Painting the Kingdom
by Jonathan Bailey
The Kingdom of God can be fairly abstract. If we take an honest look at the Gospels we see this was indeed what Jesus was heralding, this was His message—the kingdom of God is available; whoever will, may come; I have come to declare the favorable year of the Lord.
But what was the Kingdom of God and does it have any relevance to my life today? How am I in the 21st Century to relate to the Kingdom? Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his wonderful book, The Cost of Discipleship echoes this same idea, “What can the call to discipleship (life in the Kingdom) mean to-day for the worker, the business man, the squire and the soldier?” 1
In order to understand the Kingdom we cannot simply define it–we have to paint it. Teachers of the Kingdom have to bring the Kingdom before their students in so many different ways. This is why Jesus never gives a definition of the Kingdom, rather He gives parables of the Kingdom in hopes that His followers would wrestle with the idea of the Kingdom and then come to it with a fuller understanding. A parable allows us to compare something to another, which helps us to understand the nature of the thing being compared.
WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD?
The Kingdom of God very simply put is God’s action. It is what God is doing here on earth. It is his will being done. You will remember in the model prayer Jesus instructs us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” You see God has allowed a small and remote place called earth in which humans can actually do something other than the will of God. Remember in heaven and everywhere else in the physical Universe God’s will is followed—beings like the angels are so enthralled with God and His life, that to do anything different would be for us like sticking a pen in our eyeball! This is what it means to do God’s will, or to be obedient. Obedience into Christlikeness is not raw exertion of will, but rather an act of joy precipitated by an eternal desire—precisely God’s.
If we look into the Greek language we also find some very interesting things. The word Kingdom in the Greek is Basileia: royal authority, the power of the king. So what Jesus said to those destitute souls in Judea was “People of God! Listen! It is now the favorable year of the King of all Kings! The God of the Heavens! The royal power of the King is now available, repent and believe in the gospel of God.” (Mark 1:14-15 emphasis obviously added) You may be asking yourselves, why would I want the royal power of the King–Jesus? Because this royal power is the only force capable of changing a human heart! It changes it in such a way, that it literally becomes like the heart of the King himself–Jesus. And that is the goal of Christian Spirituality, that is the goal of the Christian life, to become like Christ. So what we find is that the only way to become like Christ is to have access to the Kingdom of God: the royal authority of the King, the King’s action, or the Kings will.
Why would I want to learn how to live in the Kingdom of God? This is a very important question. To be honest most people do not see the Kingdom as something of delight or joy–if they see it at all. The Apostle Paul tells us that “The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
Jesus tells us in Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Do you see the Kingdom of Heaven as that man saw the tresure? These are the questions we need to start asking ourselves. Do I really want the Kingdom of God as much as that man wanted that treasure? May God give us the grace to see His Kingdom as treasure.
What is the relationship between the disciple and the Kingdom of God? In the words of Dallas Willard, “You can’t learn how to live in the Kingdom of God without becoming a disciple of Jesus.” If we are going to learn how to live in this Kingdom then we will have to keep constant company with the King.
In Luke 9:62 Jesus tells us, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God.” Putting your hand to the plow means that I am trusting Jesus to show me how to live in the Kingdom. It means that I believe Jesus was right about everything he said. That he knows more about life–my life–than I do. Thats what it means o put your hands to the plow. I am going to plant the seed and do everything in the power that has been given, and then allow His grace to come and transform m