Thoughts from my journey with JESUS.
Bible readings - Luke 11:1-4 and 12:13-21
Everything Jesus said and did was in some way related to the Kingdom of God. It had to do with the rule of God in the lives of individuals and societies. Christian people were to be primarily ‘Kingdom people’, regardless of where they lived or their circumstances in life.
The Lord’s prayer, Luke 11:1-4, includes Jesus’ words to the Father, “Your kingdom come”, which obviously looks to a future that is unfolding. Yet the kingdom has already come in Jesus Christ. He said, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you”, Luke 11:20 (italics mine). So Christian disciples were (and are) to pray God’s kingdom will come in the future, but they were also told by Jesus that it had already come in the ‘now’, by His living presence among them.
Today as in Jesus’ day we live in the interim period, the time between the beginning of that rule – the kingdom of God in the coming of Jesus Christ – and its completion, which will be at the future end of our history. Current Christian struggles for peace and justice are part of our discipleship of Jesus as we work for and wait for the coming of that kingdom on earth. The kingdom coming is a gift from God.
I firmly believe our Lord Jesus wants us all to live our lives focussed on His kingdom, His rule, right now. All day, every day, we are to have our minds, hearts and actions centred on kingdom values, kingdom deeds, kingdom words and, of course, on the King Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ. Interestingly, in both Luke 6:20 and Matthew 5:3 Jesus’ own words link this kingdom of God to the poor and not to the powerful.
“Looking at His disciples, He (Jesus) said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours (Jesus’ disciples) is the kingdom of God’”. “‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’”.
The kingdom is not an earned reward for ‘the spiritually poor’. Putting their spiritual kingdom nature first should rather be seen as an evidence that they have been born again here on earth into God’s heavenly kingdom. We live in and for the kingdom now, while we wait for it to fully come at our Lord Jesus’ glorious return.
When Jesus lived physically on earth people around Him “would understand the phrase “the kingdom of God” to describe a Jewish state where God alone was King”. Not a few were prepared to physically fight for it. “In contrast, Jesus declared that the kingdom was already present in the poor in spirit (not among the militant Zealots)”. It was among those Christian disciples who made ‘living like Jesus’ their first priority 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, that His kingdom would be clearly shown to and seen by other people around these followers of Jesus. Their lives would be witnesses to Jesus’ kingdom in the present. Their words should also encourage everyone to get ready for the ultimate and visible coming of His heavenly kingdom here.
But isn’t it my life?
You may say, ‘Why should I live my life for God and not for myself?’ After all it is my life.
No it is not! Everybody’s life is on loan from God. It is not theirs by right. God has the first claim on it.
Think for a moment about our second Bible reading, known as the ‘parable of the rich fool’. Our Lord Jesus Himself told the story so we may learn the lesson from it. He used imaginary words spoken by this rich farmer who lived only to accumulate more and more grain, to have more and more money from the market sales, his heart set solely on this world’s goods, and nothing else:
“Then he (the rich fool) said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’
But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’”
Our Lord Jesus added His application. “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich towards God”, Luke 12:13-21.
In verses 17, 18, 19, the person God describes as a ‘fool’ in vs20 thinks to himself about ‘my crops’, ‘my barns’, ‘my surplus grain’ and ‘my life’s plan’. God’s use of ‘Fool’ is almost like a name for the chap! It describes the “lack of common sense perception of things natural and spiritual … the imprudent ordering of one’s life in regard to salvation”.
The fellow simply forgot Who his life belonged to, quite an easy thing for any of us to do. Your life is not yours, neither is my life mine. Our lives are loaned to us from God and He may demand their return at any time. This ‘fool’ found it out too late. His business and comfortable retirement plans were interrupted by a must-take call from the real Owner of his life.
Seeing life as an outstanding loan to God
As a Christian preacher and teacher I probably took my voice for granted in years of ministry from 1967 to 2006. Then God used an aggressive cancer to have my voice box removed. Although I now have an artificial voicing system I cannot preach and teach as I once did (except through audio and video recordings, some of which God enables us to share on our website). God lent me that voice until I was 57 years old. Then He wanted it back and I couldn’t argue. God has every right over me because I belong to Him. I am His, I am not mine!
I have friends in Sudan who rent their homes from other people, sometimes from church and mission groups. The building they live in they may say is ‘my home’, but in reality it belongs to someone else, not to them. I may say to them ‘this home is your home but at the same time it is not your home’! And I’d be right. It is usually the responsibility of the tenant to take good care of the building with adequate proper maintenance and general upkeep. We are certainly responsible to God for the way we look after and use the life He has given to us.
Just pause to consider Who really owns everything. Please don’t be ‘a fool’. Your human life is a gift from God, it is not your human right! Use your life to benefit the kingdom of God. Be ‘God’s kingdom centric’. Since we know we are going to live in the heavenly kingdom of our Lord Jesus one day, when He returns or we die in order to live there with Him, we must practise ‘kingdom living’ now.
