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Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Gospel of the Kingdom

God has been showing me so much over the past few months that I want to write about, yet I'm not even sure where to begin. I guess I could start with the Koosh ball. You may remember me referring to this a while back... Cassidy came up with the idea that all the various behaviors we try to foster as Christians are like all the tiny ends that protrude from the center of a Koosh ball. Unfortunately, we too often focus on getting all the "ends" right without having any central connecting point holding them all together. This central connecting point, Cassidy began to realize, is a Biblical worldview.

A couple months ago Cassidy shared with me (and with our youth shepherds, and on his Facebook page, and so on, haha) a really incredible 18-minute video of a message by Chuck Colson that has completely revolutionized my understanding of the Gospel. Colson very simply and succinctly describes the story of the Bible in four acts that answer the questions every worldview seeks to address: Creation (Where did we come from?); Fall (Why is there sin and suffering in the world?); Redemption (Is there a way out?); and Restoration (Why am I here and what is my purpose?).

Colson addresses the fact that we tend to tell only half the story -- the parts about the Fall and Redemption. That was quite enlightening to me, and it also made me stop and consider the fact that when I think of evangelism I tend to think of starting out with the message that we humans are all depraved... It's not that that's untrue, but it dawned on me how ridiculous that must sound to someone who isn't familiar with the whole story. I think if I'd never heard it, I'd ask why in the world God created a race of depraved people. Well, He didn't. In the beginning we were not depraved; in fact, God called His creation good.

In addition to this oversight, I'm afraid we tend to miss the real point of what comes after Redemption. I feel like we emphasize that people are to live moral lives in accordance with the Bible, but we don't really give a reason why, other than pleasing God. However, I'm coming to realize that the reason God wants our obedience is that the things He calls us to do are designed to restore His original good design for our lives.

Case in point, I've always struggled with jealousy and anger. When God's Word directs me to avoid these things, it's not JUST to appease Him; it's also because His original GOOD design for me (being that man was created in His image) was to reflect the beautiful qualities of HIS character such as mercy, patience, forgiveness, and grace. As He restores His good design for me, His design for those around me begins to see some restoration as well, as they encounter His qualities in my life rather than my own sinful ones. See how this works? It's pretty amazing...

Now, as these ideas have been sinking into my thinking, I've also been reading the book of Luke, and something that's been standing out to me is how many times Jesus mentions the kingdom of God, and specifically sharing "the good news of the kingdom." For probably my whole life as a Christian, the idea of the "kingdom of God" has seemed like some sort of mystery to me. I'm not exactly sure why except that I don't really remember hearing it emphasized or even really talked about or described in church growing up. Last fall when I was taking the Perspectives class, however, one thing I learned was that the kingdom of God is literally the king-dom, or reign, of God... Well that's really not such a complicated concept after all, is it?

When I apply that concept to Jesus' preaching of the kingdom, it all makes sense... We're called not simply to live moral lives but to enter the king-dom of God by submitting to His reign in our lives so that He can restore us to His original good design by transforming us to make us reflect Christ! And as we allow Him to reign in our lives, we bring glimpses of His kingdom to the world around us, showing what things were meant to -- and one day WILL -- be like!

I was sort of dumbfounded as I kept coming across the phrase "the good news of the kingdom" in the book of Luke, because when I think of the good news (or GOSPEL), my immediate thought is of salvation, not the kingdom. And granted, salvation is a CRUCIAL part of the Gospel... Without it, there is no entrance to the kingdom. But suddenly it dawned on me that perhaps we as the church have been staring at the door, or the gate, for so long, we've forgotten that it leads to something. We cannot afford to bypass the message of salvation, but likewise I certainly would hate to spend my life missing the message of the kingdom it ought to lead to!

Realizing all of this has quite simply revolutionized my faith. I am EXCITED about the Gospel in a way that I never have been before -- probably because I never fully understood it before! I understood salvation but I was TOTALLY missing the point of representing God's kingdom and partnering with Him in bringing restoration of His original good design for His creation wherever and however I can as I live out my days on earth. Life has MUCH deeper meaning now!

This morning I read the passage where Jesus says to seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you. I really feel like I am learning what it means to live that out. I still have my own personal desires, and they are still planted deep in my heart. But my desire for pursuing God's king-dom in my own life and thus bringing glimpses of it to the world around me is stronger than any other desire I have for probably the first time in my life. And I'm finding that as a result, I'm growing in my ability to trust HIM to "add all these things" to my life.

This is not to say that I've got everything figured out now, or that I've mastered submitting to God's reign in my life, because I definitely haven't. But my perspective of life is definitely becoming more clear, and my heart is definitely finding greater fulfillment and joy in seeking HIS king-dom than it has ever found in trying to pursue my own!

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Awesome. Fan-tas-tic!