Bible Reference: John 18:33-38
All who believe in Jesus Christ are part of the Kingdom of God. That kingdom is not a political entity nor a geographic turf of ground here on earth. The Kingdom of God is everywhere Jesus is allowed to rule.
Theologically we talk about God being omnipresent – everywhere present at the same time. But in Revelation 3:20, it says “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in.” The one place Jesus is present by invitation only is the sphere of the human heart.
Jesus expresses His love and devotion to us as the Savior who has come to rescue us and reunite us with our heavenly Father. He seeks access to our life through His presence in our lives. When we say, “Come in, Lord Jesus,” we are inviting Jesus as King to rule in us. So the Kingdom of God is an invisible kingdom embedded into the world everywhere a believer in Christ lives.
How does one enter this Kingdom of God? I am a grandpa, so I watch children’s movies. Recently I again watched C. S. Lewis’ tale from the classic series The Chronicles of Narnia. The first movie, based on the books he wrote in the series, is called, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” It documents the story of four children in England who discover the Kingdom of Narnia. The port of entry is a wardrobe closet in a big, old, country house. They enter the Kingdom of Narnia where Aslan, the lion, rules, and they try to regain the kingdom from a witch who has kept the kingdom in continual winter for hundreds of years.
It is a fascinating story. We, however, do not enter a fantasy kingdom alluding to God’s power. We enter the reality of God’s kingdom through Jesus Christ Himself. Remember when Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and said, “We know you are from God for no one could do the extraordinary things you do except he’s from God. No one can speak with the eloquence you speak unless he has the wisdom of God. How does one enter the Kingdom of God?” Then Jesus told him, “You must be born again. . . . You must be born of water and the Spirit” (John 2:2-5).
By faith, the power of God births us into the kingdom of God in the name of Jesus. Christian baptism is an entrance into this grace by the initiative of God. Not unlike the incarnation of Jesus, God radically comes in His initiative to bring us into His kingdom. Perhaps the suitable analogy would be adoption. The power of God initiates the relationship, pays for the adoption, and binds the Father to the adopted child in a legal covenant.
Yet, even in this analogy of Christian baptism, the child can grow up to reject the Father and run from the privilege of all it means to be a part of that family. Romans chapter five tells us, “Having been justified by our faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and in his name we have access to this grace in which we live.” So it is by faith in Jesus that we enter this kingdom of grace.
Jesus Himself said, “I am the door. Anyone who enters through me shall go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). Remember the thief who hung dying on the cross? He turned to Jesus and addressed Him as if He were a ruler for the future. Although he also was dying on the cross, the thief said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Today, you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).
Luther said in the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, “We pray, ‘thy kingdom come’ and God’s kingdom indeed comes without our praying. But in this prayer, we pray Jesus’ kingdom would come to us.’” The port of entry into the kingdom of God is the person of Jesus Himself, and our surrender to Jesus, receiving Jesus as the Son of God and our Savior.
What does it mean then for us to swear allegiance to Jesus as King, and what does it mean for us to be kingdom people in today’s world? I want to talk about three things that mark Jesus’ reign as King and have implications for us as kingdom people.
When we say Jesus is all-powerful as Lord, He is my King, and I am a part of His kingdom, we usually think of that as elevating our lives to a position of privilege. Indeed it is. But usually we define that full privilege in terms of earthly material goods or freedom from the difficulties of this world. What does it mean that Jesus ruled from a cross, what does it mean that Jesus rode a donkey, and what does it mean that Jesus as King washed dirty feet?
First, to say Jesus rules from a cross means we have placed our trust in the crucified Messiah. The whole of the kingdom of God is based on a foundation of forgiveness and grace. It is not on the basis of performance or perfection, but on the promise of the King. He forgives all His people. They belong to Him by virtue of His favor flowing from the heart of God.
