Thy Kingdom Come—In Me!
“Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is within you.’”
(Luke 17:20-21, NRSV)
I grew up in the era of Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth (1970, Zondervan Publishing). In the book, Lindsey speculated that current events were possible indicators, at least according to biblical prophecies, of the return of Jesus Christ to earth; thereby, bringing about the full and final reign of God’s Kingdom. Peppered with stories of rapture (Christians being mysteriously whisked off to heaven) and non-believers being left behind to face unfathomable torment, it was a book that captured the attention of all my friends and me. We were kids struggling with finding our identity in the malaise of emerging adolescence that made us prime targets for being scared into (or deeper into) the life of faith in Jesus Christ. I can still remember the guilt and the fear associated with that part of my life. It hardly felt like the abundant life Jesus promised us in the gospel of John:
“[Jesus said,] ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’” (John 10:10, NRSV)
The way Lindsey described the whole scenario felt more like Jesus as the thief and not Jesus as the bringer of the abundant life. That’s why I love Luke’s teaching on the Kingdom of God and the idea that the Kingdom is NOT out there somewhere; instead, it’s much closer than that.
In John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on Luke 17:21, Wesley offers this commentary on Luke’s vision of the Kingdom:
“Look not for [the Kingdom of God] in distant times or remote places: it is now in the midst of you: it is come: it is present in the soul of every true believer: it is a spiritual kingdom, an internal principle. Wherever it exists, it exists in the heart.”
As long as the Kingdom of God exists in a different time and place, we are prone to an escapist theology that shuns any responsibility for bringing about the Kingdom of God in the present. By dreaming about a better life that is only possible in the “sweet by-and-by,” we discount the prospects that God expects us to bring about the Kingdom of God now and in our midst. We essentially deny our role in fulfilling a key part of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
This week, my message is about ushering in the Kingdom of God in our lives, here and now! This Kingdom, within us, has implications for how we live for God and serve in God’s Kingdom. I hope to see you on Sunday!