"The gospel view of salvation doesn't just humble you before people who don't believe what you believe....but the gospel version of salvation says serve them...make this a great place for all the people of the city to live. Because that's what God is seeking to do - to bring a new heavens and a new earth." - Tim Keller
It's all about the Kingdom. And I'm not just talking about a Kingdom we'll eventually get to that appears far off and distanced. It's about the Kingdom of God that's right now - at this moment - existing. I know I have trouble completely understanding that. What does it mean when we say the Kingdom is now?? I think some of that is cleared up by a definition of what the Kingdom actually is.
Jesus uses many parables to describe what the Kingdom of God is, or is like. He compared it to a man searching for fine pears and, upon finding the finest pearl, he sold all the possessed to obtain that pearl (Mt. 13:45-46). He compared it to a king who wanted to settle accounts with some of his subjects and one appealed to him asking for time to repay his debts. The king then forgave him the entire debt and let him go. But this forgiven man turned around and called in debts that people owed him and showed no compassion. Jesus then said of this, "My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." (Mt. 18:23-35). Jesus also compared the Kingdom of heaven to a man who sowed good seed in his field. Some of the soil accepted it, some appeared to accept it but the shoots were choked out by weeds, and some flat out rejected the good seed and died on the rocky soil (Mt. 13:24-30). He also compared the Kingdom to leaven (like yeast). He said that it was like leaven a woman placed in flour and set aside until all of the flour was leavened (Mt. 13:33). .
That's a lot of weird descriptions for a place, huh? Well, it would be strange for a place but I like to think of the Kingdom of heaven as more of an all-encompassing idea. In these instances, and many, many more that Christ gave of the Kingdom, it represents an acceptance of what it means to be a child of God. As Keller hinted at in the quote above, living out our faith in Christ requires that we live focused on the Kingdom of God which, in turn, compels us to serve others. We're not just living for ourselves and what we can (or think we should) get, were living together in order to give an example of what Christ's Kingdom looks like, albeit an imperfect one.
With that in mind, it's refreshing to realize that we should not be alone in attempting to live out this vision. In fact, we can't live it out alone! We must be like the man who sold everything he had in order to purchase the pearl of great price but, instead of getting a pearl, we are giving up our idea of what life should be and receiving eternal life in its place. Eternal life that, in essence, starts right here on earth. Our hope would be to affect others like the leaven affected the flour. Just a little bit was introduced but soon all of the flour was leavened!
At my church we focus on living in community with one another. That could be a strange thought or phrasing to some, but basically it just means living life with one another. We are trying to live out the Kingdom here on the earth within our small communities spread throughout the valley we live in. It doesn't mean we seclude ourselves from everyone, but quite the opposite! We try and live together in such a way as to show our freedom in Christ, our salvation in Him, our hope that is in Him, and our commitment to Him. It's living purposefully. It's making the effort to invite neighbors and coworkers over so they can gain an inside view into what the Kingdom of God actually looks like here on earth. I even know people in our church that have discussed the idea of purchasing homes close to each other just to further their involvement within a community!
Have you ever thought about your finances that way? Living for the Kingdom means that we live like the church in Acts where it says they were, "Continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer...And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need" [Acts 2:42, 44-45]. I see that as a radical way to live for the Kingdom. Seeing all that we have (not just 10%) as the Lord's. Making decisions based on what He is instructing us to do, not based on what we think will be the best career move for us.
A questions I would leave you with (and that I'm asking myself too) is this: Is your life focused around living for the Kingdom or living for yourself?