A man came into my office one day with a great need to unburden himself. It was almost like a sick person emptying his stomach as he confessed. He was in deep trouble. His marriage was struggling, he was in danger of losing the family farm because of a number of flawed financial decisions, and recently he had gone on a fishing trip and ended up in bed with a woman. The stress of the farm finances had led him to get high on drugs a number of times.
In the midst of his confession of immoral choices and what he knew was wrong, he paused and looked at me. We locked eyes and he said, “Can Christ forgive me?” We talked then about how that was the reason the good Lord came. That is why Jesus, who was King, emptied Himself of His power and glory and became willing to be obedient to death on the cross – so sinners like you and I could gladly receive the promise of grace and new beginnings. So we could repent of our sins and walk fresh, hand-in-hand, with Jesus as our Lord.
The man got up from our prayer time believing Jesus had forgiven Him. Filled with hope in the kingdom of Jesus based on forgiving grace, he went home to work to repair his marriage and save his farm.
As we live with our hearts’ allegiance to Jesus as King, we lead with the same grace toward others that we have received from Christ. We lead with love, not judgment. We lead with love, not the law. It also means that, as God on the cross embraces us in our darkest moments of struggle and suffering, we should also offer grace, sensitivity, and compassion to people we encounter.
I’m struck with a phrase Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, wrote in the leaf of his Bible. “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”
Second, we remember Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem. We, as kingdom people, are to likewise move through life in humility, the same humility Jesus showed when He lived in our world. Humility means we recognize our proper position in relation to God, and we submit to divine grace and power. We live with self-restraint from vanity or self absorption or arrogance. We realize our smallness in the presence of God’s greatness. That’s what Paul wrote about when he said, “Have the same love, being of the same spirit and purpose. Have the same mind as Jesus. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others before yourself. Look to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:1-4).
What does a life of humility look like? It means no task is too demeaning or beneath my dignity. It means I live with no notion of superiority over others. I lose all sense of entitlement. My life holds no place for arrogance, and I live in a continual awareness of my dependency upon Jesus’ grace. Meekness is not weakness; rather, it is strength under the control of Christ.
Thirdly, we follow Jesus the King, who washed His disciples’ feet. As kingdom people, we serve others in love as Jesus has served us.
My six-year-old granddaughter, Ruby, who plays summer baseball, recently got a hit. Her good friend was playing second base on the opposing team, so as she ran from first to second, Ruby paused to hug her friend before she continued to run the bases.
Maybe we’d do well to carry ourselves with the same kind of loving kindness instead of being so driven and competitive in how we live every day. We need to serve others in love. Henri Nouwen said, “Often we speak about love as if it is a feeling. But if we wait for a feeling of love before loving, we may never learn to love well. The feeling of love is beautiful and life-giving, but our loving cannot be based in that feeling. To love is to think, speak, and act according to the spiritual knowledge that we are infinitely loved by God and called to make that love visible in this world.”
We live in a world that says we only need to love people who have proven they are worthy of love or have enough value in our eyes that we would show them love. But Jesus says we should unconditionally show love to everybody in the same way God has loved us.
What does serving other people in love look like? It means we would pray for them, bear their burdens, listen with compassion and sensitivity, offer them encouragement, see the good in them and draw it out by our affirmation. Each day we ask the Holy Spirit to fill us so we shine with the love of Jesus as we relate to others.
Where should we show that love? I encourage you to begin by showing it to people who are closest to you in life. Often we can show kindness, patience, and forbearance to people we don’t even know, but then treat those with whom we share life – our family or spouse – surly and grumpy, not with kindness or respect, dignity or love.
I like what preacher Andy Stanley said, “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but someone you raise.” Serving others in love and offering the same forgiving grace and reconciliation God has given us is a powerful way for us to live as kingdom people.
As you live day to day as people of King Jesus, never forget He lives to serve you. He rules from the cross to pour out grace greater than all your mistakes and failures. He lives in humility to serve your needs in love every day. Live with confidence as kingdom people that God would use your life to bless others, because you have a life bonded to Jesus Christ. Amen.
Rev. Lee Laaveg