the destiny and fate of every individual and nation. The Psalmist assures us: “The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad” (Psalm 97:1). The hymn reminds us that:
This is my Father’s world,
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done;
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and heaven be one.
In other words, chill out; God is in control. As Julian of Norwich wrote: “All is well, and all manner of things will be well.”
The question is: “How does this affect us?” As we consider the kingdom of God, there are four major truths we need to understand. To begin with, the reality of the kingdom of God affects us in two ways: individually and globally. The first point I wish to make is that: The kingdom of God transforms us individually. The problem with the people of Jesus’ day was that they supposed that the Messiah’s kingdom would only be national in scope. It would be political in nature and transform their nation into a world power.
They were not much different from us were they? There are some who think that the kingdom of God will come with the election of a president who will come closest to our political views of what is important for the nation. We put our hope in a political leader as much as they did. We place our confidence in a person, or the military power of the state, rather than placing our confidence in God and the power of reaching out in his name to the poor and disenfranchised of the world. I do not believe that the answer to our nation’s problems lie within either political party, but in the repentance and transformed lives of the nation’s people. And when our loyalties to a particular political party come before our loyalty to the kingdom of God and the people of that kingdom, then we may know for sure that our confidence has been misplaced.
Can you imagine the Christians of the early church placing their hope in the Roman empire? Do you think they dreamed of having a Christian Caesar, laws based on the Bible or political leaders who based their decisions on the teachings of Jesus? That would have been a laughable thought. They saw themselves as being a kingdom within a kingdom. The problem for them was surviving the persecution of the government and not being the next meal for a hungry lion. Jesus’ disciples fled when he was arrested because they assumed they would be crucified along with him. Their hope was not in Rome eventually getting the picture and becoming a Christian empire; their hope was in the God who was transforming the world one person at a time. Their hope was in the fact that they had a living Savior, and that the power of the Holy Spirit was available to them. They knew their experience with God had transformed their lives and they believed, without a doubt, that it could transform others.