Friday, June 07, 2013

Kingdom Advance and Church Growth

It’s difficult, perhaps nearly impossible to read 1 Corinthians 15:25 without forming a mental picture: “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” Can you see it?

Perhaps one reason the image comes so quickly to our sanctified imagination is that Paul describes something unusual. Then as easily and suddenly as we imagine it, we face a crisis of feeling because the image is either comforting or disturbing. What do you see? “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.”

Perhaps you see the picture of a someone making a footstool of someone’s back.
Perhaps you see a head or neck under the tread of a foot.
Perhaps you see people lovingly bowing down.

What’s interesting is we tend to focus on a small part of the image and not the whole. Who is being trod upon? These would be enemies. Who is not being trod upon? Why isn’t every person under foot? These would be the friends.

Enemies and friends of whom? The one who must reign. See, there’s more to the picture. Do you see Him, or the ones under Him? “HE must reign until HE has put all HIS enemies under HIS feet.” The language here underscores the necessity of Christ’s reign, following the necessity of His birth, the necessity of His death, the necessity of His burial and necessity of His resurrection. He reigns necessarily, like it or not. He is Lord, like it or not--no one makes Him Lord--He is Lord. Demonstrate humility in bowing before Him, lowering yourself under Him and in turn exalt the Lord; or, be counted among the hostilities subject to the rule of the Prince of Peace.

The true church is the agent of His Kingdom and the ambassadors are we (created in God’s image) who have been redeemed through repentance by faith. We are the agents of Kingdom advance. This means we have a calling to bring God’s Kingdom into the world. What does this look like? It looks like the humble before Him moving among the hostiles against Him speaking with His authority, influencing. How can we tell how we are doing in this kingdom advance? Romans 14:17-18 is a great measuring stick: “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.” Subjects of the King stand out with the purity, peace and joy as given by the Holy Spirit. Too bad so many local churches are known for potlucks and festivities that mimic the world. We are to bring the world to the throne where they meet their Lord, to love and obey Him; or, glorify His righteous judgment (more on this later).

We have a beautiful example of what this looks like in Acts 17. Paul arrived in Thessalonica, where he entered a synagogue and for three weeks spoke from the scriptures for three weeks. The religious community had presented to them evidence of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. A Kingdom representative impacted the the religious community with Kingdom teaching concerning the King. Some were persuaded while others were not, growing in hostility against the message of The Lord. Can’t help but note that the Kingdom’s representatives only spoke the message; it was the enemies of the King who raised their voices.

The Prophet Daniel was inspired to give us a snapshot of what the Kingdom will look like. “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up kingdom which will never be destroyed and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crust and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.” (Daniel 2:44). We see a forever-kingdom. It’s not going anywhere, so fighting it will only usher in loyal subjects who will bow in love or hostiles who will bow under His foot.

As ambassadors of the Kingdom, we impact the world through: proclaiming and explaining God’s unchanging Word; going into all the world pointing all its citizens to the King; discipling those who are humble before Him; worshipping Him through the spiritual service of transformed minds and hearts.

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