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
The purpose of this blog is to support those re-evaluating traditional religious beliefs. If you find the blog helpful, consider following to avoid missing future posts.
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Have a great day! ~Tim
Great article Tim.
I love the part about motivation.
Love not fear.
Is love the yeast in the dough?
Thanks Michael. I like your question; perhaps love is the yeast–at least love is at work, but I think that even more so it is simply the consistent, individual, and almost invisible action of all the committed citizens of the kingdom. Of course, I am sure the Holy Spirit is quite involved!
I’m Dianna from Rethinking Hell Facebook page. I apologize for not getting back with you before now. I’ve been very busy! I want to read some of your articles then I would like to ask you some questions, if you don’t mind. Thanks, Dianna
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Hello, Dianna. Sounds like a good plan; read whatever you wish and ask whatever you want.
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Wonderful description of the Kingdom.
Thank you Sheila. I am glad you liked it.
Reblogged this on paulumane and commented:
I could not have agreed with you more
Thanks for the reblog!
It is my pleasure
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Definitely one of your best posts. I have myself been thinking about how two competing views of the “End Times” both get the idea of the Kingdom wrong, and thus cause damage. First would be the Dispensationalist view, which assumes the world is going to hell, Christians will be raptured any day now, and so we can kind of forget about any part of furthering the Kingdom except getting as many people to convert as possible. The other is also (surprise!) popular in fundamentalist circles: the Reconstructionist version of the post-millenialist, in which we are to work toward a political theocracy here on earth, with old testament law as the civil law.
Neither is a vision of a hidden kingdom, built on seemingly upside-down values, where the first is last and the last first, and the greatest of all are the invisible servants, doing quiet good while others seek power and prestige.
Thanks for the nice words Fiddlrts!
You mention two very important harmful beliefs. I plan to write a post in the next few months that will include the dangers of Reconstruction theology to the church and to America. And eventually I plan to write a series on dispensationalism, but it will likely be more than a year from now.
One reason I have said little about dispensationalism is that I don’t know how much of an active issue it is today outside of popular rapture fiction and the support of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. I was very conversant with the dispensationalism of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. But I have not kept up with it since then. What do you think? How widespread is it?
It’s alive and well in my family!
Thanks for the info, Sheila.
It’s hard for me to give a definitive statement, but I would say that my *experience* has been that it remains very popular in those conservative evangelical circles *not* into Reconstructionism. This is particularly true in the older generations (boomers and older), although it seems less so for millennials. On the benign side, I can see that many who are nearing the end of their lives (my wife’s late grandfather, for instance) would have some reason to wistfully hope to be raptured before suffering the pain and indignity of death. The other, which I find more pernicious, ties in with the belief that the world is getting more and more wicked, and has been since the fall (or at least since the civil war..), and that thus all “modern” developments from same-sex marriage to feminism(TM) to Justin Beiber are just signs that Christ will return to rapture us all *very soon,* because the world is just so unbearably wicked. It just feeds the idolatry of the past, which seems to be a favorite idol of the conservative church these days. I’m Gen X, but even I can see the widespread denigration of millennials – and a tendency to blame them for all the evils of the world, and I think that Dispensationalism feeds this, both by considering changes in the world to be “evil,” and by giving younger folks little reason to hope for a good life themselves, because they will probably be raptured anyway. (Unless they support same-sex marriage, in which case they will *clearly* burn in hell.)
(Sorry to be a downer. It has been a rough month since the Supreme Court decision, with a number of otherwise decent older folks I know trying to push for doctrinal purity on sexuality, accompanied by illusions of persecution and sure belief that Christ will have to return and rescue them from this modern Sodom.)
Thanks for the analysis Fiddlrts. I, too, have assumed that the rise of Reconstruction, and also of the tremendous change in political involvement by the Moral Majority (religious right), put somewhat of a damper on the strong dispensational theme of not being involved in the world because it will all burn up soon anyway.
I know millennials are taking a hit from their elders, but I am a boomer and we were judged pretty much the same way. I wonder if this is just something that happens to each new generation–“They are irresponsible and not prepared take care of matters properly after we are gone.”
I plan to acquaint myself with current dispensational thought when the time comes, but I appreciate feedback from those such as you, Shelia, and any others that might reply. It gives me perspective.
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Tim, Several things came to mind through reading your post. The first concerns a mustard seed, because, despite the fact that they are small, mustard seeds can lay dormant in the ground for as much as twenty years (possibly more). I have evidence for up to twenty years, as my Dad told me that, during WW2, they had grown mustard on the farm on which he worked, but only at that time, but mustard plants were still germinating during the 1960s, when he told me about it. The ‘when it grows’ phrase might therefore have significance for some.
