If there is a perfect spot on planet earth where the weather is great, there is plenty to do and I can choose to be around loads of awesome people or be alone with my thoughts, it has to be Colorado. From the time I was little my family would vacation to Colorado to visit my uncle and aunt and my cousins. We would drive up into the mountains to look out over the world from Pike’s Peak or walk through a tourist trap Old West town called Central City. We would take in a Rockies game or just stay back at their house playing croquet or shooting pool.
So the Colorado bug bit my family when my wife and I travelled there with our kids a few years back. We rented a boat on Grand Lake, we went searching for moose, bathed in hot springs, hiked to waterfalls and waded into mountain streams. It is beautiful there. The air is crisp and clean in the mountains of Colorado, as if I’ve never breathed deeply before going there. It fills my lungs with a fullness the pollen-filled humidity of the Midwest can never attain.
So surely, if there’s any place on earth that can provide me with a glimpse of heaven, it’s Colorado. When I’m there I feel peace, security, freedom, joy and adventure. In the humdrum of my routine life, I have to search for those things to find them. In Colorado those things find me.
That, friend, is a picture of the Kingdom of God, the central theme of Jesus’s teaching in the Gospels. It’s the centerpiece to his teaching, yet the modern Church doesn’t understand it. Sermon topics abound:
Parenting On Point
Living for a Legacy
Spiritual Gifts and Why We Need Them
These topics aren’t inherently bad, in fact they help lead us to a more Christ-focused life. But these are all peripheral, orbiting around the center-point of the Kingdom of God.
So what is the Kingdom of God?
Some might thing God’s kingdom refers to the geographical domain, in this case heaven. When we hear “kingdom of God” we think it’s a future destination of the Christian, to live forever with God in his heavenly realm.
Some might think God’s kingdom refers to the subjects of God’s realm, in this case Christians. We hear “kingdom of God” and we think it’s referring to God’s people.
The scholarly among us might point out that Jesus was speaking to a predominantly Jewish audience. His original hearers might have believed God’s kingdom was the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people and the covenant he made with them through Abraham.
And still others among us might see God’s kingdom as a means of incorporating God’s laws and the moral teachings of the church into society as a means of social justice.
While each of these has merit, none entirely captures Jesus’s meaning and the importance of the Kingdom of God in his teaching. Jesus taught us that the Kingdom of God is like a sower sowing seed in a field (where weeds come up), like a mustard seed and like yeast in bread. He told parables about the Kingdom of God being like a treasure hidden in a field, like a merchant searching for fine pearls, like a king wishing to settle accounts and like a landowner hiring workers. He compared it to bridesmaids looking to meet the groom and a landowner bestowing talents (money). In the words of Jesus the Kingdom of God is a narrow path, it is exclusive and secretive, it belongs to the poor in spirit and the persecuted and it must be entered as a child. It is good news, near you, among you, within you and is at hand. That’s a lot to take in!
The Kingdom of God certainly encompasses God’s people and his eternal heavenly realm, but more than that the Kingdom of God is the rule and reign of God over his creation. It is the establishment of the intended hierarchy with God at the top and people as his creation loving, serving and obeying him.
When sin entered the picture in the Garden of Eden, it upended God’s design. He intended for humanity to be innocent and always in relationship with him. But our ancestors, and subsequently we, rebelled and chose to set ourselves on the throne of our hearts in God’s place. Sin steals the throne that rightfully belongs to God in the center of our lives and places the crown on our own heads. Rather than God being the writer, director and star of our show, he is relegated to a cameo appearance here and there or to play the best friend like that quirky little brunette that’s in about every romantic comedy. The Kingdom of God is the idea that when we let Jesus into our hearts God becomes the theme of our play.
Here are Jesus’s words from Luke 13:
18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
20 And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
When you enter into a relationship with God, you are agreeing to the hierarchy: God at the top, then others, then yourself. Having God in charge will permeate every facet of who you are (like yeast). When you give your life to Christ you submit your decisions to him, your desires to him. You turn over your political opinions, your hopes, your dreams, your fears and anxieties. You give up your right to run your life on your own and agree to let God direct your steps, shape your life and guide you to your destiny. You can’t hold on to the wheel and let God drive. God will not share the throne with you. When you become a part of the Kingdom of God, you are saying to God that his will is more important than your own and to have his way.
Your assignment this week is to evaluate your life. Take stock of the parts where you haven’t let God in. Maybe you became a Christian later in life, and you’re basically the same person you were before. You have the same habits, the same opinions, the same friends. Take an inventory this week and let God advise you on where he wants input, involvement and control. Is God your savior or is he Lord? If you haven’t moved past God saving you from sin to saving you from yourself, this is the week to do it. God loves you and wants you to let him be king in every area of your life, not just the handpicked areas that are most convenient for you. Therefore, live differently, starting now with God on the throne of your heart and see what living in God’s Kingdom really means.