kingdom builders?

I have been a Christian for most of my life and yet I feel like it’s only been in roughly the past 4 years that I’ve thought seriously about the kingdom.  I’m not sure how I missed it… but I kinda did. It’s a glorious thing, the kingdom of God.  Every time Jesus says “the kingdom of God is like…” my heart pricks up it’s ears.  It’s overwhelmingly big, beautiful, powerful, peaceful… it’s shalom… “the way things are supposed to be.”  This is what God is doing, this is the kingdom he is bringing.  That’s a pretty sweet thought.

BUT… my thinking about the kingdom has become a little muddled along the way and I wonder if I’m not the only one.

As a child of God I realise that I am caught up in this kingdom, I become part of it but more than that, I am knitted into the bringing of this kingdom.  ‘Kingdom builders’ as we often call it.  But what does it really mean to be a kingdom builder?  I wonder if at times we Christians have been so excited and envisioned by ‘the kingdom’ and been so delighted to learn that we are part of how this kingdom comes about that we have made a jump in our thinking and ended up in the mud.

God brings His kingdom through His body, the church.  It could be easy to assume therefore that it is us christians who somehow bring about a world where everything is as it was supposed to be.  This is kinda logical because we can see that as we live the lives God has called us to we cant help but be involved in things like tackling issues of injustice, poverty, war, suffering…and so on.  We come to believe that being a kingdom builder means that we literally bring God’s kingdom on this earth.  But this isn’t really accurate is it? (I’m seriously asking).  Is what we do on this earth contributing to the final kingdom?  If not, then in what sense is it that we are part of Gods kingdom coming?

I think sometimes we’ve kind of made an idol out of the kingdom rather than God Himself.  Like we see the kingdom as the end goal and so we pursue it.  But the kingdom of God is not something in itself, it is the result of or the fruit of the bowing of humanity to Jesus as Lord. THIS is what the kingdom is.  Jesus is Lord!

Nelly brought some much needed clarity to my thinking (after an hour long “discussion” in the pub) by helping me understand that the way we build the kingdom is by living lives that constantly declare ‘Jesus as Lord’.  glimpses of the kingdom surface and our prayer is that other’s also bow the knee and declare Jesus as lord.

To me it’s a bit like what boneheffer says about community – ‘if we pursue community we kill it, but if we pursue each other community is the result.’ (something like that anyway!)  It’s kind of the same with the kingdom – if we try and make the kingdom a reality we kill it but if we focus on Jesus as Lord, without even trying the kingdom becomes evident.

to be a kingdom builder is to be people who acknowledge Jesus as Lord and point others to His Lordship. ?

But i still have unresolved questions: –

1) is anything we accomplish here going to remain in the new heavens and new earth?

2) do the ways that non-christians live and pursue kingdom values also contribute to kingdom building?

awaiting your wisdom…and suspecting that if I ever actually read Chris Wright I’d not have these questions.

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9 Comments on “kingdom builders?”

  1. PatrickM Says:

    Really great questions Transfarmer – have been mulling them over for a couple of days.
    Love the bit about how we end up talking about the kingdom as if it is ‘ours’ to somehow bring about or control. I remember Dick France who I had as a NT teacher reminding us it is the kingdom of God. Saying ‘the kingdom’ is like saying ‘the will …’ instead of the ‘will of God’.
    Also like your connections between Jesus, KoG and church. All closely connected – and I’d throw in Spirit and gospel if that does not sound rather blasphemous!
    On future – there is clearly continuity. Seems to me that most of NT ethics are based on the word ‘therefore’ – in light of the future live this way now. Life in God’s kingdom now is a foreshadow of the world to come. The ‘Wright brothers’ [Chris and NT] both argue against an obliteration of this world and a totally new start. Rather a more Jewish hope of a remade earth.
    I think of life there as continuity of things we do now, forever in joyful development within a perfect re-creation in the presence of God.
    But there is also discontinuity – no more sin, death, injustice, poverty, tears. And it’s very hard to imagine how and what exactly ‘continues’. Rather than getting too tied up in details I think Paul gives the answer to your question of what remains in the future: tongues and prophecies will cease, but love lasts for ever.

    PS can’t resist. Boneheffer? Sounds like a slow-witted cow 🙂

    PPS see McKnight talking about Wright talking about these themes today at http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2010/03/after-you-believe-4.html

  2. transfarmer Says:

    thanks for your input Patrick, nice point about spirit, so true! and I found the continuity point really helpful. Also thanks for pointing out my appalling spelling (Andy will love you for that he does it all the time) but you must know that when we get to heaven I’m gonna tell Dietrich Bonhoeffer that you called him a slow-witted cow;-)


  3. […] My colleague and I talk alot about the Kingdom of God. She wrote about some of our questions here. […]

  4. Andrew Gleddiesmith Says:

    Hello, I found this post via Zoomtard and since I’m not sure who you are this makes me a little cautious to comment. I like your questions and feel I have one insight that my teachers pointed out to me as I wrestled with understanding the kingdom of God (KOG).

