Experiencing God's tangible reign through love and holiness
"We believe in the present kingdom reign of God, the power of the Holy Spirit to transform people, and the priority of the local church. God’s holiness should lead our churches to reject lifestyles characterized by pride, sexual immorality, homosexuality, easy divorce, idolatry, greed, materialism, gossip, slander, racism, violence, and the like. God’s love should lead our churches to emphasize love as the distinguishing sign of a true disciple. Love for one another should make the church like an extended family—a fellowship of married people, singles, elderly, and children who are all brothers and sisters to one another. The love of the extended church family to one another is vitally important. Love should be expressed in both service to the church and to the surrounding community. It leads to the breaking down of walls (racial, social, political), evangelism, acts of mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and the like. By demonstrating the ways of Jesus, the church reveals God’s kingdom reign to the watching world." - Renew Network Faith Statement
Support Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 5:19–21; Ephesians 5:3–7; Colossians 3:5–9; Matthew 19:3–12; Romans 1:26–32; 14:17–18; 1 Peter 1:15–16; Matthew 25:31–46; John 13:34–35; Colossians 3:12–13; 1 John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 13:1–13; 2 Corinthians 5:16–21.
What Is the Kingdom of God?
Answer: The kingdom of God is the realm where God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven through the reign of King Jesus.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” — Matthew 6:33
Discovering the Kingdom of God is a journey of surrender. Today, independence and self-determination are celebrated. The concept of living within a kingdom under God's rule might seem foreign to many. Just like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who left the royal life to seek their own path, we too can struggle with the idea of surrendering to a higher authority. But what if there was a kingdom that offered both freedom and surrender, a place where we could experience heaven on earth?
To truly understand the Kingdom of God, we must first delve into the biblical context of kingdoms. The Bible is replete with stories of various kingdoms—Egypt, Israel, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, each with its own reign and rule. But what sets the Kingdom of God apart is the King Himself. In visions from the book of Daniel, we see a divine twist in the narrative. A rock, not cut by human hands, smashes the worldly kingdoms, and a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven, is given everlasting dominion. What makes the Kingdom of God unique is that it is ruled by love and holiness, a realm where even rejects find grace and compassion.
The Kingdom of God, as revealed in the Bible, is the realm where God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven through the reign of King Jesus. It's a kingdom of love, where allegiance to Jesus is paramount. Unlike worldly kingdoms, this kingdom is not about power or imposing our will on others. Instead, it's about following the way of the slain Lamb, as Jesus Himself showed us through His actions on earth. This kingdom is not just a physical place; it is where God rules as King, and it cannot be shaken.
In a world filled with various kingdoms and ideologies, the Kingdom of God stands apart as a place of freedom, joy, peace, love, and hope, ruled by a just and honorable King. To experience this kingdom, we must surrender our own kingdoms and embrace the reign of Jesus. It may require sacrifice and a complete shift in perspective, but the rewards are immeasurable. Just as the monk Telemachus stood up against the brutality of the Roman Coliseum, we too can demonstrate our surrender to Jesus by living out the principles of God's kingdom in our lives. By doing so, we reveal God's kingdom reign to the watching world, breaking down walls and sharing the love of Christ with all.
What are some reasons that Christians have trouble understanding the kingdom of God?
How have you defined the kingdom of God until this point in your life? How does the chapter define the kingdom of God?
Are there areas of your life that you have rejected God as king?
Read Matthew 6:9–10. How does this passage provide clarification for you about the expansiveness of the kingdom of God?
Describe some of Jesus’ actions during his life on earth that displayed the kingdom of God.
How might your inward and outward life look if you demonstrated your complete surrender to Jesus’ bringing the kingdom of God to earth?
What Does the Kingdom of God Look Like Through the Church?
The church is an assembly of kingdom people who display the reign of God through King Jesus.
"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." — Romans 14:17
The Kingdom is revealed when the church manifests God's reign. When we hear the word "kingdom," images of royalty, power, and conquest may come to mind. Yet, Jesus came to establish a kingdom unlike any other, and He entrusted the church with the profound responsibility of displaying His kingdom on Earth.
The concept of the kingdom of God through the church is rife with paradoxes, much like the term "living stone" in 1 Peter 2. Just as stones typically lack life, Jesus, the living stone, serves as the cornerstone of the church. However, when Jesus enters the world's empire-building agenda, He is often rejected, much like the discarded deity. The world tosses Him aside, unwilling to incorporate grace and truth into its endeavors. Yet, the church, composed of people whom the world has rejected, becomes the royal priesthood. These seemingly unwanted individuals are welcomed into a new building project – the kingdom of God. As living stones, they form a spiritual house, proclaiming the praises of the King who called them out of darkness into His wonderful light. The church is not just a religious institution; it is the embodiment of God's kingdom on Earth.
In Matthew 16:15–19, Jesus entrusts Peter and, by extension, all His disciples with the keys to the kingdom. This profound authority enables them to open the doors of the kingdom by declaring Jesus as King and actively living out His reign. The church's role is to facilitate this transformation, bringing individuals from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of light, where they find redemption and forgiveness.
