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kingdom

Christian Life, Relationships, young adults

Three Keys to Kingdom Community

November 14, 2016

 

 

It’s slightly mind-boggling to think that the Christian God, trinitarian, three-in-one, has been in eternal community. A couple weekends ago at Verge’s Midwest Leader Advance our focus was on developing kingdom community, the foundation of which is the God who created humanity in his image – crafted to function in connection with others of our kind.

As he nears his crucifixion Jesus shares much of significance with his twelve closest disciples in John 14-18, and there are some incredible, counter intuitive insights into what makes (or breaks) Kingdom community. During the first session of Leader Advance we spent some time in John 17:20-26 uncovering three of these keys. If you weren’t at Leader Advance hopefully this recap is helpful to you.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am,and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Kingdom Community Requires Receiving

“ I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity”

The foundation of everything in the Kingdom of God is the humility to receive the gift that the Father has given in Christ. Here in this prayer shortly before his murder, Jesus declares that “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” The glory that Jesus gives from his Father is the means of one-ness for those who follow him, but it requires that we be able to receive. We can’t have community if we insist on staying self-sufficient. It is the realization that we are deeply in need of our good God’s gifts that opens the doorway to deep relationships.

This principle plays out on a human level as well. Heaven’s kind of relationships cannot happen unless all who are a part of the community are willing to receive from all others. There’s no room for one-way streets. The richest community member must acknowledge that they have things to learn and receive from the poorest; the most mature believer that they can be taught by the newest.

Kingdom Community Requires Glory-Giving

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one

Our God’s glory is incredibly counter intuitive. As He showed through the cross, it is in pouring out and giving of himself that God’s glory is most brilliant. His sacrificial love for the sake of others reveals the essence of his beauty, so much so that Jesus is able to say here that he has given his followers the same glory that the Father had given him.

Stop and think about that for a moment. How much of His glory did the Father give to the Son? All of it. Scripture makes clear that Jesus was God; that his glory was God’s glory. Here he is saying that he’s giving that same glory to his followers. In Jesus God gives his brilliance to his followers, “that they may be one.”

The biblical terms for glory, doksa and kabo both point to glory as the intrinsic worth or essence of a being. The Apostle Paul expands this term to apply to created beings as well as God himself in 1 Corinthians 15, saying,

“There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.” (v.40-41)

My friends, you have a kind of glory that’s been placed in you by God. It’s not enough for us to simply receive the glory that is given to us. As Jesus demonstrates, the glory of God is revealed in the giving. If we are to have Kingdom community we must become proficient at giving of the glory that we have been given. We must give of ourselves by sharing our stories in all their gritty detail, sharing our lives in the truest forms of discipleship, and sharing our authority and responsibility.

Kingdom Community Requires Knowing and Naming

I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

According to Jesus when we know the name of the Father we are filled with the love that the Father has for the Son. Biblically, names has significant meaning and reveal much about the character of the one who is named. To know the name of someone is to know who they truly are – their character and identity.

The first question we must ask ourselves is, are we listening to Jesus as he continues to make known the Father to us? Are we hearing what he is speaking, or have we blocked ourselves off and begun to ignore the things about the Father that we find inconvenient, difficult, or uncomfortable? To the extent that we stop listening to Jesus making known the Father to us, we will be unable to receive or give the love that Jesus has for us.

The second question is, are we knowing and naming those who are in community with us? Do we know their stories and how God has created them? Are we naming them for who God is calling them to be, or simply content with how things are? The purpose of Jesus’ “making known” the Father’s name is “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” The knowing is meant to lead to a change in the knower’s life. If our communities are growing in knowledge about each other and God but not changing their lives, something is missing.

To have community we must know each other deeply and call (or name) each other to be who we truly are in Christ.

Three keys to kingdom community; receiving glory, giving glory, and knowing and naming. Each of these things are have been done by the Father, the Son, and the Spirit since eternity past. Now, through Christ, we are invited into the dance and can participate in the kind of community that God created humanity for. May we do so, and in doing so bring light to this lonely world.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Evangelism, Life, Theology

Like a Child Receiving a Kingdom

August 11, 2011

 

 

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.

–       Mark 10:15

A few days ago I was reading this very familiar passage in the gospel of Mark and was struck with the thought, “How exactly would a child receive a kingdom?” To my memory, every time I’ve heard this passage preached or mentioned, the point of the message always seems to be that we need to have faith like a child would in order to enter God’s kingdom. Certainly, that is true. All throughout scripture it is made clear that without the simple faith that children seem to have far more easily than adults, we will not find salvation. However, it seems to me that we have short-changed the words of Christ by limiting them to a popular, first-glance interpretation.

