The Kingdom of our Hearts

“But John intervened: “I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out” (Luke 3:16, MSG).

In 2 days, on Palm Sunday, Jesus begins his final journey to the cross. But we can’t yet talk about the cross without first talking about the kingdom of God.

To be honest, the kingdom of God always felt more than a bit abstract, distant, and elusive to me. I didn’t know if I could define it or recognize it, and I certainly could not imagine the part I played in it.

I know we don’t often use “kingdom” language, but Jesus did, a lot. In fact, most scholars seem to agree that more than any other theme Jesus taught was the present availability of the reign or kingdom of God (see Matt 3:2; 4:7). Jesus declared is mission as, “And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent” (Luke 4:43). Even during the forty days between His resurrection and ascension, Jesus again “spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

I am not sure how I missed it because throughout the Gospels, Jesus consistently and clearly described the kingdom for us: “The kingdom of God is like …” A pearl of great price, a mustard seed, a landowner, a lost coin, a lost son…Jesus was not only talking about a place in an afterlife or a time of His future return, but He also dared to say that we could live this full in the kingdom of God right now (Matt. 3:2; 4:17).

Jesus instructed us to seek out the rule and reign of God in our lives as a way of seeing, thinking, and living now. Dallas Willard notes that the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) was a compilation of “illustrations of the blessings of living under God’s rule.” The kingdom is a present reality! And it has everything to do with our hearts.

Go on.

One of the best descriptions of this kingdom is contained in one of our most familiar prayers: “Your kingdom come … Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). When we pray, “your kingdom come,” we are saying, “Lord, may your perfect will be done, not only on earth but in my life, where you rule as King.” It seems when and where submission to God’s will takes place is where and when His kingdom is revealed.

Ah…When I surrender my heart (lived out in real ways) to the reign and will of God in my life, the kingdom is revealed through my life…and here’s the best part…and I am participating in God’s redemptive kingdom purposes! We see this most clearly and prominently revealed through Jesus’ life, ministry, and submission to the cross. God’s reign through Christ crucified is the cornerstone of Christ’s kingdom mission of reconciling all things to Himself.

African missiologist David Bosch notes, “Mission is more than and different from recruitment to our brand of religion; it is the alerting of people to the universal reign of God through Christ.’ In other words, mission derives from the reign of God. In that respect, the ideas of our mission and God’s kingdom are irrevocably linked. Mission is both the announcement and the demonstration of the reign of God through Christ. Mission is not primarily concerned with church growth. It’s primarily concerned with the reign and rule of the Triune God.” (Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People)

We can now better understand why Jesus synonymously used His kingdom and our hearts interchangeably. “Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, or will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).

Similarly, the book of Luke records, “But John intervened: “I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out” (Luke 3:16, MSG). Jesus linked His kingdom with the dynamic life of His Spirit in us.

This means Jesus tied the infrastructure of His redemptive mission to the ongoing transformation of our hearts! So, we participate in God’s mission as co-workers with God (1 Cor. 3:9) when our lives reflect the reality of Christ, in loving and authentic ways, in a skeptical world.

Why does all this matter? We will have to pick this up tomorrow...but here is a hint: The kingdom was established through the self-giving love of Christ on the cross, and, thus, it will be revealed through the self-giving love of his people.

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