The second thing is that I feel rather uncomfortable with the idea of a man finding treasure in a field (of which the owner of the field appears to be unaware) then he keeps this knowledge to himself while he effectively buys the treasure (presumably on the cheap, although it costs him all that he owned) by buying the field, thereby denying the original owner any chance of discovering it for himself. It also contradicts what you stated about it being very selfish to keep the kingdom to ourselves. The second parable seems more reasonable, although it too has flaws, since although the merchant presumably also knows that the pearl has great value, someone who is unaware of the value of the Kingdom of Heaven has no idea of its true value to us. Both of the parables have flaws, because it is God who grants us entry into the Kingdom of Heaven and He does not do so by selling it to us. He gives it to us for free, if we can accept it!
In regard to sharing the Good News with other people, we would be wasting our time if we did this aimlessly, without God having prepared the way for us. One suspects that is why those who shout out the Good News in the street have little success in bringing others into the Kingdom, while they annoy many people by their actions. Your point about relationships is valid, as it is much easier to get someone to listen to you if they already trust you. Your point about not being too pushy is also relevant, as it would be easy to jump in too soon, before the other person trusts you enough.
Excellent comments Chas! I particularly like your insight into the mustard seed.
Your discomfort regarding the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl is understandable, but I don’t think Jesus is teaching little morality stories for us to follow. Instead, he seems to be making one single point–that the kingdom of God is of great value and some people do not recognize it. In a somewhat similar literal way, one might apply the parable of the yeast by saying that we should always prepare dough with 60 pounds of flour. These are only details to make the main point.
I haven’t heard from you recently; it is good to have you here again.
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Very True, as Jesus has rightly pointed out, “the kingdom of God is in your midst”. This is requirement of our life/living.
“God’s Kingdom” means that we accept GOD as our Ruler, (for our younger generations, it means HE is like our President/PM but one who has the ultimate authority)
And once we accept HIM to be our RULER, it means, ONLY HE RULES US! there can’t be anyone else, no tom, dick, and harry(no other kings), and Once we accept HIM as our Ruler, He will take decisions on our behalf, as He has dealt with trillions of People from the time immemorial…
As, He knows our requirement, which is to satisfy our senses, but it will be legally valid one! It will Only satisfy, our senses but it will never covet others goods,
We could from any part of the world, OUR SENSES ARE SAME and which needs SATISFACTION, only the color or size of our requirement may vary, but HIS decision will be FAR better than our decision! As we will never regret.
As, He is neither President nor PM, HE IS OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, who knows His GODLY child better than the child itself! NOT our earthly Father who has EGO,
But entering His kingdom is next to impossible as,
First, We(APPLIES only those who wish to enter His Kingdom) has to accept HIM as one and only “Thee KING” and believe in Him fully, no changing your decisions in between, to SATISFY YOUR SENSES!
Second, In HIS kingdom, it is only “THY WILL BE DONE” are the only words we utter!
Are you READY to JOIN me, to see the change? As, I am now, in HIS kingdom only!
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The Reconstruction theology is the same old game of having a God appointed “Messiah” come and rescue us by building a perfect social and political system for us.
The same idea existed in Europe through the supposedly God given “Divine Rights of Kings”, It is one of the oldest games known to power hungry people, and also takes our free will away.
Why exert any effort to change in order to become a person who contributes to such a better system if it is all going to be set up by laws. Better to just sit back and obey the law! You will save yourself from a lot of inner development work (believe me, it’s hard!) and also a lot of friction with the existing lawmakers who probably have different ideas about what kind of people the system needs.
After all, you can trust them, right? They are appointed by God!
Jesus totally rejected this idea, first in the temptation in the desert, when the adversary offered Him all of the kingdoms of the world, if He would only bow the knee to him, and once more when the religious powers and even His own disciples demanded that he would have to take on the mantle of the “Messiah”.
God’s kingdom is an internal thing, a state of being that works by slowly , day by day changing our values, our intentions and our behaviour to be in line with the values of His standard, which is love. “Love is the Law!”
It asks a lot of hard dedicated work from us, but the rewards are incredible! Living by a standard of love for all is the most life-enriching way you will ever find to live. It is full of Joy and peace that passes understanding!
And just wait until you can see what it does for others and how powerful a demonstration of living by that standard can be in this world!
It’s easy to be yoked (joined) to that wagon and the burden is light!
How fortunate we are to be given the opportunity to be a part of such a movement!
And it’s open to anyone who wants to join us, regardless of race, gender preference, religion, politics, or supposed lack of ability and goodness!
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Dennis, you said a lot of good stuff here. I particularly like, “God’s kingdom is an internal thing, a state of being that works by slowly , day by day changing our values, our intentions and our behaviour to be in line with the values of His standard.”
I would add that as we are diligently engaged in this process, along with other citizens of the kingdom, we are slowly continuing to bring about God’s will on Earth.
Amen to that!
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