How would a child respond to the declaration and realization that they had just received a nation over which they were to rule? What would go through that young mind? What action would they take? I am by no means an expert on children or an accredited biblical scholar, but I’ve spent the last several years of my life growing in the knowledge of God’s word and nearly 8 hours a day every day this summer with children from the ages of 6-12. As I sat and thought about how a child would receive a kingdom, four things came to my mind which I believe will help us better understand our calling as Christians and how we ought to respond to the fact that we have indeed been given the Kingdom of Heaven in Christ.

We receive without fully understanding

No kid is going to grasp the full extent of what it means to be given a nation. If they did they would probably be terrified. Similarly, we come to faith in Christ with only a bare understanding of what it means to be a sinner, to have Christ’s blood cover our sins, to become a child of God, to receive the Holy Spirit, and to become missionaries in a dying world. If the full weight of those truths landed upon us at the outset we would be crushed.

There is a danger in inundating a new believer with knowledge in order to better understand what exactly it means to be a Christian and to be “on level” with those around them. It is a danger because, as the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8, “’knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up.”

Instead of telling his children to read up, take classes, discuss philosophies of government, and survey the land our heavenly Father slowly and gently introduces to the truths of his kingdom inch by inch. He prepares us for each forward step and never moves us beyond what he knows is for our good. There are lands in the far reaches of his kingdom, gloriously high mountain ranges and deep shadowed valleys that we are now unable to grasp until we have been thoroughly grounded in the basic, plain lands truths of the gospel. We would never make a six-year-old scale a mountain by themselves. Neither does God expect his children to be able to achieve the heights of his kingdom until he has adequately prepared them. And prepare them he will, but we begin as children.

We receive with eagerness

However, a child is by no means satisfied with sticking to several square feet when he or she knows that there is an entire world to explore. I never cease to be amazed at the escapades of young boys and the eagerness with which they will throw themselves into some new game or adventure. I remember years ago on a camping trip with my family and some friends we decided to hike alongside one of the numerous rivers that flow into Lake Superior along the north shore. At one point, the path we were hiking on went right next to the river, and Peter and I led the charge to actually hike in the riverbed despite the fact that it was made up of rocks and neither of us had sandals. With  energy fitting for a couple of teenage boys we hiked the fourmiles up the river in freezing water, scaling water falls, swimming swirling pools, and pausing at several points to attempt to climb the increasingly tall cliffs that bordered the river. I remember several times where I thought that we weren’t going to be able to make it up a waterfall or through a particularly deep and swift part of the river, but we laughed at our failures and kept trying until we made it to the rendezvous point.

We are to receive the kingdom of God with that kind of eagerness; not sticking to the known path but throwing ourselves into every opportunity that presents itself, overcoming obstacles, and refusing to sit down and complain about the difficulty. Like healthy children we aught to be the kind of people who laugh at and learn from failures and are able to find joy even when the going is slow and we have no idea when they end will come.

We receive in dependence

Children have no trouble acknowledging their need for help, sometimes to the point of annoying adults. Having fifteen kids ask you to help them cut out the ship they’ve been coloring is not an exciting thing. However, unlike we humans, our heavenly Father is infinite and takes great pleasure in his children seeking his help. So much so that he has given us the Holy Spirit, who pleads with the Father for us.

Far too often we Christians think that we just need to work harder in order to be the kind of people that God wants in his kingdom. In reality we are  commanded to rest, trust, and abide in him. He will do the work. In fact, he has done the work. It was for good reason that Christ declared, “It is finished” when he died. All is complete. We are to depend upon our king to provide for us, just like a child would depend upon his parents.

We joyfully declare what we have received

Lastly, though there are certainly more points that could be drawn out from this passage, no child is going to keep their new gift a secret. What kid have you ever seen get something amazing for Christmas and then go to their room and never show it to anyone? Far from it! Where I work kids are allowed to bring a toy from home to play with on Wednesdays, and without fail the kids who have recently been given something new race around the room showing off all that their new How To Train your Dragon toy or Pokemon cards or stuffed animal has to offer, generally inspiring a wave of jealousy and offers for trades and choruses of, “Can I have a turn playing with that?!”

We’ve received something far better than a new toy. Let’s stop with the silly, “would you like to receive Jesus into your heart?” Go out and try to get your head around the fact that every spiritual blessing is ours. That nothing in the world or beyond it can stand against us because God himself is for us. That everything, from birth to death, is crafted to do good to us. That we are no longer slaves condemned to death, we are now sons and daughters of the living God. That God, who has begun working in us, will complete his work and present us before himself in all glory and with much joy. That all creation watches eagerly to see the glory of us, the children of God. Get your head around that, and then go tell people about Christ and the kingdom of God. Understand that and maybe we’ll be a little closer to receiving it like we’re supposed to.