    My teachers pointed out that we aren’t ever called to build the KOG. The words that are used in terms of our relationship to the KOG are things like recieve, accept, etc. The KOG is something that Jesus is bringing into our midest by the Spirit and we either are recieve/accept the change that it brings to us or we reject it. Rejecting means that we accept the kingdom of darkness as there are only two kingdoms. Recieving the KOG (the same as allowing the Spirit to work in our lives) means that we become changed people so that we end up acting, thinking, and feeling as the KOG would have us. So our lives become symbols of the KOG’s appearance in the world. As this effect within us increases we increasingly see how the KOG is at work (or the Spirit is at work) in the world and participate in that work because the same Spirit is at work within us. Hence we never build the KOG. Instead we recieve it and then find that our lives are becoming wrapped up in the appearance of the KOG.

    Hope that all makes sense. Please hit back with questions. It will help clarify my thinking 🙂

    Andrew

  5. transfarmer Says:

    Thanks for your comments Andrew. I wonder why we so commonly talk about ‘building’ the kingdom rather than accepting or receiving it?

    I wonder if we fall into thinking we are called to bring the kingdom of God because we cannot make sense of why God would call us to live kingdom lives? We presume his commands are tasks for us that achieve his purpose. And indeed they are, but rather than his purpose being that we somehow make the world look like he intended it to look, his purpose in his calling on our lives to live out the values of the Kingdom is simply because He utterly loves us and wants us to know him for our sakes. As I live the life God has called me to I come to know him in ways I could not yet dream of. “this is eternal life…that you would know Him…” At the same time those around me come to know God in ways they have not yet seen him.

    maybe zoomtard is right – its all about revelation.

    ps you guys were in our house at xmas… the identity mystery is not as great as you think… really appreciate your insights so please dont be cautious to comment.

  6. Andrew Gleddiesmith Says:

    Sorry for the long wait for my reply. I did get half way through a post and then decided I was a heretic!

    The reason that we talk about ‘building’ the kingdom is because we place ourselves at the center of everything. What we need is to be converted or decentered so that Jesus is at the center of everything. Then we will stop talking about life as if we are the major players.

    To get back to your real question about what continues or remains in on the new earth: I think one of the major things that remain is us; our habits, attitudes, etc. that we have developed while we are living continue with us into the new earth. We are on a never ending journey into God (think CS Lewis’s Great Divorce) and some of us will find that we barely squeaked through the door into knowing God and others will be a considerable distance ahead of us. Don’t make this for how we picture people on earth. Some of us were born with considerable advantages over others and I think these advantages will disappear. Instead, I grew up imagining that when we got teleported to heaven we all arrived as the same kind of person with the same tendencies. It doesn’t seem to me that that is at all likely.

    So, thinking in terms of the big story of the bible. God is trying to restore the image of God in us. We make some progress in having the image restored on earth but there will be considerably more to be achieved when we get to the new earth. So one of the reasons we are to live as ones who are recieving the Kingdom in our midst is so that our lives (attitudes, habits, feelings, etc.) will become increasingly Jesus-centered which results in the image being restored in us. This is a bodily process based in our actions so we have to not only think different but act different from the surround kingdoms which challenge God.

    Anyway, enough thoughts for today. I did guess that I had met you at Christmas.

  7. GJ123 Says:

    Your Question #1 Jesus himself answered in Luke 18
    22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” …….

    28Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

    29″I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”

    I understand this to mean We can give everything up (theoretically) and receive more than we could imagine in eternity. Or we can hang onto what is in our possession and have nothing. This makes it seem to me nothing will remain.

    My thought to your question 2 is :
    Nothing non-christians do can detract and God can build with anything. Several scriptures lead me to this conclusion. One of the most important posts I noted was that God builds the kingdom. It’s his kingdom. My 2cents- we are his servants and ambasadors.

  8. Doug Says:

    I really appreciate this post and the comments that go with it. It’s intriguing to consider if the concept of “kingdom builder” is a Biblical concept. I like the observation that being a “builder” puts “myself” back in the center of the equation, and therefore appeals to the flesh.

    There are a number of verses that ask us to labor in regards to the kingdom – to proclaim, reason, and testify (Luke 9:60, Acts 19:8, Acts 28:23) – so perhaps that is where we get the idea that we are “builders” of this kingdom. Colossians 4:11 also makes reference to “fellow workers” for the Kingdom.

    The fact that the Lord says the Kingdom it is “already in our midst” (Luke 17:21) tells me that there is nothing needing any building, it is ready-to-go if we have eyes to see it.

    Just as when John the Baptizer told the people in John 1:26 that “among you stands One whom you do not know”, I have a feeling that the kingdom of God is hidden right in front of us in plain sight.

  9. GEOFREY Says:

    Very encouraging.from now I will be a kingdom builder.


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