A Church defined by Jesus – Part 2
The Church as the embodiment of the Kingdom of God
In and through Jesus, God has launched a new world referred to in the New Testament as the kingdom of God. The theme of the kingdom of God was central to Jesus' life and ministry and sought to answer the question - What would the world look like if God were in charge? In essence, the answer is - it will look like Jesus the King.
Jesus defines what the kingdom looks like and by extension what the church should look like as well.
I love what Nathan Hamm said in relation to this,
God is like Jesus. God's kingdom looks like Jesus. God's church is the community called to live and love like Jesus.
If God is like Jesus, then Jesus reflects, informs, and demonstrates what the world can look like when we live under God's loving reign.
Everything Jesus said and did helps us to see what God's kingdom looks like. It presents us with an alternative story within which we can live, and provides the counter-script we can embrace and participate in today.
In Jesus, God has launched a new world. He is what the world looks like when God is in charge. Rather than an upside-down kingdom, I'd prefer to call it an upside-right kingdom. Its values and ethos represent the way the world was always meant to be and the way God is lovingly leading the world to one day become in full.
The beginning of this process was launched in and through Jesus - in his birth, life, public career, death, resurrection, and ascension. And, the church has been called and energized by the Holy Spirit to continue in the kingdom ministry Jesus inaugurated.
The Church and the kingdom
The church as the body of Christ on earth is called to showcase to the world (a kingdom within a kingdom) what God's kingdom is to look like.
As Dan White Jr. once said,
God is kneading the fresh dough of his kingdom into the world through the broken but beautiful church.
The church is called and energized to reflect and live out the values and ethos of God’s kingdom through the enablement of God's Spirit.The church is energized to reflect the ethos of God’s kingdom through the grace of God's Spirit. Click To Tweet
We are to be outposts of the kingdom. We are called to showcase to others what it means to be a part of a new story, a new world under King Jesus.
As Scot McKnight wrote in his book, Living the Jesus Creed,
In speaking of the kingdom, Jesus wants his followers to live now as if we find ourselves in a society in which the will of God is already established.
Jesus' kingdom is to be lived out within and through the church.
God became one of us in the person of Jesus to show us what his kingdom looks like. He invites us to participate with him in showcasing to others what this kingdom should continue to look like.
The Church is the primary locale of God's kingdom. We are called to continue in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and to showcase to the world what it looks like when God is in charge.The church is to be the primary locale of God's kingdom on earth. Click To Tweet
Salvation includes forgiveness, but also extends beyond it and includes the call to be born again from above, by the Spirit, into God's new world. The church is called to invite others to be born into this new world where Jesus is King. The church is called to live out the ideals of this new kingdom by continuing in the ministry of Jesus.
As N.T. Wright wrote in his book, Simply Jesus,
Through Jesus's followers God is establishing his kingdom and the rule of Jesus himself on earth as in heaven.
We essentially become the hands and feet of our King and we are kingdom ambassadors armed with a message from the King - love God and love one another.
Learning the kingdom through Jesus
What would the world look like if God were in charge?
It will look like Jesus.
Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (his keynote address) has become the mission statement for the church throughout the ages - the centre-piece of what we are to value as Jesus-followers. The Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6) ought to define the church as the locale of God’s kingdom on earth.
We are called to watch Jesus as he spends time with people, listen to his words, and walk after him as humble students and servants. How did he treat people, why did he heal people, why did he die, why did Jesus do the things he did and say the things he said?
What was Jesus' life and death all about? It was a promise of a new world, a new way of living and loving within the world, a world where he would be King and where enemies would become friends and the way of peace, not violence, will be the norm.
And, the Sermon is the call for Jesus’ followers to walk after him and to demonstrate these ideals as a foretaste of what will one day come in full - echoes of the kingdom come in the kingdom now.
The Christian community is supposed to live in reality how all humanity is supposed to live in theory (N.T. Wright). A world that God will one day renew when his loving reign will stretch from sea to sea.
Until that day, the church is called to pull the future into the present, to be a foretaste of that new world - today.
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