Where the Kingdom Reigns, the King Transforms
I have come to realize that most times in my life, major paradigm shifts don’t happen overnight.
I usually find myself questioning and thinking, struggling and writing through a concept for a long period of time. I rarely come to any immediate conclusions. Usually after some time, even weeks or months later, I will re-visit the question and realize that my thoughts have changed. This is one of the reasons I love to journal. I can trace my thoughts on a particular idea over time.
Such are my views on the Kingdom of God.
For a long time, I operated under the assumption that the Kingdom is only future-oriented — that is, it was pretty much limited to some future heavenly realm. Sure, I heard seminary professors talk about the “already/not-yet” view of the Kingdom, and I knew the theology, but all I ever saw played out in the local church and in my own experience was a lament of the woes of the present life, and a longing for Jesus to come back and take them all away.
As if He wasn’t present now. As if the Holy Spirit did not live in us. As if the Kingdom of God was totally powerless against the powers of this present world. As if things could never be good here now. As if people or circumstances couldn’t change. As if we had already been “left behind.”
The Kingdom of God had been reduced to some myth-like entity whose only purpose was to rescue us from our present discomfort and make us comfortable … one day. It’s all I ever knew.
What this limited perspective of the Kingdom creates is a cynical outlook on the world, a fundamental distrust of people, and a lack of belief that we can actually change.
It causes us to live our lives cowered in fear, isolated from the world, and absent of community.
It forges in us an “us vs. them” mentality, facilitates a posture of culture warfare, and creates resentment toward people we do not know or understand.
It removes from us any sense of personal responsibility, creates a victim mentality, and breeds unhealthy relationships.
Ultimately, it allows us to abdicate from the mission of God. Under the guise of “this world is not my home,” we refuse to even set up a temporary dwelling.
But according to Jesus, the Kingdom of God is already here.
In Luke 4, as Jesus was beginning his public ministry, after having been baptized by John and then tempted in the wilderness for forty days, Scripture tells us he came to His hometown village of Nazareth and visited the synagogue. As He stood up to read the Scriptures, he was handed a the scroll from Isaiah. He then read the following:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come. (Luke 4:18-19, NLT)
The religious leaders clearly would have recognized this passage as Isaiah’s description of the coming of the Kingdom of God (Isaiah 61). How would this young carpenter interpret the words He had just read? Would He add any commentary at all? Would he just say. “Let’s pray together that God’s Kingdom will come as promised and take us out of this miserable existence?” I’m sure that would have been met with great enthusiasm, as the Jews were currently suffering under the brutal governance of Rome.
But no. He made an amazing statement:
The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!
In other words, “The Kingdom of God has come.”
And as a result, they could expect certain things: Good News for the Poor. Release for the Captive. Sight for the Blind. Freedom for the Oppressed. The time of the Lord’s favor had come.
And it never left. It is still here.
Yes, I know it is not fully consummated. The Kingdom of God, though already here, has not yet completely and totally overcome the world. But it is advancing. It will be ultimately be finished when Christ returns, but we do not have to wait until then to see the Kingdom’s transforming power at work!
I once heard Rick Warren say, “The Kingdom of God is wherever Christ is King.” If He is King in your work, the Kingdom of God is there. If He is King in your home, the Kingdom of God is there, too. If He is King in your church, the Kingdom of God is there. And if He is King in your heart, the Kingdom of God is there, as well, and — get this — GOES WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO!
When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He didn’t leave us alone. He sent the Holy Spirit … GOD HIMSELF … to indwell each person who has made Him King.
That being true, we cannot continue to believe the lies of a merely future Kingdom. If we do, we miss what God is doing now. Advancing while we are retreating. Breaking through while we are standing still.
God is not simply sitting idly by watching as the world goes to Hell in a handbasket, waiting for just the right time to swoop in, kill all the bad guys and rescue His people from their pitiful little lives. No! He is already at work restoring the Creation that He made and loves to its original intended purpose, and if we will just open our eyes, we will see evidences of His current reign at every turn.
What this means is that there is hope. God reigns in Jesus here and now, as well as “up there” and later on. Circumstances can change. People can be transformed. Wrongs can be righted. Justice can be found. Children can be healed. Relationships can be restored. And we can be a part of it today.
Yes, the Kingdom of God is coming. But the Kingdom of God is also already here. And where the Kingdom reigns, the King transforms.
What is your view of the Kingdom of God? Do you see it only as something that will come one day or something that is already here and active? How does your view of the Kingdom affect your view of your circumstances? How does it affect how you view other people? What are some small ways you can begin to participate in the present Kingdom?