Kingdom of God or kingdom of the world

Yesterday we voted in the General Election to choose the people and parties that will lead us for the next 3 years. Some of us will be happy with the outcome, some will be disappointed.

Our task in the next 3 years is to see how the promises and commitments made in the campaigns will be enacted.

There will be policies that will be brought into law (or at least make it to the Bill stage of legislation) that we as followers of Jesus will disagree with.

The question we are faced with is one Christians have always wrestled with.

Do we go with the flow of what the culture that we live in says (either through laws made or customs followed), or do we follow the rules of Christ, regardless whether they run counter to the world’s standards.

Let me start with a simple example:

The world we live in says shopping on Sundays is ok.  How does that fit with God’s command to honour the Sabbath?

Exodus 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

This year in many parts of the country we will be able to shop on Good Friday, one of the holiest days of the Christian calendar.  What does God say about honouring him? Will you be joining the crowds at the Warehouse?

Isaiah 58:13          If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,

from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call the sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs; 14 then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

 

Marva Dawn reminds us: Not only do we need to resist the enculturation that so easily entraps us, but also we must positively—and deliberately—choose the values of the kingdom of God. In order to accomplish God’s purposes, we recognize a different ordering of priorities, a different mind-set about what is important in and for our lives. [1]

 

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

Francis Chan asks us some hard questions: Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God's kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on the things of this world?[2]

 

Have we bought into the advertising that says last year’s phone is out of date and that you need the latest and greatest?  Why did we need to replace our tube TV for flat screen? Why do we need to have cars with all the bells and whistles?

 

The primary focus for disciples of Christ is not in providing for our physical needs, as legitimate as they are, but rather in seeking first the kingdom purposes of God.[3]

 

As Peter and John said when they were told to stop preaching Christ, “we must obey God, not man” (Acts 5:29)

Did Jesus bow to the accepted practices of money changing in the church, or did he do something about it?

Matthew 21:12 he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.”

 

Did Jesus follow the religious rules about work on the Sabbath or did he heal people on the Sabbath?  Healing on the Sabbath is not the same as shopping on the Sabbath because healing is a kingdom value.

 

If we want certain practices to stop in society, we can either set up a protest with placards and say “naughty, naughty” or we can vote with our feet.

If the 48% of NZers claim to be Christian refused to shop on Good Friday, do you think the shopkeepers might have second thoughts about opening.  If all the Christian shop workers said they would not work on Good Friday, do you think the shop owners would reconsider?

By acquiescing to the cultural norms, we are saying yes to the kingdom of the world, and by default, saying no to the kingdom of God.

Sometimes living counter to the world will bring us up against the norms of society, and may even cost us.

Think of Daniel

Daniel 1:3 Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility… they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court…But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself.

 

Did Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego submit to king Nebuchadnezzar when he commanded that they bow down to him? No, they refused and the cost to them was they were thrown into the fiery furnace. (Daniel 3)

Did Daniel bow down to King Darius when Darius commanded that no one should pray to any God or man other than Darius? No, he risked death in the lions den. (Daniel 6)

The Hebrew midwives were ordered by the Pharaoh to kill all the new born male Hebrew babies, they refused and instead saved them. (exodus 1:17)

The easy option, but not the godfearing option, for all of these Biblical characters would have been to acquiesce to the mandates and laws of the country, but they chose the harder path of following God’s rules.

Think of Christians through the ages. 

Did Martin Luther submit to the authorised practices of selling indulgences in the Roman Catholic church? No, he nailed his 98 theses to the door of the church, and risked death in his stance.

Think of the resistance of the Confessing Church and Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Germany in resisting Hitler’ policies concerning the extermination of the Jews and others, which cost many of the church their lives.

Think about the civil disobedience of the black rights movement headed by Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jnr, that cost him his liberty many times and even his life.

Think about the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa headed by Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, standing against the gross injustice of the apartheid policy in South Africa. It cost Nelson Mandela his liberty for over 20 years. 

What other ways are the norms of the world different to the kingdom of God?  And in what ways could we consider saying no to those rules and customs which are counter the kingdom of God?

<video clip>

 

 

How about this one for a difficult question?  Should Christians go to war as combatants?  Some like James K Baxter’s father in WW1 refused to do so on religious grounds and paid the price with interment and his family being ostracised in their community.  Other Christians went to war.  It is not a simple answer for a difficult question. Each needs to decide before their God and their understanding of Scripture.

These godly injunctions to be counter cultural when it becomes a decision between Gods rules and world rules may seem harsh.

Jurgen Moltman, theologian : All the church’s interests must be subordinated to the interests of the kingdom of God…If it runs counter to God’s kingdom, the church loses its right to exist and becomes a superfluous religious society. [4]

 

Sometimes we need to say no, in relation to our participation in things authorised by the Government.

 

That is not to say, we have the right to demand others do so, but we have responsibility for our own choices.  One day we will stand before God and he will be interested in why we chose to do certain things, not whether the society we were in adopted those policies.

 

Leading up to the elections we canvassed some of the things that God is passionate about. There are plenty more.

 

If we are stewards of the creation that God built, then what is my responsibility around destruction of the environment and depletion and exploitation of natural resources.

 

If we as males are told by God to care for our wives and children, what is our responsibility in God’s kingdom to make that happen?

 

If we as wives and mothers have God given responsibilities, how are we honouring God in that task?

 

If our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, what are we doing to keep that body healthy for God.

 

We can follow the world in its path to destruction, or we can choose to follow the laws and mandates of God.

 

We get to choose, but we also get to stand before God and answer for those choices.

 

 



[1] Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting (Marva J. Dawn) 111

 

[2] Francis Chan crazy Love: overwhelmed by a relentless God 67

 

[3] Tom & Christine Sine Living on Purpose: finding God’s best for your life 68

 

[4] Christopher Marshall “The Kingdom of God: doing God’s will on earth as in heaven” Reality Aug/Sept 2004 18