The first three elements of the Good News of Jesus are so wonderful that almost anyone can embrace them:
- God is not Angry and Harsh with Us as Many of Us Thought
- God’s Love for Us Takes Away Our Fear, Guilt, and Self-Condemnation
- We are not to Follow Burdensome Religious Rules
But the fourth element might cause some people pause. Following Jesus and his Good News also requires considerable commitment. First, those who follow Jesus are expected to love people. This is a growth process, but believers should commit to it.
Secondly, in following Jesus we commit to help expand God’s kingdom in its goal of peace, justice, and reconciliation over the whole earth; the kingdom expands through us.What is the Kingdom of God?
Kingdoms seem rather old fashioned today as fewer countries have functioning kings and those that do are considered relics. So perhaps a better way to think of the kingdom of God is as a community—a worldwide community of believers dedicated to bringing God’s will on earth. You can think of it as the Father’s community.
Remember the prayer Jesus taught us?
Our Father…your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
Believers are members of the Father’s community, which includes people of every nation. Jesus made clear that this is not a political kingdom; in fact it is not a visible kingdom. It is not identical to what we historically call ‘Christendom’; neither is it the same as the church, though many in the churches are part of the kingdom.
Jesus described this aspect of the kingdom in Luke 17:
Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
The kingdom of God is among us—it is not an institution and never can be. Growth of the kingdom is based on the activity of its members who are committed to bringing God’s will of peace, justice, and reconciliation on earth.
As believers, the kingdom of God is where our ultimate allegiance now lies. While we should be model citizens of our various countries, we must remember that Jesus is Lord and Caesar (government) isn’t. Our interests do not always align with national interests, and when interests of the kingdom and our country conflict—the kingdom must have our highest allegiance.
Jesus Further Describes the Kingdom
The Jews of Jesus’ day expected a messianic, political ‘Kingdom of God’, but Jesus redefined the Jewish concept of God’s kingdom. Of course this was confusing to people who had preconceived notions, so Jesus sometimes described the kingdom in parables. Several of them are found together in Matthew 13.
Let’s look at the parable of the Mustard Seed:
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.
Rather than being a powerful political presence, the kingdom of God begins insignificantly—almost imperceptibly; but it grows! Eventually, it become a home for many.
The parable of the yeast gives a slightly different perspective:
The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.
The yeast introduced into the dough invisibly changed its entire character, just as the kingdom works itself throughout the world and changes it without attracting a lot of attention.
The parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
This speaks to the great value of God’s kingdom, which is not apparent to everyone. When a person discovers and recognizes the value of the kingdom, they do whatever is necessary to acquire the benefits for themselves. We do the same, and it is not a casual commitment.
How Do We Go about Expanding God’s Kingdom on Earth?
Once we commit to expanding God’s kingdom on earth, how do we go about doing that? There are many ways, I’m sure, but I will mention four important ones.
- By genuinely loving and caring for others
- By continuing to develop personally as followers of Jesus
- By making a difference in the lives of the poor, marginalized, and oppressed, and
- By sharing the Good News of Jesus
We discussed the first two points in our post on genuinely loving others, so I will talk about the third and fourth points. If we genuinely love people, we cannot stand by and do nothing about hunger, alienation, and injustice. There is no list of rules on how to do this, but as each of us responds out of love and concern to make a positive difference in the lives of others we do so within our ability and according to our opportunities.
Our response might be to give money to organizations that are dealing effectively with hunger, alienation, or injustice. We might become advocates and participants in such causes. Others of us might take an even more personal role in helping meet the needs of people close around us. But we cannot stand by and do nothing. This is a commitment in being part of the kingdom of God; but our effort arises, not from legalistic obedience to a directive, but from the love and care that grows in us for other people.
Sharing the Good News
We should also share the Good News—it is very selfish to keep such a treasure to ourselves. However, many believers are very dedicated to sharing the good news but do so in a counter-productive way by telling people how sinful they are and badgering them to accept Jesus.
People know they are flawed; that is why what we offer is called ‘Good News’—it meets a need they already have. But a better way of sharing the Good News with them is not by forceful confrontation but by developing relationships. If we have a positive relationship with someone, questions will naturally come up regarding needs for love, meaning, healing, and reconciliation; and because of our relationship we are able to share the Good News as it most applies to their need. There is no particular hurry; spiritual growth is gradual, and if we are pushy and premature we might even push them away.
The kingdom of God grows slowly and without great fanfare—but it will eventually envelop the entire earth. This might not happen in our lifetime, but we will still experience it because of the fifth element of the Good News. We will talk about that next time.
In this series so far:
What is the Good News of Jesus Anyway?
God is not Angry and Harsh with Us as Many of Us Thought
God’s Love for Us Takes Away Our Fear, Guilt, and Self-Condemnation
Do You Still Feel Guilt and Fear because You Fall Short of what God Demands?
We are not to Follow Burdensome Religious Rules
We are Agents for Expanding God’s Kingdom on Earth (Today’s post)
Death is Not the End because Jesus Offers Us Eternal Life and Happiness
When the Good News of Jesus Doesn’t Sound like Good News At All
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Have a great day! ~Tim