So, we have been on the subject of the kingdom of God since the beginning of this calendar year and, thus far, we have answered several questions concerning it:
We began by answering the question— “Why is it?” We did this through a series entitled “The Gospel of the Kingdom” where we looked throughout the Scriptures seeing how the message of God’s kingdom is emphasized time and time again. We looked at how the kingdom was the very gospel Jesus preached throughout His ministry. But we saw how the kingdom was not just Jesus’ message, it was the message of the New Testament. Yes, all the way from John the Baptist to the apostle Paul, the kingdom of God was the gospel they proclaimed. But we also saw that this was the message proclaimed to Israel under the Old Covenant. Yes, from Genesis to Revelation—from the Alpha to the Omega of the Holy Scriptures, the kingdom of God is the theme. Therefore, we learned that if the gospel of the kingdom is the message of the Bible, then it is our message too!
But then we moved into realizing that before we can carry this message of God’s kingdom, we need to know what it is we are carrying. So, we then answered the question— “What is it?” We did this by defining the kingdom of God—not only learning what is it, but where it is and when it is. And we learned that the kingdom of God is the king’s domain or the people or place where he has dominion. In other words, it is wherever His will is being done. I defined it as God’s government and that it is God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule. We learned that this can be now as demons are cast out, sicknesses are healed, and the good news is being proclaimed and setting the captives free. But it is also in the future as Jesus is returning to establish His kingdom here on the earth. This means that the kingdom is here now in part and will be here in fullness soon and very soon.
And most recently we have been answering perhaps the most important question of all— “How is it?” We’ve been answering this question by looking at the parables Jesus taught us about the kingdom of God which He called the Mysteries of the Kingdom. And I believe the best lesson we can learn concerning God’s kingdom is to learn what God’s kingdom looks like and how it operates—which is what these parables show us.
The truth is, just like we have natural laws that we must live by in this world in order to not only thrive but also survive, there are laws in God’s kingdom that we must learn to live by if we are to see God’s best produced in our lives. I am convinced that many of God’s people do not experience His perfect will for their lives because they have failed to operate under the laws that govern His kingdom. Some are simply ignorant concerning these principles while others are simply not doers of the Word. But the fact remains that God has set His kingdom up under certain principles and it is our job to walk in them just as He does Himself. When we do, we will get God’s results. When we do not, we will get the world’s results. Plain and simple. Church, this is how His kingdom comes and His will is done in our lives.
So now, this week, I want us to move into one final series on the kingdom of God: I want us to wrap up our study of God’s kingdom by learning how you and I can become more kingdom-minded. In other words, how can we have this same mentality that those like Jesus, John the Baptist, the apostle Paul, and many other Jewish believers possessed. In short, how can we think like they did?
You see, there was a strong kingdom-mentality that was engrained in the Jewish people:
For example, in Acts 1:3, the one question that we see being asked by His disciples after His resurrection is “When is this kingdom coming?” Notice how this was what they were expecting from their Christ & Messiah—to establish His kingdom. This was obviously on their radar.
How about in Matthew 20:20-28 when the mother of a couple of Jesus’ disciples came to Him on the side and asked if her two boys could sit at His side when He comes into His kingdom. That’s because this was the hope of Israel. In Luke 23:51, we see how Joseph of Arimathea was also waiting (i.e., hoping) for the kingdom of God.
In Luke 19:11, before giving them the Parable of the Minas, we see the reason why Jesus told them this parable: It was because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. So, again, they were thinking about the kingdom.
Even the thief that hung on the cross beside Jesus was kingdom-minded because we see him saying to Jesus— “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
So, the Jewish people obviously had the kingdom on their radar. But I believe we today have been brought up with certain disadvantages: For one, even though most of us have been born in the United States of America—a country that was established on Christian morals and the freedom of religion—our great nation does not operate like a monarchy (i.e., a kingdom). So, we don’t have it built into us to think in terms of kingdom thoughts.
On top of that, the Jewish people not only operated under that type of government, but their religion was mixed into it as well. So, they not only knew how a kingdom operated, but they knew it was not man’s kingdom, but God’s kingdom. Therefore, their religion was woven into their government—thus, this mentality was threaded all throughout their culture.
This is why when John the Baptist, and then Jesus after him, came on the scene preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, the people were not responding with— “What is all this kingdom stuff you’re talking about?” No, it didn’t need a lot of explanation because it was already engrained in them. The misconception they had about the kingdom of God was not what it was but how it was not to just be viewed physically and naturally. It was more of a spiritual kingdom that will manifest here on the earth by freeing them, not from the bondage of the Romans, but from the dominion of Satan.
But my point is that most of our churches today are much more ignorant of these kingdom-minded things. And, as a result, this is not something that the church today has helped us with.
