I am a blessed parent to four wonderful children between the ages of 8 and 14. I parent now with the end game in mind – the goal of raising mature, God-loving, kind adults. We live in a certain way now, in light of the future. I train them to think of others and to serve. I encourage my boys to be team players in rugby and cricket. I make space and encourage my daughters to dance because they love it, and ballet and hip hop create beauty. I train them to be grateful for what they have. We talk about the type of adult they want to grow to become … then my youngest announces he wants to be a robber when he grows up! My work is clearly not done. The story of the Bible also has an end goal in mind. The people of God are called to live and establish the kingdom now in this age, in light of the age to come.
The story that holds the Testaments together is one story with one people. We need to cement into our imagery that we are designed for intimacy with God and His people. We are converted individually, but enter into Jesus’ body, the Church. Throughout the NT we see many metaphors to describe the corporate identity of the people of God: one bride, one body, one household, one temple, and one army – but many people. This is important – Jesus said the world would know God through our unity! (John 17:20-23).
Just as we are formed in family, cultures and communities that operate under a master story which teaches us how to be in the world … we are re-formed in the body of Christ (the Church) that operates under a new story. The new story aligns my life to the world in new ways. It tells me how to act and react; what to love and desire and see as success; and how to understand how the world works. It does this in ways that both bind me to the story and community and incarnate the story in me through my every behaviour. Conversion re-orients our lives toward the kingdom, binding us to a new master story.
We are the people of the presence of God, who participate with Him to extend His kingdom to the world. Just as the mandate for Abraham and Israel was to be blessed to be a blessing to others, the mandate for the people of God is to collectively presence Christ and be a blessing to the world (Rom 14-15, Rom 15:9; Acts 26:15; Gal 3:7 ). We still have the same mandate that God gave in Genesis 2: to establish His kingdom through filling, subduing and ruling with God over creation.
God’s story is linear, not circular. From the beginning it was moving from garden to city. His intention is for us to partner with Him: with our talents, interests, desires, giftings and personalities, to bring creation to maturity and establish flourishing and shalom in all areas of life: parenting, farming, relationships, finances, dancing, teaching, gardening, politics etc. (Matthew 6:9-10).
We’re to live now (between the ages) in light of the fulfilment of the kingdom to come. Jesus inaugurated this kingdom, but it will only be established in its entirety at the culmination of this age. Revelation describes the New Jerusalem in ways that were meaningful to the early Church and Jewish culture. For them, a city was a place of order, beauty and abundance. It was a place of safety and provision. The New Jerusalem is without the sea of chaos from the creation and temple story because evil is no more. Death and suffering and pain have ended. The heavens and earth are re-newed. Our bodies are transfigured –our redemption complete. We will see God face to face!
During His life, Jesus preaches the kingdom is in me! It is truth lived out; the life of God shared. He continuously preaches: this is what the Kingdom is like! Parable after parable describe: this is how to imagine it; how to live in it; how to live it out.
Points to Ponder
David G. Benner says, that what God wants from humans and what only humans can do is become fully human, uncontaminated by sin. What God wants from you, and what only you can do, is become fully you, the unique and whole individual that He intended you to be and that He alone can teach you to be.
Prayerfully consider how you can bring God’s kingdom into your present circumstances (parenting, relationships, finances, work, community, etc.).
Remember that the same Holy Spirit that empowered Christ’s life is in you and working in the people of God. Try praying a short prayer throughout the day for a week, inviting Holy Spirit to help you be more aware or grow. For example: “Holy Spirit, strengthen me with your patience.” Or, “Holy Spirit open my eyes to see how I can be more generous”.
Benner, D.G., (2011) Soulful Spirituality
Smith, J.K.A, (2013), Imaging the Kingdom(Cultural Liturgies): How Worship Works.
Willard, D. & Ortberg, J., (2014) Living in Christ’s Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God.
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