Are You a Kingdom Christian?
The Gospel of the kingdom centers on the kingdom of God, not on any human organization. Jesus inaugurated this kingdom when He came to earth. We cannot claim to be followers of Jesus if we are not devoted to His kingdom. This kingdom may involve human organizations, but it supersedes and surpasses them.
For example, in the rural villages of Burji, Ethiopia, my wife and I work with the Kale Heywet denomination simply because this is the only denomination that exists in this part of the country. Our commitment is not to the denomination per se but to the kingdom of God. In other parts of Ethiopia we are glad to participate with the Messerete Christos denomination, the Mulu Wongel denomination, the Mekane Yesus denomination, and other evangelical organizations. For us, the human organization is somewhat arbitrary. I say this as a committed Baptist. Baptists are not the only true expression of God's kingdom. I know that some will call me a heretic for saying this, but I believe it is what the Scriptures teach. "There will be one flock and one Shepherd," said Jesus (John 10:16). This flock is comprised of all obedient followers of Jesus. Out ultimate allegiance must be to Him. This loyalty surpasses even our (legitimate) loyalty to our denominations. In the kingdom, moreover, there are no barriers to fellowship -- racial, cultural, tribal, or national. Jesus' kingdom has no national boundaries, no military forces, no earthly king, no passports.
In stressing the transcendence of the kingdom, I am not minimizing the importance of biblical truth. I have taught the Bible for over 34 years. I have published books on exegesis and biblical interpretation. There are indeed necessary theological doctrines, but theology is not the essence of the Gospel. What is the essence of biblical Christianity? Jesus told us quite plainly: "Whoever loves Me will obey My word" (John 14:23). Then He made it clear what His "word" is when He added, "My commandment is this: love one another as I have loved you" (15:12). Now, when Jesus talks about obeying His commandments, He means genuine obedience, one that involves costly sacrifice rather than the easy-believism so prevalent today. What really counts, says Jesus, is that we are walking obediently to Him. This obedience is as much enabled as it is required, of course. In Rom. 8:3-4 Paul writes:
For what the law could not do because our flesh was weak, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to do away with sin. God did this so that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us who live according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.
Thus, in the kingdom of God, what matters is obedience. The essence of the Christian faith lies in our willingness to walk in the way of Jesus. Paul writes, "The kingdom of God is not in word but in power" (1 Cor. 4:20). In other words, the essence of the kingdom is not theology (word) but practice (deed). We must let go of everything else in this world. We must live as citizens of the kingdom, a kingdom that requires a loyalty surpassing our loyalty to our parents, spouse, church, country, and even our lives. "The kingdom of heaven," said Jesus, "is like a merchant looking for beautiful pearls who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it" (Matt. 13:44-46). Kingdom Christians have found the pearl of great price. Like Jesus, they refuse to separate doctrine from practice, word from power. They reject the Constantinian Hybrid that combines the kingdoms of this world with the kingdom of God. What matters to kingdom Christians is what the Scriptures say, not what any man or denomination says. Church Christians, on the other hand, believe that material things are more important than sacrificing for the kingdom. Their comfort means more to them than the billions of lost souls in the world today. They acknowledge the state as equally important as the church and gladly fly their national flag in their sanctuaries -- something kingdom Christians find repugnant.
If you're serious about being a kingdom Christian, I encourage you to read the teachings of Jesus for yourself. You will quickly discover that the kingdom of God is not an easy road. Jesus' kingdom, unlike earthy kingdoms, is always at war. And King Jesus requires absolute loyalty from His citizens.
April 6, 2010
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.