You see, these things we’ve been learning about God’s kingdom are not things that are commonly taught in most churches. In fact, the kingdom of God is a foreign concept to most believers today. Therefore, we are at even more of a disadvantage to possessing this kingdom mentality because not only were we not raised this way in the flesh, but we have not been raised this way in the church either.
So, I say all of this to explain why this kingdom-mindedness is not our natural way of thinking like it was to the Jews. But this doesn’t mean that you and I are to just throw our hands in the air and claim ignorance and continue to think incorrectly. No, where much is given, much is required. So, for us here at HPC that are taught well and taste of the good Word of God, we are expected to be doers of the Word and adopt this kingdom-mindedness. Amen?
WHAT CHRISTIANITY IS
And that is what I want us to begin doing this week—learning how to how to become more kingdom-minded and to allow these truths about the kingdom of God to renew our minds, and thereby, transform our lives.
So, let’s begin in Colossians chapter 3 where we have a powerful passage of Scripture that teaches us about this mentality / way of thinking that we are all to possess as the body of Christ:
Colossians 3:1-4 says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
Now, after spending the first two chapters of his letter essentially describing what Christianity is not—namely, all of the things taught in both Gentile Gnosticism and Jewish legalism—Paul now “turns the page” and begins to show us what Christianity truly looks like.
It is all about a new identity, church! We need to understand that a born-again believer is not just a reformed individual; they are a transformed individual. We are now new creations in Christ—having received a new spiritual social security number, a new name, a totally new identity. All things have truly been made new!
And I want you to notice that this totally different way of thinking that we are talking about today is contained in these verses! Yes, I believe these truths perfectly summarize what a kingdom-minded person is to think like.
Notice that the apostle Paul starts off by saying, “If then you were raised with Christ …”
In the Greek language this word translated “if” is not meant to convey doubt but rather to make a point of emphasis. It would better be translated “since” or “in view of the fact.” Now there certainly is an “if” that can be implied if one has never received Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Yes, one must be born again into to receive this resurrection, but if that has occurred in one’s life, then this “if” is a “since.”
So, the obvious reason why the apostle Paul was essentially saying, “Then since you were raised up with Christ …” is because this was a major point of his in the prior chapter (see 2:12-13,20). So, for the follower of Christ, this being raised up together with Christ is not something in question; every born-again believer has experienced this spiritual resurrection whether they realize it or not.
In fact, in the Greek language, the tense of the word “raised” denotes “once and for all have been raised.” In other words, this is a past tense accomplished fact for the Christian and is not something that we are waiting to be done.
But according to Colossians 3:3, not only have we been raised up with Him, but we also died with Him.
You see, this is what water baptism was meant to symbolize to us—that we were crucified with Christ, buried with Him and raised to together with Him. But it was not just symbolism. It is actually what happened, spiritually speaking. We identified with His crucifixion. We died with Him, and then were raised up together with Him to sit with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Now we all know that this didn’t happen physically. Of course, none of us physically died when we were born again. But according to these verses in Colossians chapter 3, we did die.
Colossians 3:3 says, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
You see, not only did Jesus die for us, we died with Him. In other words, we identified with Him, not only in His resurrection, but also in His death and burial (Compare Romans 6:3-12). Therefore, just as we are now made alive in Christ, we have also died in Him.
Now I am a big proponent of studying “in Christ” realities—that is, I believe we need to establish our hearts in who we are in Him and discover our true spiritual identity. But this is one that we usually don’t add to our list of “in Him” truths. However, the fact is, just as we are righteous, redeemed, delivered, etc., in Him, we are also dead in Him. In other words, while it is true that in Him we have life, we also need to recognize that we have died in Him—both dead to our old man and alive in the new man.
I once heard a story of two sisters who were big partiers in their “BC” days (i.e. life “before Christ”). Then, after they were born-again and had a drastic change in their life, they were invited to another one of those parties—to which they RSVP’d, “We regret that we cannot attend because we recently died.” Would to God that we would see our conversion like this!
But the truth is, not only have we been crucified and buried in Him. We have also found life in Him. That’s why Paul goes on to say that our life is hidden with Christ in God.
Now this is also not to be confused with our earthly life—because that life is actually not “our life” anymore. Why? Because we were bought with a price and are now Christ’s. So, technically, your life is no longer “your life”; now it’s His life. And now we have His life living in and through us—that is, the very quality of His resurrection life is now being lived through the remainder of our lives lived in the flesh. Glory, indeed!
You see, the apostle Paul said that, for him, to live is Christ (See Philippians 1:21). He also said in Galatians 2:20 that it was no longer him who was living. He said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
So, is this true for us too? Absolutely! The moment we were born again, a death occurred. We too were crucified with Christ—which obviously speaks of the death of the old man, not a physical death.
