EQUIP: Week 7 - Demonstrating the Kingdom of God
“You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14a; 16)
Week 7: Day 1 – Your Kingdom Come
“Your kingdom come…on earth as it is in heaven.” – Jesus [i]
Today is day one of the seventh week of our equipping experience, and up to this point, we’ve explored five of the six God-given purposes: Proclaiming the Gospel that Saves, Cultivating the Community of God, Maintaining A Life of Worship, Preserving the Truth that Frees, and Furthering the Flourishing of Society. It’s as if we are weaving a beautiful tapestry where each one of these priorities are intertwined with one another, dependent upon one another, and together begin to form both beauty and function. This week we are exploring our sixth and final thread that blankets “our work as the Church,” Demonstrating the Kingdom of God.
When Jesus says, “Your kingdom come…” what on earth did he mean? What does this even look like? Was he serious? Let’s hold onto these questions as we begin our daily rhythm.
As we seek to demonstrate the kingdom of God, we follow our daily PRAY(er) rhythm by, ‘P’: PAUSING to be still. ‘R’: REFLECTING on Scripture or learnings. ‘A’: ASKING God to help us and others on the journey and ‘Y’: YIELDING to God’s transformative work in our life, no matter the cost. [ii]
P. R. A. Y.
As I enter prayer now, I pause to be still; to breathe slowly; to recenter my scattered senses upon the presence of God.
Our Father, who are in heaven, your kingdom come. When you came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, you came as King and brought your kingdom with you. As I approach your Word, I ask you would open my eyes to your kingdom vision and inspire me to participate in furthering your kingdom here on earth, just as it is in heaven.
Read & Reflect
When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, second only to acknowledging the awe and wonder of God, was expressing the desire for God’s kingdom to be made manifest on earth just as it is in heaven. This phrase ‘kingdom of heaven’ can be confusing for many. What is Jesus praying for? Does he envision knights and horses, moats and castles? Does he want the earth to perish and ‘heaven’ to come down?
During the time of Jesus, Israel was held captive by the Roman Empire. In fact, Rome was thought to be the center of the universe. The further you moved away from Rome, the further you moved to ‘the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). According to Rome, all peace, flourishing and salvation was thought to have come from King Caesar who claimed to be the savior of the people.
It was common for Caesar to send messengers city to city carrying royal decrees. “Good News! Good News!” they would cry…“The Emperor himself sends good news!” It was Caesar who was the source of all “Good News” or the “Gospel” of his kingdom.
New Testament writers redeemed this secular, political, common phrase and attributed it to God and the “Good News” of God’s kingdom. Listen to how this phrase was first used when Jesus was coming on the scene with his public ministry:
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:2)
John, known as “The Baptizer”, is preaching in the desert country of Judea. His message was plain and simple, much like his desert surroundings: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.” In John’s proclamation he is echoing the prophet Isaiah (40:3)
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
And also the prophet Malachi who said, (Malachi 3:1)
“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”
John the Baptist is proclaiming the “Gospel”, the “Good News” of God’s reign in the here and now. John is also preparing the way for the true King who is the real source of all peace, flourishing, and salvation. And when King Jesus begins his public ministry…what does he do? Let’s take a look…
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:14-15)
It’s as if Jesus took the “Gospel” baton from John and kept running! Gospel means “good news,” but it’s more than that. It’s a royal announcement, and its use in the New Testament points to the radical announcement that God’s Kingdom is on Earth through Jesus. God’s reign is here and God’s kingdom is now.
Journal and/or self-reflect:
- What images come to mind when I read, “The kingdom of Heaven”?
- What does it mean for God to reign in the here and now?
- How does my life reflect this reality?
When people started following Jesus, hearing what he said and seeing what he did, they were ready to crown him as their king. We see this in the Gospels where the Apostle John records a story of one of Jesus’ amazing actions. Many of us may be familiar with the story of Jesus ‘feeding the five thousand’ with only five loaves of bread and two fish. However, we can easily skip over is the crowds’ response,
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (John 6:15)
It’s as if all who had witnessed Jesus’ miracle were like: “This is the guy we’ve been waiting for! Grab him! Let’s make him our King!” And what does Jesus do? He takes off! Why? Because this wasn’t the throne he was pursuing. Jesus had already faced this temptation in the wilderness when Satan had tried to get him on the throne. Jesus wasn’t interested in ruling an earthly kingdom. Rather, Jesus is interested in his heavenly kingdom ruling here on earth.
As I return to the invitation to follow Jesus every day, and everywhere, with everyone, Sovereign God, I am reminded of your reign and rule in the here and now. I recognize you as King and I recommit myself to living under your reign and rule in my life once again.
May your kingdom come and your will be done in me and through me here on earth. All for your glory and so that others might come to know you. Amen.
Over this next week, we will memorize Matthew 5:14a and 16 together. This passage will help frame the ongoing conversation throughout the week. To begin our practice, let’s write the following verses verbatim in a journal, notecard, on a post-it note, or make a note in your smart device:
“You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Spiritual Practice | Lectio Divina
As we continue to develop spiritual practices that are essential to our life of following Jesus, we continue this week in developing the habit of ‘Spiritual Reading.’ So often Scripture is read for the purpose of learning and gaining more knowledge. However, there is a big difference between knowing about God and knowing God.
For example, let’s consider Jesus’ statement in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” A systematic approach would focus on the reason for Jesus’ statement during the Last Supper, its biblical context, etc. However, in Lectio Divina, we “enter in” and share the peace of Christ rather than “dissecting” it. [iii]
Like we’ve said for the past six weeks, it is one thing for us to get through Scripture, but quite another for Scripture to get through us. Lectio Divina is meant to be a divine soak in the hot tub of God’s Word. This kind of prayerful reading is designed to help us to get to know God, to hear God’s voice and to allow God’s presence to change the atmosphere in and around us.
As we engage in this Divine Reading this week, we will focus on four key elements or movements to this practice: Read, Meditate, Pray, and Contemplate. So how do we start? Let’s begin by choosing a brief Scripture passage. It may be one that we have memorized this week or one that already resonates with us. John 14:27 will be used as an example, but feel free to choose one of your own.
Let’s begin with the first key element or movement to this practice: Reading. Read the following passage slowly, quietly, prayerfully.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
Reread the passage again pausing at any word or phrase where you feel the Spirit’s drawing. Suppose you come to Jesus’ wonderful offering, “my peace I give to you.” Stop and wait, yielded and still, be “all ears” to Jesus. Perhaps the Spirit will mine your own feelings, exposing deep reasons for your anxiety and restlessness and giving you intense longing for a peace not your own and not dependent upon the winds of circumstances. [iv]
2021 Rev. Mike Morgan