Cultivating the Kingdom

Previously on Fodder for the Soul

“The blueprints for the abundant Kingdom life are written on our hearts in our deep desires.”
“A proper understanding of the kingdom of God present and active in the world today is a key component of the gospel that we are missing today.”

So how do we begin to experience and cultivate the kingdom in our lives? The first thing that we need to understand is that participating in the kingdom requires some intentionality.  Many today have fallen into the trap of intellectual ascent and simple confession.  Just because we claim Jesus as Lord and say a prayer does not mean that we will automatically experience the kingdom. If this was the case, statistics wouldn’t indicate that there is very little difference between the behavior of Christians and non-Christians, and Barna would not write, “Every day, the church is becoming more like the world it allegedly seeks to change.”

Participating in the kingdom requires intentionality, but what kind of intentionality?  It is not, as folks all along the church spectrum subtly suggest, being intentional about changing behavior.  Cultivating the kingdom in our lives does not mean that we dedicate our efforts to living a higher ethical standard, though life in the kingdom certainly leads to a life of higher ethics.  Cultivating the kingdom in our lives also does not mean dedicating our efforts to serving people in need, though life in the kingdom absolutely leads to serving those in need.

The problem with viewing the kingdom on these terms is that it leads us to think we can force our way into it.  When distilled down, these views are nothing more than an attempt to bring about the kingdom by our own work and effort.

I probably seem like I am writing out of both sides of my keyboard.  Cultivating the kingdom requires intentionality, yet we don’t bring about the kingdom by our own work. Cultivating the kingdom in our lives absolutely requires effort, but it is not our effort that brings the kingdom into and out through our lives.  That is God’s work.

You see, when we engage in kingdom cultivating activities, when we join God at the table, God transforms our inner lives, and the seed of the kingdom that was planted in our heart begins to take root, sprout, flower, and produce fruit. And when this happens, our lives begin to reflect the life that God created us to live.  We love extraordinarily well.  We become known for our joy.  Our lives are marked by patience, and so on.  In this way, the kingdom of God is cultivated in us and flows through us into the world.  This is the natural order of things.  If we neglect the inner element of cultivating the kingdom, then our efforts to bring it into the world will fail.

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