"God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
What happens when your alarm goes off in the morning?
If you’re like the majority of people, your first thoughts aren’t usually of the inspired kind. More often than not we wake up with a certain level of animosity aimed towards both the noise that woke you up and the responsibilities that require you to get out of bed.
But what if you woke up with an unquenchable fire that could never be extinguished (even if it does dim to a flicker at times)? What if you woke up like royalty? Marcus Aurelius, who was royalty (the emperor of Rome), recognized the power of this mindset:
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
But what would it look like for you to live on mission in such a way that every morning you left your bed with purpose, intention, and inspiration for whatever the day ahead might entail?
The point of this post is to argue that, if you’re a follower of Jesus, there’s no other way to live.
Do you know what the most prevalent theme of the Bible is?
The common guesses would likely be: love, redemption, the gospel, the glory of God, grace, covenants/promises, or Christ Himself. While these are all good guesses, none take the throne of number one.
The most pervasive and prevalent theme of the Bible, seen in 57 of 66 books (86%), is none other than: Kingdom.
God as King and the kingdom of God is the grand, overarching theme unifying all of Scripture. While this theme is made complete through: God’s glory, redemption, grace, covenant, promise, Christ, and all the other wonderful realities of Scripture; the whole is encapsulated in the synthesizing idea of kingdom.
“King”, “kingdom”, “reign, and “throne” are found over 3,000 times in the OT (in Hebrew), and are found over 160 times in the NT (in Greek). Jesus himself was given many titles as King:
King of Israel (John 1:49, 12:13-15)
King of the Jews (Matt. 27:11, John 18:37-39, 19:3,19,21)
King of kings (1 Tim. 6:15, Rev. 17:14, 19:16)
King of the ages, immortal, invisible (1 Tim. 1:17)
King of the nations (Rev. 15:3)
The testimony of Revelation conclusively and emphatically proclaims this reality in 11:15, saying: “‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.’"
John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue summarize this understanding well in "Biblical Doctrine" saying:
“From before the beginning until after the end, from the beginning to the end, both in and beyond time and space, God appears as the ultimate King. God is central to and the core of all things eternal and temporal. The kingdom of God convincingly qualifies as the unifying theme of Scripture."
This is no small matter to God, and it definitely is not a hidden aspect of Scripture. With a plethora of themes and aspects of God’s truth displayed throughout the Bible, it is easy to overlook something as seemingly secondary as “kingdom”. Yet, there is real power in seeing and recognizing the dominant theme of kingdom, and by understanding the implications that flow from that reality.
Our Role in the Kingdom
Living in and for the Kingdom of God is a powerful concept. By having this reality invade our hearts and minds each morning when we wake, we will be emboldened and empowered to live the lives God has called us to, simply by understanding our present role and reality.
As followers of and believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to be living lives in and for the Kingdom of God. We are both heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17) and brothers/sisters/friends with Jesus (John 15:15) in this Kingdom that He now reigns over, seated on His throne in heaven (Mark 16:19; Heb. 1:3, 8:1, 10:12, 12:2).
Being granted adoption and acceptance into the royal heritage of God in His Kingdom, we have been given duties - a responsibility to steward well the ways He has individually gifted us and where He has called us to here on earth. These can be seen in several ways:
Duties as a part of the body of Christ, demonstrated by the early church (Acts 2)
Being baptized, teaching and being taught, fellowship, participation in communion, praying, serving one another, praising God, sharing the gospel.
Duties given by Jesus (John 17 & Matt. 28)
Fulfillment of Scripture, our joy fulfilled through Christ, be in the world but not of the world, unity with one another in Christ, receiving and sharing the love of Christ with each other.
The great commission - to go and make disciples of many nations, baptizing them and teaching them what Christ has commanded.
Love God and love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-40)
Duties given by the Spirit through Paul (Ephesians 4)
Be characterized by: humility, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, bearing each others burdens, maintaining unity in the Spirit, using your spiritual gifting well, speaking truth in love, building and edifying one another up in Christ, putting off the old self and putting on Christ, kindness, tender-hearted towards each other, forgiving each other as God in Christ has forgiven us.
Our Reality in the Kingdom
While the roles and responsibilities given to us are commonly understood, the reality of living in and for the Kingdom is commonly overlooked. Just as the theme itself is pervasive, the reality of living, this very day, in the kingdom of God here on earth and in expectation of the coming kingdom of God in heaven, this reality can drastically shape your outlook and approach in all of life.
When the alarm goes off in the wee hours of the morning, we are hit by a wave of to-do’s, things to remember, meetings scheduled, conversations to be had, and work that must be done. Although these are important parts of life, they can serve as distractions to our highest calling and our ultimate reality as children of God and kingdom-heirs with Christ.
By maintaining an understanding and awareness of God’s Kingdom - living Kingdom-minded - we will experience several effects:
Having an understanding of our royal heritage as a result of our adoption through Christ empowers us to live as the kingdom-heirs that we are. This is added motivation to live as Christ has called us to live, not only because of what He has done to accomplish our new and present reality, but also because of the prestige and honor that's been bestowed upon us.
Knowing that we are living in and for God’s Kingdom helps us understand we are to daily serve the King - Jesus Christ - who reigns over us in this Kingdom. We are on assignment from Him who has redeemed us, and it is our duty to live in response to His redeeming work on the cross, and His sovereign reign over those living in His Kingdom now, and in the kingdom of heaven to come.
Being good stewards of all that Christ has gifted us with in God’s Kingdom should be the driving force of our lives. There is nothing that will provide more motivation to obey God’s commands and Christ’s example than the gift of new life, and of our royal heritage. There is nothing He hasn’t given us, thus there should be nothing in our own lives that we withhold from Him.
When you are adopted into a family, you deeply understand the reality that you did nothing to deserve it. Knowing we have been adopted into God’s Kingdom should fill us with immense and eternal gratitude, a gratefulness that allows us to accept any and every earthly circumstance with joy, because we know what Kingdom we are a part of and who our true King is that we serve. And there is no King who can ever reign as perfectly and justly as Jesus - our Savior and Lord.
Ultimately, living Kingdom-minded provides clarity. It creates a piercing vision of our eternal reality paired with our present state - both of which are tied to living in and for the Kingdom. It’s living under that Kingdom-reality here on earth while having the future hope and expectation of the Kingdom of heaven to come. This empowering and captivating vision removes the invasive distractions that daily seek to rob us of our heritage and change our identity from Kingdom-minded to self-focused, personal demigods of our own chosen reality.
The simple reality of living Kingdom-minded is that it serves as the needed perspective to keep us in proper alignment with God and His reign over our lives. This perspective is a needed reminder, because far too often we begin to assume His throne, and live our lives as if we are a god of our own. Living with an awareness and understanding of the Kingdom of God helps us maintain the understanding that - we aren’t the king; God is. Unfortunately, that is a reminder we will need throughout our entire, earthly lives.
Living in and for the Kingdom is transformative. It is a mindset that should drastically change the way we live our day-to-day lives. It’s a mindset that needs to be our consistent outlook, the perspective that guides our decisions, actions, and affections - all towards our true King, Jesus Christ!
This is our identity, now it’s our job to embrace that identity and live in it.