The Priorities of the Kingdom

 

King & CountryThis is an excerpt from my upcoming book, “King & Country: The Story That Changes Everything,” coming in summer 2017.

 

The priorities of the new creation, glimpsed in Jesus’ earthly ministry, are now the priorities of the outposts of that new creation, the church. So to understand your marching orders, think of Jesus’ agenda and how he carried it out. Jesus was the Jubilee in person, and everywhere he went, celebration and freedom overturned despair and bondage. Today, through the ministry of his church, Jesus is still bringing celebration and freedom to the darkened corners of the world and of our lives. The messianic agenda that he set in motion in his Inaugural Address in Nazareth is the cause that we, his government-in-waiting, seek to advance. The year of Jubilee that he ushered in continues today as we “bring good news to the poor,” “set at liberty to those who are oppressed,” and “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). We are the Jubilee in person now.

The confrontation between Jesus, the rightful king, and the serpent’s kingdom continues in and through the church today. “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet,” (Romans 16:20) Paul writes to the church in Rome. As the body of Christ, we are the means by which Jesus is grinding Satan’s decapitated head into the dust. We confront the spiritual forces of darkness as they desperately try to cling to their evaporating authority, but we carefully distinguish between the serpent and his victims. Like Allied soldiers liberating concentration camps at the end of World War II, our enemies are not those who have been taken captive by the devil to do his will. Rather, we treat our opponents with compassion, generosity, and kindness, in hope that they may perhaps be granted the same repentance that first freed us (2 Timothy 2:24-26). We speak truth to power, not because we are trying to advance a political agenda, but because we are advancing a kingdom that will one day overturn every other political system. We work for racial reconciliation because behind racism and injustice we see the dictatorial reign of the dragon. We rise to the defense of the defenseless and voiceless, whether they be unborn or impoverished or enslaved, because we are part of the great reversal that will forever turn the tables on Satan’s upside-down empire of evil. We labor to raise up communities out of poverty, disease, and ignorance, because we want to see regal image-bearers freed from under the thumb of Satan to be all they were created to be. All these physical conditions are the thorns and chains of the Fall, and our commission as people of the future is to “spread his blessings far as the curse is found.”

And through all these missions of mercy, our proclamation is, “This is the year of the Lord’s favor, and today is the day of salvation! Seek the Lord while he is to be found, bow to the coming king while there is still time, and join the renovation of all things!” In our evangelism, we are calling people to a gospel bigger than “merely” the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven. We are extending an invitation to join the kingdom that will remake the universe, the life that will transform our own and make us new, and to participate in the restoration of all that it means to be human. All of this is “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23) that Jesus personified, preached, and purchased by his death and resurrection.

We are people of the future because the future is slowly coming true in us. When we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), what we are really asking is for his kingdom’s future rule to be a reality in our lives now. Let the priorities of the future shape my priorities in the present. And let my future reign with Christ give meaning and purpose to all my labors here. “What sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,” the apostle Peter writes, “waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:12). Today, the kingdom colonies wait with eager longing, and “hasten” the arrival of our hope through all our missions of mercy. “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached as a testimony to all nations,” Jesus himself promised, “and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). The more we give ourselves to this mission, the more quickly the great day of the Lord will come. And one day soon the dark will give way to the dawn, and weeping’s night will be overtaken by morning’s joy. The serpent’s head, first nailed to the cross by the triumphant king, will be trodden underfoot by the triumphant church. The door on which we have been knocking will open, and we will hear the King’s voice, “Well done, good and faithful servants. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master.” And then comes the wonder of wonders, grace upon grace: we will enter in.

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