The Right Response to the King.
The reality of God’s reign among us through Christ is not just interesting. It is extremely significant. It is not merely to be understood and discussed. It is meant to revolutionize our lives.
You may remember that the prophecies about the kingdom describe God bringing better days among us. He said he would have mercy, deliver his people and give them peace, but he also said there would be righteousness and fear of the Lord. This indicates that in order for better times to come, our lives must change.
Jesus made this clear from the very first time he announced the imminent arrival of the kingdom. He said, “The time has been fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:14-15). Matthew’s opening summary states it even more concisely. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (4:17). If we want to be ruled by God, we must respond to the reality of his reign.
The first response is to humble ourselves (Matthew 5:3). Jesus said we will never enter the kingdom unless we become like children. Apparently his meaning is that we must forfeit any claim to status we may feel we have. We are to take on the status of those who had little status in his day (Matthew 18:1-4). God will not allow humans to come to know him by their own wisdom, but only through his message (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). In fact, God hides his truths from the “wise and learned” and reveals them to those who humble themselves like little children (Matthew 11:25-26).
Our humble stance toward God should then lead us to repent. To repent is to change our mind, disposition, attitude, and perspective on God. For some this may be a change from hostility and defiance. For others it may be a change from ignoring him. For others still it may be a change from inadequate religious ideas, such as the notion that God will be pleased if I attend church when I can, try to treat people right and don’t use swear words. All these are a far cry from the disposition of total allegiance and fealty that is appropriate toward the Great King. If we do change our inner disposition toward God, it will lead to real changes in our deeds so that they match the new loyalty in our hearts (Acts 26:20; Luke 3:8-14). Both Jesus and the early proclaimers assumed everyone needed to repent and they unapologetically called for it (Matthew 21:28-32; Acts 2:38; 17:30).
Both Jesus and the early proclaimers also called people to respond to God’s kingdom in faith (John 8:24; Acts 8:12; 11:20-21; 20:21). This includes believing “that” certain things are true, such as that the kingdom of God has come, that God raised Jesus from the dead, and that Jesus is the Christ and Lord (Mark 1:14-15; Romans 10:9-10). True faith goes further than believe “that” certain things are true, however, and includes believing “in” Jesus. This is trust. We trust our Lord to face the Enemy for us, have mercy on us, and lead us in the right way. And if we do indeed trust him, we will do what he says (John 3:36; 14:12; James 2:14-26).
Jesus also said no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5). The single preposition “of” (Greek, ek) governing two nouns (water, Spirit) indicates two aspects of a single birth. That is, the Spirit works when a person is baptized in water to give them new life from above (cf. Titus 3:5). The early proclaimers likewise called on people to be baptized in the name of Jesus in response to the message of the kingdom (Acts 8:12; see also 2:38, 41; 8:36; 22:16). Notice that baptism is in the name of Jesus, the Lord of God’s kingdom. The phrase “calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16) expresses the intention of the person’s heart but may also indicate that people verbally confessed Jesus as Lord when they were baptized (Acts 10:9-10; 1 Timothy 6:12).
It is possible to list distinct responses to the good news that God has come to reign as King among us, as we have done above. But we need to be careful not to think of them as a check-list. God’s word teaches that all these responses are necessary, but they are not a formula. Rather, taken together and done sincerely, they constitute a drastic, total response to God and Christ. Through these we pledge total allegiance and utter fealty to our King. Since we recognize the extreme worth and importance of having Christ as our King, we gladly give up anything to be a part of his kingdom (Matthew 13:44-46).
When we respond to him in this way, we come under his rule and are part of his kingdom. Christ now does for us the kingdom work outlined in the previous post. He mercifully blesses us with forgiveness and salvation from sin (Acts 2:38; 3:19-20; 10:43). He comes to live inside of us through his Spirit, just as he promised he would centuries ago (Acts 2:38-39; 5:32). He adds to the “community of the king,” the church (Acts 2:41, 47). He also guides us with his wise counsel and protects us from the continued onslaughts of the Evil One (2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 John 5:18). The blessings of having such a magnificent ruler for our lives—his mercy, his Spirit, his counsel—constitute a broad salvation and allow us to experience better days, as he promised. We have a foretaste of his perfect kingdom even now, before it comes fully when Christ returns.
Coming under the reign of God, as described here, is not the end of the story of the kingdom nor of God’s kingship in our lives. Rather, we continually grow in obedience and submission to our King, as we await his glorious return. To this obedience Wwe turn next week.