You see, in every place in the New Testament where the Scripture speaks of the death of the old man, it is spoken of as already having taken place (See Colossians 3:9, Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22 & 5:24). So, our old has already been crucified and is dead.
Then the apostle Paul goes on to say, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” That sounds a lot like our verse in Colossians chapter 3—It’s no longer me living because I’m dead. Now it’s Christ living in me and through me.” Amen!
Church, this is part of being kingdom-minded—because we must adopt this new way of thinking that our lives are not our own anymore. We are now Christ’s possession, so the life we live now is in complete surrender and devotion to the King who ransomed our soul.
So, we were crucified with Christ, died with Him, were buried with Him, made alive together with Him, and now, according to Colossians 3:1, have been raised up together with Him. Raised to where? Let’s look over at Ephesians chapter 2 to find out …
Ephesians 2:4-6 says, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
These powerful verses eloquently describe what our Lord God did for us in Christ Jesus: Through the mercy that He is so incredibly rich in and because of the great love that He has for us, when we were dead in our sin, He made us alive together with Christ (having brought us to life like Jesus was on that Third Day). And then He took it a step further in raising us up to the heavenlies in Him, seating us together at the very right hand of God. Glory!
So, if all of this is true (and it is!), what Paul says in Colossians 3:1-2 is so very true— “If we have been raised up with Christ, we ought to be seeking those things associated with where we’ve been raised unto.” In other words, “since you have changed citizenships, seek that which will benefit our permanent home and not our temporary one.” And this change of citizenships is what actually transpired the day we were born again.
CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM
You see, the apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Notice that Paul is saying our citizenship is in heaven right now. He’s not saying that one day of in the future when we die that our citizenship will be in heaven. No, he’s saying that our citizenship is in heaven right now! So, when our old man died and our new man was risen with Christ to sit at the right hand of God, our citizenship changed!
So, the Word of God teaches us that our citizenship does not begin in heaven when we die and move there. It happens the moment we are born into God’s family that we become His nationality. In fact, the phrase “born again” that Jesus used could be translated “born from above”. That is why our citizenship is in heaven because we were born from heaven.
You see, the Philippians whom Paul was writing, were Roman citizens and as it usually was with those who were Romans citizens, were quite proud of it. Paul was explaining to them that when they entered the kingdom of God they changed citizenships and, as great as the rights they had as Romans were, there is no comparison to the rights and privileges they have as citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
Perhaps that is a Word for us today: As we are certainly to be proud of being American citizens and live in the greatest country on the planet, the truth is anyone on this planet who have been born from above are citizens of a kingdom that is far greater than any nation on this planet. Amen?
So, all of this means that our citizenship is in heaven while we are currently living here. We must learn to work down here while we’re living up there. And that’s the reason we have been left here; to see His kingdom come and grow. This is being kingdom-minded, church.
You see, in Second Corinthians 5:17-21, Paul gives a beautiful explanation of what our post-resurrection life’s purpose is:
Verse 17 starts off by saying that we are new creations and that all the old things (the past sins, the past lifestyle, etc.) have passed away and that everything has become new. Verse 18 starts off by saying that “all things are of God” or “all the things that have become new are of God.” Our new life, our new birth, our new perspective, our new ambitions, are “of” God. Then he says, “who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” In other words, “He has brought us back to God and now has given us the ministry of bringing people back to God.” Then in verse 19, Paul gives a brief explanation of what the ministry of reconciliation is. But I love verse 20: It’s as if Paul was getting this revelation as he was writing it. He says, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” The reason that we were not immediately raptured when we were born again was because our ministry is to stay here and reconcile people with God.
Now what is an ambassador? An ambassador is someone that travels to another country to seek conditions of peace. Ambassadors are representatives of their own nation that go to another nation, that has tension with the other nation, to reconcile their differences.
So that’s a perfect illustration of us: Our citizenship is in heaven, just as an ambassador doesn’t have his or her citizenship in the nation that they travel to, but our temporary residence is in the world while we perform our ministry of reconciliation.
Therefore, our purpose in still being here, even though our citizenship is in heaven, is to change other people’s address too. That should be our main objective, but how do we maintain this attitude of “being in the world but not of the world”? Again, this is being kingdom-minded.
So, our takeaway today is evident— When we were saved and became children of God, there was a complete change in our identity. We are no longer the same—for old things have passed away and all things have become new. We died—being crucified with Christ—and now our life is Christ’s as we live by faith in Him and let Him live His life through us.
This will obviously result in some different ways of thinking, right? We will not continue to live self-serving, worldly lifestyles. No, we will live for this kingdom that we now are called citizens of. We will seek its welfare. We will seek to bring others into the same citizenship that we possess. In short, it will change our motivation and purpose.
Church, we have been raised with Christ—raised up to a new way of thinking and mentality. Now we are kingdom-kids, so that is to be our only aspiration and prerogative. Amen.