Religion column: Understanding evangelicalism in America today | Community | thedailystar.com – Oneonta Daily Star

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It is sad to read through the Old Testament as it chronicles Israel’s history. It’s about a people that had been given every blessing by God. II Samuel ends with Israel rejecting God as its king in favor of being like the kingdoms around them. That brings up the question: What kingdom is our identity?

The Scripture speaks of the Kingdom of God in three ways.

First is the sovereign rule of God over His creation. This refers to the physical world and every person in it. God’s common grace gifts people with different abilities — leadership, art, mechanical, financial, etc. These gifts help keep this physical world moving forward.

The second way the Scripture speaks of the Kingdom refers to the people of God, — all those who have received special grace and have placed their faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. This is a spiritual kingdom that God has placed in the midst of the physical world.

The third way Scripture speaks of the Kingdom is the coming and eternal kingdom of God — the new heavens and new earth.

One thing we quickly recognize about this physical kingdom is that it is broken and failing. Along with that, we know that we are not the king of it, (although most of us act as if we are!)

While we are born into the physical world, we are not automatically part of God’s eternal kingdom. Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” The good news is that God invites us to be part of His eternal kingdom, not as subjects, but as His children! Ephesians 2:8 tells us, “For it is by grace (special grace) you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves (you have done nothing to earn it), it is the gift of God.”

We each must stop trying to earn God’s favor by good works, but instead place our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus as the payment that brings forgiveness for our sin and brings us into God’s kingdom people and the promise of God’s eternal kingdom.

Living in this world, with brokenness all around us, pushes us to long for God’s eternal Kingdom to come. But we need to be careful that our longing does not create an inactivity in our hearts and actions. Jesus’ imminent return should motivate us to prepare for his coming, “all the more as we see the day approaching.”

How do we prepare for the coming Kingdom?

First, we need to make sure that we are part of God’s kingdom people through faith in Jesus as we await his coming kingdom. Once that is in place, we strive to prepare for His coming. I Timothy 6 helps us balance our waiting with our preparation; “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

People look to this physical world to provide for every desire, thinking that’s living life to the full. But being a child of the King motivates us to value the eternal kingdom over this temporary one. That certainly creates a tension that the apostle Paul is addressing. It’s a tension of what we value and what we call “life.” It shows up in the everyday things of life — how we use our time, gifts, and finances all reveal which life we value.

Paul addresses the most obvious place that tension shows up in- our finances. Are we seeking to be generous to help others, or are we stingy with what we have?

Far too often, my little kingdom of self leads me astray and reveals that I value the temporal things of this world rather than the eternal Kingdom of God.

Our preparation for the Kingdom should stand in contrast to those who live for this world. Jesus teaches that we rise by lowering ourselves, and we lead by serving.

Though we are in the world, we are not to act as if we are of it. We have a different value system that leads us to live for a different purpose, one that brings glory to God.

We ought to learn from the foolishness of Israel and use the blessings of God to prepare for eternity, and live life as a child of the true King!

How are you preparing for eternity?

Zondervan NIV study Bible. (2002). Barker, K. L. (Ed.). Rev. ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

 By Jack Klosheim, pastor of Community Bible Chapel in Toddsville.

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