The Kingdom Of God
Duane Vander Klok
I believe that one of evangelical Christianity’s biggest mistakes is that we have made salvation postmortem. By that, I mean that many Christians today, if asked why they got saved, would respond, “So I can go to heaven when I die.”
While it is true that salvation has a future tense, Jesus’ ministry was not focused on merely helping people escape hell. Instead, He taught and demonstrated how to live in the kingdom of God now.
The kingdom of God is such a significant topic to Jesus that He started His ministry by preaching about it. Mark 1:14-15 tells us, “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.’” The Message Bible says it this way: “Times up, God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the message.”
God’s Kingdom is Here
The kingdom that Jesus and His disciples preached was far from being only about what happens after death. This can be seen clearly in Acts 2:40 where Peter urged the people, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” You see, God wants to transform your life today. Not just when you die. He wants you to be saved today from this perverse generation.
The word “perverse” as used here comes from the Greek word skolios which means crooked or warped. Peter was telling them that they lived in a generation where the people were not following God’s ways but were walking in ways that were crooked and their warped lifestyles proved it. The same can certainly be said of our generation.
At one time or another, we have all seen old, dilapidated, rusted-out, oil-burning, going-crooked-down-the-road automobiles. The condition of those cars is undoubtedly not what the engineers who designed them had in mind. Likewise, people who live according to this crooked generation are not what God had in mind, either. He wants to bring each of us back to His original design and purpose.
God originally designed humans for this earth. That’s what you were created for; your original purpose was for right here. And the kingdom of God doesn’t begin when you die. Jesus said it’s here right now.
Change Your Life
The most appropriate response to knowing that the kingdom of God is here is to “change your life and believe the message” (Mark 1:15, Message). Other translators say to “rethink your life.” Because culture is headed in the wrong direction, Jesus said you need to change your life and that you need to believe His message.
When you reached out and took hold of God’s gift of salvation, He relocated you into His kingdom in the spiritual realm. Colossians 1:13 says, “[The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (AMP). God wants us to think of ourselves as being in this world but not part of its system or its moral values, concepts, and philosophies. He also wants us to rethink or change how we live to reflect the ways of His kingdom.
Christ Formed in You
Receiving Christ is more than an event, more than just praying a prayer. It is a process, and prayer is the event that begins the process. The Apostle Paul was referring to this process when he wrote, “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you…” (Galatians 4:19). Christianity is what the Bible calls here, “Christ being formed in you.”
In Colossians 1:27, Paul called it, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Jesus spoke of it as, “Making disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded…” (Matthew 28:19-20). It’s not just an event, it is a process.
The purpose of Christianity in your life, the purpose of the kingdom, is for Christ to be formed in you. Someone might ask the question: “Doesn’t God love me like I am?” Absolutely! He loves you so much that He won’t leave you the way you are. He wants to salvage your life. He wants Christ to be formed in you so that you are an expression and manifestation of the kingdom of God.
The kingdom of God is not about heaven and hell “minimums.” Rather, it is about God invading your life and transforming you right now. It’s about Christ being formed in you so that you have His character, His morals, His ethics, and the mind of Christ.
You and I are living in a culture that is so warped that many no longer believe there is absolute truth – truth that is true for all people everywhere, all the time, no matter what. However, the Bible makes it very clear that there is an absolute truth, and Proverbs 14:12 tells us, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
People sometimes ask, “Can I be a Christian and do ‘this or that’?” That is not a bad question if you are asking because you sincerely want to please God. But more often than not, people who ask that question are really saying, “I want to do what I want to do, but I still want to go to heaven and not hell.”
Because they are not really seeking a transformed life, they do not really want to break free from the ways of the world. Since they would rather walk as close to the line as possible, they often miss out on much of the good life God desires for them.
The Good Life
It is not wrong to want to live the good life as long as you have God’s picture of what the good life is supposed to look like. The Bible tells us, “We are God’s (own) handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, (born anew) that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us (taking paths which He prepared ahead of time), that we should walk in them (living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live)” (Ephesians 2:10, AMP).
From God’s perspective, living the good life has nothing to do with the American Dream, materialism, or greed. It has everything to do with living the life that God has already laid out for you to live. It is about doing the good and right things that He has prepared in advance for you to do. Our culture will try to lure you into a false view of the “good life,” but, believe me, there is no place where you will have more of what you really desire than when you are walking in God’s plan for your life. It’s not only the good life, it is the abundant life.
The mystery of the kingdom of God is that it is here, but it is also coming. It is here today in the hearts and lives of followers of Jesus Christ. It will come in its fullness when Jesus returns. We can see both aspects of this in the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray. This prayer, commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer, says: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
We must realize that Christianity is not simply a religion, a moral teaching, or a philosophy. It is not just like a kingdom. It is a kingdom – a spiritual kingdom with Jesus reigning and ruling in our hearts.
When you look at what Jesus and His disciples taught, they talked about God invading your life today. They talked about “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” and about “Christ being formed in you.”
“My little children,” Paul said, “for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you…” (Galatians 4:19). That is the goal of the kingdom of God for your life: that Christ be formed in you.
(All scriptures are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise stated.)