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24 April 2018

The kingdom of the Father’s love

Perhaps the most basic but clearest description of what the kingdom means comes from pastor and author John Piper on his website Desiring God: "God's kingdom is His reign." John explains that the kingdom is not a physical place nor a people, but rather it is a governance – the rule of God.

The ministry 

You can tell what a person is passionate about by how much they talk about it. Jesus regularly spoke about the kingdom of God. In the four gospels, He taught, preached, illustrated and mentioned the kingdom of God more than 120 times.

Jesus came to restore God's kingdom on earth in a new way, the only way. Through His ministry, the Son of God was revealed, and He set in motion a radical, cosmic renewal that will fulfil God's will and purpose in His relationship with all creation. God's desire is to redeem His people, to restore relationships. It is to beautify creation and fulfil hopes and dreams. It is where the King reigns, and justice, mercy and hope flow from His kingship.

The kingdom of God is a love story, not a power story. It is the good news of salvation and restoration. It challenges the individual and corporate kingdoms of our world. Where wealth, power and authority are the idols (seen so clearly in the conversation Jesus had with Pilate (John 18)), it reveals an upside-down kingdom where the loving reign of God brings about a new, transformational way.

The cross

At the heart of the inauguration of God's kingdom is the sacrificial and obedient death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection. God demonstrated His rule and Jesus' kingship only through Jesus' death. Not only did God exemplify His kingdom of love and restoration, but through Jesus' resurrection, and subsequent ascension, He demonstrated the power and authority of Jesus' kingship.

The kingdom and the cross are inseparable. The death and resurrection of Jesus revealed the triumph of God's kingdom and the victory of the King. Not only did it deal with the issue of our sin that led to separation from God and rebellion, but it also defeated every other power, authority and kingdom: one day every knee will bow. The cross guarantees that the kingdom has come and is coming; the kingdom is both a present and future reality. In the words of English New Testament scholar Nichols Thomas Wright, Jesus has established 'a cruciform theocracy' – a cross-centred rule.

The loving rule of God changes everything. The kingdom has been demonstrated, but it has come in submission and sacrifice, initiating a new creation. This new way of living is demonstrated by a people of all languages, tribes and nations, who live the kingdom way: in obedience to the will of
God the Father.

The people

Crucially, through repentance, salvation and the infilling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus created a people of the kingdom: those who understand and willingly live in loving obedience to Him. This learning from and living with the King is the heart of discipleship.

How are we to live in the kingdom? Firstly, we are to take up our cross daily. Our lives are to be a constant abandonment in love to the rule of King Jesus. It is to be salt and light, penetrating a world desperately in need of the love of the King.

What does this lifestyle look like? I believe the kingdom people are those who are called to live out the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5). We are to be the pure in heart, meek, peacemakers, who forgive and live as signposts pointing to the rule that is coming. We are also the praying people. It's not possible to separate living the kingdom from praying for God's kingdom to come. We must recognise that when we pray for the kingdom to come, we are submitting our plans to God. The kingdom people are those who daily seek to demonstrate the values and authority of the King through love, sacrifice and forgiveness. The King rules. The kingdom is present and still to come. Jesus invites us to surrender all to join with Him in revealing the wonder of the upside-down kingdom. We do it as salt and light, refusing to take on the methodology of the world but by God's love pointing to the better way.

As the community of love, we go in to the world with gracious humility and great confidence, because we know that God reigns and Jesus has won. We live the humble path of followers who preach, pray, heal and set captives free in the King's name, so that His kingdom will be revealed and come on earth as it is in heaven.

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