Kingdom of God
Preaching and Worship Resources about Kingdom of God
The kingdom of God is the effective rule and reign of God in people's hearts, in the church, and, through this, more and more in the wider world. When John the Baptist called for repentance as the kingdom of God drew near — and when Jesus continued this emphasis throughout his own ministry — the meaning was that a new day was coming when God would exercise God's will in people's lives so that the ways of God would be seen on display as a fallen creation is slowly turned back toward God's original designs. Disciples of Jesus are citizens of God's kingdom, and the shape of their living displays this before the kingdoms of this world — kingdoms that, one day, will finally become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ.
"Therefore do not worry, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear?' For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matt. 6:31-33).
The time is fulfilled "Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, `The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news'" (Mark 1:14, 15).
Mustard seed "He also said, `The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.' He also said, `With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade'" (Mark 4:26-32).
Proclaim the good news "But he said to them, `I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose'" (Luke 4:43).
Entering the kingdom of God "Jesus answered him, `Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.' Nicodemus said to him, `How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?' Jesus answered, `Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit'" (John 3:3-6).
They were baptized "But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women" (Acts 8:12).
Points to Ponder
Where Is the Kingdom? Tell Jewish sisters and brothers that Jesus is the Messiah and the King of kings and they may well ask, "OK, so where is his kingdom? Can you point to it on a map?" Christians cannot do so. So where is the kingdom? If it's not a geographic place with discernible borders and a visible king, then what is it? The writer Dallas Willard, particularly in his wonderful book The Divine Conspiracy,helpfully claims that a kingdom is that realm where the king's will dictates what happens in life. For God and for now, that realm is the people of God and the church of God (though the church is not, strictly speaking, identical to the kingdom). We are the realm where God's will shapes life to God's ordering (in the Beatitudes, for example, Jesus maps out the characteristics of kingdom living). "From the very beginning of [Jesus'] work, those who relied on him had, at his touch, entered the rule, or governance, of God and were receiving its gracious sufficiency. Jesus was not just acting for God but also with God. . . . And this `governance' is projected outward through those who receive him. When we receive God's gift of life by relying on Christ, we find that God comes to act with us as we rely on him in our actions."
Small, Slow, and Hidden: The paradox of God's grand kingdom as it draws near and enters this world is that though it is finally the greatest reality of them all, for now the kingdom is a hidden reality. It is outwardly unimpressive, easy to miss, tiny like mustard seeds, invisible like yeast in dough. You might even, quite literally, stumble across it when you aren't looking for it. And you might find it in very unlikely places, like finding a treasure buried in a random field. But don't be fooled, Jesus essentially said over and over, and don't be discouraged: the kingdom grows and spreads steadily, surely, and irrevocably. It is going to take over everyone's heart and the entire cosmos eventually. For now, the church and its people witness to this "slow kingdom coming" as those whose eyes have been opened to see what others may miss and in order to invite those others into the glory and joy that is God's kingdom.
A Kingdom of Grace: Try to enter the kingdom of God on your own (think of the rich young ruler in Mark 10 and parallel passages) and you will find it impossible. You cannot force your way in, and if you try to earn your way in, you are a camel trying to thread a needle's eye: it won't happen. Jesus' sovereign call to "follow me" is the invitation of grace that allows one to begin citizenship in this kingdom. Once a person enters in this way, all of life looks different: those whom society deems to be of no account are the most precious people in the world, even as those who are rich and powerful for now become of no account. It's the meek who inherit the earth, the sorrowful who will finally laugh, those taking on the long odds of working for peace in a world that understands only violence who are called the children of God. The childlike get in ahead of the proud, and the last, quite consistently, come in first.
Kingdom of Heaven: Matthew's gospel has Jesus using the phrase "kingdom of heaven" (or "kingdom of the heavens") 32 times, which is nearly seven times more often than "kingdom of God" comes up in Matthew. Also, "kingdom of heaven" occurs nowhere else in the New Testament outside Matthew. As Dallas Willard has pointed out, many in church history have treated "kingdom of God" and "kingdom of heaven" as synonymous terms with no real difference to be discerned between the two phrases. Willard, however, thought this might be a mistake. He observed that we should not fail to notice that Jesus used "kingdom of heaven" as a reminder that we should never confuse the things of this earth with God's coming rule and reign. God is wholly (and holy) Other, and God's kingdom does not spring from this earth and is not of human manufacture. The kingdom of God is a spiritual reality and is not to be confused with earthly programs or human achievements.
|Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.|