The church, therefore, is not a mere gathering of believers but a representation of the kingdom of God. Its mission is to make disciples who, through their transformed lives, reveal the reality of Jesus' reign. Disciples advance this kingdom through their actions, infusing every aspect of their lives with the values of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
In summary, the church's purpose is not merely to grow in size or provide a comfortable place of worship. It exists to manifest the kingdom of God on Earth by making disciples who live out the principles of God's reign. When the church boldly declares Jesus as King and actively lives as kingdom people, it becomes a powerful force for change and transformation in the world. The church and the kingdom of God are intricately connected, each playing a vital role in revealing the goodness of God's reign to all.
How is your church manifesting the kingdom of God?
Prior to reading this lesson, what was your understanding of the core mission of the church?
Based on Matthew 16:15–19, what is the rock upon which Jesus would build his church?
This lesson explains how every disciple of Jesus has keys to the kingdom, in a sense. How might this play out in your life?
What does it mean that God’s people are delivered from spiritual exile?
As followers of Jesus, we are transferred from the kingdom of self-rule to the kingdom of light. What are some ways in which that change of kingdoms has become manifest in your life?
What Is Holiness and Why Is It Important?
Holiness is a lifestyle of separation from self-rule to kingdom-rule. It is important because holiness reveals a people dedicated to God. Holiness is a marker of kingdom life.
“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” — 1 Peter 1:15–16
Holiness is defined as a transformative lifestyle, shifting from self-rule to kingdom-rule, symbolizing a dedicated commitment to God. Rooted in 1 Peter 1:15–16, the call to holiness is presented as a divine imperative: "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do."
From 1 Peter, we have three enemies in the spiritual battle: the devil, external opposition, and internal sinful desires. Resist these adversaries through faith, avoiding ungodly associations, and abstaining from sinful desires.
Read 1 Peter 1:15. Is this really doable? How?
If holiness is a lifestyle of separation from self-rule to kingdom-rule, what are some ways this concept might apply to modern-day believers?
Why did Peter tell the early Christians, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable” (1 Peter 2:12, ESV)? How can you apply this in your context today?
Why is it important for disciples of Jesus to stand in contradiction to the culture of the land? What is at stake if we don’t?
The early church sought to win people to the kingdom, not by violence, but by service to the kingdom. What would that look like today?
What areas of your life still need to transfer fully from self-rule to kingdom-rule?
What Is Love and Why Is It Important?
Love is a cross-shaped action that glorifies God and benefits someone else. It is important because it is the action that best models King Jesus.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” — John 13:34–35
Love, defined as a cross-shaped action that glorifies God and benefits others, emerges as a transformative force embodying the model of King Jesus. John 13:34–35, highlights Jesus' command to love one another as a distinctive mark of discipleship. The biblical definition of love, rooted in agapaō and agapē, conveys unconditional and sacrificial love, exemplified in Jesus' actions. The central commands, drawn from Mark 12:28–31, emphasize the interconnectedness of loving God and loving one's neighbor as the foundation for all other commandments.
The common tendency is to pick and choose commandments, emphasizing Jesus' consolidation of all commands into these two central directives. Potential pitfalls are emphasizing love for God while neglecting love for people or vice versa. The narrative unfolds the significance of loving God, rooted in the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4–5, as a counter to human tendencies to turn things into gods. Simultaneously, the command to love people, drawn from Leviticus 19:17–18, combats human inclinations to make enemies and bear grudges.
Four transformative prayers are proposed: opening eyes to see God as God, sin as sinful, grace as amazing, and others as oneself. These prayers, when sincerely embraced, foster a holistic understanding and practice of love. Avoid the trap of selective obedience, fostering an environment where genuine love for God and others can thrive. Let love become a lived reality rather than a selective choice.
How is this sermon's definition of love different from how the world defines love?
Give specific examples of Jesus showing love to others in the Bible.
The words Jesus uses for “love”—agapaō and agapē—connote unconditional love. Why would Jesus command us to cultivate unconditional love?
Read the command in Mark 12:28–31. Describe the love that we are to show to God.
Give examples of how you can love both upward and outward at the same time.
In what ways do you die to self when you disciple others through the love of Jesus?
How Does the Church Express Love to the World?
By letting love rule over all she does.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. — Galatians 6:10
Drawing inspiration from Galatians 6:10, the sermon emphasizes the dual nature of love encompassing both community and mission. The sermon underscores that cross-shaped love is the driving force behind disciple making—the church's highest priority. It challenges believers not to compartmentalize the gospel but to manifest the Kingdom through all aspects of life. Astonishingly, the first part of the sermon reveals the innate self-centeredness found in individuals, using the analogy of children growing into adolescence. However, the narrative takes a hopeful turn, emphasizing that despite this tendency, followers of Christ can choose love and service, following Jesus' example.
The second part of the sermon delves into the profound act of Jesus washing His disciples' feet. It highlights two reasons why Jesus served: to grow us and to show us. The call to emulate this selfless service is presented as a transformative way to break free from self-centeredness. The sermon culminates in a challenge to the church to actively engage in a tangible, loving, and self-sacrificial Kingdom mission. It invites believers to embody the good news and dispel fears related to mission by embracing perfect love. The sermon concludes with a vision of the church as a family of missionary servants, welcoming everyone to join in displaying God's splendor.
How does your church express Jesus’ rule to love as he loved us (see John 13:34–35)?
Read 1 Corinthians 13:4–7. How does this description of love apply to disciple making?
What practical steps can you take to demonstrate love for the world as well as for those in your relationship circle?