Kingdom centric living by kingdom centric Christians
In the King James Bible’s translation of the Lord’s Prayer it records Jesus’ teaching us to pray, "Father, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come”, Luke 11:2. If I may presume to put it into my own words, I would understand it to mean:
‘God, set me apart with Your holiness, holy as You already are. Help me to live in and for Your kingdom now. May every moment of my every day, until You bring everything to Your planned climax for future history, honour and please You’. Amen.
Followers of Jesus must understand the Christian life we should be living every day is in fact the kingdom life of Jesus. That is:
the life that God has created us for
the life we are born again into
by the conviction of our sinfulness through God the Holy Spirit
by the salvation paid for in blood by God the Son our Lord Jesus Christ at His crucifixion, and
by the loving and gracious mercy of God our Father Who calls and draws us sovereignly to Himself.
Our kingdom life must be visible to people around us by Jesus Christ’s living presence among us. “True religion is a union of the soul with God, a real participation of the divine nature, the very image of God drawn on the soul, or, in the apostle’s phrase, it is, “Christ formed within us”. 
“To them (all who see you) God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”, Colossians 1:27.
When I was studying in Australia in 1969-1970 a Methodist minister ran an outreach mission. In a preparation message I attended he said something I have never forgotten. ‘If Jesus Christ was back on earth today He would be out among the lost people calling for the church to come out and help Him in His task’.
I believe our churches must train Christians and give them opportunity for Jesus’ ‘fishers of people’ to catch people, Matthew 4:19. You don’t catch fish from a small bucket but from a big river, lake or sea. The bulk of church work must be seen as our congregations ‘out among the people’. Too many make the mistake of thinking our ministers and pastors do the work of the church by planning and performing services, weddings, funerals or conferences. As a pastor I always tried to remember the vast majority of ‘church/Christian work’ was done six days a week from dawn until dusk by my congregation – at their work, at their school or college, at their home with family and friends, at their recreation etc. – not by me from my pulpit or with my eldership team. My pastoral goal was to encourage everybody in our church to live ‘kingdom-focussed’ 100% of their lives. That way we begin to answer the prayer our Lord Jesus told us to pray:
“Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, Luke 11:2, New King James Version.
Pray for the kingdom of God and live showing Jesus the King
I received this introduction on a friend’s prayer newsletter a week ago:
“Dear friends, we have to get serious in our prayer life for ourselves but more so, for those who do not yet know this great kingdom life. Regardless of the "anti-this-life" circumstances we encounter, the kingdom centric life is the promise given to us by God for eternity. The kingdom centric life is not revocable, this life never ends and God wants us all to take our serious part in it. This life isn't about church, isn't about a destination, this life is about walking as Jesus walked, living as Jesus lived. For this life to be real we need to seriously take the position to PRAY FOR KINGDOM CENTRIC living by all Christians worldwide. To God be the glory for His kingdom. Amen”.
The last sermon I ever preached at Khartoum International Church was on 26th February 2006 and from 1 John 2:6, “Whoever claims to live in (Jesus) must live as Jesus did”. God teaches us believers His Christian culture, that is God’s own culture, so that we can live the right way within our own human culture. God’s culture must always take priority over our own if ever there is a clash. We owe God. It is the least we can do. We must walk through lives as our Lord Jesus walked through His life. He’ll walk in us as we do.
Adapted from BiMonthly Encouragement 61, written 10th August 2019.
1. In Mark 1:14-15 Jesus starts ministry saying, “The kingdom of God has come near”. Read the whole text and share what you think ‘the kingdom of God’ means. What wasn’t there before?
2. The Jewish hope for ‘a Jewish state where God alone was King’ misses our Lord Jesus’ point in several ways. List as many differences as you can, big and small.
3. What are some of our responsibilities when we realise our lives are not ‘ours’, but ‘God’s’? Consider the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21, and draw out points for your life application.
4. I suggest, “Our kingdom life must be visible to people around us by Jesus Christ’s living presence among us”. True or false? What are some of the special ways – the best ways – our neighbourhood, studying or working community can see our Lord Jesus in us?
5. 1 John 2:6 reads, “Whoever claims to live in (Jesus) must live as Jesus did”. Our Lord’s words and activities were kingdom centric. Suggest one or two specific items your group may pray for you to do this in your daily life. Then pray for one another.
 Adapted from Kenneth Bailey Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (SPCK: London) 2008, page 69.  Adapted from Kenneth Bailey Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (SPCK: London) 2008, page 69.  W. E. Vine Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament words (Nelson: Nashville, TN) 1996.  www.colinsalter.net  Henry Scougal The Life of God in the Soul of Man originally written 1672/3, (IVP London), 1961.  Adapted from Byron Whetstone, Heartland International Ministries, Kansas, USA, 12th July 2019.