Sometimes I sit down to read the bible and I find myself frustrated by the difference of what I read and what I experience. Have you ever felt this way? All throughout scripture, we are confronted with the gap between what we see and experience in reality and what we read about the Kingdom of Heaven.
You may look at the world around you and have a sneaking suspicion that God left some things unfinished because we all know that the gap between what is and what should be, is real.
The Kingdom of Heaven
I mean, any of us with eyes can look around and see that His Kingdom is not of this world. Although it is always pretty evident, there are some moments when it is blatantly obvious. For example, every time we see pain, suffering or sorrow, it is disgustingly obvious. We also know that in His Kingdom, the sorrow of our fallen reality will be wiped away. We understand that the Kingdom of Heaven will come and that the Kingdom is something we are to receive in faith.
Naturally, this understanding leaves us to ask the question, are we, as Christians, somehow supposed to live fully like we’re in the Kingdom of Heaven?
To wrestle with this, we have to understand what the Kingdom is. Simply put, it is the rule and reign of Christ our King.
Although we are surrounded by pain, suffering and sorrow that reminds us the Kingdom is not fully revealed in our midst, we can live with His rule and reign governing our lives.
In surrender to Jesus, the Kingdom of God is both entered now and entered in the future. As a Christian, that is your invitation. You don’t have to stand at a distance, longing to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. You can submit yourself to His rule and reign now, and experience the freedom, life, joy that comes from following Jesus.
We are Citizens of Heaven
That is our reality. You are a Kingdom citizen. You’re redeemed and called to God to live as an agent of this Kingdom. God has invited you to surrender fully to His rule and His reign now. And He has invited you to reveal Him to the world around you now.
What an incredible calling! In a cultural climate that seems obsessed with discussing citizenship, as Christians, our citizenship resides first in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Just because the invitation is magnificent, doesn’t mean it’s easy.
It means death to our rule and reign. It means constant surrender and submission. The requirement is that we give complete control of our lives to Jesus.
Wow. Now, that sounds challenging.
And it is.
But, when we live as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we discover the life that Jesus came to give us. Jesus makes it clear that through Him, we receive the abundant life. The economy of the Kingdom is increase, but that increase comes only through submitting ourselves to Him. Paul spoke of it as putting off our old self and choosing to renew ourselves in Christ. It’s a choice for each of us to abide in Christ and to hide ourselves in Him. Today, to live as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, you choose to assimilate yourself into that culture by adopting the character of Christ.
Because we know who we are and how we’re called to live we put to death the way of our old life and take on the culture, attitude, demeanor of Heaven. We carry the culture of that Kingdom and we bring the rule and reign of Christ in every setting we step into.
A Reality that Rejects the Kingdom
You and I both know, that you still live in the middle of a world where the Kingdom of Heaven is rejected. It’s a place that runs far and fast from the idea of anyone other than ‘self’ having full rule and reign. So, you must be intentional about saturating yourself in the culture of Heaven through prayer, scripture, fellowship. You must be committed to adopting the nature of Christ and carrying that to the world around you.
Every time you’re confronted with the recognition that there is a gap between our reality and our eternity, chose to live in your true identity. Live as a Kingdom citizen. Make choices that reflect that. Approach life as though that reality is fully here.
But, do all of this with a heart and passion for those who don’t yet know.
Bring that reality to the people around you. Because you’ve received abundant life, bring life to the people with whom you interact. And, because you’ve been given a purpose, speak purpose into the lives that you encounter each day. Love the people you meet each day, because guess what? You’ve been loved.
Invite people, Christian or not-yet-Christian, to join you in the beautiful gift of giving rule of your life to Jesus Christ.
Heaven Shaped Leadership
This sounds a bit like leadership; inviting people into a new reality.
As a leader, how often do you cast vision and paint a picture of a new reality? If you’re leading anything, you know the feeling of living in the tension of what could or should be and what is. Leaders know the ideal goal that they’re moving the team toward. And yet, they’re confronted today with the reality of struggling team members, people who don’t seem to get it, cultural mismatches, etc.
What’s a leader to do? You continue to invite people to join you in the new reality. Remind yourself of the vision you’re moving toward and model it. Be relentless in putting that reality in front of the people you lead.
If you’re doing discipleship in your church, model what it looks like to follow Jesus wholeheartedly and invite people to join you. Are you running a non-profit organization? Then live with the compassionate heart of Christ and call people to join you. If you’re building relationships with your neighbors, model a life of peace and joy offered by Christ and call them to join you.
Wherever God has placed you to lead, live in the reality of your Heavenly citizenship. Use your life to show people what it looks like to have abundant life in Christ; no matter what setting you’re in. When you adopt the character and nature of Christ and take on the Kingdom culture, you will become increasingly attractive to the people around you. The vision you’re chasing down will become clearer to the people around you. Continue to relentlessly call people into new reality.